To Doyoung, Ten’s reaction to Taeyong’s outburst was a lot more telling than the outburst itself. He had seemed surprised, but it was more so that Taeyong had remembered...whatever it was that he remembered, not at the fact that Taeyong was freaking out.
Glancing down the street, Doyoung took notice of all the pedestrians - an elderly man stepping out for the morning paper, a couple on their morning jog, kids walking to their bus stop together - and decided it was time to relocate.
“Look-” He spoke loudly, cutting through the tension and panic that had begun to build. “This is neither the time or place for this. Let’s move inside before we demand an explanation.” The look he shot Ten made it clear that they would be demanding an explanation, and Ten wouldn’t like to know what’d happen if he refused.
The group was silent as they made their way up the steps and into the house. Doyoung led the group past the sitting room and into the sunroom, thinking that space and light might be able to lighten the mood. They had a small sitting area directly behind where Taeyong and Donghyuck had been playing with the spirit board just a few days ago.
The panic had faded from Taeyong’s features; all that was left was impassiveness. Still, everyone in the room could see the tenseness of his shoulders.
Once seated, Ten didn’t wait for the questioning to begin, jumping right into his explanation, “Yes, that was me. Yesterday, after you were stabbed, it was me who distracted Sungjae, and it was me who called for help.”
Ten stopped to take a deep breath, and Taeyong used that time to ask what had been on his mind the entire time, “Why? Why were you there? How did you know to be there? How can you turn into a cat?”
Seeing Taeyong growing more and more hysterical, Doyoung took over, his thoughts piqued by his brother’s questions, “How long have you known about this? Did you know that Sungjae was a warlock?”
The last question had Ten paling, “No! I had absolutely no idea!”
“You had ‘no idea’” Doyoung raised a brow, using air quotes as he spoke, “yet you were able to be in the right place at the right time to save Taeyong?”
“it’s a very long story; I’m not entirely sure where to start.”
“Then start from the beginning, when did you find out about all of this?” that was the first time Donghyuck had spoken up the entire conversation.
“Well,” Ten started, after the other two nodded for him to continue. “I was born to a long line of wiccans who have bred familiars for generations. Familiars are companions for witches; they can be used to help guide a witch as they expand their powers. Before I was born, my parents relocated our branch to Thailand on a whim. It was meant to be a good place to continue the business, as the area that they had settled was a natural nexus for good, leading to an overflow of magical energy that could be absorbed by the animals we raise. Due to the great concentration of wild magic in the area, I ended being the first Leechaiyapornkul in generations to gain active powers, marking me as a witch.” He pauses for a second, wondering how to continue.
In the meantime, Donghyuck stood up to retrieve a pitcher of water and glasses from the kitchen, figuring that they would be in there for a while.
When he returned, he handed a glass to Ten, who thanked him before taking a sip. Then, he continued his story.
“I moved to Korea at age 15 to expand our business here. I met Taeyong on my first day of classes, and we became best friends.”
Doyoung frowned, “that is barely an explanation.”
Donghyuck, on the other hand, was almost bouncing in his seat, “you mentioned an active power, is it healing?”
Ten sighed, slumping forward, “I don’t have the power to heal others, but I know someone who does.” he shifted to get comfortable.
“So this who situation started a few months ago when a… higher power of sorts approached me. I was warned to stay away from you, and that any interference on my part would have dire consequences.”
”A higher power? What ”higher power” is invested in us? And since when do you take orders from them?” Taeyong’s knuckles were white from how hard he was gripping the glass that Donghyuck had given him, leaning forward in his seat. Ten’s history had come as no surprise to him, he had always been very open about his pagan upbringing, and Taeyong had never questioned his oddities. Powers, now that was something new. Ten having powers is something he would have to process on his own time. Ten would give him an in-depth explanation. Probably. If Doyoung doesn’t kill him beforehand.
“I can’t tell you who it is.” Ten holds up a hand to stop the brothers from interrupting. “What you have to understand is that these people are like, the decision-makers for the side of good. They oversee almost everything. The only reason I consider their orders is the fact that they can erase memories. Not just a few seconds, we’re talking about my existence being wiped from your memory for good.”
Taeyong sat back in his seat, fuming. These people think they have the right to dictate their choices, to threaten his best friend?
“What do they want from us?” Donghyuck’s voice is small when he speaks up.
“Well, when they threat- I mean, gave me the warning, I had no idea what they were talking about. So, I ended up asking a close friend, the one who healed you actually,” he gave a weak smile to Taeyong, who actually returned it. “To look into it while I started to watch over you guys. He was able to find a legend, or I guess prophecy about three brothers born to a long line of witches. I wasn’t paying too much attention when Johnny explained, but from what I understand, if I had tried to explain it early or tried to warn you, it would have caused a giant chain of events that would have tipped the balance of nature in favor of evil. I knew that once you gained your powers, there would be a trial of sorts.”
Ten stopped, leaning over the table to take his best friend's hand. Taeyong let him, leaning forward to lace their fingers together.
“I had no idea that it was Sungjae; you have to believe me. I don’t-” he takes a deep breath, pretty close to crying, “I don't have the ability to sense evil, not like my cats do. You’re my best friend, and I would never allow anyone close enough to harm you…”
The admission caused both boys to break down into tears as the night before finally caught up to them. It took several minutes for them to calm down again, with Taeyong eventually maneuvering around the coffee table to sit in Ten’s lap.
Once things were calm again, Donghyuck let out an awkward cough, “sorry to interrupt, but did you say your cats could sense evil?”
The question startled a laugh out of the emotional pair, while Doyoung fought the smile that threatened to curl on his face.
“Yes,” Ten took another sip of water before replying.
“My cats are a bit more special than typical familiars because they are all mothered by One, who has been exposed to my magic since before she was born. Witches that Sungjae killed purchased several of the kittens from Eleven’s litter. Three of them are back at my apartment, getting ready to be rehomed.”
Taeyong looks ill, shifting his weight to lean against Ten’s chest. l
“My powers are more in tune with animals because I can become one,” he smiled at the brothers, “but that’s the extent of my powers, the familial ones, that is. Cats have a way of communicating with each other, but it isn’t as comprehensive as human speech. I tried to gather information from the kittens, but it’s not like I can read their minds. Anyway, my feline form currently has two sizes, housecat and mid-sized cheetah.”
Donghyuck is practically vibrating at the information Ten is giving them.
“There have been reports of my ancestors having feline forms the size of horses or cars, but I'm not sure if my powers will grow that far...Other ‘normal witch things’ could technically count as powers, I guess. Casting spells or mixing potions are things I can do, but those aren’t unique to my line.”
Donghyuck looks thrilled at the prospects, “Are those things that we can learn too? The ‘normal witch things’? Will you teach us?”
The questions startle a laugh out of Ten, which in turn, makes Taeyong crack a smile.
“Yes, I have every intention of teaching you guys,” he glances around the room, eyes landing on Doyoung for just a second longer before returning to Donghyuck. “Having not grown up in this kind of environment, it can be difficult adjusting. I plan on teaching witch 101 while you guys take the time to get the hang of your own powers.”
Doyoung’s phone rings suddenly, causing all four men to jump. He quickly pulls it from his pocket, standing once he sees the number.
“Well, this has been lovely, but I need to take this.” Doyoung takes several long strides towards the kitchen. “It was nice to see you, Ten. We’ll talk more later.” With that, he was gone.
Taeyong sighs, glancing at his watch before wiggling to get up. He turns and offers a hand to help Ten stand before saying, “It’s getting late, and we both need to get to work.”
Ten nods in return, making his way to the front door, only to turn around after realizing he forgot something.
Eleven sat curled in Donghyuck’s arms, purring as he scratched behind the cat’s ears. Noticing Ten’s stare, he slowly stopped his movements, arms twisting to pull the cat closer to his chest.
Ten rolled his eyes at the defensive posture that Donghyuck had taken up.
“I wasn’t planning on taking him, you know. He was going to be a gift later on this week, but I don’t think he minds ruining the surprise. I can stop by later on today with some supplies if you want.” after addressing Donghyuck, he turns to Taeyong for conformation.
Taeyong could barely nod his head before Donghyuck had rushed to pull them both into a bone-crushing hug. Well, as bone-crushing as he could get while hindered by both a cat and a cast.
Heaven wasn’t quite as mortals imagined it would be. It wasn’t actually heaven, merely a place for angels of all kinds to convene. Most whitelighters, Johnny included, referred to it as ‘the upper regions’ or simply ‘up there’ to keep from confusing their charges. Spirits were taken to a different kind of afterlife, one that only the dead were privy to.
Johnny was found pacing up and down an empty hallway. Everything surrounding him was a pristine white; he looked out of place in his mortal clothing.
Large ornate doors at the end of the hallway opened with a groan, causing him to stop in his tracks. A tall man draped in silver robes stood in the doorway. Johnny remained frozen in his place as the person let down his hood.
“Sehun,” he was relieved to see a familiar face.
Sehun did not share his relief, giving the younger whitelighter a grim look.
“They’re ready for you now.” was all he replied before turning on his heel and walking back through the doorway, his words echoing in the empty space.
The chamber that Sehun led Johnny into was white, just like the hallway. The room was round, and around the edges, there was a raised platform where eleven individuals sat. At the front of the room were three individuals who had a platform that was built higher than the rest; they were all draped in gold. The other eight were dressed in the same silver as Sehun, who had replaced his hood and sat in an empty chair at the edge of the platform.
Johnny stood in the center of the room and waited to be addressed.
“Seo Youngho” it was a feminine voice that spoke, the woman was dressed in gold and sat in the direct center. “You have been called before the council due to claims of interference in the work of other whitelighters. Do you accept the claims against you?”
Before Johnny could give her his answer, the golden figure on her left spoke up, “of course he accepts the claims, why are you wasting our time, Boah? We clearly have the evidence to punish the guilty party.”
The room seemed to hold its breath as they waited for the apparent leader to respond to the interruption. Maybe not the whole room, just some. Maybe it was just Johnny holding his breath. Everyone in the room held a higher rank than him; it would be unwise to get on someone’s bad side.
“Evidence? I’m not sure what kind of evidence has been shared with you, Jiyong, but as far as I know, we are gathered over conjecture. ” The final golden figure, who sat to the right of Boah.
Both men had begun to lean forward in their seats, talking around Boah.
“Enough!” Boah banged a fist on the arm of her chair, before reaching up to pull off her hood. “In case either of you has forgotten, I am the senior member of this council. I am the one who calls and conducts these official meetings. I am the one who chooses the final verdict. And it is Elder Boah to you, Elder Jiyong.” she lets out an annoyed huff before turning her attention back to Johnny. “Whitelighter Seo Youngho, do you accept these claims?
Johnny straightens his posture at the direct address. “No, Elder Boah, I reject these claims and bring forth a case of charge negligence against Kim Jiwon. Furthermore, I move to have the Charmed ones removed from his care and placed under the care of a more diligent whitelighter.”
Johnny’s statement causes the room to freeze.
“Charge negligence is not a matter to joke around with. The penalty for such crimes is to be stripped of your powers and be exiled to the mortal realm. Do you have evidence to back up these claims?” The unnamed elder is the first to break the silence.
“Yes.” Johnny takes a deep breath, “I am willing to submit my memories of the events in question, as well as the memories and written observations of other witnesses.”
“Do you have the memories already extracted?” Boah asked. She waited for Johnny to nod and pull several vials out of his pocket before continuing. “Very well, we will adjourn to look over the evidence. Once we are finished, the accused will be summoned, and a final verdict will be made. We will reconvene at the toll of the bell. Dismissed.”
With those final words, the entire room rose and departed. Sehun nodded at Johnny from his spot, and Johnny followed him out of the chamber to a more secluded area.
“So, Elder Sehun. How have you been?” Johnny was laughing as he approached the bench Sehun had chosen.
Sehun pulled Johnny into a hug, “You scared the shit out of me, dude.”
He ended up pulling back to punch him in the shoulder, “Never do that again, asshole. And shut up, I’m not an elder yet.”
“When the hell did you land yourself a spot on the council? How did you get a spot on the council?”
The pair sat down as Sehun began to explain.
“Obviously you know the gist, a good person dies and is given a choice, then you become a guardian angel for witches and other future whitelighters. After you've had as many charges as I have, it can get kinda draining. Living for hundreds of years, helping hundreds of witches. I did a lot of good, but I was beginning to feel like it wasn’t enough. When Jun- Elder Junmyeon approached me due to an opening in his third of the lower council, I would have been a fool to refuse.”
Johnny gives his friend a look, having noticed his slip up, before asking another question. “What do you have to do? As a council member, I mean.”
“We take over his overflow work. There are occasions when only the lower whitelighter council is called to pass judgment, mostly just minor offences. On heavier cases, like your own, WE are called upon as witnesses. The lower council is split into sections under the highest-ranking Elders. Elder Junmeyeon is charged with keeping records, while Elder Jiyong’s faction carries out punishments. Elder Boah is technically the highest-ranking Elder because she is the oldest. She took the mantle after the last was killed in an attack a couple hundred years ago. She handles peacekeeping. No one actually knows who belongs in her lower council; they’ve never removed their hoods during official matters.” Sehun finally pauses, shrugging. “It’s not like we have a way of knowing who’s who when we’re outside of the council chambers. If you hadn’t been summoned today, I’m sure you wouldn’t have found out unless you were appointed to the council.”
Johnny lets out an offended scoff as he pushes the older off the bench, “I can’t tell if you think I’m too stupid to notice when you’re keeping a secret, or too unremarkable to ever become a council member.”
“I didn’t say either!! And unremarkable is the last thing I would describe you as,” Sehun sat on the floor for just a second, staring at his best friend. “You’re making waves with this counter-accusation. Kim Jiwon was granted the Charmed Ones due to past exemplary work. Hell, rumor has it that Elder Jiyong has an eye on recruiting him to the lower council. No matter the outcome, this will not be taken lightly.”
He finally stood back up, fiddling with the clasps on his robes. He was worried for Johnny. He always worried; Johnny was like a little brother to him. This though? Whatever This was, it ran deeper than either of them could fathom. Sehun was scared. Johnny might have bit off more than he could chew this time.
Johnny had stood, ready to say something - maybe to reassure Sehun- but before anything else could be spoken, the sound of a bell filled the room. It was time to hear the verd1ict.
When Taeyong had applied for the chef position at the restaurant, he had done it under the assumption that he would be taking over the kitchen while Chef Moore took over the General Manager position that granted him more authority and decision making power. Standing in his bedroom on a phone call with the owners of the restaurant, he was beginning to regret his decision to step foot there in the first place.
“What do you mean, Chef Moore resigned?” He was trying very, very hard not to panic right now.
“Well,” the owner, a lovely Italian woman named Sofia, wasn’t one to beat around the bush, “ He decided that it would suit him better to leave our establishment and start his own restaurant. He left a glowing recommendation for you, and we would really like to keep you in the position of new head chef, but we really need someone to oversee everything . As the new GM you would be in total control of the restaurant, well mostly. You would have to consult us for any big decisions. We’re willing to pay double what you would have started with as our chef.”
“D-double?Th-That's… uhh, Ms.Sofia, may I have some time to think over this offer? I will get back to you before closing tonight.”
“That’s no issue, dear. Please, take until the weekend ends to make your decision, we don’t mind waiting. And don’t worry about training until after you decide. Have a wonderful day Taeyong.” Taeyong could barely make a noise of acknowledgment before she hung up.
Groaning, he turned and launched himself headfirst into his bed. This was not what he had signed up for. The money was good, though. But he wouldn’t be in a position that he had been craving for years. This would be a good experience for when he decided to start his own restaurant.
Doyoung knocked at his door, startling him out of his thoughts.
“Hey, I just got off the phone with the handyman company, they’re willing to send someone to assess the house either later on today or early tomorrow.”
Taeyong stuck his head up at that information.
“Oh? That quickly. That’s great. Was that the urgent phone call that you had to take earlier?”
Doyoung huffed, “no, that was Jisoo, I have to meet up with her and Jinyoung later on today to go over my resignation with HR.”
Taeyong rolled onto his back to get comfortable before he spoke again. “My training at the restaurant has been postponed, so I will be here to meet the person they send to check out the house. Take as much time as you need to.’
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to tell his brother about what had just happened; he just needed some time to process it before either of his brothers butted in with their opinions.
When Johnny and Sehun had returned to the council chamber, it had been a somber affair. No one in the room dared to make a sound as they reconvened. Johnny had been shown to a new spot, in the back of the room and out of the way of the new accused. It felt slightly different to be a spectator instead of the main attraction; the room felt a little less tense - at least to him.
“Senior Whitelighter Kim Jiwon. You have been called before the council for claims of charge negligence. Your accusor has moved to remove the Charmed ones from your care and have you punished accordingly. Do you accept these claims?” Boah once again had her hood raised, but this time neither of the other Elders made a move to speak.
The man summoned, Kim Jiwon, stood at the center of the room, where Johnny had been just hours earlier. He stood at a rather average height and was dressed in the white robes that whitelighters typically would have donned for a visit to
Kim Jiwon scoffed, clearly not understanding the severity of the claim. “No, Head Elder Boah, I do not accept the claims. The accusor must want the Charmed Ones whitelighter changed for his own personal gain. I have been nothing but diligent looking after my charges, making sure nothing interferes with their destiny.”
Boah hums, glancing over Kim’s shoulder to look at Johnny.
“Very well, Whitelighter Kim Jiwon. If that is the only rebuttal you wish to make, we will move on to the evidence gathered by Accusing Whitelighter Seo Youngho.”
Kim looked ready to protest but held his tongue.
Boah looked away from both whitelighters to address the entire room. “During the trial of a connecting case of interference from an outside whitelighter, Whitelighter Youngho brought forward the case of charge negligence. Whitelighter Youngho was kind enough to extract the memories of the events in question from not only himself but another witness as well. All of the memories have been checked for tampering, and none has been found. The events in question happened yesterday at 10:34 pm. One of Whitelighter Jiwon’s charges, Kim Taeyong, was put into a vulnerable position due to negligence on Whitelighter Jiwon’s part. Kim Taeyong found himself alone and at the mercy of a warlock. He would have been killed if not for the interference of our second witness, Chittaphon Leechaiyapornkul, who distracted the warlock and called upon Whitelighter Youngho for assistance. Mr.Leechaiyapornkul submitted memories of not only last night but the months leading up to the event, documenting the movements and growth of Whitelighter Jiwon’s charges leading up to the day they received their powers. In one memory, in particular, Whitelighter Jiwon threatened Mr.Leechaiyapornkul due to the witch being a close friend of his charge.”
Boah moved to address Kim again, “Do you have anything to say for yourself, Whightlighter Jiwon?”
“Everything I did was for the good of my charges.” he seemed to be sticking to his story.
“Alright then, I think that the verdict is clear. Whitelighter Jiwon, you have been charged with charge negligence of the highest degree. Your charges are to be reassigned, and you are to be stripped of your powers and sent back to the mortal world before the end of the day. We will give you enough time to put your affairs in order and say your goodbyes, do not try to escape your punishment. Councilmen Kim and Oh will accompany you out of the room now.”
She gestured for Sehun and a hooded council member that sat closest to her to stand. The duo quickly escorted Kim from the chamber.
“Whitelighter Seo Youngho,” Johnny startles at the mention of his name, too distracted by the leaving trio. He steps forward to the middle of the room. “ You have been accused of interfering with the work of another whitelighter. The memories that you have submitted have given sufficient evidence that it is true.”
Her words cause Johnny to tense.
“However, a whitelighter interfering to save the life of another’s charge is an unpunishable act. The case against you shall be dropped with no repercussions,”
The joy that coursed through his veins was almost palpable. He tried his best to keep a straight face, feeling his hands twitch.
Boah must have noticed because she had to hide a simile of her own/.
“Instead,” Hearing Boah speak again, he did his best to pay attention. “The Charmed Ones shall be transferred into your care. I’m sure that you will do a marvelous job.”
What? Johnny must be hearing things. Elder Boah couldn’t have possibly just said that.
“The cases are closed, this meeting is adjourned. You are dismissed.”