(Phase 4 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Four: Sympathy for the Devil
First week of April 20XX
It was the beginning of the second month of school when Zhou Mi’s class was interrupted. They were having a test when a hurried knock came from the door. Seconds after, before anyone could open the door, it opened and Taeyeon entered, immediately running to his desk.
“Kim-sshi, is something wrong?” He asked quietly, signalling the students to continue their test,
“Kyuhyun and I were on our way to class… he was jumped again and they didn’t let me go until they were through with him. Heechul’s gone for the week and I didn’t know what to do,” She explained,
Zhou Mi’s eyes swept over her face. Her big, bright eyes were dulled and glassed over with tears already shed. Her small frame was trembling fiercely and her uniform was rumpled, “What about Sungmin or the headmaster?”
She shook her head, “They… they’re in Seoul for a teacher’s conference.”
Immediately, he told the class to continue their test and swiftly left the classroom in her wake. Once out in the corridor, Taeyeon burst into a full dash and Zhou Mi easily kept pace with her,
“Did they do anything to you?” Zhou Mi asked as she ran towards one of the stairwells,
“No, they just held me back so I couldn’t help him or get help,” Taeyeon insisted, “If there hadn’t been so many of them, they wouldn’t have been able to hold me back… two of them… two of them held onto me and…” She shook her head and Zhou Mi caught her trying to subtly brush away tears, “Kyuhyun’s my main concern,” she stated as they burst into a stairwell.
She led the way to a landing, which was between floors, and Zhou Mi nearly froze from surprise. He had seen Kyuhyun battered before, but this time it was so much worse. He half-expected Kyuhyun to be sprawled on the landing but, instead, he was curled up against one corner of the landing, pressed against the walls and trying to inch away from the sun pouring through the landing’s large window.
Taeyeon tugged on Zhou Mi’s arm, pulling him out of his reverie. She looked at him with tear-filled eyes as she barely whispered, “Please, Seonsaeng-nim.”
Regaining his wits, Zhou Mi strode over to Kyuhyun and, as gently as he could, picked him up and held him against his chest, one arm beneath his knees and the other wrapped around his back. “Let’s go to the nurse’s office. Maybe I can convince Heechul to come back early.”
Taeyeon nodded and went ahead of him, opening doors and trying to make the journey as easy and smoothly as possible.
Once in the nurse’s office, Zhou Mi brought Kyuhyun over to the nearest bed. Taeyeon rushed ahead to the windows and then paused, glancing over her shoulder at the literature teacher,
“What are you waiting for? Close them before he burns!” Zhou Mi exclaimed as he laid Kyuhyun down on the bed and then immediately walked off, “I’ll look for something for his injuries. Start taking off his shirt so I can see the extent of the damages.”
Taeyeon finished closing the windows in Kyuhyun’s area and partially closed the curtains around his bed when she noticed that Kyuhyun had rolled onto his side, eyes clutched tightly closed. She walked to the side he was facing and covered one of his fisted hands,
“I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough,” she murmured as she began to slip off his sweater vest.
He groaned and flinched with each movement and every time, she whispered an apology. She then began to unbutton his white shirt. She tried to manoeuvre his free arm first through the shirt. Then, she ran to the other side of the bed where his back was facing so that she could slip his shirt beneath his side and then go about freeing the arm he was lying on. As she gently pulled his shirt around and off his back, she dropped it immediately to the mattress, gasping softly,
“Um… Seonsaeng-nim… Seonsaeng-nim!” She cried out,
“What?” Zhou Mi replied,
“You might want to look for burn cream too!” She exclaimed,
“What!?” In a few short seconds, Zhou Mi reappeared and nearly dropped the medicine bottles he had in his hands.
Placing them on a bedside table, he walked closer to Kyuhyun and inspected him closer. He noted with only half-surprise that Kyuhyun was even thinner than the last time he had carried him and that had been only over a week ago. He noted the way Kyuhyun’s ribs were clearly defined and the way the tops of his hip bones jutted out just above his pants. His eyes swept over Kyuhyun’s front which was covered in already-purpling bruises. His back, however, was even more horrifying. His back was a bright, cherry-red; covered in first degree burns. He remembered how the landing was filled with sunlight and the way Kyuhyun had been compacted into a small corner; at one point, he must have been lying on his stomach and his back had been exposed to the sun long enough that the heat had penetrated his clothes and had begun to burn his skin.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Kyuhyun murmured,
“LIAR!” Taeyeon cried out, running back to the side he was facing. She dropped to her knees as she stared at him through a veil of thick tears, “After all these years, you’re going to start lying to me now?”
“If it stops you from crying,” Kyuhyun said dryly.
She scowled at him as she stood again, “I’m calling my parents, Kyuhyun. I’m calling them and telling them what happened. If you stay, this will just keep happening –”
“You have a test to take. Go take it,” Kyuhyun interrupted, “We’ll talk about calling your parents afterwards.”
“I… but I –”
“I will stay with Jo-sshi, if you deliver a note to the mathematics teacher, Han-sshi,” Zhou Mi offered quietly, suddenly preoccupied with checking the labels of the medicine bottles he had brought over,
“But… but I –”
“Please, Kim-sshi? I left my class and I fear they’ll start cheating on their tests,” Zhou Mi insisted,
Taeyeon sighed heavily, her gaze bouncing between her imploring teacher and her cousin who was trying his best to smile, “Fine…”
A few minutes later, Taeyeon left the nurse’s office with a note for Hankyung in her hand. Once the door closed after her and they were alone in the nurse’s office, Zhou Mi went about getting a small tub of cool water and a face towel. Slowly, gently, he began to submerge the towel in the water, wring it out and then lay the cloth on Kyuhyun’s back.
He sighed with relief, allowing his eyelids to slide close as he murmured, “Earlier, you scolded Taeyeon about not closing the curtains fast enough… you know, don’t you? How?”
Zhou Mi was tempted to explain the headmaster’s role in everything, but decided against it; Eeteuk had told him on a whim of trusting him and he would not break that trust. “Along with knowing a thing or two about health, I know about vampires… I know they’re not myths… Over the past month, I saw the signs in you and guessed.”
Kyuhyun said nothing, relishing in the feel of the cold compress against his back, which felt as if it were still burning.
“If I leave you here to rest, are you going to disappear on me again?” Zhou Mi asked bluntly,
“Even if I wanted to, I can barely move,” Kyuhyun admitted, “It hurts too much.”
“Good… well, not that it hurts, but that you can’t move. You need to rest, Jo-sshi,” Zhou Mi said sternly, “You look worse than the first time I examined you and now your back is burnt…” He sighed heavily, “You need to rest and give your body time to heal.”
“If you cover my back in cold compresses, I’ll stay here all day,” Kyuhyun promised.
Zhou Mi chuckled softly, the tips of his lips tilting in an easy smile. When he had seen the state of Kyuhyun’s body, he had literally lost the ability to think properly, to breathe. He was thankful for being at Kyuhyun’s back because then the younger man couldn’t see the way his hands tremble every time he laid the face towel on his reddened skin.
He had seen people injured before; indeed, injured worse than Kyuhyun, to the point where they were fighting for their lives, hoping each breath was not their last. However, for some reason, Kyuhyun’s injuries, as light as they were compared to what he’d seen in his years as a Hunter, affected Zhou Mi more than anything else. He felt a cold fear sweep through him, even though he knew Kyuhyun’s injuries were far from fatal and even his burns were only superficial. But he feared for Kyuhyun, nonetheless.
After laying a bigger towel over Kyuhyun’s back, Zhou Mi gave him painkillers and a sedative, “Don’t keep that on for too long. If you get sick after your injuries heal, I’ll kill you myself.”
“That’s quite counter-productive, Seonsaeng-nim,” Kyuhyun murmured after him as Zhou Mi strode through the curtains and closed them.
Zhou Mi walked to the door and paused, hand on the doorknob. He glanced over his shoulder at the curtained area that protected Kyuhyun. “Call me Zhou Mi…” he corrected, his voice barely above a whisper. Then he opened the door, closed it after himself and locked it securely with a key he found in Heechul’s desk.
As his last class for the day was coming to an end, Zhou Mi allowed the students to leave early. As the last student left his room, he began to put away his own files and folders in a filing cabinet and locked it. As he turned back to his desk to clear his things, he heard someone enter,
“Hey, thanks for checking on my class earlier,” Zhou Mi said, instinctively knowing the footsteps,
“Not a problem, but what’s going on? Why did you have to leave? All Kim-sshi told me was that there was an emergency and you were at the nurse’s office,” Hankyung said as he hopped onto the desk nearest to Zhou Mi’s at the front of the class room,
“Jo Kyuhyun was jumped earlier today. I sent Kim-sshi so she could take a test and I stayed with Jo-sshi in the nurse’s office until I was assured the extent of his injuries,” Zhou Mi explained distractedly,
Hankyung watched him silently. Slowly crossing his arms over his chest, Hankyung swept his gaze over his friend’s movements. There was a hustle and slight tremble in the long limbs which always moved so gracefully. There was a distracted tone in his voice when Zhou Mi was always aware, always analyzing; it was the Hunter in him. He remembered his past conversation with Zhou Mi from the previous month and remembered how he spoke of being protective of someone. He denied it when Hankyung asked if it was Kyuhyun, but now, Hankyung wasn’t so sure if Zhou Mi had been honest with him.
“Zhou Mi… he’s a student,” Hankyung said calmly, casually, hoping his tone would slip under his friend’s already distracted radar,
“It’s just a two year difference,” Zhou Mi replied flippantly when suddenly he froze in his movements. Had he really said that? Slowly, he straightened and raised his gaze to Hankyung’s which was now narrowed at him, “Hankyung, I –”
“That won’t matter to his parents or the board, Zhou Mi,” Hankyung said quietly, sternly, “All they’ll see is that you are a teacher and he is a student.”
“His parents abandoned him, Hankyung… and… to hell with the board!” Zhou Mi exclaimed.
Hankyung blinked, startled. Zhou Mi had always been by-the-book, had always followed rules and even relished in them; he was sure that was the reason Zhou Mi had become a Head Hunter at such a young age. However, to now hear his childhood friend not only disregard rules, but openly speak out against the establishment which set the rules, he knew something fundament had changed and he hadn’t paid enough attention to his friend to notice.
“You… It’s only been a month into the school year and you already really care about Jo-sshi, don’t you?” Hankyung asked quietly, “Despite everything, despite how you are… you came to care about him within the first few weeks, didn’t you? That conversation we had about you becoming protective of someone… this whole time, it was him?”
Zhou Mi swallowed hard. He had never lied to Hankyung before, ever since they were children and he certainly didn’t want to start now. He had been startled, taken aback when Hankyung guessed it all, but he gathered his composure in order to gain Hankyung’s realization that he was serious;
“Yes, damn it,” Zhou Mi stated, hands fisting at his sides; “And I sure as hell don’t need your approval.”
Zhou Mi came around the desk and headed towards the door. Hankyung caught up with him easily, grabbing his arm and stepping around him to block his path. For a moment, he just stared directly into his friend’s eyes, searching, reading…
“No, you don’t need my approval, but since we were kids, you always sought it,” Hankyung said quietly, his grip on Zhou Mi’s arm unknowingly tightening protectively, “Zhou Mi: be careful. We’re not kids anymore… I won’t be able to help you if you two get caught.”
Zhou Mi only realized then, when Hankyung’s words registered in his mind, how fast his heart was beating and how he had been holding his breath. Once again, his friend managed to surprise him and he felt himself pushed off balance as, composure momentarily gone, he managed a small nod. Hankyung stared at him for a moment longer and then stepped aside in the aisle between the desks and, eventually, slowly, loosened his grip on Zhou Mi’s arm and allowed it to drop to his side.
Zhou Mi made to move, but stopped when he was parallel to the older man, “Thank you.”
“For what?” Hankyung asked, turning to him, truly confused,
Zhou Mi met his gaze confidently, a brilliant smile spreading on his face and rapidly reaching his dark eyes, “For letting me go to him.”
Hankyung watched, silently, as Zhou Mi left him alone.
When Zhou Mi reached the second floor of the east wing where the nurse’s office was located, he wasn’t surprised to find Taeyeon lounging outside the door, leaning back against the wall, arms crossed loosely and one sneaker-clad foot absent-mindedly kicking at the edge of the hall’s runner. At the sound of his approach, Taeyeon looked up, offering a grateful smile. He said nothing as he reached her side and unlocked the door. Without any hesitation, she ran in and immediately slipped through the curtains which surrounded Kyuhyun’s area.
Zhou Mi, slower in his pace, turned on only one set of lights in the room, the area where Kyuhyun’s bed still doused in dimness. Eventually, he made his way to Kyuhyun’s bed, pushing the curtains aside to allow a little more light into the darkened area.
“You look tired,” Zhou Mi said simply as he watched Taeyeon pull a chair to the bedside and almost collapsed into it,
“I was up all night with Kyuhyun,” she admitted as she sat on the side that Kyuhyun was facing, talking quietly so as not to awaken her sleeping cousin.
“It’s a good thing you took your test then if you were up all night studying,” Zhou Mi replied, glad to notice that the towel was no longer draped on Kyuhyun’s back. Just to assure himself, he lightly brushed the back of his hand to Kyuhyun’s forehead and sighed with relief when it didn’t feel hot;
“No, we were up talking,” Taeyeon explained. She hesitated for a moment before she met the literature teacher’s eyes and decided to speak openly, since he seemed to know Kyuhyun’s secret; “His blood lust is acting up more frequently than before and… he really hates being a burden to Sungmin.”
“Whenever he feels the blood lust descending, he either escapes to his room or to Sungmin’s; whichever is closest,” Taeyeon replied simply and then continued, “So, we went to one of the unused music rooms in the central wing and stayed up all night.”
Zhou Mi blinked, startled, “That stopped the blood lust? I’ve never heard of that happening.”
Taeyeon shook her head, “It didn’t stop it, but it distracted him from it; calmed him.”
“But… but a vampire shouldn’t be able to do that,” Zhou Mi stated, “Their nature is weak to their own blood lust – he shouldn’t be able to ignore it like that.”
“I think it’s because he’s so used to fighting his vampirism,” Taeyeon explained quietly, her gaze dropping to Kyuhyun’s relaxed face; “Since the beginning, he’s been fighting all of his new instincts and before he was eating animal blood that I cooked into a soup. So, it’s only been a few months since his blood lust has truly had a need to flare up.”
“Only a few months? Why doesn’t he keep drinking… erm… eating animal blood now?” Zhou Mi asked, intrigued,
“Back in December his body began to reject animal blood the way it rejects normal food,” Taeyeon replied, “He gets by on water and plain bread but…” Her eyes swept over his bare torso, fully aware that Zhou Mi must have noticed that Kyuhyun was thinner than the first time he was brought to the nurse’s office four weeks prior; “I honestly don’t know how he finds the strength to make it through the day.”
“Well, you also just pulled a night shift, so I can take over,” Zhou Mi insisted, gently.
“What?” Taeyeon looked up at him, confused,
“Go get some sleep,” Zhou Mi stated, a friendly smile on his face, “As your teacher and the replacement nurse, I’m telling you to get some sleep, at least before the dinner hour. I’ll make sure Jo-sshi is okay.”
Taeyeon stared at him a moment. She had revealed so much to her teacher and only on the guess that he knew that Kyuhyun was a vampire. The literature teacher had been nothing but kind and helpful and supportive whenever she needed help with Kyuhyun, but what did she really know about him? Could she – they – really trust someone they only met this year? She wished Sungmin was there so she could talk to him, ask him for his opinion just like…
“You’re pretty bold to suggest such at thing to his girl –”
“His cousin?” Zhou Mi interjected immediately, his smile still pure and free from any smugness he warranted,
Taeyeon barely suppressed a gasp, blinked and then her gaze dropped to Kyuhyun’s sleeping face, “He told you that?” She slightly shook her head, “If you’re in his confidences to the point where he even told you that…” She chewed on her bottom lip and Zhou Mi knew she was confused and hesitant; for one who was suspicious of him, she certainly expressed her emotions freely. “I guess… I guess it’s okay to leave him with you.”
She slowly stood from her seat and reached out, brushing strands of hair away from Kyuhyun’s closed eyes. After one last glance at his battered and bruised torso, she threw Zhou Mi a grateful smile, bowed in reverence to his position and then quietly left. Zhou Mi waited until the door closed after her before saying quietly,
“Have you been awake long or just when we came in?”
“Just when you two came in. How did you know I was awake?” Kyuhyun asked simply, his eyes fluttering open, his body completely still,
“Your breathing,” Zhou Mi replied as he examined the skin of Kyuhyun’s back, “Your skin looks better than this morning and why didn’t you want her to know you were awake?”
“It feels better than this morning, but I tried rolling onto it earlier and that wasn’t going to happen, and anytime I try to move my back is a bad idea too,” Kyuhyun said before answering, “I don’t want to worry Taeyeon. If you haven’t realized by now, she tends to overreact in her concern for me.”
“Well, from what you said of your relationship, and what I’ve observed, it’s only natural she be the way she is towards you,” Zhou Mi said as he reached for the medicine on the bedside table and grabbed the half-empty glass of water. He walked around the bed to the side Kyuhyun was facing and offered him some medicine, “It’s just a pain-killer. I doubt you’ll want to sleep more of the day away.”
“I really don’t,” Kyuhyun confirmed as he slowly, gingerly pushed himself into a sitting position, his legs swung over the edge of the bed. He accepted the water and medicine as Zhou Mi began to critically analyse Kyuhyun’s torso once more.
Zhou Mi’s eyes took in each bruise of Kyuhyun’s front and each burn of Kyuhyun’s back. Recalling what he observed earlier the day, even though his back seemed to have stopped burning, his bruises seemed worse. That wasn’t right, he thought. It had been approximately six hours since Kyuhyun sustained his injuries and burns; half-blood vampire or not, he should have healed at least a decent amount by then, if not by half. As he stood behind Kyuhyun, his eyes still taking in the sight of his red back, he once again took note of his defined ribs and jutting hipbones; of course.
“Jo-sshi… you’ve lost about fifteen pounds since the beginning of school?” Zhou Mi asked quietly, tentatively,
“I…” Kyuhyun sighed. He was quickly learning that he couldn’t hide anything from this teacher and knew that trying to do so was futile. So, he answered honestly, “Plus or minus a pound… yes.”
“Your cousin, Taeyeon, told me how you haven’t been feeding properly. That’s probably also why you’re not healing like a normal vampire would,” Zhou Mi said swiftly,
“No, I haven’t been eating properly,” Kyuhyun admitted.
Zhou Mi closed the gap in the curtains and then began to walk around the bed, beginning to unbutton his shirt.
Kyuhyun blinked, “What the hell are you doing!?” He demanded, no longer caring that he was talking to a teacher.
“You’re weak, you’ve lost a ridiculous amount of weight and you’re not healing properly: you need to feed,” Zhou Mi said firmly as he stopped after the second button slipped through its hole, enough to comfortably expose his neck.
Kyuhyun found his gaze mesmerized by the sight. He wanted to look away, but the pale, creamy expanse of the older man’s neck was just too fascinating, too tempting, too… delicious. His hands gripped the edge of the mattress as he found his mouth had gone dry and just barely suppressed the urge to lick his dried lips. He wasn’t sure how, but he managed to talk and was thankful that his voice was normal when he did so;
“I don’t need to eat,” he insisted,
Zhou Mi, smiles gone, raised an eyebrow. He noticed immediately that Kyuhyun had emphasized the difference in their terminology the first time. The second time, however, he understood the need for differentiating between the two words. His gaze hardened on the younger man,
“Kyuhyun, if you’re going to keep getting in these situations –”
“I hardly ask to be jumped. And even if I did, I would never – NEVER – do so with Taeyeon around,” Kyuhyun almost growled the words, his eyes narrowing slightly at the insinuation;
“ – then you’re going to need to feed to keep your strength up. Even then, you’ve lost fifteen pounds in a month and even the first time I saw you, you were already thin,” Zhou Mi stated sternly, “If you don’t start f… eating, you’ll end up wasting away to nothing. Kyuhyun, your body needs to f… eat to keep going, to keep functioning properly.”
Kyuhyun could barely register Zhou Mi’s words. He could barely look away from Zhou Mi’s exposed neck and when he did, his heart stopped when he locked gazes with the other man. He could feel his heart pounded steadily, powerfully in his chest and, he was almost certain he could hear Zhou Mi’s heart beating… could hear his blood rushing through his vessels. Wait… did he just say ‘Kyuhyun’? Had they already fallen to such a state of intimacy?
He forced his gaze up to meet Zhou Mi’s eyes; “I don’t… I don’t care. I’m not going to… to…” His eyes faltered, drifting south for a moment before snapping back to the other man’s face, “I won’t!”
“Kyuhyun, you must care… you must if you’re trying so hard to fight your blood lust, your instincts. You must care about surviving and continuing to live if you’re doing everything you can to remain normal,” Zhou Mi stated firmly, eyes narrowing slightly,
“What does it even matter to you?” Kyuhyun demanded, eyes narrowing dangerously, “Why? Everything you’ve done for me since school started – why? You say it’s because you’re standing in for Heechul, because you know about health and vampires, but it’s more than that isn’t it? I just… I just don’t understand!”
Kyuhyun knew he was breathing hard now, knew his body was beginning to shake slightly as he was fighting his instinct to close the distance between them and sink his teeth into – no! He gripped the mattress tighter, gritted his teeth until they almost hurt. He wanted to understand what was going on, not with just his teacher, but with himself.
Since the first day he met his literature teacher, his body had been reacting to him in the most peculiar of ways. Ways that were foreign to him. Ways that never happened in reaction to anyone else. Even now as his heart was palpitating with excitement, anticipation and his hands itched to reach out, to touch, to grab, to pull, he wasn’t sure if it was in response to his blood lust or to something else…
He wanted it to stop, wanted his body to stop reacting to Zhou Mi in such a way. He wanted to get away from him and yet, he felt drawn to him and that was before he ever got a good look at the older man’s neck. He wanted his heart to settle, to calm down, wanted to be able to breathe easily when he was around the other man, wanted his thoughts to clear and stop confusing him… he wanted to know that what he was feeling wasn’t connected to his vampirism.
He wanted to be normal.
“I just… I just don’t understand,” Kyuhyun repeated, forcing every last bit of his strength into his words, stopping them from cracking, breaking and shaking like he knew it would.
Zhou Mi noticed the change in his attitude immediately; confused about the change, intrigued about the change, worried about the change. Against all his instincts, his better judgement and rationality, Zhou Mi closed the distance between them until his thighs touched Kyuhyun’s knees. He reached out, his long, slender fingers curving around Kyuhyun’s shoulders as he stared directly at him,
“Because I give a damn about you,” Zhou Mi confessed, his voice low and the fear in his tone foreign to his own ears, “More than a teacher should and a hell of a lot more than I’m comfortable with.”
Kyuhyun tried to lick his lips, but they still felt dry and suddenly, a lump was forming in his throat, throbbing painfully, suffocating slowly; “Even… even so,” his voice came out quiet and he mentally kicked himself for displaying such weakness, “I can’t… I can’t drink… I can’t drink your… I just… can’t.”
“If you keep refusing to eat, Kyuhyun,” Zhou Mi said quietly, tentatively, “Then you won’t be able to fight off the blood lust for much longer. No matter how much you keep trying to survive off water and bread, eventually your body will begin to reject even that and your blood lust will over whelm you.” Still, Kyuhyun shook his head in a silent, negative reply, causing Zhou Mi to question in frustration, “Why, damn it!?”
“Because not drinking human blood is what’s still separating me from being a monster.”
(Phase 5: To Stay by His Side)