Prompt Code: J33
Title: Bubble Bubble
Side Pairings (if any): None.
Warnings: Mild cursing.
Word Count: 7,600
Summary: How Kyungsoo somehow ends up working for a wizard.
AN: I hope the prompter is pleased with this! I tried making Jongin blunt, straightforward and playful as requested without making him into that broody bad boy Kai stereotype. I apologise to the mods about the extra time it took to get this done!
‘Columns and a gargoyle knocker,’ Baekhyun had told him. He’d been half-convinced that the sardonic merchant was joking. Now that the offending architectural features loomed in front of him, he felt rather more like he was standing at the foot of some centuries-old haunted mansion rather than a tiny semi-detached town house.
“What kind of pretentious…” he squinted, grumbling exasperatedly to himself.
Nevertheless, Kyungsoo stepped further into the mysterious wizard’s domain, grimacing and trying to remind himself that he didn’t have much in the way of alternative options. He really didn’t.
He continued his mental pep-talk, treading closer to the door and paused on the welcome mat.
“For Seungsoo,” he vowed, staring down the knocker. Maybe spurred on by the challenge in Kyungsoo’s eyes, the snarling gargoyle seemed to close in on him. The door smacked him right in the face. Hard.
All Kyungsoo could register before he blacked out was a surprised grunt, the scratchy fibres of the welcome mat and pain.
Cold and wet, something dabbed at his face. The touches were delicate and icy. They distracted from the dull ache of his forehead.
Kyungsoo’s eyes blinked open in a haze, watching as a blood-spotted cloth descended on his face. He flinched when it touched his skin again. Finally, he could see the cloth’s wielder; a man stared back at him with inky dark eyes and he felt momentarily fascinated by their depth. The man did not say anything, though he stopped manipulating the cloth.
Kyungsoo moaned, trying to ignore the twinges coming from his head, “Christ, your door is solid. What the hell is it made of, reinforced metal?”
“Oak.” Came the reply. Smooth voice.
“Huh,” Kyungsoo rubbed a hand over his forehead, “fuck.”
The room they were in looked like a study of sorts, a desk and several shelving and drawer sets with all sorts of papers and books pouring from them. Papers of diagrams and equations were on the walls. Shades of browns, whites and oranges seemed to be the main palette of the room, save from a few pot plants on the window above the desk. Curiously, though, Kyungsoo was laying on what felt a lot like a bed. Why would there be a bed in a study?
“Is your head okay?” The man was sitting up beside Kyungsoo as he lay on the bed. His face was largely impassive, though not unforgiving.
“I’ve had worse. I think this is just residual pain, I’ll live. Probably, “ Only then did he recall his original task, blinking in realisation. “Do you, by any chance, know a ‘Kai’?”
The man raises an eyebrow.
“You know, that wizard everyone and their mother talks about? Can negate any curse? ‘The great,’ ‘the one and only’, ‘can I have his children,’ all that? Actually, I wonder if he can do anything about headaches, right now that would really impress me.”
The man smirked at him, eyes glinting playfully. “I’m surprised you think so highly of me,” he quipped sarcastically.
Kyungsoo gaped. “Wait.”
“I’m no doctor, though. There might be some paracetamol in the kitchen if you look hard enough.”
“Oh.” Kyungsoo flushed dimly. ‘Kai’’s smirk only became more infuriating, the cocky asshole.
After a pause in which Kyungsoo seethed and Kai watched him amusedly, the latter spoke.
“What do you need from me?”
Kyungsoo set the irritation aside and began to explain his predicament.
“Well, um. My Brother, he, his ex-lover kind of cursed him after he left her. So at the moment he’s trapped, he can’t work and I don’t earn nearly as much as him. I can scarcely support myself right now let alone the house’s rent. So, um, is there any way you could get rid of the curse? I mean, I can’t pay you but if there’s anything I could do?”
Kai exhaled and seemed to consider Kyungsoo, looking him up and down. His face pulled up into a frown as he paused for a while and then looked down into the latter’s eyes.
“Alright. But you’ll work as my assistant for a while.”
“Thank you,” Kyungsoo breathed, sincere. It had been a while since something had frightened him as much as his brother’s situation. Seungsoo had always been there, had always supported him even if he could probably handle himself. His loss had Kyungsoo feeling stripped bare.
Kai gave him a long look, expression soft, before nodding silently. He stood, moving toward his desk adjacent the bed. He shuffled around for a moment, eventually gathering parchments and a pen.
“Right,” he swung round to face Kyungsoo, “give me all the details you have about the curse.”
Kyungsoo blinked at him.“Okay, well, the ex wasn’t actually around when the curse played out but she’d left some kind of mirror pendant necklace at our house. It looked expensive so ee thought we should probably try to return it, so he picked it up,” he squinted, “and I’m not entirely sure what happened but there was a bright light and he disappeared. I picked it up then and, I don’t know, it looks like he got frozen in the mirror.”
Kyungsoo dug a silvery necklace from his pocket and handed it to the wizard.
Kai chewed his lip, turning it in his hands, “Hm, so it was a latent spell. But we don’t know exactly what she did or used for it. I’ll probably have to come up with an entirely new spell to negate this one.”
He turned back to the desk and began scribbling away at the papers.
“So what does a magician’s assistant do while you’re drawing equations, Kai?”
Kai hadn’t looked up. “He shuts up.”
Kyungsoo frowned. Well the guy was certainly straightforward.
“Come on. I’m supposed to help you here,” he coaxed.
“What did you do before?”
“Before your brother was cursed.”
Kyungsoo blinked, bewildered. “I was a kitchen assistant at a restaurant. Why?”
“Perfect. Then go make me tea.”
Kyungsoo froze, pulling an exasperated expression at Kai.
Kai finally raised his head to face the shorter man, blinking innocently, “I’m sorry. please go make me some tea.”
Smart alec. Kyungsoo glared for a few moments more before begrudgingly dragging himself up and out the room, “didn’t know assistant meant part-time maid.”
Kai snorted, returning to his work.
Kyungsoo managed to find his way to the kitchen through the mess of corridors and doors, realising too late that he should have kept track of them because as he turned back they all looked the same. Town houses aren’t usually this big, surely?
“Brilliant. Just brilliant,” he sighed, stepping into the kitchen nevertheless.
It was big and quite cluttered, tons of mismatched cutlery, plain mid-tone wood décor with a few cute stickers on the drawers and an unusual assortment of pot plants. Clean, though, he noted as he searched the cabinets, locating a Manhattan of tea bag boxes.
Kyungsoo picked up a few,
Jasmine Oolong , Strawberry Mint, Vanilla camomile, Honey and Ginger, English Breakfast
Unfortunately, staring helplessly at the boxes didn’t somehow magically improve his tea knowledge (which was none) so he just grabbed a random box. It was a pretty light pink with gold lettering and worn cardboard edges. He picked at them, hoping that the relative emptiness of it meant Kai used it quite a lot.
While he waited for the kettle to boil, Kyungsoo poked around Kai’s cabinets for a bit.
The wizard had a ludicrously well-stocked spice cabinet and fridge, evidently they had been used partially as a magic stockroom of sorts. There were your usual cinnamon, rosemary and such but also vials of strange lava lamp-like royal blue liquid, opalescent multicoloured cream, weird smoky black beads that jumped around the jar where Kyungsoo touched it, some grosser ones towards the back that he didn’t dare go near, among many others.
He stopped after nearly dropping a weird glowy jar labelled ‘Glow Worm Excrement,’ feeling a bit queasy. Who the hell would keep that in their fridge, magician or otherwise?
After speedily whipping up the tea, he ventured back into the maze of corridors.
Of course he had to backtrack about five times and was tempted to throw the cup at Kai’s head when he finally opened the door to the study.
“Is there a reason that your house is pointlessly massive? I mean, I opened at least fifteen doors on the way here. Are you compensating for something?” He grumped, shutting the door behind him.
Kai turned his body to face the assistant, raising an eyebrow
“What do you reckon?”
His eyes flickered down for a second, in the next, averted from the wizard altogether. Pink crept up his neck and he shifted the cup in his hands, all the fight gone.
Kai chuckled inoffensively, warmly, from his seat. “I put a spell on the house. Makes it harder for people to just walk in and steal my things.”
Kyungsoo looks back at him, less embarrassed, “what are they going to steal? The glow worm poop in your fridge?” He jokes.
For a beat, Kai stared at him and then promptly broke into a chortle.
“My magic,” he managed between his laughter, “my spells. I have a lot of it written. They can be very dangerous.”
Kyungsoo nodded silently, walking over to Kai and carefully placing the cup on his desk.
“There was an absurd number of tea flavours in your cupboard. I think I used the English Breakfast Tea?” He paused, frowning, “Also, You didn’t tell me whether you took sugar or not so there’s none.”
“I don’t have a preference.” By now, Kai had pinned focus back on his work.
“Alright then,” he continues standing there awkwardly in the silence,” If you don’t have any objections I’m going to sleep because my head still kind of hurts.” Only half true, but Kai didn’t look like he’d be entertaining any guests anytime soon.
“Do what you want.”
Kyungsoo padded back over to the bed, slipping under the crumpled blanket gratefully.
During the first week or so, Kyungsoo didn’t get to do much as an assistant. He mostly made tea (he’d discovered that Kai enjoyed the fruity herbal teas the most, especially anything with elderflower), fetched things or helped Kai search for reference books in his mini library.
Occasionally, though, Kai would be performing or making spells for other (paying) clients and stop to explain parts of it to Kyungsoo, who was usually looking over his shoulder or napping.
These moments were Kyungsoo’s favourite, especially when Kai would give him actual lessons. It was just ‘basic stuff’ according to Kai; how to mix traditional European potions, celestial potions, operationalise equations, using a pestle and mortar ‘correctly’ for various simple herbal medicine ingredients, among other smaller things.
Kyungsoo soaked it all up like a sponge. Oh how he wanted to take to Kai’s library and study up on all this stuff, it was just so interesting. But Kai had told him he’d assign books if and when Kyungsoo was ready for them. Which, Kyungsoo conceded, was probably a good decision despite his reservations, who knew what that little library held?
So far, He’d been given ‘Basics of Herbology’, ‘Magic Preparation: Beginners’ and ‘Encyclopaedia of Common Spell Objects’. He’d read the former two already but the Encyclopedia was quite the bulky tome.
“So what is your origin?”
The two men were seated at the breakfast bar in Kai’s kitchen, sipping away at what Kyungsoo had earlier delightedly announced as “mushroom soup with winter vegetables,” despite that it was well rounding spring by now.
Kyungsoo had started cooking for the two of them after the first few nights, mostly because Kai’s cooking talents were limited to keeping himself alive and potion brewing.
“Can I keep you?” He’d asked after the first few bites with sparkling eyes like he’d never had food before in his life.
“Wasn’t a kitchen assistant for nothing,” Kyungsoo had snickered back at him. Finally! some leverage.
That was also the night that Kai told him his real name, “you earned it,” he’d said, dishing himself out a second portion.
“Easily swayed by food, huh? Good to know, good to know…” Kyungsoo mumbled conspiratorially. Kai was too far gone to even hear him.
“Hm?” Big eyes looked up at him, mouth full of food. Gross. Also weirdly cute, he thought. Like a hamster, maybe.
“Your origin?” He reiterated.
Jongin paused to swallow. “Ah, you’ve been doing your readings. I’m part of Pure. Elemental, natural force and what have you.”
“What does it involve?” Kyungsoo looks up at Jongin with interest.
“Well,” Jongin licks his lips thoughtfully, “Pure was drawn a lot from sort of tribal cultures? Out of respect for the land and such but also a little from almost all other types because most feature some form of natural or elemental magic or energy.”
“It has a lot to do with drawing raw power from nature and returning it, sometimes in different forms. A give and take, if you will. Since nature doesn’t really have, like, a verbal language? It doesn’t involve incantations, mostly performances and movements to channel the energy through your body for use. Sometimes it uses natural objects for enhancements but, yeah, most of it is through movement.”
“How come you make potions and stuff then?”
“Well, even though my origin involves almost exclusively movement, to be able to negate curses or manipulate spells that could originate from any of the origins or even multiple ones, I’ve got to know and be able to use all magic materialisation methods.”
All of them? No wonder people held him in such high regard. “That’s damn impressive, Jongin.”
Jongin shrugged a shoulder, taking another spoon of soup.
“How long have you been practicing magic for?”
“Well, for as long as I can remember, I had an interest in it. Think I started practicing when I was eight, give or take.”
Go figure that kind of mastery would take so long. “What kind of origin was my brother’s ex?”
“Vex. Drawn mostly from Irish and British magical beings,” Jongin sighed, head hanging over his bowl.
“Their magic, It’s aimless, mischievous. It doesn’t necessarily serve any kind of higher purpose, to people, the world, or otherwise. At its most basic, it’s used for messing around with people, for revenge, blackmail, for fun.”
He shifted, lifting his head to face Kyungsoo, frowning “not, not that all Vex origins are mean or subservient wizards. They’re very talented at carrying out spells without any verbal or physical command, as their magic has more to do with mentality and intention, which makes them very lethal fighters. You wouldn’t know what or when a spell attack will be. The fact that illusions are also a big part of their magic also improves their potential in fights.”
“So they’re not what I would ever call ‘useless,’ because many of them use their abilities wisely, and even those that just use it for harmless jokes are alright. There are only a few who take it too far, like your brother’s ex, for example.”
Kyungsoo nodded attentively, mulling over this information, arbitrarily stirring his soup. “What are the other origins like?”
Jongin lifted his bowl and brought it to his mouth to drink the remains of the soup. He wiped his mouth clean with his knuckles.
“Well, there’s the Curare. They deal mostly with medicinal, healing stuff. They do lots with potions, salves, herbal medicines, objects and charms. Little bits of incantations, too. Some of the dark ones go the other way and are mad good at making bombs and poisons.”
Kyungsoo’s eyebrows raised at this.
“Then, you’ve got the Spiel. They’re from moral or narrative, spiritual teachings like from Japanese or Indian magic lore. They do a little bit of everything, really, but they’re well-known for intricate incantations. The amount of energy they can focus in the way they web words and spells is a very difficult thing to perfect. Lots are good with symbols and talismans too.
Last, is the Mesh. They are kind of the life equivalent of the Pure, like their magic is channelled from beings that help people or everyday situations. Like fertility or good harvest spirits. It’s mostly non-verbal spells with flourishing hand movements; they’re almost as good as Vex with mental spells. They also make a lot of charms and objects for various fortune purposes.”
Jongin inclined his head, “of course origins only really define what sort of materialisation a wizard will be the most natural with, it has nothing to do with personality, use or intention. And all of them can be twisted for negative purposes.” He hummed. “Some, like I, will even learn from more than our natural origin and use multiple facets, too.”
Kyungsoo was nodding along again, which Jongin appeared to find amusing, a smirk briefly lining his lips. The assistant supposed he probably looked a little like one of those bobble head dolls. Oh well.
Kyungsoo continued eating his soup portion, watching as Jongin dished himself a second. Briefly, he pondered why tall people tended to eat so much, surely Jongin wasn’t that much bigger than him. He was struck with another (less dumb) thought.
“I wonder what origin I’d be if I were a wizard,” he mused quietly, giving rapt attention to his food like he hadn’t even spoken.
“Curare, hands-down. You’d be brilliant at potions.” As if to prove his point, Jongin made an appreciative moan at his next bite of food.
“The herbology book is really interesting,” he conceded.
Jongin pointed his spoon at the other man, “told ya.”
For the first time when Kyungsoo habitually drew the curtains of Jongin’s study, the sky was fresh and clear, remnants of rain from days gone by sprouting from every conceivable nook and looking to bask in the warmth of a day of sun. Petrichor, grass and sweet peas seeped into the room as he unlatched the window.
Kyungsoo sighed, turning to Jongin who was sleepily trudging his way through the door. “I think we’re out of food, I’m going to need to go pick a few things up at the market. Do you need me for anything this morning?”
Jongin yawned, “Nah, Take your time. I’ve got some clients coming over so there’s nothing for you to do anyway.” He stood there, lidded eyes and parted lips, looking like he’d gladly fall back to sleep standing.
“You sure you don’t want some coffee?” Kyungsoo insisted, frowning pleadingly.
Jongin’s eyebrows scrunched over closed eyes, “God no. Pond water over that heathen drink any day.”
Alright then. Kyungsoo moved to exit the room so he could get ready to leave for the market when Jongin spoke again, “you know. I just remembered that I was going to buy food the day you went and head butted my door. I forgot about it entirely until now.”
“It smacked me in the face, Jongin. I didn’t ram it myself.”
Jongin just laughed at him, drowsily settling down at his desk.
People, bright stall banners, the mix of earthy, tangy, and sweet scents from various collections of fresh produce filled the space between buildings old and new alike.
The town was quite busy, everyone likely enjoying the sunny weather in the wake of overcast gloom. Kyungsoo, as he ventured from stall to stall, thought he felt lighter for it, too. It was nice to be outside after spending so long inside.
He sighed, squeezing past two older ladies to get to a vegetable stall. It was a shame that the wizard was cooped up on a day like this, he wondered if he could convince Jongin to do some of his work outside or lounge around for a bit, even.
There’s no harm in having one day to yourself, after all.
Towards the end of his trip, while trying to manoeuvre down a crowded street with his arms full of bulky brown bags, he found himself regretting not dragging Jongin along for a different reason. Immediately he dismissed the thought, he was plenty strong enough to carry a few bags. They were just inconveniently largely shaped and kept slipping down, damnit. He lifted a leg and tried to jostle them back up, grumbling.
Mercifully, he huffed, Jongin’s house wasn’t far.
Upon returning, he first stopped at the kitchen to put away all the food and then headed towards Jongin’s study.
He paused at the door, pressing his ear to the door to figure out if Jongin was still dealing with those clients he mentioned earlier. From the barrage of multiple voices coming from the room, Kyungsoo assumed Jongin was probably still discussing with them.
He moved away from the door, wary of having another ‘head-butting’ incident. He probably shouldn’t interrupt, especially since he would just end up standing awkwardly on the sidelines, unable to contribute.
He drifted a little further from the study, walking idly down the passageway. He hadn’t done much wandering in Jongin’s house yet, slightly worried about getting lost in the seemingly infinite corridors. The ones he had passed through many times a day in the main living spaces, he was perfectly comfortable with but looking down the unfamiliar ones felt a lot like staring down Wonderland’s rabbit hole. The wizard’s magic was no joke.
But he had time to kill, already read his assigned books and Jongin most likely had some special wizardly way of finding people who he’s sure have inevitably gotten horribly lost in this house. He was curious what other spaces Jongin spent his time in.
With that thought, he continued on.
As Kyungsoo snooped in and out of dozens of rooms, he found that the corridors were not so intimidating after all.
Despite not having very many windows, they were all brightly lit. Jongin was fond of skylights, it seemed. And there were lamps and weird pretty glowing light orbs in those without. The majority of the walls, floors and all, were made of plain wood. Some of the doors or walls were painted in light colours; whites, beiges, blues, greens, occasionally with an accompanying snaking floral or solar motif.
Like in all other parts of the house, greenery could be found dotted everywhere; the sunny simple presence of daisy bushes, some shy cosy pussywillow, bushy ferns, glossy massive arrowheads, palms, the occasional cacti, amidst many more. He wondered how on earth Jongin kept them all so healthy; surely there were enough of them in this house to make an acre of plantation.
Jongin was a Pure, though. Anything pertaining to nature probably flourished around him, perhaps he knew a way of making it rain inside every once in a while.
Overall, the house had a soft, pleasant feeling. It was Jongin’s house afterall. Jongin, who puts cute stickers on his kitchen drawers and acts all mysterious and cocky but is adorably sleepy in the mornings and hates bitter things.
Most of the rooms he found were storage of various kinds, some empty. He also saw a gym, a library Jongin’s never taken him to before and a large mirrored dance studio.
As Kyungsoo strode near a cerulean painted door, his ears picked up on a subtle drip resonating through the wood. The paint was a lot bolder than the pale colours of all the other walls or doors he had seen. He traced his fingers along one of the gold painted border motifs, the grain slightly rough, imperfect.
The steady drip-drop continued in the background.
Turning the knob, the assistant pushed the door ajar and took in the sight before him. His gasp joined the amplified beat of water droplets in their repetitive chord.
Thousands of small tiles covered every surface of the room in assorted shades of blue with dustings of gold, white and purple accents. In the centre of the room was a round pool, light coming in from the glass roof flitting off of crystal clear water.
Staring up at the glass ceiling, he could imagine lazily floating about in the pool at night, body encased in a mirror of the night sky and facing the moon. The thought brought another breath from his lips, this time in a sigh.
Jongin didn’t disappoint in aesthetics, that was for sure.
Skirting around the edge of the pool, Kyungsoo noticed a smaller circular indentation to the floor behind the pool. He moved closer to inspect it and found that it had little black rimmed metal notches on its interior. It was a hot tub. Why hadn’t Jongin mentioned he had such luxurious facilities before? Was he waiting for Kyungsoo to find them and ask?
He looked up, spying a doorway on the back wall, beaded curtains hanging from the arch. The beads were similar colours to the tiles on the walls, masking it.
He parted the beads, listening to them clack against one another once he let them free.
Blue sky, grass and more plants, he seemed to have found Jongin’s garden.
Myriads of coloured flowers and shades of green surrounded the small step-stone path toward a swing bench. Carefully, he made his way over to it, a contented hum settling on his lips.
He lay face up on the bench, thankful for the partial shade offered by the sheer overhang. He closed his eyes, feeling warmth glow on his skin. The gentle noises of the breeze, insects and birds lulled him into a midday cat nap.
“Kyungsoo,” sing-songed a mellow voice, stealing him from his dreams.
Jongin crouched next to the bench, touching his assistant’s arm lightly as he blinked blearily at him.
“Hnn.” He sat up slowly, the sleepiness clouding his being gradually fading. “You found me, huh?”
“Were we playing a game of hide and seek game I wasn’t aware of?” Jongin chuckled.
Kyungsoo smiled faintly, “no. I came back when you were still busy so I explored a little.”
Jongin nodded, still staring up at him with unreadable bottomless eyes. Unsettled, he rose from the bench while Jongin stubbornly looked on, bringing himself up soon after.
Finally, Jongin turned and averted his eyes to walk back across the path. Discomfort bled from Kyungsoo’s shoulders, he’d barely noticed the life around him, the sensation that had earlier swathed him, cradled him to sleep, until that moment. Jongin’s eyes could be a little intense.
He followed Jongin’s lead, stepping through the cascade of beads.
“Do you ever use the hot tub?” Kyungsoo asked, watching the back of Jongin’s head.
“Yeah, sometimes.” Jongin stopped, shifting to face Kyungsoo with a grin. Oh god, Kyungsoo thought.
Eye brows arching suggestively, Jongin drawled, “you want to try it out sometime?” He was pulling that smirk again. The one Kyungsoo hated. Though, it quivered comically as the wizard supressed his laughter.
Both of them could only burst out laughing, their mirth bouncing off the mosaic walls.
Following the wandering episode, Kyungsoo became less apprehensive about snooping around Jongin’s domain. He knew now that for the most part, Jongin didn’t care. He wasn’t so much generous or selfless, just trustful. He recognised that Kyungsoo’s intentions were merely honest interest.
Sometimes, though, his inquisitive nature could get Kyungsoo into trouble he had no business being in.
As he peaked around one of the tall cabinets in Jongin’s study, Kyungsoo cautiously picked up a few of the jars; their contents even more unfathomable and eerie than anything he’d seen in Jongin’s house; lavender miasmas floated, like looming clouds, yellow burning around their edges, black liquid that swirled perpetually, plasma-like liquid, small piles of ground sediment which flamed violently. There were more towards the back and he went to move the first jars to reveal them when he spotted a large barrel of steel ball bearings underneath the shelf of jars. They made a strange ominous humming sound that he was surprised he hadn’t noticed before, vibrating in their barrel.
His fingertips had changed course and reached towards them, when breath casted over the back of his neck. Kyungsoo stopped.
“Curiosity killed the cat.” He could feel the body heat of Jongin behind him, steady and resolute.
Jongin grabbed hold of his upper arms, chest against Kyungsoo’s spine, and gently moved him away from the cabinet.
“Come on, kitty.”
Kyungsoo looked up to scowl at the wizard, who just grinned wolfishly at him.
“I’ve always wanted a familiar.”
“I’m not a fucking cat, Jongin.”
He is undeterred, lips creeping wider. “All you need are some ears and a tail.”
“Jongin I swear to god I’ll starve you,” the assistant grumbles.
Jongin’s smile turned softer, relenting the teasing. “Come on, I’ve got a job for you,” he mumbled, fully back-hugging him and driving him towards the desk.
On the desk were three massive brown bags full of pea pods and an empty mixing bowl that Kyungsoo had used the day before for a batch of bread.
He craned his neck to give Jongin a questioning glance, blinking owlishly.
Jongin’s smile morphed once again, now apologetic. Brilliant. “I need to have all of the peas extracted from these.”
Kyungsoo’s thick brows breached his fringe. “Why didn’t you just buy the packs of already extracted ones?” Incredulity seeped from his words. A bit of pleading, too, really, this would take hours!
“I can’t use common peas. These are a very specific type, otherwise the spell won’t work. Trust me, I tried looking for an extracted version of them but no luck.”
Kyungsoo turned solemnly back to the peas, “Christ.”
Jongin didn’t reply.
A moment of silence overcame them as Kyungsoo continued to eye the pods while Jongin stared at him.
“The things we do for magic, huh?” The assistant shattered it, voice grave.
Jongin sighed, “tell me about it.”
Kyungsoo got to work on the pods, cutting and extracting each pea as neatly as he could manage. Two hours in, his workspace had deteriorated into (what he considered) a mess. He nearly sobbed. Jongin, cross-legged on the couch with documents strewn all around him, just looked at him with his jaw hanging when he explained his reaction.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that desk so organised. What mess?”
Kyungsoo pouted at him.
Well into the third hour, things had gotten a bit bleary for Kyungsoo. His head hadn’t hurt this much since his encounter with Jongin’s door.
Jongin had made him take small breaks and given him food and drinks like a good employer while Kyungsoo just mumbled barely comprehensible grunts of “thanks” to him. He was pretty sure his brains had become a lump of peas by this point.
Eventually, inevitably, he nodded off on the desk.
A metallic clatter startled Kyungsoo from his sleep. It was dark by now, when had that happened?
He had somehow been moved to the bed and blanket was settled over him. He lifted his head a fraction and spotted Jongin, who had taken up his seat at the desk, continuing with the peas.
Breifly, an affectionate glow flickered in his chest.
His head fell back to the pillows. With the warmth of the blanket surrounding him and quiet comforting noises of Jongin working, he drifted off again.
The second time he stirred awake, it was still dark. Jongin was no longer at the desk, though the lamp was still pouring light over the wood, papers, peas and bowls.
Did he go to bed and forget to turn it off?
Kyungsoo sat up, rustling his blankets and drowsily blinked at the desk. The paper bags were gone and the glass bowl full, Jongin must’ve finished them all.
He stood, turning off the lamp and shuffled out into the hallway to find his way to his bedroom.
In his sleep-clouded state, he made a few wrong turns and ended up opening the door on poor Jongin, who was getting ready for bed.
Kyungsoo blinked at him, barely comprehending, “I thought this was my room.”
Kyungsoo hummed sleepily, rubbing his eyes with balled up hands.
“I was going to come and take you to your room, silly. You’ll get lost if you’re sleepwalking.”
He scolded, light and laced with amusement.
The assistant leant on the door frame, groaning and smooshing his face into the wood uncaringly. “I swear, do you deliberately fuck with the layout of this place just to mess with me.”
Kyungsoo had been getting lost in the house a lot lately; generally, he would sprout every curse under the sun at least twelve times, seeing the same hallways five times, before Kai found him and usually laughed. ‘Stupid massive house stupid wizard I hate him,’ was becoming a large part of his under-the-breath monologue.
“Maybe. But not this time,” Jongin replied, that smirk playing on his lips again.
Kyungsoo glared briefly, though it couldn’t have looked very menacing with his face squished up against the door. He let it slide, too tired to deal with Jongin’s antics.
“Come on. I’ll take you to your room,” Jongin ushered, stepping towards the door.
Kyungsoo shook his head, eyes heavy.
“Nah, I can’t be bothered to walk all the way. I want to lie down. Can I just sleep here?”
He almost felt himself float off again in the moment of lull before Jongin answered hesitantly, “uh. Sure, sure thing.”
Kyungsoo gave him a drowsy half smile and plopped unceremoniously onto the left side of the bed. He was already wearing comfy clothing and in no mood to be doing anything more involving moving.
Jongin stared, still tentative, at the still figure on his bed, before shrugging it off and getting in himself. He pulled the blankets over the both of them.
If the two woke the next morning to find themselves wrapped together, Kyungsoo drooling over Jongin’s bare chest and Jongin breathing against dark silky hair strands, neither of them made mention of it. They slept in for an hour.
Said man twisted his body from where he stood over the hob, frying some bacon and tomatoes for their breakfast. “Hn?”
Jongin entered the kitchen, grinning and trying to swipe some of the bacon. Kyungsoo swatted him away grumpily, “what?”
Arms crossed over his front from behind, trapping Kyungsoo’s upper arms. He squirmed weakly, “Jongin!”
All he got was a cheek rested on the top of his head and a hum in reply.
“The food’s going to burn,” he tried feebly to pick up the food in the frying pan with the spatula but couldn’t reach the plate. Of course, Jongin just laughed at this. Eventually, he just moved the pan to one of the cold burners and turned the entire stove off.
“What do you want?”
The wizard hummed again, “we’re going on a field trip today.”
“There are these… aquatic plants that you can get from a coastline about an hour away from here that I need for your brother’s spell. I’ve run out of my stocks.”
“Oh. Have you finished working it all out, then?” There was a note of sadness in his words.
“Yeah. We can probably complete the spell soon.”
Kyungsoo nodded in lieu of a reply. After all these weeks, he’d forgotten that this was only temporary. He was only repaying Kai by working for him until his brother’s curse was lifted, he would return to his brother and have to start working back at one of the restaurants.
He probably wouldn’t see Jongin again, the wizard was very busy. Always.
Jongin squeezed him, breaking him from his thoughts. They stayed like that for a while, and Kyungsoo relished in Jongin’s presence, more aware than ever that it wouldn’t last for much longer.
Like all other the sea fronts Kyungsoo had visited, wind blew softly at his face, grazing his skin with brine and salts. It was rounding summer, the slight bite of spring slowly fading. Though the water was probably still cold, Kyungsoo thought.
Jongin dragged him off toward the rocky side of the coastline, carefully picking his way down to the sand at the bottom. They walked along for a bit before coming to a formation that looked a bit like a cave, the water leaking in shallow. Patterns of light glowed on the walls.
Jongin waded in easily, a duck to water. Kyungsoo followed cautiously. The wizard crouched next to one of the cave’s walls near the mouth and reached down against the rock, trying to feel for something.
A good fifteen minutes later, he exclaimed triumphantly, holding up a strange orange seaweed-looking plant with black beaded notches throughout it. Jongin strode over to Kyungsoo, handing it to him, “they feel a lot like studded denim and are usually on the walls of caves.”
Kyungsoo nodded, feeling the plant between his fingers for a bit longer. Most aquatic plants felt quite slimy, but this one felt more like wet thick fabric, tenacious.
They worked together, moving from one cave to the next until their basket was almost full of the amber-black leaves.
Kyungsoo was on his knees, trying to peer up into a crevice in the wall when he felt something prod at his butt. He turned around to find Jongin behind him, holding up their basket.
“I think we’ve got enough to head back now.”
Kyungsoo smiled, relieved. His water-soaked clothing was starting to get really cold and heavy. When he straightened out, he realised his back and legs were feeling pretty sore, too.
“Thank god for that,” he shivered. Jongin put an arm around his shoulders and lead them both back to his car. He was always inhumanly warm and kept the wind’s chill from bothering Kyungsoo.
Once their cargo was secure in the boot, Jongin put hands on Kyungsoo’s shoulders and moved him so that they stood directly opposite, startling him.
Kyungsoo looked up at him with wide eyes, blinking when Jongin started doing some flowy body movements. It was like he was dancing. He realised what the wizard was doing when the water started to seep from his clothes and steam off into the air.
Kyungsoo hadn’t seen Jongin using Pure abilities very much, as it was rare that Pure magic was used for curses and such. He’d always thought that Jongin looked fantastic doing spells; potions, reciting, talismans but it was nothing compared to this.
Jongin was in his element and suddenly his mastery of other magic looked like child’s play, it was now obvious why the wizard had a dance studio. Kyungsoo could only imagine what he might achieve with this talent, didn’t think he’d see anything more beautiful.
Soon, it was over and Kyungsoo could only watch the steam fade into the sky, fascinated. He met Jongin’s gaze again, who had already been looking at him, and mouthed a soft ‘woah.’
Jongin smiled shyly.
“Thanks,” Kyungsoo spoke gently. Jongin shrugged humbly and walked round to the driver’s side to get in.
Once they returned, Jongin suggested they give the hot tub a go, when he saw Kyungsoo rubbing his back as his assistant tried to pack away the basket in the bottom of the fridge.
Kyungsoo agreed happily, already heading off to find some nice fluffy towels he’d washed the day before.
Jongin waited for him to return with the towels and some new sets of clothes before leading the way there.
The room was as pretty as Kyungsoo remembered it. The sun had gone down while they drove back, so the water glowed softly with moonlight, looking every bit as ethereal as he’d pictured.
Jongin left for a moment to go and collect a few of the glowing orbs in a nearby hallway, because the silvery moon light didn’t reach the tub as well as it did the pool.
Meanwhile, Kyungsoo turned it on and started filling it.
By the time Jongin came back, the tub was steamy, bubbles peaking from the water. Kyungsoo smiled excitedly at him, watching the orbs hover over his hands.
“Does Pure magic control light, too?”
“Yes, but we don’t create it, just like we can’t make water out of nowhere. Pure is about manipulating naturally existing sources,” he licked his lips, having a look at the light in his hands, “a Vex friend of mine makes these. His magic is descended a lot from Scottish and English realms, and these are made by a charm similar to the wil-o-wisp. They appear in green areas a lot to lure travellers away from safe paths.”
Kyungsoo hummed, hands hovering over one of the lights in Jongin’s hold, “they’re very elegant,” he noted.
Jongin smiled, eyelashes and hair lit up prettily, “they are, yeah.”
He positioned the lights around the tub and started stepping out of his clothing to get in. Kyungsoo did the same, though probably more bashfully. Jongin didn’t seem to have any shame when it came to his body.
Both settled into the tub, leaning back and enjoying the easing of tight muscles from the warmth and gentle pulses of bubbles.
Kyungsoo sighed heartily, “why on earth didn’t we do this earlier?”
Jongin laughed, eyes closed, “I don’t know.”
Though thinking about earlier had Kyungsoo also thinking about how fleeting all of this was. He wasn’t going to be by Jongin’s side forever, laughing together, listening to him talk about magic, getting teased by him, sleeping next to him, hugging him, living, breathing everything that is, was, and will be Jongin. He hadn’t realised how much he loved all that stuff, not until today, how much he loved-
“You okay, Soo’?” a hand cupped his shoulder, Jongin’s inky eyes worried and brow creased.
His face must’ve given away his melancholy thoughts, and he made sure to quickly mellow it out.
“Yeah, I’m. I’m okay.” The epiphany from just moments ago, what he’d finally admitted to, swirled around in his head. He couldn’t look the wizard in the eyes.
Jongin’s frown deepened, his hand slipping down Kyungsoo’s arm to meet his hand. He willed the other man to look him in the eyes, “Kyungsoo.”
“You need to tell me so I can help you, Soo. You matter to me, you know that right?”
Kyungsoo’s attempt at masking himself stuttered, “I just,” he choked.
His lips turned southward, “I’m happy that you’re helping my brother, I do really want to see him again, I do. B-but, I don’t want to go back to my old life. I,” he glanced up at Jongin for a fraction, “I really like it here, with you. I like being a magician’s assistant, I enjoy spending time with you, learning from you, helping you, and that’ll all be over soon.”
His eyes were getting a bit blurry by this point,” I like you, I don’t want this to end.”
Jongin squeezed his hand, “oh, Kyungsoo, it doesn’t have to end.”
Kyungsoo looked up at him, eyes wide, hopeful.
“You can still stay with me. Stay as long as you’re happy to be here.” He lifted his other hand to touch Kyungsoo’s cheek.
“You’re not getting rid of me that easy,” Jongin teased. Kyungsoo snorted, feeling tons lighter.
Jongin held Kyungsoo’s waist, pulling him to sit between his legs and cuddled him.
“I like you, too.”
Kyungsoo leant into him, “that’s good,” he joked, “because you’re stuck with me too.”
Jongin dropped a kiss on the back of his neck, smiling against his skin,“ are you feeling better?”
Kyungsoo hummed contentedly in reply, “this is really nice.”
Later on, the two retired to Jongin’s bedroom.
Kyungsoo sat on the bed, watching as Jongin flicked off all the lights.
Now lit solely by moonlight, Jongin turned to him and moved to stand in front of Kyungsoo’s knees. Kyungsoo tugged at Jongin’s hand, “lie down with me.” His tone deep, mellow.
“Okay,” Jongin agreed, a mischevious glint in his eyes. He fell down directly on top of Kyungsoo, giggling as Kyungsoo grunted and squirmed underneath, smothered by his chest.
“Jongin!” Kyungsoo complained, trying to push the weight off of him. Jongin relented, pushing up on his hands so he leaned over Kyungsoo without crushing him.
Kyungsoo glared at him but Jongin, the bastard, only grinned back.
“Dumbass,” Kyungsoo grumbled.
Jongin raised an eyebrow, still smiling, and began to pitch forward.
All Kyungsoo could do was stare at Jongin’s lips as they zeroed in on him, eyes shuttering close at the last moment. The presses were soft, a beating of hummingbird wings, bubbles skimming skin in the tub. And they got wetter as Kyungsoo divulged further, pressed more insistently.
Jongin pulled back after a while, smiling blissfully at him. He closed his eyes again to give Kyungsoo an Eskimo kiss, then granted two kisses to each of Kyungsoo’s eyelids that had shut from the surprise.
Kyungsoo couldn’t dampen the red that bloomed in his face from that. Jongin was too sweet, too gentle, Kyungsoo thought his chest might overflow with daisies and warm fruity teas.
It seemed like Jongin’s face had gained a matching shade, though, so they were even.
A hand moved the hair from in front of his eyes, the back of it grazing his cheek, then Jongin leant back and moved the both of them to lie properly in his bed. He made sure Kyungsoo had been covered generously with the blanket before he lowered his head to the pillow opposite.
“Goodnight, Soo,” he whispered, arm around said man’s waist.
“Night,” Kyungsoo breathed quietly, tangling their legs.
“How the hell do you remember where all of this stuff is?”
They had just spent the better part of half an hour searching for various objects around Jongin’s house.
Jongin shrugged at him, limbering up in the middle of the talisman he’d drawn meticulously on the floor in white chalk. “When you use the stuff all the time you get used to it. And I do have a loose-ish category system for different storages.”
It was D-day, Jongin was about to perform the spell that would save his brother. But Kyungsoo wouldn’t be going anywhere, not for a while.
“Let’s do this.”