Actions

Work Header

see saw

Chapter Text

There’s a strange kind of buzzing in the air when Mark wakes up. It’s a little like a mosquito is flying too close to his ear, but when he swats at the air the sound does not diminish in the slightest. After futilely batting his ear for another minute, Mark groggily opens his eyes and peeks around the bedroom. Nothing looks out of the ordinary, except for Donghyuck's missing form from the bunk across the room. Usually, Mark will wake up before the younger boy does, which gives him enough time to get the coffee machine running and about five minutes of peace before the whirlwind that is Donghyuck awakens.

His curiosity sufficiently piqued, Mark throws the covers off his body and wanders into their cramped living room, side-stepping around Rocky and Sony, the two dogs curled at the foot of the bed. He immediately spots Donghyuck, as well as the source of the buzzing. The entire apartment is engulfed in darkness, lit only around the corners with scented candles, the ones Donghyuck likes to light up during a session. In the middle of the living room sits Donghyuck, his eyes closed, his hands resting on his knees, a tranquil smile plastered on his face. There’s also a lower class demon bound in front of him, chains wrapped around his arms and legs, a sort of muzzle on his mouth. The demon must be trying to growl to appear intimidating, which is what's causing the buzz. Knowing Donghyuck, however, the demon is probably harmless.

Mark sighs, weaving around the soon to be disaster zone so he can reach the kitchen. He nods in acknowledgement at the demon, who looks more exasperated than anything. That’s usually how Donghyuck's experiments go, anyway.

There’s a fresh pot of coffee sitting on the counter, as well as a sticky note from Jaehyun urging them to have breakfast before leaving the house. There’s a smiley face tacked at the end, and Donghyuck's writing stating not to be such a sap.

After eating some cereal and getting enough coffee in his system to pull through his morning shift, Mark showers and dresses quickly. The last thing he sees before shutting the door behind him is Donghyuck opening his eyes briefly to blow him a kiss. The demon continues to growl and seethe in his confinements, but neither Mark nor Donghyuck pay him any mind.

~

There’s something strangely soothing about the lull during the morning rush that Mark loves. It's a little after ten am, too late for any more businessmen to be barking their orders at him, but just the right time for college students to drag themselves in, too tired to be impolite. Mark recognizes a few from his evening classes, says hello to those who seem conscious enough to greet back, but otherwise the coffee house is empty for a while.

Mark takes the chance to finish the chemistry lab report due in two days, his ratty old laptop functioning about a mile per hour. There’s not much left for him to do, but Mark is still weary and tired from his late classes last night, and his brain can't seem to come up with more sentences to add. Deciding he's okay with a 90, he word-vomits the final paragraph and sends the email before he can get cold feet.

The bell above the cafe's door rings and in waltzes Jaehyun, looking worn-out yet happy, happier than Mark has seen him in days. He's got a large grin on his face and he's waving some papers around. When Jaehyun gets to the counter, said papers get shoved in Mark's face.

"What’s this?" Mark asks, leaning back. The papers follow him. "Dude, I can't read this close."

"Right, I forget you're blind as shit," Jaehyun laughs, but he still gives Mark enough distance. "It’s a contract. A job contract. As in, I got a permanent position at the firm."

"Oh my god," Mark gasps, nearly tearing the paper from Jaehyun's hands. "Dude, that's amazing! So you definitely got a place after you graduate?"

"That’s right," Jaehyun confirms. Mark can feel the waves of pride and happiness radiating off him. "They said they won't need me for a couple of months, so I can finish Uni without any distractions and then I'll start."

Mark eyes him over the stack of papers. "But you're still getting paid, right?"

"Yeah!" Jaehyun exclaims. "... No."

Mark groans, rolling his head back. Jaehyun slumps onto the counter and mumbles dejectedly, "I’ll get something else, don't worry."

"No, no," Mark shakes his head, "This is a great deal, we just have to," he sighs, "Make it through."

"But Mark," Jaehyun hisses, dragging Mark away from the counter. Under any other circumstances, Mark would have protested that he can't leave the cash register unattended. "We can't survive only on your payroll. Donghyuck is graduating high school soon and we're going to need the money to pay for all the shit college asks, not to mention rent and food and utilities and," Jaehyun sighs. "I’ll find something."

"You’re busy with your thesis," Mark retorts. "We were counting on this pay check even when the job wasn't a sure thing. Anything you find is going to be part-time and minimum wage. I can get another job."

"No, Mark, no," Jaehyun says immediately. "You’re working in the mornings and have evening classes, you need the afternoons to study and sleep. You can't get something else. Maybe Donghyuck?"

"I don't want him to start working yet," Mark frowns. "He’s in his senior year; he should do what he's doing now: going out with his friends, drink and come home late. I mean, he's still acing everything so I don't really see the problem," he adds hastily when he notices Jaehyun’s forehead vein throbbing.

"Why can't we grow a tree of money or something?" Jaehyun groans. "Donghyuck can summon demons from the second circle but I can't bring money to the house."

"Don’t blame yourself, hyung," Mark says softly, "You're doing everything you can. We’ll figure it out."

~

By the time Mark's last class, introduction to Physics, lets out, it's already past midnight. It’s a short walk from campus to their apartment, hardly ten minutes on foot, but Mark is so tired he's lucky he gets there in half an hour. He just can't make his feet move faster; he's hardly keeping his eyes open. Jaehyun’s right, he can't get another job.

Mark groans, kicking a stray pebble on his path.

"Hyung! Mark hyung!"

Mark whirls around at the sound of Donghyuck's voice, expecting to see the younger witch running towards him at full speed. He doesn't expect to see him, yes, running to him, but he's got a taller man grabbed by the arm, and Donghyuck's got the biggest grin Mark has seen on him in a while. Mark hates himself for noticing the way he's glowing under the street lights.

"Hey, Hyuck," Mark says, a half attempt at a smile working on his face. "What’s up? Who’s your friend?"

"Hyung, this is Johnny," Donghyuck says proudly, like a little kid doing show and tell for the first time. He leans forward and whispers, "He’s a wizard."

"Really?" Mark raises an eyebrow. He lets his eyes trail from Donghyuck to Johnny. This 'wizard' (because Mark doesn't just believe everyone who tells him they're a wizard) is tall, handsome if Mark is being honest, and he's got tattoos peeking out from underneath his shirt collar. He looks friendly, if Mark were to go by the smile he's wearing. "Hey," Mark says.

"Johnny hyung, this is Mark," Donghyuck introduces them. "I told you about him, right?"

Johnny laughs quietly, nodding. "Once or twice," he says mysteriously. Mark narrows his eyes, especially at the way Donghyuck seems to blush at the words. Or Johnny’s voice, which is deep, deeper than Mark's. "Nice to meet you, Mark."

"Yeah, you too," Mark mumbles.

Mark wants to wonder what Donghyuck was doing with this guy at such late hours of the night, but he knows it'd be useless to ask. Donghyuck likes to think he's cool and aloof and would never tell him if probed. Mark is going to have to wait for Donghyuck to be sleepy - that's when he starts to spill.

"Hyung, guess what?" Donghyuck is vibrating where he stands, looking so excited about one thing or another. Mark is used to seeing him like this, given Donghyuck can get pumped very easily, but something is different this time. "I was telling Johnny hyung about everything, and he said we can live with him!"

"You what?" Mark asks, at the same time Johnny splutters, "Donghyuck, that sounds weird!"

"Explain," Mark glares at Johnny.

Johnny holds his hands up in a universal sign for rendition. "Look, I know that when you put it that way, it sounds really weird, but I swear it isn't."

"Uh huh," Mark says, not so subtly grabbing Donghyuck and pulling him to his side.

"Alright, listen, it's a long story, why don't we go somewhere else and we can talk there? Somewhere warm, if possible."

Before Mark can let him know exactly what he thinks about going off somewhere with him, Donghyuck chirps, "Let's go to our place!" and doesn't wait for a second before he's already dragging Mark away, telling Johnny to follow them.

The walk home is filled with Donghyuck's mindless chatter, coupled with Johnny’s occasional input. Mark remains quiet for most of the walk, except for the times Donghyuck or Johnny direct a question to him in particular, and even then he keeps his sentences short.

He’s not usually like this, but the way Donghyuck keeps talking about Johnny, with hearts in his eyes and awe in his voice... it's too much for Mark. It’s too much for his weak, whipped heart, and the envy climbing up his throat is threatening to choke him before they can even reach their apartment building.

Jaehyun is home, slumped over the couch cushions, a textbook lying open on his chest. Donghyuck goes to wake him up, but Mark stops him, shaking his head no. He knows Jaehyun has been working nonstop lately for his degree and he needs the rest. So instead, Mark leads Donghyuck and Johnny to their shared bedroom.

It’s a mess of papers and clothes thrown around the floor, but there's clear space on their beds and the desk chair, so Mark tells Johnny to sit there while he and Donghyuck sit across from him on Donghyuck's bed.

"So?" Mark asks after a minute of silence, which Johnny had spent peering curiously at the witchcraft books on their bookshelf. They’re mostly Donghyuck's: he's well versed in the business of dark magic, but lately he's been trying to follow in his grandmother's footsteps and learn light magic as well, but it hasn't been as easy as he originally thought it would be.

"Alright," Johnny clears his throat. "Where should I start? My name is Johnny Seo, Donghyuck told you I'm a wizard," he chuckles. "Although that is not the term I would use. The correct name is witch doctor. I work with voodoo."

"That’s what you do?" Mark asks, despite himself. He’s never met anyone who did voodoo before.

"Yes," Johnny nods. "I learned from my great aunt. I inherited her shop downtown. Donghyuck and I met weeks ago, when he came in looking for some herbs to perform a spell. And when I said I offered you could live with me, I meant I run a sort of... Let's call it a foster home? I and my friend Taeil opened the doors of our home a couple of years ago to people like us. Some go and some stay, but it's perfectly safe. The house is ours so there's no need to pay rent."

"What’s the catch?" Mark asks suspiciously.

"There’s none," Johnny shrugs. "Well, I think Ten would tell you the catch is that you have to live with Taeyong, but that's only because Ten doesn't know how to deal with his feelings. All we ask in return is to be at least civil with everyone, maybe help out with groceries or bills. If you can't, then you can do other things, like cooking and cleaning. As for Donghyuck, it's not exactly a rule, but I'm pretty sure Taeil hyung and Dongyoung will be on your case about your grades."

"How many people are there living with you?" Donghyuck asks. Mark can tell he's already sold, which isn't helping at all. Everyone knows Donghyuck doesn't have to ask twice for Mark to do whatever he wants.

Johnny counts with his fingers, muttering names under his breath. "Eleven people, if I'm not mistaken. Jaemin and Renjun are actually your age, Hyuck! They're the youngest in the house, too. We used to have others, but eventually they all moved out, got a home of their own, you know. The ones who have stuck around are family. Yuta would tell you we're a pack, but Dongyoung would throw himself out the window, probably," he chuckles.

"What are they?" Mark asks, curious despite himself.

Johnny smiles, like he knows Mark is coming around. Mark holds back the urge to hex him. "Ten and Renjun are pixies, which is not the same as fairies, as they'll have you know. Dongyoung and Taeyong are vampires, Kun and Sicheng are dragons. Taeil hyung is a human and the other three are wolves."

"You got wolves and vampires living together?" Mark raises his eyebrows. "And no one has lost a limb?"

"Well, Dongyoung and Yuta fight like cats and dogs and while Taeyong normally gets on their nerves and vice versa, he often acts as the peacemaker between them. Hansol hyung mostly keeps to himself so it's just those two we have to worry about. And even when they fight, all Jaemin has to do is get in the middle and Yuta will back down immediately. He’s their cub, you see, he'd never hurt Jaemin."

"And where, exactly, is this house?" Mark asks.

"About an hour north from here, but don't worry, there are plenty of buses and taxis going up and down all day, so neither of you will lose any class."

Mark would love to have any objection, simply out of pettiness, but he's got to admit that they could really use this. Without having to worry about rent, Mark won't have to get another job, Jaehyun will be able to finish the semester and, perhaps more importantly, Donghyuck will be able to graduate high school without having to skip out of anything with his classmates for something as stupid as work.

"Mark, can we, please?" Donghyuck is pleading, his eyes round and big and Mark is so, so weak. But before he can say yes, Johnny interrupts.

"Perhaps you should talk to your friend out there?" Johnny says. "That’s Jaehyun, right?"

"Right, yes," Mark sputters, sprinting out of the room. Behind him, Donghyuck blinks, then looks at Johnny like a lost puppy. Johnny pats his head in comfort.

~

While Johnny explains things to Jaehyun, Mark thinks.

At first, he thinks about the offer. His mind keeps turning the idea over and over, and despite his protests, the worst case scenarios replay at the forefront like an obnoxious billboard.

Mark imagines them falling into a trap, something like supernatural trafficking. He knows ogres in particular like to kidnap other creatures to sell their most precious parts in the black market in exchange for shiny things. Johnny could be in on it. Mark shakes away the thought as soon as it comes, however, because he'd be able to smell ogre on Johnny even if he were ten feet away.

So maybe it isn't a trap. But still, Mark keeps thinking of horrible things that could go wrong. At some point, he decides it's too much, after too many images of Jaehyun and Donghyuck getting hurt - or worse - flash in his brain.

A sudden laughter startles Mark out of his thoughts. He snaps his head up to find Donghyuck giggling into his hand, leaning into Johnny's personal space. Johnny is grinning, glancing fondly at Donghyuck. Even Jaehyun is biting back a smile, which makes Mark think that he seems to have missed a joke.

Donghyuck suddenly makes eye contact with Mark, his smile widening immediately, and it only serves to give Mark the sudden sensation that he's drowning. In feelings. Weird feelings, feelings Mark wants to ignore for as long as humanly possible.

And then some more.

Chapter Text

Jaehyun isn't ever happy about being woken up from his power naps. This time, he'll admit it was for a good reason, even if it doesn't make him any less cranky.

Witch doctor Johnny - as he introduced himself, after Donghyuck incorrectly called him a wizard three times - is nice and all, but Jaehyun still doesn't like him. He doesn't like him because he's been sitting in his living room for less than Ten minutes and he's already offered a solution to all of their problems, when Jaehyun hasn't been able to in almost a year. Not to mention Johnny hasn't broken a sweat, even under the glare Jaehyun has fixed on him.

It doesn't help how Donghyuck and Mark seem to be ready to pack up their five belongings into their one shitty suitcase and skip all the way across town to this house Johnny has told them about. It leaves a bitter taste in Jaehyun’s mouth, the sheer trust they have in this.

Somewhere in the back of his head, Jaehyun knows he's probably exaggerating. Mark is the smartest of the three; he wouldn't just trust anyone because of a couple of words. But Jaehyun also knows he would do anything Donghyuck asked him to, and there's no doubt Donghyuck is all in with this plan.

"Let me get this straight," Jaehyun says. He is still glaring at Johnny, but his eyes are too heavy with sleep for it to be too intimidating. "You and some human guy named Taeil, met years ago. You fostered a couple of vampires and pixies, and the next day you were buying a house in northern Seoul so you could take in more strays. You don’t bother to ask for rent, you don’t charge anyone a penny for living with you. And now you want us to come with you, too."

"Is it just me, or that sounds sketchy when you say it like that?" Johnny mumbles. Jaehyun watches him rub his - probably sweaty - hands on his jeans, looking every bit as suspicious as Jaehyun thinks he is. "Listen," he sighs, "Taeil and I just want to help others. I know what it's like, having to hide from the world, to pretend to be someone you're not. Or do you think it's easy to walk around with tattoos that move on their own?"

"What," Jaehyun and Mark deadpan. Donghyuck’s eyes light up in understanding.

"You got runes!" Donghyuck cheers, nearly sends him and Johnny flying to the other end of the living room as he throws himself at Johnny, landing half on his lap. "Can I see them, hyung, please?"

Johnny laughs awkwardly. He clearly didn't mean to let slip something like that, or he wasn't expecting such reaction from them. Nonetheless, Johnny unbuttons the first couple of buttons on his dress shirt, moving the fabric aside. Jaehyun blushes at the sight of tanned skin, but soon his attention shifts to the black ink on his chest.

There are two tattoos near his collarbones - Jaehyun recognizes the black dahlia, symbol of witchcraft, and he can't help but marvel at the fluttering petals. There’s also a slightly bigger one, three circles intertwined with each other to make a triangle, changing places every few seconds or so. Jaehyun doesn't know what it means, but he does know enough about magic to recognize it's probably a family crest of some sort.

"Is that why you always wear dress shirts, hyung?" Donghyuck asks, completely fascinated with the dahlia. Johnny nods, smiling at him fondly when Donghyuck mutters something about getting a living tattoo too. Jaehyun and Mark immediately refuse, to which Donghyuck huffs and murmurs, "just wait until I'm of age, assholes."

"Anyway, yeah." Johnny says, rearranging his shirt. Jaehyun is not disappointed, not at all. "I know what it's like. And I understand if you need more time to think about it, to discuss it among yourselves. It wouldn't be the first time we have a group like you join us, and I know it isn't always easy to agree on a change like this. So," he pulls out a card from his back pocket and hands it directly to Jaehyun, "think about it and call me in a couple of days to let me know what you decide."

With that, Johnny bids them goodbye. He asks Donghyuck to walk him out, to which the younger witch is more than happy to comply, holding onto Johnny’s forearm and chattering his ear off. The last thing Jaehyun sees of Johnny is his smile, so calm and easy-going, as he gives input when necessary.

After the door is shut closed behind Johnny and Donghyuck, and Donghyuck's voice can only be faintly heard through the walls until it is silent, Jaehyun turns to Mark and they lock eyes.

"We need to think about this," Mark tells him seriously. "We already know Donghyuck is on board, but we still need to discuss the three of us."

"I know," Jaehyun sighs. "Let’s do it tomorrow, ok? I’m too tired to think straight tonight."

Mark mutters something under his breath, a smile threatening to split his face in two. Jaehyun ignores him.

~

The following week, Jaehyun avoids talking about it. He’s not proud of it, but at least he's man enough to own up to it. He just doesn't know how he's going to say no to the other two, especially when they already have him beat if it comes down to a vote.

But Jaehyun can't just agree to something like this relying only on the word of a witch doctor he's met a grand total of one time. No matter how much Donghyuck vouches for him, Jaehyun won't feel comfortable unless he makes sure Johnny is for real.

"Why don't you just call him to hang out?" is Mingyu's solution. They’re sitting in Jaehyun's living room, and what was supposed to be a study session has turned into an opportunity for Jaehyun to vent about his problems to his less than willing friends. "Tell him you have questions - which you do - and take the chance to see if your gut is right or wrong."

Jaehyun stares at him over the rim of his glasses, trying to figure out if he's for real or not. After Mingyu only returns the stare for what feels like hours, Jaehyun splutters. "Are you crazy?" he hisses, "I can't just ask him out like that!"

"Who said anything about asking him out?" Mingyu raises both eyebrows. "It’s just a hang out. And low-key an interrogation. You’re scoping him out, that's all."

"It sounds like a date," Minghao inputs. The bored drawl of his voice indicates he's done with the conversation already, and honestly, Jaehyun can't blame him. "But we all know Jaehyun wants to get into his pants, so maybe it's not such a bad idea."

"I do not!" Jaehyun defends himself, at the same time Jungkook makes a sound of agreement. So far, he's the only one who hasn't shot Jaehyun judgemental looks, which the witch appreciates. Well, Seokmin hasn't either, but that's because the poor human had fallen asleep on the loveseat an hour ago and no one has had the heart to wake him up. Minghao nearly bit Bambam's hand off when the witch tried reaching for Seokmin's shoulder.

"Dude, you spent like, five minutes describing his tattoos in full detail. You also mentioned his 'tanned, toned skin' like three times," Bambam guffaws and honestly? Jaehyun regrets befriending him. "That’s gay."

"You’re gay," Jaehyun mumbles. Bambam doesn't dignify that with a response. "You know what? I’m calling Jisoo, she's actually helpful."

But after Jisoo's only comment is to "get that voodoo dick!", Jaehyun is starting to lose hope. And as much as he loathes admitting it, Mingyu’s idea isn't actually all that bad. Sure, he's not about to ask Johnny Seo on a fucking date, but there's no harm in calling him up for some coffee. Besides, Jaehyun could really use a distraction from his textbooks.

Jaehyun shifts uncomfortably in his seat while the phone rings, aware of the careful watch his friends have on him. Yugyeom and Jungkook at least have the decency to pretend like they're still studying, but Bambam is shameless in the way he's staring at the phone in Jaehyun's hand, as if he's willing Johnny to pick up the call with his mind. Jaehyun appreciates the gesture, even if the other witch sometimes makes him want to rip his own skin off. Seokmin snores softly from where his head is nestled on Mingyu’s shoulder.

Finally, the rings come to a halt, and Johnny's voice crackles through, "Hello?"

For an awful moment, Jaehyun doesn't remember how to talk, but Minghao nudges his ribs and it startles him enough to croak out, "Hey." Jaehyun pretends like he doesn't see Mingyu and Jungkook stifling laughter. After clearing his throat, Jaehyun says, "I was thinking. Maybe we should go, um. Have a coffee. So we can talk more about your... proposal."

Jaehyun immediately feels his heart shrivel up, the realization of how that sounded dawning on him. Minghao doesn't even bother hiding his mirth, laughing into his anatomy textbook. Jaehyun kicks him under the coffee table.

If Johnny caught onto the accidental double meaning of his words, he doesn't show it. "Of course! I’m free in an hour, you think you can make it? We could go to that coffee house near your apartment, you know the one with the paper flowers on the door?"

"Yeah, sure," Jaehyun agrees easily. He’s embarrassed to say he hadn't actually thought as far ahead as where they would go. "I’ll see you there."

"Alright," Johnny says. There’s silence on the line for about thirty seconds, until Johnny chuckles, "Goodbye, Jaehyun-ah."

"Bye," Jaehyun mumbles.

"Boy, you're a whole fool," Bambam shakes his head. "You’re lucky to have us."

"Why am I lucky to have you, exactly?" Jaehyun asks. Bambam answers in the form of dragging Jaehyun off the floor and to his bedroom, followed close behind by the rest of their group. Mingyu leaves Seokmin on the loveseat, covering him up with a throw blanket Donghyuck keeps forgetting in the living room. Yugyeom brings up the rear, shaking his head fondly at Bambam. "What are you doing?"

"We’re choosing your outfit," Jungkook says, like it's the most obvious thing. "Since you have the fashion sense of a blind nun in the 1800's."

Jaehyun tries to glare, but he receives a jean jacket to the face instead. He picks it up, looking at it in consideration, but Minghao rips it from his hands and throws it aside like its burning. "You are not wearing a jean jacket to your date."

"It’s not a date," Jaehyun and Mingyu say in unison. Except Jaehyun wails it, while Mingyu is simply correcting his mate.

"Still," Minghao frowns, staring at the offending piece, "...no. Jungkook, help me find something suitable."

Together, his friends raid Jaehyun's tiny closet, dissecting every article of clothing and discussing among themselves the merits of each one. In other words, they insult Jaehyun's clothes with every breath they take, while the boy can't do anything but lay back on his bed and take it. Mingyu and Yugyeom take up residence on either side of him, neither too interested in the scavenger hunt; Mingyu is back to highlighting sentences from his textbook, while Yugyeom is reading flashcards Jaehyun made for him. At least they leave Jaehyun alone, and he appreciates that.

~

The coffee house Johnny suggested is a quaint little place, ran by a friendly-looking guy named Kun. Jaehyun only learns his name because when he walks in, he sees Johnny talking to the barista, laughing at one thing or another, and when Jaehyun walks closer, Johnny introduces them.

This is probably the first time Jaehyun has stepped foot into the shop, which is a shame, he soon realizes. The decoration is mostly nature related, with flowers as centrepieces for the tables and a pretty rock fountain at the back of the room. The trickle of the water resonates around the space, creating an overall calm atmosphere. Jaehyun can feel himself relaxing already.

After Johnny leads them to a table near the windows, Kun comes to take their orders, leaving with a kind smile to Jaehyun and a roll of his eyes at Johnny's overly sweet words of gratitude. Jaehyun doesn't have time to wonder how they met, though, since Johnny gets right down to business.

"You had questions about the house, right?" he asks calmly, nodding to himself. "Ask away, then."

Jaehyun gathers his thoughts before blurting out, "It just doesn't sound real. I mean," he stammers, blushing at his own blunt words, "It seems too good to be true. How can I know we can trust you?"

Jaehyun was afraid he would offend Johnny; that the witch doctor would get angry and withdraw his offer, but instead, Johnny looks like he gets it, like he understands where Jaehyun is coming from. "I know," Johnny says. "I’d feel the same if I were you. And if there's anything I can do or say to make you trust me, please let me know. Right now, the only thing I can think of is..."

Jaehyun raises an eyebrow as he waits for Johnny to elaborate. The taller man is lost in thought for a full minute before he seemingly makes up his mind. "I can take you to the house," he offers. "Show you around. If we're lucky, you might even get to meet some of the guys."

Johnny waits patiently for Jaehyun's answer. When Kun comes back carrying their drinks, Johnny says something to him in Chinese. Jaehyun doesn't know any Chinese beyond 'hello' and 'thank you', so he doesn't even bother trying to figure out what they are talking about. It sounds good, however, if the way Kun's eyes light up is any indication.

After Kun returns to his place by the cash register, Jaehyun takes a careful sip of his coffee, waits for the scalding in his mouth to recede, then he finally nods.

"Alright," he says, "Show me."

Johnny lights up like a Christmas tree, beaming widely at Jaehyun. They finish their beverages in relative silence, which Johnny tries to fill with mindless chatter. Jaehyun doesn't entertain him, isn't sure he even can, given the state of chaos his mind is currently in.

Did he really just agree to this? He’s going to Johnny's house? Alone? Good god, Jaehyun, what were you thinking? What if you get kidnapped? Who’s going to take care of Mark and Donghyuck now, huh?

"Um," Johnny clears his throat, startling Jaehyun out of his thoughts. Johnny looks equal parts amused and concerned. "We can go now, if you'd like? I kind of have to pick up Renjun and Jaemin from school in an hour, so..." he trails off.

"Oh, yes, of course," Jaehyun scrambles out of the table, resolutely ignoring both the blush on his cheeks and the grin threatening to break across Johnny's face. "I’ll pay," Jaehyun pipes up, not giving Johnny a second to refuse before he's rushing off to the counter.

Jaehyun accidentally slaps his hands on the surface, scaring Kun out of his trance. (Jaehyun peeks over to find Kun in the middle of a solitaire match on the shop's desktop computer.) Kun gives him a funny look, but he tells Jaehyun the total and doesn't comment when it takes Jaehyun a full minute to get the correct amount of bills, even longer just to wrestle his wallet from his back pocket. Curse Bambam and his 'oh Jaehyun skin tight jeans are totally the trend right now hur hur hur'.

Johnny guides Jaehyun to his car, parked a block away from the shop. It’s maybe a few years old, but it's taken care of, save for a little bump in the passenger's door. "That’s what happens when you try to teach a highly temperamental wolf how to drive," Johnny says, poorly laced mirth in his voice. "It doesn't help if you bring his so-called nemesis along for the ride."

"Only you would put a vampire and a werewolf in the same car," Jaehyun scoffs.

Johnny laughs, starting the engine. "Seatbelt," Johnny reminds him, absent-mindedly, as if he's used to asking everyone who gets in the car to be safe. "And Yuta isn't a werewolf, he's a wolf, just wolf. They’re different, kind of how pixies and fairies are."

"Oh," Jaehyun giggles. "Sorry, my bad. Still, my statement stands."

"Common mistake," Johnny shrugs. "You can choose the music, if nothing is good on the radio you can use the AUX cord or take a CD from the glove compartment."

Jaehyun hums, right away fiddling with the dial. There are only a couple of stations playing music, but it's a whole lot of trot and old ballads, which Jaehyun isn't a big fan of. The CD collection is better, however, and Jaehyun takes out a SHINee album he finds, buried under a lot of foreign artists and a worrying amount of mixtapes. Music fills the car, the only noise for the rest of the ride.

Chapter Text

For someone who's been learning the ins and outs of dark magic since he was a toddler, Donghyuck sure seems to fuck up way too often. Be it because he lets himself be carried by his emotions, or his own innate ability to be the pettiest of all witches, Donghyuck is used to getting into trouble thanks to his magic.

However, this is the first time the police have gotten involved. Not Donghyuck's proudest moment, he'll give you that. Usually he'd feel bad about whatever he did at this point, but this time he's a little preocuppied with running away. His grandmother's words keep ringing in his ears: Don't let humans know you're special, Hyuckie - they never know how to react when faced with uniqueness.

Yeah, except Donghyuck never imagined he'd be here: struggling to pack everything he can into his school bag as he holds back the tears, while his dogs paw and whine at his bedroom door. Donghyuck can't take them with him, he knows that, and he knows he'll probably never see them again. That hurts more than the idea of not seeing his parents, which leaves a lot to be desired from them, honestly, but Donghyuck is so used to coming third or fourth in their priorities, he's unconsciously done the same to them.

Along with a change of clothes and clean underwear - because if his mother ever taught him anything, is to always carry clean underwear -, Donghyuck fits his grandmother's old book of spells, the one that always seemed to hold the answers to everything when he was younger. He stuffs his phone charger and money in the front pocket, and then he opens the door.

His dogs lap at his face as he bends down to say goodbye, burying his face into their soft fur. Donghyuck chokes on a sob when Sony tries to climb into his lap, and he knows he has to go now, and he entertains the idea of grabbing another bag and putting them inside for a second, but he really can't. He's not even sure how he's going to survive on his own, he knows he won't be able to take care of them, too.

"Bye," Donghyuck whispers. Rocky cocks his head to the side, like he doesn't understand why Donghyuck sounds so bad. "I love you guys. I'll try to come back for you."

Then, Donghyuck gets up, walks towards the window and throws his bag to the ground, then jumps out right after. He lands funny and sharp pain shoots up his ankle, but there's no time to worry about possible strains when he can hear the police sirens in the distance.

Donghyuck pulls the hoodie of his sweater over his head in an attempt to hide his face, picking up the pace as he speed walks out of his neighbourhood and towards the city. He doesn't have a set plan, other than finding the alleged witch his grandmother tutored too: his name is Jaehyun something, a couple of years older than Donghyuck, and even though he apparently specializes in light magic - which, lame, Donghyuck thinks -, he's the closest thing to safety Donghyuck can think of right now.

"Jaehyun was such a great student," his grandmother told Donghyuck, practically on her deathbed. "A sweetheart, so eager to learn. He always said he owed me one for teaching him so much. Well, I guess he'll have to repay it to you now."

She'd laughed, as if there was anything funny about her death, but Donghyuck got the message: if you're in trouble, find Jaehyun. He'll help you.

"He better," Donghyuck grumbles under his breath. A police car zooms past him and Donghyuck's heart nearly leaps out his throat, but it keeps going, meaning he wasn't recognized.

Okay, so maybe they haven't figured out my face, yet, Donghyuck thinks. They just know I can do stuff they can't. This is good. I still have a chance at running.

Donghyuck doesn't stop to think how they know his adress.

~

This Jaehyun guy allegedly lives downtown. Donghyuck did the math on the train: if he's fifteen, that means Jaehyun is about eighteen now, probably in college already. As far as Donghyuck knows, Jaehyun is an orphan, and he used to live in foster home.

The only memory he has of Jaehyun is from years ago, when Donghyuck was twelve. Jaehyun was in class with his grandmother, sat in one of her leather recliners, nearly asleep as she got a little too excited while describing the multiple ways to solidify water. Donghyuck had burst into the room excitedly, holding a dead bird in his hand - he'd recently learned he might be able to resurrect creatures and was desperately eager to start doing so.

Jaehyun, for a light magic user, was interested to see it too, and his grandmother had been forced to stop the lesson and entertain them. She was a chaos magic user, which in Donghyuck's mind translated to absolutely badass, and paid zero attention to the line between light and dark, so she had no trouble bringing the little bird back to life while talking about light constructing and how to forge a weapon out of spiritual force.

Donghyuck remembers the elation in Jaehyun's face when the bird chirped and flew out the window, quickly morphing into disappointment after Donghyuck was ushered out of the room so the lesson could continue.

The entire trip downtown, Donghyuck is desperately wishing Jaehyun is still that laidback, and that he remembers the promise he made to Donghyuck's grandmother.

Donghyuck only realizes the flaw in his plan when the train reaches its destination: he might have a name, but he doesn't have a face nor an adress, and he has no idea how he's going to find Jaehyun in this sea of people.

But before panic can really set in, Donghyuck breaths in. His pendant burns against his skin, atune to his emotions, and Donghyuck needs to get it under control before it hurts him. Pedestrians bump into him from all sides, everyone with a place to go, while Donghyuck can only stand there, feeling every bit like the lost teenager he is.

A loud cry of, "Jaehyun!" and Donghyuck thanks his lucky stars.

Fifty feet from where Donghyuck is, next to a newspaper stand and a kiosco, is a tall boy, black hair shaved at the sides, white jacket dirtied around the elbows and smiling widely, a dimple in full display.

That's him, Donghyuck thinks excitedly, I'd recognize that dimple anywhere.

Filled with newfound determination, Donghyuck walks up to him. He can tell the second Jaehyun's eyes land on him, the recognition flashing in his face a dead-giveaway.

"I know you," Jaehyun tells him. The smile is still in place, but it's strained around the corners. "You're Donghyuck, aren't you?"

"Yeah," Donghyuck nods. Jaehyun's friend, the one who yelled his name, joins them then, with clear curiosity. "I need your help."

Donghyuck doesn't know what they hear in his voice, but Jaehyun's features shift from apprehension to concern in a nanosecond, and his friend's demeanour changes too.

"Come on," Jaehyun nods towards the apartment building behind them, an ugly, grey thing with rusted iron gates in front of the door. "Let's talk somewhere else."

In the elevator, the friend sticks his hand out for Donghyuck to shake. "I'm Mark," he introduces himself, "Mark Lee."

"Lee Donghyuck," the witch grabs the offered hand, noticing faintly the firm grip, his mind too much of a mess right now for minor details like that to fully registre.

Inside the apartment, Donghyuck spills the beans. He tells them everything, not sparing a detail - Jaehyun is a light witch, and while he isn't sure what Mark can do, Donghyuck knows he's some sort of magic wielder too, because the energy coming from him is so strong it nearly knocked Donghyuck off his feet when they bumped shoulders in the hall.

"I got upset," Donghyuck admits sheepishly. "I always hated those kids and they wouldn't stop picking on me, saying so much shit," he spits, "I snapped."

"Donghyuck," Jaehyun says his name softly, cautiously, "What did you do?"

Donghyuck closes his eyes, terrified to see their faces when he tells them. "I used their shadows to beat them up. Shadow Marionettes, my grandma used to call it. Seriously dark magic."

Dark magic has never been something Donghyuck is ashamed of doing, but this time he knows he went too far. Interfering with someone's shadow is bad, too advanced for someone his age, probably.

"And now the police are after me," Donghyuck mutters. "Someone called them while I was busy making one of them eat his own fist. As soon as I noticed, I ran. I went home, packed a bag and took the train. I even left my dogs behind," Donghyuck hates that he sniffs at the reminder.

"You told my grandma you owed her one," Donghyuck continues. "Well, this is it. Please, help me."

If there's one thing Donghyuck hates, it's begging, and yet here he is. He's never felt so small before, so defenseless, and he loathes the sensation so much - he has to move the pendant over his shirt instead of under, lest it leaves a permanent mark on his skin.

"I can help you," Mark offers, raising his hand. "I specialize in Illusions, I could probably make those guys believe you didn't do anything. Without their statement, then the police can't do anything to you. I can even make them forget about you, so they don't bother you anymore."

"Can you do the same to my parents?"

Donghyuck doesn't realize he's said it out loud until silence falls around them, and his cheeks burn in embarrassment. "Sorry," he mumbles, "You can forget I said anything."

"No, I," Mark stumbles over his words. "I could do something like that, if you really wanted me to."

A beat of silence, then, "Yeah, I do. Please," he adds, because it's proper courtesy.

"Alright," Mark nods, cracking his knucles, and Donghyuck grimaces. He hates that sound. "Sorry," Mark giggles. "So, we're talking about an illusion at a large scale, then. I'll need something of yours, and -"

"Hold on," Jaehyun interrupts. "Donghyuck, are you sure about this? What are you going to do, after your parents and your friends all forget about you?"

"I don't have any friends," Donghyuck says, perhaps a little bitterly. "And honestly, it's just those three guys and my parents that have to forget me, everyone else at school will be happy to be rid of me."

Jaehyun frowns, clearly not happy with the idea, but lets Mark list off the things he'll need to perform the spell. Donghyuck procurs a strand of hair, ripped from the root, as warranted, and he sits next to Mark while the boy works on getting ready.

Donghyuck isn't familiar with this type of magic, and he's fascinated as he watches Mark gather the ingredients, writing the incantation in a slip of paper and then chant in a low voice, barely above a whisper. Donghyuck has no idea what's going on, but he loves it.

Mark looks drained when it's over, a little pale in the face, but he offers Donghyuck a smile when he asks if he's okay. "I'm fine, I just haven't done something like that before and it took more out of me than I thought. It should be enough, though. But really, what are you going to do now?"

Before Donghyuck can reply that he'll figure it out, Jaehyun reemerges from his bedroom to say, "He's staying with us, of course. No, Donghyuck, you can't argue with me. Your grandma helped me in ways you don't understand," Jaehyun's eyes are wide and honest as he sits in front of the two younger boys, "It's the least I can do for her. For you. Mark, did you leave any physical reminder of him?"

"Oh," Mark looks like a deer caught in headlights, "His room should still be intact, I don't think it'll disappear for another day. His dogs are still there, too."

"Good," Jaehyun smiles. "We can go over there in an hour, take whatever you want, bring your dogs here. You can room with Mark."

Mark doesn't even look upset to have to share his space with someone else, smiling brightly at Donghyuck. And Donghyuck? He starts crying right then, ugly sobs racking his body. He hasn't felt so safe and so cared for since his grandmother passed away - these strangers are so willing to take him in, all because he's the grandson of Jaehyun's old tutor? It sounds too good to be true, and yet it is, and Donghyuck feels relief flood his body.

"Thank you," Donghyuck sniffs. Mark doesn't look like he knows what to do, gingerly wrapping an arm around his shoulders. It's the most physical comfort he's received in years, and it only makes Donghyuck want to cry even harder. But he holds back, because he's already made enough of a fool out of himself, and he speaks again, louder this time, "Thank you, really. Both of you."

"No problem," Jaehyun reassures him. "You're family now. We look out for each other, right, Mark?"

"Absolutely," Mark grins at him.

Chapter Text

After an hour of driving, coupled with awkward silences between the end of one song and the beginning of another, Johnny pulls up into a gravel entrance. There’s a tall iron gate, which swings open at the press of a button in Johnny's car, a long driveway lined by trees, and at the end is the house.

Jaehyun has got to admit, Johnny wasn't lying when he said the house was big. Actually, 'big' doesn't seem to cut it, and neither does 'house'. It’s a mansion, three stories tall if you don't count the attic, and it stretches across a wide expanse of green grass. Johnny mentioned they bought the manor a couple of years ago, and that it had been really cheap considering the ran down state it'd been in, but they must have spent a lot of time fixing it, because now it looks beautiful.

There are floor to ceiling glass windows all along the top floor, while the first two floors have French balconies every thirty feet or so, probably the length of each room. There are flowers weaving around the balcony railings, and the front door alone is three times Jaehyun’s size long and almost twice his height.

"Are you sure you're not secretly rich?" Jaehyun asks, only half-jokingly.

Johnny chuckles, right behind Jaehyun, sending a shiver down the witch's back. He hadn't noticed how close Johnny was until now. "Not rich," Johnny clarifies. "I just have hard-working roommates. Please, come in."

The entrance hall is big, but practically devoid of furniture. There’s a lone table in the middle, decorated with a flower vase, lilies and roses and sunflowers looking pretty yet out of place. To Jaehyun's left is a wide hall, which seems to lead to a kitchen from what Jaehyun can see, and to his right is a lounge room, filled with classic looking couches and leather seats. There’s also a fireplace and a big bookshelf about to overflow. In front of Jaehyun is the largest staircase he's seen, spreading to the right and left, leading to two different sides of the house.

Jaehyun has taken three steps inside the entrance hall when a bat flies straight at his face. Jaehyun stumbles back in shock, and admittedly a bit of disgust because gross, and Johnny laughs.

"This is Taeyong," Johnny says. Taeyong the bat has settled on Johnny's shoulder. He and Jaehyun hold eye contact for a few seconds, the bat eyes him up and down curiously, and Jaehyun never knew a bat could be so judgemental before. "He can be shy around strangers, which is probably why he's in bat form right now. I’m sure you two will be easy friends, though!"

Jaehyun doesn't miss the obvious fondness in Johnny's voice when he talks about Taeyong, and perhaps a bit of jealousy swims in his stomach, but Taeyong is cute, especially when he scrambles back to hide behind Johnny's shoulder. Jaehyun has no idea what made him so skittish all of a sudden, when Taeyong seemed fine with him seconds ago.

"Hyung, have you seen Taeyong?!" comes a voice from the top of the stairs.

The guy that appears next is very clearly Ten, one of the pixies. Jaehyun knows because, for one, he's barely five feet tall, maybe a couple inches more, and two, he's got wings attached to his back, not too big but still noticeable, shimmery white. Even from afar, Jaehyun can see the glittery eye shadow and blush on his cheeks. Donghyuck will probably like him.

Ten floats down to where they are, nodding to Jaehyun in acknowledgment before he turns to Johnny, looking disapprovingly at him. Actually, he's looking at Taeyong, who is yet to leave his hiding spot.

"Hyung, you can't keep running away from me," Ten tuts.

Johnny purses his lips. "And you can't be this rude to our guest, Ten-ah. Jaehyun, this is Ten. Ten, meet Jaehyun."

Jaehyun offers a shy smile, a bit intimidated by this tiny guy with glitter all over his face. Ten smiles a mega-watt smile back at him, chirps a greeting, then goes back to Taeyong, his entire face changing entirely. "Hyung, come on, this is ridiculous."

"What are you trying to do to the poor guy?" Johnny asks. He’s amused, Jaehyun can tell.

"I just want to try out a new blush palette," Ten whines, stomping his feet like a kid. "It’s too light for my skin so I thought I’d try it on Taeyong hyung instead."

Johnny rolls his eyes, bringing his hands back to his neck to grab Taeyong. The bat flutters his wings in protest, but it doesn't help his case, and he is handed off to Ten. "Don’t traumatize him too much, will you?" Johnny asks Ten. The pixie doesn't offer an answer, skipping away happily with Taeyong in his hands, shouting a 'nice to meet you' over his shoulder. Jaehyun doesn't think he can say Ten climbs the stairs as he goes, it's more like he flutters his wings and graces the steps lightly, and soon he's disappearing around the same corner he came from.

When they're gone, Johnny shoots Jaehyun a sheepish smile and says, "Sorry about that. I'd love to say they're not usually like this, but that would be a lie."

Jaehyun laughs quietly at that. He shakes his head, following after Johnny as they make their way further inside the house. "Don't worry, Mark and Donghyuck are often doing the same thing. Hyuck likes to wear makeup and nail polish but absolutely refuses to try new things on himself."

They're walking along the long corridor, and Jaehyun thinks they're going into the kitchen, but instead they take a turn to the right when the hall ends, entering a shorter corridor that leads to a living room.

"Ten literally does the same," Johnny's laughter is booming. It makes something weird curl in Jaehyun's chest. "He once tried it on me, but I guess I'm too fast for him."

"You ran away?" Jaehyun raises both eyebrows in his direction. Johnny throws his hands up in defense, and Jaehyun laughs, louder than he intended.

"Ten is a menace," Johnny says, "Renjun is more trust-worthy than him, which is why I'd let him put makeup on me if he tried. Not Ten, though."

"I'm hurt," Ten's voice floats through the air. Jaehyun didn't notice him trailing them, nor did he notice the other boy that's walking alongside him. Jaehyun guesses it's Taeyong, given the splatches of pink on his cheek. It suits him, Jaehyun thinks.

Johnny doesn't bother turning around as he says, "It's true."

The living room is decorated tastefully, every bit what Jaehyun has always imagined any other living room in a rich mansion would look like. Like the rest of the house, the floor and the walls are made of wood, but it looks fresh, painted on the redder side of brown. The furniture is all shades of green, blue and random splashes of red, but what catches Jaehyun's attention the most is the bar that takes up an entire wall.

There are three rows of alcohol on display, from regular beers to expensive bottles of wine and champagne. Mostly there is a lot of vodka and tequila, however, or as Jaehyun likes to call them, the fun stuff.

"Impressive," he says, nodding to himself.

"Thanks," Ten pipes up, looking proud of himself. "It was my idea. Grumpy here," he points a thumb in Taeyong's direction, "didn't want it, but he caved easily."

Taeyong scowls at the accusation, batting Ten's hand away. "I just don't think keeping alcohol in display when we have literal teenagers in the house is a good idea."

"You can worry about Jaemin all you want, but you know Renjun wouldn't have a drop before he's of age," Ten says, proudly. Jaehyun remotely remembers Renjun is the other pixie of the house, the same age as Donghyuck.

Jaehyun doesn't hear whatever Taeyong mutters under his breath, but Ten does, and the two engage in a whooping session, although they never actually land any harsh blows on each other, they just slap at arms and exposed skin, along with exclaimed insults so clever Jaehyun thinks Donghyuck will be thrilled to be here.

Johnny ignores them for the most part, except when one of Ten's flailing limbs nearly hits him in the face. Johnny grabs the offending arm and easily lifts Ten off the ground, relocating him to his other side, away from Taeyong's reach. While Ten looks offended, Jaehyun has too look away, his throat suddenly feeling parched at the shameless display of strenght. Jaehyun thinks he might pass out.

"Take a seat, Jaehyun," Taeyong offers, moving behind the counter as if nothing happened. "Do you want anything? Let's talk."

Ten rolls his eyes at Taeyong, muttering something about politeness, as he plops down next to Jaehyun, close enough the witch can feel his body warmth. "No, thanks," Jaehyun turns down the offer, thinking that it wouldn't be a good idea to drink anything lest they spike his glass. A voice in his head, which sounds too much like Donghyuck, calls him paranoid. Taeyong says something under his breath to Johnny, who nods in response.

"Are you sure?" Johnny asks, weaving around Taeyong as they make drinks for themselves. "We have non-alcoholic stuff here, too, you know?" His eyes are twinkling, though, teasing him.

Jaehyun shrugs. "Alright," he relents, because other than his paranoia, he doesn't really sense any ill intentions from them.

Johnny flashes him a grin, getting to work on something for Jaehyun. "Why yes, hyungs, I'd love something to drink, too," Ten calls out, annoyed, a hint of underlying fondness tinting his voice.

When neither makes a move to whip something up for him, Ten gives an enraged shout and flings himself at the counter. He's all over Johnny in a second, climbing his back until he's safely perched on his shoulders, and then he starts tugging at Johnny's ears. Johhny doesn't even bat an eye, but Taeyong tells Ten to leave him alone, which leads to another round of bickering from them. Jaehyun filters them out, engrossed in the way Johnny's forearms look as he mixes drinks. Johnny catches his eye and he smirks subtly, no doubt aware of what's going through Jaehyun's mind.

His ears perk up when he hears Ten whine, "It's not fair, you had him all to yourself last night, it's my turn!"

Ten has somehow craddled Johnny's face in his arms, although it looks more like he's got him in a chokehold, and Taeyong gives a scandalized gasp, looking outraged and flustered at the same time. Jaehyun doesn't know what to do with the information, especially when Johnny is blushing red and avoiding to look directly at Jaehyun.

"Ok, that's enough," Johnny grumbles, quite literally shaking Ten off him. Ten lands on a heap on the ground, and Jaehyun doesn't see him anymore, so he thinks it's safe to say Ten is either dead or simply has lost his interest.

Johnny has already made himself comfortable next to Jaehyun when Taeyong perks up and says, "Yuta and Dongyoung are back."

"You know," comes Ten's voice, somewhere behind the counter, "for someone who is always three minutes away from challenging them to a duel to the death, you seem awfully happy to know they're home."

"Shut up, Ten," Taeyong sighs. The next second, two people that Jaehyun assumes are Dongyoung and Yuta enter the living room. He immediately identifies the one with dark hair as a vampire, thanks to the ridiculous paleness of his skin and the sharp fands poking out of his mouth, similar to Taeyong's. Which means the one who looks ready to punch someone in the throat is Yuta.

"Where's Hansol?" Ten asks them. No greetings. "He's the only one I like in this family. And the kids. Everyone else can choke, honestly."

"Thanks," Johnny mumbles. Jaehyun stiffles a giggle behind his drink, but assumed-Yuta seems to hear him, because his eyes flicker to him and stay there for a full minute. "Anyway, this is Jaehyun. Jaehyun, meet Dongyoung, the one with the fangs, and that's Yuta, the one staring a hole into your face."

Yuta looks away immediately, only to glare at Johnny. Johnny smiles placidly at him, "Down, pup. You're not as scary as you may think you are." Yuta's only response is a growl from his chest, fading away when Taeyong grabs his wrist and leads him to the bar.

"Disagree," Ten calls. "He's not scary, period. And anyway, don't you have to go pick up the kids, Johnny?"

"Oh, yeah," Johnny says, mystified. "I totally forgot. And I couldn't even give Jaehyun a tour. Taeyong, would you mind?"

"Being chauffer or tour guide?" Taeyong raises an eyebrow, now draped over Dongyoung, who has taken residence on a stool by the counter. "Because I would actively hate doing either of those."

Dongyoung chooses for him, in the form of getting off the stool with purpose and Taeyong is nearly sent to the ground. "Jaehyun, Taeyong can give you a tour of the house. Johnny, I'm coming with, I need to talk to you about something."

There's no room left for argument, and Johnny promises to be back soon to rescue Jaehyun before he's whisked away by Dongyoung, who practically drags him away by the collar of his shirt. Taeyong heaves a great sigh, which is actually kind of funny considering there's no need for him to take a breath, meaning he deliberately took an intake of air just for the dramatics, and he waves Jaehyun to walk with him.

"Sorry about," Taeyong coughs, "all that. Ten can be a handful sometimes."

Jaehyun laughs awkwardly, fumbling with what he hopes is a coherent answer, and then they lapse into an even worse awkward silence. Taeyong talks only to point things out to Jaehyun, until he realizes it isn't exactly necessary for him to say things like, "This is the kitchen," since Jaehyun can tell, and from then it's just. Silent. Until,

"What's the deal with you and Johnny, anyway?"

Just for the record, Jaehyun would like to point out that he could have fallen down the stairs, but he didn't, and that's what matters. He does, however, flounder and gape at Taeyong. He's sure that if vampires could blush, Taeyong would be as red as a tomato. As it is, the makeup Ten put on him makes for a great substitute - it makes his eyes stand out, if that even makes sense.

"I'm sorry?" Jaehyun squeaks.

Taeyong fumbles to put on a bracelet on his wrist, clearly flustered, and shrugs, "I mean, Johnny wouldn't just bring you here if he didn't trust you. And he also really seems to like you, and you blush everytime he looks at you, so," he shrugs again.

Jaehyun doesn't know how to answer that. "Listen, Taeyong, if you and Johnny are a thing, I swear -"

"What makes you think we are?" Taeyong is porperly scandalized.

"Just," Jaehyun stutters, "what Ten said, earlier."

"God," Taeyong laughs, and it's an honest laugh, "No, Johnny and I aren't... a couple, if that's what you mean. We just mess around sometimes. That's, uh, quite common in the house. I mean, there are about two established couples, you know, but I guess you could say it's an open relationship? Everyone is open field - is that the term? I'm sorry, I'm not good with modern day metaphors - It's confusing, I know, but I think you'll catch on pretty quickly.

"And also," Taeyong hesitates. "I think you should know: I can read your thoughts. Usually, I wear this bracelet," he points to the chain link on his wrist, the one he'd been playing with, "To block out other people, but Johnny asked me to keep an ear out on your mind. Not to be intrusive or anything! We just like to make sure that those coming here have good intentions. Thanks, by the way; I was worried the blush wouldn't work."

"Did I at least pass the test?" Jaehyun asks. He'd be more upset about the invasion of his privacy if he weren't so embarrassed.

Taeyong nods and offers him a smile. "You have a pure mind, Jaehyun. I mean, aside from checking out Johnny, your thoughts stayed on your friends, Mark and Donghyuck. You really seem to care about them, and your head in general is just," he mulls over his words before continuing, "Fresh. Kind, almost childlike, but there's also a lot of maturity in you. I liked your mind, Jaehyun."

"Th-thank you," Jaehyun wants to curse himself for stuttering. God, are humans even capable of this much embarrassment?

"Ugh," Ten groans, coming up from behind them. "How sappy."

Ten is halfway on Taeyong's shoulders when the vampire shakes him off. Ten pouts, clearly put out, and tries to climb on top of Jaehyun instead. Jaehyun just freezes, unsure if it would be too rude if he asked the pixie to get off him.

Taeyong makes the decision for him. "Don't let him bully you," Taeyong warns him. "If you're not comfortable with the skinship, that's okay. Just don't let it happen now because you're awkward or you'll be stuck as his cuddle buddy for the rest of your life."

Ten doesn't even try to deny it. His arms are still on Jaehyun's shoulders, but he's put distance between their bodies, just in case Jaehyun decides he ultimately isn't okay with it. Jaehyun ends up shrugging. "I don't really mind it," he admits. "Donghyuck is very touchy and since Mark doesn't like that kind of stuff..."

"Great!" Ten cheers, then proceeds to climb onto Jaehyun's shoulders, much like he did to Johnny earlier. Jaehyun wonders if he likes to do this because it makes him feel tall. "And by the way, Taeyong, this tour sucked balls. You didn't even show Jaehyun the best part!"

And then, as if forgetting Jaehyun is an actual person and not a horse, he lunges forward with only his hands to keep him in place, and Jaehyun has no choice then to go along, while Ten leads the way. Taeyong follows at a slower pace, but when Jaehyun chances a look to him, he finds the vampire is smiling to the back of Ten's head.

Apparently, the "best part" is a dance room on the top floor, the one with all glass walls. Yuta is already there when they arrive, sat against one of the windows and fiddling with an iPod connected to a stereo. Unlike before, he doesn't glare at Jaehyun, but his face remains neutral; Jaehyun will still count it as a win.

"You dance?" Taeyong asks him, as he goes to stand by Yuta. Jaehyun hand't noticed before, but all three are dressed in somewhat baggy clothes, sweatpants and loose shirts.

Jaehyun feels self-conscious all of a sudden, standing there in the damn skinnies Bambam insisted he wore and the pink sweater. Still, he nods shyly. "Yeah. I never received any formal classes or anything, though, I just danced with my friends."

"Yeah, me too," Yuta speaks for the first time, pointing at his two friends, "They went to all these fancy ass schools and workshops, while I only had a dance crew, and yet I'm better than them."

Ten finally jumps down from Jaehyun's shoulders, and it's only to kick Yuta. Taeyong doesn't react beyond rolling his eyes. "I can lend you other pants and you can join us," he offers. Then, he doesn't wait for Jaehyun to answer, disappearing out the door with vampire speed; he's back within seconds, with a pair of track pants in hand. "Here, these are Johnny's. You look about his size."

Jaehyun hopes the others mistake his blush for shyness to be wearing a stranger's clothes and not for what it is, a result of getting to wear something of Johnny. At least, Taeyong doesn't bat an eye at the blush, but he's gnawing on his bottom lip with his fangs, watching Jaehyun carefully.

"You can use the bathroom down the hall," Yuta says conversationally, stretching in front of the mirror. It snaps Jaehyun out of his daze and he thanks Taeyong for the pants before scurrying out of the dance room.

Jaehyun is back quickly, the pants a little too loose for him, but he tied them with a headband he tends to carry with him. Ten is squabbling with Yuta about the music, something about Yuta's shitty trap not good enough for dancing, and Taeyong is merely watching them through the mirrors.

"We should stretch," Taeyong suggests to Jaehyun, guiding him to one of the corners. "Besides, knowing them, they'll bicker until Hansol hyung comes home."

"Johnny said Yuta and Hansol have a cub?" Jaehyun asks carefully. He doesn't mean to pry, but he's very curious to know how that's possible.

"Oh, yeah, Jaemin," Taeyong nods. "He's eighteen, and he's not really their son. They sort of adopted him when he was twelve, but they've raised him like their own."

Jaehyun giggles a little, thinking how similar it is to his situation with Mark and Donghyuck. "I get that," Jaehyun says. "I've been taking care of Mark since he was thirteen - of course, I was only fifteen at the time, but..."

"And Donghyuck came to you later, right?" Taeyong prods, his eyes shining wih curiosity. "Three years ago?"

Jaehyun eyes him. "How much did you snoop around my head, exactly?"

"I can guarantee you he went as far back as he could," Yuta shouts, from the other end of the room.

"Stop listening in on other people's conversations!" Taeyong shouts back.

"You were talking about me, of course I was listening!"

"Have you ever heard of manners?!"

"I'll show you manners, you noodley fuck!"

"Oh my God," Ten moans. "Enough! Go fuck in the couch or something, anything, just stop this."

Jaehyun must admit, it's kind of funny to watch them fight. Even if he's never been more confused in his life.

"Stop telling Yuta to fuck Taeyong, one of this days he's actually going to do it."

The newcomer is tall, taller than Jaehyun, maybe even taller than Johnny. He has black hair, big eyes and smells like wet dog, which tells Jaehyun it's Hansol.

"Jealous?" Yuta grins. Hansol rolls his eyes so hard, Jaehyun fears they'll fall out of his head.

"Are you kidding?" Hansol says, "I'm happy for you, Taeyong's a great fuck."

Taeyong screams bloody murder just as Ten laughs so hard he starts coughing. Jaehyun laughs too, but his is more of a surprised laugh, kind of awkward. Taeyong was right when he said the relationships were confusing. But they seem comfortable with each other, Jaehyun notices, watching Hansol smile goofily at Ten, who hasn't stopped laughing yet, Yuta leering at Taeyong, the poor guy clearly wishing to be swallowed by the ground.

"Anyway," Hansol breaks the mood. "I got an idea for a choreography. Oh, I'm Hansol, by the way," he tells Jaehyun.

"Jaehyun, nice meeting you," Jaehyun waves shyly.

They dance for an hour, maybe more, until Johnny is back home. Jaehyun is, surprisingly, disappointed to have to go, but Ten makes him promise to come back, even if it's just to visit, and Jaehyun realizes he means it. He does want to return here, maybe for even longer than just a visit.

In the car, Johnny has a tranquil smile on his face. "So? What did you think?"

"I like your roommates," Jaehyun confesses. "If you look past the yelling and the innuendos, that is. I'm also still lost on the relationships but I think I'll get the hand of it after a while."

"Wait, so you're coming to live with us?" Johnny asks, and he sounds so excited, Jaehyun feels himself start to smile, too. "Really?"

"Yeah, I suppose," Jaehyun nods.

"Donghyuck is going to be so happy," Johnny says, more to himself. "Although I'm not so sure about Mark."

Jaehyun snorts. "He'll be happy that Donghyuck's happy."

"Mark's really whipped for him, isn't he?" Johnny grins. "But it's not like you're one to talk - you love them just as much."

"Of course I do," Jaehyun chuckles. "They're my family."

Chapter Text

Mark does a lot of thinking while he packs. Mostly, he thinks about his mom.

He still keeps the letter she wrote him years ago, safe in a little box the orphanage provided for the kids to storage anything they wanted. Mark wonders how she is, where she is - if she ever got her life back together or if she's gone now.

The letter is something Mark doesn't share with anyone. Jaehyun knows it's there because he once accidentally knocked the box off the drawer and it fell out, but Donghyuck has no idea it exists. In it, his mother explains why she had to give him up, along with promises of her love for him and a single PO Box address, in case Mark ever wants to contact her. He’s written countless of letters, but he's never sent a single one.

Mark has few memories of his mom. He remembers how happy he always felt when he saw her coming to pick him up from school, the smell of her hand cream and the sound of her laugh. He remembers how sick she was those last couple of months, the thinness of her wrists so terrifying to his four-year-old self. He remembers the empty sight of their fridge and the early morning runs to the convenience store that gave gross discounts before seven am.

Finally, he remembers when she left him at the orphanage. She wrapped a scarf around his neck, told him to keep a tight grip on his things, kissed his nose and walked away. Mark cried for three days straight, yelling that he wanted to see his mommy, but she never came back, and eventually, Mark stopped calling for her.

Living at the orphanage could have been worse. Mark heard horror stories from the other kids, stories of neglect and abuse, but his mother had the sense to put him somewhere with a good reputation, and the nuns in charge were kind to everyone, albeit strict, and Mark never missed a meal and no one ever dared lay a hand on me, so he supposes he was lucky. He got one of the top bunks in his shared room and never moved his belongings from his trunk. Whenever anyone asked, he would tell them it's because he found it safer, but the truth is that he was hoping for his mom to pick him up.

"Yah, Lee," Donghyuck calls his name, effectively pulling him out of his thoughts. "Are you done yet? Johnny is downstairs with the moving truck."

"Yeah," Mark nods, zipping up his carrier.

Mark takes one last look around their shared room, but the only things left behind are the furniture and the boxes. He follows Donghyuck down the hall and into the living room, where Johnny is helping move the boxes while Jaehyun pretends he isn't fascinated by the witch doctor's hair, swept back and out of his face. There are two moving men carrying their bookshelf out the door, and a third is putting boxes on a trolley to wheel them out.

"I think I’m going to miss this place," Donghyuck says quietly, so only Mark hears him. When Mark looks at him, Donghyuck’s eyes are trained on the wall outside the bathroom, tracing the pencil marks with the tip of his fingers. Those are the height measurements Jaehyun made Mark go through when he was younger, after they started living together. Mark thought it was silly, but he did grow through the years, and it shows on the wall. Jaehyun would size himself up, just so Mark wouldn't feel quite so childish, and when Donghyuck moved in with them, they did it to him, too.

"Me, too," Mark smiles. The best years of his life, minus the ones with his mom, were the ones he spent here. "But we're going somewhere better, Hyuck. There are people like us there. It’ll be fun."

Donghyuck grins at him. "We’ll be the only witches there. Johnny doesn't count."

As if summoned, Johnny turns his head and shoots Donghyuck a faux glare. "What do you mean, 'Johnny doesn't count'? And that's Johnny hyung to you, punk."

Donghyuck sticks his tongue out, back to normal. Mark rolls his eyes at his friend's mood swings, lugging his bag to the center of the living room. He wishes he could put a spell on it so it doesn't weight as much, but regretfully, he's going through a slump right now. None of the spells he's tried in the past week have worked - the closest he got was a luck bag for Jaehyun to take to his exam, but apparently it started burning in the middle of it, and Jaehyun had to throw it in the garbage bin.

"Is everyone ready?" Jaehyun asks the two younger boys. "You all got your things?"

A chorus of bored 'yes's and Jaehyun purses his lips, but he's too jittery and excited to be exasperated. Mark recognizes the look in his eyes, the tapping of fingers against his thighs to know Jaehyun can't wait to be out of here.

Donghyuck all but skips out of the apartment, Johnny on his tail. Mark takes one last look around, commits the place to memory, and then he's out. Jaehyun is left to lock the door.

~

Upon arrival to the house, Johnny runs inside, shouting back something about gathering everyone downstairs. The three of them are left waiting in his car, squeezed in alongside their luggage and their dogs.

Jaehyun twists in his seat to look at the boys in the backseat, his face pulled into a contorted expression of worry. "Are you guys absolutely sure this is what you want? It’s not too late to back out."

"It kind of is," Mark mumbles, pointing at the moving men placing their stuff on the threshold of the house. "And either way, hyung, you want this. You hated that apartment."

"I didn't hate it," Jaehyun frowns. "It just bugged me. It was enough when I was on my own but then I had you two to take care of and suddenly it was too small, too crowded. But I didn't hate it, Mark."

They’re whispering, as if they don't want anyone intruding in their conversation. Donghyuck leans forward into the space between the two front seats, nearly bumping his head against Jaehyun’s in the process. "Hyung, it was enough, believe me. It was my first home, and that made it enough, regardless of the size. Even if I had to share a room with Mark hyung and his snores."

"Hey!" Mark protests, but Donghyuck shoots him a look that says he knows it's true. "Whatever. Look, the point is, hyung, we're going to miss the apartment, yeah, but like. This is better. And it's not like we moved because of the apartment itself, right? We did it because there was no way to pay the bills."

Jaehyun doesn't look too reassured. Donghyuck rolls his eyes at Mark, muttering something about an idiot. "Hyung," he says gently, still talking in a hushed tone. "You did the best you could. You put a roof over our heads; you put food in our plates and clothes on our backs. You’re like a super mom or something. But we have to accept that it's time to move on."

"You’re right," Jaehyun nods. "As usual," he adds with a laugh. Donghyuck smirks, self-satisfied. "I love you kids. I don't say it enough, I think."

"We love you, too, hyung," Mark says and Donghyuck nods enthusiastically, smiling brightly. "But I think we should go out now. They’re all standing outside and pretending not to be looking at us." Rocky and Sony leap out of the car, disappearing inside the house within seconds.

Mark and Donghyuck are introduced to the guys. Donghyuck takes an instant liking to Jaemin the wolf, and Mark finds its fun talking to Renjun the pixie. Jaehyun is assaulted by Ten; the other pixie in the house, and they end up sprawled on the grass. Johnny, along with another guy around his height, stares at them for a full ten seconds before turning away. The moving men drive off.

“Ok, so this is Hansol,” Johnny points at the tall guy. “That one over there is Yuta and that’s Taeyong. Taeil is inside with the others and Dongyoung should be home any moment now.”

There’s a pause in the conversation, during which Donghyuck glues himself to Mark’s side and Jaehyun gets up from the ground. Ten is dragged away by Yuta, and even though he’s pouting, he goes willingly. The three make a unified front across the others, with Johnny rocking back and forth on his heels, smack dab in the middle.

“Dongyoung is here,” Taeyong pipes up. On cue, a car pulls up on the driveway, gravel crunching under the tires. Taeyong frowns. “He’s got two others with him.”

The engine dies, and a tall man steps out of the vehicle. Mark can make out the shape of two heads that stay inside, but he can’t see anything more. The man, most likely Dongyoung, approaches them, smiling kindly at the three before his eyes fleet to the rest of his housemates. “I found two others. Shifters, a cat and a dog. One of them is eighteen and the other is nineteen.”

“And you didn’t tell anyone?” Taeyong asks.

“I told Johnny hyung,” Dongyoung replies, “And he told Taeil hyung. They said its fine. And we all know none of you cares.”

“Well, go get them!” Ten encourages, grinning with excitement. It seems to Mark like he enjoys meeting new friends.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the taller one is the dog; there is a sort of restless energy about him, his big brown eyes moving to take in everything around him, the enthusiastic smile of his face, it all gives him away. Meanwhile, the shorter one is definitely a cat – with the way he’s more sedate, almost lazy in his movements, a tranquil smile on his face as he says hello and introduces himself as, “Lee Jeno, and this is Wong Yukhei.” Mark thinks he pronounces his friend’s name with a cute accent.

Everyone chorus the greeting, throwing names around. Mark worries the shifters won’t catch them all, but there isn’t even a hint of confusion in their eyes. Johnny invites everyone inside, and while Mark and Donghyuck stick together like glue, feeling out of their depth, Renjun approaches Yukhei, asks him, “Do you speak Chinese?” and at Yukhei’s affirmative, Renjun latches to his arm and drags him along, chattering away. Jeno is approached by Jaemin, and then the two go closer to Donghyuck and Mark.

The four strike up conversation, but it’s mostly Donghyuck and Jaemin talking – Mark hasn’t known Jaemin for longer than ten minutes, but he knows Donghyuck, and the normally chatty boy gets even chattier when he’s nervous, and he’s certainly nervous now, if his death grip on the sleeve of Mark’s sweater is anything to go by. But Jaemin is friendly, and he’s sweet, and he even coaxes answers out of Mark and Jeno.

They’re halfway to what Mark assumes is the living room when Jaehyun stops in his tracks, causing Donghyuck to bump into his back. Mark cranes his neck to see around them, and there’s a young man standing there, holding a platter of freshly baked cookies and smiling gently at them.

“Hello, Jaehyun,” the man says, extends the platter towards them and offers, “Cookies? It’s a fresh batch.”

“Kun,” Jaehyun croaks, in a squeaky, surprised kind of way. “Hi. I didn’t know you were…”

Kun laughs, and Mark notices they’ve been left alone in the hall, Jaemin and Jeno gone, Donghyuck still holding on to him. “Yeah, sorry about that. We weren’t sure you’d stay and I don’t like to divulge my identity.”

“No, no, that’s okay,” Mark can’t see his face, but he bets Jaehyun’s eyes are wide. “I totally get that. I’m surprised, that’s all.”

Kun nods, offers the cookies once more. Donghyuck takes two, hands one off to Mark and shoves his own into his mouth. Mark has to sigh, wondering what happened to manners. “Donghyuck, I see you’re wearing the charm I told you about,” Kun says conversationally, and Mark nearly chokes on his cookie.

“Oh, yes,” Donghyuck’s face lights up, touching the earring on his right ear. “It’s amazing, hyung! It works like a charm,” he says, and then laughs in bewilderment. “No pun intended.”

Kun smiles happily, moving to the side to let them pass. “I’m glad to hear that. You must be Mark? I’ve heard a lot about you from Donghyuck.”

Mark blushes, but he suspects it doesn’t rival the red travelling across Donghyuck’s cheeks and ears. “Yeah, that’s me,” he says lamely. Jaehyun's shoulders shake with suppressed laughter.

"Why don't we go join the others?" Kun asks, saving all of them from further embarrassment. "Dinner will be served soon."

Dinner is an interesting affair. The senior housemates are loud, save for Kun, who smiles and laughs at all the appropriate moments, and Hansol, who watches everyone with the same fond gaze, while the new members of the house are trying their best to keep up with the conversation, which seems to change as fast as possible.

Still, Mark feels oddly at peace here. There's a warm feeling spreading in his chest, much like the one he felt back at their apartment, but this one burns a little brighter, a little stronger, as if the final puzzle has finally been put in place. Mark could sit here forever, listening to Taeyong and Dongyoung bicker, then Yuta joining in, then Ten just for the hell of it, Taeil trying to bring some semblance of quiet but going largely ignored.

And with Donghyuck and Jaehyun on either side of him, both wearing matching serene smiles, Mark knows he's home.

~

That night, long after everyone has gone to bed and the house has fallen silent, Donghyuck crawls under the covers of Mark's bed. They're sharing a room, just the two of them, because this manor has more bedrooms than you'd think and they're certainly enough so that only two people must room together.

Mark remembers the first few nights after Donghyuck moved in with them. Mark isn't particularly a light sleeper, but he'd been on edge at the time, worrying too much about school, and it didn't take too much for him to wake up, so whenever Donghyuck shifted and turned in bed, the sheets rustling and the headboard creaking lightly every once in a while, Mark would wake up.

It wasn't until the third night that Mark did anything about it, however. He'd sighed, usually an unnoticed noise, this time too loud in the dark room, and then he'd offered Donghyuck to sleep with him. Of course, Donghyuck's pride wouldn't allow it, but Mark insisted, and Donghyuck caved.

Donghyuck explained to him, in those last minutes between consciousness and sleep, that he's not good with new places, and he always has a hard time sleeping if it's not in his bed.

Now, Mark shuffles closer to the wall and Donghyuck follows, until they're pressed together and Mark has to hold himself back from doing something stupid.

"You know," Donghyuck whispers, and it sounds awfully conversational, "It is common knowledge that witches can't perform without a clear head."

"Huh?" Mark frowns.

Donghyuck raises his head so he's looking at Mark, his lips doing a pouty thing at the angle. "You've been having problems with your magic lately. You haven't managed a spell in a while."

Mark nods, not sure where this is going. Donghyuck continues, "And usually, the recommended course of action is to work out whatever is eating away at your head and tainting your spirit."

There's a pause, during which Mark blinks in quick succession and Donghyuck stares impassively at him. "Mark, you and I know what's the solution to this."

"We do?" Mark asks.

Donghyuck's eyes close halfway through an eye roll. "You're so stupid," he mutters, and then he crashes his lips against Mark's.

There is brief moment, in which Mark can only stare wide-eyed at him, but just as Donghyuck begins to pull away, Mark kisses him back. Mark can't describe it, other than it tastes sweet and it makes his heart flutter.

Donghyuck leans back, takes a good look at Mark, smirks and flops onto his other side, leaving Mark to gape at his back. "You either cuddle me or that's never happening again," Donghyuck tells him. Mark moves faster than he's ever before.