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Gods at Dawn

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“We were like gods at the dawning of the world,
and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”

 ―The Song of Achilles

 

<><><>

 

All his life, or at least from the moment he’s had some sort of notion of it, Chanyeol has been told he was destined for something 'special'.

It had been foreseen in teacup lectures, scrying bowls, in dowsing sessions and in prophetic dreams. Starting from the great great great grandfather of his great great great grandfather, all the way to his great uncles, long distance cousins, aunts—even nephews Chanyeol had never even heard of before—they had all concluded that his lifeline, and every reincarnation tied to it, was destined for a greater good; written so from the beginning of time.

In the Park household, current residence of great mediums, retired spell casters and distinguished oracles, this future of his and the ‘uniqueness’ that surrounded it had become such a commonplace topic—for unfathomable reasons Chanyeol still couldn’t elucidate—it no longer held that mystical spark it once had.

He could still remember that pressuring excitement nestled in his scrawny chest when his great aunt, holding his sweaty hand loosely between her paper-wrinkled ones, had whispered in conspiracy ten years ago:

‘Your soul is one of a kind Chanyeollie. It’s old, and very special. You’re everything but ordinary, boy.’

Rubbish.

And now at the peak of his youth, for Chanyeol the topic of his future had become such a humdrum subject that he couldn’t care any less when tossed around, once more, as dinner conversation.

“Oh mother, please,” Mrs. Park sighed as she helped around Chanyeol with placing the silver cutlery in their vast dining room, careful not to bump into her twin nephews running around whilst playing their own version of Tag.

“Chanyeol is already so brilliant and wonderful just the way he is!”

“Of course he is! And he has yet to awaken his ability, don’t you see it!? Such potential… so… so much greatness! Ugh, you should know better... if you tried to practice more on those pictures of yours.” Chanyeol’s grandmother lectured her youngest child from the other room, mumbling the last part while she pushed herself off the leather couch.

“I know plenty already mother, thank you.” Mrs. Park replied, courteous yet sounding remotely offended for having her gifted ability picked on. “And they’re not pictures, they’re visions. It’s part of my Precognition ability.”

“Sure, sure.” The elderly woman waved her wrinkly hand dismissively, entering the dinning room. “You should know by now our Chanyeollie is a late bloomer, just like you were. Oh how you cried the moment you dreamt that pet turtle of yours would die in the next three days. Just give the boy some more time to adjust. That soul of his is not easy to carry.”

Out of respect, Mrs. Park smiled, trying to ignore the prickling in her skin. She turned her face sideways to hide the annoying tick in her left eye. This conversation was one she would never win, and as customary, she let it slide under the table. She knew better than to squabble with her bull-headed mother that already knew the words she needed to use in order to turn any argument on her side with her advantageous—though in this context unbearable and bothersome—ability of Mental Inducement.

The copious amount of aether—an invisible, classical substance also known as the celestial element—the strong elderly woman could manipulate and apply through her mental inducement techniques was unbelievable. She could control the element at any time, causing the people around her to shift towards any type of mind state she desired, changing their emotions, sensations, and even memories along the way.

Mrs. Park, along with her three older sisters, had plenty of experience from previous guilt-tripped won arguments to know that their eccentric mother was a force to reckon with in the Park-Kim household.

“Okay mother, I will. Now enough of this conversation, let’s have a nice pleasant dinner celebration, okay?” The petite woman offered, waving her invisible white flag willingly in the form of a gentle smile.

The cheeky matriarch smiled and nodded, shrugging one shoulder dismissively whilst knowing that, once again, they’ve both encountered their familiar impasse.

Chanyeol sighed at the exchange, masking his feelings under a smile once he felt the comforting hand of his grandma patting his obsidian locks, winking in mischief as she made her way into the kitchen to supervise the supper arrangements.

 

<><><>

 

Family gatherings at the Park-Kim household were always the spectacle in their neighborhood. Coming from a prominent family had its pros and cons, and for Chanyeol, having the foundations of his home shaking under the weight of the unscrupulous amount of aether being unconsciously manipulated by each and every member of his family was definitely not on his pro side of the list.

It wasn’t necessary to be an aether master to feel the immeasurable volume of said heavenly element charging the atmosphere, if the subtle flickering of the lamps around the house or the occasional static buzz when brushing shoulders weren’t already such telltale signs.

Even humans not gifted with supernatural abilities, let it be aether manipulation or the gift to possess and manipulate natural elements—commonly known as element guardians—could feel the electromagnetic and gravitational aetheric forces creating invisible vortices all around them.

Chanyeol shivered, running his palms up and down his chilled arms to brush the goose bumps off.

“Jongin~” Yuan Park popped her head from the kitchen entrance, effectively breaking her teen nephew’s concentration. “Could you tell everyone dinner’s ready please?”

Jongin whined at that, lowering his handheld game console to spare his aunt the saddest puppy eyes he could muster. Chanyeol rolled his eyes, placing the last of the utensils on the table while trying hard not to laugh at his aunt’s no-bullshit-excuses-allowed face.

“Why is it always me!” The younger one puffed his cheeks while pouting uncomely. “This is literally child exploitation!”

One of their cousins watching TV all the way in the living room snorted loudly. “Shut up Kai, you’re like 15!”

“I am 15, idiot!”

“Enough Jongin, do as your aunt says. Chanyeol’s busy enough and Sehun’s out tending your great uncles.” Their mother’s voice boomed through the dining room all the way from the kitchen, silencing any further arguments. “And once you’re done, come help us serve the table.”

Jongin grumbled but kept mum to his mother’s command as he stood up and walked away from his seat by the windowsill. Chanyeol couldn’t help chuckling at the dejected teen.

It took the rose-gold brunet just three seconds to close his eyes, pupils flickering fast under his eyelids like butterflies, before he opened them once again as if nothing with a big smile stretched across his mouth, calmly making his merry way to the kitchen to help their mother and aunts.

For anyone, the action might have been normal, maybe a little outlandish, but nonetheless uninteresting. But under this roof, everything was all but conventional.

“Ugh, seriously, could you yell any louder!” An equally tall, bleached blond stepped through the threshold connecting the garden terrace with the parlor room, rubbing the already prominent crease between his brows as he shot daggers at his twin brother carrying a hefty plate of mashed potatoes.

Chanyeol had a vague idea of what his younger brother might have said—or more like screamed, screeched, wailed—into his twin brother’s mind.

Following the Park’s famous lineage, Jongin and Sehun had been gifted their inherited abilities as aether masters at the age of four. Both twins had been blessed from an early age with a strong talent for aether manipulation, and such skill had been quick to manifest itself in different ways throughout both boys’ childhood.

It was not until the Park twins had reached the age of six and Sehun had barged into their parent’s room, crying about Jongin telling him scary stories ‘in his head’ while he was doing his business in the bathroom—Jongin playing in their vast backyard with their pet turtle, meters away from his scared brother—that their family realized the cheeky sun-kissed twin, older of the two by three and a half minutes, had the talent to manipulate an overflowing amount of aether through Telepathy, having inherited the powerful ability from their father’s side of the family.

Moreover, the good looking teen had recently awakened the peculiarity of Mind Walking—to their great uncles’ delight—after a fall from their decaying tree house last summer, which made the virtuous boy quite the nuisance when trying to hide certain memories or subconscious thoughts from his nosy ways.

Sehun, on the other hand, had been gifted as an aether master with the rarest—and in Chanyeol’s opinion, coolest—ability out of the rest of his family. The usually reserved, quiet twin had the gift of Psionic Intuition: the first of his kind in the already unique household full of singular abilities.

It had taken a tremendous amount of time and patience to coax the timid six year old to speak up about his ‘funny feelings’, a term he had used to innocently dub the ability he possessed of having knowledge of any given subject or situation with only the mention of certain elements involved—a variation of their mother’s precognitive abilities that easily explained why the younger twin was always safe of scrapes and wounds when playing with the neighborhood kids.

And if that wasn’t enough, by a twist of fate—or an evil jinx from Chanyeol’s point of view—the twins shared a special type of bond between their psyches since birth; cute and resourceful at first, but now just the root of infinite quarrels and ceaseless taunting between both moody teens.

Chanyeol was already tired of hearing them fighting over petty things like ‘whose idea was it really to wear the blue checkered shirt to their vacation trip to the mountain’ or ‘why did they have to fail the same test due to a shared headache’.

“Sorry, wasn’t sure you were gonna hear me with everyone talking so loudly outside.” Jongin smiled, innocently and corrupted. “Did you tell everyone dinner’s ready?”

“I did. Thank you brother.” Sehun smiled back, mirroring his twin. “If you hadn’t howled like a batshit crazy hyena in heat inside my head, I surely wouldn’t have been able to hear you.”

“Fuck off, you sperm gurgling dumbass!”

You fuck off! You ass licker cunt!”

“You two, shut up.” Their father muttered, unimpressed by his twins’ lack of tact before their family guests. “Seriously, at least pretend I tried to teach you guys some manners and didn’t fail miserably while at it.”

But of course, the petition was devoured by the siblings’ rage. Just like Chanyeol’s faraway and glory-filled future, the twin’s rivalry was just a common occurrence in the family, like background noise that no one bothered to hear more of or shut off completely.

Multiple voices suddenly overpowered the room and drowned the twins’ heated words, with the rest of the family members moving their ruckus from the backyard all the way to the dinning room. Chanyeol, having tuned most of the argument out, mostly out of habit, yelped as he felt one of his younger cousins step on his foot, rolling his eyes as Taemin looked up and flashed him a dimpled smile. The ten year old looked mildly apologetic before he ran off and pass Kibum, his older brother and one of Chanyeol’s favorite cousins, to get the seat that didn’t have the ‘lumpy weird cushion’.

The irritable college student flickered his baby brother’s forehead, telling the hyperactive boy to behave.

Every nook and crevice of the room seemed soon so full of sound and laughter, that it should have been impossible to take a breath and not feel suffocated by the sudden saturation of life inside the room. But it was easy to breathe in the distinct smell of oregano, basil, and butter, mixed in with a dash of joy and mirth, and smelling all that made a little something like happiness rested, like a fluttering bird now appeased, in Chanyeol’s heart.

“Happy Birthday, my big baby.” Mrs. Park’s hand found Chanyeol’s over the table, giving it a soft squeeze. “May all your wishes come true.”

“Cheers! To Chanyeol!” Mr. Park grinned broadly, holding his cup full of golden champagne.

To Chanyeol! The cheers resonated in the air, hands raised, and the clinking of glass against glass surrounded the boisterous atmosphere.

In moments like this, Chanyeol wondered if this was the greatness foreseen for his future. A future filled with occasions so rich, buoyant and overflowing with love that it seemed almost selfish and spoiled to want something more than what was given at this moment right here, right now.

What could be greater than happiness? One thought lingered in his head, a distant memory, but he quickly pushed it aside.

“To Chanyeol!” The household’s matriarch cheered, voice thick with wisdom and finality. “And his soon-to-be gifted abilities!”

Mother!” Mrs. Park groaned.

Argument once again dismissed by the waving of her paper-crumpled hand, conversation aroused once more, and the atmosphere fell into a placid pace.

 

<><><>

 

Hours dragged, and once the food was finished, the beverage drunk, and the candles blown out, midnight fell upon them, announced by the resounding strikes of the impressive case clock in the old parlor room.

One by one, every single member of the Park family bid once again a happy birthday to the now seventeen-year-old Chanyeol, ruffling his dark hair while patting his cheeks as they retreated to their designated accommodations in the sizable three story, Victorian styled manor.

Despite his protests to help, the fussy women ushered Chanyeol out of the kitchen, paying no mind to his feeble attempts to take some of the dirtied dishes to the already cluttered sink. With one last definite shove, the defeated birthday boy was pushed out and into the desolated living room. Defeated, Chanyeol bid each and every one of them good night, making his way to the second floor with tired, sluggish steps.

The lanky teenager could hear the women busying themselves downstairs while enjoying some idle chatter. On the second floor, behind closed doors, as he made his way through the long narrow hallway with antique pendant lights and high ceilings, laughter and conversations were still being held even though midnight hung heavy upon them on a weekday.

Half an hour later found him tucked under his plaid flannel duvet, staring into the darkness at the silhouettes painted with moonlight across the ceiling. If he strained his ears, he could almost hear the hush and the whispers through the thick walls; the muffled snickers, the rustle of sheets, the drag of feet across the old wooden floorboards, and the annoyed grumble of someone trying to catch some sleep amongst the noisy occupants in some room.

Turning on his side for the nth time, the restless teen fixed his attention on the soft wind blowing through the curtains of his open window, as heavy lidded eyes gazed vacantly at the rustled leaves falling into the gaping darkness. Once, Chanyeol might have thought that the chilly November wind freezing his limbs under heaps of warm cotton, the sweet melody of the still wind chimes hanging from the front porch, or the crooked shadows dancing before his eyes in the corners of his room were those small omens he had wished so baldy to show up, forewarning the final awakening of his slothful abilities.

It was said that late bloomers, let it be aether masters or element guardians, became highly susceptible to peculiar shifts in their surroundings due to their psyche’s expansion and consequential broadening of their senses. The massive influx of energy surrounding late bloomers normally radiated with such intensity that it created natural phenomena—inexplicable sea gales, unforeseen solar eclipses, temperature lability—easily named as omens by the rest of the human population void of paranormal gifts.

Chanyeol had held on to the idea of being a late bloomer for far too long, despite being painfully aware of the fact that ‘Late Bloomer’ was a term only applied to gifted beings whose gifted element or aetheric abilities had been received before the age of twelve. Anything regarding late bloomers above that age was just mere legend.

But the eldest of the Park siblings was five years too late, twice as fed-up and very much tired of living in a made-up world.

“I’m good enough as I am.” Chanyeol whispered, clutching the covers.

He’s had just about enough of the entire falsehood his family had been feeding him for the past seventeen years. His ‘special’ future, he had come to realize, might be just about getting good enough grades in his boring school for giftless people, going to a boring giftless college, getting that dream giftless job, and who knew, maybe even finding the perfect giftless one—although he scratched that last thought out, he didn’t need that.

Overall, maybe it was all about having a future full of shit worthy of a great, pathetic, non-gifted guy like him.

Deep down, Chanyeol wished he could smother that stupid, feeble hope that, no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t kill off.

How he longed for his family to understand and finally accept, just like he had, that he might not be an aether master after all. As rare as it was, it wasn’t impossible. There had been multiple cases around the world of people being deprived of their families inherited abilities

Chanyeol might have not inherited his family’s ancestral abilities after all, and that was okay.

Suffice to say, the seventeen year old didn’t need to have the ability of Clairvoyance, or Precognition, or use aether manipulation to decipher teacup messages to be acknowledged as worthy. Chanyeol loved his family, to death, but love could be as freeing as it could be suffocating.

Love was the most ephemeral, damaging thing in the world. He knew that very well.

And at that very moment in his life, curled under the covers with his face buried in his pillow and the shame of his tears searing warm salty trails down his cheeks, he wondered just how much longer it would take his family to realize that ‘unique’ and ‘normal’ were two concepts that were not meant to cohabit in Chanyeol’s dull existence.

And that’s okay, it’s okay…

He swallowed his sobs for what seemed like hours but were merely minutes, biting his bottom lip to will down the remorse burning his skin bright red. Soon enough, sleep seeped through his subconscious, steady, and fell softly upon his sorrow like balm on a scalding wound.

There’s life beyond elements and abilities, and that’s okay.

It has to…

 

<><><>

 

The moon stood tall from above, beneath two burning suns. He felt warm, yet lonely in the surrounding darkness. Chanyeol floated and swam through it, up and down, with no sense of direction or time.

The darkness was vast and boundless, liquid but jellifying to the touch. It was warm but rapidly scalding, and in the span of a bated breath he found himself no longer floating around but submerged.

He was drowning in it; neck deep.

And the aqueous solution started seeping into every pore of his body. It seeped in and it leaked right out, like a flowing river of black fire, endlessly. It took what felt an eternity to become part of it. It striped his existence off of him like a second skin to bind him to something bigger.

Chanyeol could feel the thick, burning substance breaching past his lips, his eyes, his ears, invading every space and every thought. His mind screamed, in agony, in pain, trying to hold its independence, but it was useless, everything belong to the dark. It coaxed him to do unspeakable things.

And the moment his mind was about to lose hold of that last shred of humanity, he was engulfed by a soft light spilling from above the surface. It was warm, comforting, grounding—if felt like home. The divine light set a cascade of sparks crackling over his skin that soon ignited a fast-flaming fire all around him. Outside the rapidly increasing inferno, hidden in the darkest depths below, voices he could not recognize whispered in a hurry words he could not understand.

Chanyeol felt misplaced, shaken up and out of focus in the surreal space of fire and dark.

The desperate whispers, turning now into pained screams, were like claws ripping into his flesh, again and again, echoing in his mind and all around him.

‘...igneeee…’

‘…igneee….’

‘…igne…’

‘…natura.. renovatorrr… i n t e g r a…’

His own voice, unrecognizable, hissed into the darkness those same words, lips curling into a sinister smile as the screams wept relentlessly all around him….

‘IGNE! DEUS! IGNE!’

 

<><><>

 

“Oh my god! Chanyeol! Wake up!”

Chanyeol awoke, disoriented. He sleepy eyes stared up, between the hazy clouds of sleep, at the column of fire burning his ceiling to ashes.

 

<><><>

 

¡GAME OVER!

Tap to Restart

 

“Igne natura renovator integra…?”

Through flames nature is reborn whole.” Chanyeol recited before groaning loudly at the sight of his military tank swerving out of the road into a ditch.

“Wow, you suck at this game.”

The aggravated teen huffed. “Shut up, driving this tank is a pain in the ass. It has like the entire weight bar full and shitty handling stats.”

“Then why do you keep choosing it?”

“It…looks really cool when you drift it. Anyways! I searched that phrase up on the Internet and according to latin geeks dot com and—don’t look at me like that, it’s legit!—the ever resourceful Wikipedia, that’s what it means.”

“You have the worst researching skills ever.” The boy sitting cross-legged over the bed rolled his eyes before adding. “And it's ‘through fire’, not flames.”

“Fire, flames. Same difference.”

Kyungsoo snorted, cuffing the gangly teen on the head before taking another bite of his egg salad sandwich. “So you woke up screaming that?”

“According to my parents and my dumb brothers, yes.” Chanyeol shrugged, eyes focused on a new gameplay. “One moment I’m dreaming about drowning in this weird, black sea thing and the next I’m waking up engulfed in a bunch of flames like a human torch. I literally burned my bed down.”

Kyungsoo froze mid bite, going through what he had just said before finishing his mouthful as if nothing. “And now, you’re a fire guardian.”

“Yeah.” The tall teen sighed, pausing for a second. “How the hell is that even possible.”

The smaller teen swallowed the last piece of his late lunch before placing the empty dishes on the nightstand. He raised his chin to point out the free controller forgotten by his best friend’s feet, mumbling a soft ‘thanks’ as it was trusted in his hands once he slid to the floor next to Chanyeol’s sprawled limbs.

Restarting the game, Kyungsoo took his time choosing his go-to player and his favorite features before commenting further. “I talked to my cousin the other day, you know, the one studying element genetics and stuff? He said that no matter what type of lineage you come from, the gift you receive is always inherited. There’s literally no chance of, lets say, being gifted the ability of finding raw sources of Petroleum as an aether master if you were born in a house full of water guardians.”

“Did you just make an oil and water analogy?”

“There’s a reason why an aether master is forbidden to procreate with an element guardian Yeol. It’s like genetically impossible to procreate a heir.”

“Well lemme tell you Soo, it is possible.” Chanyeol pressed a few buttons erratically and flickered his thumb over the joystick, body leaning left and right with the jerky movements of his motorbike racing through a frozen volcano. “How else would you explain me being a fire guardian with my dad being part of the Ministry of Aether Affairs, mom’s visions having her banned from the local lottery at the age of 14, and my twin brothers’ annoying, mind-picking ways to steal my hidden stash of porn magazines.”

Kyungsoo wrinkled his nose at the unnecessary information. “Maybe it’s a recessive gene?”

The now cherry haired teen shook his head. “Nah, we already went through the genealogy records of both families. I’m officially the weirdo in this household.”

“You’ve always been the weirdo though.” Kyungsoo grinned, avoiding Chanyeol’s half-hearted kick while surpassing his wimpy motorcycle with his death trap of a beetle. “Just look at the bright sight. You’re now the weirdo that can light up the fireplace in winter. You’re gonna save your folks tons of money from heating expenses.”

“Fuck off, mole man.”

Once the gameplay was over and Kyungsoo rubbed his victory all over his face, Chanyeol gave up in order to slither his way back on the bed, arms and legs spread wide like a starfish as his best friend continued on in solo mode.

His cloud gray eyes traced the exposed wooden beams of the guest room’s ceiling, musing about his own charred ceiling currently getting an impromptu restoration—courtesy of his little inferno display back in November. Thankfully, no one had been harmed back then, and aside from his destroyed bed and his barbecued ceiling, his body had been spared of any real damage.

A month had passed after that fateful morning following his sad birthday dinner, and despite all odds, he had been indeed a late bloomer as grandma Park had predicted all those years back.

Waking up with the ability to manipulate and create fire at will could be considered a dream come true to some, and a curse to others. In Chanyeol’s particular case, he couldn’t really decide just yet.

Sure, waking up with the extra muscle mass on his noodle arms and legs had been a tremendously welcomed upgrade to his lanky physique, and the mop of fire-truck red hair wasn’t that off-putting—regardless of what his mom said—but the dry skin, the shitty eyesight due to overheating of his optical nerves and having the most calloused set of hands he’d ever seen on a non-guitar player despite constant moisturizing were not attributes he was particularly fond of.

Along with the obvious physical changes, becoming a natural guardian had brought upon the Park household a series of hardships.

Following his awakening as a fire guardian, his parents had the biggest fight as of yet after his father had unintentionally accused his mother’s side of the family for ‘tainting the aetheric lineage’.

We all know that promiscuous cousin of yours is behind all this! He’d heard his father scoff one night, with a well-placed slap following the ridiculous allegations.

The situation escalated quickly in a matter of hours, and by the end of the day the Parks and Kims had engaged themselves in a childish dispute for an entire week, throwing each side of the family the blame, as if Chanyeol was an embarrassing fluke in their perfect family tree—which to be fair, he kind of was.

Thankfully, his twin brothers had found his recently gifted ‘superpower’ fascinating, following him around like puppies to their owner, begging their easily exasperated brother to burn shit up or cook their instant noodles with just the touch of his hands.

Now, at the end of his winter vacation, with half his belongings packed in two bulky suitcases set at the foot of the bed and an admission letter lying neatly over the study desk, he was ready to embrace this new adventure life had granted him with.

“Hey Soo.”

“What.” Kyungsoo huffed under his breath, sucking his teeth as he threw a handful of bombshells to the unsuspecting vehicles two places behind him.

“What’s it like. Hellvania Academy.” Chanyeol pursed his lips, turning around to lie on his stomach. “Is it as bad as Sehun and Jongin say it is?”

“I wouldn’t know for them, since I’m in a different campus, but it is called Hellvania for a reason.” Kyungsoo admitted. “It’s not entirely bad. I mean, once you’re passed the whole Xavier-Institute-for-Higher-Learning vibe, it’s actually pretty decent for a boarding school. Plus, we have a swimming pool and a huge theater at the dorms.”

“Hmm, that does sound pretty decent.” The redhead nodded, propping his chin on his palm as he followed the smaller teen’s winning strike on the TV. “At my boring, normal high school we only have half of a swimming pool that almost always smells like feet.”

The freckled boy grimaced. “That’s…sad.”

To that, Chanyeol wheezed in laughter. “It is, but I guess that’s something I won’t have to worry about anymore.” Among other things, he thought bitterly to himself.

Kyungsoo fell silent, in that type of way that always drove Chanyeol mad, but with a lifetime long friendship under his belt he knew very well that the pensive earth guardian was trying to order his thoughts into words—something he’d always had trouble with since his childhood years—so he patiently waited for the small teen to gather his words.

Sure enough, Kyungsoo made a pause on his gameplay to turn his head sideways. His cinnamon colored eyes were unsuspectingly worried, something Chanyeol wasn’t used to seeing so often in the normally impassive 5’6 beast.

“Yeol, are you okay?” He paused, eyebrows furrowed as he rephrased. “What I mean is, are you okay with everything that’s happened so far. I can’t begin to imagine how fucked up it must be with your family situation right now, changing schools so abruptly and having to take extra lessons to catch up with us…”

When Kyungsoo said it that way, it sounded like he was living in a shitty nightmare. He wasn’t fond of the idea of leaving his family—his current classmates could all drop dead for all he cared—and his quiet life at their small town to become part of a world he’d only seen a glimpse of since birth. But he didn’t have a choice, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault that his defective genes decided to work their science magic so late in his life.

“Meh, I guess this isn’t what I had dreamed my life would be like if I ever got gifted any sort of ability. I had already gotten used to you, Jongin and Sehun being gone to Hellvania for the majority of the year, so it’ll definitely feel weird, in the good kind of way, to have you around all day.” Chanyeol grinned, patting his best friend’s shoulder in easy reassurance. “Besides, my folks feel apologetic enough for having caused so much ruckus over nothing. I even guilt-tripped them to let me get the hand tattoo I wanted, so I can’t really complain much.”

Kyungsoo snorted as his long limbed friend showed off his brand new hand tattoo, silently admiring the inked flames emerging from the right thumb all the way up, with curls of orange and blue brushing each following knuckle, gorgeously aesthetic.

“You haven’t even begun classes at Hellvania and you already broke the dress code.” With a click of his tongue, he returned his attention to his forgotten game. “Hope you like spending the rest of your school year in detention.”

Chanyeol spluttered, flailing as he sat straight up. “What? No! I read the rules! There’s nothing about tattoos being forbidden!”

“What private high school do you think would allow any sort of body modifications, dumbass.”

“Noooo! Soo my mom is gonna kick my ass!”

The distressed cries were music to Kyungsoo’s ears, making the little demon smile as he ignored his best friend’s wails in favor of restarting another solo quest in Chanyeol’s vintage Nintendo.

Do Kyungsoo would rather be caught dead than admitting he was actually really looking forward to seeing more of Chanyeol’s dumb face for the rest of their high school years. Although a small part of him was feeling incredibly anxious for the inevitable encounter the latter would have to face, he was positive that things would turn out for the better.

Plus. He kind of…missed the giant. Ew.

 

<><><>

 

Hellvania Academy was your typical posh boarding school: old looking, ridiculously expensive, and full of snobbish brats.

Located miles away from Chanyeol’s small, cozy hometown, the imposing 19th century institute was a sight to behold from the moment one set foot inside the 220 acres grounds that surrounded the architectural gem.

Sehun and Jongin never spoke much about the boarding school, always referring to it as ‘the shit hole’ when prodded in their weekly calls. Growing up in an affluent family allowed them to enjoy certain privileges in life, which could explain why the troublesome twins never babbled about the luxurious accommodations or the lavish school grounds whenever they came home for summer or winter vacations.

“Fuck…I don’t wanna go back to school!” Jongin whined, and Sehun moaned in agreement despite their father’s disapproving glare for their choice of language through the rearview mirror.

Mrs. Park turned around in her seat, sending the twins a warning look before smiling her signature dimpled smile towards her oldest son. “Are you excited Chanyeollie? This will be your first time being away from home for so long.”

Chanyeol flinched at the baby nickname, ignoring his brothers’ teasing snickers as he reciprocated his mother’s smile with one of his own. “It’ll be weird at first, but I’m gonna have Soo with me so I won’t be feeling that bad. It’ll almost feel like a really long sleepover.”

“That’s the attitude.” His father grinned, nodding. “And now, you can take care of your brothers and keep them out of trouble for once.”

“Hey, I don’t get in trouble that often.” Jongin pouted. “I’m just severely misunderstood by the teachers.”

Both parents and Chanyeol threw the problematic twin a skeptical look. Even Sehun betrayed their brotherly loyalty by raising an eyebrow at him. Jongin scoffed, offended.

“Don’t hesitate to throw in a little spank or two if needed.” Mr. Park chuckled, slowing down as they followed the line of cars driving through the long tree-lined avenue leading to the main school building. Finally, after a grueling four-hour drive, they were here. “I could really use the help to keep these hooligans in line.”

Sehun and Jongin gaped at their father’s request. “Dad!”

Chanyeol’s lips slowly stretched into an ominous grin, enjoying the way his twin brothers shivered at the sight. “Will do dad.”

“I-It doesn’t matter anyways. Aether masters and element guardians are split in different houses and dormitories. We probably won’t see your ugly face all day!”

True enough, despite the obvious division of the school system worldwide with children being whisked away to obtain special education and training in highly exclusive institutes the moment they received their gifts, inside these unique institutes existed another segmentation in regards of lineages.

Aside from the basic required courses—such a Math, Chemistry, or English Literature—it was compulsory for aether masters and element guardians to take different types of elective courses specific to their lineage, as well as individualized training regimens.

Element guardians had their own simulation unit outside of campus, housed under a massive domed facility fully equipped to recreate different scenarios that put the guardian’s developing abilities to test. On the other hand, the training the students with aetheric abilities were submitted to was a complete one-eighty. When questioned by their parents, Jongin and Sehun had merely explained that aetheric trainings were just a conglomerate of boring classes that had sounded more like séance sessions to Chanyeol than anything else.

The short drive met its end as they made it to the parking lot, already full of disgruntled teenagers being ushered into the school grounds by their overly eager parents and legal guardians. Sehun sighed, shoving his tablet and headphones into his backpack as his brother was whining and clinging to the passenger seat while getting tugged out by their unamused father.

Chanyeol could feel the buzz of excitement running up and down his bones as his clear eyes gazed with unconcealed marble at the imposing Elizabethan styled institute just a couple of meters ahead, with its iron roofs and its towering walls made of the finest ashlar masonry. Was this really boarding school? A speck of jealousy made its way into the slouched teen’s heart as he followed his parents and defeated twin brothers out of the parking lot.

He remembered his shitty high school, with its nasty toilets, questionable cafeteria food and run down classrooms. Jongin and Sehun had never and would never experience what a ‘giftless life’ really entitled. It wasn’t their fault though. Chanyeol had been the glitch in the family, and now it couldn’t be clearer.

“Chanyeol! Snap out of it!”

At the alarmed shout from his mother, he realized he had spaced out for the span of a second or two, long enough to let his emotions take over his still wayward abilities and causing sparks to crackle from his fingertips. The box he had been carrying was fast to catch fire and terrified, Chanyeol dropped the carton crate with his bed linens and pillowcase.

While everyone watched the impromptu bonfire by the parking lot, a boy no older than Chanyeol stepped from behind a column, mumbling something to a weirdly excited teen with a curled smile. He took the bottle of water from the latter’s grasp before he made his way towards the commotion. By then a few teachers had stepped in to try to appease the raging flames, but the bizarre fire didn’t show signs of shrinking, if anything it puffed up a tower of hot air as one of the teachers tried to subdue the angry flames with a fire extinguisher.

“Excuse me.”

Chanyeol blinked out of his stupor as the mysterious teenager softly pushed him out of the way. Puzzled, the redhead saw the teachers visibly relax at the sight of the unknown boy. Recognition flashed before Sehun and Jongin’s eyes, and he was about to ask them both if they knew the stranger but he was cut short of his intentions as said teen suddenly popped the bottle open and trusted its contents up in the air, splaying the scarce liquid around the fire before dropping the bottle.

“You gotta be shitting me.” Chanyeol snorted, clearly expecting more from the weird teen with the funky superman curl hairstyle. “That’s it?”

But his train of thought went soon out of track as the clear liquid stilled mid air before his very eyes in the span of a breath, substance now suspended in an invisible bubble void of time and space as the teen’s palm faced the liquid hanging in the air.

Slowly, the superman wannabe’s hand retracted and started to draw a soft, unknown pattern in the air, one the water seemed to mimic and follow with ease as the liquid slid down an invisible pathway that led its way around the bursting flames. Chanyeol could hardly believe how effortlessly the guy made the water dance around the fire, suddenly multiplying its body mass as it formed an impressive bubble around the rapidly dying flames.

And as easy as he had controlled the flowing element, the stranger dropped his hand and subsequently the water sphere, producing a loud sizzling sound as the fire finally drowned, leaving a soppy mess of ashes and burnt fabric.

“Thank you Joonmyun, that was very helpful.” A short, bearded man clapped the aforementioned teen on the back, making this Joonmyun dude smile and nod. “No problem Mr. Kim, it’s my duty as the student president and RA to always help when needed.”

He turned around then, making Chanyeol flinch in surprise as the raven haired boy stared at him boldly, from head to toe, his smile widening at last as he caught the taller one’s apprehension towards the unwelcomed scrutiny—he had enough of that with the little stun he just played.

“Welcome to Hellvania Academy, Chanyeol Park.”

Gasps and hushed whispers followed the words of the undeterred senior, everyone that had been watching the scene out of mild curiosity now openly gawking at the oldest son of the great Chanseong Park, prolific member of the MAA’s advisory committee.

Blinking in surprise, the bewildered redhead simply mumbled a ‘thank you’ as he watched the grinning male walk his way back towards his awaiting friend by the entrance, receiving a cheek pinch from him before both figures retreated from the scene. How did he even know his name?

“Why am I not surprised.”

A deadpanned voice pulled Chanyeol out of his thoughts, turning towards the source only to find an unamused Kyungsoo walking down the cobbled path towards him with a cheery Mrs. Do close behind. The friendly earth guardian was quick to engage in conversation with the Parks, greeting them as the old friends they were.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Language, sugar pie!” Mrs. Do clicked her tongue, flashing her doe eyes towards her moody son before falling back in conversation with an equally animated Mrs. Park. Chanyeol’s dad had been long gone, greeting some MAA’s members that happened to show up right after the little fire stun. He tried not to think too much of the way his father’s colleagues stared at him with fascination and blatant surprise, and the idea of his father never mentioning the existence of his oldest, giftless son brought up emotions he was quick to lock down for the sake of the rest of his luggage.

Despite the fire having been subdued by the mysterious water boy, there were still students and some parents staring from the sidelines, clearly enjoying the freak show of a human presented before them.

“You better get used to it.” Kyungsoo commented, picking on his sudden sour mood.

Chanyeol scoffed, grimacing as he picked up the scalded corpse of his box of bedroom accessories. “To what? The stares?”

“Yeah, the stares, the attention, and the upcoming annoying questions.”

“Whoopee.” Chanyeol deadpanned.

“It’s not everyday we get a late blooming high schooler. And a fire guardian nonetheless.”

“What do you mean?”

Sehun soon joined their side, eyes glued to his phone as he rolled his suitcase along with the rest of the people making their way into the main building. Jongin had long left to greet his friends, bidding their parents a hasty goodbye before running down the path towards what looked like the Holford dormitories, according to the very useful map provided by his dad earlier that day.

“You’re more or less a celebrity Yeol.” Sehun mumbled. “Not only are you the latest bloomer known, but you’re a fire guardian as well.”

“Are fire guardians weird or something?”

Both Kyungsoo and Sehun stopped at once, both teens staring intently at the oblivious boy scratching his scalp. He ignored the stares burning on his back as he lifted an eyebrow towards the muted reaction received from both of them.

“I told you to read the manual I sent you.” Kyungsoo pinched his shoulder before continuing. “Fire is the most difficult gift to control.”

“And,” Sehun added, much to the other ones’ surprise. “There hasn’t been a fire guardian in over a hundred years. At least from what I read.”

Great. Now Chanyeol knew he would be the freak show for the rest of his life.

Fucking great.

 

<><><>

 

Chanyeol adjusted the strap of his backpack for the third time, grumbling under his breath.

After a week of classes, he’d managed to somehow tolerate the loaded scent of oak hardwood flooring, chalk and opulence. ‘It smells like history and knowledge.’ Kyungsoo had once commented after hearing the taller one’s whines. ‘It smells like my basement.’ He had countered back, earning him a stinky glare from the earth guardian.

Aside from that, he was starting to see the appeal of the prestigious academy. It was clear why this had been his father’s favorite out of all the options presented to him when his twin brothers were finally ready to start school. Hellvania was well known for their prestigious education, their alumni being as famous as the academy itself. To Chanyeol though, despite the welcomed upgrade in regards of food and boarding accommodations, it only meant a big fat headache.

Back in his run-down, giftless high school he had been clever enough to make it through tests with only studying the bare minimum. But here in Hellvania, there was no such thing as ‘getting by’ with meager B’s.

After the awkward, stared-down walk from his advance math course to his next class, filled with blatant ogling and annoying whispers, the redhead ignored a couple of guys stealing glances outside the room as he walked in and took his usual seat at the back of the burgundy-carpeted classroom.

Kyungsoo was diligently reading through his notes from last class, something he had suggested the tall teen to do in advance if he wanted to get good grades in said subject, to which Chanyeol had laughed in that wheezing sort of way that always earned him a cuff in the head.

“I’m dropping out, I don’t care, I’m gonna call my dad and tell him I burnt the cafeteria or something and got my ass expelled.”

The earth guardian snorted at the silly excuse, jotting down a few notes before closing his notebook.

“I’m serious Soo! I’ve had to pull all-nighters this entire week to somehow catch up with you guys in these ridiculous courses. ‘Classical Language’? ‘Advance Aetheric Mythology’? Who the hell invented this shit?”

“You did get tutoring this past winter vacation though.”

Chanyeol grunted at that, slouching on his seat. “Don’t even remind me. I didn’t even get to enjoy myself with my mom scheduling all those lessons at every hour…”

A couple of girls walked inside the class, giggling about silly things, but they abruptly stopped at the sight of the two high schoolers sitting at the back row. Stealing shy glances at the duo, they took a seat at the front, obviously engaging in another conversation topic that had something to do with the new transferred student by the looks of it.

The redhead couldn’t lie that he still felt a little bit peeved about being the center of gossip around the institute. Apparently Sehun and Jongin were quite popular among the sophomore crowd, and the fact that their older brother had suddenly transferred to Hellvania, as a fire guardian nonetheless, didn’t go unnoticed to the tenth graders. The news of his transfer had spread like wildfire, and the ridiculous amount of rumors surrounding the Park siblings went from funny to downright annoying.

 

‘I heard Sehun and Kai’s older brother is adopted!’

‘Did you see that Park guy’s hand tattoo? He’s a troublemaker, I’m telling you.’

‘Dude, that Chanyeol Park sucks at fire manipulation!’

‘I heard he was locked down in his basement by his own parents.’

‘Park and Byun would make a great couple. They’re both frea—’

 

“Chanyeol…!”

Kyungsoo’s alarmed whisper snapped the dazed teen out, and with fatigue he proceeded to quietly close his fist to put out the small flame dancing inside his palm, seconds away from burning his borrowed Latin book. The action went unnoticed by his classmates.

For the past week, this had become a common situation for Chanyeol: hear something out, become annoyed-angry-irritated, burn shit up, or with luckily, he would manage to suppress his emotions on time and avoid accidents.

“We need to do something about your temper.” His freckled friend murmured.

“Which is why getting the hell out of here and back to my crappy school is the perfect solution.”

“For your information, you dimwit, once you’re gifted your abilities, by law you can’t study in giftless institutions anymore.”

Baffled, Chanyeol felt like a bucket of cold, cold water had been poured down on him unsuspectingly. “What!? How is that possible??”

“Didn’t you read the introductory pamphlet they gave you on your orientati—you know what, don’t answer that.” He lifted a finger to shush the excuse in his lazy friend’s tongue. “But it’s the same situation with universities and jobs. People like us, with elements or aetheric abilities, we can live in harmony with giftless people, we have done so for centuries, but we can never mix and mingle with them.”

Laughter cut the conversation short as a blurry ball of energy burst into the classroom. Chanyeol couldn’t get used still to the amount of energy the Jongdae Kim possessed.

“What’s up muchachos, why the long faces?” The cheeky seventeen year old questioned as he plopped into the empty seat available in front of a dejected Chanyeol.

“Dumbyeol here wants to drop out.” Kyungsoo helpfully answered.

Jongdae hummed, tapping his chin thoughtfully. One thing Chanyeol had learned in the short time he’d met the high-spirited lightning guardian was that whenever he fell silent to take his time to think, nine out of ten times it meant trouble. The moment Kyungsoo introduced him to the lively junior that he was quick to recognize was the same stranger with the curled smile that had been standing next to aquaman 2.0, it was inevitable to dislike him. Kyungsoo befriending him since middle school despite his caveman ways was a clear proof of the latter’s persuasive powers.

Jongdae Kim was that sort of guy that could fit into any social circle. ‘I’m like clay, I fit into anything.’ The artificial ginger head had mentioned once over dinner.

‘Or mold. There’s always two types of people in this world.’ Kyungsoo had offered, ignoring his tiny friend’s miffed face.

“Hmm, but let's say you actually drop out.” Jongdae mused, much to Kyungsoo’s deadpan expression. “This is the best academy for gifted people, and you parents wouldn’t want to place you into something worse than this, so that would probably lead to you getting your ass shipped into someplace far away. And since we’ve already established you suck at foreign languages, classic or modern, I’d say your best shot is to suck it up these two years we have left of this torture and then you’re free to do whatever your little heart desires.”

He hated—rephrase that: absolutely despised—how that 5’7 pain in the butt could be right ninety nine percent of the times. Defeated, Chanyeol thunked his head down on his desk. He buried his face in his crossed arms and hoped for death to take him while inhaling the putrid stench of his book.

Its title ‘So you really want to learn Latin?’ mocked Chanyeol in the dark cocoon of his arms. ’Not really, Mr. Oulton, not really’ was his after-thought.

“Don’t worry though, once you stop being the main attraction, you’ll see that being a hellboy it's actually not that bad.”

Chanyeol grunted unintelligibly. Kyungsoo hummed in agreement.

“Also he’s coming back today from his London trip, so you’re gonna be just old gossip by next week.” Jongdae continued his useless soothing, but that had surprisingly spiked Chanyeol’s interest. He?

“Oh, he’s coming back today? I thought he was taking another week off.” The fact that Kyungsoo’s Oh had the sliver of excitement hooked on it, despite his normally flat spectrum of emotions, was enough to give credit to whoever he was referring to. Chanyeol had heard a couple of times before about ‘that idiot Jongdae Kim that it’s just like you, but…pocket-sized’ even before he met the ginger head. Now, it seemed like Kyungsoo had actually another friend? Unbelievable.

“Whose he?” Chanyeol asked, turning his head sideways to stare at his friend’s profile and the subtle stutter in his actions. Hmm. Interesting.

“He’s thing number two.” The earth guardian explained after a short span of silence. “Jongdae is thing number one. Although now that you’re here, we’re gonna have to use the ‘dumb, dumber, dumbest’ analogy.”

Pause. “…I call dibs on the ‘dumb’”

“It’s a first come, first served basis. You’re stuck with ‘dumbest’.”

“You—monster!”

“We’re talking about our buddy.” Jongdae cut in, turning fully around to comment excitedly. “He’s the current missing piece to this assembly. After he got transferred last year, we kinda became like the three musketeers ever since.”

That was rather intriguing. Chanyeol had thought that he was the first transferred student they’ve had in a long while. But they probably meant the Baek guy being a transfer from one gifted academy to another. The chances of him being a late bloomer, and one as late as Chanyeol, were close to negative million.

“Is this guy, the same Byun I keep hearing around?”

“Yeah.” Kyungsoo nodded, lowering his voice as the teacher finally made it to the classroom five minutes late.

The noise inside the room died down as everyone fled to their respective seats, but he barely managed to catch the next words said by the suddenly fidgety brunet. “He’s, um, he’s a late bloomer just like you. He was transferred last May after he was gifted the element of light.”

What? The question got stuck in his mouth as Mrs. Maeng commanded the riotous teens to a full silence. As the lesson started, and the already tired teacher began her lesson about vowel ‘diphthongs’ or something along those lines—the woman had a lisp and Chanyeol was already half deaf—his curiosity was not dying down, if anything, it was slowly starting to grow, making it unbearable to follow the middle aged woman as she proceed to write down examples.

Ten minutes in, and just when Chanyeol was about to stand up and fling himself out the second floor window, a soft knock pulled his attention to the front door as it slowly opened in that maddening squeaky way he has learned to hate.

“Glad you could join us Mr. Byun, please come inside and take a seat wherever is available.”

The first impression that Chanyeol got from the teen meekly stepping into the classroom, swimming under a hoodie at least two sizes too big, wasn’t that impressive. By how Kyungsoo had reacted earlier, he would have imagined someone far more imposing or intimidating. Sure, if the influx of whispers wasn’t an indicative already that this cloaked Kermit impersonator was gossip worth, Chanyeol was yet to get a good first impression out of him.

Before his eyes, this Byun dude was just…tiny. Period.

Jongdae waved him over, taking his backpack off the seat in front of Kyungsoo that he had so obviously been hogging for him. The small, hooded creature waved back and made it down the first two front row, the hood of his sweater long enough to cover half his face, and as Chanyeol began to question how this kid—he couldn’t be older than twelve, seriously, a pack of olives was bigger than him—could even see ahead of him, the latter abruptly halted his steps, seemingly frozen just as Mrs. Maeng clicked her tongue in his way.

“I know it’s still winter Mr. Byun, but I can assure you our school heaters are in perfect conditions. Now please, drop the hood down and take a seat so we can proceed with the lesson.”

The chastised teen seemed reluctant for a second before he grabbed the cloth and lowered it down, surprising the class with the way his face was scrunched in a clear sign of hostility.

“What…the bloody hell are you doing here Park…”

“Baekhyun Byun.” Chanyeol, losing all his previous interest and curiosity for the boy, mimicked the same aggressive stance, spatting the name much to his classmates’ surprise. “Just what I needed to make this shitty year even shittier.”

Mrs. Maeng, clearly unamused, rolled her eyes as she pulled a small notepad from the front desk. ‘I don’t get paid enough for this.’ She grumbled under her breath.

“Mr. Byun, Mr. Park. Detention after school for cussing.”

Baekhyun gaped, turning around to stare in surprise at their fed up Language teacher before turning around to glower at the equally surprised redhead.

“Thanks a lot you big piece of lard!”

Chanyeol, aghast at the fact that he just got the first detention in his school life, curled his lip as he willed his emotions to subside, feeling his palms burning by the suppressed fire within as his eyes burnt with unconcealed hatred towards the glowering blond.

“This is all your fault you rotten tater tot!”

“Shut up, Bigfoot!”

“Make me, Leprechaun!”

“You know what?” Their Latin teacher smiled, walking to the bickering students to hand each a new paper slip. “Let’s step it up a notch. To the principal’s office, the both of you.”

“Bu—”

“Now!”

 

<><><>

 

“Oh god, this is gold, pure gold!”

“Shut up alreadyyyy~” Chanyeol moaned, burying his face in his pillow to drown Minseok’s cackles. His roommate had made it his mission since the moment he was bunked with the friendly senior to laugh at every misfortunate event in the redhead’s life.

Spoiler Alert: There were a lot.

The blue haired teen ignored his roommate’s pleas, watching with mirth the other one’s miserable condition from across the room. “How did you even manage to burn down the curtains in Principal Moon’s office? I mean, haven’t you already learned to somewhat control your element?”

“I have!” The distressed junior whined, lifting himself up to sit on his bed, back resting against the wall to face the ice guardian. “I swear I have—for the most part—but there’s something about that tiny piece of-…of-…of tiny! That gets me so aghh!

Minseok snickered at the way Chanyeol lost it right then and karate punched his innocent pillow. The news of good ‘ol Principal Moon, known for his endless patience and soft ways, having sentenced a rebelling couple of juniors for the very first time in twenty years, to one month of volunteering service had spread like wildfire.

Never in a million years would he have even consider that his puppy of a roommate would end up being one of the two culprits of busting Moon’s peace nut. And from what he heard from his annoying cousin, Baekhyun Byun wasn’t one to love being in the eye of the hurricane so to speak. The entire situation seemed plucked out of a comedy slash thriller sitcom.

“He’s a late bloomer just like you, right? Jongdae wouldn’t shut up about it last year when the kid got transferred.”

“I didn’t know he was a late bloomer. Heck, I didn’t even know he was here in Hellvania.”

Minseok clicked his tongue, lying on his side with his head resting on his palm. “How do you two know each other anyways?”

“He…did something that fucked my life up two years ago, and then he just disappeared.”

“Did he…bully you?”

The idea of that human sized strawberry capable of such cowardly thing was just unimaginable to the ice guardian. He hadn’t been able to truly become close with the blond. Jongdae could be a knucklehead sometimes, but he knew his cousin would never go near, and less with the purpose of befriending, someone capable of doing something so vicious and sickening. He trusted the latter’s judgment.

“It’s a little more complicated than that.”

“Why—”

The soft rapping on their door interrupted the conversation, much to Minseok’s distaste. Seconds later Jongdae’s orange puff of hair poked in along with his stupid, blithe face.

“Knock, knock~”

“Fuck off.”

The ginger haired teen gasped at his cousin’s hostility, clutching his chest in mock pain. “Do you know the feeling, when your heart is so hurt, that you could feel the blood dripping?”

Minseok could take so little of his eccentric family member on a daily basis, so with a scowl well placed on his soft features he snapped his fingers to gain the blabbering junior’s attention. “Chop chop Kim, stop quoting Lady Gaga and go on with what you were planning to do here in the first place.”

Pouting, Jongdae opened the door wider to accommodate his body through the threshold. Two steps in and he stopped in his tracks, turning around to whisper something at the door still wide open behind him. It sounded like ‘come on! It’s not--’ but the rest got swallowed by the loud bickering in the hallway as a couple of raucous freshmen passed by.

More whispering, a heavy sigh from the outside, and then like magic—very dark, occult, demon-induced magic—Chanyeol’s nightmare stepped out of their hiding place outside the door.

The sight of the defensive and visibly hesitant blond had Chanyeol leaping out of his bed. He could almost feel himself brittle and arch in total belligerence, like a cat having their turf intruded, and the clear displeasure from both parties didn’t go unnoticed by the other two witnessing this moment worthy of an Animal Planet special.

A lab puppy and a baby hamster glaring each other down—people would definitely pay to see that.

“Ok, ok, both of you need to draw back and chill.” Minseok ordered, standing up to place an arm length distance between the glowering teens. Jongdae guffawed at the innuendo, something that earned him a stinky eye from his unamused cousin. “I don’t wanna end up blinded and fried by the likes of you two.”

“Hey!” Both offended guardians hollered simultaneously.

Baekhyun, displeased by the casual occurrence, turned away from the glaring contest first. “That was just once, and he didn’t end up blind! He just got…temporary light sensitivity…”

‘And horrible migraines for a week!’ Jongdae’s contribution went unnoticed (Syn. Ignored) by the rest.

Minseok rolled his eyes, taking a seat on his bed while crossing his arms, in that no-bullshit way that left no room for excuses. “Why are you here Baek?”

Like being snapped back to reality, the light guardian’s demeanor instantly changed. The anger was still there behind his golden eyes, but more watered down—the sharp edges were blunted.

“I want to discuss something with string bean here.”

Chanyeol growled. “You tiny smear of shi—”

“Park. I know,” The honey blond forewent a reply to the insult, licking his dry lips before continuing. “I know that we have our past…differences. You hate me, and I wish to never have to see your face ever again, but we’re both trapped here in hell for whatever reason. I’m sure you don’t want to spend the rest of our school years stuck in detention with me.”

The towering redhead spat, face pulled in disgust. “Absolutely fucking not.”

“Great, the feeling is mutual.” Baekhyun nodded courtly. “So, I’ve come here today to tell you that, um…for the sake of not having to get permanently suspended or worse, flunking this year for misconduct, I’m willing to ignore your existence for what’s left of our time here in Hellvania.”

One of Chanyeol’s eyebrows was raised, sharp as a razor, throughout the other one’s half-assed offer. There was something leery about it… and it smelled likeearth.

“Kyungsoo made you do this, didn’t he.”

Jongdae was grinning and nodding happily from his place against the wall, and Minseok couldn’t hide his own smile. To his surprise, the feisty blond turned a nice shade of cherry red at the thought of getting caught on his act. For a second, the fire guardian thought that split second of vulnerability looked good on the aggravated teen—Baekhyun was made for smiling—but he was quick to smother down the toxic thought.

“Anyways.” The embarrassed junior cleared his throat. “Do we have a deal or not, Park?”

The deal sounded tempting enough to tingle Chanyeol’s reluctant attention. In any other circumstances the idea of even agreeing to Baekhyun Byun, let alone reach a compromise for a mutual benefit, would trigger his gag reflex in a second. But he wasn’t the idiot some pegged him to be—he could be dumb sometimes, sure, but even dumbness had a limit.

No way in hell was he going to risk spending more time in this social glory hole. And so, against all his instincts screaming at him ‘what the hell are you doing!? This Baekhyun! The guy that you swore you would punch the teeth out of their mouth if you ever saw him again!’ Chanyeol shut them all down and gave in.

“Fine Byun, you got a deal.” He could see the smaller one subtly relax, clearly having expected a fight out of his self appointed archenemy.

“Great! Now shake hands and make up.” Jongdae finally broke his silent stance, stepping off the wall and towards the couple in the center of the room.

“What are you doing Dae…” Baekhyun crossed his arms, eyes glaring at the walking orange pulling out his phone and opening the camera application.

“Evidence for future reference.” He waved his hand towards them, coaxing both boys to step closer. “Come on then, smile pretty for me and let’s all go to the dining hall for dinner. It’s pasta night. Don’t let it pasta way~”

Minseok closed his eyes and counted to ten inside his happy place.

Wanting to be over and done with it, Chanyeol flashed one last glare to the insufferable lighting guardian before offering his hand to the equally uncomfortable boy in front of him. The seventeen year old blond stared at the extended hand for a second or two before he accepted the handshake.

The electric shock that shot through both their limbs at the contact was instant, making them both back off as if burnt to the touch. Wide-eyed and slightly shaken, they tried once more, noticing this time there was nothing but warmness in the meeting of their hands.

“I want to make something clear, blondie.” Baekhyun opened his mouth to retort, quickly snapping his jaw shut as he felt the giant redhead lean forward, crowding his personal space in a way that made him instantly tense up. Having Chanyeol so close brought back a flood of memories and suppressed emotions he had diligently buried a long time ago. “This ‘truce’ between us is for the sake of not spending the rest of my high school years stuck in volunteering service with you. I hope you’re not expecting for us to become friends or whatever with this. I’ll never, and I mean never, going to forgive you for what you did.”

Baekhyun growled and ripped his hand out of the latter’s hold. “You took the words right off my mouth, you fucking prick.”

The only sounds that followed were those of angry footsteps stomping out of the room and the loud bang of the door, shaking the walls with its force. Chanyeol cursed under his breath, loosening his red and navy striped tie in annoyance.

“Well. That went great.”

Both roommates turned and stared at the casual junior rocking on his heels, wondering what was the definition of ‘great’ in Jongdae Kim’s mental dictionary.

“Yeol, I’ve never seen Baekhyun so mad before. He’s usually a very cheerful and easygoing guy.” The senior spoke out, slicing the heavy atmosphere inside the room in two.

Chanyeol tilted his head back, letting out a long breath out. “He is.”

“Were you two friends before and had a falling out or something? You mentioned it was complicated, but how complicated could it be? Did he steal a girlfriend from you? Boyfriend? Did he say something to you that got you in trouble?”

The now silent junior shook his head, offering the inquiring teen a smile that didn’t reach his round eyes before he stepped to side, towards the door. Chanyeol walked out of the room, leaving no room for further questioning as the next words, whispered ever so softly into the air, still and stagnant, lingered for a long time after.

“Baekhyun is my ex boyfriend.”

 

<><><>

 

There were things in this world that Chanyeol disliked: Oatmeal, grasshoppers, the condensation on cold glasses, Baekhyun Byun (that one toed the line between dislike and hate), capri pants…

The list went on, in no particular order, but things he disliked, he could very well accommodate in his daily life and navigate around them. He has done so, for the majority of his life. But there was one thing he hated with a passion. One thing—that never failed to make his blood boil and his body shiver in disgust. A thing so ominous and evil that no matter how hard he tried, he could never seem to escape it. And there existed not only one of it, but several, thousands upon thousands. The demonic entities haunted him everywhere, and now he was stuck in one, with no way of escaping his condemning fate.

And what could that preposterous, vile thing be? Easy.

…Libraries.

An angry ball of fluffy yellow brushed pass him and powered their way to the imposing double doors, not without knocking Chanyeol’s arm on the way. Ignoring the ‘pocketful of morning sunshine’ the sulking teen closed his eyes, sent a little prayer for himself and finally mustered the courage to walk inside the gates of hell—also known as Hellvania’s ginormous library.

‘Bono Malum Superate’ His eyes followed the inscription of the school’s motto carved on top of the rounded entryway. “Overcome evil with good…how about overcoming the need of having libraries overall, huh.” He grumbled under this breath, finally stepping inside.

“Great. You made it to your third week of forced volunteer work. Hurrah.” The middle-aged Librarian chirped unamusedly at the far end of the desolated book repository.

Both guardians dismissed the sour comment, hurriedly walking through the long hall lined by rows and rows of bookcases that easily reach pass their heads. The antique smell of the pages of old books and the dust coming from them was quick to hit Chanyeol’s nostrils, making his nose wrinkle in distaste. He could literally smell the ideas, ancient and new, just by walking in. It was easy to take in the powerful smell of imagination coming from the laying editions on the shelves begging to be read.

It made him…fidgety.

Mrs. Joon, with her silvery hair in a taut bun, wire-rimmed glasses and somber dress code, extended her paper-wrinkled hand for them to place their student ID cards in. Her face was serious: no funny shit allowed.

“I’ve taken the liberty of arranging a couple of book trolleys for you.” The tired woman waved her hand towards the wooden book carts at their left. “Choose whichever you want. Make sure to check each book has its corresponding library card on the inside and if it’s placed in the correct position. It’s six thirty right now, so you have an hour and a half until the first morning bell.”

Dismissed, the volunteering teens mumbled a ‘thank you’ before they made their begrudging way towards their morning labor. With a dirty look at each other, the disgruntled guardians grabbed a trolley each, parting in different directions under the watchful eye of the elderly employee.

Two weeks into their punishment for ‘vandalizing’ their school principal’s furniture and causing his assistant a visit to the ophthalmologist—that thankfully ended with a prescription of natural tears for dry eyes—Chanyeol could attest to things being a little less ‘frisky’ with his honey blonde classmate. Sure, it had taken a lot of effort to reach said comfort place, and a few death glares and unspoken threats from Kyungsoo. Ignoring the piece of nightmare from his past had been quite the easy task, as Baekhyun put no effort in ignoring his presence when hanging out with their small group of friends.

He wasn’t going to lie to himself and say that being reunited once more with the one person he once swore he wanted spend the rest of his days with—the same person that hurt him so deeply and left a wound not event time could heal—still hurt.

Despite Baekhyun’s appearance being a complete one eighty of what it used to be, with his hair no longer that luscious color of midnight and his once coal-black eyes now light freckles of stardust and sun, there was still so much of him left, still raw and palpable on the surface. There was no mistake that this boy was Chanyeol’s childhood crush, his first love and current pain.

“That doesn’t go there.”

From the opposite side of the vast carpeted hall, he could see Baekhyun checking the back cover of some element encyclopedia. His eyes flickered from the book to the shelve above his head, seemingly focused on the task at hand, although it was clear his attention was placed somewhere else by the way his body was subtly angled towards the redhead’s direction.

Chanyeol snorted. What a nosy gnome. “Mind your own business shorty.”

“Sure. Still doesn’t change the fact that that book you’re holding doesn’t go in that section.” The tiny smartass singsonged, biting his plump lower lip as he tiptoed to reach the shelf two heads above.

“Shut up.” The fire guardian grunted, not paying attention to the infuriating junior. “I know what I’m doing.”

Baekhyun, clearly unimpressed by the attitude, poked his head out of the aisle, with a big bright smile plastered on his stupid cherubic face that made Chanyeol’s stomach lurch in disgust—at least that’s what he told himself.

“Mrs. Joon~” ‘What…’ The summoned woman grunted, eyes plastered on the ancient computer at the front desk. “Quick question: The book, Using Aether to reach Nirvana, would you place it in the teen literature section or the non-fictional?”

Ever so slowly, the stoic woman lifted her face up to gift the troublesome teens one of her infamous beady-eyed stares. “What do you think Mr. Byun?”

“Uh, neither? Ha, ha.” Baekhyun laughed awkwardly, slightly perturbed by the librarian’s chilly demeanor. “Personal Development and Self-growth would be a better choice…I think?”

The veteran employee hummed, going back to her work. “Then you do just that Mr. Byun.”

Aside from the court reply, the underlying agreement was exactly what the cocky junior was waiting for. Turning his head, he watched in satisfaction all those ugly frowns etched across the giant’s forehead. He shrugged one shoulder haughtily, mouthed a soft ‘loser’ and went back to his own work.

Chanyeol was shaking, wanting nothing more but to shove that stupid novel in his hands down the latter’s throat. How could something so small be so fucking infuriating!?

“Calm down Park. Take a deep breath.” He told himself. He closed his eyes, counted to ten and moved away from the Teen Literature section. “One flame here and your ass is done for.”

‘What ass though…’ Chanyeol could’ve sworn he heard the leprechaun at the other side of the hall comment. He couldn’t decide just yet what was better, having Baekhyun ignoring him like he so diligently had for the first days after their truce, or having him grow some guts and speak out whatever shit his peanut sized brain thought of.

There was no point in wasting his energy and breath on him, so with what little will he had left, Chanyeol decided to be the better person and ignore the meddlesome guardian.

…or at least that was the idea, but Baekhyun made it so, so hard.

Five minutes in and a loud yelp from the other side broke Chanyeol’s resolution of not paying the blond any attention, making him take just one tiny look that had him instantly in stitches. The smaller one had managed to knock a couple of books off the shelf, with the yelp having been the consequence of a succession of well-placed conks right on top of his head.

The scene was hilarious enough, but what really made it for the redhead was the Baekhyun’s betrayed look as he stared at the entire section of Spanish Literature sprawled on the floor.

“Shove it Park! I don’t wanna hear it.” The feisty junior growled, flashing the cackling teen a menacing glare.

Chanyeol lifted one eyebrow, shrugging his shoulders as he went back to his work. “I didn’t say anything.”

A solid thud and the ruffling sound of papers brought his attention back to the light guardian, unable to hold back his laughter once again with the way Baekhyun was staring aghast at the top of his head now serving as a pint-sized podium for a heavy load of old newspapers.

The guffawing boy was quickly shut up as he was hit right on the face by a bright solid orb. With only the empty study area between them, Chanyeol had mere seconds in-between to dodge the materialized light in the form of blinding pebble stones being flung in his direction.

Baekhyun Byun had been gifted the element of Light, and with it the ability to manipulate, create and shape it at will.

‘So, basically you’re a walking lamp post.’ Chanyeol had mocked the junior a couple of days ago on one of their element training classes, almost getting his ass impaled to death by the light pillar ejected from beneath his feet.

‘Said the kitchen lighter.’ Baekhyun had fired back, grinning in triumph at the bristling redhead.

The fact that Baekhyun had little control in the amount of strength he placed in his light manipulation made him extremely dangerous in Chanyeol’s book. With the passing days, he had begun to learn that their skills in manipulating their gifted elements were very similar. They both had a rare and hard to control element, they were late bloomers as well and, although Baekhyun had more time under his belt, they still had a few slip-ups when emotions got too strong to reign over.

The faint UV burns healing under his shirt were a strong reminder to never cross the little minx. But Chanyeol never learned.

“Stop it!” Chanyeol hissed lowly, moving left and right across the aisle to avoid getting hit by the blinding light balls the size of marbles. “Byun Baekhyun, stop this right, now!”

Baekhyun smirked as he flickered the last two light packets, blowing air on his glowing fingertips afterwards. His joy didn’t last long as a waft of smoke reached his nose in seconds. His eyes searched for the source, and quickly landed on a piece of paper from one of the newspapers rapidly setting on fire before him. The petite blond ‘eeped’ and quickly stomped his pristine oxfords on top of the lit paper, watching in horror as it only made the lazy flames flicker aggressively.

In his haste to put out the hazardous flames, he didn’t notice a peculiar redhead making his way casually across the study area, flashing the oblivious Librarian a charming smile. ‘Wrong section.’ He mouthed ostentatiously, pointing at a Latin dictionary in his hold. The Librarian waved him off.

Before the heat could become a real threat, the fire guardian was quick to open his palm and draw the flickering flames back inside.

Baekhyun sighed in relief, not wanting to get more time in forced volunteering or even expelled by the likes of Chanyeol Park. The fact that he had almost gotten them both in trouble just now by his stupid rampant abilities was enough to have him shaking in rage, hands glowing with repressed anger.

“You stupid, son of a—”

“When I say stop, I generally mean it.”

He couldn’t help but gasp and step back, trying to escape the advancing teen that had successfully trapped him against one of the bookcases with no way out. This close, he caught the scent of Mint Leaf and Bergamot, and that made his heart trip unsteadily. His emotions ran freely and volatile, dancing in his head, and it made his hatred towards the fire guardian burn like a blazing coal in his heart for how easy he could play with his emotional stability.

Baekhyun snarled, low enough to not draw attention to them. “Get the fuck away from me, Park.”

There was something missing in Chanyeol’s smile. It chilled Baekhyun all the way to the bones. Squaring his chin up and throwing the ominous redhead the most poisonous glare he could muster, he stood his ground despite the visible shaking of his knees.

“Shouldn’t I be the one saying that?” Chanyeol’s voice remained passive, even if his eyes turned to slit as he lowered his face closer. “I can take your annoying blabbering and unwanted comments, but I will not stay still and allow you to fry my balls off with your death sun bombs.”

“They’re called proton crystals, dumbass.”

“You think I care what they’re called? Newsflash: I-fucking-don’t. This is the last time you try to hurt me Baekhyun, or I swear I’m gonna lose control and get us both expelled.”

Baekhyun hated to lose, and the idea of giving in to Chanyeol’s threats was the worst kind of torture. He really had been pushing the latter’s buttons the last couple of weeks, taking pleasure in his panicked face when random sunrays flashed across his face and caused him mild sun sensitivity. The incredibly late bloomer could easily make a human torch out of him at any moment, but for reasons that escaped him, the gangly teen hadn’t used any of his fire abilities to bodily harm him.

That was probably the only reason why, with a heavy heart, Baekhyun narrowed his eyes, took in a sharp breath and finally gave in. “Fine, whatever, I won’t fuck with you anymore. Now get the hell off.”

Chanyeol felt like a million dollar winner. Gaining a triumph from the hardheaded junior had always been rare happening, even back in their giftless days. There were one and a thousand things he wished to tell the blond now that the barrier was down and his fragile and vulnerable state was clear in the angry gleam in his eyes. How he wanted to say those things, once and for all, but he found it impossible.

Soft light spilled from the small, gabled dormer windows above, casting light and shadows in every aisle of the deserted library. It seeped through every nook and creak, between the closely arranged books, and finally a thin streak of light had caught part of Baekhyun’s face, bathing his soft features in that gentle morning glow.

Chanyeol, with his anger on low and still towering over the small boy against the bookshelf, was mesmerized by the deep swirls of almond and caramel that colored Baekhyun’s irises. The delicate line of black mascara on his bewitching eyes accentuated the brightness in his once onyx orbs, and the look truly matched the blond’s personality—enigmatic, alluring, but destructive if hurt.

It was then, while catching the smaller one’s stare full of unreadable emotions, that Chanyeol noticed what he was doing, looking away immediately while stepping back from the traitorous being before him.

The sound of a copying machine hummed at a distance, making them both aware of their surrounding. With a few swipes of his feet across the floor, the conflicted fire guardian hid the evidence of their ruckus under the bookshelf, a habit he’d picked up with anything regarding Baekhyun.

“Hurry up, we only have a couple of minutes before the bell rings.” He mumbled, stealing one last look to the equally shaken junior before making his way back to his own aisle and his own work.

The scent of burnt paper and mint lingered in the air for a long time, puzzling the middle-aged librarian throughout the day.

 

<><><>

 

“After he fixed our stuck window and prevented the storm from crashing our room, I told him ‘Wow this rainstorm is awful right?’ He did that sexy little nose scrunch of his and said ‘Yeah it is. They said it’s gonna become an electric storm later tonight.’ By then Kyungsoo was being that nasty hoe, leaving me basically to die alone with the love of my life. So I put it together and told him ‘Oh, really? Too bad, a lot of people are scared of thunderstorms.’ I walked him out of the room, and just as he’s about to get that beautiful, bubble ass of his out, he turned around and you know what he said?”

Not waiting for an actual response, Jongdae went on, much to the table’s distaste. “He said ‘True. But I’m not afraid of a little lightning.’ …Can you believe it!?”

Baekhyun lifted an eyebrow, taking a bite of his roast beef Panini. Kyungsoo and Chanyeol, sitting at each side of the delusional lightning guardian, merely offered a snort and a scoff in response.

“So…Suho’s not scared of thunders. What’s the big deal?”

Jongdae gasped, slamming both his hands on the table and successfully earning a couple of dirty looks from the students nearby. “What’s the big deal? What’s the big deal!?”

Baekhyun shrunk his shoulders, a little startled by the outburst. “Yeah?”

“It means everything Baek.” The orange haired junior rolled his eyes, taking a fancy sip of his raspberry-lemon juice. “He likes me. He totally wants my dick.”

The three juniors dropped their lunch at once at the mention of their friend’s junk. Leave it to Jongdae to completely suck at reading between the lines. A dark aura hovered over Kyungsoo as his eyes spoke of all the different ways he could get away with murder.

“I’m preeetty sure that’s not what Suho meant.” Chanyeol said as he picked up his croissant.

“Shut up, he’s totally into me. I’m gonna ask him out this Friday.” The heart-eyed junior sighed dreamily. He rested his cheeks on his palms, with his signature kittenish smile curling the edges of his mouth. “That bunny will be mine by the end of the month.”

“Suho is Minseok’s best friend though. If you fuck it up and make it awkward, he’ll turn your skinny ass into a popsicle.”

“My honeycomb will protect me.”

The three guardians shook their head and sent a silent prayer towards the oblivious student president and object of Jongdae’s delusion.

From the long, high windows surrounding the cafeteria, the light snowfall dusting the school grounds in soft white was easy to appreciate. Even with the heating system working overtime, the cold March air easily seeped through the cracks of the window panes, clinging to their navy blue blazers like a second skin.

Baekhyun noticed Chanyeol rubbing his hands up and down his sleeves to warm his cold prone body. Out of reflex, his hand reached up to offer the latter his scarf but he quickly fisted his hand back down, eyes blown wide in surprise at his own actions. What the hell was he thinking? He scowled himself, reaching out for his drink to chug down the bad moment. Old habits die hard.

“Have you ever dated, Dae?” Chanyeol ventured to ask the lovestruck teen.

Love was a topic that had been rarely touched in the two months of knowing the cheeky lighting guardian. Chanyeol had somehow assumed the latter had plenty of experience in the field, but staring now at his gooey expression and that light pink flush dusted over his high cheekbones, he wasn’t so sure anymore.

Heck, even the topic of crushes and relationships was rocky territory to thread with Kyungsoo. His childhood best friend never spoke more than asked whenever Chanyeol had tried scoop anything gossip worth from the reserved teen. It was fair enough, as his own love life had been a scarcely spoken issue among the two on Kyungsoo’s vacation visits, all throughout their teenage years.

“Nah.” The questioned boy replied. “I’m more of a one pony type of cowboy.”

Chanyeol’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline in surprise. Who would’ve thought that Jongdae Kim was the subdued type? “How long have you known Suho for?”

The question made the apricot dyed teen fall quiet in contemplation. He probably didn’t get that question a lot. “Mmm…since preschool? We’ve been neighbors all my life. There was a brief period in middle school that he volunteered to tutor me when Minseok almost frostbit my fingers for not getting those stupid algebra cases right, that’s when I realized I had a thing for him. So, yeah, you could say it’s been a long time that I’ve been head over heels.”

Baekhyun hummed, appreciative. “Wow, that’s a lot of time for harboring a crush.”

There were loud voices and laughter all around them, yet no one dared to disturb the silence that had fallen like a blanket over their table. It was admirable what was hidden underneath Jongdae’s hard-shelled exterior.

Unperturbed by the heavy atmosphere, the easy-going junior took a huge bite of his grilled vegetable sandwich, receiving an dangerous glare from the earth guardian at his left when he sneakily tried to steal one of his sweet potato French fries. His crude aloofness towards the sudden revelation made Chanyeol wonder how many times he has had this sort of conversation with Minseok. Kyungsoo despite his coolness and seemingly lack of concern, could be seen visibly surprised at Jongdae’s words as well, and a touch of curiosity was noticeable in his round eyes.

The earth guardian, with his soft-toned voice, asked. “Then it’s always been him?”

“Always.” Jongdae didn’t miss a beat. “I can’t remember a moment in my life when he wasn’t there. That’s why I can’t miss this chance to let him know how I feel before he graduates and goes off to college.”

Stupid Chanyeol couldn’t help but let his eyes wander for a second to the honey blonde sitting next to him. The fervent confession tugged at his heartstrings, and he could tell it did things to Baekhyun as well, with the way his shoulders squared up and his eyes hardened immediately after. Oh, did Chanyeol know about long time crushes and how ephemeral the thought of ‘always & forever’ could be.

 

‘I love you. I love so fucking much Baek, I don’t know what to do. I might very well ruin what we have, but the thought of you being with someone else is far more painful than losing our friendship…”

‘Yeol…I--Why? Why…me?’

‘Why? Because you’re you. Baekhyun Byun, it’s always been and always will be you.’

 

Chanyeol frowned, shaking his head as he entombed the long forgotten memory back in his mental graveyard.

“Just be careful Dae.” Baekhyun advised.

“Why?”

“It might not be all rainbows and sunshine. With such a long friendship at stake, you have to be a hundred percent sure that you want to risk that much. You could get hurt if you make a mistake.”

It shouldn’t have, but the word sliced through and deep, making Chanyeol flinch.

Kyungsoo slowly frowned. The way his bushy eyebrows met spoke volumes to the rest. The squishy guardian knew there was something going on, some innuendo he was missing. He caught his best friend’s eyes briefly, noticing the icy glint in them.

Jongdae was about to answer when Kyungsoo’s hand under the table landed quickly on his knee. His roommate subtly shook his head, just as Chanyeol beside him smiled with a smile that was the perfect representation of the calm before the storm. “True. You should definitely be careful Jongdae. You may think you know someone well, make friends with them and all, become lovers, and the moment things become difficult they could stab you in the back.”

“Or you could put your trust in them, and have them laugh at you behind your back, sharing intimate stuff you had explicitly confided them, and them alone. And who knows, maybe even share it with the entire school.” Baekhyun said unnecessarily.

“You could get even outed to all you classmates and have your life become a miserable hell from then on.”

Baekhyun growled. “And what about your family? They could pretty well just ship you off across the globe in hopes of keeping their disgrace of a son away from them.”

Like watching a Wimbledon final match, the remaining two on the table went back and forth between the passive-aggressive suggestions shared by the inwardly hostile juniors. There was a moment of silence, where Kyungsoo considered what he wanted to say to the troubled boys, but Jongdae, ever the oblivious shmuck, beat him to it.

With that annoying Cheshire smile of his, the lighting guardian leaned on his elbows. “You two seem to know a lot about relationships.”

The fact that Baekhyun had no idea that Chanyeol had divulge weeks ago that secret he had been so obviously trying to hide from them all this time made it utterly fascinating for the troublesome orange haired teen, loving every second of uncomfortable stares and nervous jittery from the couple in front of him.

Chanyeol flashed Jongdae a warning glare that flew right past the grinning junior. He knew fully well that if Baekhyun found out that their tragic love history had been revealed to their friends in a moment of angry vulnerability, the redhead would be digging his own grave. The fact that his ex had kept it inside all this time was an obvious proof that he wasn’t particularly thrilled of having Jongdae or Kyungsoo into their secret past.

“Sounds to me like you guys have faced similar things.” Jongdae said with studied calmness. Kyungsoo closed his eyes and sent a death wish to the pits of hell to take Jongdae away. “One-sided pinning? Nasty break-ups?”

“Indirect blackmailing perhaps?” Baekhyun casually suggested.

Chanyeol gaped, flashing his stormy gray eyes to the blond. “Excuse me?”

“What? I’m just adding another option.” He shrugged. “Do you have something else to add.”

“Geez, I don’t know, in my experience I can’t say much since my shitty ass ex boyfriend, after practically ruining my life, vanished out of thin air three days later. Do you have any experience in that Byun? You look like the type to run away from your fuck-ups. But of course, I’m just adding my opinion.”

By then, a few students sitting nearby had caught up on their escalating quarrel, something Kyungsoo was not very fond of. It was a very well-known fact around the student body that Chanyeol Park and Baekhyun Byun, both late—late, late, late—bloomers, were still learning to control their extremely powerful yet volatile gifts, so whenever one of their constant arguments was made public, there never failed to be a couple of idiots hanging around the sidelines, waiting for the angry juniors to lash out at each other.

And with the way Chanyeol’s closed fists were starting to shake and transpire smoke through his fingers and Baekhyun was staring to light up, brighter and brighter, it was clearly a matter of seconds before the entire cafeteria became a mess of flames and light daggers.

Kyungsoo was having none of that. Not again. “Listen you two morons, I’m not—”

“What in the fresh hell is this?”

A voice, sounding extremely insulted, interrupted the beginning of the earth guardian’s unfiltered monologue. The quartet of juniors turned at once towards the source, blinking in surprise as Chanyeol’s twin brothers were standing a couple of meters away from their table, with a hoard of giggling sophomores standing close by.

Chanyeol drew a long breath in, feeling a migraine coming. Although annoyed, deep down he was thankful for the interruption. It gave him the break he needed to cool off.

Now relaxed, he ventured. “What do you want knuckleheads?”

“How come mom bought you new blazers and shit and we have to use the same ratty ones from our freshman year!?”

“Uh, I don’t know, because I’m the oldest, I got the better genes from the badge, and probably am the future of our family?”

The aether master scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. Sehun stood beside him, chewing on his bubblegum as he showed their mutual friend, Tao, how to pass some stupid level on his video game. The quiet twin simply waved a peace sign towards his older brother in acknowledgement.

The times Chanyeol had crossed paths during the day with his younger brothers in the last months of being a hellboy were very scarce. The occasions always matched those short periods of time between classes, walking from one main hall to the other. Chanyeol always greeted the twins with their usual bratty remarks and half-hearted kicks, making a few people wonder if they actually got along in the first place—fueling more wacky theories of the redhead being adopted from a secluded orphanage in Siberia.

The oldest of the Parks could confess he kind of liked seeing his favorite runts more often—even when they were being idiots and ruining the ongoing mood. Like. Now.

“You wish geek. And what’s with those burnt napkins?”

Right. Peg it to Chanyeol to not be able to get his temper in check when Baekhyun pushed his buttons. With remorse, he stared down at the two burnt napkins crumpled under his fists, glaring seconds later at the chuckling blond with the triumphant glint in his caramel eyes.

“Nothing.” He muttered under his breath.

“You’re such a crappy liar.”

Sehun’s eyes flickered towards the burnt evidence, staring at it in serene silence for a second or so before going back to his gameplay.

“He was in a heated argument about his tragic love story with his ex bo—oh, hey Baekhyun.” The unhelpful pain in the ass chose the perfect moment to use his Psionic Intuition abilities, just with a stare at those damned burnt napkins.

“Sup, Baek.” Jongin waved, earning a sigh and a wave back from the aggravated light guardian.

The easy camaraderie between them made Chanyeol frown. So Jongin and Sehun had known all along that Baekhyun was studying in Hellvania, for over a year now? And they didn’t think that knowing Chanyeol’s ex boyfriend from hell was studying in the same institute was a piece of information their older brother would be interested in knowing?

He could forgive Kyungsoo, as he had never told the latter about the true identity of his ex, not even back when he was dating the little demon for three ongoing years—he got away with it luckily with only a punch in the gut when they had the conversation weeks ago. But his own family? Really? Moreover, family that had seen his emotional rise and downfall from two years ago? Unbelievable.

And worst, those three seemed chummy enough with the way the twins had greeted the blond so relaxed.

“Okay.” The redhead rubbed his throbbing forehead. “What do you want?”

“Right. As…happy as I am to see you, I’m just here to tell you that Mr. Lee wants to see you and Baek after school today.”

The fire and light guardians frowned, looking at each other and feeling puzzled by the request. Why would their World History teacher want to speak to them? Furthermore, the fact that the balding man had gone out of his way to reach out to his brother to deliver said message could only mean serious business.

“What did you two do now?” Kyungsoo murmured, soft and lethal.

“Nothing!”

“I bet it’s for something cool!” Jongdae finally broke from his silence, clapping in delight. Once again, everyone questioned the outdated edition of the latter’s mental dictionary.

To their surprise, the normally reserved sophomore pocketed his phone and nodded to what Jongdae had guessed. Tao, an aether master with the ability of Time Travelling, closed his eyes, speeding ahead in his mind through his skilled aether manipulation. His mouth slowly widened as his mind fast-forwarded—most likely—towards future events.

Jongin couldn’t help but laugh at what he saw in his friend’s wandering mind, making Chanyeol’s irritation spike to the roof. What the hell?

“It’s definitely something.” Sehun smiled. The atmosphere dropped to freezing temperatures with that smile as the quiet sophomore placed a long, fixed stare on both his brother and his fated partner.

The weight of that gaze seemed like a sinister promise of the thorny future lurking ahead of Chanyeol and Baekhyun.

 

<><><>

 

“There has to be another way Mr. Lee! I-I can’t fail this class!”

Mr. Lee sighed, leaning back on his chair as he gazed at the panicked teens sitting in his office. “I know Mr. Byun. I know you can’t afford to fail this class, but with the way your grades are going, as well as Mr. Park’s here, I’m afraid I’m not going to have much choice.”

“But that would mean instantly failing our entire year!”

“And believe me, that’s exactly what I don’t want. You’re a good student Mr. Byun, and I know Mr. Park has the potential to exceed. It’s not your fault you both had been gifted your elements at such a late age. The material is quite extensive, even for the students that have been in this academy since earlier years.”

Hours later found Chanyeol going through this exhausting situation. When Jongin had mentioned Mr. Lee wanted to meet with them, and Sehun had eerily prophesied the entire ordeal that would surge from this meeting as ‘something’…well, this type of ‘something’ was definitely not what he had expected.

He knew he was doing a very shitty job at catching up with the grueling material—fuck public schools for prioritizing other shit—but he didn’t know his academic situation was that bad.

The true surprise was that he wasn’t the only one sucking at the elective. If anything, the sight of Baekhyun’s pathetic and long-suffering face brought a sense of sick comfort to him—as well other very unwelcomed emotions such as worry and longing to soothe. If they both failed the class, they would automatically fail the entire year according to Hellvania’s strict rules, and the idea of having to spend more time in that shit hole than necessary was enough to awaken the desperate side in him.

“Is there really nothing we can do Mr. Lee?” He requested.

“I’ll do anything! I promise! Double the work, I’ll do it! Please!” Baekhyun pouted, clapping his hands together in a silent prayer.

We, you egotistical prick.’ Chanyeol hissed under his breath, keeping a tight smile across his lips. ‘Fuck off, you’re on your own chili pepper.’ Baekhyun hissed back, blinking his eyelashes innocently at their unamused professor.

Mr. Lee coughed, snapping the juniors out of their wispy fight. “I didn’t just call you in to tell you this unfortunate turn of events. It might be little far-fetched for you, but I do have a proposition.”

“Yes, yes, anything!” Baekhyun jumped, earning him a bump in the knee with the edge of the mahogany desk that had Chanyeol snorting and swallowing his laughter.

“Since you’re officially the only two juniors an F away from failing World History.” The chastened teens blushed, shrinking under the embarrassing truth. “I think it’s fair to say that you might be better off working together from now on.”

Chanyeol knitted his brows, mind running a mile per hour. Beside him, Baekhyun mirrored his confused expression. “I don’t think we’re following Mr. Lee.”

“For the resting months, I’m going to give you two extra assignments that you’ll be given deadlines for, aside from those already part of the class plan. You’re going to be paired up for all of these assignments and if successful, you’ll both be given the extra credits you need to make it to senior year.”

“Is this some sort of…volunteer punishment?”

Their teacher laughed, shaking his head despite his students’ dubious stare. “Of course not, I’m sure you both had enough of volunteering back in January, and I’m positive Mrs. Joon too.”

Chanyeol sighed. He could feel this moment was one of those turning points in which whatever choice he made could either fuck his life up or turn it up for the better. He ran his tattooed hand through his fire truck red locks, the feeling of being trapped against the wall churning his insides.

“We have to work together then, to get those extra assignments and pass this class.” It wasn’t a question, so it wasn’t stated as such. It was clear with the way their teacher had explained the entire situation that that was exactly where he had meant to go to since the beginning of the meeting.

“Yes. It’s easier for me to grade you, and it’ll be easier for you to do this work as they won’t be academically light assignments and you have other classes to worry about as well. It’s the only way I can think of in such short notice. Do you agree?”

By now, Chanyeol perfectly knew that Hellvania wasn’t the failing grades type of boarding school. He didn’t have much choice—the thought of giving his parents more shame than he already had for the past few months was a big bolded ‘no’ in his future plans.

Baekhyun sighed beside him. From the corner of his muted gray eyes he could catch the resignation pouring out of him like tidal waves. Very well then, the decision was made.

“We’ll do it.” Chanyeol declared, sealing his faith for the rest of his school year.

Baekhyun nodded and silently agreed to the second truce in his rocky relationship with Chanyeol Park. “Yes. We’ll work together.”

Mr. Lee smiled, highlighting both their names on the student list with fluorescent yellow.

“Great call.”

 

<><><>

 

The weeks that followed the meeting were nothing short of what the duo had already expected. Chanyeol and Baekhyun found themselves roped into cluttered schedules, stressful after-school meetings and scarce sleeping hours.

"H-olyFuckingBabyChri—Yeol! What the fuck!" Minseok screeched, jumping at least two feet off the ground as he was scared out of his wits by the dark silhouette hunched silently in the darkened room.

Chanyeol was sitting cross-legged on his bed against the wall, frowning at his notes, and surrounded by a truly amazing litter of thick textbooks and dusty old novels. His pepper-red hair fell across his furrowed forehead, shaded as it always was for the last few days, by an oversized hoodie.

"Nnh," The distracted junior grunted, but Minseok couldn't really tell if it was directed at him or his notes.

"What's up?" He tried again, slurring slightly as he slurped his fifth cup of coffee out of a plastic sippy cup without a lid that he brought back from one of his study sessions back at Kris and Suho’s last week.

Chanyeol's gaze slid distractedly over his roommate's face before focusing back on his task at hand. He started to speak and then choked on his own spit, wheezing and hacking loud coughs. The ice guardian, completely used to Chanyeol’s choking bouts by now, rubbed at his eye socket and went over the mess in their room towards the coughing teen, pounding him on the back a couple times before offering a sip of his coffee that the latter gladly took.

"Khhk," The redhead croaked. "Thngks."

Minseok nodded, leaning back to take a look over the wreckage of paperwork surrounding his roommate like peasants to their defiled king.

"WH?" He asked non-judgmentally.

“Yeah.” Chanyeol gave a thoughtful nod, swallowing experimentally. “Mr. Lee paired Baek and I up for some extra credit assignments two weeks ago. It’s the only way to have us both pass his class. We had no choice.”

“Huh.” Minseok said. ‘Baek and I’ that was new. “That’s nice of him.”

“His extra assignments aren’t though.” The junior pouted in a way that would make anyone look ridiculous, but on Chanyeol it gave him that kicked puppy vibe. “He gives us a shit ton of material to go through, aside from the homework he already gives out in general.”

“Is this why you’ve been cooped up in here all Sunday?”

With a long suffering sigh, Chanyeol nodded, his pout reaching his maximum level of pity. “Yeah. Kyungsoo and Jongdae were gonna go downtown, buy some school stuff and grab a bite to eat on the way, but I had to bail out. I have this major paper about Boccacio’s The Decameron and its connection with the black plague to hand over tomorrow.”

The senior groaned. “Ugh. That Italian written orgy. I hate it.”

“And also, I’ve been having this weird tingle all over for a week…it makes my hands numb out sometimes and my flames look like electric candles when that happens. I think it’s the lack of sleep, and those vivid dreams I keep having.”

“I’m sorry buddy. That sounds awfully.” Minseok smiled in sympathy, walking towards his side of the room to drop his backpack on his bed. “Do you remember the dreams?”

Chanyeol rubbed a hand on his face and shook his head. “Nope. By the time I’m awake I’m exhausted and confused out of my mind with no memory whatsoever of what I was dreaming about in the first place.”

“I hate those before. They’re such a pain.” Minseok grunted. Peeling off his coat and scarf, he made his way to his closet, opting for a hoodie as twilight brought with it the common chill of those early spring nights.

“Are you going to meet with Baekhyun at the study hall later?”

“Yeah, that’s the plan.”

Easy conversation slipped between them, and as Minseok retold one of Suho’s cooking experiments gone wrong—one that earned him minus one hundred points in Kris’ cool-o-meter—two loud knocks interrupted the senior’s story.

“This better be important. I was about to reach my punch line.” The blue haired teen huffed, making his way towards the door as his roommate spared him a sympathetic smile from his land of paper waste across the room, promptly going back to his work.

Nevertheless the focused junior made a quick double take as he found his work partner making his way inside the room, greeting Minseok amiably. He was the embodiment of lazy Sunday with his two sizes too big hoodie, ripped jeans, and—

“It’s night time already. Why the heck are you wearing sunglasses for.” Chanyeol snorted, judging the blond’s horrible fashion choice. Under his huge ray-ban glasses, he could tell the latter was offering him a nasty look.

“My eyes look like crap. I can’t be seen like this.” Baekhyun merely explained. “I don’t know what happened, I used some proton crystals to look under my bed and they were really hot, like scorching, eyeball-churning hot. My eyes feel tender.”

Chanyeol winced. “That sounds painful. But, weren’t we supposed to meet for dinner and then head to study hall?”

Once again, Minseok blinked in awe. Dinner date? Study date? Dinner and study date?? Did Suho’s spaghetti concoction have some sort of hallucination properties?

“Yeah, but I went there earlier to meet up with my roommate and it was jam-packed, so I think it might be the best to stay here for tonight. We can go downstairs for dinner in a bit. It’s Mexican night.”

“Oooh, I love Mexican night!” Chanyeol smiled happily.

Baekhyun waddled his way towards the redhead’s bed. He balanced the four-cup carry tray on one hand as he slid his backpack off, letting it fall unceremoniously on Chanyeol’s bed, which earned him a yelp in response that was quickly shooed by his dismissive hand wave. Pulling the hood down and his sunglasses off, the bruised patches of skin underneath his light eyes became visible, as well as the subtly redness inside. He really wasn’t lying.

“Wow. You do look like crap.”

Baekhyun snorted. “Thanks, Captain Obvious.”

Minseok chuckled and went on with his own stuff, not wanting to interfere with the juniors’ study session. Plopping down on his bed, the ice guardian was in the process of plucking his earphones on when a plastic cup obstructed his line of vision. Cross-eyed, he stared confused at the creamy pink beverage, watching the floating pieces of strawberries dance as the small hand holding it gently offered it.

“Is this for me?”

“I made a quick trip downtown earlier and thought of buying some liquid bean fuel.” Baekhyun smiled, placing the drink in the senior’s hold. He knew it was his favorite. He remembered. “Think of it as small token of apology for intruding unannounced when you’re probably tired and want to rest for the night.”

Minseok accepted the drink, undeniably touched by the smaller one’s kind gesture. How could a creature as thoughtful and kind as Baekhyun be friends with his monster of a cousin and his squishy demonic friend? But then he remembered that same gentle creature almost shoving a light sable through his crotch, one that had been clearly meant for a certain fire guardian, during one of their conjoined senior-junior training sessions. The gentle thought flew right past after that.

“Is this one for me?” Chanyeol eagerly went for one of the two take-out cups, his excitement short-lived as Baekhyun was quick to turn around and smack his hand off the cup.

The annoyed honey blond cursed under his breath, taking the cup away. “Do you wanna die, you big dumbo!? That has hazelnut milk on it!”

“How was I supposed to know!?”

“Uh, I don’t know, maybe you could read what’s written on the side of it before chugging it down like a monster?”

True to that, at the side of the paper cup lingering in the tray was a hastily jotted down note, all in black lettering that read ‘Yeol: No Hazelnut!’

“Geez, okay…no need to freak out about it.” Chanyeol mumbled, grabbing the remaining drink.

Minseok couldn’t help asking. “Yeol, you’re allergic to hazelnuts?”

“He’s okay with hazelnuts, but he’s allergic to hazelnut milk. I, on the other hand, am lactose intolerant, and soy milk strangely makes me all sneezy.” Baekhyun explained in behalf of the lanky junior that nodded along, happily sipping on his grande mochaccino with double whipped cream. “One time our orders got mixed up and we spent an entire day at the hospital with a nasty allergic reaction on his part and a painful stomachache on mine.”

Chanyeol scrunched his nose at the memory. “Worst day ever.”

The entire exchange was so bizarre to Minseok that he didn’t have the right state of mind to ask anything else. Watching them interact without biting their heads off was quite the bizarre experience. But it could also considered as a powerful achievement, and dare he say a big step forward into working out whatever shit happened in the past that placed a dent in their relationship.

“Wipe your upper lip, you look like you just gave Pillsbury doughboy a blowjob”

Okay. Maybe it was more of a very, very small step forward. Minuscule. But noticing in his quiet corner the way Baekhyun sighed exasperated and wiped with his own thumb the dollop of cream off of Chanyeol’s lip when the latter failed to do so himself brought back a tiny bit of hope.

With a smile on his face, he let the bickering couple be as he put his earphones on and quickly went to his messaging app, opening his chat history with a certain butt pain.

 

 

To: Chessur’s ugly cousin
Hey, light bulb [18.19]

From: Chessur’s ugly cousin
ROOD [18.20]

To: Chessur’s ugly cousin
Stfu [18.22]
Remember that thing you told me
About Yeol and Baek [18.23]

From: Chessur’s ugly cousin
Yes?~ [18.26]

To: Chessur’s ugly cousin
You… might be right [18.30]

From: Chessur’s ugly cousin
First, Duh. Dae is always right [18.33]
And second, ASDFGSJS I KNEW IT [18.35]

 

<><><>

 

“Woa, woah!" Jongdae cackled incredulously, throwing down his controller and turning to look at Kyungsoo. “Are you serious!?”

Kyungsoo threw a sweat sock at him. “You think I would lie about this? Also, get your scrawny ass off the floor, I’m vacuuming.”

Undeterred by his roommate’s angry cleaning skills, the orange haired boy was quick to hop on his bed, careful not to tip his laptop off as he sat on a pile of unmade sheets and dubiously clean sweaters. He looked like he was nesting in a pile of junk from Kyungsoo’s point of view.

“When Min told me about the weird dynamic between them days ago I thought he was imagining things. I saw them last Monday as well having a civil conversation on their way to the library. Baekhyun was even laughing at Chanyeol tripping on his shoelaces before helping him regain his balance. That was shocking enough, but now!

“It’s no big deal though.” Kyungsoo rolled his eyes, walking up and down the room while swiping the vacuum brush across the dark carpeted floor. “Chanyeol was just fixing Baek’s tie and brushing some lint off his V-neck sweater before walking into Business Law. That’s it.”

Jongdae snorted. “Would you fix my tie and brush lint off my shirt?”

“I would rather choke you with that tie and stuff that lint down your throat.”

“Exactly my point.” The lighting guardian pointed a gun finger before going back to his gameplay.

The small brunet sighed at the well-made point, unable to ignore the fact that in the past few days a weird atmosphere had fell upon the once sworn enemies. What had started with after school meetings for their extra assignments from World History, it had seemingly evolved into something more. There was still bickering, nasty slurs thrown here and there and the occasional physical punch, but it was just a lukewarm version of what their situation used to be.

“You think…those two have something going on?” Kyungsoo bit his lip, pensive.

At the question, his roommate since middle school froze his game, right when he was about to get smashed to death by a titan. He scratched his chin and pursed his lips in thought.

“If we define ‘something’ as fucking against the bookshelves from the secluded Healing Cooking section of the library, then, no. I don’t think so.” The ginger haired teen said. “But I do think that those two are heading somewhere, hopefully, better for their relationship.”

Kyungsoo contemplated that too. “Maybe. If they manage to face each other and talk about whatever happened in the past, then maybe…”

The thought was left hanging in the air. Jongdae unfroze his game, punching the volume up to an annoying level and producing a pair of massive headphones from somewhere in his pile of junk. The cleaning junior grunted and threw a sealed bag of Twizzlers he had found under the bed to the humming teen.

Catching it mid-air, Jongdae grinned and proceeded to devour the edible projectile. There was a moment of comfortable, shared silence, before the troublesome teenager tugged one side of his headphones back. “You know. I’m gonna do something.”

Kyungsoo looked up from his corner of the room, vacuum free and holding a bottle of lemon-scented Wood Cleaner in one hand and a rag on the other, ready to clean his study desk. He squinted his eyes suspiciously, and ventured to ask.

“With what.”

Jongdae smiled over at him briefly, chewed at the roped candy stick hanging from his mouth and then quietly went back to his game. “You’ll see.”

"Jongdae…” Kyungsoo sighed. He kicked resignedly at the latter’s bed before resuming to his cleaning. Mood dampened for the rest of the day. “Just don’t do anything stupid.”

 

<><><>

 

It was remarkably easy to read Jongdae Kim.

It was honestly no rocket science. Jongdae was planning something.

And even though Kyungsoo had been the first one to notice his odd behavior, Baekhyun and Chanyeol had easily caught up on his unusual manners. It wouldn’t be long before one of the two confronted their mischievous friend.

"Jongdae Kim." Baekhyun softly called out, earning the attention from Chanyeol and Kyungsoo doing their homework across the table on the school’s outer patio.

The called teen looked up from his Algebra homework at once. He scratched his eyebrow and tried to figure out what his tiny blond friend wanted. “Yeah?”

The pocket-sized sunbeam tapped his fingertips rhythmically on the table. “Spill the beans. What's going on?"

Jongdae cocked his head to the side and blinked, lips stretching into a pretty smile. Baekhyun scowled. “I beg your pardon?”

Unrelenting, the blond junior dismissed him with a frustrated motion. "Cut the crap, I know you’re hiding something. It’s written all over your annoying face."

The accused boy snorted. "And what would I be planning exactly?”

That surely made the feisty light guardian pause. He wasn’t exactly sure of what his vexing friend might be hiding under his sleeve, but for the last few days he had been nothing but suspicious and just today, before lunch, he had found the elusive idiot hiding behind a pillar. He had an annoyed look on his face, stealing glances at his limited edition Girard Perregaux watch. Whoever he was waiting for was clearly running late.

To add up to his puzzling attitude, Baekhyun had seen the latter’s face change from rosy pink to a shade of paper white when he finally noticed him standing a few feet away. He had scrambled his way towards him, hooked his arm around his and tugged them both towards their AP Chem class with over the top laughs and gossip about Suho’s new hairstyle. No questions asked about the earlier scene.

“I—I don’t know.” The frowning guardian confessed. “But you’re probably doing some shitty thing that will get you murdered by either one of us in this table if caught.”

“That sounds fun and all, but I have enough on my plate with finals next month to be indulging my sweet time in anything regarding you, Chanyeol or Kyungsoo. No offense.”

By then Chanyeol had officially pushed his homework out of the way, noticing the way Baekhyun was visibly shaking like a ticking bomb and Jongdae was casually watching the entire thing unfold with no remorse whatsoever on his words. He didn’t know how to intervene, and Kyungsoo wasn’t of much help either with the way he just split his attention between his Chemistry notes and the teenage drama spectacle before him.

“Listen.” He ventured, like a pig driving to a slaughter willingly. “You both need to relax.”

Baekhyun frowned blearily. “I am relaxed. I’m just stating the obvious. Agatha Christie here has been sneaking behind our backs, plotting who knows what that will get us all in trouble! You know I’m right!”

“What we know is that you’re being paranoid.” The accused junior countered with disdain.

Chanyeol breathed out, scrubbing a hand over his fire red hair. He couldn’t lie and say he didn’t agree with Baekhyun. He had noticed things too, but it was not the time. Students from different years were scattered around the massive garden and its adjoined tables, surrounding them as they diligently studied and managed their schoolwork. Heck, he could even see the faint silhouette of his brothers at the other side, doing their own thing.

Worst-case scenario, he sided with Baekhyun, made Jongdae lash out and draw attention to themselves, and there went Chanyeol’s drama slash detention slash gossip free week. So he played the safe card for the sake of all of them.

“C’mon guys, chill. We can talk this out, no need to yell and make a scene out of this.”

“Talk this out?” Baekhyun turned to him, straight on, and glared. "What the fuck do you think I've been trying to do, asshole?"

"Falsely accuse me out of nowhere?" Jongdae suggested, glaring at the frustrated blond. “If you drop the psycho act, we can let this entire thing go.”

Baekhyun threw his empty water bottle at the still lying teen, making a show out of it as he stood up and shoved all his workload into his backpack. His heart was pounding in his ears, and he tried to ignore the way his palms felt hot and clammy. He glowered at the excuse of friends he had one last time before he turned around and marched his way out of the extensive patio, leaving murmurs and curious stares behind.

“Fuck…he took my Algebra sheet by mistake.” Chanyeol bemoaned. Could this day get any worse?

“You can borrow mine.”

You don’t talk to me. You’re being an unnecessarily piece of shit and you know it.” Chanyeol hissed. His brows knitted together, tight like a stress headache coming on.

In silence, the long limbed junior packed his things in a less hasty way than the last occupant of the table had just seconds before, walking away after a clipped farewell to the remaining two boys on the table. Jongdae pouted, turning on his side towards the earth guardian that had kept mum throughout the entire ordeal.

“Don’t even look at me like that. I told you not to do something stupid. And what did you do? Something stupid.” Kyungsoo mumbled, cheek mushed in his palm as he lazily flipped a page of his Chemistry book, no even sparing him a glance.

“Yeah…I might’ve gone a little overboard.” The orange dyed teen admitted. “But if they find out what I’m planning to do, they will surely burn me alive.”

“You better not be planning some shit that will get as all expelled or I swear Jongdae Kim I’ll turn you into a sentient rock.” Kyungsoo hissed warningly.

At the threat, the lighting guardian shot his palms up. “I promise! I promise it’s not as bad at it sounds! I’ll tell you all about it soon.”

“You better.” The brunet replied, pinning him with a serious look.

Kyungsoo received only a nod and a wavering smile from his slightly terrified and shivery roommate before he dropped his gaze back to his forgotten homework.

"Shit," Jongdae mouthed quietly, shivering the chills off. He felt eyes on him, glanced around, and finally hooked his gaze on a lonely figure hiding under the shade of the corridor.

‘Soon’ He thought to himself. He let out a quick breath through his nose and went back to his own notes.

 

<><><>

 

"I think we have a problem." Jongdae confided to the pink haired senior as he stood nervously outside his door, avoiding eye contact with a couple of juniors walking down the dimly lit hallway.

It had taken a lot of effort to ignore Kyungsoo’s inquisitive stares for the rest of the day, and after what happened that afternoon he wasn’t completely off the hook, neither by Chanyeol or Baekhyun that had unanimously given him the cold shoulder at dinner.

"No shit." The skilled aether master murmured, beckoning the twitching junior inside, glancing over his shoulder suspiciously before closing the door behind him. Jongdae followed him in without a backward look, face set with worry as he took a seat on one of the two neatly made bed.

"I heard what happened today, and caught the last bit of it." The petite looking senior began, a deep frown set over his naturally soft features. "Look, Dae. Are you really sure you want to risk your friendship over this? I mean, you don’t know what really happened with them in the past that made them hate each other so badly. Yes, they could still have feelings for one another, but there’s no telling how strong these feelings are. What we’re planning to do might not even work. Plus, Kyungsoo might smash your head with a crate when he finds out.”

The tired guardian blew out a breath. "Yeah, no kidding. Listen, there's definitely more going on than what I had previously thought. I was talking to Sehun, Chanyeol’s twin baby brother, and he mentioned some pretty fucked up shit.”

A pair of round, baby blue eyes widened as the curious aether master took a seat across from him. "Tell me." He whispered.

“I think those two were framed.” Jongdae frowned, licking his dried lips. “Sehun didn’t say much, but he did hint on Chanyeol’s sexuality having been revealed to the entire school against his will in freshman year. According to him, that brought a lot of bullying and troubles for Yeol…I have a hunch that he thinks Baek did it, and it might’ve happened while they were dating.”

“What? Baekhyun? Your friend, Baekhyun Byun?” The appalled senior gaped, squeezing his thumb and index finger close together. “The one that’s about this big and resembles a human strawberry?”

“You’re both the same height.” The guardian snorted. “Anyways, yes that Baekhyun. Ridiculous, right? I know I’ve only known him for a little over a year now, but he’s a good guy…I-I can’t believe he would do something so sick to someone he loves. I refuse to.”

A white, dainty hand patted his knee. Unconsciously, he had lowered his gaze the more he went on with his previous rant. Looking up he found sympathy and understanding in the other one’s eyes and that placed a smile of his own, albeit a little more troubled but full of hope, across his lips.

“Don’t worry Dae, I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding.” There was a pause in his words, followed by a nod as he stood up and made his way to his study desk. “Which is why we must do a little tweak to our plan!”

“O-kay? And what would that tweak be?” Jongdae asked cautiously at the sight of that mischievous glint in the older one’s eye.

“You’ll see~” The latter merrily answered. “I’m gonna have to find something different though. Better. But I think everything will be ready by Thursday. Is that good?”

He didn’t have much choice, so the junior nodded and committed the date to memory. It seemed like in about three days Jongdae Kim would either become a hero or a tree in Hellvania’s courtyard.

“Now choose: Strawberry or Cherry?”

 

<><><>

 

As Chanyeol rolled the sleeves of his navy blazer up to his elbow and loosened his tie, the last bell of the day ringing in his ears, he became officially conflicted.

It had been two days since he had directed a word to Jongdae. For the most part, it had been pretty easy to avoid said junior, as the majority of their classes had already all seats assigned when he had transferred last January. That had resulted in him getting stuck at the last seat by the corner of every class where the heater never reached and the window made a squeaky sound when a strong wind brushed by.

The true challenge had been Classic Language, the only class in which Chanyeol had been allowed to choose his seat beside his childhood best friend that coincidentally had been in the same vicinity of the his class buddies. The atmosphere, thick and awkward, had permeated the room on the first day after the courtyard confrontation, making that hour long lecture an impossible task for the rest of his classmates, that wondered what could’ve happened with the infamous quartet.

He wasn’t so sure now that he made the right choice as he caught Jongdae’s tired demeanor between classes. Maybe he had been quick to judge. The lighting guardian could be hiding something, but he could very well have his reasons to do so. Baekhyun had been clear about his opinion towards the entire situation, not sparing his friend even a glance if they ever crossed paths. Chanyeol knew from first hand how stubborn and petty the light haired boy could be.

And Kyungsoo? He had declared his position as Switzerland that same day at dinner. ‘Don’t lump me together with your shit. I have a B+ in Chemistry I need to raise and I can’t afford getting sidetracked by your silly arguments. These grounds are neutral.’ The earth guardian had announced with a grunt, waving a hand at himself before proceeding with his dinner.

Things were looking pretty shitty in Chanyeol’s humble opinion. And the fact that Baekhyun chose to get sick right in the middle of it, with Mr. Lee squeezing their brain juices in the most sadistic way possible with the overload of extra work was just the cherry on top.

“Who even gets sick in the middle of spring…” He grumbled to himself, sliding his backpack over one shoulder as he grabbed the handful of copies Mr. Lee—aforementioned sadistic aficionado—had kindly requested him to deliver to his class partner.

The trip from Dorchester House—a small framed house at the other side of the Hellvania campus, where all history and geography courses for grades nine and ten took place—to the Holford dormitories wasn’t long, but it gave him enough time to cool his head and think about what he could do in the current situation.

As Chanyeol strode hurriedly across the flat greenery offered by the carefully tended courtyard of the main building, he could’ve sworn he caught sight of Jongdae disappearing into one of the four main halls, ever so suspiciously, but the mirage was gone in the span of a breath.

Great, now he was conjuring Jongdae’s spirit too.

Minutes later he was standing before door one-o-three, knocking on the wooden surface as careful as possible as to not disturb Baekhyun if he were to be taking a nap. Dull voices could be heard from inside the room before the door was swung open and a silver-haired boy with soft, elfish features and incredibly bright, chartreuse colored eyes stood before him.

“Yes?” The gorgeous boy asked, lifting a long delicate eyebrow at the sight of the speechless stranger outside his door.

Few times in his life had Chanyeol been rendered speechless by beautiful things—his mom’s hands, his black angelfish named Lisa that sadly lasted just two days, and Baekhyun—and now this boy, whoever he was, just made it into the list.

“Uh, um. Hi.” Chanyeol babbled, blushing in embarrassment seconds later. “I-Is this Baekhyun’s room?”

The rustling sound of sheets and soft breathing brought Chanyeol back to his senses, and the soft fluffy subspace in his head was intensified tenfold at the sight of a blanketed Baekhyun waddling his way to the door. His puppy eyes looked even more droopy than normal, and his hair normally coiffed back and parted elegantly in the middle was falling down in a silky smooth mess. Wrapped from head to toe in a downy pink quilt, he was the embodiment of soft as his pouty mouth opened in a small yawn before his chin rested on the slightly taller boy staring warily at the gaping redhead—very hot, and totally delicious redhead.

“Oh, it’s you.” Baekhyun mumbled, wrapping his arms around the lithe boy serving as a cuddling post. “What do you want?”

Something very ugly churned painfully at the pit of Chanyeol’s stomach, whether from the flippant greeting or the sight of the blond’s sinewy arms wrapped around that good-looking guy’s waist. For his mental health, he chose the first option, although other parts of his psyche screamed for the other.

“Yes, it’s me.” Chanyeol retorted with one of his trademark smirks that made Baekhyun want to bloody up his nose—want, wanted, he has been confused of the tense for the last couple of weeks.

A flash of recognition glimmered in the stranger’s eyes, still trapped in Baekhyun’s hug. He turned his head to the side, centimeters away from the clingy boy. A move that was completely unnecessary in Chanyeol’s humble opinion. Oblivious, Baekhyun turned to stare at the silver-haired boy in question, barely escaping the brush of his thin, pink lips across the equally oblivious boy within his arms. Like a cat, the fuming redhead inwardly bristled at the sight.

“He’s Chanyeol Park?” Why did his voice have to be so—buttery! “Your e--”

Baekhyun blushed bright red as he clamped his hand over the now cackling student. “Yes, yes, the idiot in flesh, now shut up before I blind you Tae!”

Pulling his hand down, the reprimanded beauty simply smiled and offered his long milky white hand towards the lost junior still standing in the hallway like a moron. “Nice to meet you. I’m Taeyong, Baek’s roommate.”

For the sake of not coming out as a jerk, the fire guardian accepted the handshake. “Nice to meet you. I’m Chanyeol.”

“I know.” There was an air of playfulness in his reply, which was quickly masked by a loud clap of his hands. “Anyways, I’ll let you two be! I have to hit the showers and get ready.”

With a flourish, he bid both juniors goodbye as he stepped out of the room, a skip in his step as he made it down the hall and out of their sight. An inexplicable sense of relief washed over Chanyeol as he finally watched the cryptic lad leave, the sentiment quickly drowned by a full load of annoyance he honestly could not understand. He honestly could give two shits about whatever relationship those two had—really.

“You look like a fool standing there, come in.” The light guardian stepped to the side, hiding his mouth in his elbow as a dry coughing fit began.

The room was an exact replica of his own a couple of doors away: two queen-sized beds at each side with a shared night stand in between, two study desks, two closets and a wide double-hung window at the far end wall bringing light and air into the spacious accommodation. A soft touch of Wild Rose and Apples brushed pass Chanyeol’s nose once he was fully inside, bringing back memories of that dulcet fragrance that Baekhyun loved so much, even until this day.

Aware of the awkward silence lingering in the air, the sick junior cleared his throat and slowly made his way to his still unmade bed. He sat cross-legged over the mattress, regarding the fire guardian’s every move.

The observed teen placed the copies he had been holding on top of the bed. “Mr. Lee asked me to hand you this, since you’ve missed two classes already.”

“Oh.” Baekhyun blinked, taking a look at the new handful of extra assignments. It was strange the surprise evident in the latter’s face. As if he had expected the reason of his visit to be anything but for school related purposes. “Um, thanks.”

Chanyeol nodded, scratching the back of his head. He took that moment of silence in-between to look around casually before placing his gaze on the blond rubbing his pink nose with the back of his hand hidden under the long pajama top. His World History partner, aside from the slightly stuffy nose and occasional coughing fits, looked quite well. That along made him inwardly judge the smaller one’s decision to take those two days off of classes. Was he so desperate to spend some time alone with his gorgeous roommate?

Baekhyun darted a quick glance over, flushing as he caught the intense gaze of the redheaded junior directed towards him. Strangely abashed, he quickly lowered his eyes and stared steadily at the heaps of copies now on his lap.

“When you missed class today, I thought your cold might be a little more serious than what Mrs. Gong had said yesterday at the infirmary." Chanyeol admitted after a while, nearly inaudible under the conversation and clanking from a group of seniors outside in the hallway. "I asked Mr. Lee if he could give us more time to hand over our essay on Horace’s literature, and he agreed. On the way out he asked me to give you the material we went over today so you wouldn’t be too far behind.”

Baekhyun froze awkwardly in the middle of his explanation, undoubtedly, ashamed of having been caught in his act. "That, um, was nice of him—and you." He muttered. "Thanks. And sorry to have troubled you."

Chanyeol shrugged. “It’s no problem for me. I mean, the one you should be saying sorry to is Mr. Lee.”

The small teen gave him an odd look, not following his line of thought as he leaned back against the wall, arms crossed. “I should apologize for getting sick?”

“More like apologize for lying.” Chanyeol honestly thought that Mr. Lee deserved an apology. After all, the professor had been nothing but helpful in lieu to their dire situation, turning a blind eye to the essays and research papers delivered a later date than expected or the blatant Wikipedia citations listed as ‘reliable’ references. For a vague second, he thought that Baekhyun might have felt the same way too, but his affronted face made it clear he didn’t.

Baekhyun cocked his head to the side curiously, expression washed clean of the confusion and embarrassment he had seen just minutes before. He stood up and forward, standing on his knees as he shuffled forward a bit on the bed, tentatively making his way to the edge of the mattress. The sound of the papers crumpling beneath the weight was loud and bothersome in the room.

There was barely a meter between them now, as Chanyeol remained standing up while the smaller one kneeled under his crumpled copies. The image of Baekhyun kneeling so close to him brought a pair of…suggestive flashbacks he did not know where they came from—he totally did, but shhh!

“Are you saying that I’m lying?” If there was one thing that Baekhyun hated more than Chanyeol hated libraries, was being called a liar.

“I-I am.” The standing teen peered down at the light guardian nervously. “I don’t know how you managed to convince our school nurse that you’re sick, but I know you well enough to know that you don’t get sick so easily, and less in the middle of spring. I-I’m gonna tell everything to Mr. Lee!”

“And what would ‘everything’ be in this case?”

Chanyeol gulped, not liking how calm the blond’s voice sounded—his voice was already quite calm for the most part, and sometimes tiny by default when embarrassed. “That, uh, that you’re just missing class to get all chummy with that Taeyan guy.”

“He’s name is Taeyong. Not Taeyan.”

“Whatever. Doesn’t change the fact that you’re one big, fat liar.”

Baekhyun stared up at the imposing junior, stunned at the harsh words, eyes looking a bit more wide and clear. “…Okay.”

The taller one eyed him dubiously at the lackluster response, asking for further explanations with his puzzled expression. Baekhyun rose to his feet unsteadily on the mattress, uncaring of the mess of torn and crumpled papers. There was a split of a second in which Chanyeol thought the tiny guardian would say something, anything to break the tense air between them but instead of words, he used his actions better.

"Fuck you, Chanyeol Park!" The angry blond roared, jumping up to cling to the redhead’s back just as the latter turned around to escape the imminent attack. “The biggest cheating liar in this entire school is no one but you!”

Chanyeol whined as Baekhyun locked his legs around his torso and successfully managed to hook his dainty fingers on the tufts of his flaming red hair. “Have you completely lost your mind!? Get off me!”

"Not until you apologize!" Baekhyun challenged, voice rising and certainly catching the attention of innocent bystanders outside of those four walls.

Like dancing monkeys, they wobbled around the room in a mess of limbs and angered cries for what seemed like hours. Chanyeol was grabbing onto the angered teen's wrists with both hands as the blond tugged at his hair unrelenting. By then, they were just screaming incoherently, slurs of insults and silly threats could now be heard all over the long hallways of the normally quiet Holford’s dormitories.

Someone shouted from outside the door a moment later, followed by a succession of strong knocks, but the sound was lost in the heated argument as Chanyeol yelled at Baekhyun being an ‘ugly corn pop!’.

The disturbing encounter was quickly frozen as the door swung open and a very disgruntled Suho stepped in. “What. Are. You. Guys. Doing!”

Understanding the severity of the situation, Chanyeol forcefully pried the still clinging boy’s fingers out of his ruffled hair, hearing him make an ‘Oof!’ sound as he slid down and bounced on the bed behind. The fire guardian stood where he was, wincing as he ran a hand over his nail-dug scalp in a failed attempt to comb his nest of a hair in place. A very faint smell of smoke and burnt hair reached his nostrils, making him panic the second his fingers blindly found a round patch of hairless skin at the top of his head, coin sized and incredibly tender to the touch.

Did…did that little runt just burned his hair!?

From behind the fuming school president and RA’s shoulders, Chanyeol easily spotted his two friends among the small crowd standing outside the door. Kyungsoo looked the same as always, unbothered and homicidal if touched, but under that façade there was vivid worry underneath the surface. Jongdae was nervously biting at the skin of his thumb, looking as guilty as ever. Their strange behavior threw Chanyeol off for the span of one, two seconds before the water guardian crossed his arms over his chest, drawing his attention back to the student authority before them.

“Care to explain why you’re acting like a couple of cavemen inside the dorms?” The senior asked acutely. His jaw was set, meaning he was pissed. “And you better not lie to me or I won’t hesitate to take this to the school committee.”

Baekhyun quickly stood up and took place beside the shuffling junior. Side to side, they looked ridiculous, with their clothes in disarray and mismatching tufts of hair up in the air, looking like a couple of trolls after a pro-wrestling competition.

“It’s not what it looks like Suho, I swear. I was just showing Yeol here some, um, some fighting tactics for our upcoming training duel next week.”

Chanyeol was about to snort at the absurdity of the smaller one’s alibi. Him, getting fighting tips from Baekhyun? The kid that would cry when stepping on ants by accident back in primary school? Fuck off.

“That’s aahhh!—” His face grimaced in pain as a certain shitty blond pinched his butt cheek without mercy. He flashed a set of angry gray eyes towards the smiling male that had the audacity to turn his head up to flutter his long eyelashes at him, all sloe-eyed and innocent. Those eyes though, beneath the surface screamed ‘Say something else and I’ll cut your dick off’. “—aaaabsolutely right! Just some good ‘ol fighting between buddies!”

Pushing a forced smile, Chanyeol slung his arm over his ‘battling companion’, squeezing the boney shoulder hard enough to earn a yelp that was quickly masked as a cough and a wide smile by the light haired guardian.

Their skeptic RA sighed heavily after a moment of contemplation. "Okay." He allowed. "But just—keep it quiet, alright? You don't need to get so loud and disturb everyone in the hallway."

Both juniors nodded simultaneously. Baekhyun flashed a pearly white smile to the senior and said in a soft and sweet voice. "We promise~ I’m sorry we had to inconvenience one of my favorite seniors…"

Suho laughed embarrassed, rubbing the back of his head self-conscious. Chanyeol snorted.

There was true remorse in Baekhyun’s words, even if he was playing the victim card in the eyes of the stern but totally soft hearted senior. Suho nodded once more, offered his approval and after a last warning for them to behave, he proceeded to make his way out of the room. It was in the midst of shooing all the nosy teens cluttering the hall, trying to get a glimpse of something worth gossiping about, that Chanyeol noticed Kyungsoo leaning towards Jongdae as he whispered something to the latter. The lighting guardian nodded and they both disappeared into the crowd.

He made a mental note to ask his childhood friend later.

“You owe me.” The deceiving junior announced once the door was closed behind their oblivious RA. “You owe me big.”

Chanyeol rolled his eyes, grabbing his backpack that had been thrown to the floor the moment blond King Kong had climbed up his back. “I owe you nothing, you psycho. You’re the one that attacked me.”

Yee thee one thee attacked mee.” The tiny teen mocked him in a nasally voice that Chanyeol hoped wasn’t supposed to be his because wow, he did not sound like that. At all. “Stop whining already, you deserved what you got for saying shit about me that isn’t true.”

“Are we seriously gonna start this again?” He’s had enough of angry Suho for a day.

Baekhyun snorted and waved his hand dismissively as he began to collect the scattered papers around the room. “Whatever. Now leave, I don’t wanna see your ugly face anymore. I have a headache.”

In that moment the door was opened for the second time, only this time instead of a potentially lethal water guardian capable of drowning both their asses in a liquid bubble of death, the biblical apple of the Eden showed up in the form of a freshly showered silver-haired snake.

“What happened here?” The unassuming boy blinked, surveying the war zone with wide eyes.

“Tae!~”

Just as Baekhyun was about to launch himself into his roommate’s arms, a string of whines and petty lies ready to burst from his lips, Chanyeol took this moment as his cue to leave.

“You better come to class tomorrow.” He warned his class partner without sparing him a glance.

His ears dulled out whatever stupid remark was thrown his way as he walked out of that room, willing his mind to forget the painful image of Baekhyun snuggling in a pair of comforting arms as he closed the door shut.

The same tight ball of irrational pain and anger settled in the pit of his stomach from then on, lingering for the rest of the day despite the impressive amount of liquids he digested to water it down. And with a painful headache, several trips to the bathroom, and a throbbing ache on his tender scalp, he pushed his confusing emotions and thoughts for later probing as he went to sleep, utterly exhausted.

Minseok was gone for the night on one of his study sessions with Kris and Suho, inevitably missing the way Chanyeol glowed the entire night in his sleep.

 

<><><>

 

The moonchild ran towards him, encasing him within their soft, ethereal glow, sharing their gift of life. Chanyeol felt secure in those arms, wanting nothing but to stay in that precise moment forever. He could feel their small frame shaking in his arms, hiding their face in his naked chest as the flames surrounding them provided them enough shelter from the darkness approaching at the horizon.

They looked up, and Chanyeol felt already on the verge of tears when he noticed that beautiful smile didn’t quite reach those waning moon eyes. He asked them about it, laying a caring hand on their shoulder as he did so. But he knew what was wrong; he just wished it wasn’t true.

Their time together was always unbearably scant.

“Tenebrae…” They said with tears in their voice. “…venit…”

He held on to them. And they held him back just as tightly. Chanyeol tried to hush their sobs, but it was futile. He took their face in his hands then, took a sharp, liquid, shuddering breath and he kissed them, making them lean back with the force. They didn’t even have to fight for balance because it was already so blatant, so placed and then they pulled back, catching their breath, trying to say something between ragged breaths.

“Te am—” Chanyeol shook his head and kissed them once again to shut them up. He figured he didn’t have to hear it, really—he knew. There were creatures above them, scattered across the stars, watching this moment happen with reserved animosity. With each kiss, the flames around them became wilder, unrestrained, and it made the entire heavens the witness to this inferno on earth.

From the moment he had been ripped from flesh and breathed to life, this love had been plain, unadulterated, insatiable. Like the fire raging within him.

“You might belong to him,” He whispered too faintly when he got his hands on their naked body, pushing them flush against him. They were trembling so hard—out of fear, anger and love. His hand slid up to grab a hold of their chin, thumb brushing against their lip before coaxing their mouth to open with a gasp. He leaned forward, mingling breaths.

“But you were mine first.”

 

<><><>

 

‘…Mea Lux…’

Chanyeol woke up with a gasp, staring at the darkened ceiling of his room with fresh tears sliding down his face nonstop and his heart slamming against his ribcage.

His body shook in the aftermath of his dream—or was it nightmare?

Beneath the hazy blur of sleep, the only thing that he could recall was that pair of sad, tearful eyes that had stood bright among the dark. He wished he could remember more though, to find an answer to the inexplicable sorrow clogged up in his throat.

 

<><><>

 

At 21.00 on a chilly Thursday night, Jongdae got a call to meet someone up at the Orangery, Hellvania’s Conservatory situated behind the gorgeous Italianate gardens decorating the backyard of the property.

‘Bring two witnesses.’ The mysterious stranger had whispered before cutting the call and leaving the junior shivering in excitement.

"And then everything became a fucking mess!” Jongdae huffed as he finished telling Minseok the last turn of events.

Kyungsoo grunted in agreement, hugging his school cardigan closer to his chilled body as the trio made it through the maze of gardens, with only the bluish tint of a big bright full moon as their light guide.

When Jongdae had told him that a huge chunk of his plan was completed and they needed to meet his ‘plan guy’, Kyungsoo hadn’t said anything, just offered a well-placed whack in the head of his idiot of a roommate and went along to whatever he had schemed—he would never admit it, but he had been curious all along. But his surprise was clearly evident when they took a detour towards the senior’s hallway to knock on an all too familiar door.

Jongdae’s cousin had been eating a bag of crisps when he listened to his request. He had contemplated his options thoughtfully and finally agreed to the silly proposition without much questioning on his part. Truthfully speaking, Kyungsoo had always thought of Minseok to be the smart side of the Kim duo—or maybe he was, but his silver-tongued family member was a force to reckon with when persistent.

"So," Minseok ventured. "I gotta ask. How is this genius plan of yours supposed to help Chanbaek?"

“Chanbaek?”

The senior smiled proudly. “It’s their couple’s name. Chanyeol plus Baekhyun. Chanbaek. I made it up. Cute right?”

‘Jesus Christ…’ Kyungsoo scoffed from behind the duo of nutcases, rethinking his life choices.

“Yeah, perfect. It’s time saving too.” Jongdae nodded. “Anyways, my plan is not a solution on its own. It’s more—it’s a sort of mean to get to the solution. Like part of a bigger plan.”

His roommate snorted. “That’s just sweet coating the fact that it won’t help at all.”

Minseok shook his head as the two juniors bickered back and forth. They followed the cobbled path out of the gardens into a narrow forest trail that led to the imposing round structure with a very lame name just two kilometers away from that point.

The Orangery was a sight to behold at daylight, with its beautiful archway glassed walls and its high, barrel-vaulted ceiling painted orange in celebration of its name, but at night the ball shaped structure looked as sinister as every other construction spread around the fruitful acres of the private school grounds. Under the moonlight, the glassed walls of the conservatory turned into crystal clear mirrors, reflecting every shadow and movement like a perfect carbon copy, and right there, leaning against the macabre looking Champion tree at the side of the Orangery, a hooded figure could be seen pacing restlessly.

The stranger paused at the sight of the three students stepping out of the trail, and with quick strides he cut the distance between them.

“What took you so long!” A soft voice hissed, swatting an equally soft looking hand across the lighting guardian’s arm.

Jongdae yelped, frowning as he massaged his abused limb. “Ouch! Sorry, I couldn’t find my lucky shoes. And Kyungsoo had to make a bathroom stop.”

The still hidden figure sighed exasperated, adjusting the straps of their backpack. Kyungsoo knitted his eyebrows deep in thought trying to place that familiar voice, as he knew he had heard it before in one of his elective classes—was it Chinese Astrology?

Minseok was two steps ahead of him though. The latter’s face shifted into pure disbelief as he quickly pulled the stranger’s hood off.

“Really, Lu?” The blue haired senior lifted an eyebrow at the sight of the cherubic face of the well-known spell caster owning the practical peculiarity of Conjuration. “This is what you’ve been hiding from Lay for the past few days? You had my roommate thinking that you were avoiding him or something.”

At the mention of the resident senior unicorn—amazingly skilled healer, and his long term boyfriend—the pink haired senior pouted in that obnoxious way of his that made Minseok want to puke whenever he got a glimpse of it when third-wheeling on their room dates.

“I wasn’t doing it on purpose.” Lu sniffed shortly, face averted from the judging blue eyes of the latter. “I just knew that if Lay found out what I was doing he would get mad and coax me not to.”

“Because you shouldn’t! You know that using aether abilities for personal spell casting is against the rules.”

Kyungsoo processed the unfolding scene slowly, flicking a measuring glance at Jongdae as the weight of what was going on started to sink in. His roommate looked jittery, eyes bright and expression tense as he noticed the latter’s eyes glaring UV rays all over his face.

"So," The earth guardian said as gently as he could while hiding the promise of a painful death under his lukewarm words. “This is your master plan? Playing Harry Potter and having Luna Lovegood here brew you a love potion?”

“Hey!” The offended spell caster cried, puffing his cheeks. “For starters, it’s not a ‘love potion’ it’s an ancient binding spell to help troubled fated ones mend their severed relationship.”

“Fated ones. Of course.” Kyungsoo rolled his eyes at the aether master. “Call it whatever you want, doesn’t change the fact that it is what it is.”

“Shut it! You don’t even know me! You don’t know what I can do!”

“You’re Lu Han, the Chinese aether master with the ability to use aether to cast spells. Everyone with a brain cell to spare knows who you are.”

Lu gasped, exposed. “You know my name, but not my story Kyungsoo Do!”

“You literally turned your roommate into a ferret on eighth grade and got expelled for a month.”

… “Okay, you do know my story.”

At the sight of their meaningless fight, Minseok exhaled, slowly, then rolled his shoulders back and tossed his hair out of his eyes. He closed his eyes, concentrated long and hard to channel his gift into the mental image he was drawing in his head. It took less than a minute for him to finish, blinking his eyes wide open. Two heavy loads of snow landed above the arguing teens at once, breaking their verbal fight with a flourish.

Appalled, both attacked students gaped at the now grinning senior as he patted their soaked shoulders with ease camaraderie. “Done?”

Unable to do anything but nod, the soaked boys sucked their teeth in and kept mum. The ice guardian turned towards his cousin then, snorting as the latter squeaked in terror and hugged himself, almost as if waiting for him to turn him into a pint-sized iceberg at any moment.

“Dae, are you sure this plan of yours is gonna work?”

Jongdae blinked, not expecting him to actually go along with the initial plan after revealing what it might entitle. “Um, yes, yes I do. I think that what those two need is for their love to be mended in order for them to overcome whatever happened in the past. Together they might figure out what truly happened, and eventually forgive each other.”

“I believe it’s gonna work too…” Lu added unhelpfully, flinching as Minseok shot him a pointed glare. “Just like Jongdae…I don’t know why, but I feel strangely compelled to help them.”

Despite everything, Minseok couldn’t help but find logic in his cousin’s argument. He has seen the decline in Chanyeol over the last few months. Like a roller-coaster, there had been days in which the latter would smile, laugh and actually get along with that cute blond of his, and on others he would want nothing but to curl under the covers and cease to breath for reasons Minseok could only tie to a nasty fallout with his class partner. In the short time he had come to know the junior, he had easily harbored an honest concern and care for him, and seeing the redhead so confused and pitiful was a shameful sight.

Minseok would hate to see the lanky boy get hurt, and by the looks of it the last few days had been a spiral of fights and misunderstandings that undoubtedly would end badly for the both of them. From the sidelines, he had witnessed the underlying flames of a once passionate love blazing weakly inside those two, making him believe there was still hope for it to be kept alive.

Chanyeol truly had a good heart and he deserved the best, and if this was the little push they needed to help them mend their differences… then, so be it.

“Then let’s get this plan moving.” The ice guardian finally conceded, making the petite senior and his nitwit of a cousin grin in contentment.

Kyungsoo did a double take, eyes wide and aghast. “Wait. Hold on Min. You can’t seriously believe this is gonna work.”

“Lu is the best spell caster in the entire school. If anyone can pull off a good spell, than it’s him. It might work, Soo, we need to try. Yeol and Baek deserve it.”

The earth guardian let one insufferable breath out, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palms before nodding. They finally made their way into the dark pits of the Orangery, quietly avoiding bumping into desks and chairs as they walked towards the far end of the room were the moonlight was at its brightest.

“Why the Orangery.”

“According to the spell I found, we need clear, unfiltered moonlight. And the courtyard ain’t precisely the best secluded place if you’re planning to break some rules.”

The trio nodded at the easy explanation. Standing now by one of the glassed archway walls, the excited spell caster asked them to place themselves at an arm distance from each other in a triangle.

“Now, you’re gonna stand like this, hold hands and remain still while I cast the spell from the inside. Do not break formation and try not to speak while I’m doing so since it can alter the flow of aether.” He instructed the lined students. “The spell asks for three witnesses, so after I cast the spell, each of you will hold the vial and whisper over the lid the last sentence of the spell. Listen carefully and try to be very accurate or it might not work.”

Lu ducked under their linked hands and stood in the middle of the triangle. From his jean pocket, he pulled out a small dark green vial with a black, viscous looking liquid inside. Jongdae wrinkled his nose as he caught a faint whiff of the nasty concoction.

At a closer sniff, the lighting guardian whined, turning his head sideways while holding his breath. “It smells like cherries and my grandma’s feet!~”

“It’ll smell like your rotten corpse if you don’t keep your mouth shut.” Minseok mumbled threateningly.

The moment the pink haired senior closed his eyes, the room temperature dropped at least ten degrees. Their breath became like white ghosts dancing in the air and a soft light started to emanate from the concentrating teen inside their formation. The light spilling from the archways was starting to fade as the shadows inside the room began to move and crawl towards them.

…Alius ad quidam, et quidam ad alius…

‘Holy fuck. Why does everything sounds so demonic in Latin. We’re gonna die y’all.’ Jongdae whispered scared, getting a glare from his cousin and a kick in the shin from his roommate.

Ego capio tuus manus in meus,
Tuus vis ego astringo semper,
Ab hic usque secula seculorum!

With each word, light flared more and more from the vial and from all around them. Opening his eyes, the active caster swiftly passed the vial towards Minseok, nodding and pointing his chin towards it to prompt him to repeat the last passage of the spell.

Ab hic usque secula seculorum.” He whispered, passing the vial along. Kyungsoo repeated the words against the lid, holding his breath to avoid inhaling the rancid smell.

At last, Jongdae whispered. Something whispered in his ear, low, testing his short-term memory. “Ab hic usque..uh.. anima decet… q-uidam..?...

The light died as fast as it had showed up once the last witness was done. The temperature went back to its normal levels and the shadows backed away. There was an foreboding silence lingering in the air as the two seniors and a very disgruntled junior stared at the innocent lighting guardian.

“What?”

Minseok squinted his eyes, skeptical. “What did you whisper Dae?”

”I whispered the exact same thing as you did! That usque ab shit!”

“Didn’t sound like that to me.” Kyungsoo took a step forward as the earth beneath them began to lightly shook, making the affronted teen squeal and take three steps back.

“Yah! What the hell, I did! I promise! Don’t kill me! I haven’t even confessed to my honeycomb yet!”

Lu rolled his eyes, but placed the active spell in the accused’s hand nonetheless. “Whatever, if you screwed up then it’ll probably not even work. You need to place two drops on their coffee or whatever beverage you can get your hands on and have them drink it at the same time. They might feel funny and a little cuddly a few hours after, but it’ll fade fast. The full effects will take a maximum of three days to show.”

“They have to drink it at the same time?” Jongdae groaned, ruffling his orange locks in distress. “That’s impossible! How can we even add the drops in their drinks without getting caught? And if they see me tinkering with their drinks they’re gonna burn my ass. For real!”

For once, Jongdae had a point, and the previously high-spirited teens had their hopes tarnished by the harsh reality. That was, until Kyungsoo’s eyes widened and drew the other ones’ attention to his suddenly pleased face that gave everyone a fresh set of goose bumps.

“I got an idea.”

 

<><><>

 

For the first time ever, Baekhyun wasn’t happy to have a weekend free of homework and assignments.

Having finals so close was an opportunity to have the Hellvania teachers ease the workload in order to allow the students to fully concentrate on their upcoming tests. Sadly, that meant more time spending cooped up in the library and study halls, but for the majority of the seniors, it meant one thing more as well:

SENIORS’ FINALS KICK-OFF PARTY
“Come and join us get our study pre-game on!”

The flyer had been lying ominously on his study desk since yesterday. When Kyungsoo had approached him while lining up for breakfast, he had thought he would ask him about their upcoming AP Chem quiz, or those Latin scripts from Classic Language they were instructed to translate and hand over later in class. He had thought his squishy friend would ask about anything else honestly, the last thing crossing his mind being the seniors’ upcoming party, when finally he was questioned if he was going to it the next day.

‘Why would I?’ He had asked, advancing in line. The doe-eyed junior had shrugged, looking around the cafeteria before staring back at him in that penetrating way that never failed to put him on edge.

‘They’re not that bad. You should think about it. Yeol is going too.’ He tugged a folded flyer from his bag and placed it on his tray, ignoring his scoffs at the mention of that giant idiot. Why would he care if Chanyeol was going or not? He already had to look at his stupid face everyday after class, no need to overwork it.

The conversation had lingered all the day in Baekhyun’s head, making it hard enough to concentrate as teachers went over the importance of applying themselves to their studies for the upcoming preparation weeks. Friday finally came to an end as the last assignment was handed over.

Mr. Lee had praised his and Chanyeol’s efforts, letting them know after class that he would lay off the extra assignments for them to concentrate on the class material coming up on the test. It was a very generous thing of him to do, and both juniors had felt nothing but respect towards the helpful man.

The generous present easily translated to not having to see Chanyeol after school for the upcoming days. No more all-nighters, no more weekends spent in each other’s rooms. No more of his dumb face and his silly ears…no more jokes…no more Chanyeol.

To ‘celebrate’ this turn of events, Baekhyun decided to finally cave in to Kyungsoo’s previous desire to attend to this party. It would be a perfect opportunity to brush some stress off, socialize, and to finally talk to Jongdae and tell him he was being a complete idiot, but he forgave him, and that maybe he wasn’t so mad at him anymore—he was totally not going because it could serve as an opportunity to see Chanyeol, hell fucking no.

The instructions on the flyer were simple, yet a tad bit confusing:

  1. Knock three times on the left wall of the Willshire Hall next to the Music Room.
  2. Whistle once.
  3. When asked ‘Do like chicken?’ answer ‘No, it’s not my style’

After re-reading the stupid list three times, he finally made his way to the far end of the creepy deserted hall at exactly 10 pm, long past the school’s curfew. Baekhyun knocked briefly on the wall, hearing nothing but the solid sound of his knuckles knocking against the thick wall. The second thing on the list was a tricky one, as he never really mastered the art of whistling, but for the sake of sounding like an idiot, he pursed his lips and whistled a quick high pitch that had more drool than sound on it.

Albeit pathetic, it must have worked, as no longer than a five seconds after a disembodied voice whispered in the air.

Do you like chicken?

He completed the list as explained, saying the ridiculous reply, and lo and behold a double door materialized before his eyes like out of a magic trick, old looking and mysterious with the words ‘BEWARE: Grotto’ written in bold lettering across the wood. He wasn’t able to think much about it as the doors were pushed open and a dark haired boy with piggy eyes and pouty lips urged him to walk in.

“C’mon! What are you waiting for!”

Once inside, the same boy placed his hand over the wall, closed his eyes and in that moment it was clear that this guy was an aether master with the ability of Optic Illusion. Clever.

It was no secret that beneath the ground, Hellvania housed a massive grotto, once used as storage room in the early twenties but closed years later after a few workers had complained about pieces of rocks falling off the cavernous chamber. Now the infamous basement had been housing the seniors’ parties as one of Hellvania’s long-going traditions. Baekhyun had heard one and a million things about those wild gatherings, yet this would be the first time he would be attending one.

“Watch your step.” The boy at the door cautioned as the wary junior made his way down the darkened stairway.

Looks were deceiving, and he found himself surprised that this cave was farther down than he had expected. Minutes later he could see a dim blue light at the end of the treacherous staircase, and his eyes were blown out in amazement as the mouth of the cave opened wide at last step, offering a marvelous view of this underworld full of music, laughter and strobe lights.

The grotto was stuffed full with high schoolers of all years. Some were dancing in the improvised dance floor to the low beat booming through the walls, others preferred playing beer pong, or simply chatting up in the makeshift living room area at one side of the cave, full of mismatching couches, beanbags and loveseats. Four massive coolers were pushed against the wall at the far back, offering an assortment of beverages for the teens to indulge in.

The entire scene looked exactly like he had picture a typical high school party would be like, maybe a little more expensive and posh looking, but never losing that teenage touch.

“You made it.” A familiar voice brought him back from his thoughts. He turned around and caught sight of Kyungsoo making his way through a group of sophomores chatting up by the entrance.

“Yeah.” Baekhyun nodded, accepting the plastic cup with some pink neon liquid offered by the latter. “I’m honestly surprised. How can the seniors pull this off right under the school committee’s nose?”

The freckled teen nodded, taking a sip of their own hazardous looking drink without a flinch. “I was surprised too the first time I came to one of these three years ago, courtesy of my cousin. He told me they use a lot of sound absorption abilities, optic illusions and time control to pull this out.”

“Time control?”

“Mhmm. The grotto is surrounded right now by an invisible time-resisting barrier, so even though it might feel the party goes on all night long, when you step out it’ll be the same hour you stepped in.”

Baekhyun stared in awe at the amazing natural structure and the complex work going behind the scenes to make this seemingly normal, laid-back party happen. They crossed the mass of swaying bodies at the dance floor with little difficulty, making it all the way to the refreshment area, where Minseok and his roommate were hanging out while chatting idly.

“Hey, you made it!” The cheerful ice guardian grinned with a friendly clap on the back. “I told Kyungsoo you probably wouldn’t wanna come. I’m glad we didn’t bet on it.”

The blond laughed, greeting both Minseok and the cute dimpled senior that went by the name of Yixing Zhang, or commonly referred to by his close peers as Lay. ‘Because he’s airy and flavorful as a Lay’s crisp.’ Minseok had unhelpfully explained one day when he asked about the nickname.

“Being honest, I wasn’t planning to, but Kyungsoo said it would be nice. Plus my roommate is also here, somewhere in the crowd, so I would’ve had the room all by myself and that would’ve been boring.”

“Of course.” The aether senior with the ability of Healing nodded, tipping his plastic cup to tap his. “Glad you could join us then.”

After engaging in some light conversation, Baekhyun’s eyes unconsciously roamed around the poorly lit cave, gazing at the grinding bodies and the teens scattered around in their own social clusters—no redhead in sight. Ignoring the disappointment washing over him, he tried to catch sight of his Vulpix of a friend among the crowd as Lay was telling them about his boyfriend’s last shenanigans, but the junior was also missing. Something quite unusual as their group of friends was right here and he wasn’t aware the latter had another social group he frequented.

“Where’s Jongdae?”

The reaction he got was quite unexpected. Minseok almost choked on his drink, receiving a handful of pats between his shoulder blades by his concerned roommate. Kyungsoo on the other hand averted his eyes elsewhere, clearing his throat as he filled his cup from a nearby cooler.

“He’s somewhere around, probably convincing Suho to dance or something.” The brunet dismissed the situation casually. Baekhyun was about to ask more, but a now smiling Minseok ripped his empty cup from his hand. He took the liberty to fill it up, this time with a stormy blue beverage that he could’ve sworn changed colors when hit by a chasing light.

“C’mon, drink up! This is a party!”

Easily swayed, the partially suspicious blond decided to tuck his questions for later, taking a huge gulp of the offered drink. It was strong and sweet, cool as it slid down his throat—like an alcoholic Cool-aid. In the midst of his drinking, he completely missed the look exchanged between the group, completely ignoring the tingling at the back of his head as a pair of curious eyes followed his every move from across the party.

 

<><><>

 

Kyungsoo had never been fond of parties.

These type of vulgar social gatherings were just nothing but excuses to unnecessarily mingle with horny, sweaty teenagers acting like animals in heat while hunting for a willing mating partner. He was proud to say he had attended only two parties in all his years as a hellboy, by the hand of his cousin now at college or by Jongdae in his pursue to catch Suho’s guard down and snatch a date out of him.

This time around, it had been a mixture of both Jongdae’s doing and his own choice. It had been the perfect opportunity to finish the last step of the highly elaborate plan brewed by his roommate and Lay’s mischievous boyfriend.

The plan was simple enough: trick Baekhyun into coming to the party, get him a little tipsy, squish the two squabbling numbnuts into a meaningless conversation while offering them a drink—courtesy of Jongdae hiding in the crowd and keeping watch—and voila! A masterpiece.

But one thing they didn’t take into account was the fact that Baekhyun had an obscure secret. A secret that could very well ruin their ongoing efforts.

Baekhyun Byun was a horrible, horrible lightweight.

“Look at him Soo, who does he think he is. Is he so desperate to get some dick that he has to slut around with whatever senior he finds.” The tipsy blond scoffed as he chugged half of his watered beer down. It was his third drink, but it very well could be the sixth by his current behavior.

For the past half hour they have been leaning against the cold stonewall, staring at the ignorant redhead that had made his grand entrance about an hour ago according to Kyungsoo’s gift-resistant watch. From the moment the small junior had locked eyes with the slouchy frame of his ex boyfriend, he had not let him out of his sight, commenting on his every move as each observation became more far-fetched and ridiculous as time went on.

Chanyeol had been talking to a few of their classmates, finally having stepped out of his social shell to mingle with the juniors in their year. Over the past months, their classmates have moved on and finally dismissed the fact that the transferred boy was a late blooming guardian from an aether master only family. Little by little Chanyeol had managed to prove himself, and everyone else, that he was more than just a fire guardian with a handsome face and really crappy manipulation skills. This really made Kyungsoo inwardly boast with pride for his best friend.

But the latter’s sudden social animosity wasn’t helping the current situation at hand, and the more his best friend opened conversations among the crowd, the more Baekhyun seemed to fire up—‘Jealous? Me!? Fuck away, why would I be jealous of that large sized toothpick!’ He had drunkenly jeered when confronted—and the fact that Chanyeol was looking quite nice at the moment, with his normally untamed red hair looking perfectly coiffed and his bad boy attire being the buzz among the energetic girls in the dance floor…well, let’s just say it was really just the cherry on top of Baekhyun’s mental breakdown.

“I’m pretty sure he’s just being friendly.” Kyungsoo murmured against the lid of his cup, watching the way Kris at the Dj booth, the party host this time, pulled his headphones down around his neck, smiling in welcome at the towering junior. “Look at him, he’s just saying hi to Kris.”

“Sure. In a very fuck-boyish way.” The blond scoffed.

By then, the dirty blond had stepped out of the booth and given his headphones to another senior that was quick to shift the music genre into a more techno thumping way. Chanyeol, completely oblivious to the daggers being stabbed in his back, quickly followed Kris to the coolers, sharing a beer and a light hearted conversation that by the looks of it was interesting enough to have the popular senior evade other approaching students eager to whisk him away.

Chanyeol had mentioned in a few occasions that he had been introduced to the senior guardian by their training coach after a very bad session months ago. Kris Wu was the only student in Hellvania that had a gift similar to his own, so the couch thought that it might help if he got a few tips from the experienced senior. Kris wasn’t a fire guardian per se, but he had the ability to control the flames of the mythical Griffin. Flames, that couldn’t be nullified by the hand of man.

What Kyungsoo had previously thought as just a strictly senior-junior relationship, had been in fact by the looks of it, an honest friendship harbored by a mutual understanding of each others’ gifts.

Chanyeol wasn’t the type to open up so fast to just anyone, and Kris was well known for his cold and distant demeanor, but seeing the griffin guardian flash his charming gummy smile and laugh unreserved at whatever Chanyeol was telling with those trademark wild hand gestures of his, it was obvious those two had formed a bond, unknown until now.

“Look at that Kris dude. He has his hands all over that stupid giant and Yeol’s not even trying to stop him. He’s just standing there, Soo look at him.”

“Yes, I’m looking Baek.” Kyungsoo stared with obvious boredom at the way Kris punched Chanyeol’s chest half-heartedly, grinning at whatever the latter had said just seconds before in complete ‘brohood’. The redhead was evidently having a good time, not bothered in the slightest by the fact that his ex boyfriend was busting a jealous induced aneurysm just meters away.

Kyungsoo tore his eyes from the scene, staring at the way Baekhyun was sucking at his teeth with his own eyes blazing with unconcealed anger.

“Baekhyun, be honest.”

"What?" The tipsy blond mumbled, rubbing at his reddened nose crossly.

“Are you sure you’re not jealous that Chanyeol is over there and not here with us right now?”

Baekhyun returned his level of stare for several seconds, expression guarded, then replied. "I’m not."

Kyungsoo frowned deeply at that. His perky friend wasn't usually this much of a brick wall, at least not to him. The fact that Baekhyun was so blatantly denying this, not even to any of them but to himself, was quite worrisome.

“You know you can tell me anything. Whatever you’re feeling, I won’t judge you for it. I’m pretty sure Chanyeol feels the same way too.”

Baekhyun gave a short, bitter laugh and glanced away, eyes darting around the crowded groot. "Right." He said under his breath. “Really Soo, I’m fine.”

An awkward silence fell between them after that, making the freckled brunet squirm in annoyance. Kyungsoo hated having to play the role of Switzerland but if it meant buying Jongdae time to have the drinks ready without raising suspicion, then so be it.

His mouth opened, ready to comment on the crappy choice of music currently playing, when Baekhyun’s gasp snapped his attention back to their redheaded friend currently being mauled into a one-sided make out session by a drunk sophomore, clearly part of some stupid truth or dare.

“Holy shit!” Someone in the crowd hollered at the sight, receiving a rain of catcalls and cheers.

‘Holy shit’ Kyungsoo thought too, but with an entirely different sentiment behind the expression.

“I can’t. Believe. He just did that.” Baekhyun hissed through gritted teeth, his hand grabbing Kyungsoo’s arm causing the latter to yelp and jump back in surprise at the force.

“Watch the drink!” The earth guardian began to chastise, but quickly stopped before he could say anything else when he looked over at the outraged teen who was chugging the last of his beer, his gaze suspiciously watery.

“Fuck it, this is stupid.” Baekhyun blabbed incoherently, stumbling forward and into the grinding masses at the dance floor before his friend could stop him.

“Shit, shit!” Kyungsoo groaned, running a hand through his chocolate locks as he watched Chanyeol push the eager boy off of him seconds later, face scrunched over in softened anger as he politely told the blushing boy he didn’t appreciate being roped into stupid dares. That fucking idiot.

The glowering brunet stomped his way towards the beer pong area, grabbing a handful of Jongdae’s shirt on the way as he lumped his roommate to the living room area and towards the tattered sofa currently being occupied by their two other partners in crime.

He deposited Jongdae in the nearest beanbag and looked around, spotting Chanyeol and Baekhyun at different points of the groot, then back at the seniors peering curiously from the couch.

“If we’re gonna do something, we have to do something quick. Now.”

Lu frowned, letting go of Lay as he angled his body around his comfy lap seat. “Why? What happened?”

“Baekhyun got jealous of Chanyeol talking to Kris, and then became the king of Extraland when a wasted sophomore dragged Chanyeol into a slobbery lip-lock.”

A collective groan was shared within the small group. Minseok stood up, handing his empty cup for Lay to hold while he looked around for the red headed idiot. “Okay, I’ll go look for Chanyeol. Kyungsoo, you go fetch Baekhyun. We have to do this now before either one of them leaves.”

He then leaned in towards his confused cousin, smiling maliciously. “And you better get those drinks ready by the time Chanbaek is here, or I’m gonna freeze your mouth for the rest of the month.”

Jongdae gaped, about to whine until he caught the rest of his friends glaring at him viciously. He mumbled under his breath about being exploited by his own peers and made his way towards the coolers, careful no to be seen by the targeted couple.

Minseok didn’t have much trouble getting Chanyeol to leave his conversation with his cool senior slash mentor. With a big smile and a nod, he followed the blue-eyed guardian willingly towards their couch spot. Kyungsoo, on the other hand was about to shake the entire groot to the ground and bury everyone under the debris as he tried to coax the buzzed out teen to meet them all for a round of drinks without success.

The blond, currently sandwiched between two towering seniors all too reluctant to let the pretty little thing get away, was pouting silly and shaking his head violently at the feeling of his arm getting tugged by his unrelenting friend.

“No Soo! Don’t wanna! That asshole is gonna be there, and I don’t wanna see his face!” Baekhyun whined, clinging towards one of the boys pressed against his front. The seniors were about to brush the persistent junior away to let them have some fun but something inside Kyungsoo’s eyes—probably their reserved space in the last pit of hell—made them quickly back off from the puzzled blond.

“C’mon Baek, it’ll be quick. Just one drink.” Not waiting for Baekhyun to fight back, he tugged the boy out of the dance floor and into their couch spot with the remaining group waiting for their arrival.

Chanyeol’s smile quickly fell at the sight of the sniffling teen, a flash of worry passing through his soft muted eyes as he stared at those suspiciously red rimmed orbs, that flushed face and Baekhyun’s well put together outfit now in various stages of disarray.

From the moment he had spotted Baekhyun in the groot, having Kyungsoo as company, Chanyeol had kept a close eye on him, not wanting to dampen the other one’s mood after their stupid fight yesterday. He knew Baekhyun was still getting over his cold, and the fact that he had come to this party had made him want to place that stubborn boy over his shoulder and lock him back in his room for him to rest.

Last time he checked he had looked just fine, a little disgruntled, but fine nonetheless. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes. What the hell happened?

“What the hell happened to you?” Chanyeol prodded the blond, frowning and watching the way the feisty teen flashed his moist, angry eyes at him.

The tiny boy pouted angrily. “None of your business!”

From then on, Baekhyun completely averted his gaze elsewhere and refused to acknowledge the taller one’s presence, playing with his choker absentmindedly. The contrast between the loud, deafening music and the tense air lingering between the group was maddening.

“O-kay then! Let’s make a toast in honor of us being friends, enjoying life, blah blah blah!” Jongdae quickly stepped in and shoved a plastic cup in everyone’s hand.

“I’m still mad at you though.” The light guardian frowned in confusion. Chanyeol tried to hide behind the lid of his cup the smile plastered on lips at the sight of the adorable little drunk.

Jongdae nodded, urging him to take the drink. “I know. It breaks my heart. I still have to learn how to live with that. Now drink up.”

They all toasted with watered down energy, and as everyone took a sip, Baekhyun downed the whole thing at once, making a show of crumpling the paper cup while wiping his mouth clean. Chanyeol couldn’t be more baffled by the latter’s behavior, watching with worry the slight waver in his steps.

Why would that idiot drink so much knowing he’s such a crappy lightweight? Did something happen? He felt like he was missing something out. Something very obvious and stupid.

“I’m out.” Baekhyun announced, turning around without sparing a second glance towards his somber looking friends. Chanyeol was about to follow after, but a hand on his shoulder made him halt his steps.

Kyungsoo stared at him with an unreadable expression, and before he could question him the small junior shook his head. “He’s had a crappy day, let him be Yeol.”

“We can finish this toast first, and then you can both look after him.” Lu offered.

Reluctant, yet having no other choice under the pressuring stares of his friends, he agreed. The liquid, on the second sip felt quite bitter in his opinion, almost thick against his tongue, but he pushed the thought aside and finished his cup. There was a prickling sensation on his skin seconds later, and his stomach started heating up ever so slowly.

“Don’t you guys feel weird after that drink?” The guilty teens were quick to shake their heads.

He hummed, contemplative, before shaking his head. “Yeah, it’s probably just me.”

 

<><><>

 

Baekhyun was easy to spot. Like always.

He was standing next to the dance floor, leaning casually against the wall like a yellow sour spot in a mass of meshed up cold toned colors. There was an passive look etched across his face, the previous anger gone to leave room for other more complex emotions that Chanyeol couldn’t pinpoint under the blinking disco lights.

“Baekhyun.”

The small teen looked up, and he was surprised, probably not expecting to be followed so soon, and by Chanyeol nonetheless.

"This night sucks." The light guardian said after a long, heavy moment once his eyes moved back to the front. "I'm so drunk."

“I know. You looked really drunk back there. And mad.” Chanyeol threaded carefully on broken glass. “Almost as if you were mad at me.”

“Hmm. I’m not mad at you though.”

“Really.” Chanyeol said skeptically.

“Really.” Baekhyun replied, and then he cleared his throat. “I just needed to cool my head, that’s all.”

Under the glare of a bright pink light, the sheer layer of sweat currently covering Baekhyun’s skin became visible, mirroring Chanyeol’s dripping features. Why was the temperature so hot? Wiping his clammy forehead, the redhead occupied the wide space next to the resting junior, watching the figures still dancing around them despite their various states of intoxication.

“I know you might not trust me, and you might think I’m lying but,” There was a small pause in which he licked his chapped lips to continue. “Whatever is bothering you, I’ll listen. I-It’s not like I care, or whatever, it’s just, really creepy to see you all worked up out of nowhere.”

“Of course you don’t.” Baekhyun didn’t pretend not to know what Chanyeol meant. “Thanks anyways.” He said simply, lips sealed shut after that to prevent himself from saying more than necessary.

“I’m a good listener.” Chanyeol continued like an idiot. “I give shitty advices, but at least I can help you vent out if you want.”

The tiny teen nodded, looking thoughtful. “That does sound like a good idea.”

Taking the bait, the fire guardian turned sideways to give his full attention towards the pensive boy. “Bring it on then. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong?” Baekhyun murmured, turning his head to give the latter a long, pointed look. He looked quite unwell in Chanyeol’s opinion, pupils blown wide, chest heaving with the effort of breathing in those sharp, ragged breaths as his voice became more hoarse and lower. “What’s wrong is that you’re still here, up in my face when I don’t need that pity service that you so willingly give to everyone else.”

"Baekhyun." Chanyeol growled in warning. "I'm trying to understand."

There was a spark rapidly flickering in those darkened eyes, making Chanyeol’s heartbeat pick up unexpectedly. He was starting to shake, out of anger or something else, he didn’t really know. All that Chanyeol knew was that his body was slowly disconnecting from his brain, both engaging in a tug-o-war of conflicting desires. A desire of wanting to rip Baekhyun out and then piece him back together to kiss him senseless.

The equally dazed looking junior let out a long, bellowing laughter that turned a few heads around. “Help? You want to help now?”

“Yes!”

“Well newsflash fucker, I don’t need your help now. I needed it two years ago when the world was crumbling beneath me and everyone turned their back on me, including you! I needed you to believe me, and you left me!”

The bomb finally ticked off and exploded, shaking the ground beneath them and tipping their world upside down.

Chanyeol snarled, smacking his fist against the wall, centimeters away from the latter’s head that didn’t even flinch at the impact. From across the room, the worried stares from their friends could be seen, but there was a barrier between them and the world at the moment, encasing them in box of wild emotions pouring out like an overflowing sink.

“You left me too remember! Have you suddenly gone amnesic and forgot that I also needed you to believe me!? You chose to believe everyone else but me! So shut the fuck up about this cheating, lying nonsense.” He roughly grabbed Baekhyun’s face within his shaking hands, watching the smaller one struggle to pull away. “I loved you like I’ve never loved anyone else in my life. You were my first love and the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and when I needed you the most you vanished without a single word and left me to pick up the pieces for two years! So don’t you dare think even for a second that you’re the only one entitled to this anger, because goddammit Baek, it is mine too! I’m angry too!”

Tears had rapidly pooled in Baekhyun’s eyes, threatening to spill out at any moment. At the sight of his vulnerable state, Chanyeol tried to caress his face but he couldn’t let him. He just couldn’t let Chanyeol in so easily, and the rapidly increasing heat at the pit of his stomach was spreading like wildfire over his body, making it hard to think or breath.

“Don’t. Just, don’t.” He moaned, pulling the Chanyeol’s hands off as he stumbled backwards unsteadily. Chanyeol stepped forward to catch him, and the movement caused a certain tipsy sophomore to become visible a few meters away over the redhead’s shoulder, regarding the scene with worry.

Ugly jealousy was quick to win over the rest of his jumbled emotions, seeing red at the memory of that same boy kissing his ex boyfriend without a care in the world just minutes ago. “Leave me alone Yeol. Go back to sucking lips with that slut from before.”

Not able to stare at Chanyeol’s confused face any longer, he groggily made his way to the coolers, pushing a few people away as his nauseated self reached out to dig into the nearest cooler for a water bottle. His heart was beating in his ears, music and conversations fading out and becoming background noise.

The heat had reached unbearable levels under his skin as he finally found what he was looking for, but just as he was about to unscrew the lid off and pour the cooling beverage over his feverish body, a pair of angry footsteps approached his side, and the room swoon as he was spun around to face a solemn looking Chanyeol.

“L-Let me go.” Baekhyun panted while trying to pry the latter’s hands off his body in frail, weak attempts. That only spurred Chanyeol further, making him hug his fighting body closer, heat seeping between their scorching hot bodies.

“Listen. There are a million things I’ve been meaning to tell you since I saw you back in January.”

Baekhyun shook his head, grabbing a handful of the persistent teen’s shirt to push him off, but he was encaged, with no way to escape.

“When I saw you, I-I wanted to kiss you, scream at you, hold you closer, tell you I hate you and how I’ve missed you.” Chanyeol confessed in a surprisingly sobered voice. “Like a coward, the easiest thing was to hate you. I have been fooling myself these past two years, thinking that I was over you and I would make your life a living hell if I ever saw you again. I’m so…so mad at you Baekhyun, for throwing away what we had so easily, when for me it has been the hardest thing I could possibly do.”

The shivering blond swallowed, rooted to the ground as their surroundings disappeared and the thumping in his head increased at an alarming pace. The fire was burning him alive. “C-Chanyeol.”

“It could be the alcohol, the moment. It could be whatever, but right now I’m ready to use this liquid courage to tell you what I’ve been meaning to tell you for the past two years.” Chanyeol’s cloud gray eyes became impossibly solid and bright. In that moment those eyes were not the dull shade of concrete or stone. Those eyes, grounding him to this very moment, were the grey of the last ashes on a fire, tossed up on the breeze. In that moment, Chanyeol was the raging fire emerging from the ashes, burning his walls to the ground. “I hate you. I—I hate you and I hate the fact that I can even bring myself to believe that, cause at the end of the day I’ve never stopped loving you and I probably never will. I don’t want to, and I would like it very much if you didn’t want that either.”

Finally, Baekhyun’s tears fell freely from his watery eyes, and in a moment of lucidity he pushed his sobs down his throat and nodded back to the anxious giant. “I love you too. So, so much.”

As if having been awakened from a long slumber, both teens gasped as the fire, the shaking and the thumping pain in their head instantly ceased. But the moment lasted that of a bated breath as something coiled and tightened deep inside and another type of need, unabashed and tempestuous, began to molten their limbs and thoughts. But this irrational need they knew.

“Jesus fucking Christ.” Baekhyun whispered, leaping forward and kissing him fiercely.

It was hard and desperate right from the start. The light guardian was clinging to Chanyeol and trying to shove him backwards towards the nearest wall as the surrounding students having witnessed the entire scene started whooping and hollering at the heated couple.

“The water!” Chanyeol gasped when he could get his mouth free, noticing the bottle in Baekhyun’s hand was about to be flung in the air.

“Fuck the water.” Baekhyun growled, but he did let go long enough to throw it in the cooler before attacking the panting junior right back.

 

<><><>

 

“Lu!” Kyungsoo hissed, shaking the sleepy senior dozing off in his boyfriend’s arms.

“M’wha..” He rubbed his eyes and stared at the raging junior all up in his face, doing a double take at his hostile reaction.

Beside him, Minseok had this scrunched up expression, like he couldn’t decide if he wanted to laugh or kick someone. Jongdae was still sitting beside him in the three-seater couch, recording something with his cellphone camera.

The aggravated earth guardian didn’t give him much time to think about the confusing situation as he curled his lip and snapped a finger towards a couple getting it on by the coolers.

“What. The hell. Did you give. Those two!?” Kyungsoo screeched, finally breaking the last few threads of sleep Lu had been clinging on in the comfy cocoon of Lay’s arms.

Sobered up, he squinted his eyes behind his round glasses to get a better look, and the shock was big when he realized the raunchy couple dry-humping by the wall at the other side of the groot was no other than their previously bickering couple. By the looks of it, they had both cleared up their differences, and decided to make up for the lost time.

“Awn, they look adorable! Don’t they babe.” Lu smiled happily, clapping his hands in excitement as his boyfriend kissed his shoulder softly. “The spell worked! This is great!”

The brunet gawked, not believing the elated expression on the spell caster’s face. “They look like they’re about to rip each other’s clothes off! Did you give them a sex potion or something!?”

Jongdae rolled his eyes at his roommate’s overly dramatic reaction. “Chill, Soo. Lu said they would feel funny and a little cuddly afterwards.”

Kyungsoo grabbed the latter’s collar and directed his entire attention towards their friends. Baekhyun was pressed against the wall, head thrown back to give Chanyeol space to kiss and suck marks all over his throat. At one particularly hard bite, his mouth fell open to let a loud, obscene moan out that made some seniors flush bright pink as the tiny junior threw a leg up over the redhead’s hips.

“Does that look ‘funny’ or ‘cuddly’ to you?” Kyungsoo growled poisonously.

“Yes.” Jongdae mumbled, shouting and gurgling for mercy as his unforgiving friend started to shake him violently.

Kyungsoo promptly dropped the squealing junior and glowered at the nervous spell caster squirming in the healer’s lap. “You. If something happens to my friends that gets them in trouble, I swear to god…”

The dark ominous threat was soon interrupted as the couple of the hour made their tipsy way towards them, lost in their own little world of groping hands and smiling kisses.

“Hey you guys.” Chanyeol said dopily, eyes locked with the snickering guardian tip toeing to pepper his neck with kisses. “Baek and I will be calling it a night. Don’t stay up too late.”

“See you guys at breakfast tomorrow! Bye~” Baekhyun giggled—it was seriously a giggle. Kyungsoo was pretty sure he hadn't heard a guy giggle in years.

And just like that, among the cheering crowd of drunkards, the touchy couple vanished into the night, leaving nothing but a deafening silence within their small group of friends. They waited no longer than a handful of seconds before bursting into cheers and whoops at their successful plan.

Kyungsoo, still feeling off about the entire thing, decided to rest his case for the night.

 

<><><>

 

They have never looked so vulnerable in front of Chanyeol before.

They stumbled over their words, not able to place their thoughts together. The confident and beautiful light he knew was no longer there, replaced with an apologetic and exposed flicker of a flame about to die down and leave him alone and cold in the dark.

“Cur?...” If Chanyeol looked at them long enough, he would find their eyes pleading for acceptance.

“Amor…” They squeezed his hand, softly. “…M-me paenitet…”

It finally started to sink in, the reality of the situation. And this moment was a bit bittersweet for Chanyeol, albeit lived thousands of times before. Who knew that it always took them three simple words to undo all the wrongs they had done and would do eventually.

Chanyeol didn’t want to forgive them. He wanted to stay mad for a little longer, crash and burn everything to the ground, but that would be wasting time and breath into something that was already written in the stars… he needed to catch this moment before it somehow leaked through the palm of his hands. No words were necessary. Just a simple kiss was enough for them to soothe his aching heart.

The brush of their lips was soft, like the touch of a feather, and it left his lips numb in the aftermath. His soul mourned for its other half as darkness fell upon them and took his light away. He knew he would have to start his endeavor early in the morning, but tonight he allowed himself to cry for his other half. His lover and creator.

Chanyeol was sure that they would come home soon, very soon.

 

<><><>

 

Chanyeol slammed the door shut with enough force to make the framed photographs on the wall shake.

Then he was back, kissing Baekhyun open mouthed and tumbling them across the room and down onto the smaller one’s neatly made bed.They were both naked before Chanyeol could blink—it was amazing how Baekhyun, even after all this time apart could do that, how he could just make sex happen in like five seconds flat from the moment they gave their firsts to each other. When it had beenup to Chanyeol, he had to think about every step carefully.

They rolled over somehow and soon he was pressing his tiny lover down into the pillows. Baekhyun always loved it like that, and Chanyeol never failed to do it. From the first time, he had loved to spread Baekhyun out and kisshim everywhere. He had loved to let his lips follow every curve and edge that defined the art of his body.

Chanyeol raced to touch all those places he had once learned by memory with his lips, but reserved his most tender kisses for the carefully-crafted symbol on the hollow of Baekhyun’s right hipbone.

The symbol of congruence—the ultimate state of agreement.

“I didn’t think you would keep it.” He whispered, following the edge of Baekhyun’s hip with the tip of his nose. Thinking about his own mirroring tattoo that he had kept hidden all this time in fear of ever regretting what had been a reckless bout of devotion and youth.

He kissed his way up the blond’s gorgeous body and took one of his rosy pink nipples into his mouth. It was amazing how crazy Baekhyun went when he did this, sucking and rubbing with his tongue until the latter was writhing and begging for him to stop and keep goingat the same time.

The light guardian was so hard, pushing up against him. Chanyeol pretended he hadn’t noticed and wriggled back down to shoulder Baekhyun’s legs apart.

“Y-Yeol.” The small junior panted, while Chanyeol was busy sucking a bruise into the pale, unmarked skin of his inner thigh. “Chanyeol.”

“What.” Chanyeol said impatiently, pressing his thumbs into the back of Baekhyun’s knees.

Baekhyun moaned brokenly and pulled Chanyeol up so they were facing each other. “I-I want to ask something. All these years…have you done…have you, been like this, with someone else? I have no place to ask you this, and I won’t be mad if you have…I just want to know…”

“Well,” said Chanyeol, and bit his lip when he couldn’t help smiling at the sight of Baekhyun’s shy stare that refused to meet his own. He lowered his voice and admitted. “I have thought about it more than a couple of times.”

The now pouting guardian turned his head to the side but was quickly pulled back by a finger underneath his chin. The redheaded teen was staring back at him with unconcealed love and affection, warming his heart in all the right places. “But no, I haven’t. The thought of doing this with anyone else but you didn’t seem right.”

“Me too.” Baekhyun offered a small, pleased smile and turned his body around to fish in the night table drawer. He pushed an unopened bottle of lube into Chanyeol’s hands and laid back. “It’s been me, my hand and fingers ever since. Keep going.”

Rolling his eyes at his demanding lover whilst reminding himself to ask the small boy why did he have fresh lube in his shared room, Chanyeol opened the bottle and poured some over his fingers. He spread his other hand over the inside of Baekhyun’s thigh, holding it down against the bed, keeping him open. “I told myself that it would be easier if I tried to be intimate with other people.” He continued, stroking against Baekhyun’s skin with his fingertips, teasing. “It sounded like the easiest way to start getting over you.”

He pushed in with one finger, and Baekhyun made a low sound, almost hurt if you didn’t know it, but Chanyeol knew it like he knew his own name. It sent a shiver through him and he sighed. “I used to think about the way you sound. I tried not to, of course, but I did every time I jacked off. All I could think about was your face, your sounds. I knew then I would never be able to scratch you off my skin.”

Baekhyun’s eyelids fluttered close for a second before he met Chanyeol’s eyes again, heated and steady. The redhead pushed in further with his fingers, and the movement instantly made the spread boy’s back arch. The flushed blond moaned, his hand coming up to curl loosely around his own hardened cock.

“Yeah.” Chanyeol sighed, stroking his fingers gently inside his lover. “Like that. Fuck, you’re so amazing. There was no way I could—even if I tried, there was just no way to forget you. I dreamed about you, how you’ll look underneath me, wanting to be like that with you just one more time, despite the anger inside of me. Day and night my thoughts revolved around you. I just had to be close to you, even if it was inside my head.”

“Fuck, Yeol.” Baekhyun whined, lifting the leg Chanyeol wasn’t holding, pulling it up and tilting his hips.

The tall guardian could slide his fingers deep inside Baekhyun now, pressing and stretching and making him close his eyes again, with his head falling back. His small, delicate hand moved slowly on his curved cock; pale skin flushed and glowing. Chanyeol slid his fingers back, poured more lube over his hand, then pushed back in with three this time. “I knew, the first time that I jerked off after you left, that...” he trailed off, watching the blond’s hips rock slowly down onto his hand.

“What?” Baekhyun croaked, cracking one eye open. “You knew what?”

“That you had me wrapped around your little finger. I started to hate you then.” Chanyeol mumbled, ducking his head when Baekhyun laughed. He watched his thick fingers move, pressing in slow and careful, but not gentle. “It was all a lie of course. I could never bring myself to hate you.”

His words failed him for a minute, and he shook his head, concentrating on what he was doing, on the sprawl of Baekhyun’s body, spread legs bracketing him to his current position between them. The latter made a soft noise, encouraging. When Chanyeol looked up his smoldering eyes were open and he was watching him, waiting. The long limbed teen let go of his lover’s thigh so he could fold down and get his elbow on the bed, holding himself up over the awaiting boy.

“I’m glad I have this second chance.” He said, and kissed Baekhyun softly. “I can tell you once more that I love you. I get to hold on and never let you go, ever again.”

“I love you too.” Baekhyun said in the tiniest voice. “I love you so much I don’t know what to fucking do with myself.”

“I know,” Chanyeol grinned, nipping at his nose playfully while working his fingers inside.

Baekhyun swore under his breath and brought his legs up around Chanyeol’s hips, hooking his feet at the taller one’s back and yanking him forward. He had to pull his fingers out of the feisty blond quickly to catch himself before they crashed into eachother, and Baekhyun pulled harder with his legs, until they were pressed tight together, hot and slick.

“Enough chit chat.” He announced, making the teen above him lift an eyebrow. “Now fuck me already.”

Chanyeol let out a slow, shaky breath, and nodded when Baekhyun met his eyes, encouraging. The redhead held the latter’s gaze for as long as he could, taking a few seconds to gather his thoughts because it has been way too long, and the thing he had fantasized about in secrecy was about to come true.

He bit down on his tongue and counted to ten—well, seven, because Baekhyun started whining again to hurry—and then he put his other hand on his needy lover’s hip to steady himself as he started to push in.

They spent the rest of the night wrapped in each other’s breath, getting lost in tight heats as desperate moans were cried out for no one to hear. They were their own, finally coming home after a long journey full of loneliness.

They were gods at dawn, burning the world at their feet.

 

<><><>

 

Chanyeol pressed one palm down between their legs, rubbing and pressing his digits in, under their glowing robes as the golden waves crashed upon them, soaking them with sea salt and sparkling foam.

He lifted that sopping garb and entered them with one thrust, causing them to groan. They winced at the pain but as Chanyeol sped up his pace, they felt the pleasure run throughout their whole quivering body.

Chanyeol locked their lips again, hungry for more—always hungry. He stared at them in a moment between a moan and a cry, their face flushed and sweaty, and looking every bit as beautiful as they always did, with their eyes robbing the skies of their stars. Chanyeol was taken over by the realization that he loved them more than ever before as they merged their halves into one. Flames danced all around them, toying with the rise and low of the youthful tide as their cries and moans filled the heavens above.

Soon they fell asleep, bathing in the afterglow of their passionate embrace. But when morning came, Chanyeol found them missing from his bed at the ocean. Gone with the dark.

The only thing left was the small beam of light surging from his soaking palm. He laughed, despite his tears. Despite the pain of their goodbyes, he would choose these fleeting moments over and over again, until the end of time, if it meant keeping them coming back.

As Chanyeol knew, with the knowledge only a soul that has lived a thousand sorrows could bear, that the moment his love left this world for good, every thing bright and beautiful would die with them. And if that were to happen, he would be quick to follow them up to the skies and share the eternal sleep as one.

So he would keep bearing this curse until the end. He would keep seeking, finding, loving and setting free. He would keep sacrificing his life and freedom, until the moment one of them ceased to exist. And maybe one day, he would win them, once and for all, from the darkness.

 

<><><>

 

Baekhyun slept like he owned the bed, his limbs sprawled out and most of the covers bunched around his body. There was still eyeliner smudged around his eyes and a dark smear streaked down towards his cheekbone where he had rubbed at it at some point in the night.

Chanyeol lied next to him silently, his arm wrapped around his pillow, watching him.

Baekhyun was striking, which was sort of strange to think since it wasn’t something new, but it was true. He had never seen anyone quite like him, with his pale skin and now silky soft sun-kissed hair, delicate button nose and rounded cheekbones.

He was fascinating to watch, always had, with the contrast in his beautiful features—his delicate face countering small yet masculine hands. Chanyeol only realized he was spending more time staring at Baekhyun than thinking about more pressing matters, when his strawberry lover let out a small puppy whine, scrunching his face in that adorable way he has only seen babies do before those gorgeous golden eyes blinked open and greeted the early morning light bathing his ethereal face through the curtains.

Feeling watched and still a little groggy from sleep, Baekhyun turned his head slightly and caught the fire guardian looking at him. Chanyeol felt his face flush with embarrassment, but the latter just smiled with his puffy mouth looking deliciously pink from overuse.

“Good morning.” He wished him with a hoarse, worn-out voice. Chanyeol gulped and greeted the cute teen back, keeping mum as he watched the smaller one wiggle under the covers to press his naked body flush to his side. His arm reached out and automatically hugged him close.

Chanyeol felt extremely nervous, not knowing where he stood in this awkward impasse. Had this been a mistake? Would Baekhyun regret it? Would he blame the alcohol and say they were to remain as friends? Enemies? Mulling over the horrible scenarios that always ended with a one-sided heartbreak, his silence was being taken in the wrong way.

Baekhyun had gone quiet, and with him so close the taller boy could feel that the boy in his arms was holding himself tense. Frowning, Chanyeol slowly rubbed his tattooed hand up and down his back, not liking one bit the way the small one hid his face in his chest.

Was he hurt? He hadn’t been particularly tender—blame his teenage hormones—but surely he remembered having tried his best to avoid using too much force…right?

“Baek.” He murmured, nuzzling the side of his face on the blond’s tuft of bed hair. The smell of peaches filled his nostrils pleasantly. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No!” Baekhyun squeaked immediately. He shook his head and leaned up to give the worried teen a kiss. “Not at all. It was perfect.”

“Okay.” Chanyeol nodded. The light guardian settled back down in his arms. The redhead watched him, worry settling in his stomach like a cold stone as he felt him still tense in his arms. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m just…scared.” Baekhyun blurted out in a whisper. His eyes were fixed on the other side of the room, on the empty bed at the side, and Chanyeol could tell it was costing him to say this. “What happened last night. I-It feels like it was too good to be true. I’m afraid it was just the alcohol speaking and we’re gonna go back to the way we were.”

“Hey, look at me.” Chanyeol chided him, hooking his finger under his chin to lift his face up. “I might’ve been drunk last night, but that only served me to finally say all the things I’ve been wanting to say. What we did…I could never regret it, not even for a second, and every word I said, everything: I meant it.”

Baekhyun smiled, biting his bottom lip. “Really? Even when you said you hated me?”

“Of course, especially that part. I hate you just as much as I love you. You drive me crazy.” Chanyeol growled playfully as he pounced on the unsuspecting blond, making him squeal and squirm under the plethora of kisses rained upon his skin.

After a few pleas and love bites, they both settled down once again, regaining their breaths.

“I love you too.” Baekhyun murmured minutes later. He curled into Chanyeol and hid his face in his throat. “I feel like there’s a lot of things we need to talk about, but first of all, I hope you know that I could never, ever, do something to hurt you…no matter how angry, the idea of harming you in any way is just… and all this time, all the things I’ve told you, how I’ve acted—I was afraid to put myself out there and risk getting hurt if you truly hated me. I was such a coward.”

“We were both shitty cowards.” Chanyeol sighed, and pressed his face into Baekhyun’s hair. He could feel those dainty fingers worrying at his chest, drawing random pattern on the skin.

“I know you’d never hurt deliberately.” He told him. “I feel the same way too. I honestly don’t know what happened. One day we were ok, and the next that love letter I sent you on eighth grade was spreading around the entire school from an unknown number. I was no longer Chanyeol, but the lame gay dude after that day.”

“But it wasn’t me!” Baekhyun said fiercely. The gray-eyed teen smiled, brushing his knuckles against that pink patch of skin on the latter’s cheeks. The contrast of the inked faded black and blue of his hand against the pale rose of Baekhyun’s petal like skin looked absolutely lovely.

“I know Baek, I know now.” The soothing boy said gently. “It also wasn’t me that spread those picture of you…when I saw them being passed around the seniors in high school I almost lost it. They weren’t nudes, but they felt just like that, you know? They were intimate, frozen moments meant to stay between us. Knowing that someone must have stolen them from my phone made me want to tear the whole school down.”

Baekhyun didn’t say anything. He pressed himself closer to the latter’s warmth.

“Sometimes--” Chanyeol’s voice failed him for a minute, and he had to clear his throat. “I wondered if the entire thing was staged to make us hate each other. I feel ashamed to say this, but I thought that you had planned to whole thing with someone else to get rid of me. The fact that you left three days later unannounced was just fuel to my silly theories. I know now it wasn’t that way at all.”

Baekhyun was pensive for a long time, thinking about everything that had been said so far. The taller one stroked his back and waited for him to speak.

“You don’t think,” He said eventually, “That someone actually went through all that trouble to separate us, do you?”

“I think there was definitely someone behind all that. Everything was too well planned.” Chanyeol agreed. “They didn’t get what they wanted though. We found each other again.”

He kissed Baekhyun’s temple. “By the way, why did you leave so abruptly back then? I would think that you would at least let our friends know you’d be leaving, but not even the teachers were aware of your departure.”

He recognized that thing Baekhyun did when he was thinking about lying, were he went all tense and still for a minute, but then the smaller one simply sighed and relaxed.

“Baekbom heard about what was happening at school.” He confessed, worrying his lip between his teeth.

“Your brother? How?”

“I don’t know. He never told me, but one night after dinner I received a phone call from him, telling me to pack my bags and that I would be living with him in London from then on. I didn’t have a say, he had already talked with our parents and of course, they didn’t oppose…if anything I feel they were happy to get rid of their giftless trash.”

“Hey, stop. Don’t say that about yourself.” He hated how Baekhyun always had the habit of placing himself below others.

“Anyway, after a year I was finally gifted my element of light on my birthday. I thought Baekbom would be surprised, or mad at me for having an element so opposed to that of my parents and himself, but he was thrilled, and shipped me here to Hellvania.” Baekhyun said then. He shifted back and fixed Chanyeol with a look. “I don’t want to believe that during my time in London Baekbom used his element of darkness to make me hate you, but…I don’t know.”

“Did he tell you horrible things about me?”

A hot flash of guilt raced over Baekhyun’s eyes, and he shifted, uncomfortable. “He did. He…was never fond of us in the first place, you know.”

Baekhyun laid his head down on the redhead’s chest and traced the toasty warm skin with his fingertips this time, writing his name like a brand. “Deep down, I could never believe the things he said about you. There was always a part of me that believed in you.”

A companiable silence fell in the room, wrapping them both in a soft cocoon from which neither wanted to part from. But time was ticking away, and after some voices were heard walking down the hallway, they knew it was time to face reality. And breakfast.

The long limbed teen poked the blond resting on his chest and he laughed at the squeak and the offended glare the latter threw at him once he rested his chin on the hollow between his ribcage. “It’s getting late, we should get some food before it’s gone.”

With one lingering kiss pressed against Baekhyun’s mouth, Chanyeol slid out of the bed, unbothered by his state of nakedness as he walked around the room, squinting around as the heavy curtains set across the window blocked the light for the most part.

“Where is your roommate by the way?”

The light guardian curled under the covers, watching pleasantly the sight before him. “Hmm. He was at the party last night. He probably left with his boyfriends.”

That had Chanyeol turning around in surprise. “Boyfriends?”

“Yeah. He’s in this polyamory mess with three other seniors. Some Jaehyun dude and other two I can’t remember their names.”

He had never been one to judge, but remembering the soft looking boy with the silvery hair and beautiful emerald eyes, and now knowing what laid beneath those angelic features, Chanyeol couldn’t think of anything else but, damn.

Furthermore, if Taeyong was already getting his share of love, tripled, that meant…

“So you two, never—you know.”

“What?”

“Um.” At the lack of words, he made some ridiculous gestures with his hands.

Baekhyun stared at him. “You are one stupid incredibly smart person, you know that?”

“Shut up,” Chanyeol said, but he couldn’t help laughing at himself. “You two looked so chummy when I came to give you your copies, I couldn’t help thinking there was something else.”

“I figured that much when you accused me of lying about my flu to get it on with my roommate.” Baekhyun said disapprovingly. “Taeyong’s cute, but he’s not my type.”

“And I’m your type?”

“Yeol. I let you shove that huge thing you lug between your legs in my butt, for the first time back in freshman year and the several times that came after. You tell me.”

Chanyeol blushed and ignored the brass comment. He was successful enough to find his boxers and t-shirt thrown around the floor, and from the corner of his eyes he spotted his leather jacket halfway under a bed. Where were his pants though?

“I can’t see shit.” He grumbled under his breath. “Babe, can you throw some light here please?

Without turning around he kneeled down to look under a desk, frowning, as the junior still lying on the bed was taking too long. He stood up and turned around to ask the latter what was wrong, but the sight that met his eyes was one that he was sure he would never forget for the rest of his life.

“Yeol, w-what’s going on.” Baekhyun trembled, watching with unconcealed terror at the angry flames flaring out his turned up palms.

Swallowing hard, the redhead made his way slowly towards the bed, as slowly as possible as to not disturb the clearly distressed boy on the verge of crying out of fear. Chanyeol felt something heavy settle in his chest, suffocating him. How in the hell had he been able to unconsciously burn Baekhyun without actually commanding it himself? He was such a fucking piece of trash.

“ Shhh, its okay babe, take deeps breaths. Are you hurt? Did I hurt you?”

The sniffling boy shook his head, afraid to move his hands even for a millimeter. “N-No. It just feels weird. M-My palms feel warm and fuzzy, as if—as if the flames are coming out of me skin.”

“What.” What was going on? “Baek, are you saying that you’re…manipulating fire?”

“What!?”

Chanyeol pulled back as the flames from Baekhyun’s palms spread like liquid fire through the sheet and enveloped the bed in a tower of fire. Like pulled from one of his darkest nightmares, the helpless stare from his lover trapped within his angry prison of fire was quick to snap something angry inside of Chanyeol. He could feel himself shaking, every muscle and bone vibrating with the intensity of his despair pumping fast through his veins.

He needed to get Baekhyun out. He needed to save Baekhyun. Unconsciously, he fisted his hands, unable to fully do so as there was an object, hot and solid against his grip. Looking down, his stormy grey eyes widened at the sight of the blinding light sword in his hand.

This was surely a dream. This couldn’t be happening.

There were some voices outside the door, some rapid knocking and before they knew it the door was bursting open and a worried Suho was making his way inside, followed closely by Kyungsoo and Jongdae.

“We saw some smoke coming out of the roo—what’s going on!?” The school president gasped and took in the scene before him. “Is this one of your training practices again?”

The unharmed juniors didn’t have time to reply as the senior huffed in exasperation, lifted his hand to the ceiling and two seconds later swiped it back down, hard, allowing his gift to rain upon them like a big bucket of cold water.

Soaked to the bone, the shocked guardians could only offer a choked ‘thank you’ to their friend, their minds still trying to compute what had just happened a few seconds before.

“You better have a good explanation for this. And you better not lie or I’m gonna get Lu here and use some of his worm spells to wiggle the truth out of you. And believe me, you don’t want me to do that.”

 

<><><>

 

Suho sighed, rubbing a palm over his face. He was not fucking equipped to deal with the epic grade of this disaster, he was pretty sure. "So." He tried. "What happened, then?"

Kyungsoo figured this wasn't the best moment to come clean, but with Suho about to pop his eye vessels, the two lovers still in their weird shared daze, and Jongdae crying like a Moaning Myrtle, he figured he would chip his two cents in and help his wailing roommate currently mopping the floor with his tears with the telling.

“We just wanted to help Chanyeol and Baekhyun.” The freckled guardian sighed. “We asked Lu to use a spell to help them work their situation out by enhancing their love for each other. We honestly didn’t think this would turn the way it did.”

Lu was quietly listening to their conversation, eyes full of regret as he watched the couple on the couch. He had done spell casting for as long as he was able to walk, even before he knew what the hell he was actually doing, and never once did any of his spells had gone so horribly wrong—the ferret thing had been an isolated incident—so the fact that he might have placed both Chanyeol and Baekhyun’s lives in danger was a true wake up call for him.

“I’m really sorry you guys…I just wanted to help Jongdae in his plan to make Chanyeol and Baekhyun get back together. I would’ve never thought this would turn out like this.”

“Same.” Minseok mumbled in remorse. “I just thought that if we could do at least something to help them out, not matter how small, then we should at least try. It was supposed to be a simple, meager spell.”

“Shit.” Suho groaned, surprising everyone, as the latter never cussed. Ever.

Surprisingly enough, Suho had taken the whole thing with a grain of salt. The sight of Jongdae and Kyungsoo’s guilty faces had been enough to whisk them all into a private meeting room, avoiding the curious eyes of their fellow classmates and nosy school staffs. After hearing the news of what had happened, Minseok and Lu had showed up by free will.

They didn’t even need to think of what to say when they located themselves in the room as Jongdae broke down like a dam, all sobs, snot, and tears as he begged his friends for forgiveness, spilling the beans in a messy way that only got the people in the room more confused than ever.

Chanyeol sighed, sitting at the edge of the couch with Baekhyun still leaning in his arms. He reached his hand up to thumb away the wetness below the still shaken blond’s eyes, offering whatever comfort the latter could take.

He stared at the weeping male on the floor, and despite feeling a hefty amount of anger towards Jongdae for plotting all this together, he knew deep down he hadn’t meant any harm. If anything, whatever he had schemed inside his head had worked out, maybe not with the finale that everyone would have wanted, but surely enough having Baekhyun once again was a very nice plus.

“C’mon Dae, it’s fine. We know you didn’t mean for this to go this far.” He gently coaxed the orange haired junior to look up from his rumpled position on the floor. “I forgive you.”

The lighting guardian sniffled, wiping his snot messily as his watery eyes filled with hope. “Really?”

Baekhyun scoffed, glaring at his pitiful friend. “I still want to fucking sit on your head for what you did! I almost burnt my boyfriend, you jackass" Baekhyun threatened in frustration, before he slumped back against Chanyeol. “But I think your idiotic heart was in the right place…kinda.”

Jongdae was in no position to whine, so he took the half-hearted forgiveness gladly and with one final, loud sniff, he meekly took a sit at the vacant chair in the room.

“Oh, you guys are back together then? For real?” Minseok blinked. A smile bloomed from his lips soon as he regarded the couple in front of him with contentment.

Chanyeol stared at Baekhyun’s lovely eyes, heart breaking into a race. “We are?”

The smaller boy bit his lower lip, giving it a thought for a second that felt like an eternity to Chanyeol’s aching chest before he smiled. “We are.”

The room shook with happy claps and various whops of congratulations. Baekhyun’s face flushed at their friends’ outburst and Chanyeol's face followed suit. The two of them stood there, fingers intertwined, gazing at each other, looking a bit like preschool boyfriends for a second before they broke into shy smiles of their own.

The atmosphere became a little lighter with the welcomed news, but the reality was still there, hanging heavy above them.

“We need to work this out. As much I believe that this should be taken to Principal Moon, it might mean permanent suspension for all of you, and I don’t want to ruin your possibility to graduate with finals so close.” Suho said with finality. “I can work something out with Couch Choi without necessarily telling him more than requested, but we still need to figure out what went wrong with the spell to find a way to revert this.”

Lu suddenly took a piece of folded paper from his back pocket. “This is the spell I used. I’ve used this spell before, in class, and it turned out perfect. I honestly don’t know what happen this time.”

Suho nodded, taking the offered paper in his hand. “This is helpful Lu, thanks. Now we just need to look for someone that can help us decipher what could’ve happened with this spell.”

“I think I know who can help us.” Kyungsoo suggested. “It’s worth the shot.”

“Good, then tomorrow we’ll follow Soo after class and go from there. On the meantime, it’ll probably be better if Baekhyun stays with Chanyeol until we figure this out. We can’t risk anyone else getting involved, or worse, hurt. I’ll talk to Taeyong.”

Chanyeol nodded, hugging Baekhyun close as he felt him press his face into his throat.

 

<><><>

 

It wasn’t until Wednesday, that they managed to get a last minute appointment with their busy World History professor.

Using the white lie of having found an interesting script in one of the old Latin spell books they were currently using as reference for their Ancient Civilizations module, they managed to make the middle aged man agree to their request. Luck had been shinning on them it seemed, as the only other teacher left in the desolated Employees Lounge was their Classic Language, Mrs. Maeng. The curious woman would undoubtedly join their conversation if it spiked her interest enough.

“This must be a very interesting piece of script, I see.” Mr. Lee assumed, lowering his glasses to give a pointed look at the shuffling seniors crowding his work desk. “If I knew I would be having the honor to have Mr. Kim and Mr. Han place their utmost attention to something History related, I would’ve asked for a meeting room to house us all.”

The busted seniors with a crappy attention record blushed and swallowed, offering a nervous smile as Suho stepped in with a charming smile of his own. “Please don’t mind us Mr. Lee, we just wish to know more about this, as I believe not only our juniors here have troubles with this module, but us seniors as well. We can all benefit from your knowledge.”

“Very well then.” The professor nodded, extending his hand towards Kyungsoo. “Let’s see what you’ve found.”

Mrs. Maeng, from the far end of the lounge, was cheerfully sipping on her late afternoon coffee, minding her own business. But her eyes kept flickering towards the hoard of eager teens crowding Mr. Lee’s desk.

 

<><><>

 

Another to one, and one to another,
I take thy hands in mine,
Thy essence I’ll forever bind,
From now until the end of time.

“Yes, that’s correct. Although, that’s not the correct form of ‘astringo’ and the order of sentences is completely messed up.” Mrs. Maeng huffed, using her loop as she leaned her plump self over the desk to examine the crumpled piece of paper closer. “Whoever wrote this invocation trans did a very lousy job doing so.”

Lu, that for the next hour had been nothing but a brightly lit Christmas bulb while his spell was torn to pieces by the savage woman, was taken aback by her words. Not only him, but the rest of his friends as well were quickly brought to a state of confusion.

“Invocation?” Baekhyun frowned, leaning forward. “Wasn’t this supposed to be a Binding spell?”

Everyone jumped at the sound of those peals of laughter bouncing through the walls. Mrs. Maeng laughed, swatting her hand over Mr. Lee’s shoulder before she wiped a small tear from her eye.

“Binding Spell?” She asked, a smile full of mirth hanging from her rosy red lips. “My boy, this is far from that. To be specific, this is actually a translation of an Invocation rune. A very powerful one too.”

A heavy silence fell in the room, as both teachers continued to peruse the puzzling inscription.

“B-But it was in a spell casting book! Why would an invocation rune be in a spell book at school?” Lu squeaked, freaked out, and earning a warning glare from his fellow friends. “Aren’t rune translations supposed to be like really powerful enchantments? I know that some are so dangerous that they’re kept locked up in the basement of the MAA’s headquarters!”

“Nowadays translated runes have their own books, safely kept from spell casters with not so good intentions.” Mr. Lee said thoughtfully. “But old, ancient spell casting books have a few of those hiding within, like Easter eggs. It is said that it was a way some gods used to hide their powerful runes from getting stolen.”

“Which makes me wonder where you boys found this ‘special’ spell book.” Mrs. Maeng squinted her eyes suspiciously towards a sweating senior at the back. “Specially you Mr. Han. It would be unfortunate if I happened to know that you’ve been sneaking into the forbidden section of the Library—again.”

“I haven’t!” Lu peeped, clinging on Minseok’s arm hidden by Chanyeol’s towering frame.

Kyungsoo cleared his throat, directing the perceptive woman’s attention towards him. “I was the one that found the book Mrs. Maeng. I copied the translation thinking it was just a common spell and showed it to Lu. He was the one that suggested to seek some help to figure out what it meant.”

The woman lifted one of her perfectly trimmed eyebrows, full of skepticism. “Could I see that book?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t remember where I placed it.” The earth guardian apologized with a guarded expression.

“Anyways!” Jongdae quickly interjected before more telling questions could be asked. “Do you know by any chance what type of invocation this rune would be used for?”

Mr. Lee furrowed his brow, deep in thought as his colleague shook her head slowly. “I’m not sure if this is the accurate script. For starters, this is no classical Latin, it’s Vulgar Latin, and specially the last line of the translation doesn’t make sense…”

The balding man agreed with a nod. “Sorry boys, maybe it would be better if you ask your aether master teachers about this?”

Dejected, the group sighed and nodded. They were about to leave, but a sharp gasp from their Classic Language teacher tickled their curiosity back as the woman snapped her fingers. “This would make sense though, if we changed the last sentence!”

“How?” Lu ventured.

Mrs. Maeng thought over that for a while, methodically cracking her knuckles before answering. “Well, there’s this Invocation rune I remember reading about in my college days. I can’t remember the exact words, but it’s disturbingly familiar. The last part of the translation, if I vaguely recall, went along the lines of Ab hic usque Anima decet quidam: Until the soul becomes one.”

A collective shiver ran through the four boys involved in the casting ceremony. Jongdae started sweating nervously as Kyungsoo and Lu turned towards him murderously while Minseok hissed through gritted teeth ‘I knew it, you skinny fuck. You ruined the spell back then.’ The rest of the people in the room were, surprisingly, oblivious to the exchange.

“Ah, yes, the ‘Invocation of the Anima’. I thought I’d never hear of that one again.” Mr. Lee hummed, smiling, as he finally seemed to remember what he had been trying to place for a while.

"What is that Mr. Lee?" Suho asked cautiously.

The World History professor blew out a breath. "It’s quite the long story Mr. Kim. To put it shortly, the Invocation of the Anima is a supposedly ancient rune created summon the Olympus soulmates.”

“The god of fire and the god of light?” Mrs. Maeng wondered.

“Yes. Correctly.”

Minseok tapped his chin, trying to grasp the concept of this supposedly ancient rune Jongdae had fucked them all up with. “Let’s say, um, that by accident, someone recited the previous script we just showed you as a spell, and right at the very last moment they changed the last verse with the one from this Olympic mythological translation. What… hypothetically speaking of course…could happen?”

Mrs. Maeng’s eyes glimmered once again with suspicion. “That’s a very specific scenario Mr. Kim.”

The senior laughed awkwardly. “My mind works in mysterious ways.”

“Well, I’m certain that would be the first time something like this happened, I mean, you would have to be incredibly dumb to mix both things up.” They all fake-grinned at the professor’s explanation. “But, hypothetically speaking of course, since the rune wouldn’t have been adequately casted in this case, then it’s fair to say that it might not work in the first place. Nor the rune or the spell.”

“And if it had worked? What would happen then? Would the people involved in the enchantment exploit and burst into tiny little pieces?” Jongdae worried his lip. Everyone suppressed the urge to face palm at the latter’s concerns.

“I’m afraid you’ve watched too many movies Mr. Kim, but fear not. It is said that invocation runes are the type of runes to only work on gods, as Zeus himself created them. You all know we gifted people are considered to have been connected at one point in our history with the great demigods of Roman and Greek mythology, which makes us susceptible to the majority of the translated runes available. Yet, if anyone were to cast an invocation rune, the ones involved would probably just experience a series of mild side effects, never the full effect as this type of runes work only on ‘fated beings’, and gods were the only heavenly beings in history to have had true soulmates according to ancient scripts.”

“Wow…I didn’t even know that soulmates existed so early in time.” Suho frowned. “Like nowadays everyone calls their lovers as such.”

The man nodded before continuing. “The topic of soulmates was very well known in Roman and Greek Mythology, and through time the term has been popularized and stripped off its true meaning. Platos, in his work ‘The Symposium’, addressed the existence of soulmates as halves of our original nature, with love being the force to call said halves together. But, interestingly, there’s no record on how the idea of fated souls was ever conceived. The first time the concept was suggested was in one of the oldest stories of Ancient Mythology: The Soulmates of the Olympus, known as the god of light and fire as Mrs. Maeng correctly mentioned earlier.”

Everyone was holding their breath at this point, the influx of information slowly sinking in their heads. The first one to snap out of it and prod further was Baekhyun. “So, the invocation rune you mentioned earlier in relation to our mistaken spell…was it supposed to summon these gods together? Where they separated or dead?”

“Mmm, yes and no.” Their teacher sighed, conflicted. “There are thousands of variations of the story. The majority tell that Zeus, when he first created the Olympus, he became bored fast and created the gods of air, soil, water and lastly, darkness. They all abided to Zeus, their powers not able to match him. But the god of darkness was very powerful, and full of repressed anger for having been condemned to rule the underworld alone. Zeus, feeling benevolent, created the god of light to keep him company: The moonchild, an ambiguous and utterly beautiful god referred to as the moon's first born due to their light being as bright and beautiful as the moon, but never strong enough to overcome Zeus’ powerful sunlight.”

“They were the last god created by Zeus, as a gift for the god of darkness. But the moonchild, as time went by, became lonely as well and sick of being captured in the depths of the underworld. That’s how one day, without the darkness’ approval, they ripped half of their soul out to keep them company. Zeus, seeing the god of light so lonely and cold, gave this other half of their soul life of their own with his own breath, and enough warmth to keep this new being alive. That warmth soon became a raging fire, and that was the birth of the god of fire, considered by some as a fake god as he wasn’t created by the hand of Zeus like the rest, rather than by the flesh of the moonchild.”

“Tell me something Mr. Lee.” The interested woman interfered. “I’ve read different versions of what happened after the god of fire was created. Some say, that both light and fire gods fell in love, and that angered the darkness. Other say that the god of darkness when he saw what his moonchild had done, took them away and was never to be seen again.”

“Yes, Mrs. Maeng, I’m afraid the variations are numerous. The majority does coincide on the fact that they did fall in love, and they escaped the depths of the underworld to live a peaceful life together. The darkness wasn’t pleased about having his light taken away. He made it his eternal mission to tear them apart, and he succeeded many times according to a few translations. Zeus, wanting to help the lovers, created the invocation rune we talked about, so they could always find a way back to each other and unite their souls, no matter what or where. And so, these fated gods were cursed by the darkness to lose and find each other, over and over again. For eternity.”

“What happened to the god of darkness?” Suho mumbled.

“No one knows. This story, just like every other tale from Ancient Mythology, is full of mystery and open endings.” Mr. Lee smiled in mischief. “Supposedly, the fire god and the moonchild would share their powers whenever the darkness was close, as a way to become stronger. The moonchild would use their lover's fire to keep themselves warm in their prison of darkness, and the fire god would use his soulmate's light to find his way among the dark to find them. But, did they win against the darkness? Did they lose each other in the end? I’m afraid their fate will remain a great question with no clear answer.”

“I want to believe they found their happy ending, away from that stupid god of darkness.” Mrs. Maeng sighed dreamily. “I used to love this story.”

“Funny fact is that, according to one story I found in some really old edition of tales of the Olympus, the god of soil would play as a double spy for the lovers, risking his own life in order to keep the darkness beneath and buy the lovers time. Also, a possible one-sided love was hinted between the earth god and the god of fire, but that’s just pure myth gossip.”

The rest of the afternoon flew by with more tales about fated lovers and mythology related quotations of it. But despite the numerous stories and fairytales, oddly the tale of the Olympic soulmates made something inside of flutter unsteady. They all felt they had made a major discovery, but as if by an unknown force, they were unable to place the puzzle pieces together.

Lost in thought, Chanyeol felt like they were ignoring a really important thing, a blatantly obvious piece of information that could change the course of their lives forever.

A hand on his knee grounded him back to the present moment, and looking at his side Baekhyun met his uncertain gaze with one full of hope. He grabbed his hand, squeezing back.

 

<><><>

 

“What did I do!?” Lu wailed as Minseok karate punched his arm once they were out of the teachers lounge.

“A big motherfuckin', huge, gigantic, shitbitch of a mistake." Minseok growled. "And before you even try to apologize, save it cause I’m gonna tell Lay what you did.”

Suho, ignoring the seniors bickering, walked beside the pensive juniors, a smile hidden behind his fist as he caught sight of Chanyeol and Baekhyun’s pinkies linked together.

“Well, this turned out to be quite the interesting ordeal.” He commented, receiving a couple of looks. “Who would’ve thought that Lu would screw up so badly he would actually mix an invocation rune with a spell.”

“Shut up!” The attacked aether master pouted as he avoided one of Minseok’s death pinches. “Everything would’ve been fine if Jongdae had said the final line of the spell correctly!”

“Bitch, don’t even try me, you were the one glowing the fuck up that night, chanting murderous incorrect Latin! You could’ve invocated the god of darkness for all we know, and what would’ve happened? Goodbye Jongdae, Lu, Minseok and Soo.”

The pink haired senior shrugged off his accusation haughtily. “Still doesn’t change the fact that you screwed up, big time.”

“Guys, it’s okay.” Baekhyun finally admitted, fully holding Chanyeol’s hand as he glowed with a smile. “In the end, however twisted, we were able to use the translated rune to work our stuff out. I kinda found my way back to my soulmate, just like the tale.”

Everyone pulled a face of disgust at the cheesy analogy, and to their utter repulse they watched the way the tiny blond landed a soft kiss on their starstrucked giant. Chanyeol mumbled something into the kiss and began to wrap his hands around Baekhyun’s waist before Jongdae barked a loud ‘AH!’ to stop them.

“As happy as we are that you guys are fucking the shit out of each other, now’s not the best time for a quickie. We still don’t know shit about how long the side effects of this rune—spell...runed spell?—thing last. You could still be in grave danger of blowing up like popcorn at any minute.”

Minseok whacked his cousin in the head. “Shut up.”

Chanyeol smiled and pulled back of the embrace, laughing at Jongdae trying to escape the ice guardian’s freezing hand as they began to walk out of the Dorchester House and back to Holford dormitories. Baekhyun slipped out of his grip and charged after Lu across the courtyard after the latter had made a lewd remark about the possibility of them waking their neighbors up later that night.

He was about to follow but Kyungsoo grabbed his shoulder, making him turn back in the dim lighting that twilight offered above them through the open sky.

“Chanyeol.” His best friend’s breath misted in the air as he exhaled softly, staring at him with a set of piercing, dark eyes. It seemed like he wanted to say more, and his mouth opened again, before he subtly deflated and instead opted for one of those rare smiles reserved for special occasions. “Everything will be alright.”

“I know.” Chanyeol reached out and patted the latter’s hand poised over his shoulder. “Thanks, Soo. For being by my side.”

 

<><><>

 

Two weeks later and the news of Chanyeol and Baekhyun having swapped gifts had spread through school grounds. It had been a spur of the moment thing, a slip of self-restraint.

If asked, Baekhyun would totally deny it.

‘I was just tired from staying up all night, that’s all’ He would probably say, miffed at being even asked such an obvious thing. He would never, ever admit that burning three of the long tables of their cafeteria had been due to his boyfriend excusing himself at lunch to help a lovely junior that had shyly asked the redhead for some help with her World History homework.

Same thing with Chanyeol when he blinded himself the moment he walked in on his tiny lover getting latched on by his ex-roommate. The silver haired minx had been trying to ask his tiny boyfriend for help with something Chanyeol totally didn’t catch since he had been lying on the ground seeing white by then—‘You look like the noodle version of Thor’ Jongdae had snorted with a laugh at the sight of his bandaged left eye.

Putting two and two together, and with their new flourishing relationship as evidence, the word spread around fast and finally reached the school committee. Thankfully, they had time to brew a well thought excuse as to how in the hell they managed to do something, thought until then, impossible. The committee had no other option but to believe their lies, however ridiculous or far-fetched. With finals coming their way, the higher ups didn’t have time to investigate further.

Two weeks later, and a gruesome Final week barely lived through, the teens managed to make it safe and sound to their last day of school. Chanyeol and Baekhyun still had their training test to take, but Principal Moon had granted them permission to take it before the new school term began, which gave them roughly two months to work things out.

“I’m so glad this nightmare of a month is over.” Minseok moaned, rolling his tense shoulders. “All that’s left now is graduation and that’s it. Buh-bye Hell.”

Feeling the soft breeze against their face, they made their way slowly through the courtyard. People from all grades ran all over the place, finishing up the last few things in their lists before their ride arrived to take them back home for the summer. From a distance, Chanyeol could see his twin brothers getting flocked by a group of freshmen, boys and girls in equal amounts, all wanting to bid the popular boys goodbye. Jongin caught his stare, and with a quick mocking scoff, he flipped him off.

Jongdae reached forward and rubbed Minseok’s shoulders eagerly. “You’re gonna invite me to the ceremony, right? And you’re gonna invite me to your college dorm every weekend to visit you, right? Right?”

The graduating senior swung his shoulder out from the annoying teen’s reach and lifted his arm and threatened to backhand him, causing Jongdae to leap back with the grace that only an experienced idiot possessed.

“Ew, let go! I would be an idiot if I let you visit.” Minseok snorted unamused. “You only want to visit so you can nag Suho to date you anyways.”

“And you say it like it’s a bad thing. I didn’t get my date in the end, so it’s only fair to try my luck while I’m still a high schooler.”

Chanyeol lifted an eyebrow. “Why a high schooler? You’ve waited long enough, what’s another year?”

“Everyone knows the younger the better. Duh.”

Jongdae stepped up and pulled Chanyeol towards him, swinging his arm around his neck painfully in a sided hug.

The redhead laughed and struggled in his grip before Baekhyun poked Jongdae on the ribs. “When you’re done molesting my boyfriend, you should go and finish packing. I saw your room and you still have shit ton to pack.”

The orange haired teen finally let go of his slouched friend’s neck and stepped out of the way, linking arms with his disgruntled cousin with whom he would be sharing a ride home. “Alright, I’ll go see what Kyungsoo is up to. See you guys at the pick up.”

They watched the two cousins make their way into one of the main halls and out of their sight. Chanyeol turned around and pulled Baekhyun into his arms, undisturbed by the stares of the students lingering around. “Are you sure your family is okay with you spending your summer with me?”

He felt Baekhyun’s hands travel up his back and down his chest, like a caress that didn’t promise anything but comfort. “Yup. I couldn’t get a hold of Baekbom, but I told my parents and of course they were okay with it. They didn’t even remember I was supposed to come back home for the summer. Plus, according to the spell caster teacher we talked to last week, the side effects of an invocation rune don’t last more than a month, so it’s better if we stay together when we get our gifts back. We’re lucky is just a temporary thing. Who knows what would’ve happened if he casted another, more dangerous rune.”

“Tell me about. It all turned out for the better.” Chanyeol placed a small kiss on his boyfriend’s forehead, pulling back to continue. “And it really doesn’t matter what your family says, I just got you back and I’m not letting you off my sight. My parents are thrilled to see you again, and we’re gonna do all the things we did back when we used to spend our summers together.”

“Like annoying the heck out of Jongin?” Baekhyun guessed, kissing Chanyeol's hands, which had rested themselves on his shoulders.

“That. Among other things.” Chanyeol wiggled his eyebrows, making the small teen laugh. “We’re gonna have the summer of our lives. I promise.”

Baekhyun shuffled his boyfriend into a mess of a hug, elbows poking out at all angles, expressions sharing nothing but the happiness that was bursting out of their hearts, right through the seams. The former light guardian ducked his head into the other one’s shoulder, eyes stuttering closed to breath in this moment full of light.

They were, once again, gods at dawn, creating their new kingdom from the ashes.

 

<><><>

 

Kyungsoo stared down, vision blurry, as the phone call was abruptly ended on his part. He shouldn’t have done that.

Placing the cellphone to the side, he wiped the last of his tears with the back of his hand. It would be minutes until Jongdae would come bursting through the door, and he wasn’t going to allow him to see him in this fragile state.

He had evaded, like usual, most of the details in the call, but eventually he always found a way to know things. He would know everything.

Receiving the gift of fire had been Chanyeol’s blessing and curse. Kyungsoo had hoped—no, he had prayed for his friend to be exempt of the pain to come if he walked closer to the light, but history was a tricky little thing.

As a guardian of the soil, he has gotten used to being on the sidelines by now—looking from the outside, wishing he were in. Many times he'd been close to the heavenly fire, sometimes close, sometimes far away. This time he he was so close to the heat, he was able to see every little detail that chiseled Chanyeol's existence, so so close he could childishly say he had even memorized the back of Chanyeol’s head, and how the tiny hairs there made pretty patterns on the nape of his neck. And like always, Kyungsoo had to turn a blind eye to this privilege as a certain moonbeam played with them, twirled them, messed them up.

But the god of earth knew his place very well—he wasn’t allowed to play with the fire.

Regardless of his own feelings, Kyungsoo had learned to love them both, the moonchild and the fake god, through the lifetimes, as they were equal parts of a shared soul. And it was his love for them that had foolishly pushed him into the venomous trap he was in. He had been meticulous enough two years ago and used every little resource within his reach to ruin what Baekhyun and Chanyeol had back then—‘To buy them time’ He had tried to convince himself. Stealing photos, messages, and secrets. He had used everything he could to keep them apart until they were strong enough find their way back.

He thought he had made the right call, forcing Kyungsoo to do all the dirty work with that venom like gift that spoke lies and inflicted hatred to its prey. Oh but how wrong he had been, thinking that it would be over so easily.

There was no way to fight the reincarnations of the gods. Let alone, the reincarnations of the olympus soulmates. The sudden appearance of the invocation rune had been a clear work of the heavens, wanting to prepare the fated rebirths for what was to come.

No matter what Kyungsoo did, how many of his own had been coaxed by those dark lies to tamper with these gods in every single lifetime, for centuries over centuries, history always repeated itself. Only fate was to decide, which would win this time around—love or destruction.

There was no such thing as escaping. Darkness was a poison; a dark, viscous venom that latched itself into every emotion, every thought, and it gave you no other choice than to succumb to its ominous will. Nevertheless, Kyungsoo would keep sacrificing everything to protect the light and fire, even if they didn’t know it now…and never would. He would do anything to have love prevail among the darkness. Love deserved to win. 

“But darkness can win too.” He whispered into the vacant air, trying not to reach out for the phone as it started to vibrate against the bed.

“Kyungsoo~” Jongdae’s voice outside the door snapped him out of his thoughts, reaching out for his device to shove it under the pillow as his bouncy friend made it into the room, followed by an exhausting graduate.

Kyungsoo smiled, engaging in a conversation that thankfully distracted him enough to forget his cellphone buzzing away. It would definitely piss him off to be kept waiting so long, but Kyungsoo has been pissed for far much longer.

 

 

 

Incoming Call: Baekbom Byun.