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Sweet Trickeries

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A loud bang, a cloud of emerald-hued smoke unfurling into the air, thick dust choking the lungs.

Jae backpedals violently, waving his arms wildly about in a fruitless attempt to dispel the dense green dust.

Damn it.

He's failed again.

"Hyung, for the millionth time, I've told you to take your horribly sad love life out of this shop!" a shrill voice screeches from behind the register.

Jae opens his mouth to retort and inhales emerald smoke. He doubles over coughing, eyes starting to water.

Damn what had he put into his powders this time, is that chili pepper?!

Hacking up his lungs, he continues to unsuccessfully clear the air.

And then suddenly, it's gone, just as quickly as it'd appeared.

Jae gulps in fresh air.

"Couldn't have done that a bit sooner?" he asks wryly, wiping tears away and turning to face his something-like-a-friend and owner of the café, Wonpil.

The small fae looks annoyed, arms crossed and frown out of place on his innocent, baby-like features.

"I think you deserve to suffer a bit. I've told you time after time to take your sorry wooing elsewhere, but no, you insist on disrupting my customers every single day!"

"It's not wooing," Jae argues. "And I have no idea where else to try."

"Because you don't even bother talking to him! Who tries to hit on someone by trapping them in a pentagram?!" Wonpil shouts back, pointing an accusing finger at the crudely painted shape on the floor. "You're cleaning that up, by the way."

Several faces- fanged, furry, and other- are looking at them, concerned and curious at the commotion.

The regulars, used to it by now, are either unbothered or watching intently, keeping up with the pathetic drama that is Jae's life.

"But, Pil, he won't talk to me- I've tried!"

Wonpil gives him an unamused glare.

"You ever wonder if maybe that's because you literally-"

"-tried to suck his blood? Yeah, yeah I know, I've been trying to apologize for weeks now!" the vampire interrupts, having heard this tirade a million times.

"Jae, we both know you're chasing after this guy cuz he's hot, not cuz you want to apologize."

"I- well- so?" Jae sputters.

Wonpil sighs, rolling his eyes. "For the love of faes, I can't believe you're this stupid. Maybe try something that doesn’t involve holding him against his will.”

Several of the customers who've been following along nod at this and Jae bares his fangs at them, satisfied when most of them quickly turn away.

"Jae, be polite,” Wonpil snaps. “I’m giving you three days to wrap up this nonsense. If you don't succeed by the end of those three days, I'm not letting you in during these hours. I mean it this time."

"But, Pil-"

Wonpil gives him The Look and Jae knows he's serious.

"It was funny at first, but now it's just sad. Get your act together, man."

Wonpil turns away to start wiping down the counter, and Jae feels himself deflate, sinking down into a chair. Not only is the ever-patient Wonpil mad at him, but now he has only a measly three days to talk to the elusive man he's been pining over- uh, been wanting to apologize to- for the past two weeks.

He sighs, stone-cold vampire heart melting a bit at the thought of him.

Brian.

Rust-red locks framing delicate, almond-shaped eyes. Long, straight nose accentuated by prominent cheekbones, jaw curving into a pointed ‘v’. Honey colored skin in stark contrast with the all-black attire, slender fingers reaching out for his coffee, pink, plump lips curving into the most endearing smile Jae's ever seen.

And the scent of his blood.

Jae's never smelled anything like that- intoxicating, heady, spicy, with just a hint of burnt sugar.

Jae knows he'd be delicious.

And so, the first time he ever smelled that scent, his fangs popped out uncontrollably and he was by the witch's side in an instant, leaning down to sink into the lovely curve of that neck, into that sweet, sweet paradise-

-before lightning shot through his body, rendering him paralyzed- a glimpse of that beautiful face morphing, eyes widening and smile vanishing behind a wall of smoke as Jae fell to the floor.

By the time the smoke cleared, the man was nowhere to be found.

It's the single loveliest as well as the most embarrassing memory of Jae's thousand-year life.

Before that moment a month ago, he hadn't acted like such a noob since the mid-1200's, for fae's sake.

Even a newborn vampire exhibited more control than he had in that moment.

And so, he’d done his best to try to apologize- went back the next day to the place of his everlasting shame in an attempt to find the beautiful witch.

To Jae's surprise, he’d shown up again at the stroke of midnight, not noticing Jae just a few yards away, and ordered an iced americano.

Nervously, Jae had stood, preparing to intercept the man and plead for forgiveness.

But the witch turned, and- upon seeing Jae- fled with a glass vial thrown to the ground and an enchantment cast in the air, black garments fading into teal dust before Jae's eyes.

He hadn’t even had time to get one word out.

However, what was even more astonishing was that the man showed up yet again the day after.

Jae remembers thinking it must be a testament to the quality of Wonpil’s coffee if the witch continued to show up.

That, or he possessed a really poor sense of self-preservation.

Brian- Jae had been conscientious enough to listen for a name that third day- came in through the door instead of poofing into existence, surveying the room with wary eyes.

Jae watched as his eyes widened and his body tensed upon seeing the vampire sitting in the corner. The vampire had raised his hands placatingly, trying to give out his best ‘I'm not gonna eat you’ vibes, and Brian had seemed to understand, slinking to the counter like a nervous cat before ordering his coffee.

Then he turned around, seen Jae waiting at the door and fled, nearly dropping his drink in his haste to grab his vials before- poof.

Gone.

Jae had become desperate.

To Wonpil's everlasting annoyance, his fiancé, Sungjin (a human), suggested jokingly, "Well, if he keeps running away, why don't you just trap him? Aren't there, like, fancy spells you can do?"

Wonpil had been irate, and Jae had been- still was- a little bit stupid and decided why not?

Unfortunately, though Jae’s tried everything- spells, glyphs, even a freaking fairy ring upon the suggestion of Wonpil (though now that Jae thinks about it, Wonpil probably said that as a joke)- nothing’s worked.

Brian has either sidestepped everything with a confused look on his face or watched as Jae muttered useless incantations under his breath, brow raised, surely wondering how much of a nutcase he is.

His efforts have all been fruitless.

He’s not sure if it’s his own ineptitude or his choice of magical spells that have barred success, but at least no one can accuse him of not trying.

The only tangible fortune after two weeks of such incidents is that the witch seems to have dropped his guard somewhat, only giving him a stare in greeting as if to ask ‘What in the seven hells are you going to try this time’ before chatting with Wonpil or even taking a seat at a table.

However, any time Jae even moves a step in his direction, the witch disappears, fading into smoke.

Jae wants to talk to Brian, but Brian won't let him.

He wonders if he can manage it in Wonpil's three-day ultimatum.

Three days.

That's a lucky number, right?

Jae drops Wonpil an extra-large tip on his way out, sees the fae give him an exasperated but fond smile, and flies home to plot.

 

Jae enters the shop at precisely 11:30 pm, eager and nervous.

He takes his usual seat at the table nearest the counter- the table with the best view of Brian.

"What's it this time, Jae?" a hulking werewolf with tawny fur and one eye knit shut by a thick scar asks.

Jae knows he's one of the regulars- and quite a hopeless romantic, though Jae's assured him quite a few times that there's nothing romantic about his situation.

"I've got something good today. Ancient magic I dug up from some tomes."

The werewolf chuckles happily.

"Are you serious, Jae? I thought you'd actually listen to me for once," Wonpil huffs, placing Jae's usual latte in front of him.

The vampire grins sheepishly. "Just once more. I'm sure this will work. If not, I promise no more funny business; swear on my coffin."

Wonpil gives him a raised brow as if to say, ‘I'll believe it when I see it,’ but makes no further comment.

Jae takes a sip of his coffee before reaching into his coat for the billionth time to run a finger over the secret weapon he's prepared.

At 11:59 pm, quick as a flash, he places it under the service counter, reseats himself, and waits, fidgety and anxious.

Precisely a minute later, Jae hears the pop that signals Brian's arrival and feels his non-existent heartbeat quicken as the witch appears out of nowhere, dark blue smoke rolling in waves outward from where he stands.

His hair is platinum today, a pale silvery-grey that Jae imagines would look almost transparent in the moonlight. The color contrasts perfectly with his dark leather jacket and black jeans and makes his usually golden skin look almost opalescent.

If Jae needed to breathe, he's sure his lungs wouldn't be able to function right now.

The werewolf coughs pointedly next to him, and Jae remembers he's a man on a mission.

He watches intently as Brian receives his coffee, plump lips wrapping around the straw as he takes a sip, pausing mid-turn upon spotting Jae.

His eyes narrow and he seems to be assessing what Jae might be up to today.

Jae shifts, nervous at the blatant attention, and half-expects the witch to poof away as usual, but nothing happens.

Is it working?

Brian frowns, eyebrows scrunching, and Jae feels hope bubble up.

By this time, Brian's usually gone, poofed out of existence and out of Jae's life.

Oh my god it's really working.

The knit in Brian's eyebrows smooths itself out, and the confusion falls away from his face as he laughs in Jae's face.

And, okay, that was not the reaction he was hoping for.

Though on the plus side, Brian's laugh is all sorts of attractive- husky and melodious in equal parts.

One eyebrow quirks, a devilish smirk unfurls on the witch's curved lips as he asks Jae, "Really?" before tipping over the hidden bottle with a pointed toe, spilling its contents.

Then he's gone, leaving behind swirling yellow plumes.

Jae's failed again. Miserably.

He plunks his head on the table in defeat, curling his arms around himself to block out Wonpil's laughter.

"At least you got him to talk to you," the werewolf tries to comfort him.

Wonpil guffaws harder.

Jae recalls the smooth lilt of Brian's cool voice, the heated liquid of his laugh, and feels a bit of his hope restore itself. Any improvement is better than nothing, after all.

He wonders what Brian's voice is like when talking animatedly about something, what he sounds like laughing until his belly aches and tears roll from his feline eyes.

He wonders what it'd be like to take Brian out on a date, do the whole nine yards- flowers, a movie, a romantic moonlit dinner with black cats and maybe even a ghost symphony- but there's no way the flighty witch will stay beyond a few moments with Jae, let alone allow Jae to ask him on a date.

A stray thought catches in Jae’s mind.

But what if I’m not the one asking…?

"Oh toadstools, I know that look," Wonpil sighs. "But you promised, Jae, no more funny business from now on."

"I know, I know," Jae agrees.

What he's planning isn't funny per se- no, as Wonpil stated, his pursuit of the witch has gone past funny to quite sad- but he has a vague inkling that if the fae knew what he was thinking he wouldn't approve.

Well, he figures, better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

 

"What the fuck are you doing," Wonpil states more than asks as he plunks Jae's latte in front of him.

"What do you mean, Pil?"

Wonpil, unamused, looks down at him.

Down, because, well, Jae's in bat form.

"Seriously, hyung? Unless he has a thing for bats, I don't think that's going to work."

"You said I should talk to him," Jae argues. "I can't talk to him if he runs at the sight of me. But maybe he won't run from a bat?"

Wonpil sighs, looking as though Jae is the biggest idiot he's ever met- though Jae knows that's not true, having met Sungjin.

"Okay, well, good luck," Wonpil mutters unenthusiastically before going to collect some used dishes.

Jae fidgets on his feet and ruffles his wings. He hopes he won't have to wait long. Standing on two feet as a bat isn't the most comfortable.

He eyes some tables over by the wall that have posts for hanging but is quickly distracted once he hears the telltale pop that signals the witch's arrival.

Brian appears in a cloud of vibrant red-orange dust this time, shaking some rain droplets from his hair and jacket.

Jae knows it's not raining in Seoul today, so wherever Brian had traveled from must have been quite far.

Jae watches as he nods when Wonpil asks if he wants the usual, then surveys the room, presumably for Jae himself. He feels his chest constrict as Brian's glance falls over him- pausing for the barest moment- before moving on.

Jae shifts nervously.

Perhaps emboldened by the lack of Jae's presence, Brian takes a seat at a table not too far away, setting down his iced americano and crossing his shapely legs. He takes out a book from the inside pocket of his leather jacket and flips to a dog-eared page.

Oh crap, should I wait? Is he doing something important?

Nowhere in Jae's plans had he accounted for a book.

Someone kicks the chair at his table, and he looks up to see the werewolf with the scar mouthing ‘Get on with it already!’

Jae decides to man up.

He hops around on the table, mustering all the courage he possesses, before taking off and alighting onto Brian's table.

The intoxicating smell that surrounds the witch is overwhelming in such close proximity- Jae can smell the herbs and potions he works with, the scent of fresh rain still on his skin, and that same burnt sugar and spice scent that's become familiar over time.

It's heady and tantalizing, and Jae finds himself hopping closer to breathe it all in.

Brian looks up, startled.

"Can I help you?" he asks.

Oh faes, his voice. His voice is so smooth I could slide down it. Uh. I mean-

"Um... W-What're you reading?" he squeaks.

Damn, I’m so awkward.

Luckily, Brian looks amused.

Jae feels faint, seeing his features up close. He's even more inhumanly gorgeous in this proximity. Jae can see the sheen of his hair as he tilts his head, long eyelashes framing onyx eyes, the neat trim of his nails as he holds his book in a single hand.

"It's a book of potions. Cooking potions, actually, for flavor, duplication, that sorta thing," Brian says.

And wow, Jae cannot believe Brian's not fleeing from him, much less responding to him in that silky voice of his, and maybe his brilliant plan is actually working.

He catches Wonpil gazing, wide-eyed, at them over by the pastry display and feels smug.

"Do you like to cook?" he asks, gaining confidence.

"I'm learning. It's more a hobby at the moment than anything else. What about you- what do you like to do, other than chat up strangers at cafes?" Brian asks with a twinkle in his eye.

Oh, faes.

Jae definitely can't take Brian teasing him. It's doing things to his long-dead heart.

"I don't... chat up strangers... often," he stutters. "You're just- interesting?"

Brian laughs, and the sound of it runs through Jae's ears and trickles down his spine.

"I could say the same for you, Mr. Bat."

"Jae," he says before he can stop himself.

Brian quirks an eyebrow at him.

"My name.. is Jae," he adds.

"Ah. Jae."

And oh faes, that voice saying his name spells all sorts of trouble for him.

"Pleased to meet you, I'm Brian," the witch says with a heart-stopping smile.

They share an awkward handshake, Jae unfolding a wing to give him his claw, almost tumbling over in the process, and then they're both laughing- Brian's eyes crinkling up at the edges and Jae falling down the ravine of Hopelessly Attracted.

It's surprisingly easy talking to Brian, once they get over the initial awkwardness. They have quite a bit in common- having both lived overseas for a while, and both sharing an appreciation for singing and guitars.

After quite some pleading, Brian reluctantly sings for him, and Jae discovers that the witch's cheeks turn the most fantastic shade of pink whenever he's feeling shy, particularly after Jae- rightfully- compliments him to no end.

It's been a while since Jae's talked to someone for so long, preferring to live out his millenia in solitude, but talking to Brian is... nice.

More than nice, if he's being honest with himself.

"So, when are you going to turn into your real self?" Brian asks after a comfortable pause in conversation.

Jae's confused.

As far as he's concerned, this has been one of the most real conversations he's ever had.

"I mean, you're still..."

Brian makes a vague gesture at him, and Jae realizes he's still in bat-mode.

Ah, crap. Jig's up.

Jae smiles sheepishly, "Ah, sorry, I-"

"Are you self-conscious about your looks? Got a weird mole over your left eye or something? It's okay, I promise I'll still think you're cool."

Brian's eyes glint teasingly again, and Jae is stunned that Brian thinks he's even remotely cool.

"No, I- I can't. Sorry. Maybe next time?" Jae says, truly regretting that he's such a creep.

Brian looks disappointed, but just as quickly as it's disappeared, his lovely smile returns in full force.

"Okay. Next time, then."

And... heck. Brian wants to see him again.

"Well, this was great, but I gotta get going now. Witching hour and all that," Brian says, and with a snap of his fingers, his empty coffee cup evaporates into thin air.

The witch pushes his chair back from the table, waving with long, slender fingers and a wink over his shoulder as he disappears into a cloud of dreamy pinkish-orange smoke the exact color of a sunrise. (Not that Jae would know much of sunrises, considering they tend to incinerate people of his kind. But he's seen pictures.)

Jae collapses onto the hard surface of the table, stunned.

The werewolf gives a low whistle. "Congrats, man."

Jae feels his lips jellify into a stupid grin. "I know, right?"

 

The next day, Jae is super jazzed to see Brian again.

Today’s day three, and it’s all or nothing. Today, he’s going to ask Brian on a date, preferably somewhere outside of Wonpil’s café.

He takes extra care with his hair and clothes- not that Brian's going to see them while he's in bat form, but well, it's the thought that counts.

He gets to the cafe, early as usual, and waits.

He's startled when it's not even a quarter to midnight and he hears the telltale pop of a witch entering the shop. He looks up, wondering if it's someone else, but no, it's Brian, standing in a burst of flaming red smoke.

Instead of heading to the counter as usual, Brian looks wildly around the shop until his eyes alight on Jae. He looks frantic- panicked, even- and every one of Jae’s batty senses are on high alert as Brian heads to him in hurried strides.

"Is everything okay?" he asks when Brian's close enough.

This close, Jae can see where tiny beads of sweat are collecting on Brian's forehead as though he'd been running from something. Considering that Brian can teleport with the flick of his fingers, it's a cause for concern.

"Can you come with me? I need your help, it's urgent. I'm really sorry, I'll explain on the way-"

"I'm in. Let's go," Jae interrupts, needing to hear no more.

He’d fight a whole-ass dragon if Brian needed him to.

Brian shoots him a grateful smile, and Jae shoots in the air to hover beside him.

"Where to?"

The witch holds out a hand. "Grab on tightly."

Jae alights on his hand, tentatively gripping Brian's finger with his claws, not wanting to hurt him in any way.

"Tighter."

"Uhh-"

"Jae, just do it."

Jae tightens his hold, and figures out why, when- not even a split second later- they're ripped from where they stand, wind howling in his ears and whipping his wings to and fro, swirling round and round through time and space.

It lasts just a few seconds, but it feels like forever to Jae.

When he regains his bearings, he's curled in a ball in Brian's hands.

"Sorry, this was the fastest way- I just-"

"No problem," Jae wheezes, struggling to right himself. "I do it all the time."

Brian chuckles then, and Jae smiles back.

"Thank you. For coming with me."

"You can thank me later," Jae says, feeling bashful. "What are we even doing?"

"Right. So. Dowoon's a witch like me, and he turned himself into a dog to enter a human village. Problem is, the humans caught him and locked him up in a cage, thinking he's a stray. It’s iron," Brian explains.

"Ah, so you can't touch it," Jae says.

"Yeah. Neither can Wonpil. You're the only one I could ask, so..."

"I see."

Jae tries not to be too prideful of the fact that Brian trusts him enough to ask for help.

"We're close."

Brian crouches low to the ground, stealthily flitting from tree to tree as they begin to see signs of human inhabitance- pathways formed of cobblestone, wooden signposts, large swathes of that ugly, short grass that humans like to fill their yards with.

A footstep sounds out from nearby, and Jae whispers urgently, “Human. On the left. Ten paces away.”

Brian drops into a crouch against the tree, bringing Jae in close.

Off-balance and awkward as an upright bat, Jae sways dangerously before clutching himself to Brian with his claws. He realizes he’s burying his face into Brian’s chest when Brian’s horribly enticing scent all but punches him in the face.

When the human passes, footsteps and lamplight fading into the forest, Brian rises from his crouch and resumes moving, unnoticing or uncaring of the way Jae’s attached himself to his body.

I am the fucking worst, Jae thinks to himself, even as he presses closer to Brian.

At least, as a bat, the urge to sink his teeth into Brian’s warm, tender skin isn’t as strong.

Though the calm, steady thud of Brian’s heartbeat in his eardrums is doing something else entirely to Jae’s sanity.

Unaware of Jae’s inner turmoil, Brian presses against a stone wall and peers around the edge.

"There,” he says quietly.

Jae peeks from Brian's hands and sees a large metal cage holding a dog so huge it looks like a bear.

"That's your friend?"

"Well, actually he's my b-" Brian cuts himself off as the dog-bear lifts his head to whine lowly in the air.

Jae wonders if he's heard that right.

"Dowoon-ah, it's me," Brian whispers.

The big dog wags its tail, perking up.

B-…?

B- ?!

Boyfriend?!

Jae really wishes he'd asked for more details about this before agreeing to help. If he'd known it was a mission to rescue Brian's boyfriend, he'd have stayed at the damn coffee shop.

Ignorant to the sinking feeling in Jae's chest, Brian creeps forward to the cage, coming to a stop in front of the locked latch.

"Jae, can you open it?"

Jae reluctantly looks at the iron lock, sees the numbers painted on its worn surface, and knows instantly that it should be easy peasy. He doesn’t even need any magic for this- vampiric eyesight picking out exactly where the knob has been worn by time.

The dog- Brian's boyfriend- follow his movements with glinting yellow eyes.

Jae huffs, stalling.

"Jae, the humans could be back at any time. You need to change into your other form."

Oh shit. That's right.

To turn the lock, he's going to have to switch.

And then Brian will find out who he really is.

"But... well..." he stalls.

"Jae, please, I already know who you are, it's fine, okay?"

"... What?"

Jae turns to look at Brian.

Brian sighs at him, impatience evident on his face.

"I can see auras. It was obvious. Now, please,” Brian says, gesturing toward the cage.

And what the fuck Brian should win an Oscar for his performance as the oblivious love interest.

"But isn't that really rare-"

A human child squeals, loud and plaintive, from within the house, just a few steps away. The lights flip on in one of the rooms.

Brian ducks, though there’s nothing to hide behind in this yard.

"Jae, we can talk later, please open the cage!" the witch hisses.

The dog gets to his feet, growling lowly, and Jae realizes just how fudging ginormous he is and wow he really doesn't want to get eaten-

"Okay, okay!"

He transforms, feels his limbs stretch and lengthen, filling out into his true form.

He feels slightly smug when he sees how much more normal-sized the dog looks when he's humanoid.

He quickly twists the lock around and undoes it easily, stepping away as the dog pushes the door open with his large snout and immediately transforms- snout morphing into a boyishly handsome face, ruddy fur turning into thick, wavy, reddish-brown locks, canine torso becoming a leanly muscled human figure.

He's tall, almost as tall as Jae.

And hot.

Of course, the boyfriend is hot.

Anyone who dates Brian would have to be up to standard.

Jae feels his mood dampen even more as Brian, relieved, embraces the man tightly and says, "Dowoon-ah, I was so worried! Don't do that again, please."

"Sorry hyung, I'll be more careful."

Dowoon looks embarrassed but ruffles Brian's hair lovingly.

Jae looks away.

"We gotta get going. The humans might come out," Jae says, not bothering to keep the terseness out of his voice.

It's only then that Brian steps away from Dowoon, finally giving Jae the time of day.

"Oh yeah! Dowoon, this is Jae; Jae, Dowoon."

Jae tries to give Dowoon a smile but feels it tilt into more of a grimace.

Dowoon regards him coolly.

"That guy, huh? I don't see what the big deal is, hyung," Dowoon-dog-boy says in a deep voice.

And wow, that digs.

What digs even more is how Brian laughs and elbows Dowoon like it doesn't matter. Like Jae's a joke.

Which, considering he's been chasing after a taken man for several weeks now, he kinda is.

"Don't listen to him, Jae, he's only kidding."

Dog-boy raises an infuriating brow and smirks.

"We need to go" Jae says with a jerk of his head, thinking more about how he’d rather leave without the two lovebirds.

Brian nods and holds his hands out, one toward Dowoon and one toward Jae.

Dowoon takes the proferred hand immediately, but Jae is more hesitant now that he knows Brian is taken- now that he knows Brian can't be his.

"I'll be more careful this time," Brian says.

Jae doesn't understand.

"I'll make sure not to wrench you around as much while we’re in the wormhole," the witch explains.

"That's not the prob-"

Rolling his eyes, Brian grabs his hand tightly, and Jae doesn't have time to think about how nice their fingers feel intertwined before they're wrenched through time and space again.

This time, Jae's limbs feel like they're being pulled apart in all directions while his stomach spins somewhere around his brains and his eyes go in and out of focus.

The only thing that doesn't feel like it's being torn apart and rearranged are Brian's soft fingers tightly interlaced with his own. Distantly, he registers that Brian's hand is smaller than his and thinks it's kinda cute before the urge to hurl hits him in the guts.

Again, the sensations seem to last both a lifetime and only a few seconds.

He drops to the ground as soon as the world stops spinning- or maybe it's while the world is still spinning- but all he knows is "Brian, you're such a liar," he gasps, forehead hitting the cold, hard pavement. He swallows hard, trying to keep the contents of his stomach where they currently are.

He's glad he hasn't eaten much today.

He feels a comforting hand on his back, rubbing circles, and chooses to focus on that, thankful when the roiling in his stomach calms a bit.

"Sorry," Brian apologizes, sheepish. "Teleporting takes some getting used to, if it makes you feel any better."

As his discomfort subsides, he hears low chuckling from his left, and his stomach turns over again as he remembers they're not alone.

"You sure about Chicken Little over here, hyung?"

Okay, Jae's heard that before, but still-

"Yah! Brat! Who's the one who puked the first time he teleported?"

Jae suddenly decides that maybe he is feeling mildly better, after all.

He lurches to his feet, still a bit unsteady, but Brian places a warm hand on his lower back.

He's glad to see Dowoon looks mildly chastened.

Serves the bastard right.

… For what, he wonders.

For taking Brian from him? Brian never belonged to him in the first place.

Jae grimaces, suddenly thinking that a nice, long, solitary nap in his coffin is sorely needed.

"I'm gonna go," he says abruptly, switching back to bat-mode.

Brian looks mildly surprised and- Jae daren’t hope- disappointed.

"Oh, ok... Well, thanks for your help tonight, Jae, I mean it."

He looks like he really does mean it and Jae berates himself for softening at the words.

"See you tomorrow?" Brian asks hopefully.

Jae doesn't know if he can take the way Dowoon comes up protectively behind Brian, tugging at his hand for attention.

"... Maybe," Jae says before taking off.

 

The next day, Jae is moping around, pretending to prune his long-dead plants but in actuality not even noticing as he snips the whole head off a shriveled cactus, when his alarm- a horrendous, cat-shaped atrocity Wonpil had gifted him last All Hallow’s Eve- starts hissing and shrieking.

"What the fu-"

He stops, seeing the time. 11:15 pm.

It's about when he usually heads to the cafe, but something about the prospect of seeing Brian again- now that he knows him and Brian won't ever be a possibility- seems less a good idea and more equivalent to impaling himself on a silver pike.

He decides to continue pruning instead.

When he's done with that it's only 11:35.

You know what I need right now? A nice blood soup.

The soup's made, he's at the table, and it's only 11:40.

He feels a headache coming on and wishes he had his nightly latte.

He takes a sip of his meal. The blood tastes more like sand in his mouth, and Jae battles the guilt eating away at his gut.

He shakes his head.

There's no reason he should feel guilty. Brian might not have even shown up tonight...

Even if he had, he could've easily called his boyfriend.

They're probably having a grand old time right now, laughing at Jae and how dumb he is...

Jae goes to take another mouthful of soup and realizes he’s unconsciously snapped the spoon in half.

He sighs and tosses the pieces into the sink from where he sits.

 

Before Jae knows it, a whole week has passed, each day getting easier and easier to ignore the gaping hole that one Brian the witch has created in him.

Jae's perfectly fine on his own- has been for a millennium, really. He's always been fine being alone. Relished it, even.

Brian's wonderfully bright laugh rings in his ears, taunting him as he sits in solitude in his bathtub.

Even the deep black of his shower curtains reminds him of Brian's clothes, the way they look draped against his lean, muscular frame.

It really shouldn't be this hard to forget about someone, Jae decides.

He's thinking about looking up a memory alteration spell when there's banging on his door.

He has just enough time to decide he's not getting up to answer it before Wonpil pops into existence, iridescent sparkles raining down from where he’s appeared next to the bathtub, arms crossed and very, very pissed.

"Geez! Can't you knock first?!" Jae shouts, awfully glad he's not actually taking a bath and just pouting- uh, thinking- in his tub, fully dressed.

"I did. You didn't answer," Wonpil responds scathingly. "And I know you weren't going to."

It's true, so Jae shrugs.

"Where have you been?" Wonpil asks accusingly.

Jae raises a brow. "Here. Why?"

"You know why," Wonpil hisses. "You can't avoid him forever."

Jae shrugs again.

Wonpil sighs heavily.

"Look, I have no idea what happened between you two, but I can't stand another day of Brian sitting in my shop and looking like someone murdered his favorite black cat."

That makes Jae sit up a little straighter.

"Why does he look like that?"

Wonpil doesn't answer and gives him a sinister stare. "Are you going to talk to him or not?"

Jae slumps back down.

"Not," he mumbles.

"Oh for the love of-"

Wonpil throws his hands up in frustration.

"You leave with me no choice then. I gave you the option, Jae, remember that."

And with that, Wonpil is pulling a half-full cup of coffee out of the folds of his jacket and weaving a spell in the air. Jae recognizes too late what he's about to do, shouts "No!" and then-

-a loud crack in the air and Wonpil is replaced by a thick cloud of obsidian smoke.

And Brian.

They stare at each other in silence, both surprised and confused; Brian standing as though he'd been about to reach for something, Jae still in the bathtub.

And then, "Oh. So that's why he stole my coffee."

Jae can't seem to remember how talking works- too stunned by the sight of Brian right before his eyes.

It seems that, after a week of separation, his Brian-tolerance has dropped dangerously low, and he finds himself drinking in the sight of the witch with hungry eyes.

He's gotten prettier, Jae decides.

There's no other way to describe how nice his now-purpley-blue hair looks swept to the side of his face and the way his skin seems to glow in the dim light of Jae's candle-lit bathroom.

And his scent.

Goddamn, has Jae missed his scent.

Burnt sugar, spice, and coffee mix together in the most pleasant kind of inebriation and Jae loves it, feels his fangs start to elongate-

-and crap, that's not good.

He struggles to keep himself under control.

"So, um, is your bathtub comfortable?" Brian asks awkwardly, not seeming to realize Jae's dilemma.

Jae is finally able to retract his wayward fangs fully, just in time for him to blurt, "Yeah, actually. Great for thinking... and. Baths...?"

He winces at his own awkwardness.

But Brian's lips inches upward slowly, slowly, till-

-they both burst, laughing until they're wheezing and clutching their stomachs in pain.

Jae finally acknowledges how much he's missed Brian as he watches the witch wipe away a tear through giggles.

He's about to say so, until he remembers that Brian has a boyfriend.

The laughter dies in his lungs, the smile slips from his face, and he turns to face the wall.

Brian notices his discomfort and straightens, mirth fading.

"Jae, why have you been avoiding me?"

"I haven't. I've just been busy."

"Doing what? Sitting in your tub?"

"Y-Yeah... And other stuff..."

Brian sighs, putting a saucy hand on his hip.

Jae berates his eyes for following the long line of the witch's legs up to his curved hips.

Faes, why is Brian so sexy?

"Jae, I'm going to be frank with you. I thought we had a connection?"

Wait what.

He nearly gets whiplash with how quickly his head turns to look at the other.

"I mean... did we not?" Brian's cheeks are turning faintly red and he reaches up to run a self-conscious hand over the back of his neck. "Admittedly, the whole tricks and traps thing was kind of a dumb way of hitting on me, but it was cute? And when we actually talked-"

"Excuse me?" Jae interrupts, indignant. "Dumb? I'll have you know all those traps took a lot of effort."

Brian levels him with an unimpressed look.

"You used dog piss in the witch bottle."

"And?"

"And to make a real witch bottle you need to use-" Brian stops himself abruptly, waving his hands in the air. "Anyway, that's not the point! The point is- do we have a connection or not? Am I the only one imagining it?"

Jae is beyond confused now.

"What about your boyfriend?"

Brian stares at him, stock still.

"What... what boyfriend?"

And oh gods, he looks genuinely confused, and that confuses Jae even more.

"Your... boy... that... Dowoon?" he asks.

"Dowoon?! My b-?!" Brian sputters, disbelieving.

And then his face clears, like a snap of lightening in a cloudy sky, and the confusion is gone.

"Oh."

Brian lifts a finger as though he's had an epiphany.

"Oh."

He brings that slender finger to his chin, thinking.

"Ohhhh..."

He nods his head up and down, agreeing with himself on something.

"Brian, shut up and explain," Jae snaps.

Brian grins at him, and Jae's brain skips a synapse at those pearly whites glinting through plump, pink lips.

"Dowoon's my baby brother, you big idiot."

Jae stares.

And stares.

Doesn't blink, doesn't breathe.

Doesn't move a single muscle.

Maybe if he never moves again, he can just turn to stone.

"Jae, that's creepy, stop it."

Jae collapses, hiding his face in his hands. "Oh fuck I'm such an idiot," he moans.

"There, there, not everyone can have a functional number of brain cells," Brian says comfortingly.

"Shut up, it's all your fault," Jae mutters.

"Ehh, maybe like 10%," Brian waffles.

"30," Jae shoots back.

"Sure," Brian agrees easily.

Brian's pretty hand places itself on Jae's shoulder and pushes him to sit upright in the bathtub.

Jae looks up to find Brian stepping delicately into the tub between Jae's legs and turning elegantly to sit down right in front of him.

"Wh-what are you doing?!" Jae squeaks.

"Making a move- what you should've done weeks ago," Brian replies nonchalantly, nestling himself into Jae's front.

Jae feels like he's about to spontaneously combust. Oh gods, he doesn't know what to do with his hands.

"Hmm," Brian hums, shifting uncomfortably. "Kinda cold."

He rummages in his jacket pocket for a vial, pours something on his palms, rubs them together, and claps.

Purplish red dust flies into the air and sparkles before disappearing.

The air instantly warms.

"I haven't even said that I like you," Jae protests.

Brian relaxes against him, back flush with Jae's chest, and lolls his head back onto the vampire's shoulder.

"Do you need to?" Brian murmurs.

From this close, Jae can see every curve, every dip, every vein in Brian's lovely neck, and the luscious scent of him by now is overwhelming.

Jae clutches his legs as his fangs spring forth.

His voice wavers as he asks, "You just do whatever the fuck you want, don't you?"

Brian laughs, and Jae's eyes latch onto the way the witch's throat moves, the way the muscles expand and contract, the pulse of those delicate veins.

"Are you going to bite me?" Brian asks, coyly peering up at Jae from under long lashes.

Jae snarls, baring his teeth.

Brian is most definitely teasing him.

"Do you have any idea how hard it is to restrain myself right now? You're the single most intoxicating thing I've ever smelled," Jae says, rigidly turning his head away from where Brian's neck lies so trustingly displayed before him.

"I wouldn't mind," Brian muses, clearly enjoying the vampire’s struggle.

Jae frowns.

"It's not just drinking your blood," he feels the need to explain, embarrassment causing his fangs to retract slightly. "When vampires do that, we-"

"Become aroused, right? I'm aware," Brian interrupts coolly.

Jae turns to look at him, startled.

"But we also-"

"Are quite rough in bed? So I've heard," Brian says, now laughing. "Jae, I'm not unprepared. You won't hurt me."

"But..."

As Jae struggles to find more ways to protest, Brian watches him, amusement dancing in those cat-like eyes.

Something tickles the back of his mind; something he wants to resolve before he lets this- thing- between them happen.

"You... knew who I was, didn't you? Even when I wasn't humanoid. You knew that I tried to bite you, yet you stuck around and talked to me."

"Well, yeah. I didn't think you actually meant any harm, you looked like you were more surprised than I was, honestly.”

"So why did you keep running?"

Brian falls silent for a bit, mulling over something.

"Your aura... It is rare, my ability. But there are stories- ancient scrolls that say that people like me may find someone whose aura speaks to them, draws them in so far and traps them so thoroughly that they'll never be free again. I suppose I was afraid what would happen if I stared at you too long," Brian admits.

Whatever Jae was expecting, it wasn't this.

"Time passed and nothing happened, so I think all the ancient stories are bullshit. Unless they're talking about being trapped by your scintillating personality," he teases.

"And how is my aura- how do you know it’s…?" he stumbles over words, not knowing what he wants to know.

"Jae, your aura is unique. I've never seen anything like it. Other peoples' auras are usually stable unless their mood changes. But your aura..."

Brian struggles to find the words.

"The way it shifts from color to color- it's constantly moving, dancing, sparkling- it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," Brian finishes, looking him straight in the eye.

Jae shifts, embarrassed.

"Oh."

"Satisfied?"

Jae nods, not trusting his tongue to listen to his brain at the moment.

"So..." Brian murmurs, twisting his body to bring his face in front of Jae's, eyes searching. "Is this okay?"

Jae feels his fangs sharpen, breathes out a "Fuck, yeah," and allows himself to fall into Brian.

 

Jae wakes with a start when his alarm starts yowling.

He groans and cracks an eye open, checking the time. 6:20 PM. Right when the sun’s supposed to be setting.

He suddenly recalls what transpired the night before and twists around.

His stomach drops as he realizes the bed beside him is empty- void of one very pretty, sexy witch that Jae may or may not have the biggest crush on.

“Oh good, you’re up. I was just wondering if I should make us some food.”

Jae snaps his head around to find Brian standing in the door to his bathroom, half-naked with a towel wrapped around his waist and hair- now a deep, ebony black- dripping wet.

Strangely enough, Jae’s just-awakened mind chooses to fixate on the new hair color rather than the salacious sight of Brian scantily clad.

“Does your hair change on its own or do you do something to it?” he blurts out.

Brian seems startled for a second but then chuckles, responding, “I change it with spells. It started off as a joke between me and some friends, but then I decided I like changing it frequently. Keeps things interesting, you know?”

Brian steps closer to the bed and Jae’s eyes catch on the water droplets making their lazy way down the witch’s chest.

Brian sits on the bed right next to Jae and leans in real close till their noses are a scant few inches apart.

Jae gulps as Brian’s scent, now mingled with Jae’s own shampoo and soap, invades his senses.

“So, do you have clothes for me to borrow, or should I walk around like this and let you stare all day?” Brian asks, playful smirk on his face.

Jae smiles in response. “Hmm, I don’t know, I might have something for you… but it’s gonna come at a cost.”

“Oh?” Brian breathes out, and Jae feels the warmth caress his lips.

Instead of responding, Jae closes the distance between them and captures Brian’s lips with his own, savoring the sweet, soft taste of him.

For the next few moments, the only sounds heard in the room are those of slick tongues and lips moving together.

They break apart slowly, and Brian rests his forehead against Jae’s.

“I could definitely get used to that,” he murmurs.

Jae grins. “Well, good. Because it’s the only way you’re getting any clothes to wear.”

Brian laughs, the sound clear and vibrant in the stillness of Jae’s room, and Jae realizes then that he never wants to let Brian go.

 

They spend the next few hours leisurely puttering around Jae’s apartment. Brian cooks them a simple pasta dish with tomato sauce for himself and blood sauce for Jae that makes him go back for seconds (and then thirds).

When they’ve satisfied their appetites, Brian explores Jae’s apartment, and Jae allows him, secretly enjoying the way Brian pokes through his extensive collections like an inquisitive cat.

Brian eventually finds Jae’s coffin with the long-deceased cacti and succulents and levels Jae with a judgmental stare.

“Really? Succulents are some of the easiest plants to take care of. You basically never have to water them.”

Jae grins sheepishly.

“Well, let’s just say I might have done that literally…”

Brian rolls his eyes but reaches into the pocket of Jae’s borrowed shirt, which hangs two sizes too big on his smaller frame (Jae had nearly had an aneurysm over it), to procure a vial of light blue dust. He uncorks it and lightly sprinkles a pinch over the plants.

To Jae’s amazement, as Brian mutters a spell under his breath, the plants come back to life, swelling with hydration and newly budded flowers.

“That’s amazing!” Jae exclaims, astonished.

The tips of Brian’s ears turn faintly pink. “It’s nothing, really. A basic spell.”

“Regardless, it’s amazing,” Jae says, planting a kiss on Brian’s cheek.

Brian tilts his head back to level Jae with a shrewd stare. “You’re going to be one of those super embarrassing boyfriends, aren’t you?”

Jae feels happiness flood his body at the moniker.

Brian’s my boyfriend now.

“Hell yeah,” he says, grinning.

 

The next time they go to Wonpil’s café, it’s hand in hand.

In under a second, Wonpil’s on them and the whole café is cheering loudly, wolf-whistling or applauding.

“Congrats! I didn’t think you had it in you,” Sungjin says from behind the counter.

“Oh my god! You have to tell me everything!” Wonpil gushes, pulling at Jae’s sleeve.

“I don’t know if you want to hear everything,” Jae mumbles, embarrassed at the thought of discussing details of the sexual kind.

“That’s gross,” a deep voice comes from the side, and then the crowd parts to reveal Dowoon, who looks disgruntled. “You’d better not have done anything weird to my brother, vampire.”

“Woonie!” Brian grabs his brother’s ear and wrenches it so the younger witch is bent over at the proper height for lecturing. “This vampire saved you the other day; you’d better be civilized. Also, he’s my boyfriend now.”

Dowoon levels Jae with a glare despite his uncomfortable position.

Jae has the distinct impression that it’s because he’s now Brian’s boyfriend that Dowoon is acting so coldly.

Brian just pinches harder.

Wincing, the younger witch gives Jae a half-hearted smile that reads more like a scowl.

Hoping to make peace, Jae decides to help the poor guy before his ear is wrenched off.

“If I ever end up hurting Brian- which I won’t, I swear on my coffin- I give you first dibs to tear me limb from limb,” he solemnly promises.

Dowoon’s expression shifts from reluctant to appraising.

Seeming to come to a favorable conclusion, he grants Jae with the first hint of a real smile he’s seen on the boy’s face.

Or maybe it’s more of a menacing smirk as Dowoon contemplates all the ways he can make Jae suffer.

Jae shivers.

“Deal,” Dowoon agrees, straightening as his brother releases his ear. “Though, if you ever get on Brian hyung’s bad side, it’s not me you have to worry about.”

Who else-

“That’s right, darling,” Brian says cheerfully, bringing a hand to the back of Jae’s neck. “And don’t you ever forget it.”

As Brian brings Jae in for a big, fat kiss, Jae wonders, What have I gotten myself into this time?

Then Brian’s lips move against his, and all cohesive thought flies out the window.

He draws Brian in closer, happy and uncaring of the dozen fanged, furry faces cheering them on.