Chapter Fourteen: Don’t Let Go of My Hand Like Yesterday (Heartbeat, BTS)
March 09, 2020. 10:53PM.
McKenzie Apartments, Seattle, WA
Leaving Hoseok alone in his apartment is probably one of the hardest things Namjoon has ever done. The devastation in his heart is akin to when he received the news in the early hours of May 20th, 2015. He doesn’t want to remember that night, doesn’t want to remember how the officials had used the dead on site procedure to talk to them because the case was so unusual and inconclusive. They started off by treating the case as a homicide, rather than a missing person’s case. When they knocked, Namjoon had to extract himself from Yoongi’s anxious hold on him, roused from sleepiness by worry about Hoseok. He should have gotten there before them, and when he didn’t, each minute ticking by frayed what composure Yoongi had, bringing him back to the edge of another panic attack. At first, Namjoon wasn’t nearly as worried— maybe Hoseok chose to stop by the convenience store and pick something up, maybe he took an alternate route home, maybe he got a flat tire. But when more than an hour passed, especially without a response to any of his texts or phone calls, he knew something was very, very wrong, and he wasn’t in a much better state of mind than Yoongi. The knock on their front door past midnight had sent a shock of instant, cold dread down his spine.
When he answered, it only got worse, because he recognised one of Yoongi’s superiors from the nearby precinct and someone who looked strangely clinical. Obviously that’s never a good thing, especially when they introduced themselves with their credentials and asked to come inside, and for him to take a seat. He’d sat down right next to Yoongi, taking his hand and squeezing it tight. Yoongi knew what this all meant, and was still as a statue, eyes wide with horror, barely breathing.
“We have some bad news to share with you,” officer Mendoza said, keeping his words simple. “There was a car accident earlier this evening. Your roommate Hoseok Jung is missing and presumed to be dead.” Sympathy shined in the man’s eyes as he looked over at the newest member of their precinct. At the time, Yoongi was only a traffic officer, but the whole precinct had taken a liking to him. Mendoza was no different.
Few things in the world feel as heart wrenching as that kind of cataclysmic event. It felt like the universe was choosing that moment to explode— every thought, feeling, and unspoken truth felt like little bombs inside him, setting him on fire in every way possible. His whole word fell apart in a matter of a few minutes.
It feels like it’s happening all over again, having to leave him alone. Every footstep is harder to take, like all of his muscles have been filled with lead. He moves slowly, reluctantly, and squeezes Yoongi’s hand so tightly, it probably hurts him. He wants to cry, but all of the tears he knows he’s capable of producing don’t come. He’s still too in shock of it all— finally finding Hoseok after all this time, hearing all of the things that happened to him, finding out that vampires exist, that Hoseok really said those things to him. Hoseok had rejected him. Holding him again had felt so fucking right and being away from him again feels so fucking wrong. He let himself get caught up in it, let himself get carried away. He crossed lines he shouldn’t have.
Yoongi lets go of his hand and chooses to wrap that arm around his waist. Feeling the firmness of his body pressed against his own is grounding, comforting. “Joon-ah, it’ll be okay. I’ve got you,” he whispers, leading them out of the front door of the apartment. “I’ve got you.” Once they’re out and the door clicks shut, Yoongi embraces him so tightly, the breath is knocked out of him, but it’s exactly what he needs. The uneasy tension in his chest eases a little bit at the overwhelming amount of love and care he can feel exuding from the blonde, and finally, his tears come. With his chin tucked over his shoulder, he cries his eyes out, ugly sobbing and clinging to him. Namjoon wishes he could have kept himself together until they got back to their room, but he can’t. Not when everything hurts. Seeing how conflicted and small Hoseok is now tears him up inside.
He just wants to go back in there and commit the feeling of having Hoseok in his arms to memory, make him understand how loved he is… because for the first time in years, Namjoon felt like things were going to be okay. Now that there’s so much distance between them again— physical and emotional— that hope is crushed into dust.
Namjoon used to know everything about Hoseok and the struggles he went through. Their boundaries existed, but nobody knew him like he did. Back in those days, Namjoon felt so trusted and privileged to be that close to him because he’s always been guarded and meticulous about who he trusts to know him beyond the cheery smiles and rambunctious laughter. Namjoon knew the pain and hardships behind the image he projects, and knew how he processed all of it. But now… Hoseok’s conflicts, heavy burdens, and pain are all deeply personal, locked up tight inside him. Once upon a time, Namjoon had the key to it. He knew how to help him work through all of it. In the years that passed, Hoseok changed the locks. The key that Namjoon has no longer fits, and he isn’t the one entrusted to have a spare anymore. It’s been given to someone else. Hoseok… doesn’t trust him that intimately anymore. The thought causes a pained, strangled kind of noise to leave his throat.
Hoseok isn’t the same… he’s darker, he’s harsher, he’s so much sadder than Namjoon can handle seeing, and yet the brunette can’t help but love him all the same. All of the changes standing between them now cuts like a knife— just as sharp and painful as the wound he experienced in the dream he shared with Yoongi. The dream where some of those events actually happened somehow . It doesn’t make any sense that Yoongi is even capable of dreaming up things he doesn’t have knowledge of. If Namjoon wasn’t in that dream, too, he would find it so hard to believe it’s possible. The fact that he could even experience the same dream as Yoongi… that shouldn’t be possible either. Vampires existing shouldn’t be possible.
His head hurts almost as much as his heart while he tries and fails to make sense of everything. It feels like things will never be okay again, despite the words Yoongi whispers into the shell of his ear.
“Let it out,” the blonde murmurs, his tone so soft and loving, even though Namjoon can feel the warm wetness of tears soaking into his shoulder, too. He cries harder and holds him close. Yoongi… he can’t imagine going through this without him here. The blonde man in his arms is the only thing keeping him going right now. He just wants to shut down. Namjoon doesn’t break down like this often, but he’s at his breaking point.
Does Hoseok really want him to leave? Doesn’t he feel this agonising void of hurt and longing, too? Namjoon would feel betrayed if he doesn’t. All of those memories, all of those years of friendship can’t mean nothing. He can understand not returning his love romantically, but what about the platonic relationship they had? It hurts so fucking much that it might not mean the same to his childhood best friend. Biting back another sob, he squeezes his eyes shut and attempts to focus on the warmth Yoongi provides.
Namjoon’s so out of it that he almost misses the door down the hall opening, revealing Hoseok’s girlfriend, who pays them no mind and makes a beeline for the door they just closed. It briefly crosses his mind that he’s glad someone’s going to him because even if Hoseok pushed them away, he doesn’t deserve to be alone, especially knowing what he does now. Then it crosses his mind that she is one of the people the caramel haired man now trusts with a key to his heart, and that’s not an easy pill to swallow. After every twist and turn of the emotional roller coaster he’s been on tonight, he didn’t expect jealousy to find a place, but it does. He hates how much he wishes he could be her right now, he hates how ungrateful he’s acting towards the blonde in his arms. From the inside out, he feels rotten. Mentally, he forces the thought away.
He and Yoongi pull apart, both feeling uncomfortable at having been caught crying like this. The blonde’s eyes are already puffy, and Namjoon’s sure his don’t look any better. Tonight’s been… a lot.
The door Becky left from stays open, and someone else steps into view. This time, it’s Seokjin. He wears a pained look on his face, but all in all, he looks leagues better than they do. “You both should come inside…” he trails off as Jimin peers around his side with longing, eyes locked onto their apartment door down the hall. “There’s more than Hoy-er, Hoseok was able to tell you, things you need to know,” the other finishes, extending a hand to Yoong, who’s standing slightly closer to him.
The blonde’s gaze goes back to Namjoon with a silent question in his eyes, and… if he’s honest, he wants to say no. All he wants to do is go back to their room and be dead to the world. Everything is too much. The dangers Hoseok warned them of make him hesitate, though. Even though he’s emotionally frayed, knowing exactly what they’re up against… what Hoseok is up against… is important. So he nods back at Yoongi, and the strangest look crosses his face when his hand meets Seokjin’s. Namjoon doesn’t know what that means, and dread fills his gut yet again. He does his best to ignore it, and follows them inside.
As he walks by, Jimin turns to them, eyes downcast and lip jutting out slightly. “I’m so sorry… that I haven’t done enough for him,” he apologises. “I want you to know that I try so, so hard. I love him so much, and I didn’t know how much he still…” he trails off, eyes brimming with tears when he finally flickers his eyes up to meet his. Sincerity lingers in the watery orbs. His heart pricks with complicated emotions, seeing Hoseok’s husband like this.
Namjoon doesn’t know why he’s apologising to them because it’s not like Jimin was providing a service for them. Hoseok is his own person, and Jimin… can’t take all of the guilt on himself for him still having a hard time. He remembers something Hoseok said before the compulsion… “Jimin is the one who saved me,” he’d said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him.” It makes him want to do something for him, something to ease the pain. Though Namjoon is jealous of Jimin, he’s grateful for him, too.
“Thank you,” he says, his voice gruff. He doesn’t know how Jimin fits into the story, but if he got Hoseok out of there, then Namjoon would thank him for an eternity. “Thank you for taking care of him,” he says again, gratitude making him choke up. He slowly grabs Jimin’s shoulder, tentatively giving it a squeeze in attempts to comfort him. “You don’t need to apologise for anything. From what he’s said… you’ve done a lot.”
Jimin’s expression looks pained for a moment, but he wipes his tears and flashes him a small smile. “That’s kind of you to say,” he says, his accent growing softer with the tone of his voice. “But I do. Since I found him four years ago, I’ve been trying to help him heal, and I clearly haven’t done enough… I knew he was still sad, but… I didn’t know he still sees himself as a monster,” the man finishes anxiously, running a hand through his bleached hair.
Namjoon doesn’t know what to say to make him feel better. He wants to, even though he feels just as miserable as him. “Healing is a process,” he says with a sad sigh. “Sometimes all you can do is be the best you, and hope that it inspires him, too. People need to choose for themselves to get better, otherwise… it’s not genuine. You loving him… and being there for him… is enough. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the trap of guilt. That won’t help him in the long run.” He doesn’t know how much he needs to hear those words until they leave his lips. It’d be so easy to take it all on himself— blame himself for not finding Hoseok in time, blame himself for not insisting Hoseok go back home with them the night of the party… blame himself for Hoseok pushing him and Yoongi away just now. In attempting to comfort Jimin, he brings a little sliver of it to himself, too, because he realises that not all of that is in his control.
Yoongi looks at him and nods, understanding shining in his glassy eyes, even though he looks like he’s still really uneasy. Seokjin still holds his hand, but his gaze is on Namjoon, too. It makes him feel a little sheepish.
Jimin mumbles something unintelligible, too quiet for him to make out. He’s smiling a little more genuinely, at least.
“What?” he asks, letting his shoulder go and opting to rub his neck. He doesn’t often initiate physical touches, especially with strangers.
“I see what he means… Hoseok-ah says that you are quite wise. I’ve lived hundreds of years and never would have thought about it like that,” he says, swallowing a bit nervously. “Thank you.”
Namjoon nods back at him, finding it hard to form words again at the reminder: Jimin isn’t human. His breath catches in his throat, trying to wrap his head around the proof that… vampires do truly exist. It’s not like he ever thought he knew everything. Intelligent as he is, he knows there will always be more to the world than he can learn. It just feels like everything he’s ever known is now in question, and he hates feeling so vulnerable and powerless. He can’t do anything to protect Hoseok. He might even be a liability to him, and it hurts.
“We should take this to the living room,” Seokjin says, breaking the silence. He lets go of Yoongi’s hand in order to guide everyone deeper into the apartment.
Seated at one end of the vintage leather couch, there are the two other men that they met earlier in the night. When Hoseok spoke earlier, he mentioned having a coven. Are they a part of it? The idea of being surrounded by vampires makes the tension in his body double. He and Yoongi are so… vulnerable. Even if they don’t mean him any harm, it’s still too intense for his liking. Maybe he’s just too drained to be logical, but he can’t find it in him to hold back his apprehension, looking at all of them.
Seokjin leads Yoongi to sit down with him at one end, and Namjoon sits on his other side and next to the man with nearly shoulder-length natural black hair and various tattoos decorating his skin. Jimin takes a seat in a chair, sitting on his own so much like Hoseok did the first time he ran away from Namjoon and Yoongi. The similarities between them are kind of staggering— Jimin, just like Hoseok— has the ability to command the mood in the room. His smile reminds him of the sun, too, but the absence of it makes everything tense. Namjoon’s never understood people who are good with people, or people who can influence groups like this.
He looks like he’s about to start talking when Seokjin says something first. “Before you finish explaining... hyung…” he starts before turning away from Jimin. “Yoongi, you should tell Namjoon what I told you,” he says seriously. “Normally I would encourage you to take your time, but these circumstances don’t allow it.”
Namjoon’s eyes dart over to Yoongi so fast that it makes his eyes hurt for a second. He knows something had to have happened when Yoongi went to talk to Hoseok alone, only to lead them to waking up and Hoseok dishing out his whole story, breaking the compulsion on Namjoon… except he hadn’t had a chance to ask about what happened yet. That heavy kind of dread comes rushing back in an instant.
He feels guilt settle in right after, especially looking at the anxious expression forming on his features. Yoongi cautiously takes his hand, not meeting his gaze just yet. Though Namjoon’s nervous, too, he knows that his partner wouldn’t intentionally hurt him, so he gives his hand a squeeze, silently encouraging him to speak up. After a few shaky inhales and exhales, the blonde next to him finally looks up. “I swear that I didn’t know this until tonight, Joon-ah. According to them… I’m a witch.”
There’s a sinking feeling in his chest as he processes what those words mean. That means… oh shit. He brings his free hand to his forehead and closes his eyes. His head is pounding as he processes that. Everything simultaneously makes sense and makes less sense. Of course. Vampires exist, why not witches, too? It makes sense. Yoongi being a witch makes sense… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare the hell out of him. He’s not scared of Yoongi, he’s scared of what it means for him, for the both of them. He’s scared of being alone.
“Joon, look at me,” Yoongi says gently. “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you sooner,” he continues, bringing his free hand up to tilt Namjoon’s chin up to meet his eyes. “Hoseok… he tried to compel me, too. It didn’t work.”
But he opts to pull away instead. He doesn’t blame Yoongi, but he doesn’t want to be touched so intimately in front of so many new people... People Hoseok has chosen to keep in his life. People who can probably hold their own against another vampire… someone like Song. People that aren’t clumsy and human like himself. Namjoon doesn’t let himself look at the hurt expression on Yoongi’s face, but he does squeeze his hand. “It’s okay. You didn’t have the chance.” He knows the words don’t do a good job of easing his partner’s anxiety, except the task is too daunting for him at the moment.
It feels like there’s a divide forming between them, and it’s terrifying. Of course he knows that something had to have happened between Yoongi and Hoseok when they went off to talk privately, otherwise there’s no way his childhood best friend would have chosen to explain everything. Namjoon doesn't know anything about witches and vampires aside from media, but he feels like it strangely makes sense that Yoongi's immune to compulsion. Knowing that doesn’t do anything to make this easier, though. He feels like he’s sinking in quicksand.
“It’s not okay,” the blonde man murmurs. “Joon-ah, please look at me.” His words are thick with desperation, and it hurts him to hear it, so he complies, nervously meeting his eyes. “We’ll get through this.”
The words bounce around in his head, and he nods back at him, not quite finding the ability to speak. He wants to believe that they will be okay, but he’s not so sure. Right now, it feels like the world around him is shaking, knocking everything over like an earthquake would. He doesn’t know what’s going to fall next, he doesn’t even know how to brace himself for any of this. It’s too late to prepare, so he’ll have to deal with all of the damage.
Seokjin takes initiative to walk over to him, kneeling next to his knee, placing his hand there. Normally Namjoon doesn’t like being touched by people he doesn’t know, but… he finds that it radiates a level of comfort far too high considering they’ve known each other for approximately five hours tops. His eyes are kind and full of warmth, and despite the panicky feelings building inside his chest, he can feel himself calming down. “Hey… I know this is hard. This shit is hard to hear and even harder to process. We’re not telling you any of this to hurt you. Now that we know Yoongi is a witch, there is no escaping this. To protect yourselves, you have to know,” he says sympathetically but firmly, like a father talking to his sons. “Hoya… Hoseok... didn’t get the chance to explain everything.” His voice grows softer as he speaks, especially as Hoseok’s real name leaves his lips. “We want to make sure you’re informed and safe.”
Strangely enough, Namjoon does feel a little better. Hearing it blatantly put out there like that… it hurts a little less. It reminds him that the purpose of all of this information isn’t to hurt him but to inform him. He can’t prepare for anything if he doesn’t have the facts. The facts hurt like a bitch this time, but he needs to know them. He has to be logical about this.
He can feel the eyes on him from everyone in the room and feels hot under their gazes. He doesn’t like being the center of attention much, and especially not under these circumstances. “Thank you,” Namjoon murmurs. “What else do we have to know?”
“I guess… you should know the circumstances Hoseok and I met under,” Jimin interjects quietly from his seat in the chair. He brings both his knees up, running a hand through his hair anxiously. “You see… I have a past with Song, too. Hoseok-ah inspired me tonight, telling the two of you what happened to him. Taehyungie, Jungkookie, Seokjinnie, I’m sorry I’ve kept my past secret from you. It hasn’t ever felt right talking about it… until now.” The way his eyes meet with Jungkook’s next to him and later Taehyung… gives him an impression that he can’t decipher.
“You don’t need to apologise, hyung,” Jungkook says, his expression serious but warm. He adjusts to wrap an arm around Taehyung next to him, but his eyes drift towards Namjoon, and it looks like he’s worried. For someone unused to being read so easily, he should feel uncomfortable, and yet… everyone here seems so kind. It helps him calm down. It distracts him from the pain of whatever exchange happened between him, Yoongi, and Hoseok.
“If you want to talk about it, you can. If it’s not the right time, you don’t have to,” Taehyung says, though his words sound slightly forced, or perhaps it’s just Namjoon misreading the tone.
“My story isn’t any better than my husband’s,” Jimin says with a sigh. “I think it might be time that I tell you what happened to me, too.” He shakes slightly, and his eyes look far away. There’s pain there, deep, complicated. If Hoseok’s heart is locked in a chest, he senses that Jimin’s is, too… only his childhood best friend’s box is new, with fresh paint and untarnished locks. Jimin’s is old, dusty, worn and it’s been closed so long, he’s not sure if it’ll open properly. “I’ll try to keep it brief. I reckon the two of you are rather knackered,” he says as he looks his way, then over to Yoongi.
“Don’t feel the need to rush,” Namjoon says quietly. Though he’s eager to be home, he doesn’t want it to show.
“It’s quite alright,” Jimin responds. “I do not wish to go into details like he did, anyway.” He swallows the lump forming in his throat before letting his eyes fall closed. Everyone in the room waits with bated breath, only growing in intensity before he speaks again. “I suppose I should begin with my true age. I’m currently three hundred and fifty five years old. I was born to a noble class family in Busan during the Joseon era, year 1664,” he says slowly, as if letting that information sink in.
Namjoon doesn’t know how to wrap his mind around the fact that the man in front of him has been around since the seventeenth century. He doesn’t have a single wrinkle, not a single strand of grey hair. He’s wearing skinny jeans and an oversized shirt. Nothing about him gives him away as a three and a half centuries old vampire, except for perhaps the paleness of his skin, which isn’t unordinary, and the richness of his voice, maybe the words he uses occasionally. It’s hard to distinguish that separately from his English accent, though. By the looks of everyone in the room, his age isn’t a surprise to anyone except him and Yoongi.
“I was the second son in my family, so I studied to become a yangban. I met a great number of beautiful gisaengs during my studies, but two in particular caught my eye, and I fell in love with both of them.” For a moment, he looks deeply lost in thought, probably reminiscing about the past he lived. “I still remember the day I first laid eyes on a landscape painting Chohui made. It stole my breath away, and I did a little research to find the artist. When I first laid eyes on her, her head was in her lover’s lap, not that I knew they were lovers at the time. Chohui and Jini were the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. I tried to resist falling in love with them, I really did. I couldn’t help myself, though. Their love, kindness… gentleness… humour. Nobody made me smile like they did. I never wanted them for just sex— to me they were precious.” A single tear falls down his cheek, and he quickly wipes it away.
Next to Namjoon, Jungkook fidgets restlessly, as if he wants to go over to him. His hand curls into a fist in his lap, and his silver earrings jingle as he moves his head. Namjoon wonders if his twitching is out of a similar one of his when Hoseok wouldn’t let him close, and the thought makes his stomach clench nervously. He shouldn’t project himself onto these people here.
“For the years leading up to my tests, they were my closest companions. I knew it was foolish to fall in love when I’d be married to a highborn chosen by my parents, but… I simply couldn’t resist them. An old shaman noticed us and rambled about us being soulmates. I found them irresistible because our souls were meant to be together. Across any lifetime, we were destined to meet, destined to fall in love. Our reincarnations would find each other. Back then I was a bit of a romantic, so I quickly believed her. Except… she also explained that soulmates are rarely ever so easy. Fate usually presents them with many hardships, and I was no exception. I had a responsibility to my family to marry a highborn and produce a son. Neither of the women I loved were of an acceptable social status. The day I passed my exams… I broke their hearts and my own when I left.” More tears form in Jimin’s eyes, and he blinks rapidly trying to get rid of them.
Taehyung and Jungkook both shift in their seats uncomfortably, and even Namjoon finds it hard to watch Jimin cry. His thoughts circle around the concept of soulmates— damn if that doesn’t explain how he feels about Yoongi and especially Hoseok. Nobody comes anywhere close to the love he carries for both of them. Except Hoseok isn’t his, that much is obvious. The only reason Jimin would choose to tell this story would be because… across any lifetime, soulmates are destined to cross paths, right? Hoseok being his husband now probably means… that he is likely the reincarnation of one of Jimin’s soulmates. The feeling of losing everything all over again sinks in. Namjoon is reminded how much he doesn’t belong here.
“When I arrived home that night, I tried to tell myself that I would love my soon-to-be wife as I loved them, that it wasn’t the end of the world. I couldn’t have been more wrong, honestly. My father had chosen my wife to be a high-born woman named Kye Songgi.” Jimin’s tone is grave and serious at the end of his words, and he hangs his head low as if he’s ashamed.
There’s a collective gasp in the room, Namjoon’s included. Holy shit. The woman who tortured Hoseok… was Jimin’s wife? His blood runs cold at the thought, and the panicky feeling comes back.
“Oh my god, hyung,” Jungkook says with wide eyes. This time, he doesn’t resist the urge to move over to Jimin’s side. Taehyung is right behind him, and they each stand at Jimin’s side. Jungkook strokes his back tenderly, comfortingly.
“You had to marry the woman… who… hurt hyung?” Taehyung asks, his voice small and distant with horror.
Yoongi curls up into a ball at Namjoon’s side, and… though things are weird between them right now, he squeezes his hand and scoots closer to him. He’s not prepared to hear more about this… woman, and Yoongi likely isn’t ready for it, either. The blonde slots himself into his side, and he’s shaking a little bit. Namjoon forgets that he isn’t as unphased as he pretends to be sometimes.
“Song… wasn’t like that to me. After we wed, I just thought she was quiet. She wasn’t unattractive and didn’t seem cold, at least in the beginning. I wanted to love her. I tried to get to know her, but she didn’t let me in. I couldn’t befriend her… after all, Confucianism had a tight hold on upper class women back then, and the roles that highborn women were permitted to have at the time were truly awful. They were taught that their place was just to produce children and look pretty, and… that was all she cared about. She wanted to have a son, she honestly couldn’t have cared less for me. And well… she never managed to get pregnant,” the vampire mumbles, teeth gnawing on his bottom lip. “Not… for lack of trying.” The look of shame crosses his expression again, and he hides his face away in his hands. Both Taehyung and Jungkook tense up at the admission.
“Eventually my heart got the best of me, and I missed my true soulmates, my true loves. Life with Song was unhappy and empty. Eventually it got ugly between us, because she grew to hate me for not giving her a son. She blamed me for it, and I could hardly stand to be in the same room as her, much less touch her, which only made our relationship worse. That… that was when she began to attempt physically harming me, but she wasn’t capable of it. I threw myself into work and began to save up money to buy the two gisaengs I loved. Not a day passed that I didn’t think of them and miss them… and times were so different back then… it was common for men to have multiple wives and concubines… I’m a bit ashamed of it now. But when I finally found them and won back their favour for having left them, I was finally as happy as I could be, even if Song’s hatred of me was at an all-time high. Having them back made me realise just how significant they were to me, to my happiness. For a few months, I felt on top of the world… and then it wasn’t long until Jini got pregnant,” he says, his voice quivering.
Another wave of icy, frozen dread washes over his system at the words. Namjoon doesn’t like where this is going at all. He can feel that Yoongi’s holding his breath from where he’s tucked into his side. Seokjin on Yoongi’s other side swallows anxiously. The tension in the room is palpable, thick and hazy like the smoke of a fire, carrying with it the sense of danger.
“Song grew to be unhealthily jealous, especially when it was speculated to be a boy. It reached a point where I avoided her at all costs— she would only say and do horrible things to me, to the women I loved. She just went mad. She grew physically violent towards them, and I feared for their safety, so I kept a tight watch on her. Eventually, though, she fell ill, and my guard lessened. It was obvious she didn’t have long to live. I said my goodbyes to Song, who was at death’s door, before I was called away for Jini going into labour. That was the night where my entire life fell apart.” He’s crying now, a sob shaking his frame after he’s done speaking. Taehyung guides him to put his knees down and he sits in his lap, wrapping his arms around him and drawing his face to his chest. Jungkook wraps his arms around Jimin from the backside of the chair, and presses a kiss to the crown of his head.
It hits Namjoon that… the two of them act towards Jimin like he and Yoongi acted towards Hoseok, and it leaves a strange ache in his heart and a bitter taste in his mouth. Something about everything here feels off, but he can’t pinpoint it. Or maybe he doesn’t want to let himself fall down that rabbit hole because once he lets himself, he’ll only get hurt. He doesn’t know these people here. He doesn’t know how they ordinarily interact. The entire… coven… could just be really into physical affection and comfort. He can’t overanalyse this.
“Song... I think she was sleeping with her doctor, and I’m certain he’s the vampire who turned her. Moments before my child was born, Song came out of nowhere as a freshly turned vampire. I was scared half to death— I thought she was dead. She swore to me that she would take everything away from me. I wish she’d only gone after me.” Tears stream down his cheeks. “But she broke my leg and made me watch as she bit and killed everyone… the servants, Chohui, Jini… even my son… He didn’t even have a name yet, and… I tried to protect them. I tried, but…” he trails off, holding Taehyung and Jungkook both tightly, as if he’s going to fall to pieces. “New vampires are ridiculously strong and so, so bloodthirsty. She was so hateful and jealous. We didn’t stand a chance. He didn’t...” Whatever sentence he was going to say becomes incoherent as he sobs.
Horror crosses everyone’s expressions, and Namjoon feels sick straight to his stomach. Even without exact details of what happened, his imagination is bad enough. What kind of a monster can kill a newborn? That’s the woman who held his best friend captive. That’s the kind of thing she’s capable of. He gets why Hoseok wanted to keep this all from him, because had their positions been reversed, Namjoon would never, ever want to put Yoongi or him in the path of someone like that. He feels awful for Jimin and Hoseok… he can’t even begin to imagine the gravity of that kind of pain. “I’m so sorry for what happened to you,” Namjoon says, voice rough from the crying earlier and overall lack of use.
“Me too,” Yoongi adds sincerely. “I understand why Hoseok wants to take her down. I would want revenge… honestly I do already want it for what happened to him, but you, too.” His words send a shiver down his spine, because he realises that Yoongi actually is capable of delivering revenge, in theory. Namjoon doesn’t want him to, though he can absolutely understand why he wants it. But revenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… Namjoon really just wants everyone to be safe.
Jimin manages a small, weak smile. It looks so tired and weary. For the first time tonight, Namjoon can see his age, for just a brief moment. He looks like a man who’s seen and lost everything, but isn’t done yet. “Thank you, though… Hoseok and I both would rather you not take part in any of this. We’d rather you two just stayed safe. We worry a lot about those we love,” he says softly, his eyes conveying his sincerity and warmth. “I know that we haven’t known each other long, but Hoseok has told me so much about you that I feel like I know you both… and I want to keep you safe, too.”
The words cause a lump to form in Namjoon’s throat. It should feel good, that Hoseok clearly still cares for him enough to talk about him, and yet… it’s still a reminder that he’s being kept at an arm’s length. He doesn’t know what to do with himself or what to do with this knowledge. He doesn’t know anything anymore, so he turns his attention to others in the room.
Jungkook and Taehyung look thoroughly upset, and have been rendered entirely speechless. Taehyung is chewing his bottom lip, eyes shining with wetness but no tear tracks are down his cheeks. Jungkook’s eyes are downcast, and he clings tightly to Jimin, like he’s trying to find a way to comfort him without any regards to himself. Seokjin looks resigned, like he’s had suspicions for a while that have just been confirmed. Yoongi’s shaking still, but whether it’s out of anxiety or anger, Namjoon isn’t sure.
Jimin gives himself a moment with his eyes closed, though it’s clear he’s already trying to regain his composure. Unlike Hoseok, though… he’s able to manage it. His tears dry up, but his expression is so numb. Even though he’s had centuries to process that grief, it still clearly weighs on him. Namjoon wishes there was something he could do to make this better but he’s so powerless to do anything about it. All of these atrocities happened and there’s not a damn thing he can do for anyone. It makes him feel even worse.
Looking at the three men curled together, Namjoon’s never felt so alone before. Yoongi might be at his side, but he feels so far away from himself, like some sort of out of body experience, so naturally he feels far away from Yoongi, too. He’s only human, whereas his partner isn’t. Even as a detective who’s seen plenty of horrors, he still feels like it’s all child’s play compared to this. All he wants to do is fall apart and be dead to the world. This is too much to process, too much to handle.
As if Jimin senses him sinking deeper into his thoughts, he chooses that moment to carry on. “I don’t really remember anything until I woke up as a new vampire. I was in the care of the shaman who told me about soulmates. As it turns out, she was a very well known and very powerful witch. She told me that she witnessed what happened and took me in. She taught me all about the supernatural world… how to control my thirst… she even enchanted a ring so I could walk in the daylight. She was the one who stopped me from giving up. She told me someday I would find my soulmates again, and that it was my duty to live the life they would have wanted me to live so that when they’re reborn, and I finally see them again, I can be good to them. But I wanted revenge. I knew Song was still out there, and I wanted her gone before she could touch anyone I love ever again. If my soulmates were going to be reincarnated, I wanted it to be safe for them. I… failed though.” His words are agonised as he admits this.
“I spent centuries trying to hunt her down. She caused chaos everywhere she went, constantly trying to taunt me. It was like a game of cat and mouse. Eventually she got on the council’s bad side for being so reckless, and they started paying bounty hunters to track her down. They even reached out to me with a deal if I could stop her. That was nearly forty years ago, though. It wasn’t until four years ago that she made an appearance again… On December 12th, 2015, I received a note that carried her scent on it that only had an address. At the time I received it, I was living in San Francisco. The address was to a small town in Washington. When I got there… It was already well past midnight. I knew the second I got out of the car and smelled Hoseok’s scent that… I needed to protect him. By the time I got there, he was alone with Gwyn’s body. At first he was scared of me and tried to run away. He… uh… I calmed him down enough to bring him to safety from the sun,” his words grow slightly cautious as he speaks, but Namjoon’s intelligent brain can already guess why.
Did Hoseok attempt suicide by sunlight? He lets that thought sink in. The deeper it goes, the more he wishes he could go back into the other apartment and hold him again. He can't be sure, but Jimin's behaviour suggests it's a sensitive topic so he can't think of any other reason he'd be so evasive. He can't get over that they were so close to losing Hoseok permanently. Namjoon could be losing him again and he finds himself tearing up for the nth time tonight. He wants to take away all of the pain Hoseok’s in, because maybe that’d take away some of his own, too. Yoongi subtly presses a kiss to his side, and though the distance forming between them is intimidating, it feels good.
“I knew right away from his scent what he was to me. Even though I could smell the fear and the sharpness of a newly turned vampire, he still smelt like home.” His eyes flutter closed, and a tranquil look crosses his face. He looks genuine in what he says, but he doesn’t seem to talk about Hoseok the way that a lover would. He tries really hard to not dwell on that, and shivers when Jimin looks at him directly. The look feels significant, but he’s far too drained to be able to read or understand it.
“Seeing him after everything with Song woke something inside me. I’d lived my entire life as a vampire in mourning… wandering from place to place only looking for revenge. But when I found him, it was like looking in a mirror to me from centuries ago, and I suddenly wanted to be better. I wanted to protect him, to enjoy life with him, to just… I don’t know, remember that life is worth living for me, too. I’m glad that he chose to trust me when we met. I wanted to pay forward the good that the shaman did for me, and this was the one chance I could. From that moment onwards, everything changed. At first, he was rather unresponsive. But his instinct was to go home to the two of you— I didn’t want to upset him further, even though I knew it wasn’t a good idea. I wanted to do right by him, even if it meant letting him go. On the drive to Portland, I convinced him to stay with me long enough so I could teach him how to control the thirst, give him something daylight enchanted…” he trails off, a sympathetic smile on his lips, flickering between the two of them almost like he feels guilty of something.
“Then he told me he wanted to be home for Christmas, and I was nervous about it because he was still so new to this world… he had only been with me for a little more than a week. Song was still a threat, too. But I agreed anyway, because he’d already been through so much and he… he has a family, still. I didn’t want to get in the way of it. I’d give anything to be with mine, so of course I wanted him to have that. After I dropped him off outside of your homes in Corvallis, he made the decision that the risk was too great for his loved ones if he came home after an hour or so,” Jimin says glumly. “I honestly thought he’d be okay. I’ve never met a vampire with as much self control, even when a human is bleeding... But I understood his decision.” His words are heavy with significance, as if he’s worried the two of them are judging Hoseok. Namjoon’s so conflicted in regards to Jimin… on one hand, he’s glad he’s so protective of Hoseok. But on the other, it’s a painful reminder that Namjoon is on the outside looking in, when it used to be that he was always at Hoseok’s side. “He still fears his nature so much, even though he’s never come close to harming anyone after Gwyn. He’s the best of us, despite what you may think of him right now.”
Both Taehyung and Jungkook are nodding adamantly, causing Jungkook's dangly earrings to tingle softly in the quiet of the room. Jungkook decides to speak up. "Hoya-hyung is the reason I can still study medicine," he says quietly. "He was the one who taught me how to control the thirst in the presence of blood."
“I believe you,” Yoongi murmurs, wiping stray tears from his cheeks. There’s a shaken look on his face, like he’s realised something unrelated to Jungkook's words, but Namjoon’s brain is on the fritz and can’t contemplate it... nor can he really let himself think too long about the fact that Hoseok almost came home to them twice. His heart aches harder as Yoongi carries on. “I’m not scared of him. I don't blame him for what happened and I don’t doubt your words, either. We know Hoseok.”
It’s strangely calming to hear the blonde say that out loud. Namjoon knows he feels the same, but it seems a little less crazy hearing someone else who’s just as unfamiliar with the way the world works say that first, especially when that someone is Yoongi, who has his utmost respect and trust. “Same here,” he agrees quietly. “What Song did… is one of the worst things she could have ever done to him.” He could elaborate… explain his thinking. But everyone here likely already knows Hoseok at the level he and Yooongi used to, and it would be useless to explain. “Hoseok’s self control in every way was always better than average.”
Jimin nods, confirming his suspicions. “She’s good at that, finding the spots that will hurt us most. For someone who seemed so detached, she’s horribly observant. I’m not sure if she knew my connection to Hoseok somehow... before we did, even. But she found him first, and… did what she did. She never turns any of her victims… and she’s killed dozens. It's part of the reason she's so difficult to track. I’m grateful he’s still here, but I’ll always wonder why she didn’t kill him like the others. How did she know? Or was it just a coincidence of fate? It’s one of the reasons why he and I are as paranoid as we are. Until she’s dead, neither of us are free to be truly happy. It’s why everyone we care about, we try to keep at arm’s length. He and I don’t want anyone involved that she’ll just try to use as bait. We don’t even want Becky involved, and this is exactly what she’s trained to do as a bounty hunter. That is why I must ask the two of you to stay safe, on behalf of Hoseok. Promise us—promise him— that you'll stay long enough to learn how to stay under the council's radar, and then go home to Portland, where you'll be safer.” The look in his eyes is reserved, like there’s more to it than what he’s telling. He’s eerily calm now, but still a bit numb. His hold on both Taehyung and Jungkook is relaxed, and he even looks as if he wants to push them away a bit.
Normally this is the part where his brain comes up with hundreds of questions, and he usually voices the most important ones. There’s far too much to sift through here, though. Where does he start? Does he really even want to know anything right now? If he does manage to ask, he likely wouldn’t remember it or retain it, and he certainly won’t agree to leaving Hoseok behind again, so he keeps quiet.
“I… can’t promise that,” Yoongi says, his voice strained. “You don’t know what you’re asking from us. We’ve spent years looking for him, we can’t just walk away and leave him.” His voice is gruff as he speaks, and his words are laced with a desperate kind of urgency.
Jimin’s face looks resigned and solemn as he nods. “Of course we can’t force you… but there’s also more than just Song to worry about. It’s illegal for humans to know the truth about our world. If the two of you are caught… Namjoon, you could be sentenced to an awful fate. Blood slavery, imprisonment, even death. It’s why Hoseok had to compel you to forget him. He did it to protect you. Yoongi… we’re not sure if the council is even aware you exist. We’re not sure why or why your own identity has been kept from you, but we’re not sure what the council would do with you. None of our theories point to anything good. My coven is small, and thanks to Seokjin, we’re well protected. But we cannot guarantee your safety long term. The council tends to keep a close eye on us for reasons best explained another time, and we’ve kept you a secret so far thanks to lucky timing. They’re preoccupied with a much more pressing matter at the moment.” He sounds tired as he speaks, no longer meeting their gazes. He almost looks ashamed, and it makes Namjoon’s anxiety rise like the waves at high tide on a beach.
Namjoon could be killed. He could be killed simply for knowing things he shouldn’t. He knows Hoseok’s a vampire. He knows that Yoongi’s a witch… and knowing that might get him killed. After knowing what Hoseok went through, it sounds an awful lot like how he imagines blood slavery to be and it makes him shudder slightly. He can’t find it in him to be angry anymore about being compelled, not when the stakes for him are so high. Hoseok’s behaviour towards him before the compulsion makes so much sense now. His urgency, his care, his reluctance to explain further. Namjoon gets it now, and it kind of breaks his heart worse while healing it in another way. It’s proof that Hoseok cares, despite how cold he was at the end of their talk tonight.
Knowing all of that doesn’t make the pain stop, though. He needs to get out of there, he needs to be alone. He can’t think. He feels like an old laptop with a system update downloading, the kind that changes every little detail and functionality, supposedly to make things “better” but gets loaded full of bugs. The gravity of the information he’s been given is overwhelming, and there is so much to sift through before anything will begin to make sense.
Nobody in the room should be able to read him well aside from Yoongi, but everyone is looking to him yet again, and it makes him uncomfortable. How long was he checked out? Did Yoongi say something? He feels a bit like he’s dissociating. He’s slipping into shut down mode where he’s numb to all of it— he’s finally hit that threshold, and all he wants to go home. He wants to curl up into a ball in his own bedroom back home in Portland, and wake up with all of this being some sort of horrible nightmare. He doesn’t want to exist in a world of vampires, witches, and supernaturals or soulmates. He wants his simple, easy to navigate, logical life back and he’s never felt so far away from it before.
It’s time he’s said something, because he needs to get out of there. “I think we should go,” Namjoon says abruptly, finding it too difficult to muster up the energy to be less blunt. It’s taking a monumental amount of effort to not shut down.
“Wait,” Seokjin interrupts, startling Namjoon a bit because he forgot he’s there. “Yoongi… I want to extend an offer to you. I’m a witch, too. If you want to swing by my shop, I’d be happy to help you figure out your abilities and teach you a thing or two. As a witch, you have a great potential. I can sense a lot of power in you, but it’s strangely locked away or blocked… I’d like to see what you’re capable of without the blocks. Regardless of what you choose to do, it's good to know what you're capable of.”
The brunette can’t help but clench his jaw and hold his breath. This is too much for him to handle. He just wants to leave, to get out, to get some air. He doesn’t want to be around such a mind melting world or people. He doesn’t like the idea that Yoongi belongs here, rather than in the world Namjoon does. He doesn’t like how fragile he feels.
“Uh… I’ll think about it,” Yoongi says, squeezing Namjoon’s hand as if he needs reassurance. His brows are furrowed as he looks over at him, and he can’t find it in himself to look directly at him. None of this is his fault, but it’s hard to see him the same right way now when such a significant difference divides them.
“You’re both welcome to come by anytime,” Seokjin says, passing Yoongi a business card. “I’ve never apprenticed a witch before, but… I think you should consider letting me teach you some protection and concealment spells at least. Those are always good things to have under your belt.” He gives him a small smile and a dip of his head. His smile widens when he looks at Namjoon. “It’ll be okay, you know.”
“Maybe… can we go now?” he asks, finding it impossible to put up his usual poker face, or even muster up a way to express the gratitude he does feel. He’s so out of it right now, and in the back of his mind, he knows he’s not okay.
“Of course,” Jimin says in a small voice. “Do you need a lift home?”
It’s Yoongi who interrupts this time. “No, we’ll see ourselves out, but thank you. All of you.”
Thank god for him, because Namjoon can’t formulate words. Even just regulating his breathing is taking effort right now, thought it helps center his mind and focusing on something other than drowning in the endless circles of thoughts he’s trapped in at the moment.
“Alright… goodnight,” Jimin says softly. “And… happy birthday, Yoongi.”
The silvery blonde next to him stiffens, and then nods his head slowly after his eyes catch a glimpse of a clock. It's after midnight now. Even Namjoon forgot the date and time amidst all of this chaos. Too much is happening right now that it doesn’t even cross his mind to wonder how Jimin of all people knows that.
“Thanks,” he murmurs back. “Goodnight.”
With that, Yoongi takes the initiative to stand, tugging gently on his arm. He leads them out of the apartment, maybe sensing how out of it Namjoon is currently. The brunette lets himself be led outside of the apartment. He’s too spacey to pay any attention to the journey to the bottom of the complex, or to notice that Yoongi’s pulled out the uber app on his phone. He’s extremely grateful that he’s hasn’t attempted to talk to him yet, because all he wants to do is fall apart. Privately. He wants to be alone long enough to decompress and sort himself out.
When the car does pull up, he’s slow to follow his partner inside it, like his reaction time is off. A minute into the ride, he lets his exhaustion take over, and he leans his head against the cool glass of the window over his shoulder. He stares at the blurring lights of the city as they drive through it. Now he’ll wonder if those apartments house a vampire or maybe a witch. Do other creatures exist? His ordinary life will never be the same after this. After a minute of that, he tries to shake off the thoughts and closes his eyes.
“Joon-ah,” Yoongi murmurs after a few minutes, nudging him gently to rouse him.
It catches his attention enough to make him realize that he needs to exit the car, and he unbuckles his seatbelt with even less coordination than he typically posses before pushing the door open. Yoongi moves to take his hand again, and he doesn’t want to pull it away, but he doesn’t want to be touched right now. It does make him feel guilty, how he feels this strange divide between them when the blonde probably needs his support, and how touch is the best way to do that.
When they get up to their room, it’s natural to let go of their hands, and Namjoon unknowingly lets out a relieved sigh that doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Hey… are you okay?” Yoongi asks, worry creasing his brow. He steps in front of him, tenderly cupping his cheeks.
Namjoon steps backwards, needing the space. “Hyung, I’m… not… but I need space,” he says, his voice sounding far away, even to himself. He wants to elaborate, but doesn’t know how to articulate the way he feels. He hates that he doesn’t have the words, because he doesn’t want Yoongi to think he did something wrong. It’s just hard to be touched when his thoughts are so heavy and so much that the physical stimulation on top of it is too much to handle. Hurt flashes across Yoongi’s expression, and instantly adds to the guilt he was already feeling. “It’s not you,” he adds, his voice breaking. “I can’t think right now.” The words are far, far from being enough, but they’ll have to do for right now. He moves past him and kicks his shoes off next to the bed before taking a seat at the desk in their room.
It’s better not seeing Yoongi’s face while he sits there, starting with trying to breathe regularly. He takes deep breaths, in and out, and can feel the focused breathing helping calm the panicky feelings in his chest. Once he’s settled that, he begins to process the night. It begins to sink in that Hoseok is a vampire, that Yoongi is a witch, that there’s a serial killer targeting Hoseok and his husband. It sinks in, that Hoseok and Jimin are really married. They’ve got an unbreakable bond. They might even be soulmates, though the blonde was rather vague. Namjoon’s place in Hoseok’s life is… nothing. Namjoon’s place in Yoongi’s supernatural life… might be nothing, too.
Ah. That’s where the biggest source of pain is coming from, as if it was a thorn stuck in his side. Now that he’s found it and pulled it out, everything spills out.
Namjoon used to think that he was an important part of Hoseok’s life, and didn’t think that would change despite the passing years. He always thought the two of them would walk the same path. And they did, until nearly five years ago. The paths they’re on now… shouldn’t cross. Even if Hoseok loves him in any capacity, it’s best if Namjoon isn’t in his life. He’ll never forget how helpless he felt under the compulsion, and the only reason his best friend ever did that was to protect him. How would it feel if he was compelled by Song?
And Yoongi, god… finding something like this out is enormous. It’ll cause him a lot of pain, too. But when the dust settles, will Yoongi still want to be with Namjoon? They haven’t talked about it. They haven’t said anything about being official, or how they really feel. Yoongi probably does stand a chance with Hoseok if he wanted one. Yoongi and Hoseok both belong to a world that he’s not even allowed to know about.
If things go the way Seokjin seems to want, Yoongi will become his apprentice. He’ll know protection spells, something to keep them safe.
It’s Namjoon who’s the dead weight. He’s holding them back. He can’t offer them anything useful. He’s just a ball of emotions and a human liability and it hurts. Yoongi can provide something in Hoseok’s new life, whereas he cannot. Is love, especially unrequited love, enough to keep them together? Is it enough to justify hiding him from this cloak-and-dagger type supernatural council?
No… no, that makes no sense. Jeopardizing their safety just to keep him hanging around as a liability is not smart. Just because he loves Yoongi and Hoseok doesn’t give him a free pass to the supernatural world… the world he doesn’t belong to. Hoseok doesn’t even return his feelings. He may love him, but he has Jimin and Becky. His love is just platonic. The dreams he had for the three of them are hopeless. Though the love he has for Yoongi is returned… if the choice came down between learning about the supernatural world and staying with Hoseok or going back to their old, comfortable, but sad life back home in Portland… he doesn’t know what Yoongi would choose. He doesn’t know what he’d want him to choose, either. Because if he is a witch, then there’s a huge part of himself he’s never known and has every right to know, and if Namjoon truly loves him, he should be willing to let him go. Namjoon alone isn’t worth giving his birthright up, and it sounds like he might be too much of a risk for them against the council if he continues on being fully aware of everything. He doesn't understand why he can't know... he would never tell anyone... but this is how things are, and he's not sure what to do.
A scratchy feeling settles over his chest at the thought of being left behind, even though it logically makes the most sense. His breathing hitches slightly, and he lets out a cough at the uncomfortable feeling. Nothing about tonight has been easy… of course he’d end up with the early onset of a cold. Worrying yourself sick shouldn’t be possible, but… then again, how many impossible things just became possible tonight?
Too many. He just wants sleep now. When he finds the strength to stand, he feels a weird sense of dread, not seeing any sign of Yoongi in the room. He must have been so out of it that he hadn’t noticed him leave.
He swallows the lump forming in his throat and strips off his clothing, throwing it into a pile to the right of the bed. He makes a brief, meager attempt at brushing his teeth before going straight to the bed. Though he’s worried about Yoongi, his mind is so scattered and tired, and it doesn’t have energy to put into that worry. As soon as his head hits the pillow, he’s out like like a light that’s been turned off.