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Awake in a Dream

Chapter Text

You had ended up somewhere new one night while you had been sleeping. It wasn’t anything unusual for you to do that, but it was always a surprise when it occurred. You were far away from the city life you had grown to expect and were now in what appeared to be a small town. You were nestled perfectly between the fences of two different properties with just enough space between the edges of fences to not touch your own stone wall that surrounded your garden. You doubted that your neighbors had even noticed, if indeed there were any neighbors in the houses beside you. You didn’t notice any normal signs of life and you were so close to just open land that you doubted it.

You settled yourself very quickly into your new surroundings and adjusted to the slow flow of life in the village you lived now. People always shot you nervous and strange looks at your new face among their populace as well as at the house and abundant garden that had not existed before one sudden night, but none confronted you. Whispers of “witch” and “evil” followed you through the streets and most steered clear. Nobody kept you out of the local stores or buildings, but nobody encouraged your approach or offered you services. The local church kept its eye on you. Some people blessed themselves as you passed.

You had only sighed to yourself. It was always so much harder to gain the trust of smaller towns like this when they had a label to place on you before you had the chance to accommodate their needs.

There was a reason you were in this town. There was always a reason you appeared in new places so suddenly. There was something that you needed to fulfill. Some unknown goal that you would figure out along your way. You took your time. You didn’t need to rush anything as far as you knew. If the situation had waited this long to tug on your magic for attention, then it could wait longer while you oriented yourself and established yourself.

Like many things in your life, it started with a meeting.

You were wandering through town considering the upcoming season and the holiday that loomed on the horizon that you needed to prepare for when a flash of red caught your attention. A boy ran by with his hair as bright as the warning sun on the ocean the morning before a storm. Your heart had jumped at the sight of it. Such a color was not common in the village. You stared after the boy, watching as he dashed away with grim determination towards the grocery store down the street. You stayed on the stone wall under the shade of an oak tree and tilted your head a bit to the side, curious. The very air itself seemed to shift with the boy’s passing. The wind’s direction changed and flowed after him. Your fingers trailed across the stone you were sitting on. You were alert now.

The boy came back out a few minutes later with a bag on his arm and a frown marring his face. He stared at his hand and mouthed words to himself as he counted his money, glancing upwards and scrunching his face as he checked his calculations. It gave you enough time to notice something else about the child. He had golden eyes that reminded you of Midhir before his eyes had changed on you. The boy couldn’t have been much older than thirteen. He looked like he had really just started hitting puberty, although it was hard to tell on his skinny features. He didn’t appear starved, but certainly not healthy either.

He walked past you with only a glance in your direction as he put his money away. He kept a wary eye on his surroundings, his shoulders stiff and his hand gripping the bag tightly. The air was charged. You could taste curiosity and anxiety on your tongue. You wondered where it came from. You watched as the boy tensed to take off in a sprint again, but instead came to a dead stop. The wind rushed around you and the boy as if it was trying to push the child back towards you. You wondered if the boy would heed its call.

You did not move as the boy seemed to struggle with himself before finally whatever thoughts he had overwhelmed him and he turned suddenly to face you. You kept your gaze honest and open with gentle curiosity. It wouldn’t do to disturb a child who was already terrified enough of the world to have a haunted glaze to his young eyes. He took a step towards you, stopped, and then took another. You blinked. He came to a stop at the edge of some invisible boundary. He was too far away for you to grab.

“You…” The boy hesitated, eyes darting to gaze at your attire, then to the wide brim of your pointed hat, and then finally at your face. Your bare toes pressed a bit harder into the stone of the wall you were sitting on. Bits of dirt and rock danced down your feet. “Are you…the witch?”

He was a scruffy child with clothes too big for his body and eyes too old for his youth. His hair was a mess of fire and wind and his face was pale with sweat and lack of sunlight. There was fear in his stance, but you could sense it wasn’t because of any silly thing like rumors spreading around the town. No, this child was too busy watching his surroundings. Even as you deliberated on how you would answer his innocent question, he glanced over his shoulder as if expecting a spector to appear.

“I guess I am.” You confessed with a small amused smile. “I mean, I am certainly a witch, but I’m also probably the only witch in this area. So I must be the witch, right?”

The boy appeared taken aback by this kind of response before he crept a bit closer, leaning a little past the boundary he had set up between you two. “Well, I’ve only heard people talk about one witch. So I guess you are the only witch.”

Your smile broadened. “Then yes, I am the witch! How could you tell?”

You could visibly see some of the tension leaving the boy. “Well, you look like one.”

“Black dresses and hats are not that uncommon, are they?”

He raised his eyebrows. “You look like the witches in my books. Most people don’t look like that.”

“That’s true.” You admitted. “That, and it’s really hard to find a hat like this just anywhere.”

The boy came just a tiny bit closer, tilting himself to the side some to see more of your hat. He was probably gazing at the strange crookedness of the top, unnaturally folding and holding itself up despite the material. You really liked this hat.

“Are you a bad witch?” He asked, tucking his bag behind his back with a small frown. The wind blew from behind him and into your face, clearing your forehead and eyes from any of your hair while his own curly hair mottled itself in front of him. He quickly wiped it out of his face.

“No, I’m not.” You assured him with a passion, You relaxed back onto your hands and rolled your shoulders as you wiped the dirt off of your feet on the side of your calves. When they were clean, you slipped them into the black flats you had left on the ground. “I try my best not to do bad things.”

“Why?” He asked.

“Because whatever you do will come back to you three times as much. So if I do bad things, it will come back to me much worse than the bad that I had done. But if I do good things, I’ll find myself to have a lot of good come into my life.”

He contemplated your words with a hum. Neither of you moved. Hidden somewhere in the depths of the tree above you, some cicada made their announcements to the world. It was becoming late. Your back was slick with sweat despite the material of your dress being quite breathable.

The boy hopped up onto the wall next to you decidedly, placing his bag down beside himself. He sat far enough away that you would have to stretch your arm out fully to reach him, but close enough for companionship. You could see some bare provisions of food and drink in his shopping bag. It looked meager for even one person.

“I like that.” He told you. “Does life really work that way, though? Do bad things really come back to hurt bad people?”

“Yes, almost certainly.” You assured him. “Although the timing on it may take a long time, karma does not hesitate to return a boon or a slight.”

The boy smiled sadly at the ground. “That would be nice.” He murmured. Neither of you spoke for a few long moments, just taking in each other’s companies. A mother with their child wandered by on their way to the store. The boy beside you ducked his head while the adult stared at you both with wide eyes. She tugged her child close to her and continued. The boy turned his head to take in his surroundings again. You waved to the little girl as she stared at you and was hurried along by her mother.

The boy jumped off of the wall then, not content to sit still and backed up from you a few paces. “If you’re a witch, can you do magic?” He asked.

“Yes, I can do a lot of magic.”

“Prove it, then. I wanna see some magic!”

You stood from the wall and brushed off the seat of your dress. “What kind of magic would you like to see?”

The boy faltered then, apparently surprised that he would have to think of something to see. He recovered very quickly and asked you with a serious face, “Please show me the stars. I can’t see them during the day, but I’m not able to go outside at night.” He set his jaw. “I want to see the stars.”

You smiled at that. It was an unusual request, but it was not something you couldn’t fulfill. “Okay.” You moved closer to him. He held his ground. You kneeled down so you were closer to his height and held out your hand. “Watch closely.” You told him.

You thought of the night and the stars you had seen by your own eyes and through telescopes. You thought of the marvel you felt when you had first seen what a planet looked like and the infinite cosmos that soaked starlight into your skin when you had breathed in the sight of a sky without light pollution. You felt the sky enter you and the earth ground you and you coaxed it through your body, down your arm, and to gather into your palm. There you shaped it and pushed it through the thin layer of your skin and into the visible realm

Under the shadow of the tree, a shade formed and flowed into your hand. A multitude of colors swirled gently together and created bubbles that transformed into tiny dull stars and brilliant planets. You could see Saturn and shooting comets and the Milky Way and you could hear the very faint tinkling of music. You wiggled your fingers and the cosmos swirled.

The boy gasped and his hand flew to his mouth, leaning in very close to take in the sight in front of him. You smiled gently and tucked your free hand under your jaw, watching the beautiful sight before you with as much joy as the boy in front of you. His hand reached out to touch, and then pulled back to hop up and down with ecstasy.

“Wow!!” He cried, the loudest you had heard him so far. “That’s amazing!!” He looked at you then, and you wondered briefly how it was that the stars had transferred to his eyes before you realized that these were just how they looked when he was happy. “You...You really brought the stars…!”

You closed your fist and released the excess energy into the earth before it could make you too lightheaded or jittery. Star energy always made you want to release yourself from your body and travel for a while. You couldn’t really afford to leave the earth today. You had much to prepare for.

“I told you that I’m a witch.” You whispered teasingly. You leaned in and cupped the sides of your mouth like it was a secret, “But don’t tell anyone!”

The boy grinned and his entire face lit up. You expected a laugh, but it was restrained at the last moment. You leaned back onto your heels and accepted this as a consolation prize. He was so wonderful to gaze upon. You liked this boy much better than the one you had first met.

“Everyone already knows!” He bit his lip. He opened his mouth to say something else, but froze. His entire demeanor changed then, what previous joy he had been feeling suddenly collapsing into the ground like a splash of cold water. Your smile dropped too in concern.

The boy grabbed his grocery bag quickly. “I have to go right now.” He told you seriously, eyes on the end of the road where he had first arrived from. “I’m already late. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologize. You should go home before it becomes dark anyway.” You stood up and felt cold along your shoulders and back. The air itself hung still. The cold was unpleasant and unnatural in the hot summer evening.

“Y...yeah.” He agreed. He looked back and forth between you and the road before he made up his mind. “Thank you for showing me the stars.” You could feel his longing to stay tugging on you. You did not follow through on the urge to invite him back to your house. “I…” He swallowed his words and shook his head. “Bye bye!” He said instead with a wave and quickly ran away.

Your eyes followed him until he disappeared from sight. You could hear singing in the air. Without words, you knew you had found what had called you and your garden here to this small village. You wondered what kind of help that child needed.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t the last time you had met with that child, although you rarely saw him around town. You more often saw him in the distance always hurrying to whatever destination he was going towards. Anyone you asked to try to find out anything about that boy always shrugged.

“I don’t know where he lives. I don’t even know if he has a house. But he has money and sometimes he buys stuff.” They told you. It was the extent of what you found out most times.

You didn’t spend a lot of your time trying to pry into that child’s life, though. You had the strong gut feeling that he was involved and one of the reasons why you had come to that town, but you had learned that it was better to let nature take its course for these types of things. Waiting was the most you could do.

You looked forward to the few times your path crossed with his, though. Your meetings never lasted as long as your first one did, but with each successive meeting he seemed to become more and more comfortable in your presence. Sometimes it was a wave from up the road, and other times it was a bright hello. The rare occasion he was able to stop long enough to chat with you, it was always to ask if you could show him something or to ask you about being a witch.

“Can you change the weather?”

“Do you make potions and stuff?”

“Do you use a wand, or is that actually a myth?”

“How much in storybooks are true?”

“Are there other witches?”

“If I need to, I can.” You answered.

“Yes, of course I make potions. Lots of different kinds.”

“I do use a wand. It helps when I really need to focus my magic.”

“Stories are stories no matter what. How much is true varies.”

“Yes, there are other witches.”

“Wow!” He always responded. “That’s so cool!”

Neither of you ever talked about him, and he never talked about your personal life either.

A nip was in the air, spreading across your exposed ears and nose and biting at your fingertips. You knelt next to some of your herbs and judged which ones you would be harvesting later. A sparrow nearby called out to you, leaning forward on its branch. You ignored it. It made an alarmed cry as Midhir pounced at it, appearing from the shadows as he tended to do. The bird quickly fluttered off, chirping angrily at being disturbed. You gave an amused smile as you felt Midhir’s smug satisfaction brushing against your thoughts. He was only more pleased to have his prey leave in a huff than to have caught it.

He slithered down the tree and over to your side, giving you a brief touch of his tail before his ears shot forward and attentive. Foreign sensations and ideas that did not belong to you touched your mind and you abandoned your work to wander to the edge of your garden. The old metal gate creaked as you pushed it open and walked out beyond it, curious to know what Midhir had noticed. More people have come by lately in order to receive your services, so it was probably just another customer. Midhir did not follow you.

The day brought you a much welcomed surprise by a familiar boy rushing his way down your path. You had yet to see him come this way before. He made a beeline straight to you and pulled to a stop just short of running into you. He hunched over and gripped his pants legs, gasping for breath. His curly hair was messier than usual and sticking to his skin. He wore a thick jacket over his threadbare tee shirt today.

You were delighted to see him as he raised his flushed and sweaty face to meet yours. “ are!” He panted. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

“Well, you’ve found me.” You laughed.

He stood up straighter, no longer as winded, and glanced through the entrance into your garden. Other than the gate you stood before, it was impossible to see the depth and thickness of your garden. It was very well maintained for how shadowy it was. He leaned forward to try to see around you. Your house was just visible from where you both stood.

“Is this your house?” He asked. It was the first question about you rather than your powers or job that he’d asked. You found yourself to be pleased by this.

“It is!” You told him.

He huffed a laugh, which only made you even more delighted. “It looks like a witch’s house.”

“Thank you. What were you looking for me for?”

“Oh!” He turned back to you and grabbed your hand. Electricity shot up your arm. For just a brief moment, you felt this child’s heart. You tasted fear and determination and tentative joy and excitement on the back of your tongue. You sensed a fox carefully exiting a hole in a wall. Stars danced across your vision, hot and energetic and furious and soothing at once. You heard the white hot fury of a child screaming into the void of the night. And then it was gone. It all left you just a tiny bit dizzy.

“Come with me, quick! He can’t go this far, but I want you to meet him!” He pulled on your hand and started jogging. You grabbed your hat and stumbled before quickly matching his pace as he led you away from your house and down the street. “I think he’ll like meeting you! You should show him what you showed me! He wants to see magic too!”

“Who?” You asked, gripping the boy’s hand tighter as you both picked up the pace. You could hear the steady drone of moonlight in your ears. Midhir’s exasperation touched the fringes of your mind, coaxing you to focus. It was hard not to get lost, though.

He shot you a small and somewhat shy smile. “My brother.”

Neither of you said more as he took you far out of the town and further into the countryside. Houses and lawns and stores and paved streets fell away to grass and trees and eventually a small house came into focus. The boy stopped you both and held out his hands to tell you to stay.

“I’ll be right back. Please don’t leave.” He urged and turned and ran to the house before you could respond. You watched as he snuck into the house, carefully pushing open the door and motioning to someone inside. The next second you spotted an identical child to the first stepping out into the sunlight. The second boy cringed a bit in the bright sunlight, blinking dazzled eyes as he shielded himself with his arm. The first boy took his hand and tugged him down the short path to you.

The second boy struggled to walk far, you realized. He wobbled some like his feet weren’t used to carrying his weight. He had a bit of a limp and held himself a bit more hunched over than his twin. His eyes locked onto you as the two of them approached and he froze.

“Don’t be scared, Saeran.” The first child said, ducking behind his brother to gently push him from behind. He had a bright smile on his face, eager to share the joy he had felt with you with his brother. “This is the witch I was telling you about.”

“A...a witch…” The second boy -Saeran- murmured, awed and frightened all the same. You leaned over a bit and placed a hand on your knee.

“Hello there.” You smiled brightly at him too, hoping to put him at ease even as his brother continued to push him forward. This boy felt very different from the first. You could see that he was much thinner than this brother, and his skin even more pale in comparison. His cheek held bruises and you could spot some redness on his hands and wrists as they poked out from his button-down shirt. Instead of stardust and collapsing stars, you tasted the earth and the smooth silk of flower petals. The air briefly clouded with a menagerie of aromas that reminded you of your garden. There was the image of a fragile bud shivering in the winter on the edge of dying. A stem hunched over and weakened without sustenance.

You blinked away the complex emotions and held out your hand. “Would you like to see some magic?” You asked.

Saeran stared at you, terrified but curious just like his brother, before glancing back at his sibling for confirmation. His twin nodded encouragingly, gripping his brother’s shoulders with excitement. Hesitantly Saeran nodded at you as well.

The stars would not be for this child, you thought. Simplistic beauty was enough for him. And so you pulled out a single seed and a small vial of water from your pocket. You sprinkled a bit of the water onto the seed and held your hand out to Saeran. You dug your feet a bit into the earth, and the Earth’s energy responded to you as eager as an old friend. The sensation was one of putting on a comfortable and old jacket. The weight of it grounded you and made everything around you more vibrant. The energy molded to your touch effortlessly, and from your hand a sprout erupted from its seed casing. Before the eyes of the children, the sprout elongated and stretched upwards. Leaves unfurled and tiny white buds yawned awake and fell into little bell-shaped flowers. Lights danced off of the plant as a second flowered.

Saeran’s hands flew to his mouth in a perfect mimic of how his brother had reacted the first time he had seen your magic as well. His eyes watered, his heart unused to such happiness and delight. It made you ache with need to show him more. To take his hand and show him your garden where so many flowers like these and more grew. Where you knew his heart would find some solace if you could bring him there.

“Amazing…!” He breathed, and his hand shakily reached forward to touch the flower. His finger skated across the delicate petals before his brother reached out to touch as well. He was staring only at Saeran, though, soaking in his brother’s happiness just as much as you were.

“See? I told you there was a good witch that lived near us!” He said.

“Can you do more?” Saeran asked quietly. You plucked the stem of the Lily of the Valley and held it out to the boy. Saeran took it from you, marveling at the reality of the plant. You brushed your hands off and the rest of the flower fell to the ground. You urged the plant to push its root into the soil and take root there. It may not survive, but it would last longer than it did in your hand.

“Yes, I can show you more.” You promised him. “As much as you want.”

Two sets of eyes turned to you then, and you felt your heart swell. The air rang with cheer even as a darkness put pressure on you coming from the house. You promised yourself that you would find out more about these children and the reason why they had called you. If only to preserve the smiles and the glittering golden eyes that they gave you as presents for your efforts.

You entered your garden through the gate with a small sigh and took in the thick atmosphere around you. The sun was shining brightly and it was cold enough outside to warrant a jacket, but inside of the garden was vaguely humid. You closed the gate and sealed the cooler air off from the garden and traveled deeper.

Your garden was a little bit of everything in terms of greenery. Shrubs, trees, fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, vines, mushrooms, and all sorts of flowering plants covered most surfaces or left just enough gaps to give each plant room to breathe. The trees knew just where to part their branches so that the plants that required more sun could receive it. And the plants that shied away from the sun sat hidden in the inky darkness closer to your house and the pond that had developed nearby. The large rock wall cut off the garden from the rest of the world, although the vines that covered it were so thick that it looked to be held up more by their arms than by any wall. Sometimes the trees liked to reach over the wall to tease a passing animal or child.

The garden air was thick and sticky with magic. It was enough that it had its own magnetic pull, which is exactly what it had on you as well. People couldn’t help but be curious about your garden and want to see more, but they were unable to enter without your permission. You had to tell your garden every day when you were open for business so that it would allow people to wander in in hopes of receiving help for their various day-to-day activities.

Sometimes you sold or traded the produce and herbs you grew considering they were unique and foreign to the lands you tended to inhabit. In return, you were given or you bought homemade meals or dairy or meat which you did not and could not grow in your garden. You preferred not to have a farm even if some of the practical benefits would be nice.

Humans weren’t the only visitors. You had more animals enter into your garden and home than anybody else. Rabbits and foxes, stray cats and dogs, owned cats and dogs, and all manner of birds or even big game like deer or elk (as the lands see fit) would somehow find their ways into your garden. You allowed them as long as they followed your rules. Your garden made sure they did, or they were shooed away. The first time you ever got to touch most of these animals was because of how serene they were, hidden away from danger with you.

You told the garden that you were closed for the day, too emotionally drained to want to do any kind of magic anymore. Your skin still thrummed with the earth magic and your own energy was jittery because of it. You needed to check something and it would not do to be disturbed.

You entered your house and pulled off your shoes. Midhir ran in after you, brushing his tail against your calf as he passed and turned back to look at you with bright blue eyes. You could sense his own curiosity and solemn mood to match yours. He followed you as you entered your study and immediately went over to a shelf where you kept your collection of Tarot cards. You bypassed all of the ones you used for smaller readings or that held the energy of others on it and went straight for your own personal set. It thrummed in greeting as you pulled them from their case and lowered yourself to the floor. Midhir sniffed at them once before sitting beside you to watch.

You didn’t do anything at first and instead let your mind fill with the thoughts of those two boys that you had met. You didn’t even know the name of the child you had known longer. Was he just that more secretive? But why would he tell you his brother’s name, then?

You had barely had any time to spend with the two boys. You had tucked the Lily of the Valley behind Saeran’s ear. His brother had matching one, but the flowers were a light blue instead of white after you had transformed them. The twins had been caught up in the wonders you showed them, but after far too short of a time Saeran had begun to become more and more nervous. His legs had weakened until he had needed to rest upon the ground as his eyes had darted back and forth between the house and you.

Eventually he had turned to his brother and whispered, “We should...Hyung, we need to go home. Mommy might wake up...she’ll be scary if we’re gone.”

His brother’s smile disappeared and a frown and darkened eyes replaced it. He hid it all behind a reassuring look. “Don’t worry too much. She’ll be asleep for a little while longer yet. Trust me.”

Saeran nodded hesitantly. “Okay.” Despite his assurances, after a couple more minutes the boy too began to warily watch his surroundings and look towards the house instead of focusing on the show you were putting on. You pulled a couple more seeds out of your pocket and gently took Saeran’s hand. He only startled at your touch briefly, but didn’t pull away as you carefully placed the seeds into his hand.

You heard the sound of crying and tasted iron in your mouth. You saw a bird with broken wings and heard a growling of three different beasts, two of them much deeper and louder than the third. You could smell the brittle petals of a dry rose and the warmth of a protector’s hands. Your stomach ached. The earth itself trembled, cracked and thirsting like desert air. Your mouth went dry.

Saeran’s eyes lit up as he took the seeds and the sensations faded as your heart raced. The boy looked at them expectantly, but minor disappointment took over his face when the seeds didn’t bloom. He scrunched his face a bit as if trying to focus and make them bloom like you had. You found it precious. His brother grabbed his hand then and pulled him to his feet. He didn’t let go as he gave you the softest, most grateful look you had received in a very long time.

“Thank you.” He said.

“Thank you!” Saeran agreed, snapping to attention at his brother’s words. “I’m glad I got to meet a nice witch today.”

“I can’t wait to see you again, Saeran.” You responded. You were determined to meet these boys more, you had decided as both of them retreated back to their house. They both had to sneak in through the front, Saeran following after his elder brother.

You began to shuffle your cards.

You had suspicions about those children, and those suspicions terrified you. More often than not you preferred not to delve into a person’s life without their permission. It was none of your business or concern what occurred in their private lives. However, you were certain that those boys had called you here somehow. Your garden had brought you to this place for a reason. The child you had met was hardly giving you any clues, and he had certainly not asked you for help. So you sought guidance elsewhere.

Your hands moved automatically as soon as you sensed you had shuffled enough. You placed the cards face down in a familiar pattern before beginning to flip all of them. Immediately your heart dropped to your stomach. Even without looking at the individual cards you could pick out a terrible bigger picture. Swords and pentacles overwhelmed you, and the terrifying faces of greed and anger greeted you.

You took a breath and decided to piece together the individual parts.

The Knight and the King of Pentacles surrounded the Magician and the Moon. From there, the Five of Pentacles and the Eight of Swords held tight bonds around them all. The Ten of Swords hovered nearby, far too close to the Moon and Magician for your comfort and threatening them. You swallowed thickly at the Five of Cups dripping down between them as well collecting the tears they have no doubt shed.

You had to turn away, taking a shaky breath and gathering up your cards immediately. You had never received such a straightforward reading before. It was obvious now that the children were in terrible danger. Left to their own devices they would be lost forever.

But what were you to do? Magic could do many things, but reality was a harsh mistress. You could call child protective services, but you had a feeling that the boy you had met would’ve done that already if he could. He was a determined child. He was the Magician, and you had no doubt that he was being tortured by being held back. What were the bonds that contained him? You could take a guess at who either the Knight or the King of Pentacles may be, but you didn’t have enough information on who the second person in play was.

You began to shuffle again. Did you dare pry deeper into their lives? You could always ask another question.

Midhir nudged you then, reprimanding. You looked at him and he turned stern thunderstorming eyes at you. His paw reached out and swiped at a card, throwing it to the floor where it flipped upwards. Temperance stared at you. You took the card back up and understood.

You changed directions. It wouldn’t be right to pry more. Not at this time, anyway. You could find out from the sources yourself. You were determined to meet them more anyway, so there would be no need to dig further into their past here.

You turned towards solutions. How could you possibly help them. What your role was here. How tentative was the situation? How could you help them and save them from succumbing to the Ten of Swords fate that loomed ominously ahead of them? Who were you in this situation to them?

You placed your cards down and stared at the results. The Star was the first thing that caught your eye before you brushed past it. Your cards more often than not referred to you as this card whenever it mentioned you. It was your role in life and it did not surprise you to see it appear here.

Next to it appeared the Seven of Wands and Three of Wands, which dissatisfied you. You were eager to do more, but you were being told to wait? For what? What were you waiting for exactly? How was waiting going to help you help those boys?

You felt the urge and flipped another card from the deck, irritated. The Eight of Swords appeared again, reprimanding you for your thoughts. Midhir snorted beside you, curling down to lay with his paws tucked under him. You shot a disgruntled look at the loaf of a cat before gathering up your cards and digging through them.

You pulled out the Magician card and the Moon card again and placed them equal distances apart from you. Your hands shook a bit and a feeling of wrongness enveloped your heart. You immediately pushed them together so that they were touching. The feeling disappeared. You sighed.

“What do they need?” You pondered aloud as you shuffled. You placed a card down hoping for a simple answer. The Star responded. You groaned. “ Obviously !” You told your cards, frustrated at the lack of a straight answer. Automatically you flipped another card down. The Six of Swords nodded in your direction. You relaxed and placed aside your deck.

This only brought back your original question, though. How could you help them escape from their situation when you didn’t know the extent of it? Maybe you would just have to wait and talk to the children about it. Active waiting just meant biding your time, after all. As reluctant as you were, you couldn’t quite figure out another solution.

You reached to put the cards away, but Midhir bit your hand. His tail swiped at the cards and they skittered aside as the deck collapsed and went everywhere. He yowled and dashed across the mess, throwing them all in different directions as he streaked over your desk and up onto the top of the nearby bookshelf.

“Midhir!!” You yelled, outraged and shocked at his behavior. He could cause problems, but he had never done anything like this before with your deck. The cards were old, after all, and could rip if handled too roughly. He stared at you from the top of the bookshelf and refused to move. You hoped he could feel how angry you were with him in that moment.

You gathered the cards in a huff and flipped them so they were upside down, but your hand hesitated as your attention was drawn to a scene.

Before you was the Star, the Knight of Pentacles, and the King of Pentacles messily surrounding the Justice card. The eyes of the woman on the Justice card shot through you, sending a chill down your spine. Your eyes drifted down below the Star and discovered the Tower card half-hidden beneath of it.

Lady Justice continued to stare with sharp and unyielding eyes. Her words were finite and cautioning:

I am coming.

You collected your cards and put them away with shaking hands as your mind ran with ideas of what could possibly happen in the future to warrant such a warning. You hoped that she would be on your side when the time came.

Chapter Text

Winter’s chill was edging along the land but had not quite reached. Your harvesting had been done already when there was a stir among the plants and you heard the agonized creak of your front gate. Midhir felt amused as he stalked into the shadows and disappeared silently. You made your way around the side of your house towards the entrance as you heard a voice call out to you that you had not heard since mid-autumn. It hastened your steps until you discovered the boy you had been out of your mind worrying about over the past few weeks. You had not seen him in too long.

He was open mouthed with wonder as he walked forward and spun in a slow circle, taking in everything around him. The animals had fled, but some you could see were watching with interest. The air stirred curiously but did not disturb. The boy came to a stop and spun slowly until he spotted you, squinting to make sure it was you. Then he grinned, golden eyes sparkling with amazement.

“This is where you live ?” He asked. “I saw some of it last time I was here...but being inside is completely different!”

"It is.” You responded, amused by his words and the look on his face. His childish delight was a great thing to behold.

“It’s so warm here.” He murmured, staring at his hands. You could see that his nose and cheeks were flushed with the chill outside. The sun was hidden today by overcast clouds which did nothing to add even more warmth. He looked at you. “Is that why you’re able to wear such clothes all of the time? Because it’s warm here?”

“That’s part of the reason.” You admitted, adjusting the sleeves of your thin cloak.

“I was wondering why you wear weird stuff all of the time. Is it a rule that you have to look like a witch to be a witch?” He was teasing you. It almost made you gape at this sudden change in his demeanor, but you bit it back and instead laughed.

“You make it sound like I don’t have regular clothes!” You cried.

Now he gaped. “You have normal clothes?!” You only laughed harder at that.

“Of course I do! You just have yet to see me in them. Are you cold? I can make some tea to make you feel better.”

The boy hurried to your side. His eagerness and attachment to you was startling and concerning. What had happened to change him so? He didn’t appear upset. Quite the opposite, actually. Something you had done had opened him up to you.

“Is it magic tea?” He asked as you both entered your house. He immediately took in his surroundings, studying the dark wood and crystals decorating the inside of your home. Tapestries and pictures and wooden signs and symbols clung to every area of your walls leaving very little space for much else. You both took off your shoes in the entryway. You sensed Midhir slip into the house.

“No, it’s just regular tea. Do you have a preference?” It was crowded in the living room from your furniture, books, and DVD stands. A wax burner filled the air with jasmine, which you thought was a nice change of pace from the cold outside of your garden. The windows were wide open to allow a breeze to come through and to take away some of the stuffiness.

“I’ve never had tea.” He told you, staring upwards at the wind chimes that tinkled by the windows. On sunny days their crystals would shoot colors across the walls.

“I guess I’ll just make you a cup of my favorite. Maybe you’ll like it.” You led him through the living room to get to your homey kitchen. Herbs hung from the ceiling to dry and filled the air with an aroma that relaxed your entire body. The tile floor was chilly against your bare feet, so you hopped over to the rugs you had near your countertops. The boy seemed unbothered by it with his socks on. There was banana bread cooling on the counter. You went to wash your hands.

The boy sneezed loudly and you bit your lip to stop yourself from laughing. “There are so many different smells in your house.” He pointed out, rubbing at his nose.

“That’s what a witch’s house smells like.”

He fidgeted with the zipper of his jacket, not moving from his place in the middle of the kitchen. You dried off your hands and noticed this behavior and smiled gently. “You can take a seat if you want. It’ll take a couple of minutes for the tea to be ready.”

The boy didn’t move for a long moment before he joined your side. He eyed you as if waiting to be shooed off, but you didn’t say anything and started pulling some mugs and a teapot from the cabinets. You also grabbed some of your favorite tea mixture and two tea balls. The boy cooed a bit when he saw that one of them was in the shape of a cat.

“Do you like cats?” You asked.

“They’re soooo cute!” He cried.

“Then you can use this one.” You decided, extremely pleased. You put the teapot on the stove to boil.

“Do you have a cat…” He paused, coming to a stop instead of following you across the kitchen where you grabbed some rock sugar. You gave him a questioning look over your shoulder. He was frowning. “I...I just realized that I don’t know your name.” He admitted.

You grinned and placed the rock sugar on the counter next to the tea mugs. You then dug out two pieces and handed one to the boy. “I don’t know yours either.”

The boy took the sugar and stared at it curiously, still frowning. “Is this candy?”

“Something like it. It’s rock sugar. It’s really sweet.” You popped it into your mouth and began to suck on it. “I put it in my tea to sweeten it. It doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the tea.”

The boy quickly slipped it into his mouth and hummed with pleasure. “It really is sweet!”


“Oh.” He shifted the piece of sugar in his mouth to talk a bit better. “My name is Saeyoung, by the way.”

“Saeyoung?” You asked, testing the name in your mouth. The air stirred a bit stronger than before, rustling the wind chimes. You could hear the water beginning to boil.

“Yeah, Saeyoung Choi. And my brother is Saeran.”

“Nice to meet you.” You told him honestly.

“What’s yours?” He asked, leaning on the counter to watch as you scooped the appropriate amount of tea into the tea balls. “I can’t keep calling you witch, right?”

“Well, you can if you want!” You laughed and then hummed in thought. “You can call me Emshii. Oh, but please don’t use any suffixes and such. It’s not necessary. Just Emshii is fine.”

“‘Call you’? Does that mean that’s not your real name?”

He was perceptive. You knew that he would be with how many questions he always had for you. “No, it’s not.” You giggled.

Saeyoung pouted, jutting his lip out. It was nice to see him actually looking at you, relaxed and not nervous about his surroundings. You thought it said quite a bit about him that he was more anxious out in the open than in a near-stranger’s household.

“That’s not fair. I told you my name! Why won’t you tell me yours?”

You decided to go with the truth. Anything short of the truth felt like a slight against this child that you were starting to become far too attached to. “Names have power, Saeyoung. Knowing someone’s true name means that you have power over them. That can be dangerous.”

Saeyoung tensed, shrinking back a little from you. “What do you mean?”

You continued to smile hoping to calm him. “When you’re a witch with magic, you learn how to function in a world where all manner of creatures would use the power they have over you against you.” The water boiled then and the pot began to squeal. You quickly turned off the stove and removed the pot, setting it aside to cool just a bit before you would pour it into the cups. “Of course, I would never use your name against you. You or Saeran.”

“Because it’ll come back to you three times as much, right?” He asked.

“Yes! You’re really smart to have remembered that.” You had no doubt in your mind that he would ever forget such a thing, though.

Saeyoung preened a bit under your praise, happy but unsure of what to do about it. “It’s really important to remember.” He said as you poured the hot water into the cups to steep. He eyed the water as it changed color upon meeting the herbs. You placed two scoops of rock sugar into each mug.

“You’re right. It’s extremely important to remember.”

Saeyoung reached forward and touched the plastic cat hanging over the side of his mug. He traced its content kitty face idly. “You said it takes a long time for it to happen when will the three-times thing come back? Can it...come back to hurt you if you did something in a past life?”

You hummed and leaned on the counter as well. Saeyoung’s eyes were dark again, sadness clouding his face. You didn’t like that look at all. “It would take someone doing something quite terrible for the reverberations to affect a person’s next life.”

Saeyoung’s finger continued to brush the kitty face. “So it can…?”

“I have mixed opinions on that.” You confessed to him. “While a part of me wants to say yes, I’ll admit that the idea of suffering for what your soul did in another life seems a bit cruel. Your soul is supposed to be learning, after all, if there is reincarnation. So all of your suffering would probably take place in the life you caused problems in.”

Saeyoung stared at you with scrunched eyebrows. You had confused him somewhere along the way. “I didn’t understand some of your words.”

You pulled out of the tea balls and placed them in your sink before stirring both of the teas to dissolve the rock sugar more. “Would you like me to teach you about karma then, Saeyoung?”

“What’s that?”

“Karma is the name of the rule I stated. The one about the three fold.”

Saeyoung stood straighter. “Yes!”

You took up his mug and yours and approached the table to sit. He joined you quickly, eager to try ‘tea’. You brought over the bag of rock sugar just in case. You nudged the tea towards him. “Do you have time? I always see you running everywhere...are you in a hurry?”

Saeyoung hesitated before nodding. His reality seemed to weigh on him. At some point he must have deposited it on the back of his seat like a coat, but now it had found itself slinking back across his shoulders.

You felt Midhir walk across your feet. Outside the Earth groaned and the sky hissed. The birds took flight from the trees and you heard the plants giggle.

You smiled. “That’s okay. I’ll make sure you leave in time.”

When you walked Saeyoung out of your garden, he glared at the bright sunlight that had finally broken through the clouds. He shifted uneasily and looked to you. You passed him some of the banana bread you had made and gave him a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. You’ve only been here for about fifteen minutes.”

He blinked in surprise. “Really? It felt a lot longer than that.”

You shrugged. “Thank you for listening. I really enjoyed the company. And an actually interested ear to listen to me and the ramblings of an old coot.”

Saeyoung looked a little confused by the ‘coot’ part, but he shook his head. “You’re not old! You can’t be that much older than me, after all!”

You smiled secretively and winked. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Ohhh! Are you actually older? How old are you, then?”

You shrugged again. “You should probably leave if you’re to get home in time.”

Saeyoung eyed you to let you know he hadn’t missed you avoiding his question. He was so unbelievably quick. You wanted to talk with him more. You wanted to have an actual conversation with him and tell him so much about everything you knew. He seemed to know such a tiny world that was even smaller than the one most everyone knew. He was the cosmos themselves and he was contained in a tiny, tiny bottle waiting to burst. The entire universe was waiting for him. You could tell by his thirst for knowledge that his heart begged to taste even an ounce of what the world could give him and more.

“Okay. I’ll...I’ll come back. Can I come back?”

“Come back anytime. And bring Saeran with you.” You told him.

Saeyoung only gave a small, sad smile as he adjusted his clothes. “I don’t think I can. But thank you anyway.” He turned and ran off before you could question him more on that. You watched him go with a feeling of discontent in your heart. One of the vines from your wall curled around your neck. You wound your finger into it. Midhir’s presence appeared behind you, although you didn’t turn to look at him.

“Midhir…” You murmured. “Can you watch over those boys?” He didn’t respond. “I’m worried.” You added.

You sensed Midhir agreement. The image of Justice hovered in your mind. You wondered if that was just you remembering, or if Midhir had given it to you. You weren’t sure.

Saeyoung came back about twice a week after that for the next couple of weeks. When he arrived he always had something new he wanted to know about. Sometimes it was about magic or the garden or sometimes, rarely, about your life. Depending on how long he stayed -though it was never long- you would teach him something brief, but new.

While he was here you always provided him a drink and some food. The drink was usually either a new type of tea (with herbs that you hoped would help him throughout the week) or a juice that you had made fresh from fruits and vegetables from your garden. The food was always something simplistic because you were actually pretty bad at cooking outside of simple recipes, but he always scarfed down whatever was provided for him and asked for more. You always sent him home with some for Saeran as well. You noticed that it always had to be small enough to hide within his clothing.

“What exactly is magic?” He asked you on his fourth visit and over his second bowl of cereal. He reached to take a sip of his ginkgo tea, although you knew he didn’t really care for it. You appreciated him drinking it all, though.

You steadily chewed on a piece of toast as you contemplated how to respond before taking a sip of your own tea and saying, “It’s energy.”


“Sooooort of. It’s hard to describe, but it’s energy in you, me, the earth, the air, fire, water...everything. And in its rawest state you can do simple things with it without even trying. You probably do things with magic all the time that you don’t think about. Making a wish, for example, is pushing your energy into the world and hoping for it to feel you and make a change.” Saeyoung stared at you, enraptured. He had even stopped chewing. You sat back in your chair. “Although if you’re referring to the actual action of magic...I’m not sure what to tell you. It varies.”

“Does that mean I can do magic?” He asked eagerly.

You smiled. “Anybody can do magic. It’s just like anything else in this world -it takes practice.”

“Wow.” Saeyoung breathed and stared at his spoon.

The next time he came over, he asked if you could teach him to do some magic.

“I don’t think we have enough time.” You responded apologetically, watching as a faerie slipped behind some leaves in your garden and out of Saeyoung’s sight. Midhir laid up in the branches of an apple tree and napped, although his one eye was still open to watch the proceedings.

Saeyoung deflated. “Does it really take that long?”

“Yes.” You confessed. “And you’re here for such a short time.” You stood up and brushed off your jeans, wiping off the dirt on your hands as well. “But...I have books I’ll let you borrow if you want to do some outside reading.”

Saeyoung perked up. “You do?”

“Yes. I even have one small enough to fit into your jacket.” He appeared relieved to hear this and followed you inside to fetch the book. You took the time to tell him about the book and gave him blank notebooks as well to write with so he could keep notes for himself or write down any questions he had. You made sure he had one for Saeran too in case his brother also wanted to read about it too.

“Saeyoung,” you called as the boy hurried his way to the gate to leave. He paused and turned back to you, “where is Saeran? Doesn’t he want to come visit too?”

Saeyoung swallowed and gave you that same sad smile before he let the smile melt away into just sadness. “I...he can’t come this far, remember? Saeran...Saeran’s body is weaker than mine. He doesn’t leave the house often. I wouldn’t be able to bring him this far and back to the house in time.” He looked like there was more he wanted to say on the matter, but the topic teetered on his tongue before falling back into his mouth and hiding in his throat.

“Maybe I can come visit instead?” You suggested. “Just like when I met him before.”

“You can’t. There’s...Our mother doesn’t like Saeran going out. She doesn’t like either of us going out.”

“Why do you go out then?” You asked gently. You left the option for him to not respond to you open. You were prying deeper now, which was the first time you had done so in all of the times you had met and spoken with Saeyoung. You didn’t want to push him.

Saeyoung stared at the janky cobblestone path that wound its way into the garden and towards the pond. He refused to look at you as he said, “Because I’m the stronger of the two of us.”

You wondered if his mother was the Knight or the King.

“Then,” you responded, “tell Saeran I said hello. And that I hope he likes the snack.”

Saeyoung had nodded slowly, gazing at you with an unreadable expression as the vines near him shuddered, before he had left through the gate and disappeared again.

The next time Saeyoung had appeared to you was over a week later, and he didn’t stay long. His face was solemn as he sat at your table, withdrawn and unspeaking. You were quiet too as you prepared him a tea you hoped would make him happy. You had placed the rock sugar near him, but he made no effort to take any. He placed your book on the table and pushed it towards your side.

“Did you finish it?” You asked softly, taking the book and placing it aside on the counter while you waited for the tea to steep. Saeyoung nodded, his face clouded and angry rather than just sad. His eyes were brimming with water that he refused to release. You wanted very badly to hug him, but you didn’t know how he would take it.

He took a shaky breath and lifted his head. “Emshii,” his voice wobbled a bit, but he held himself with determination. You felt thunder in your heart when you spotted a dark bruise on the side of his face near his eye that had previously been hidden by his hair. His lip was split as well. You clenched your fists under the table. “Emshii...can you make me a potion?”

“What kind of potion?” You asked carefully. Thoughts of poison flitted through your mind. Such dangerous potions were mentioned in the book. You hoped he would not make that request of you. You wished that you could talk to Saeyoung more about what was happening in his life.

“A potion to help Saeran get stronger.” Saeyoung leaned forward as you stood up and collected the tea mugs. You placed his in front of him. He ignored it. “I think that Saeran would be better if he could meet you too...if he could escape the house once in a while with me while our mother is asleep. But he’s too weak right now. I…” His eyes overflowed then and he angrily wiped them away with a small sob. “Emshii, please... please help my brother. I...His mind isn’t healthy either. And I can’t lose him to her. I can’t let her take him!”

You insistently pushed his tea towards him and took his hand when he went to grab it. You stood up and moved around the table before kneeling and gently wiping away his tears. Your fingers were cold against his heated skin. You itched to try to heal his wounds, but you could tell Saeran needed help first. You remembered the cards and how they ached when they had been separated. You needed to help one to help the other. But you saw now that you had been starting with the wrong one.

“Come to me after the next full moon.” You promised him, cupping his cheek and looking between his eyes. “It’s in three days time. Come to me as soon as you can after it, and I will have a potion for you.”

Chapter Text

The winter was cold enough that even your garden wasn’t enough to keep it all back. You made efforts to cover the plants that couldn’t survive the cold or found ways to bring them inside to help. The others you would just have to allow nature to take its course.

More and more animals had started to come and stay in your garden, seeking shelter or some food. You took the time to feed the ones you could afford to do so. You offered your services a bit more to people in hopes you could help them as well through the winter or to grant them fortunes for the upcoming year. You travelled occasionally out of the village in a bus and to the city for supplies. Sometimes you stayed overnight.

You hadn’t seen Midhir in over a month. You could tell he was still around, but he was never home when you were. You could sense his energy near the Choi household, so you knew he was still watching them. You didn’t expect the cat to get so invested in either of the children, but you supposed as your familiar he would take some heart to them. Your heart had already been well and truly captured.

You received a knock on your door as you finished getting the fire going in the fireplace. Your television was on and playing some show in the background that you had been half paying attention to while you had been studying a new tome you had ordered online. You pulled out your pocket watch from your pants and frowned, gazing at the time. It wasn’t business hours. That only meant it could be two people.

Excitement fluttered in your chest as you pulled open the door to your house. Instead of a familiar pair of red heads, however, three men in suits greeted you. The garden was vibrating with warning. You could see that the men were uncomfortable being close to you and in the garden. It was darker than usual. You could see the light from the front porch reflecting ominously off of some eyes hidden in the bushes. Judging by the tension in one of the men’s shoulders, they did too.

“Can I help you?” You asked. “It’s not business hours right now.”

“We’re just here to ask you some questions.” One man with a beard responded, stepping forward while the other two flanked him. He smiled, but it wasn’t that pleasant to you. “Can we come in?”

“Three creepy men in suits? I don’t think so.” You shook your head and crossed your arms to lean against your doorframe. “Unless you can prove you’re police and have a warrant, I’m not letting you inside.”

The man’s smile dropped to a frown. “No need to get so angry.” He held his hands up. “We can ask the questions out here. It’s just very cold you see.”

“I agree.” You responded.

“Right...Well. Have you seen two red-haired children lately? They would be around fourteen.” You raised an eyebrow. “They have recently gone missing and we’re currently looking for them.”

“Red hair…?” You asked, dubious. “That’s a strange color for a Korean to have. Are they already dyeing their hair at such an age?”

“Their hair would be natural.”

“Sounds fake, but okay.”

The men grew irritated, but froze at some growling from the garden. They spun around, hands going to hips and hidden weapons. You had no time for this. It was suspicious that these people would show up. What did they want with the boys? Who were they? They certainly did look official, in a way. You didn’t sense that they were completely lying.

“You might want to leave now.” You pointed out. “Haven’t you heard that there’s a witch that lives nearby?”

“A witch?” One man asked, scrunching his face. 

Thunder cracked and the trees began to whip. The growls from the garden got louder. You didn’t respond as the freezing air grabbed at their clothes and hair. You were amused by how angry your garden was, although you didn’t show it.

“Yes. Their house isn’t very welcoming. A lot of people stay away.” Thunder cracked again and there was a hiss from the shadows as snakes wiggled out from under the furniture. The men stumbled back. “They don’t seem to like too many visitors. Especially outside of business hours.”

The men didn’t hesitate and hurried off, shooting horrified and baffled looks at you. The snakes on the ground reared up and hissed more before slithering inside of the house. You felt Midhir’s concern and fury at the invasion of his territory as he accessed your eyes enough to watch the happenings. You narrowed your eyes and blinked to switch with him.

He was on the window sill of the Choi house. Inside you could see a rope wrapped far too tightly around Saeran’s ankle and another around Saeyoung’s. The two were tucked away in the farthest corner away from the futon a red-haired woman slept on. The house was a mess of bottles of alcohol and through the night vision of Midhir you could see broken glass and blood on the floor.

Saeran and Saeyoung were huddled together sharing Saeyoung’s jacket and a thin blanket for warmth as they read the book they had borrowed from you carefully by the light of a candle. They had to be cautious of dripping wax onto the book or burning the cloth. Midhir could see drops of wax that had climbed across Saeyoung’s hand, but the boy paid it no mind. They were shivering.

You clenched your teeth. Who were the men that had appeared at your house? Why were they searching for the boys? Your garden didn’t trust them, so you doubted they had good things in mind for the children. Were they the reason why the brothers couldn’t escape from their mother? What could such people want with two children?

You hated waiting.

Saeran flourished every time he entered your garden, and your garden loved him as much as he loved it. As winter melted into spring, the garden bloomed heartily to impress him. He would have days that he didn’t really talk to you but just lay in the grass and stare at the portions of the sky he could see through the trees. You would sit nearby him with Saeyoung by you. And the three of you would discuss magic and you gradually opened up about your life to them in hopes of encouraging them to open up to you.

There were many days you three would sit together and read one of your large books full of all kinds of stories. You tried to stay outside as much as possible for Saeran’s sake. He mostly liked to read the books about flowers and herbs and their uses. Saeyoung was more fascinated in spells and how magic functioned.

Saeran would ask to borrow your books with pictures of plants and would practice saying the different names. In time you could ask him about a plant and he would be able to list all kinds information about it. Every time you praised him and marvelled at how fast he had memorized the uses of so many plants his face would light up impossibly bright and you could almost sense his fragile heart almost bursting with joy.

Saeyoung asked to play with your crystals and stones. He picked up pendulums and rune stones and studied what their markings and energies were. He found out their uses and applied them to himself when he could sneak some home. The three of you had to work together to limit how much the boys could take so they would not have to fear their mother’s discovery.

You could sense a weak heart inside of Saeran’s chest, beaten and broken off in places and aching to be released from the tiny suffocating pot he had been planted in that granted him no water to drink or sun to grow under. He and his brother shared the desire to have more happiness in their lives. The fear that coated them as they came to your house and left it tainted the very auras that surrounded their beings.

They told you about their mother and how unbelievably cruel she was. You could see it in their every movement, but it was worse in Saeran’s. He trembled and cowered when he accidentally made too much noise or accidently bumped and knocked over one of the many things crowding your house. He had sobbed when he found bugs and repeated the words “I’m sorry” over and over again when you came into the room to find out what was wrong.

Each time they left you wanted to ask them to stay longer. But your garden was only a little out of step in time with the rest of the world, and their mother would not always stay asleep. Midhir could only influence her to stay under a drunken slumber for so long.

Despite Saeran being quieter than his older brother, he had some of your favorite questions. Saeyoung, though still inexperienced himself, knew more about the world and its functions than his brother did. Nevertheless, Saeran’s mind was just as curious and thirsty for knowledge despite the gap between his twin and him. He was eager to fill it, but the way he saw the world and decided what was the most important information to find out first was hilarious and you adored him more for it.

“Do all witches have to wear black?” He asked you one day as he slipped your hat onto his head and followed you deeper into the trees of your garden. Saeyoung had to leave early to pick up the groceries that his mother would want before they returned. Saeran had stayed with you instead, much safer with you than with Saeyoung at the moment. He was happy to follow you to and fro and to hide around the corner of your house when you received a customer. Your garden worked hard to keep him there as long as possible. You could feel the tug and slowing of time. You already knew that you would feel a bit sick if you left the garden right then as your body readjusted to the flow of time.

A laugh slipped out of your lips at his query. “What makes you say that?” You asked.

“Well.” He murmured as you paused to kneel and examine the mushrooms hidden at the foot of a tree. Saeran’s eyes gazed further into your garden. The back of the garden was nowhere in sight. It was interesting that neither brother had yet to question how big your garden truly was. “Um,” he tried again as he turned his attention back to you and kneeled too to look at the mushrooms, “all the books talk about witches wearing black. And you wear black a lot too. Is it really important?”

You only giggled more as you met his wide, curious eyes. “No, it’s not important. I just like the color black.”

“Oh.” If he was disappointed by this mundane response, he didn’t show it. “I guess a lot of witches like black.”

“We like to blend into the night for certain ceremonies.” You added. “But for daily life, I just have a lot of black clothes because I like it.”

Saeran tugged down on the brim of the hat and gazed at it. It was a large hat even for your head, but it was ridiculously large on his smaller frame. It looked good on him, you thought. “Yeah,” he decided, “I like it too.”

“Why haven’t you called someone to help you?” You asked the boys as the three of you lounged in front of the fireplace with stomachs full of store-bought cookies and hot chocolate. Saeyoung wiggled his toes in front of the fire and leaned against your side. Saeran doodled pictures in his own notebook while leaning against your other side. Neither of the boys had seen Midhir curled up against the small of your back. You hadn’t introduced them to him yet. It was a private thing to do so, and you were still debating on if you should.

“Help us?” Saeran asked.

“Meaning with our mother.” Saeyoung clarified, not happy the woman had been brought up.

Saeran looked at his brother before up at you. “How would we get help?” He asked.

Had neither of them actually tried? Had they been suffering this entire time because you had been incorrect in you assumption about child protective services? The thought chilled you.

“By calling the police.” You told them gently.

“We can’t.” Saeyoung said simply and with finality. “Because of our father.”

“What about your father?” You asked, surprised. You hadn’t thought their father was anywhere in the picture considering Midhir had only shown you their mother.

“If we try to run away, our father will take us.” Saeran whispered. His eyes darted to the window as if talking about their father would summon him. “And he’ll kill us.”

You were horrified. Your arms wrapped around them a bit tighter. Both boys leaned further into your embrace. Saeran was lax with submission. Saeyoung was tense. You could feel his anger infecting the air. The fire whipped viciously and settled when you shot it a stern look. You didn’t want sparks going everywhere.

Saeyoung explained about their father then, and finally the reading of your Tarot cards from months before fell into place. You understood with a heavy and sick heart that the brothers were trapped in hell together because it was better than the alternative. You had heard many different stories in your travels about the horrors that humanity had to go through, but this made you sad for an entirely different reason. These brothers were struggling to survive and to receive a way out. They were trying to find the small hole in the wall that separated them from their freedom.

But their struggles, you realized, would be for naught. The haunting image of the Ten of Swords came back to you, looming ominously over the Moon and the Magician in front of you. Their future had been clear to you. They needed guidance, but what could you possibly do? You had magic, but you couldn’t take on the government. You couldn’t even turn these brothers over to social services because of the King of Pentacles.

When the brothers went home that day it took every ounce of your power not to follow them. The vines of your garden reached after them, brushing against their skin and catching a little on their clothes. A fox wound between your legs and a bird trilled nervously from the swing on your porch. But the brothers left and you could do nothing to stop them.

Chapter Text

You thought back to the days when your mentor and caretaker had brought you into the world of magic. This garden and home were yours in its entirety, but the books and the smell of herbs reminded you of them every day. You could recall days of chasing on their heels and asking numerous questions just like the brothers did. You remember your wonder and your first time feeling magic coming from your own hands. You recalled the sensation of finding your wand and drinking your first potion. You remembered the gentle hands of your master as they had coached you through creating your first flames and led you from your body and across the skies. 

They were gone now having moved onto their next life wherever that may be. You had learned all that you could from them and since then you had been very alone. Midhir had been your constant companion even though he tended to wander from you often. You had created your garden out of a need for something to do and something to pour your love into. Your garden had bloomed inexplicably despite the impossibility of some of the places you had planted things or the environment they grew in. 

Throughout it all your heart had whispered over and over again your one true wish: I want to be helpful. I want to love and be loved. Is there any place I can be useful? Is there anyone who needs me? 

When you had stood back and really taken in your garden for the first time feeling that it was complete, your heart had felt almost full. You had gone to bed with joy and with tremulous fear that you would now be left with nothing to do. 

And then you had woken up the next day to find yourself in a different country in the middle of a city that you couldn’t speak the language of and a garden that urged you to go out and find someone. Because someone had called you and needed your help. And the joy in your heart had overwhelmed you.

The moon was black and new tonight and your garden was humming with muted energy. Incantations flowed from your lips as you dipped your wand into the liquid mixture in front of you. Heat permeated the air created by the energy of the protective circle around you. Your heart was calm and your movements effortless with familiarity as you prepared your potions and recharged your instruments with the energy of the new moon. You could feel the sky stretching endlessly above you with its dark void calling to you. It gave you chills to feel the emptiness even as you ached to release yourself from the earth and explore. 

You were just finishing up and properly dispersing the assisting elements and closing the circle when a wave of absolutely eviscerating terror and screaming filled your mind. You collapsed to your knees out of shock as tears sprang to your eyes and white hot fury ignited in your bones. You were filled with the need to run. Midhir’s yowling filled your ears, shrieking for you to come fast. You didn’t hesitate as you took up your wand and dashed out of your garden as fast as your feet could take you.

You hadn’t been to the Choi household since the first time you had met Saeran. In the moonless night it was practically impossible not to get turned around or to find the small road that led the way to the house. But Midhir’s memories were your memories and your feet carried you without misstep to the house. You could hear the shouting and felt the sickening waves of wrath and venom and despair and panic that emanated from down the road. 

Through Midhir’s eyes you could see the boys running outside with their mother on their heels. Her claw of a hand grabbed a fistful of Saeran’s hair as the boy screamed and cried out in agony and terror. Saeyoung didn’t hesitate to turn back and go to his brother’s aid. Midhir did not hold still and leapt at the woman with a shriek, startling her enough that she released her son. Saeyoung held onto his brother as they rushed to get away. The cat landed on his feet and spat at the mother before taking off after them. 

You arrived as their mother -with her longer legs and infuriated will- caught up to them. The moment their eyes found you, the twins ran with all of their might and threw themselves at you. It was the first time you had ever seen them under the cover of the night. 

“Emshii!!” They both screamed, Saeran falling into your arms while Saeyoung wrapped his arms around your chest and hid behind you. Midhir dashed to your side and arched spitting at the mother as she ran towards you all waving the shattered neck of a broken beer bottle. You wrapped your arm around Saeran and backed up a few steps, pointing your wand at the woman. 

“Stay back!!” You shouted at her, energy crackling around you and filling you with enough fury that you weren’t sure what you would do. You had rarely needed to turn your magic directly against another person, but you would not hesitate to do so again in the current situation. 

“Let go of them!!” The mother screamed back at you. “You can’t have them!! They’re my children!!” 

“All I see here is a woman attacking two children with a broken beer bottle!” You protested. “Any ownership you have over them is null in the wake of that!” 

The woman approached again, lifting her bottle. The brothers both cried out, gripping you tighter and cringing away from the attack. Saeyoung spat out a curse at his mother. Midhir moved to intercept the attack, but you didn’t need his help as you shot a bolt of lightning at the woman’s hand. She screamed as the bottle flew from her hand and shattered on the ground. Her drunken haze seemed to fade a little as she stared at you with stunned eyes. You only glared back at her. 

“Emshii...! Emshii...!” Saeyoung whimpered, clinging to you more and reaching to grip his brother too. They held onto each other’s arms. You paid him no mind. You watched the woman in front of you instead who was now staring at your wand with new fear. 

“Haven’t you heard?” You asked with an unhappy smile. “There’s a witch in town. And I heard that bad people end up having a very bad time with an angry witch. And I am very angry.”

“A witch?” The woman barked a laugh. It was shrill with terror and disbelief. “It doesn’t matter what you are! Those are my children! They belong with me! So return them before something horrible happens!”

“Is that a threat?” You asked, hugging Saeran closer to you. He buried his face into your stomach and watched half-hidden against you as you confronted his mother. He was trembling violently.

“Me? You think I’m the worst that can happen to them?” She responded, grinning with twisted amusement. “Tell the witch what will happen if you boys stay outside! Talk about how your father wants to slowly kill you boys to protect his precious image ! Even with a witch on your side, he’ll find you! I’m the only one that can protect you!!” 

“You only want them for the money.” You accused. You had heard through Midhir’s ears the conversations she’d had with the man on the other side of the phone. You had heard her threatening to expose him and use the children as extortion money. She cared nothing about the children as anything but a tool to get to their father. 

“Did that trash tell you that? Saeran, Saeyoung, you’re both such terrible children! Spouting such lies to strangers! How can you both be so stupid? When did you even meet this person?”  

“Shut up!” Saeyoung yelled back, brave in the face of his own monsters. You could see the supernovas in his body exploding and collapsing and black holes forming, groaning and hungry. They were aching to swallow up everything in their path. “You don’t know anything!!” 

“I don’t need them to tell me anything.” You told her. Your voice darkened until it resembled thunderclouds rumbling. “I can see into your heart. I can feel the greed and the lust for a life you were stripped of when you were used and thrown aside pregnant.”  You pushed the boys behind you and stepped forward, but they didn’t release the back of your robe as they followed you with wide eyes. Midhir leapt onto your shoulder and wound around your neck, his blue eyes flashing with a thunderstorm of electricity and a growl echoing unnaturally from his body. 

The woman stepped back with each step you took forward. She stayed well away from your outstretched wand, eying it and you with fear. You felt vindictive joy at that. You thought of all of the times you had seen her hurt the boys behind you while looking through Midhir’s eyes. You remember the markings on the boys when they came to visit you and the way Saeran broke down in terror at the slightest mistake. You thought of Saeyoung’s empty eyes and hopeless anger as he tried to read as much as he could to learn how to escape his prison with his brother for good. 

You had bided your time and had assessed the situation for months. You felt rage you had never experienced before boiling inside of you and storming ashy fire. You felt the pull of Saeyoung’s gravity and the thicket and brambles constricting Saeran and surrounding your ankles. An idea appeared in your mind you didn’t have time to think through. You couldn’t bring yourself to do so. Your time for waiting had ended. 

You smiled widely and stretched out your arms. “You want money for them? I will grant you all that you could ever want.” 

“What?” She asked as Saeyoung and Saeran flinched and tightened their grips in shock. 

You held out your hand to her. “By the next new moon, your dreams will all come true. This I promise you. I will grant it for you right here. Just shake my hand.” 

“Emshii…!” Saeran whimpered, softer than the thunder in your ears. You could feel Midhir’s warning growl and understanding. Lady Justice’s eyes pierced into your back. You had already accepted your fate. 

“That’s impossible.” The mother hissed, shaking her head. “You can’t grant me anything.” 

“I can and I will. I won’t lie to you and I never break my promises. I will make your dreams come true, and in return you will release these children and you will never bother them again. If you come anywhere near them, you will fall apart. You will lose absolutely everything that has even the smallest amount of worth to you. And nobody will ever help you.” Lightning cracked across the sky and the ground rumbled. You felt somewhere a star exploding. A gong was struck. Your heart felt about ready to combust with the words you had just laced with magic. 

The mother had no way of knowing if you were telling the truth or not. She had no reason to trust you and even less reason to believe you. But magic was a powerful and terrible tool. It affected the living in ways they could not comprehend and could bend the very fabric of existence. With your words you had promised something you could not take back if the woman chose to accept. And despite her reservations, you knew that she knew this as well. 

It was with a shaking hand that she took yours, and energy ripped through the five of you and bound you all in an unbreakable bond. At the same time you felt something shatter and a wall construct itself between you and her. You both were thrown back. Your hand burned and smarted as you pulled back and clenched your hand against your chest. It hissed with the curse and blessing you had just cast. 

The woman stared at you all a bit longer before her gaze darkened and she turned away. She made her way steadily back up to her house and did not look back. Blood ran down your arm as it piled itself into the burn on your palm. You turned away from the house and pushed the boys to follow after you. They clung to you and followed you far away from the house. 

“I don’t understand!” Saeyoung shouted as you four moved quickly towards the village. You put your wand into the pocket of your robes. “I don’t understand! How could you do that?! How could you give her everything that she wanted after what she’s done?! Where’s the karma in that?!” 

You didn’t respond, your mind swimming with sickness and your stomach threatening to cause you to vomit. 

“What are we going to do?!” Saeyoung continued to yell at you. “We can’t return to our house!! We’re homeless and she gets everything !!” He grabbed your sleeve and yanked on it hard before screaming, “LOOK AT ME!!”  

Saeran collapsed then, falling into a crouch and sobbing. His shaking had become bad enough that his legs could no longer properly support him. You all pulled to a stop and Midhir jumped off of your shoulder. Saeran sobbed and buried his face into his arms as he crouched. Seeing his brother crumble, Saeyoung began to hiccup too and his screams quieted. When you looked at him you saw the betrayal and loss in his eyes as he too began to weep. 

You took in these two and really realized that these boys were children. They had just lost their mother and their home, no matter how revolting the two had been. They were alone and no doubt terrified of the future. The threat of their father still loomed. 

You knelt in front of them and placed at hand on Saeran’s shoulder and reached up to brush Saeyoung’s tears away. He only cried harder at your touch, gasping as he asked, “What...what are we going to do, Emshii? I can’t...I can’t...We…” He couldn’t finish as he gulped and wiped snot from his nose, clenching his teeth. 

What could you possibly say to them? You had no plan. You were sick and scared and in deep, deep trouble. Which, if you thought about it, made you the same as the boys in front of you. You’d had no idea what you had planned on doing when you had run to their house. You hadn’t expected to do what you had done. You didn’t know where to go from here. 

But gazing at these two lost children you felt a familiar emotion well up in your chest and drip and flow down to your feet and up into the rest of your body. Your head was swimming with it and you were choking on air as you made a decision without thinking about it. 

“Do you want to stay with me?” You asked. 

Both brothers raised their heads and turned to you. Under the streetlamp they looked all the more terrible through their tears and the blood on their faces and the bruises blooming across their skin. There was glass in Saeyoung’s hair and dirt in their clothes. The fabric was ripped in places and too long and threadbare in others. But their faces held tentative and fearful hope. Neither of them dared to speak. 

You gave them both a sorrowful smile and stood up before holding out your hands. “My house and garden are open to you both whenever. And if you can stay with me.” 

“But our father…” Saeran protested weakly. His voice was broken and scratchy and damp. 

“I’ll protect you both.” You told them. “I promise I’ll protect you both.” 

Saeran and Saeyoung looked to each other and then stared at you again. They recalled the words you had spoken to their mother and you had meant them. You had never lied to these boys, and you always kept your promises. 

Saeran reached forward and took your hand, climbing slowly and shakily to his feet. His grip caused your hand to ache. 

Saeyoung hesitated though. “You...What you did to our mother...Emshii, I can’t…” He stared at the terrible burn and the blood on the hand you held out to him. 

You hushed him as darkness filled your gaze. You needed to get home soon. You needed to recover and to also treat your hand. It was trembling and you couldn’t open it all of the way. Midhir pressed soothing sensations to your mind to keep you upright and attentive. His energy supplemented yours to keep you afloat. 

“Saeyoung,” You murmured to him and he looked at you with desperate eyes as he heard the sorrow and regret in your own voice. Saeran gripped your hand even tighter and shook with another sob before he wiped his eyes. “Saeyoung, what I’ve done is not a gift. It’s a very, very terrible thing. And I will pay the consequences for it.” 

“How?” Saeyoung begged. “How can having your dreams come true be a bad thing?”

“Because nightmares are dreams too.” You told him. 

He froze. The wind around you all was still. Midhir hissed in the shadows. Saeyoung reached out with a shaking hand and fearful but trusting eyes and took your hand. His grip was gentle but strong as the three of you returned back to your house and closed the gate with a loud creak behind you.

Chapter Text

It took some adjusting from everyone involved before any of you were comfortable with the new situation. Your house was small to begin with and had rooms that were covered with all of your supplies. The problem with being a witch was that you tended to become a hoarder. You had at least two extra rooms that were just completely packed with, well, stuff. You were reluctant to move any of it, but you didn’t want to have the boys sleeping on your couch or floor.

The first night when you had arrived home with them you were nearly collapsing with exhaustion. You had slumped to the floor as relief and fear and fatigue encompassed you. Saeran and Saeyoung had run to your side immediately, but their words were muffled and far away. You had shaken your head and gave the stairs leading up to your second floor a hopeless look.

“Sorry,” you had told them, “but I’ll sleep down here tonight. You two can take my bed until I can get a room set up.”

“No way!” Saeyoung protested immediately. “We’ll stay down here with you. We’re...we’re used to sleeping on the floor sometimes.”

“Y...yeah!” Saeran agreed and tried to help you to your feet. Between the two of them you were able to stand and move to the living room. They assisted you with laying you on the couch. You had fallen asleep before you could even tell them to go upstairs.

You had awoken the next day to the boys asleep curled up in two of your reading chairs and your burnt hand clumsily wrapped and cleaned. You had recognized Saeyoung’s handiwork from when you had taught him how to care for wounds. You had still been too tired to really move, but you had known that you would have to get started on clearing at least one room no matter how much you didn’t really want to.

Many of your books and supplies went into a separate archive that only you could access in a place that nobody knew about. You told the boys that it existed, but you didn’t tell them where or how to access it. You only told them to stay in the living room while you spent the day cleaning.

They were quiet for the most part. Once you had checked them over for injuries and had patched them up where Saeyoung’s mending was not adequate enough, you no longer touched them so that they could get some space. They nodded and ate the food you prepared for them and didn’t leave the living room. You started the fire for them and gave them the remote for your television and told them they could watch whatever they wanted. They didn’t seem to know how to use the controller, though. You also told them to eat and drink whatever they wanted.

You spent hours cleaning and returned to the living room for a break around midday and found Saeyoung crouching by his brother while Saeran gripped himself and bit his lower lip. You didn’t need to be told what was wrong with the boys.

“Saeran.” You called to him gently. The boy looked at you and refused to move. “Saeran, use the bathroom if you need it.

He hesitated, fear still coating his aura and infecting the air like a cloud of poisonous spores. “I.” He didn’t continue for a moment before nodding and leaving the room. Saeyoung said nothing but his distraught face mirrored yours. You wanted to know why Saeran had done that but you didn’t feel like you had the right to pry.

Saeyoung looked at you with sad eyes before clearing his face of emotion. He stood up to poke at the fire and make it stronger again. You could feel the words unsaid but wishing to be spoken. You wanted to comfort him, but you no longer knew where the boundary line between you all lay. You were not their parent, they were not your children, and none of you had any idea where to go from there. 

You left the room after Saeran came back, but heard their soft voices as Saeyoung murmured, “See? I told you that you could just go to the bathroom.” 

“I wasn’t sure.” Saeran whispered back, almost too quiet for you to hear. “I thought we weren’t supposed to leave the living room or kitchen…” 

Your heart was heavy with grief, choking you and sapping the strength from your knees. Your burnt hand throbbed fiercely and taunted you with your rash decision. You were so very, very tired.

“Emshii?” Saeran called while you fretted over the recipe to make sure you were cooking this meal properly. You missed being back in the city where there were plenty of fast food places that you could buy food from instead of cooking for yourself. But you couldn’t make these already-unhealthy children live off of junk food or just plain vegetables. You needed to put some meat on their bones too. 

“Emshii?” He called again a little bit softer and with some more hesitance. 

“Hm?” You hummed, checking the meat on the stove to make sure it wasn’t burning. It was starting to smell good. 

“I was just wondering...what was that cat?” You paused and then turned to the boy. He tugged a bit on the hem of his shirt and watched you. Saeyoung looked up from the pendulum he had been working on practicing getting answers from. He goggled at you both, seemingly shocked by the question. 

“Do you mean from that night?” You asked just to clarify. 

Saeran nodded. 

You scratched at your hair and folded your arms. You supposed that you would have to introduce them to your housemate eventually. It was uncommon for Midhir to expose himself like that to so many people, but he must have been just as infuriated about the events as you had. With the connection you two had it was no wonder that you ended up jumping a bit off of the deep end that night. 

“Could you tell he’s not a normal cat?” You asked them. 

“His eyes were beautiful and scary. And he looked like he was made out of shadow.” Saeran confessed sounding a bit in awe. 

“It protected us too.” Saeyoung added. Midhir’s attack had not gone unnoticed, then. 

You nodded with a smile. “He’s grown very attached to you two. It’s very surprising considering he usually prefers to stay neutral on any of these things.” You ran a hand over your neck remembering his heated fur pressed against it. “He’s my familiar.” 

“What’s that?” Saeran asked.

“It’s like a servant.” Saeyoung explained, leaning on his elbows with bright eyes the color of Venus in the late evening sunlight. “They can be demons or fae or actual animals. They are bound to witches and assist them with a lot of different things.” 

“Yes!” You grinned, proud of him. “That’s the gist of it, anyway.” 

“Wow!” Saeran whispered and then said louder, “What’s his name?” 

Your smile softened into something a little more secretive. “You can call him Midhir.” 

“Does that mean that’s not his real name?” Saeyoung asked shrewdly. 

“I don’t think he would forgive me if anybody else found about his actual name. He’s still not happy with me for finding out in the first place. That’s the whole reason he’s even bound to me.” Midhir was so silly in that way. You two had been together for so long already and he still huffed whenever you gently called his real name. You had a feeling it would be a sore spot for him for a while yet. It was cute. 

“Um, the food is burning.” Saeran pointed out. You yelped and ran to the stove to flip the meat, but it was too late. The damage was done. You sunk into a crouch with a groan. You were so bad at cooking.

Saeyoung had stuck close to his brother in the beginning. He didn’t let Saeran go outside alone and he didn’t stay alone with you for very long either. There was a hesitance to his approach to you now and a wariness to his gaze that you hadn’t seen for months. It kind of hurt, but you understood. You had taught Saeyoung basic concepts to witchcraft before Saeran had started visiting, and the elder twin was further on in his own studies by his own volition. He understood with a bit more clarity than Saeran what you had done and how it would affect you. You didn’t know for sure if Saeran was just ignorant of the extent of the damage you had done to his mother or if the boy just didn’t care enough about the woman to worry. None of you had brought her up. 

Saeyoung was scared, you knew. The world terrified him in many ways that he didn’t need to speak about in-depth with you to know. He’d always had the burden of protecting his brother on his shoulders and it wasn’t an easy weight to put down. Especially now that he was in an entirely new territory and situation where he didn’t know the risks and consequences of his actions. He didn’t know the limits. 

It was one night while thunder raged outside and you were downstairs studying a cookbook that Saeyoung opened up to you. He climbed down the stairs slowly and padded his way to the living room with bare feet. You looked up at his figure in the doorway as lightning flashed and illuminated him briefly. In the short time he had been living with you already you could see color and weight coming to his body. It was a fight to get muscle and fat on him while his puberty was kicking in. 

His hair was a mess in a way that you knew came from his habit of ruffling his own hair in frustration. He needed a haircut soon, you thought as you placed aside your book and smiled at him. Silently you motioned him to come closer if he so wished. He accepted the invitation and joined you on the couch. His eyes drooped as he curled against the arm of the couch an arm’s length away from you, but he didn’t fall asleep. You waited for him to say something. 

However, time passed and he didn’t speak at all. You could feel the tension in the air. There was a darkness deeper than the night time outside. Outer space was leaking from Saeyoung and filling the air, pulling the oxygen from the area and eating at the light. You missed the stars that were usually in his eyes. 

You could not hold your tongue. “Saeyoung, what’s wrong?” 

He continued to stare at his knees without a sound. And then he asked, “When will karma come for you?” His voice was hoarse and strained. 

So it would be one of those conversations. “...I don’t know.” 

Saeyoung glanced at you. His eyes were held the dying fires of white dwarf stars struggling to burn a bit longer. The space leaking from his skin burned of dark matter and pulled at you intoxicatingly, absorbing you into his orbit and begging for every scrap of your attention. “Will it hurt us too?” He asked. 

It was possible, of course. You didn’t want to tell him that, though. “I won’t let it.” You told him. 

“You can’t guarantee that.” 

“...No, I can’t.” 

Saeyoung looked away. Midhir stalked from the shadows and flicked his tail, waving off the darkness threatening to capture him too. You wanted to hug Saeyoung. You hadn’t hugged either of the boys since that night. 

Finally, Saeyoung took a breath and confessed, “I’m scared that our father will come after us. Our mother...she always said he would. And sometimes when I was in town, I saw suspicious people in suits. On the tv they always show bad guys in suits like that. Government people.” He looked at you. His heart trembled, vibrating the air around you. “We’re safe here, right? You promised you would protect us.” 

This time you didn’t hesitate to stand up and move to kneel in front of him. You took his face into your hands and he flinched a bit. He didn’t try to pull away from you after, though. Your hands were hot against his cheeks. You smiled softly. “Your father is dangerous, but I will do everything in my power to make sure you’re both safe. I want nothing more than happiness for the both of you.” 

“And you’re very powerful.” He stated with trust that startled you a tiny bit to hear. You had been worried that you had broken something of the bond between the two of you with your actions. It would’ve only been deserved of you. It pleased you and humbled you at the same time to hear his words even as you agreed. 

“And I am very powerful.” You murmured with conviction. The boy pitched forward then and wrapped his arms around your neck, causing you to start at the contact. He stayed tense as if waiting to be told off or rejected, but you did no such thing and instead pulled him closer. You only moved to sit on the couch again so that the two of you were more comfortable. You held him until he fell asleep in your arms and you levitated him back to his bedroom.

While you were in town one day you saw police cars go past you and down a familiar road outside of the village. The ground rumbled and chills ran down your spine. Your hand burned and raged. The air’s temperature dropped and you turned your back on the scene to walk away. A knife pierced through your skin and embedded itself into your bloodstream. In the distance you spotted two men in black suits.

You took the long way home until you felt that you could contain yourself. You told your garden not to allow anybody in all night, shivering with anticipation and the thought of invaders. Midhir said nothing to you when you walked in as he lay on the bookshelf watching Saeyoung and Saeran quizzing each other on the different herbs they had laid out in front of them on the coffee table while a commercial played on the television. 

You went and locked yourself in your personal study and slid to the floor, head in your hand as you gazed with watering eyes at the wrapping around your burnt hand. Your heart trembled like a candle flame in the wind of a blizzard as you unwrapped it and gazed at the destruction of your skin. You had recovered mobility with it, but it had ached terribly since it had been inflicted upon you. Last night it had woken you up with the ferocity of its burn. You had held it under running water for over an hour but you found no solace. When you had gone to sleep, you had woken up with no sensation left to it. It would no doubt scar badly. 

You curled up tight and sobbed into your knees. Outside of your open windows your garden was silent and the plants near your study’s windows were leaning away. You weren’t positive that you weren’t going to vomit. 

You hadn’t heard anything of the twins’ mother since that night. You doubted you ever would again now.

Chapter Text

Spring warmed into a temperate summer that had your garden shivering with delight. It rained often and left you unable to work a lot out in your garden without the risk of developing a cold. Saeyoung and Saeran found no qualms with this, however, and you often found them somewhere outside even during some of the more intimidating rainstorms. They would come inside shivering and covered with mud but their eyes would be sparkling and the two would often have things they would talk about with each other. You had to remind yourself that what you experienced all of the time was a rarity the boys had never had the chances to indulge in. So you didn’t scold them and instead would instruct them to immediately take baths. It wasn’t like you didn’t often track dirt into your household too. 

On sunny days Saeran tended to be outside as much as possible. You learned his favorite spots and where to find him if you could not find him anywhere in the house. He liked to lay in sunny spots or in the most fragrant places. Different parts of your garden vied for the boy’s attention, blooming passionately and trying its best to get him to join them for the time he was out there. It was a curious spectacle that you were sure Saeran hadn’t quite picked up on yet. You had never seen your garden act in such a way before. 

It was only when you had joined him one day to nap in the grass with him under the curtain of willow branches on a warm day did you sense the intentions of your garden. You could feel the earth energy gathering and flowing in and out of Saeran while the boy slept. In your mind’s eye you were able to see his aura flaring as the plants around him crooned and healed him. When you touched his skin now you no longer tasted the gritty sands of a parched desert. Instead you sensed an oasis blooming within him, nourishing the desert to life. It was slow-going, but certainly there. 

You didn’t know what to make of it. It was hard to tell if there was much of a difference in Saeran’s aura when it was still so weak and close to his skin. You would have to do some research. 

Saeyoung couldn’t seem to decide what he wanted to learn and when. A new world had been opened up to him and he couldn’t wait to try a little bit of everything. He learned quickly how to use your computer and he would practice reading more and more difficult books. He borrowed your cell phone to play on phone apps and snap pictures of various animals that came to the garden. His hands were always busy with something whether it was a bag of rune stones, a new book, writing notes, watching tv, taking apart some of the smaller electronics in the house, or even playing games with Saeran. He couldn’t hold still. His sun of a spirit had been released and it was burning him with energy. At the end of the night he would often collapse and fall asleep lamenting not having enough time in the world for anything. You found that funny. 

Neither brother left your garden. They had explored every inch of it and had discovered their own favorite spots, but they had yet to even walk out of your front gate. You wouldn’t stop them if they tried. They would wave goodbye to you when you left to go shopping or to leave for a few hours. They never asked to come with you. They always hid away in other rooms when you had customers. You didn’t see nor hear them during those times. 

It was on one of those days that you realized just how quiet the two really were. You were so used to them filling up space and filling the very air and earth near you with their presences that you didn’t even realize that you hardly ever heard them throughout the day. You would have to actively search for them if you needed to find them. 

You were used to silence in your household, but knowing that there were two other humans in the building with you and not being able to hear them at all made you sad. Somehow, it made you feel even lonelier than if nobody had been there at all.

Saeyoung followed Saeran around and stuck close to him. He caught him up on everything you had taught him and encouraged Saeran as the boy practiced learning to read better. Although Saeran preferred to go outside a lot and Saeyoung followed him by default, you could tell Saeyoung had things inside that he wished he could do. You didn’t let him have access to most of your tools and the pendulums and stones he did use were not linked to his energy, so he could not use them properly like he wished. 

You could feel his frustration building in him ready to burst and send comets flying from his body. Just by watching him you could tell that he and his brother were tethered together by thick vines created because of everything in their life changing so dramatically. They couldn’t separate even if they wanted to because they were too nervous. The weight and anxiety of their father appearing from the shadows caused them to look over their shoulders even in your garden. The unknown was too much for them and not enough at the same time. 

They needed a distraction, you thought, but you were hesitant to go through with the first idea that appeared in your mind. It was one thing to let the boys read whatever books they wanted and to touch and explore some of the tools you didn’t mind their energies getting all over, but it was another entirely to actively start teaching them witchcraft. It was a big decision and you weren’t sure you were ready for an apprentice...let alone two. 

You had so much on your plate already with trying to adjust to two children in your household. The trust between you three was tentative, but it was better than their initial reactions to living with you now. They had adjusted to your house and understood where they could and couldn’t go and now no longer asked to use the tv or grab something to eat from the kitchen. The house was slowly becoming their house, but you were still struggling to adapt.

Saeyoung and Saeran were not children. Not really, anyway. They were already nearly adults, but due to their lack of interaction with anyone outside of their household (and the minimum interactions Saeyoung’d had with some of the villagers) they were naive to many things and lacking in some basic information. You had to keep reminding yourself that while in many ways they were still so young, they were also teenagers as well. No matter how much you still called them boys or children. And that led to some mental conflict for you while you tried to figure out what your role in their lives now was. You had no idea. 

So you stuck to trying to get down the basics first. Like cooking. Which, well, was not going well. 

You had to also go out and buy them both completely new wardrobes when you realized that they had been wearing the same clothes for over a week rather than asking to borrow some of your clothing. However, neither of them would leave the garden to go shopping with you even when you asked. They didn’t look comfortable with the idea of receiving anything from you. From the way Saeyoung responded to your questions it almost seemed like you buying clothes for them would mean you would want something from them. And they had nothing they were willing to give you in exchange. You still didn’t quite think that you had managed to convince them that an exchange was not your intention. And so you were left alone at the store to struggle to guess their sizes before deciding that even if the clothes were too big they would no doubt grow into them. 

Neither Saeran nor Saeyoung had cared about how the clothing had looked. Both of them had been speechless when they realized that all of the outfits you had bought were for them and that they each had their own sets. It took some more convincing on your part to let them know that yes, the clothing was theirs and no, you did not want anything in return but a thank you from them. Both boys had cried while thanking you and you sensed more than heard their hearts reverberating with the kindness you had granted them. You saw the seeds that had been planted upon meeting both of them for the first time slowly beginning to bud from soil that had been barren for so long. 

Both brothers were careful with their new clothes to the point that they were nervous to wear them to play in the garden. They were careful not to get their white shirts covered with any dirt and their pants free of grass stains. What they didn’t seem to notice was that your garden only took it as a challenge. Trees would dip their leaves into the back of their shirts and mushrooms would puff clouds of spores onto their feet and the hems of their pants. The more playful flowers would tilt themselves just right to brush their pollen onto them and dandelions would giggle as they exploded just before the wind caught them causing the seeds to become trapped like tiny snowflakes in Saeyoung and Saeran’s bright red hair. 

You had laughed at the efforts even as Saeyoung became disgruntled with brushing himself off all of the time and Saeran hopping away from any of the more teasing bushes. You didn’t think that they had realized yet just how mischievous your garden truly was.

The jokes became less funny to you the day that Saeran accidentally spilled juice onto his clean bright blue shirt. He was horrified when he realized that he couldn’t just wipe off the mess like he had done with everything else. You didn’t get the chance to tell him it was fine and that you would just buy him a new shirt before he burst into frantic tears and had cowered in the corner of the kitchen. 

“I’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorry!” He sobbed, covering his head with his arms. It took five minutes of both you and Saeyoung coaxing and reassuring him before he calmed down. From there you had taken his shirt and showed him how to clean the stain out the best you could. Even if it didn’t come out, you explained, you would show him how to put the cloth to use in other ways. So he didn’t have to worry about you being upset. You would recycle just like you did with all of the other stuff you used in your house. After that you bought them both more black clothes so they wouldn’t have to worry about stains. 

Saeran more than Saeyoung delighted in this fact. “Look, hyung!” Saeran called as he pulled on his black button-down and grinned. “We’re witches too!”

They wore their new clothing proudly and often tried on cloaks and dresses you had bought for them as well. Each day afterwards they almost always had at least one piece of black clothing on. You had laughed to yourself when you didn’t see an obvious piece of black clothing on them one day. You were willing to bet that child was wearing black underwear instead, the silly boys that they were. They looked very good in your favorite color.

The sun was just setting when you arrived home from a long trip out during the day. You were tired and craving a hot bath to soak in as you entered your garden. Your thoughts were filled with just imagining the nearly-burning water caressing your skin and the scent of lavender in your hair as the plants shivered a greeting and Midhir crossed your path. His electric-blue eyes blinked at you once, slowly, before continuing on his patrol. Fire lights danced across his fur that reminded you of faerie lights and that soon midsummer and Litha would be upon you. 

You were wondering if Saeyoung and Saeran would enjoy and be interested in experiencing your Litha celebration as you entered your household to find them both chatting about the end of a movie they had just watched. They looked up upon your entrance and greeted you with varying sizes of smiles that filled you up and rejuvenated you in a way that you weren’t sure you would get used to soon. 

After checking on the both of them, you went to take a bath to relax before rejoining them both down in the living room. There you found Saeran doodling and Saeyoung gazing at the phone he must have snatched from your charger. He had a strange look on his face that caught your attention and begged for you to question it. 

“ this really today’s date?” He asked upon your prompting. 

“Yes?” You responded, sitting down beside them. Saeran had become much better at his sketching, you noted. Beside his childlike drawings of Midhir and you and Saeyoung he had much more detailed pictures of different plants from your garden with labels on them. He was currently filling in the uses of apples and appleseeds in spells. You were about to praise him for the very correct and very well-drawn sketches when you realized that following your response Saeyoung had been quiet for a little too long. You looked up to find him frowning. 

“What’s wrong?” You asked him. Saeran paused in his writing to also glance at his brother. Morning Glories bloomed and shed from his hair and the scent of fresh forest grass filled your senses with his curiosity and worry.

He looked up at you both with an unreadable expression. “It’s our birthday.” He said. 

You blinked, stunned. 

“Oh. Is it?” Saeran asked. 

Saeyoung nodded. “I didn’t even notice.” He placed the phone aside. His fingers lingered on the edge of the couch. His skin glowed softly with muted starlight. Saeran went back to his notebook, but didn’t start writing. He didn’t appear to know what to say in response to his brother’s discovery. 

You stood up and smiled at them both, not content to just let this matter fade off. “Okay!” You said. “Let’s celebrate!” 

Both of them looked to you, confused. “Celebrate our birthday?” Saeyoung asked. 

“Yup!” You threw on a light jacket and rolled up the sleeves as you went to go grab your wallet off of the counter in the entryway of the house. You returned and said, “I’ll come back in a little bit. I need to go buy a couple of things first.” You gave them both a sheepish smile. “I don’t really keep track of my own birthday anymore, so I’m sorry I forgot to ask yours.” 

“It’s okay!” Saeyoung hurried to respond. “We don’t do anything for it anyway!” 

“Are...are you buying us presents?” Saeran asked quietly. Shyly. 

“We don’t need presents.” Saeyoung interrupted. “We’ve already gotten so much.” 

“I’m at least getting you both a cake.” You responded sternly. You would allow for no arguments. “Do you two have a particular flavor you prefer?”

Both of them shook their heads. You supposed that you would have to wing it, then. Before you could go, however, Saeyoung grabbed your sleeve. His face was bright red but his hopeful gaze made your legs weak in a way that guaranteed that you would cave to whatever whim he was about to impose on you, “Can you...can we have ice cream too?” 

“Ice cream!” Saeran gasped softly, crawling forward on the couch. His eyes were wide at the thought. “Yes, please! We haven’t had ice cream in so long…” 

“Do you both like ice cream?” You asked, happy but also a little sad you didn’t already know this. 

Both boys nodded quickly. “It’s the best.” Saeran murmured. 

You smiled. “It really is!” You agreed. “I’ll be back soon.” 

That night the three of you sat on the porch and stared at the fireflies that filled the air while you ate your treats. Plates of half-eaten cake were sat beside you for raccoons to steal from and for ants to whisk away. Your hands were sticky with ice cream and your tummies sick with sweets, but the boys were smiling wider than you had ever seen and that was perfect for you. Both of them were dazzled by the sight of the stars so near to them and made efforts to catch them. You taught them birthday songs and helped them each catch fifteen fireflies to match the number of years they both held. 

The fireflies speckled the tree leaves and cicadas sang in the night. You danced with Saeran and Saeyoung to the music in the wind and wrapped yourselves in blankets of unfathomable colors. Foxes laughed and tripped over each other in gaiety while faeries disguised themselves as butterflies and bats to swoop and taste the magic in the air. Kings and Queens of multiple realms joined you all as their courts played musical instruments that invigorated the very earth. Creatures snuck into your garden in an effort to join in the festivities for themselves, drinking in the energy that intoxicated the night.

Sweat transformed into shooting stars as they were flung from Saeyoung’s skin and flowers bloomed in Saeran’s footprints that he left across the damp soil near the pond. The two of them tripped and giggled and created auroras from their laughter. The skies themselves seem to clear for the moon and the garden was laden with magic that inebriated all of you more potently than any kind of physical substance could. You knew that the brothers could feel and mold it instinctually, though you doubted they would remember anything but the sensations of it in the morning. That night you three were the hosts of a party that all were invited to, locked away in a realm only those who knew where to look could find it and see.

You had carried the boys to their beds that night knowing that everything would be remembered as a wonderful dream for them come morning when the curtain of the night pulled away to reveal an empty garden once more. The party continued to rage outside as you left offerings outside of your door breathed pleasant dreams into the dreamcatchers above the boys’ beds. Their cheeks were red as you brushed your fingers along their skin and saw nothing but lights and colors and tasted pure joy.

Chapter Text

Sometimes you forgot how sticky humidity made you feel until you were leaving your well-ventilated house to walk a customer back to the front gate of your house. Although the new place you lived was fairly temperate and not excessively hot despite summer being in the air, your garden made you feel more like you were in the rainforest. The shade of the trees did little to stop the effects of the moisture in the air. You ran a hand through your hair and made a small face as your fingers caught on a few knots. The plants around you giggled. You shot them a half-hearted glare. It wasn’t funny.

You reentered your house with a sigh of relief as the humidity dropped into something that was more bearable. It was still very stuffy in your house with the amount of incense and herbs filling the house with their aromas, but it was better than the stickiness. You considered a shower as you moved over to your foyer to begin to pack up some of supplies that you had been using for readings. The crystal ball shifted in your grip curiously, but you made sure to maintain a good grip on it. You had lost far too many crystals to your unforgiving floors. 

The feeling of humidity seeped against your back as a hand touched your bare arm. Soil filled your mouth and moss brushed against your skin. A bird shivered as it poked its head out from under the sticks of its nest. Sun-warmed lavender filled your senses before all of the sensations faded to leave only Saeran’s goldenrod eyes gazing at you. 

“Emshii?” He called. You shifted the crystal ball in your arms a bit better and hummed, granting him a warm smile. His immediately perked under your light and relaxed just a bit more. “What kind of readings do you do for customers?” He asked. 

“That depends on the customer.” You told him, making your way over to your study. He followed on your fire-dappled heels but paused in your doorway as you entered your study. Neither of the brothers had entered it thus far out of your own wishes. 

“Do you do Tarot readings?” He asked, glancing around the inside of the room without passing the barrier.

“Yeah, I’ve see them!” Saeyoung interrupted, popping out of the void somewhere to appear next to his brother. The humidity from Saeran thinned out even as you watched their auras wrap in and around each other. Even though their auras were so small and weak, they always reached to encompass each other. It made you hunger with jealousy that you didn’t quite comprehend. There were far too many mysteries with these two that you were both content and not content with not knowing about. 

“Have you two been studying them?” You asked with a knowing smile. 

“Hyung has.” Saeran said. 

“There are a lot of different ways to predict the future.” Saeyoung explained. “I want to try it!” 

“I’m not sure I have anything that would work well with you, Saeyoung.” You had many different decks, but Saeyoung needed tools that were his , not borrowed from you. You weren’t so sure your supplies would even work accurately for him. His energy was one you had not felt before, though it was not too far off from ones you had worked with in the past. 

“You say that for all of your stuff.” Saeyoung grumbled. You weren’t sure you were supposed to have heard that.

You finished storing away your crystal ball safely on its stand in your study and stood back with your hands on your hips. Your core was filled with heat and urge and desire and you knew what you craved. The idea wasn’t a bad one, and you had been needing to consult your cards anyway. You had questions for them. 

So you turned to the boys and asked, “Would you two like to see me do a reading?” 

Both of them straightened, fires lit within their eyes and beings aching to cross over the barrier between you three into a new realm. It didn’t chafe at you as much as you expected to motion them in and feel them enter your own space. 

The energy of the room shifted immediately upon their entrance. The thick, cloying heat that usually filled the room and comforted you like a hot blanket after a cold day outside abruptly spun away and altered to make room. You sensed more than saw the blanket compress inward like dough and flow outward around as Saeyoung’s galaxies leaked from his fingertips and scattered across the floor. Stars filled your eyes and a new type of heat entered your soul, making you gasp. Meanwhile, Saeran breathed out and sent whirlybirds up like feathers exploding out of a broken pillow. Carnations danced before your nose and the energy in the room opened like willow tree curtains before them.

You were left stunned by the effect. 

“Emshii?” Saeyoung asked. “What’s wrong?” 

“I…” You couldn’t respond. 

“This room...feels different.” Saeran murmured, looking around. His eyes fell to half moons as his skin glowed like moonlight in the dimness of the room. You could only watch as the effects of the room and the energy seeping in and out of the boys like rolling clouds sent them both off balance. “It feels like…” 

“It feels like the garden on full moons.” Saeyoung finished, voice universes away and deeper than the night.

“Yeah...or like...when Emshii does rituals.” Saeran suggested. There was a buzz in his voice you couldn’t place. It was almost too soft to hear over the sound of your own heart. 

Saeyoung took a shuddering breath and sneezed out stardust. It was enough to jolt you from your own trance. You weren’t used to anybody other than you and Midhir being in your study. 

You shuddered and shook off the feeling. You had to focus through your own lightheadedness. You hadn’t felt this way since you had been an apprentice. You could only imagine what the boys were going through. 

You took a breath. “That’s magic.” You told them. Their eyes snapped to yours, clouded and snapping with flashes of lightning. Ever since their birthday they had become more attuned to the feeling of magic in everything around them. However, they didn’t seem to be totally aware of this. You had yet to really explain it. You needed to pull them from their daze. 

You walked over to your desk and pulled out a bundle of dried sage. You ran your fingers over the ends of the leaves and effortlessly lit them aflame before blowing out the fire. The smoke began to fill the air as you took your time to go around the room and cleanse it. Saeyoung and Saeran watched you with sleepy eyes that slowly began to clear the more of the room you cleansed. Saeyoung shook his head as Saeran rubbed his eyes and you allowed the sage to rest in a small black cauldron on your altar to let it burn until it died a natural death. 

“Welcome back.” You told them with a laugh as they blinked mystified eyes at you. 

“I feel funny.” Saeran said. 

“How does it feel?” You asked curiously. 

Saeran didn’t respond for a long moment, frowning with thought. Saeyoung spoke up first as he found his words, “I feel kind of weightless. Like I’ll float off at any moment.” He took a step forward as if to test the Earth’s gravity. You grabbed your personal Tarot deck and sat down on the rug in the middle of the floor, pulling a low table over as well. Saeyoung lowered himself down beside you. Saeran appeared rooted to his spot, still thinking. 

“Come on, Saeran.” His brother called, but you motioned for him to shush. You wanted to see what Saeran would say. 

The boy snapped back to attention and hurried to his brother’s side with an apology. He never did answer your question. You supposed it was an opportunity lost. 

Midhir slipped into the room then and the door fell shut without a touch. Both boys startled some to see him. Midhir stumbled a bit, probably just as caught off guard with how amplified all of the magic in the room felt with the three of you in it. 

“Midhir!” Saeyoung cried and shifted to try to pet the cat as he passed by. The cat slipped from his fingers like smoke, avoiding his touch and moving around Saeran to slide under the table and to your other side. Saeran only watched him with fascinated eyes but didn’t attempt to touch him. Saeyoung pouted at the near-miss.

“I was wondering when you would show up.” You told the cat with amusement at the antics in front of you. Midhir took a seat and flicked his tail. He blinked a slow greeting at you that you returned. 

“Where has he been?” Saeyoung asked, folding himself down onto the table and stretching his arms out to make grabby hands. You lifted your cards out of the way as Midhir gave Saeyoung a look that you would almost describe as a “raised eyebrow” if Midhir had such a thing. As it was, you felt more than saw the temptation of the cat to whack his wiggling fingers. “We haven’t seen him in forever!” 

You shrugged. “He comes and goes.” 

Saeran continued to stare at Midhir as the cat regarded him. Both turned away at the same time as you began to shuffle your deck and hummed a bit to yourself. You needed to do some readings because you had some questions that you would like answers to, but you needed to focus. You weren’t sure you had made the best decision by involving Saeyoung and Saeran, but you were already in the thick of it. You would have to make do. 

“This will just be a demonstration.” You explained to them. Your hands tingled as your cards brushed against them. “So I won’t be explaining the mechanics or anything. Though that doesn’t mean I won’t take questions.” 

“How do you interpret them?” Saeyoung asked immediately, sitting forward more. It wasn’t often you gave a practical demonstration for them. 

“It’s a mixture of imagery, knowing the meanings of the cards, the combinations of them as they appear together, and the spread causing their placements to be different for each reading.” 

“That sounds complicated.” Saeran murmured. 

“It took me a long time to really become good at.” You confessed with a wry grin. 

“What question are you going to ask them?” He asked you with a small tilt of his head. You watched as his aura shifted around him and leaked further into the air. Their eyes still appeared to be slightly glazed over from the effect. You wondered if it was all of the quartzes in the room that were increasing the potency of the energy around you all. 

“Um.” You continued to shuffle and contemplated your cards. You had a couple of things that you wanted to do, after all. You supposed that you could start with your main question. 

You closed your eyes in thought. It had been almost a year now since you had first arrived in the village and met Saeyoung. Although it wasn’t unusual for you to stay in one place for a while, you didn’t really understand what was keeping you tethered to the village. Did nobody else need your assistance yet? That seemed unlikely. Maybe your garden was hesitant to take you with the boys still living at your house. That also seemed unlikely though judging by the sheer attachment each plant held for the boys. 

You took a breath. It had been a while since you had really needed to voice your question out loud for an audience. Your voice was deeper, brimming with ancient magic as you asked, “What is my current situation?” 

You automatically flipped three cards down and opened your eyes. Saeyoung and Saeran sat forward to better look at the cards. Immediately you held your hand out to them to stop them from getting too close. “Don’t touch the cards.” You commanded gently but sternly. They blinked the haze a bit more from their eyes, startled by the reprimand. “Sorry, but these are my personal cards. I can’t have anybody else’s energy on them.” 

“Oh.” Saeyoung nodded in understanding. Saeran shifted around closer to you to view the cards better as you turned back to them. The Star greeted you first and foremost followed by the Hierophant and Strength. You mentally nodded at the combination, noted the intensity of having all Major Arcana show up to answer your question. 

“What does it say?” Saeran asked you quietly when you didn’t move or speak for a few long moments. Saeyoung tilted his head to look a bit closer but did not touch as you requested. His eyes glowed with the starlight that reflected from the Star even while he frowned with thought. Midhir stepped into your lap and helped to keep their energies away from the cards as Saeran’s aura reached like canopies across the table to touch. 

You smiled and instead said, “I’ll explain that in a bit. It’s actually something I wanted to discuss with you both.” 

“What is it?” You gathered up the cards and shuffled them again. 

“Patience.” You murmured to him. “Let’s finish this first. I have other questions.” 

Midhir rested a paw on your hands and stared at you. His eyes flashed rapidly with a motley of colors before a swell of emotions overtook you. You felt your hair raise on end as a terrible foreboding and uneasiness invaded your body and burned from the inside out. You were paralyzed until your fingers flipped over two more cards. You gasped as Justice once again shot lightning through you and the Seven of Swords hid away behind her. 

You couldn’t move as you stared at them even while Saeran called your name. Saeyoung had yet to move from his spot. Your spine shivered and your skin crawled as you felt the connection between your reading and these two new cards emanate. 

“Emshii.” Saeyoung interrupted the numb horror that had been spreading through your mind while Saeran’s hands clung to your sleeve and shook it to get your attention. Your head whipped back and forth between the two, coming out of your daze. You saw that the starlight had faded from Saeyoung’s eyes to be replaced with that same unreadable expression on his face that you were coming to associate with the darkness in his mind and heart. You saw shifty fox eyes and a lowered head as he slunk into the bushes nervously. 

“What is it?” You asked carefully, voice thick. 

Saeyoung looked at you. You doubted he had noticed your trance, although Saeran certainly hadn’t missed it. You took the younger twin’s hand to squeeze it reassuringly and tasted honeysuckle and relief. It was a hard counter to the sight in front of you. It was like you were staring at a stranger as you gazed upon Saeyoung. You felt the cold void of outer space seeping into your skin. 

“You can answer any question with your cards, right?” He asked.

“I can certainly try.” 

“Hyung…” Saeran murmured, nervous. 

“Then...Ask about our father.” 

You heard everything he left unsaid. You heard his fear; the combined terror of both boys and the sense of insecurity in a place they had come to call home. They wanted desperately to be reassured that this was it. That they would truly be safe when they still lived in the same village they had been threatened their entire lives. Where there were still suspicious people hiding throughout the village and watching your garden but knew instinctively not to approach. They needed shelter. 

You turned your gaze back to Justice and the duty that your cards had presented to you. You were seeing the answer to a question you had been thinking about but hadn’t asked, and you also saw the true terrible answer to your original question. Sometimes you wished that your cards would not always speak the truth to you. Where was the Moon to obscure the truth when you needed it? 

It was one thing to know that you were being punished by being forced to stay in this dreadful village, but it was another to know that the brothers had to suffer with you and their sense of constant fear. They were exposed being in a place they knew their father knew they lived. Your garden was unable to move you all because your punishment was looming. You sensed that your next question would be connected to this answer and you dreaded every moment of it as you began to shuffle again and then laid out your cards. 

“Oh no…” You whimpered before you could stop yourself. Both brothers quickly leaned forward to gaze upon the Tower, the King of Pentacles, and upon Death. 

“That doesn’t look good.” Saeran whispered. 

“The bad.” Saeyoung agreed, staring at the Tower. But your eyes were locked instead on the King again. 

You were not done with the King, you understood. 

“Emshii, what does it say?” Saeyoung prompted. You quickly scooped up the cards with a deep frown as you shuffled them back into the deck. Midhir’s long tail curled over your wrist as you shuffled quickly and laid out another hand. You needed to know what you were supposed to do about all of this. How would you handle it? 

The answer was gentle and clear, which was more surprising to you than anything. The Eight of Cups, Ten of Wands, Three of Pentacles, and the Fool predicted your future and soothed you even as you already began to mourn. 

“Emshii!” Saeyoung pressed.

You closed your eyes and placed aside your deck to rub a tired hand over them. You turned your gaze onto the boys who watched you with stressed faces. You realized that you weren’t being fair to either of them. You had promised them at least some form of explanation, but how could you explain the prediction that you had just been given? Let alone the consequences and recommendation on how to deal with everything. 

Could you tell them the truth and risk the burden of knowledge upon them? It was good that you knew...but you had lost whatever sense of security you had gained. 

You turned your eyes downwards. “My cards warned me about my karma again. And that your father will certainly try to come for you both.” 

“No!” Saeran whimpered, his grip tightening on your arm. 

“We already knew that.” Saeyoung responded bitterly. Disappointment and frustration and fear tainted the air like gas. “We always knew that, Saeran.” 

“We’re safe here, though.” Saeran protested.

“You are safe here.” You insisted, placing a hand on his and reaching to touch Saeyoung as well. The boys were trembling from two entirely different emotions. You didn’t want Saeyoung to accidentally panic Saeran or vice versa. “That hasn’t changed. And even if he comes for you, I have many ways to protect you both.” 

Saeyoung looked like he wanted to say something, but held his tongue as he looked to Saeran. Saeran’s eyes darted from his brother to you and then down at your cards. You looked to them as well as none of you spoke and let the air become heavy with the inevitability and unknown of the future. 

You would have to bear this burden, your cards warned. Whatever life-shattering tragedy was going to occur to you in relation to the King would have to be carried as you all moved forward. The recommendation for you path was clear: you would need to let go and start over. Whatever would happen to you would be a new beginning. A new chapter of your life would begin, for better or for ill. 

You desperately, quietly, begged that Saeyoung and Saeran would be part of that life.

Chapter Text

Midhir woke you up, which was entirely unusual. He almost never appeared in your room in the morning light, preferring instead to slink through the shadows or to sleep away the day in a tree or bush somewhere. It was rare enough that you saw him on any given day, let alone when you first woke up. 

He stood on your chest and stared into your eyes, his pupils dilating wide as thoughts and sensations filled your mind unbiddingly. Curiosity and urgency pressed against your own sleepiness and the taste of magic coated your tongue. Midhir’s tail rose up and draped itself across your eyes, blinding you and flashing images to the Hierophant and Strength into your mind. The tail only moved when understanding bloomed. 

“Oh.” You said as you stared at the cat. You noted offhandedly that his eyes had changed color once again. They were so orange that they reminded you of the raging blaze of a forest fire. 

“Oh.” Midhir returned, amused and mocking. You raised an eyebrow at him and he snorted. 

A new scent cut through the thick fragrant air of your room, distracting you from your riveting conversation. You sat up with a start and stared at the door in bafflement. Your stomach growled loudly as you scented cooking butter, eggs, and the slightly burnt smell of bread. Midhir laughed at you as you hurried out of bed and out of your room to go downstairs. You found Saeran standing at the stove with a determined and wary look on his face as he cooked some eggs. Saeyoung sat at the table buttering the well-done toast. Both boys glanced at you as you entered the room. 

“Good morning.” You said to them, gazing at the dark skin under both of their eyes and the pale skin of Saeran’s face. 

They both gave you small smiles. “Good morning.” 

“What’s this, then?” You asked as you joined Saeran by the stove. The boy was taller now, you realized as you noticed he now came up to your chest. He still wasn’t quite as tall as his brother, but you could feel that his energy was becoming healthier. His body was responding positively to the care of the garden.

“I decided to make breakfast.” Saeran explained in his quiet voice as he slid his spatula under the egg and flipped it. You were impressed that he managed to not break the yolk at all. Was this his first time cooking? 

“I’m doing the toast!” Saeyoung added, lifting his butter knife.

“I didn’t know you could cook.” You told the boy with a smile as you moved to lean next to the stove. Your hand itched to squeeze his shoulder affectionately, but you decided against it. “It looks delicious!” 

Saeran smiled brighter then, his face lighting up with the praise as his eyes softened. “I’ve been...Um, I’ve been reading some of the books you bring home.” He explained. “And...Hyung and me were looking stuff up on the internet too.” 

“You seem to struggle in the kitchen, so we figured we would try it.” Saeyoung explained more with a small chuckle. “We figured we could try to have a decent homecooked meal at some point!” 

“Hey!” You cried, glaring without heat. Saeyoung only laughed more, and the sound relaxed your heart to hear. The laughter of the two boys wasn’t as rare as it had been a couple of months ago, but it was still a rarity. You soaked and reveled in every moment that you could hear it. You could feel both of their souls aching to release their tiny bursts of sunlight with each expression of joy they could produce. 

You decided to get your own form of revenge. “It looks like Saeran, at least, can cook. I’m not sure your toast is edible.” 

Saeyoung let out a cry and hugged the toast to him without letting it actually touch his clothes and shot you a sulking pout. “It’s delicious!” 

“Eggs are done!” Saeran announced before either of you two could escalate in play fighting. The three of you sat down and enjoyed a meal that was actually better than most of the stuff you made. You didn’t understand how Saeran had made the eggs so fluffy and you hadn’t even considered adding cinnamon sugar to your butter. It was fantastic, but you would have to start to become concerned about the amount of sugar both boys were ingesting.

It was only as you were finishing the last bit of your toast did you remember your discussion with Midhir. You munched on the toast and mulled over how you would approach the topic, tapping your fingers. Your concerns from before still lingered in your mind wondering if you were really the best person to take on the job of mentoring two young students. You were still trying finding your own balance with them in your life now. But your cards had insisted quite clearly that you teaching the boys magic would be the way to go about things. 

Magic by itself wasn’t inherently dangerous. It could easily be used in just small ways and not in the dramatic ways that television liked to show. And you trusted the boys. Both had proven from their self-studies to be extremely curious but also safe. They had seen what you could do and took caution from it. Which was good (if a bit sad to you). You were certain that the lessons you would teach them would be taken to heart. You could see the trust in the bond bounding the three of you together. You were certain that at this point if you wanted to cast a spell you could easily affect all of you without even needing a physical sample from the boys as a foci. 

“That’s so cool!” The words brought you out of your contemplation to see both brothers watching your hand. You looked down to find that you had unconsciously started rolling a number of small multi-colored flames between your fingers. You quickly snapped it out of existence, a little embarrassed. You had thought you had gotten rid of such a habit. You had gotten in trouble with certain people in the past from performing such obvious magic. Saeyoung made a disappointed noise at its disappearance. 

“Boys,” you said in order to get their minds away from your bad habit, “I wanted to talk to you both.” 

Saeran’s eyes flicked over to where Midhir walked past the doorway before disappearing into the shadows of the early morning. Small daisies bloomed along his cheekbone and disappeared into his hairline before they faded away again. It was something that you were coming to love about Saeran was his ability to create flowers effortlessly at the slightest provocation. You wondered how long it would be before he would be able to see it for himself every time it happened. 

Saeyoung picked up the empty plates and stacked them. “What is it?” He asked. 

“I’ve realized that with...all of the unfortunate news from my cards yesterday we forgot about the first reading I did.” You explained. The brothers tensed. The darkness under their eyes seemed to leak across their skin. The gravity around you felt heavier as Saeyoung frowned. You pushed through. “Do either of you have a guess at what the reading was?” 

“I didn’t...I couldn’t read one of the names.” Saeran admitted. “But...They felt very gentle.” 

You grinned, absurdly proud to hear that. “Saeran!” You breathed in delight. “Saeran, excellent!” 

“What?” He asked, startled. 

“I wasn’t expecting that kind of answer. You’re using your other senses already to feel magic, aren’t you? That’s wonderful!” 

Saeran flushed with pleasure, sitting up a bit straighter. Saeyoung gaped, stretching himself out across the table and tapping his hands against it. “Whoa! So we’re supposed to use other senses? Other than sight?”

“Yes, of course.” You said with a nod. “You can use all of your senses, after all, so it wouldn’t make sense that you only look for magic. You felt it just yesterday, didn’t you?” 

Saeyoung pursed his lips in thought before nodding, contemplative. “I was only looking at the pictures…” he quickly turned back to Saeran, “What else did you feel?” 

Saeran appeared more awake now, his eyes blooming with excitement. “It was so soft and warm. Like the cards themselves were warm...or holding my hand or...or…” He paused and tried to dig through his words for how he wanted to describe the experience before he looked at you with wide, questioning eyes. “They felt like you. ” 

“Ohhh…!” Saeyoung nodded quickly. “Yeah, I see what you mean! I kind of got that too!” 

You leaned forward on your elbows, still smiling. “Well, that’s no surprise. They were talking about me, after all. My cards often refer to me with The Star card.” 

“Why?” Saeyoung asked. 

“Haha, it could be many things. But try researching what The Star means. Without the reversal, though. My main deck doesn’t use reversals.” 

“Does everyone have a card that’s connected to them?” Saeran asked. 

“Not necessarily. It can change per reading.” 

“Okay, but what did the cards actually say?” Saeyoung pressed, eager to hear more. It was so much better to have them invested and caught up in something that wasn’t their fear from yesterday. It was good to see their skin glowing and absorbing the calming energy in the atmosphere around them. 

You tapped your fingers against the table again, nervousness thrumming in your chest. The decision was already made for you, though. You already knew the answers that would be given to you. The path in front of you was obvious and not nearly as terrifying as your anxiety and worries were making it out to be. You took heart in the Strength and understanding that came from it. So you took a breath and began to walk.

“Boys, how would you like to become my apprentices?” You asked.

The atmosphere changed instantly, the warmth and excitement disappearing in the void of shock. The area went white in your vision and only cleared as it was sucked into the vacuum of Saeyoung’s fear and wariness. You frowned in confusion as you tasted hesitancy and hope and disbelief.

“Are you serious?” Saeyoung asked you after a few moments of silence. “You’re’re not just saying that, right?” 

“No. It’s something I’ve been considering for a while.” You said softly. “You both have already been doing your own studying and clearly have an if you want, I will properly mentor you so that you may be able to learn far more than you could by yourselves.” 

“You’re going to teach us to be witches?” Saeran murmured, hope blooming flowers and vines shivering across his arms. 

“You’re already witches.” You told them. “It’s just a matter of learning more.”

Saeran turned his gaze to the cold food left on his plate, thinking. Saeyoung’s hands were shaking some as his guarded eyes studied you. You allowed yourself to be open to his scrutiny and waited. After a few moments he stood up and took the plates over to the sink instead. 

Saeran slid off of his seat and approached you, his head down and his eyes shrouded by his long fringe. His hand tentatively reached out and touched your arm, causing his vines to wrap slowly around your bicep and up towards your shoulders. You tilted your head slightly into the touch. 

When Saeran lifted his head to gaze at you, it was with an expression you couldn’t name but felt in your soul. His eyes searched yours before he smiled widely in a way you so rarely had been privy to. You almost teared up at the sight of it. “I really want to learn, Emshii!” He said. “I...I want to become strong. And learn to do the things you can do!” 

Saeyoung joined his brother, his own hand grabbing his brother’s shoulder and squeezing a bit. You could still taste the fear of trickery leaking off of him and dripping like sludge and pooling around his feet, but you saw him gain strength from his brother. With that he nodded quickly as well without a word.

The sun was particularly hot today, so you sat yourselves down under the thick canopy of your favorite apple tree. Saeyoung rolled an apple between his hands. Serenity and earnestness clung to them like a silken cloak. Their eyes were half-lidded from the guided meditation you had instructed them through. The garden around you shifted eagerly, branches shivering and roots quaking the soil beneath you in a gentle hum. You felt that the plants would start pushing you if you didn’t do something else soon. Such impatient things.

“Before we really get into it, I have a question for you both.” You told them. “What kind of magic do you think you have?” 

Saeran lifted his knees and wrapped his arms around them, leaning into them. “What do you mean?” 

“Do you mean, magic and white magic?” Saeyoung asked. 

You shook your head. “Magic is neither black nor white. It’s neither good nor evil either. It all depends on how you use it. Your intentions is what alters your magic.” You stretched your legs out. The grass curled around the exposed skin of your calves and thighs, pushing tiny curls of grounding energy into you. You felt very heavy and could feel the earth’s energy thrumming deeply below you from your grounding session. “What I’m referring to…” How do you describe it? “Think of it like an element. Each person’s energy feels more closely connected to a type of natural energy. Like, someone might feel more like they’re a water element. Does that make sense?” 

“Is it always one of the five main elements?” Saeran asked. Saeyoung took a bite of his apple.

“Not necessarily. But it is something that will be natural.” The brothers shot each other confused frowns. You huffed a laugh. “Go ahead and think! What do you think of when you think of yourself? What do you find yourselves drawn to? It doesn’t even have to be something you’re interested in. It’s like...a tug at your heart when you think of it or when you experience it. There’s a feeling of contentment and rightness near it. 

They both grew quiet at they thought. Saeran uncurled and buried his hands into the grass. He didn’t notice as it also curled around his fingers. Saeyoung chewed slower and picked at the skin of his cuticles. His new glasses temporarily blinded you as they caught the reflection of the sun bouncing off of them. Starlight clung to his hair like water droplets. 

In the end, though, they both came up blank, shrugging helplessly.

“Alright.” You said and shifted to crawl over to them. “I’ll give you a shortcut. Mind you, it’s only a one-time thing. I want you two to learn to see on your own, after all. 

“What are you going to do?” Saeyoung asked as both brothers sat forward eagerly in hopes of seeing some more magic. 

“I’m going to open your mind’s eye temporarily so you can experience the world how I do. Take advantage of it so that once it fades away you can learn to unlock it yourself.” Magic warmed your skin, bubbling to the surface without any effort on your part. The fire in your core burned brighter at the sensation. But you paused briefly. “Oh, be careful, okay? It can be a bit overwhelming at first.” 

“What do you mean?” Saeran asked as leaves fell from the vines on his arms and carnations twirled into life in his hair. You could feel their energies only becoming stronger after their first meditation and the garden pushing them for more. 

“You’re going to see the world as I do.” You explained gently. “But don’t be afraid of what’s around you. It’s only a different way that energy manifests. Ready?” 

The boys nodded. You leaned forward and pressed your lips first to Saeyoung’s forehead and then Saeran’s. You received a brief flash of a fox and a swallow shifting anxiously. When you sat back, the brothers were staring at you with wide eyes, their pupils dilating a bit. You smiled and they both were forced squint and look away at each other, only to reel back in shock at what they each saw. Solar flares whipped from Saeyoung’s skin causing Saeran to let out a small yelp and Saeyoung to try to brush them off. You laughed loudly at the sight. 

“Emshii!” Saeyoung cried, whipping his head to you only to shake it to clear his dazzled vision. You pulled your energy back to an ember to watch them with amusement. Midhir’s chuckles echoed in your ears. “What is this? skin!”

“It’s amazing how much you both glow.” You told both of them.

“Us?! You were the one who was too bright to look at!”

You only laughed a bit more and turned to Saeran who was gazing at the leaves on his fingers and the grass tickling feet. His fingers brushed against the carnations shakily, but you smelled no fear. Instead his heart was filled with wonder as his oasis overflowed and his vines crept towards his brother and you both. Bird song filled the air as a fox spun anxiously in a circle chasing everything that it saw.

Saeran reached towards his brother and carefully touched his hair. Tiny stars fell to the ground from it. Saeyoung’s skin glowed even brighter with moonlight and sunlight as warm ice dusted his bare neck and arms. He breathed out dark matter as his own fingers touched the flowers in Saeran’s hair. The petals blew away at the touch, dancing around them both before disappearing.

“What do you think?” You asked, catching their attentions. “How does it feel?”

“I can’t even think right now.” Saeyoung confessed.

“What am I seeing?” Saeran whispered, his voice breathless with his attempts to absorb everything. “I can...Everything is so strange.” 

“It’s magic.” You said simply. “You’re both so beautiful.” 

“This is what you see all of the time?”

You nodded and picked up Saeyoung’s apple from where he dropped it. Your energy washed over it and the apple healed up to completion before you tossed it in the air to catch it. Midhir appeared from your shadow and gave both of the boys a smug look. The boys turned their stares to him. He looked more like shadow than like a cat. 

You let them take in the world around them until you felt the magic of your small spell fade away. Only then did you take a bite of the apple yourself and say, “Would you like to learn more?”

Chapter Text

They learned quickly. The hunger and curiosity that had driven both children since they had arrived at your house and in your life only grew more ravenous the more that they learned. It was insatiable and marvelous to experience even as it unnerved you a bit. Witchcraft and the lifestyle that you had developed was so laid-back that Saeyoung’s hungry pace was almost too overwhelming. Saeran, too, never seemed to have enough with learning and trying something new. They always asked questions that thrilled you and filled you with nostalgia of when you had just started practicing magic. 

Saeyoung had struggled at first with meditation, but with the right setting he had learned how to relax easily. The opposite happened to Saeran, though, who had already found so much peace at your house that he could settle down almost wherever and fall into a meditative state. You suspected that it was also because your garden was always eager to help him ground himself. It amused -but did not surprise you- that Saeran was great at grounding while Saeyoung could easily reach for the sky and tap the energies of the cosmos. 

Both tended to overdo it, however, so eager they were to try out every new sensation and stretch themselves outside of the reaches of their tiny lives. Saeran sometimes ended up rooted and feeling like it was unnecessary to move. You’d had to coax the plants of your garden to help you curve his roots back and separate his exploring spirit from the vibrant life of the plants around him and back into his body. 

Saeyoung lost himself in the stars, eyes glazed and his mind and soul drifting. Astral projection was something that you hadn’t planned on teaching the boys so early, but it came naturally to Saeyoung once he had gotten started. You were always there to bring him back in he needed it as well. 

It was amazing to watch them develop. You had always known they were smart and driven to be more than they had been when they had arrived broken into your life, but it was only now that they were well and truly geniuses. It only saddened you so much more that these souls had been repressed in that kind of household.


Your body thrummed with energy as you stretched your neck and tilted your head towards the sun. The heat of it suffused through you and you trembled from the force of it. You pushed it down into your solar plexus before up and out through your fingertips as you murmured ancient words. The heat easily absorbed into the plants as they drank it in and allowed the spell and runes to empower them. Your feet felt heavy as your chest ached with so much pressure. You pulled out your canteen of water to drink and wet your parched throat. 

You were so charged up that you were able to feel Saeran’s presence before he had even gotten too close. You smelled him in the wind with a mixture of flora and earthy aromas blending together and mottling your senses. You tasted his curiosity, which you were coming to distinguish from his brother’s with how often you experienced it. A smile bloomed across your face as you lowered your shaking and burnt hand to greet him. You flicked your fingers to get some of the oil off of it. 

“What are you doing, Emshii?” He asked when you had acknowledged him. He no longer hesitated to approach you as he peeked around your body to glance at your work. However, there were no physical symbols left behind by your actions other than the container with your enchanted oil sitting near your feet. He turned his head to you instead and stepped back a bit, shaking his head as the heat attempted to wrap around him. 

“I’m just adding more protection to the garden.” You informed him, pulling out a white cloth from your belt and wiping your hands with it. You watched as he fought against the pull to come closer to you, the heat coaxing tropical flowers to life across his body. His chest looked like it had a lei on it that you wanted to run your hands over. The petals always looked beautifully soft to touch, although you rarely ever did follow through on the impulse out of respect. 

“I felt your energy from the house.” He looked around you two and you knew he was drinking in the sensations of the magic that he couldn’t quite yet see. Sweat bubbled upon his skin in the humidity of your garden, causing his clothing to stick to him. You folded your cloth and tucked it away before grabbing your handkerchief and wiping at your face. There was the smallest pout on Saeran’s face as he said, “It’s already too hot…” 

You laughed. You couldn’t help sometimes going overboard yourself considering your element and how strong the sun was that bright day. You took a deep breath before you pushed some of the excess energy into the ground to release it. Instantly your body cooled and you shuddered at the drop in the temperature around you before you adjusted to the actual temperature of the world outside. “Sorry.” 

Saeran’s hand reached out and skimmed the tree where there was just the hint of a shine from the oil. “You were putting the spells on the plants…” He looked at you. “Can you show me too?” 

“Haven’t you seduced my garden enough?” You teased him, gathering up the oil container. 

Saeran blushed. “Se-Seduced?!” 

“Yes, have you not noticed?” You asked. Saeran shook his head quickly with wide eyes. You could tell he was being honest, which was enough to startle you. “Really? How have you not noticed? My garden is absolutely enchanted with you, Saeran.” 

“It’s...not that I haven’t noticed.” Saeran murmured, embarrassed. Pink orchid buds peppered his cheeks up to his ears. They faded away again before they could blossom, though, as his blush faded. “I just thought that...the plants liked me for my energy.”

“You’re not wrong.” You told him, moving through the garden to enter the more shadowed area. Cool, damp moss squished under your bare feet as the temperature around you dropped. Saeran’s footfalls were silent behind you. “But my garden also has a love for those with kind and gentle hearts, which you have in excess. You treat the garden well, and it loves you for it.” 

Saeran was silent and you did not turn to see his reaction to your statement. You also did not tell him that the garden was drawn to him by even more than that. There was a darkness inside of Saeran, no doubt from being broken and abused by his mother all of his life. It had tainted him much like toxic mold slowly growing in a body of water, making it unhealthy for anything to drink it. It had made his body and mind sick. You had seen in the beginning how often Saeran had been too weak and fell victim to one disease or another. His dark thoughts would occasionally hinder him and make him plead for forgiveness for actions that did not necessitate it. All of it was from the mold. 

But your garden had chosen to heal him without any of your prior approval. It pushed healing energy in and filtered the bad out. Fresh water to enter the oasis that was filling his body and bringing life to his garden while pulling out the mold with the murky and toxic water. Even now you could see the positive effects it’d had on Saeran. His skin was a healthier color and he could walk tall with strength. Although he still flinched sometimes when you or Saeyoung became angry, he did not cower like he used to. He spoke with a stronger voice when he did speak and his silences no longer felt burdened with withheld words. 

He still had a long way to go, and you knew that the possibility of that darkness never leaving him fully would always be there, but he was healing and you knew it was from contact with a safe and caring environment.

“Where’s your brother?” You asked when you had settled yourself in your new place and dug your toes into the soil before uncapping your bottle of oil and pouring a bit more into your hand. The sun energy welled up again and the area around you brightened and warmed. You contained it better this time, though, so as to not mess with the plants. They didn’t need as much in this area as the others did. 

Saeran plucked a mushroom from the ground and pocketed. “He left.”

You froze, turning to him quickly. “He left?” 

Saeran shrunk in on himself a little. You could just see his eyes watching you warily through his fringe. He nodded a bit. “ went into town.” 

This news shocked you. “What caused him to leave?” You asked. 

“He’s coming back.” He said quickly. 

“I’m not worried about that.” You lowered your voice and kneeled next to the boy. His eyes flickered around you. You pulled your energy back down more so that you would no longer glow. “You two are free to come and go as you please.” You told him not for the first time. “I just want to make sure everything is okay. Neither of you have left the garden since you arrived here, after all.” 

This calmed Saeran. His body relaxed as he said, “Hyung said he saw someone he hadn’t seen in a long time pass by recently. And he went to go talk to them.” 

“Oh!” You hadn’t realized Saeyoung had really talked to anybody in the village before. You felt a little bad for thinking such a thing, though. “That’s good, then.” 

The garden shuddered then, rustling the trees leaves loudly enough to catch both yours and Saeran’s attentions. You stood to your full height and wiped your hands off on your white cloth on your belt as your gaze turned back towards the entrance of your garden. The air around you both shifted, feeling a bit colder still. You breathed out starlight in a sigh before pushing the rest of the sun energy into the ground to return you back to a neutral state. You supposed you would have to continue your warding later. 

“Saeran, we appear to have a guest. Do you want to come watch me this time?” You asked him as he too stood up and brushed the dirt off of his knees. 

He shook his head. “No, thank you.” This answer did not surprise you, although you were the tiniest bit disappointed. You wondered when either of the boys would become stable enough in this environment that they would allow others to see them again? “I’m going to check and see if I can harvest any veggies for dinner and water the flowers.” He said instead. 

“That’s fine. Drink water too so you don’t become dehydrated out here.” You touched his cheek affectionately before you made your way around to the front. There was a knocking on your door that you could hear as you ducked your head to glance at the porch. A man dressed in a very clean and pressed business suit stood waiting, eyes taking in his surroundings. He tucked his hands into his pockets as he waited. You entered the pathway leading to the stairs of your house and called out a greeting. 

“Good afternoon, sir, are you in need of something?”

The man turned without haste but with enough jerkiness to know you had either startled him or he was more on guard than he had originally appeared. You did not recognize this handsome man with golden eyes as he gave you a smile. He could not possibly be from the village, you understood, but it wasn’t uncommon for word to get out about you. 

“Good afternoon to you too. Yes, I’m here for a consultation. Are you...the witch?” You found this man to be rather charming. He had a pleasant voice. You stepped onto your porch and wiped off your feet on the doormat so you wouldn’t track in so much mud. 

“Well, I certainly am a witch. I’m probably the witch you’re looking for.” You gave him a small smile to show you were teasing a tiny bit. The sun was making you just a bit giddy and silly. You pushed open your door and motioned for him to enter. “I can try to help you. Please, follow me.”  

You took him to the foyer and motioned for him to sit. He took a seat and you followed suit, sitting across from him. “My name is Emshii. I ask that you don’t use any honorifics.” 

“I see. Well! If you don’t want them, then I won’t. My name is Saejoong Choi.” 

“It’s nice to meet you! How can I help you, Mr. Choi?” You leaned forward on your table a bit. Though the air inside the house was still, you could feel the movement of magic leaking from his skin giving the air a pleasant aroma that you could just pick up on underneath the scent of incense that usually filled your home. You couldn’t tell what the aroma was. The man also seemed to glow faintly, brightening his face and eyes. You tried to place where you had experience someone similar before. 

“I do have a request of you, but first there is actually something I wanted to say. I’m rather surprised to hear that you’re the witch I’ve been hearing so much about.” He said.

“How so?” You tilted your head just a bit.

“Well, you look quite different from how others have described you!” He chuckled to himself. “ Very different.” 

Your smile widened a tiny bit. His laugh was nice. It made you want to smile too. “I get that a lot.”

“It must be the magic.” He said. His smile softened and then died away into something much more serious, though. You straightened at the change in the atmosphere. “ why I have come for your help.” 

“What’s wrong?” You asked. 

He swallowed, glancing away before turning back to you. Something about him was familiar and it dug at you, but you couldn’t quite place it. “You have to understand something...this is not something I usually do. But at this point, I’m rather... you could say desperate. It’s my sons, you see. They...disappeared.” 

“Oh no.” You murmured. “Do you have any idea what happened?” 

He shook his head, eyes dark with sadness as he squeezed his hands together in front of him on the table. “No. They disappeared from home and everyone I have asked to find them...have failed at doing so. I don’t know if they ran away or were just kidnapped. I fear it’s the latter, though.” 

“And you want me to find them?” You asked, already preparing to stand and gather your tools. This would not be the first time you would have had to search for someone. 

“Yes. I just want to find them again.” 

“Give me a moment.” You stood and left to enter your study and gathered your materials. You had a couple of ready-made spells that you kept on hand to hasten your meetings with clients. Finding a lost child was not one you received often, though, so it took you a couple of minutes to find exactly the one that you wanted.

You returned to the table to find Mr. Choi pressing his folded hands to his mouth and leaning his elbows on the table. His eyes were studying your house but locked onto you the moment you reentered. The atmosphere shifted again, tasting of shadows and fog. You shook your head to rid yourself of the sensation because it was much more urgent to try to find the children. 

“Mr. Choi,” you said as you took your seat again and placed your items in front of you, “do you have something of theirs that I can use? Anything would be fine.”

“I do.” He pulled from his pocket two small, ratty socks. “I apologize for the clothing choice. They were the only things that would fit in my pockets and I assumed you would need something.” 

“It’s fine.” You assured him, although you still found it a little strange. You laid both of the socks side by side. 

“I just need to know one thing for sure, Emshii.” Mr. Choi implored, his golden eyes lit like burning coals -dark and yet burning nonetheless. They captured you. “Are they here? 

Something about the question struck you as strange, but it rolled off of you like oil on a hot pan. “In this town?” You asked, breathless. He really was a beautiful man. 

The man relaxed a bit and the tethers that had captured you relaxed as well. You felt a bit intoxicated. “Yes, although somewhere more specific would be greatly appreciated.” 

“Unfortunately with just clothing it’s hard for me to pinpoint an exact location...but I’ll try. Give me a few moments and I will look.” 

You closed your eyes as you began searching. You saw in your mind’s eye the Earth before you as you left the atmosphere and gazed down upon it. Effortlessly you dropped back down to South Korea and narrowed your search, growing closer and closer to your home. You could feel the texture of the socks on your hands, soaking tiny bits of energy into you. You tried not to think of the man across from you and instead of the missing children you were scared were in danger. There was an edge to all of your senses that you had grown accustomed to and had learned to recognize as your own intuition. Something was in danger.

A headache began to bloom before too long and it pressed further and further upon you. Your stomach felt a bit nauseous and whatever concentration you had kept getting distracted as you found the village you were living in. You wanted to look away and search elsewhere. No matter how hard you focused, it wasn’t enough. After about ten minutes, you gave up. 

You came out of your trance with a migraine so bad that your eyeballs were throbbing. You held your head and rubbed your temples feeling sick and drained. You didn’t understand why that had taken so much out of you. You hadn’t felt this way since- 

“Are you alright?” Mr. Choi asked. You pulled away before the hand reaching for you could touch you. You weren’t sure you could deal with another’s energy touching you at the moment when you felt so weak. 

“Yes, sorry...Just let me rest a bit. Sometimes this takes quite a bit out of me.”

“Can I get you some water?” He asked, frowning with concern.

You waved it away with a reassuring smile. “I’ll be fine. I just...overtaxed myself a bit.” You took a breath and sat up fully. Your head and shoulders now ached. You felt your chakras out of whack. You would have to fix that soon. Everything felt wrong. You could no longer see through your mind’s eye at the moment. You felt half-blind.

“Then...did you find anything out?” He asked.

You stopped yourself before you nodded. That wouldn’t end well. “Yes. I know that your boys are in this village. But I wasn’t able to find out where.”

A smile stretched across his face. “That’s wonderful! Thank you so much!”

“No, I’m just glad to help. I sincerely hope you find your family soon!” You stood together then. During situations like these you always felt bad about taking money, but it was part of your job. You both exchanged money and you walked with him out to your garden gate as he thanked you again.

“I’m certain I’ll find the boys soon with your help.” Mr. Choi said as your garden screeched in protest to being opened. He held out his hand to you. “Thank you for your services.”

“It was my pleasure. Good luck, Mr. Choi.” You took his hand and froze.

Mr. Choi gave you a confident smile and released your hand. “I’m sure I won’t need luck.” He said. And with that you watched as the King of Pentacles entered a waiting car and drove away.

Chapter Text

The garden was infuriated. The sound of an angry ocean filled the air as the tree branches whipped against each other as if caught in a gale. Flowers closed up to protect themselves as the ground trembled with the urge for roots to break through. You could hear nothing over the ringing in your ears and the hisses of fury from your garden. You made your way across the garden and made an effort not to touch anything. Heat poured off of you like an oven as you tried to temper your terror and anger. Everything stood out more vividly to you. Behind you the plants covered the entrance into the garden so thickly that if you didn’t know better you would’ve had no idea it was there. 

Your stomach rolled with anxiety as you came to a stop and gripped your own elbows, berating yourself not for the first time. Your hair whipped around your head and floated unnaturally, pushed away from your body by your own gravity. You should’ve looked up what the boys’ father looked like. Saeyoung had warned you that he was a very powerful man. You should’ve realized just what type of man he would be just based on how Saeyoung and Saeran were. He was insanely charismatic. He positively leaked it from every pore of his skin and it had drawn you in just as easily as you were sure it had drawn others in. It was not the first time you had been confronted with a person of that kind of energy. 

You hated that you had been so taken in. But at the same time the experience had reassured you that nobody would be able to find Saeyoung and Saeran through many means. Your own warding spells on your house had given you such a headache and had thrown you off badly enough that even now you were still reeling and needed to readjust your chakras. You were certain you were only able to get close enough because it was you. Any other person would’ve had it much worse. In that sense, Saeyoung and Saeran were protected.

But there was only so much that you could do against mundane means. Mr. Choi had no true proof that his sons were living in your house. You had told him nothing but that the boys were in the village. That was bad enough, but it was something you were sure he already knew. He hadn’t gained any new information about you. And you would not allow such a breach a second time. 

You knew his true name, though. You could use that against him. Curse after curse flew into your head on how you could get your revenge. You could strike him down before he could do anything. You could threaten him just as you had the mother. You could protect Saeyoung and Saeran. 

But you knew that was only your anger and fear. You had already caused enough damage and you couldn’t afford to do more. The lingering warning of the Tower loomed enough over you to remind you of this, and your clenched, burnt fist visually slapped you with a reprimand. Solar flares danced up and down your skin as you tried to pull your energy back in and found yourself unable to. Your head was still viciously throbbing and the urge to vomit was getting worse. 

No, a curse would not be the way to go (no matter how quick and simple it would be). You would have to find another method. All of this was just making you feel worse and you could feel the threat of unconsciousness pulling at you. It was enough to drag you down to your knees and clutch your head, pulling your hat down over your eyes. 

You pictured the ocean and the sensation of its waves rolling over you although you could sense the fury in the air from your garden. You allowed it to pull you deeper and deeper, sinking into the dark abyss of the deep sea. Sound faded from your ears as if cotton had replaced it. You could hear your fast heartbeat and the trembling of the ground. You were vaguely aware of seaweed wrapping around your calves and pulling you even further and deeper. It was soothing to you to be away from everything. It was all fading enough and your heartrate began to slow as you relaxed. You could think later after you had calmed down. You could solve nothing while you were so worked up. 

The darkness was a comfort. You had always found darkness relaxing and welcoming. It was a void that separated you from the busy life that humans all led. When darkness fell, humans quieted. The world quieted even as a new world came to life. But it wasn’t just the night that relaxed you. It was darkness itself that wrapped you up and held you. Because you were so bright you rarely got to see true darkness. It was a love affair between you two and a treat when you were visited by such a sweet lover who would hold you and pushed calming sensations into you. It would muffle everything until it was just you. And you liked that. A lone star in the night sky.

“Emshii!” Saeran’s faint voice was enough to pull you back from floating alone in space. You opened your eyes to darkness and the buzz of your crown and third eye chakras reminding you that all was not at equilibrium. You were sweating despite knowing that space should be freezing. You mourned the fact that you had to leave so soon as you opened your eyes truly and found Saeyoung’s terrified face gazing at yours. Saeran hovered just behind him, his face pale in the stormy atmosphere of your garden. 

You came back to yourself slowly enough that your senses came back one-by-one. Your vision and hearing were first as the angry ocean returned to you and the sight of cactuses and Venus fly traps grew along Saeran’s skin. His eyes were watering with his fear. Saeyoung’s skin was growing a thin layer of ice that you could see light shining through. When had he gotten there? How long had you been huddled there? You needed to get a hold of yourself to figure out what was wrong with him. The trembling of the earth came back next followed by the pungent smell of sickly plants. You could taste something vile enough for you to spit on the ground in an effort to rid yourself of the flavor. 

“Emshii, what’s happening? The garden is so angry!” Saeran reached to touch you and hesitated as Saeyoung motioned for him not to come closer. You could feel his hands on your shoulders now that you had noticed it. He was unaffected by your wild magic. It made sense to you considering how similar your energies were. You pulled your heat back into your body and tried not to project it anymore. You were worried that the ice coating his skin would burn you, but melted away before it could spread onto you. 

You couldn’t find a voice. You were calmer now and less enraged. The cycle of fury that had been flowing between you and your garden had been broken. Now the trees and grass shuddered and raged to themselves. You wondered how Saeyoung had made it back into the garden.

“H-Here.” Saeyoung muttered as he tried to help you to your feet. You found that vines had wrapped around your legs and hips though, grounding you. Saeran approached you and touched the vines carefully as Saeyoung grabbed your arms. The vines reluctantly retreated, slithering back into the undergrowth as the plants howled. Both boys huddled close to you, eyes wide as they looked around you all. They had never seen your garden so alive and angry. It had been a very long time since you had last seen it yourself. 

“Come inside.” You told them, maintaining your balance enough that you could walk without assistance. “The garden is upset, but it’ll calm down. It would be best if we were out of the way.” 

Saeran nodded and both boys hurried after you into the house. The wood under your feet was still trembling but not worryingly so. You took a seat at the couch and blinked slowly only to find Saeran shaking you awake again with a glass of water. That wasn’t good. 

“What’s happened to you? Are you okay?” He asked nervously and glanced at his brother who was peeking out of the window. The sunlight had disappeared. You wouldn’t be surprised if the clouds had come to investigate what was causing such a ruckus. You were unnerved and off-center and sick. Wryly you considered the fact that this was becoming a bit of a habit for you now that you had taken the boys under your care. 

You drank the water quickly and placed the empty glass down as you ran a hand over your face. “I’ll be fine.” You gave him a small smile in an effort to reassure him. “I overexerted myself is all.”

“From the meeting?” He asked. 

“Yes. I’m going to have to rest for a while.” But you had so much you had to do right afterwards. You needed to figure out how to approach this problem. You didn’t doubt that Saejoong would be back and back soon. You would have to do something to prepare, but you were in no state to do so.

Saeyoung dropped the curtain and turned back to you. You could taste a bitter rockiness on the roof of your mouth that you had come to associate with his fear and wariness. “What happened at the meeting?”

You ran a hand over your eyes. Silently you held out the glass to Saeran. He took it and quickly went to the kitchen. You could smell tea steeping. How long had you passed out? Saeyoung didn’t stop watching you.

What could you tell them? You refused to lie to the boys, but you didn’t want to upset them. It was bad enough that Saejoong had made it into your sanctuary. The boys were already scared that he would, and now he had. It made you sick that you hadn’t prepared for it ahead of time. You were angry at yourself that you hadn’t researched their father. When they had said he was a powerful man, you hadn’t realized how powerful. You would need to look him up after this to find out what you could. 

Saeran came back to you with tea in his hands. You breathed in the scent deeply and recognized your favorite blend. You gave him a grateful smile but didn’t drink yet, instead choosing to soak in the too-hot heat from the cup in your hands. 

“You feel weird.” Saeran murmured, his eyes dancing over you. Saeyoung’s gaze pierced into your body, still waiting for an answer you were afraid to give. 

“Yes, my chakras are off balance. I really blew it.” You told him.

“What did you do?” Saeyoung asked again. The grittiness in your mouth only got worse. You took a scalding sip of your tea. 

“I…” You frowned, “Today I met your father.” Both boys gasped, stiffening. Saeran even stumbled back a small step. The anxiety in the room skyrocketed, making you shiver. You took another sip of your drink. “I didn’t realize it was him. I never knew his name so I didn’t recognize it when he gave it to me. He had me search for his two sons.” 

“Emshii…!” Saeyoung started, but you quickly shook your head despite it being a bad idea. 

“Don’t worry, he doesn’t know you’re here.” You hurried to reassure them. “The protective wards I have around this house are strong enough to even keep me out. That’s what did this,” you motioned vaguely to yourself, “to me.” 

Saeyoung let out a curse under his breath as Saeran dropped down to sit beside you. You reached out and pulled him close so he could lean on you. There was the slightest tremble to his skin, but you didn’t know if that was from the garden outside or not. You tasted sand on your tongue.

“So he’s really after us, then.” The boy murmured, staring at the clenched fists in his lap. “Just like Hyung said he would.” 

“We already knew that.” Saeyoung muttered. 

“Yes, and now we can do something more to stop him.” You said with conviction before doubt could begin to sink its claws into the sense of safety both of them had developed upon living with you. They paused to look at you. Ice had crawled up Saeyoung’s throat, but you could see the fire of the sun burning in his eyes. He was echoing the anger of your garden. You hoped he wouldn’t absorb it too much. You knew he was just scared. 

“I know your father’s true name now. I’m positive he didn’t make a name up while talking to me. So I want to work together with you boys and we’re going to put another layer of protection to this house.” You said. 

“We are too?” Saeyoung asked. 

“More hands to help. And good experience. You’re both ready to try it.” You stood up and wobbled a bit. You grabbed your head, squeezing your eyes shut as you felt uneven flames dance through your body and bounce off of what felt like stones in your head. Your mind ached. You could use a long nap, but you didn’t have time.

“Emshii?” Saeran was holding your arm again to steady you. You opened your eyes against the throbbing and gave them both a small smile. 

“We’ll do that...but first how about you two help me by getting the stones and practicing energy work on me? Another good practice session.”

It was extremely late at night. It was the time of day where you no longer could tell if you would call it night or early morning. Despite your exhaustion, you couldn’t sleep. Your windows were wide open allowing for the summer air to filter through. Most of the heat of the day had been blown off by the nightly winds only allowing for the barest chill of dew in the air to lay itself onto your skin. The only sounds of the night was the crickets and nightly cicadas, as well as the croaking of frogs at your pond. You could just make out the sound of the small stream that bubbled up from an underground spring that had mysteriously appeared when you had arrived here. 

You sat on the small window seat in your room and gazed up at the stars you could just make out through the canopy of your garden. The trees had long since quieted into a restless shiver. You could hear the trees groaning as they moved which was one of the main reasons you couldn’t sleep. Your garden was doing something while hidden in the shadowy covers of the night. You wouldn’t be able to tell until morning light what it might be. 

Midhir had been talking to you earlier as he had patrolled the garden. He had sensed the unrest the strange energy that had begun to emit from your garden. It was unfamiliar but not exactly...unpleasant? It gave you the same sense of watching a child cook for the first time. Nervous, but not enough so to take action. Midhir had yet to find anything disturbing, so you probably had nothing to worry about. 

Saeyoung and Saeran slept soundly in your bed where both of them had decided they would prefer to spend the night. They were honestly too big to share your bed with you, though, so you had to slip out of it after a while so they at least got some rest where you couldn’t. You didn’t feel comfortable enough to sleep. You would probably try to nap during the day. Or meditate in a bit. Meditation was easier for you under the covers of the stars. 

The barrier that the three of you erected was strong. You could feel the combined energies of all three of you laced together to form a “Keep Out” message that you were certain anybody would be able to sense whether or not they were in-tune with magic. The barrier would keep out those who sought to harm the occupants inside. It wasn’t a physical thing, but it was powerful enough that unconsciously anybody would shy away from it. Saeyoung’s energy had matched yours to make your power stronger, and the garden had backed Saeran’s own power. It was a heady mixture of earth and space.

Saeyoung shifted in the bed. You knew it was him without looking. He had been shifting restlessly all night while Saeran had curled into a ball and hadn’t moved in his sleep. You clenched your jaw and ran a hand over your eyes. You were so tired. A barrier wouldn’t be enough. Their father would keep searching for them. You wished your garden would just...take you somewhere else. Then the man wouldn’t be able to find you all. But you knew that it wouldn’t. Your cards had already told you that your business here was not finished. And probably that this was part of your karmic punishment. Why did Saeyoung and Saeran have to suffer with you, though? 

Your eyes caught a glow on the wall and felt a rainbow of comet trails glide over your skin. Your ran your fingers over it and felt the cool colors drip between your fingers as you turned your head to find Saeyoung’s golden eyes glittering with starlight in the darkness. It was always so easy to see him at night no matter how dark it was. 

“You should be asleep.” You whispered to him as he carefully slid from the bed making sure not to wake his brother. He padded over to join you on the small window seat. You had to shift over some from where you had been stretched out across the length of it, curling your legs in while you did. He mirrored your pose as he just barely fit. He was looking rather lanky nowadays. He was still growing into his body. You had forgotten how he had looked without his glasses on because you were so used to it now. Which, now that you thought about it, was funny considering Saeran -who did not wear glasses but probably will need them at some point too considering how much he was reading- looked just like him. 

“I forgot to tell you something.” He admitted as he too looked out across the garden. You wondered if he could see the barrier too. Their Sight was becoming better, but it still wasn’t perfected yet. 

“What is it?” 

“I went to visit some friends today.” 

Oh, right. You had forgotten about that considering everything that had happened. You hadn’t gotten the chance to ask Saeyoung about it. “Saeran told me.” You smiled gently at him. He scratched at his hair. It was sticking out everywhere because he had been ruffling it all day in his anxiety. His tossing and turning in his sleep hadn’t helped either. “How was it? Did you have a good time?” 

He let out a soft laugh. “It was nice. I haven’t seen them since...not long after I met you. They had to leave for a while and I forgot about them because of everything.” 

“You’ve had a lot to do.” You told him. “It’s not surprising that you became wrapped up.” On top of that, magic had a way of ensnaring people. So many years had slipped by you without realizing it. Your garden just seemed to be on its own plane of existence and slightly out of step with time around you. Sometimes it was faster, and other times slower. You barely kept pace by tracking the seasons and the holidays. 

“I invited them over.” He confessed somewhat hesitantly. He ducked his head a little as he watched you for a reaction. “Um...before I realized all of this stuff had happened. Do you think it’s still okay?” 

You turned your gaze back to the barrier again. As long as they didn’t have ill intentions, it would be fine. “Yes, I think it’s fine. I’d like to meet them. Your friends are welcome anytime.” 

He smiled, relieved. “Thank you. I just…” his smile dropped into a serious frown. You heard some morning birds begin to sing to each other. Morning was approaching. The strange middle hours of the night were ending and you were returning to the same plane you were used to. “I think they can help us. They know about our parents and...they were hoping to help me and my brother anyway. 

You weren’t entirely sure what these people could do against someone as powerful as Saejoong, but you wouldn’t mind talking to them anyway. “That would be good.” You confessed as you stood. Your bottom ached from sitting for so long. Maybe you would go have some tea. You were craving some munchies to tide you over as well. “Are they coming soon?” 

“Today. For lunch?” 

“Oh no, that means I have to make something.” You winced. Saeyoung laughed and filled the air with starlight. It faded away quickly as he coughed and reigned it back in. You felt that was a pity. 

His smile was teasing as he said, “Then Saeran should cook since he’s better at it than you are anyway.”

“Oh, shut up and go back to bed.” You gave his head a small push and then pulled your robe around you more in a huff. Saeyoung only laughed more and watched as you left. You needed to prepare for later, then.

Chapter Text

Before you, gathered around your small table in chairs that didn’t match the rest of your table set due to you only having four chairs proper to the dining set, was a man with mint colored hair and a woman with long wavy blonde hair. Both of them were stunning and hard to gaze upon because they were both so beautiful in their own ways. Their auras emitted from their bodies in waves that you were certain more poetic people would call godly. They were opposites in many ways and it stunned you as you took the sight of them in. 

V was as radiant as the sun. He was warm and gentle and you liked him immediately. Though he was still young for an adult he held a maturity about him that was rich for his age. He drew people in and you could taste the colors and inspiration that leaked off of him. You would be willing to bet your witch hat and all of your tools that this man was a creator of some sort. 

Rika, in turn, was the opposite. Darkness clung to her like a sheer cloak and pooled on the floor about her. Just by shaking her hand you felt the shadows thicken and drip like oil. You could see the consistency ranged depending on where it was on her body. Around her head it was at its darkest and thickest before it trailed and thinned out as it travelled down her body. You recognized signs of sickness when you saw it having had many chances to see and learn about this stuff, but you could tell she was a good person beneath it all. The shadows that clung to her hips like a skirt were the soft shadows you had come to love about darkness. 

Together they were a sight to behold, but you worried for them. Opposites tended to attract, but the shadows on Rika could easily be burned by the blaze of light from V. And the light from V could be smothered by the deeper, thicker darkness of Rika’s sickness. When their hands touched, the shadows dissipated around Rika’s hand. 

You had to suppress the urge to help them. You had too much on your plate currently and the two of them seemed happy and fine as they are. You were just being a busybody at that point. 

The five of you had been talking already for a while with lunch finished. It had been embarrassing, but Saeran had happily taken over the job of cooking something up for everyone. He had become better much faster than you had, much to your disgruntlement and jealousy. You fully blamed the fact that he had to be a genius. It was the only possible explanation. 

Things had been strange at first when you had met them. They were both clearly good people and Rika was certainly very well spoken and charismatic. She made you feel at ease in their company very quickly. However you felt the same tiptoeing you were sure they were aware of as well while you danced around the fact that they were very Catholic and you were a witch. The awkwardness was there. You wondered how they had reacted when Saeyoung had no-doubt informed them of his new lifestyle.

Up until this point you and Saeyoung had done most of the talking. You were enthralled with finally seeing how the boys interacted with people that weren’t you or their mother. It didn’t surprise you how comfortable Saeyoung was chatting with V and Rika, but you were a bit more surprised at how reserved Saeran was even in the face of his brother’s enthusiasm. You knew Saeran was the quieter of the two who preferred instead to think more than talk unless he had something he wanted to say, but it was fascinating seeing this different side of him. You had become so used to him speaking his mind around you at this point. With these new people in the house he was friendly but withdrawn, nervous around company.

Outside there was a gentle but steady patter of rain that had been falling continuously since the sun had risen. You had left your windows open to allow some air flow, but you had also started a fire in the fireplace to fight back some of the damp chill. The atmosphere was cozy and intimate. 

“I’m so glad you took Saeran and Saeyoung into your house.” Rika said as she nursed a cup of tea and smiled so sweetly at you. You scratched the back of your neck self-conscious to be around such beautiful people as you felt your cheeks heat up a bit. Life was hard like that, sometimes.

“Yes. How did you do it, though?” V asked. “From how it sounded their mother wouldn’t be, willing to allow her sons to leave.”

You looked towards the boys who met your gaze. Saeyoung leaned on his elbows with eyes that darkened at the mention of his mother. Saeran glanced down at the table, furrowing his brow a bit in thought. You didn’t plan on lying to these people -because you didn’t like lying in general- but you weren’t about to confess your sin to them as well. Witchcraft, after all, wasn’t really a secret...but it also wasn’t something that was talked about either. You doubted this couple would even believe you if you had told them the truth.

You were just about to tell them something, but Saeran interrupted before you could to say, “Emshii made a deal with her.”

“A deal?” Rika asked, leaning forward a bit. V tilted his head and shot a glance at you. You took a sip of your own tea.

Saeran nodded. “And she accepted it.”

“We haven’t seen her since. We don’t know what happened to her.” Saeyoung added. Black matter seeped across the table from his hands and arms. You watched as it scattered across both Rika and V, unaffected by light or shadow. His eyes glowed with starfire and an intensity that startled you. You realized he was doing this on purpose. The follow-up question that you knew should’ve been the next thing that was asked never came.

You were impressed. And proud.

His smile glowed with his inner fire as he added, “But then again, it’s probably for the best.”

V unfurled his umbrella as the three of you stepped out onto the porch. Saeyoung and Saeran had said their goodbyes as it was and offered to wash the dishes (which was an obvious sign to you that they were purposely giving you space. They were becoming more and more unwilling to do any type of chores around the house that they had deemed “not fun” or “worth it”), so you had been the one to walk your guests to the door. You had offered to take them to the garden gate, but they had declined your offer due to the persistent rain.

“Thank you for letting us visit.” He told you, brushing aside his fringe as it fell into his eyes.

“Of course.” You said with a smile. “You’re always welcome to visit. You’re friends of Saeyoung, after all.”

“And now yours as well, right?” Rika asked with a laugh, touching your hand. The shadows danced across your palm and up your arm, but didn’t make it very far. They were warm.

You laughed a bit as well. “I guess so! I just…” You sobered a bit with a gentle sigh, “I’m just glad Saeyoung and Saeran have other people who care about them. Before today I haven’t seen them interact with anyone other than their mother. I knew that Saeyoung ran errands for his mother but…” You gave them a grateful smile, “Thank you for caring about him and worrying for him.”

“Nobody should be in such an environment, let alone children.” Rika told you seriously. “I just wish we could’ve been faster and helped them sooner.”

“At least they’ve found another home so soon.” V reassured her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. His light couldn’t penetrate the shadows around her head. They only seemed darker in comparison. You bit your tongue before you could ask them how their lives have been. V turned back to you then and released Rika long enough to dig and pull out a card to hold out to you. “Please take my number and call me if you ever need me. I understand the threat Saeyoung and Saeran are still under and I’m not doubting you can protect them, but-”

“Oh no.” You shook your head and accepted his card with a rueful smile. “I can only protect them in so many ways. But I’m working against the government here, after all. Any and all help would be appreciated.”

Something heavy seemed to lift off of V’s shoulders at those words. “That’s good. Wonderful, even.”

“I will probably call upon you sometime soon.” You told them seriously, not even able to fake levity in your tone. The weight of Justice’s eyes still bore down on you. The King of Pentacles was looming. “But if I can make a request now...can you keep an eye out for some of the men in black suits? I believe Saejoong is watching my house. I don’t know what all you can do but…”

“We’ll find a way to help.” Rika assured you. The shadows seemed darker around her smile making it more menacing than you were sure she was attempting to show. That was fine, as long as that menace wasn’t directed at you.

“Thank you.” You breathed.

“Would it be alright if we come to visit again?” V asked. “To check on the boys.” You nodded. You heard a shiver rustled through the plants near you. It seemed to travel back along the side of the house towards the kitchen. You bit your lip to stop a laugh. If the boys had wanted to eavesdrop, they could’ve just come to the front door rather than hear it through the vine.

You watched as V and Rika exited your garden and walked over instead to the side of your porch. Midhir jumped up onto the railing to greet you, butting his head once against you arm before sitting back. His eyes watched V and Rika, his emotions skating across the edge of your thoughts. At least he seemed to agree with you on your impression of both of them. It would be interesting to talk with more people and maybe make some new bonds. Even if you supposed that meant you would have to bring up the whole “witchcraft” thing eventually.

Midhir disregarded your idle thoughts and instead directed your attention deeper into the garden. You couldn’t see what he was trying to bring to your mind, but you understood there was a power deeper within that you were hesitant to go look at. Your garden was up to something and you supposed you would have to look soon. You received the image of vines looping and snaking their ways across branches and trees arching unnaturally. You didn’t know what to make of it.



That night you dreamt that your garden lost the power to leave the village.


Chapter Text

A feeling of unease settled into your everyday life as comfortably as a steady rain that seeped into your clothing and skin and made you shiver. It left you antsy with the need to do something, but you weren’t sure what. The most you could do at the moment was continue with teaching Saeran and Saeyoung and caring for your garden. But none of it comforted you as much as it used to. You were waiting for the other shoe to drop. You didn’t know when it might, though.


So in the meantime you packed up some stuff. Not a lot because you didn’t want to worry the boys more, but you definitely packed. It was an emergency bag with just some basics of food and water and some priceless items that you would not be able to do without. Everything in your house and garden was precious, but your Craft had a few requirements that you really didn’t want to have to start over by gathering again in case something happened. You could use those items for your spells and crafting of potions.


Saeyoung had followed your example, although he didn’t have much to pack. His face had been grim as he had grabbed his small rucksack and filled it with a couple of clothing and some of the stones he had received from you. Saeran had added some items of his own, but you didn’t know what. You had left the boys alone after seeing that they were packing too because you felt that you should’ve had the strength and courage to tell them packing wasn’t necessary, but couldn’t bring yourself to actually say the words.


Your wand stayed on you at all times now.


V had followed through on his promise, you realized about a week and a half after meeting him and his lover. The men in suits that you had seen often around town had disappeared. Saeyoung was less hesitant to leave the garden after he had reported this back to you from one of his visits to the church.


“Can I start bringing Saeran with me?” He asked you. “Rika said she was going to teach us some basics of math and science and such.”


“That’s up to you two.” You told him, brushing his long hair back from his face only for it to fall back again. It was becoming too long. Both of the brothers really needed haircuts. “Although a well-rounded schooling would probably be best for you both.”


Saeyoung smiled that same crooked smile he always did when he was about to tease you. It sat much better on his face now that his body was finally more defined and less bony. He was growing quickly into his own. “Yeah, it’d be nice to have a teacher who can teach us stuff we can use everyday instead of just to talk to plants~”


You swatted playfully at him, but he effortlessly dodged under your arm and laughed as he went inside the house. You took the moment to stare at your hand realizing just how big Saeyoung had become. They were both nearly sixteen now and their birthday was approaching on the summer wind. You could hardly believe they had been living with you for so long. They both were already your height and would no doubt be taller by the time they were done growing.


You kind of missed the small boys that had clinged to your hips and waist when they hugged you. It was with a rueful smile and a giggle from the plants that sensed your amusement at your own situation that you followed Saeyoung inside.

“Emshii?” Saeran approached you while you finished prepping the afternoon tea the three of you would be partaking in.


“Yes?” You asked him, dropping one piece of rock sugar into your tea before lifting the tray. Saeran took it from you instead. You gave him an appreciative smile. He could be so sweet.


“I wanted to ask...Have you noticed that the garden seems different?” He murmured to you as the two of you moved into the living room where Saeyoung was already waiting, playing on the one laptop you had in the house. Judging by his headphones and movements, it was some kind of video game. He didn’t look up as Saeran placed the tea tray down onto the coffee table.


“Yes, I have.” You admitted to him with a sigh as you took a seat in the armchair. Your clothes were sticking to your skin unpleasantly from the humidity outside, but you didn’t yet want to turn on the A/C. There was a strong enough breeze going that you didn’t feel it necessary at the moment.


Saeran appeared thoughtful and sad as he picked up one of the cups of tea and blew on it gently. He didn’t respond for a long moment. You waited, knowing he would speak soon. Saeyoung’s computer keys clicked loudly as he typed.


Finally the boy spoke, “It’s so quiet. It was so angry a couple weeks ago because of...our dad...but now it’s very quiet. The plants hardly speak at all. I haven’t been drawn in like I used to.”


“Maybe you’ve just become better at controlling your own energy and the garden doesn’t feel the need to interfere as much.” You suggested.


“That’s possible too.” Saeran admitted with a shrug and took a sip. He made a face at how hot it was. “But...I don't know. The garden doesn’t feel like it normally does. It feels like...normal plants. Like the ones...outside of the garden.” He looked at you. “Does that make sense?”


You thought of your dream and of the Justice card. The sensation that something had shifted sat upon your shoulders and spine misaligned with everything around you. Midhir hadn’t spoken to you about it at all since V left. You didn’t know exactly what Saeran meant, but you had a pretty good idea.


You gave him a sad sort of smile. “Hopefully it’s just temporary.” You told him. It felt like autumn was in the air. It reminded you of leaves fading on the trees and falling to the ground. The summer air did nothing to stop the chill at your back.

Twilight was arching up across the sky and painting the heavy clouds with dark colors as you sat outside with the twins. The air was saturated with magic, the plants pregnant and bursting with the height of summer and the abundance of the Sun. The lethargy of it seeped into your body through the grass and the atmosphere like an icor that coated everything and caused you to drink it without thought. You kept up eating some honey cake just to keep awake. You were both fatigued and over-charged from the ceremony earlier to celebrate the midsummer.


Saeyoung had busied himself trying to keep awake by pounding and grinding the herb mixture you all would be throwing into the bonfire later. He had yet to stop grinning, half-dancing his way wherever he walked. He was radiating the sunlight all of you had absorbed earlier and his skin sparked with sunbursts and plasma.


Saeran was the opposite, though. He was lax on the ground already mostly asleep and swept away much like you were by the garden. His skin glowed with health as he occasionally stretched languidly across the grass and dug his toes and fingers into the Earth. He watched the way the trees rustled and gossiped and you wondered if he could understand them. You wouldn’t doubt that in time Saeran would be able to understand them much better than you ever could.


The night was warm, but the sweet wine you had created was making you warmer. You barely ever drank around either of the boys with the exception of the holidays due to knowing their history. They forgave you and allowed the exception. You refused to get drunk no matter how tasty some of your products were.


“When do you want to light the fire?” Saeyoung asked as he finished and dumped the mixture into a velvet pouch before tying it off. It shook you a bit for the heated stupor you were in.


You hummed in confusion.


He rolled his eyes and threw himself into the spot next to you, shaking you awake. He really had no right to be so jittery and awake when the air itself was drunk from the humidity of summer. You wanted to nap and party at the same time. His energy seeped across your skin and made you shudder. It was better than a jolt of electricity at waking you up as you gasped.


He laughed loudly at your affronted look from being jolted into awareness. His eyes were like fire in the low light of the night, glowing like a cat’s reflecting light. You had been enjoying the heady sensation of sleepiness. You didn’t want to be energized up like he was.


“I said ,” he repeated gleefully, “when are you going to light the fire?”


“In a minute. It’s not even dark yet. Don’t be so impatient.”


“Your aura is insane right now.” He informed you, brushing a hand over the the flames that had started to build across your arm. “It hard to believe I couldn’t see this last year.”


“It’s so obvious now.” Saeran agreed, rolling lazily onto his stomach and gazing at you two with half-lidded eyes. Vines were creeping across his hips as trails of lilies bloomed on his bare legs and feet. He was more covered than usual by flowers as they decorated his hair and neck. You knew that some of them were real flowers, but you couldn’t tell which since he wasn’t even trying to hold back his aura at all. He reminded you a bit of those pictures of Greek gods and goddesses all gussied up in their plants.


Saeyoung scoffed as he looked his brother. “You’re covered in plants and dirt, Saeran!” He reached over to pluck a flower, but Saeran tilted his head away, squinting at his brother’s luminosity.


“Don’t, you’ll burn them.”


“I won’t!”


“You will! You’re basically on fire!”


“You could stand to lose a few flowers.”


“Alright, alright.” You stood up and brushed off the back of your cloak of dirt. “I’ll go get the matches.” Both brothers continued to bicker instead, which seemed to do the job of waking Saeran up more. You went back inside the house flowing on a haze of air that dragged at the edges of your cloak and kissed your cheeks. It felt like a blessing from the elements as you went deeper in the house in search of your good matches.


The house was dark because you had not been inside for quite a long time. The three of you had spent a majority of the day outdoors enjoying the sun and the air and playing with the spirits and animals that had come to the ceremony with you. The boys had been ecstatic to finally be able to see all of the Fae and forces that they had missed on their first birthday with you. You had warned them at the time to not use their names for each other during the visitation of all of the magick folk. It didn’t mean much for Saeran who called his brother ‘hyung’ all of the time anyway, but Saeyoung had to actively be more careful. It didn’t matter if they said your name. Neither of the boys had yet to learn what your real name was anyway. Emshii suited you just fine for a little while longer.


You kept your Midsummer matches specifically with the rest of your decorations in your study, and so that was where you went to find them. You were already thinking of what blessings you wanted for the rest of the year and the thought of the bonfire you all would make. Midsummer wasn’t your favorite holiday of the year, but it was certainly the most fun considering everyone who came to the bonfire tended to get drunk on the music and festivities and passed out before the sun would rise the next day even though the goal was to stay up. You were sure the boys would probably beat you this year. Or, at least, Saeyoung would.


You exited the house to the scent of fire already was filling the air, which surprised you. You could see some flames springing up in the nearby distance. It appeared to be near the end of the garden. You walked over to the boys to find them also staring at the flames.


“Looks like some of the folk started early!” Saeyoung giggled, still quite high from the sun energy.


You clicked your tongue, irritated. “I really wish they wouldn’t! This garden is flammable, after all!”


The wind picked up and the trees shook angrily. The ground itself let out a low rumble that caused Saeran to gasp and stumble back a bit. Fear raced down your spine like cold water, wiping away the last of whatever high feelings you were having. You hadn’t understood the message of the plants, but your body had as goosebumps prickled along your skin.


“It’s not the folk!” Saeran covered his ears as the trees became almost deafeningly loud. “There’s an actual fire! Someone is burning the garden!!”


“What?!” Saeyoung whipped towards his brother in alarm. Shrieks of birds rang out as they flew desperately from the trees. The bushes rustled and rabbits and deer and some cats and dogs fled past you all towards the front of the garden. Saeran turned and ran for the nearest bucket. You heard something shatter before fury washed over you. Without your permission you were taken from yourself to Midhir eyes and senses.


You were hissing and spitting, racing across the top of the garden wall towards a small group of people. You could see the flames from here and knew it was already too late. They had started their attack. You were angry you hadn’t noticed before, but maybe you could stop this one. Stop them from throwing more of those fire bottles before the flames reached you and the kids.


You leapt at the face of the one holding the bottle while a nearby branch swiped at another person. You felt your claws slice their way across the human’s face and built up the darkness clinging to your fur. The night was still early, though, so you weren’t as strong. The sun’s energy was still saturating the air, so you tugged at the shadows and made one of the humans disappear. The bottle fell to the ground, unlit. The vines on the wall attempted to grab it, but it shattered as the man you were attacking kicked it. Flames roared louder nearby. You attempted to staunch the flames getting closer and closer-


“Emshii!!” You gasped as your hand was grabbed, forced back to yourself as you trembled. Your garden was screaming. Saeyoung yanked you towards the house with wide, terrified eyes and a grim mouth. “Emshii, there’s fire on the other side of the house too! We have to move!”


You panted, turning your head to the stream. Your wand was in your pocket, but water was not your speciality. Your ability to control it was limited without extra help and ingredients. “We have to stop the spread!” You grabbed Saeyoung by the shoulders. “Where’s Saeran?! Where did he go?”


“He went to the pond!” Saeyoung pointed in the direction of the pond.


“Saeyoung, you need to listen to me. Go inside and grab our bags. I’m going to go to try to help Saeran, but we need to make sure those are at least safe.”


“Wait, I can help-!” Saeyoung tried to say but you cut him off.


“I know. You are helping. Get those bags and then get some more buckets. This isn’t a normal fire, it’s-” Your throat tightened, eyes watering at the distress and anger and terror now filling the air. Your garden was crying and you were shaking. You quickly shook your head and squeezed your eyes shut.


Saeyoung placed his hands on your and squeezed them once. “Got it.” He said before dashing inside. You could see smoke rising from the other side of the house. Your stomach dropped to your knees, but you forced yourself to run for the pond.


You used your cloak to cover your mouth as you looked around the pond. Saeran stood there with the bucket by his feet, dropped. His eyes gazed into the flames, but he was far away. You ran to him and grabbed his shoulders, but he didn’t respond to you. The grass clung to his feet and ankles which were now dirty with soot. How long had you been with Midhir?


“Saeran. Saeran!” You called and quickly smacked his face a couple of times, hoping to snap him out of it. His eyes fell onto yours, but the gold was still glazed. Water filled and spilled from his eyes gently and insistently. “Saeran, we need to keep going. The fire-”


“We can’t.” He whispered, turning his head to look around at the trees. “It’s too late. The already knows.”


“What?” You asked. No. No no no, this was not it. “No, we can do this. O-or I can. I can try. You and Saeyoung need to get to safety-”


“We can’t.” He repeated with a small sob. “The fire is spreading too fast. The garden…the garden already told me. It’s…”


The trees shook, but it was less angry and more resigned. You felt your own tears building in your eyes and blinked them away roughly. Hopelessness was already filling your chest, as well as reluctant acceptance. None of it felt like yours.


“We...We can….” You tried to get the words out but they clung to your throat painfully. The roar of the fires and the trees and the shriek of the plants and footsteps were all you could hear. You couldn’t move. You felt paralyzed with indecision. You needed to run but-


“Emshii!! Saeran!!” Saeyoung ran towards you both carrying the bags. He was pale with terror and almost fell into you at the speed he was going. He clung to your arm. “It’s him! His men are here! They’re destroying the garden!”


You recalled your vision from Midhir and understood then. They hadn’t entered the garden, but they had found another way. The fire couldn’t be stopped due to the cocktails. If you three stayed, you would burn inside of the garden. But if you left, then no doubt Saejoong’s men would capture you. Could you fight them off? You could try, but your magic wasn’t meant to be offensively used. And the felt so weak. Your energy was sapped from the destruction.


“We can’t stop it.” You whispered with terrible understanding, tears making your eyes difficult to see through. Saeran sobbed and wiped at his eyes. Saeyoung pulled the three of you into the water of the pond. The fire was growing closer.


RUN .” Came a command in your mind. You lifted your head as Midhir, now the size of a lynx and more shadow than beast raced near your. His form quivered and hisses streamed from the darkness burning off of him like the fire around you all. Both brothers cringed instinctively away from the monster and into you. “ RUN. ” Midhir commanded again.


“Where?!” You yelled at him. “Look around us! There’s nowhere to run unless it’s through the front gate!” Either way you doubted the three of you could reach it. You could tell the fire was already reaching your house. If they ran, they died. If they stayed, they would probably die as well. Maybe the pond would save them, but Saejoong would get them then. Justice had finally come for you. The Tower was crashing down.


“Wait.” Saeran whispered, head lifting. His hand found yours and he stumbled back onto the shore.


“No, Saeran!” Saeyoung grabbed his brother’s other hand. “Stay in the water! We can at least be safe here-”


“No, the garden is saying to run too.” Saeran’s eyes were wide and his head turned to where the shadows seemed deepest even with the bright flames around you all. Midhir’s eyes met yours and he dashed towards the shadows. Saeran immediately followed him, pulling you both with him.


“Saeran-!” You tried, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t appear to be listening so you focused on just keeping up with both of them. The shadows lengthened and wrapped around you all until it seemed the world seemed to blot out. The sound of trees burning and fire crackling faded until a familiar sensation of energy seemed to build in you. Instinctively your heart leapt with both excitement and nostalgia. The shadows lightened enough to expose an archway in the trees. The four of you fell to a stop before it.


The branches of the trees bent unnaturally toward each other and vines had swallowed up the leaves and twined with each other. The air was filled with potential as ash slipped from the air to fall around you like snow. The foliage had grown too thick on the other side of the archway for any of you to pass through it. You didn’t understand what this place was, but you knew this magic. You had felt it on the days that always led up to the garden transporting you somewhere new. It was smaller now and more contained, but your gut pulled you towards it anyway.


“What is this?” Saeyoung asked, awed and suspicious. “This wasn’t here before.”


The bushes rustled a bit. Saeran coughed from the ash in the air and squeezed your hand tighter. “It’s a goodbye.” He whispered, choked up.


Your eyes watered again and you gave a small sob. It had known something was coming and it had prepared. You didn’t realize that you would never be leaving with your garden ever again.


“What is it, though?” Saeyoung asked, looking desperately over his shoulder. The flames were encroaching. Midhir’s body shrank with weakness as the shadows shuddered under the force of the starving flames eating your garden. You needed to move.


You adjusted your grip on Saeran’s hand and then took Saeyoung’s. Both boys looked to you and hesitated as you stepped forward before carefully following you. You clenched your jaw and closed your eyes as you stepped through the archway and felt the familiar and gentle caress of your garden’s magic sweep over you, clinging to your hair and skin and cloak with weak and accepting fingers before it faded away.


Clean air washed into your lungs and the sound of waves hitting a rocky cliff filled your ears. You opened your eyes to see the vast expanse of a dark, dark ocean and stars stretching out across the endless sky. Tall grass brushed your hips and hands as cold wind wiped at your hair. You sank slowly to your knees. Behind you you could sense nothing. Your hands came to your mouth to muffle you as you curled in upon yourself and began to weep.


Saeran and Saeyoung said nothing, instead coming down on either side of you and hugging you close and burying their faces into your hair and shoulders. You could feel their tears melting onto you, their bodies trembling as they didn’t bother to muffle their own sorrow and relief. Midhir pressed to your back, a silent guardian and watcher. Your wails were swallowed up by the deafening noise of the ocean. The weight of Justice was gone, brought away hand-in-hand by Death on her white horse.

Chapter Text

Time passed in a haze to you. You felt wrung out and exhausted and like your core was simmering with a barely-there flame. You had cried all the tears that you could possibly manage and now had a splitting headache and sore eyes left over. You wanted to sleep for a very long time, but you could still hear the cracking of your burning garden in the quiet night. Even the sound of the waves could not wash the memory from you.


Dawn was breaking over the horizon, and that was what brought you out of your stupor. You thought for sure you hadn’t cried for twelve hours. You all must be in a different country, you thought. It would explain just how cold it was.


In the dawnlight you gazed down at Saeran and Saeyoung both curled and sleeping against you. Their faces were a mess sticky with their tears and red from crying. They had exhausted themselves and had fallen asleep with hands still curled into your cloak. It was the only thing keeping you warm in the wind.


Midhir stepped carefully over their bodies to appear between the tall grass to watch you. His pity and sorrow could barely leave droplets in the vast body of loss that had pooled in your chest and heart. You blinked another tear out of you eye as you stared at him. Silently he went to the bags that Saeyoung had grabbed from the house and dug around through the pocket of one. He came out with your cell phone and dropped it near your hand.


You understood. You all were homeless now and left with nothing. Justice had done as she had warned and karma had stripped you of nearly everything. You had ruined a woman’s life, and so your life and the lives of the two you were caring for were destroyed in turn. Your cards had warned you of this. You hadn’t realized just how terrible it all would be.


You would grieve this for a long time yet, but you had to start moving forward. Dawn had approached and you all would need to find shelter in the land you were in. You could grieve more later in a safer location.


You picked up your cell phone and checked your service. You had none, but you knew that was probably to be expected. You all needed to find a house or a town or something. You had some money in your bag, although you didn’t know how much good the currency would do where you were at. Your head hurt more just thinking about it.


Midhir caught your attention and dropped one more item at your hand. It was V’s card, you recognized and understood what Midhir meant. Would V be able to help you with something like this? The man had offered to help you in any way that he could, but the circumstances had been quite different. You picked up the card and pocketed it.


The wind picked up around you, brushing curiously against your cheek. You realized that the world around you had been examining you while you had wept, the local spirits and Fae having taken notice of your sudden presences. You shook your head and touched the boys’ shoulders to wake them both. Saeyoung jolted into awareness much faster than his brother and sat up in a bit of a daze as he looked around you all. His surprise fell into despairing realization before he closed his eyes to contain himself and rub his eyes. You felt Saeran press his face to your thigh, his hand trembling before he sat up fully. Both brothers looked at you without a sound.


You reached out and cupped their cheeks in each hand. Your thumb skated across their skin before lowering back to their shoulders. “Come.” You whispered, your voice raw with emotion and torn from your sorrow. “We need to find a telephone.” Your hands fell away from their faces and you stood up.


“Who are we gonna call?” Saeyoung asked miserably. “We don’t even know where we are.”


“We’ll figure it out.” You promised. You needed to be productive anyway before you could fully allow your loss to encompass you. A distraction was better than sitting there all day. “But first, we need to start walking.”


“Emshii…” Saeran grabbed your hand and met your gaze as he stood as well. He didn’t continue for a long moment, his mouth moving with words he wanted to say but kept aborting before they could form. Your shoulders tensed waiting to hear platitudes about your garden and home, but Saeran did not deliver. Instead something seemed to harden a bit inside of him and he said, “I packed a bunch of seeds. In case we ever needed to leave the garden because of our dad.”


It was an apology and a promise all at once. You hadn’t realized how scared you had been of losing the two boys in front of you until Saeran had confirmed their continuing presence in your life. You felt weak-kneed with the emotion that attempted to bubble inside of you but couldn’t due to your despair. Your pain lightened just a little bit.


You smiled and huffed a small laugh, squeezing his hand. “Thank you.” You whispered. Hyacinths and violets found their way into Saeran’s hair and down his neck. He took no mind to them.


Saeyoung reluctantly stood. He didn’t look at you as he picked up the bags and shouldered them. Darkness clung to his shoulders and the early morning sunlight seemed to bend toward him and disappear. You could feel the pull of his black hole of feelings and resisted getting closer. His guilt was obvious to anyone who could read body language. You waited for him to say something, but when he didn’t the four of you began your trek to find other human beings.

The understanding that you all were finally safe from Saejoong was something that wouldn’t come to you for over a month. You three were distracted what with contacting V, finding a way back to South Korea, and finding a temporary home for living arrangements until something else could be decided. Saejoong and his men probably thought the three of you had died, perhaps. Or if they thought that you all had escaped, they had no way of knowing where you three could’ve went. You were all lost in a proverbial crowd where he wouldn’t be able to find you unless you all did something to stand out.


Some good really had come out of the tragedy, you thought, and you were glad to realize it so. You hadn’t lost everything considering you still had the boys and Midhir and some of your stuff, but it was a heavy burden to bear the weight of everything you no longer had. Saeyoung and Saeran were back to having nothing. You had all but adopted them officially. While before they had been under your care and living in your house, they’d had the means to leave and find other ways to live. Now they were basically your wards and were determined to stick with you no matter what. You were glad to have them.


There was nothing to do but start over, you decided. You would build from the ground up. It might take a while, but it wasn’t like you didn’t have time on your hands. Living in the city would do the boys some good considering they had finally healed enough from their trauma from their mother to not be so terrified. It was the best that V could do for you anyway for the meantime. You all would make do.

“Here, here?” Saeyoung called playfully, balancing stack of some new books for your collection. He carried them effortlessly, which kind of bothered you considering you had struggled with both the height of the stack and the weight of them. That boy had grown so tall over the last couple of years.


“Yes, right over there. Oh, wait,” You quickly snatched a book from the pile, smiling as Saeyoung stumbled a bit from the sudden disruption. He shot you a mock pout before a grin pulled his features that you matched. “This is for Saeran.” You waved the book and then made a shooing motion to the boy. Or, rather, man considering he was an adult by legal standards now.


“Going~” Saeyoung sang as he moved. You turned to Saeran as he murmured to the leaves of the potted plant still sitting on the wooden stands of your garden. They would be planted today with the rest of the small garden you all were growing and you knew he was encouraging them to grow healthy. He looked up at your approach and you held out the book for him.


“For you.” You informed him. He took the plant bible and flipped through the pages briefly with a soft smile.


“Thank you.” He said, grateful. Saeyoung returned to join you two, hopping down from the last stone step to land beside you both.


“Planting time?” He asked.


“In a bit. We should at least have lunch first.” You said. You took in the sight of your tiny backyard. Most of it was still dirt with bits of rock pathways. The area you were in was absolutely small, but it was a home you were quickly becoming accustomed to. The few plants that had grown nicely soaked up the sun’s rays and waved at  you all. You gave them a tiny wave back before moving to go inside.


“Is V coming?” Saeran asked as he followed you. He and Saeyoung had to both duck under one of your windchimes as you entered the door. That’s what they got for being taller than you, you thought.


“Yeah.” Saeyoung answered, pushing the door shut with his foot. “He said he wanted to talk to us about some kind of organization that he and Rika are making.”


“You should show them some of your new powers.” You suggested, glowing with the pride you felt for both of them. You didn’t bother to tramp down your energy as you moved through the house on silent and bare feet.


“Witches in an organization. Can you believe it? Watch it be, like, some kind of religious organization!” Saeyoung laughed. “The irony of it!”


“I’ll get started on lunch.” Saeran was quick to inform. He and his brother entered the kitchen while you hung back to watch them continue their talk about the guests you all would be having soon. Midhir wound between your legs no doubt sensing your strange but calm emotions.


It was funny, you thought as you watched the men and remembered the frail, scared children they had been to the now strong and freely-smiling men they now were. You couldn’t stop the love the literally radiated off of you and saturating the air. It was funny how when you had made your wish to your garden, you hadn’t expected it to come true. All of this time you had been helping others, and secretly it had been bringing you to this moment all along. It felt like something out of a dream just like how most of your magic felt. But it was all real and you were awake and you were happy despite the tragedy. The weight on your shoulders didn’t feel so heavy and your heart didn’t ache as much as it used to. You were never bored anymore. You were happy, and Saeran and Saeyoung were too. That was all that mattered.