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“Seonsaeng-nim,” came a voice, low and soft and curious, always curious. “I got what you asked for.”

Namjoon looked up from his desk, pen still held in hand, and sat back, tapping his lower lip with the writing utensil. “Let me see.”

His apprentice approached, clutching in his hand three small cloth bags, placing each on the desk; even though he did it gently, they still thudded—the contents were heavy.

Picking up each in turn, Namjoon reached for the leftmost pouch, opening it and pulling out a chunk of red-orange metal: Copper. Nodding, he replaced it and chose the second pouch, this time withdrawing another hunk of metal. It was shiny, silvery, catching the flickering light from the fireplace as Namjoon examined it: Zinc.

The third pouch contained what he was most concerned with, or it should have, as it was the most important and he’d instructed his apprentice that he shouldn’t return without it. Opening it, Namjoon could tell immediately that he’d done right. Reaching his hand into the bag, he withdrew the final metal he’d asked his apprentice to procure, used only because the magick running through witch veins could counteract any negative effects caused by it, unlike nonmagick folk. He’d chosen it for its connection to healing—which only worked for witches—but he was only going to be using it on witches, anyway. It, too, shone in his palm while the light from the fire danced around its surfaces: Antimony.

“You did well, Hoseong,” Namjoon said to his apprentice, smiling up at him as he replaced the lump of metal in its bag. “Tomorrow, you’ll accompany me to meet with the Council to go over my ideas with them.”

“Yes, seonsaeng-nim,” Hoseong said, nodding. His black hair hung over his eyes, Namjoon noticed; he would need to remember to tell him to straighten it up before they left to walk into the village tomorrow. They would both need to be presentable to the Council. It was well-known to all magicked people in the area that the Council of Witches did not discriminate based on physical appearance, style of dress, or even the strength one possessed—but Namjoon took pride in how he looked, which meant his apprentice must too.

Hoseong bowed to Namjoon, asking if the master witch wanted him to tend the fire or bring him anything before he turned in; Namjoon waved him away and told him to get some rest. Tomorrow would be a big day for both of them.

After many years of study, of trial and error, of countless hours contemplating, Namjoon had decided that there were better ways to draw magick to use for spells or enchantments. Typically, the norm was to use elements found in nature—such as the metals that Hoseong had brought for Namjoon—and pull magick from them. Mixed with the natural magick that witches possessed, it helped boost the effectiveness of whatever the witch was trying to do. But Namjoon had considered—wasn’t it easier for someone to bring those elements along with them? Wasn’t it easier to have them inside, instead of external?

The logical solution, to him, had been to melt the metals down, either by normal fire or helped along by a little magick push. The liquid metals weren’t to be ingested, or even injected—at least, not by regular means. No, his brilliant idea had been to use the metal as ink, for tattooing. He’d tried something simple on himself, mixing iron with ink used for writing; he ended up with a spiral on the inside of his wrist, and even though it had irritated his skin—thus the need to mix antimony in for its help with healing—he had been able to draw strength and power from the iron that lived in his skin, instead of needing to be near some while he performed a spell.

It had worked—for a time. The more he drew upon the iron, the more the tattoo faded, until only a faint outline was visible on his skin. He had found that he could imbue the same mark again with iron-rich ink, and power his magick with it over and over again.

The exact formula for the ink would take time to perfect, but the process worked, and Namjoon wanted to bring it to the Council for their approval and endorsement before he tried to spread the practice wide. He was on to something—and he was certain that the Council would think so, too. He was planning on tattooing Hoseong for them, knowing that they would be able to sense his own reserves of strength before and after the piece was finished on him.

Sleep came easy—in his most recent imbuing, Namjoon had mixed some palladium with the iron and antimony. The element was known for its ability to keep one grounded, and Namjoon definitely used that aspect of it when he tried to sleep, knowing that nerves combined with his whirling thoughts would keep him awake long past when he should be.

Hoseong rose with the sun, waking Namjoon shortly after with a tray of food and a large mug of tea, steaming just the way he preferred. In a stylistic choice that Namjoon himself never would have considered, going for functionality over design, Hoseong had suggested using runes instead of the swirls or spirals that Namjoon had begun using on himself. It was a good idea—and would surely give the witch a stronger connection to their tattoo, if they had some input on the design. He wasn’t really an artist, himself, but surely he could figure out a way to enchant his hands to become those of an illustrator.

After bathing, and instructing Hoseong to not only wash his hair but cut it as well, Namjoon dressed himself in the finest clothes he had—which, given that he had been alive for centuries, were pretty damn nice. Everything he wore, from his trousers to his shirt and vest, were black—customary for witches. It drew attention to them, of course, but most of the time they (or if they were an apprentice, then their master) were adept at getting themselves out of any situations they’d rather not be in.

Hoseong was wearing a loose dark grey shirt—the color that Namjoon mandated that his apprentices wear—over black pants, and Namjoon gave him a once-over as they met in his study. Once the younger witch had the elder’s approval, Namjoon had him gather up the supplies they would need in a pack, and together they made their way out the door of the unassuming cottage and up the road toward the village center, where the Council was holding their monthly meeting.

Namjoon lived in one of the many witch villages interspersed throughout the countryside. Hoseong had been found by one of the Council witches, the same as any apprentice he’d ever had, any any witch currently apprenticing with another. Each of the Council witches had a focus, a specialization that they had cultivated over the years—and one of them was adept at scrying, using a magick mirror of quicksilver.

She would scry for children who had magick in them, searching for the ones who were at the most risk—usually, they lived in intolerant areas, or had too much power for their own good, unable to be controlled and a danger to themself. Hoseong was one of the former: Namjoon had welcomed him into his home, knowing that whatever he could teach him would be limited. He was a slight boy, and he had been given the gift of magick, but his strongest asset was his curiosity. He wanted to learn absolutely everything Namjoon could teach him, and worked hard even though he wouldn’t be able to perform many complex spells without siphoning magick from Namjoon, or another, stronger witch.

It was this dilemma exactly that had caused Namjoon to begin thinking of imbuing tattoos—which he would explain to the Council, knowing that the prospect of letting witches who were, for lack of a better word, lesser perform complex magick without needing assistance would appeal to them as well.

The line for the Council was long, even though it was early in the day. Namjoon had always enjoyed spending time around other witches—it was part of his charm, and the reason why he took on new apprentices as soon as his charges had grown into fully-fledged witches—but today, he wanted nothing more than for everyone in the line to disperse, leaving himself and Hoseong to their pitch.

Most of the morning was wasted standing in the queue. Namjoon sent Hoseong off for tea or for food, knowing that it would surely be vastly overpriced, but that was the cost to do business with the Council. Witches weren't stupid—far from it, actually, being cleverer than most—and those who lived near to the village center wouldn't waste the opportunity to set up stalls selling trinkets or food for those who needed to travel to meet the Council.

By the time Namjoon and his apprentice reached the door to the Council's chambers, the sun had already reached its peak in the sky and began dipping downward again. The strongest rays had already beaten against them; Namjoon used a handkerchief to wipe his brow, huffing and ordering Hoseong to go find something cool for them to drink. The younger witch looked very much like he didn't want to leave, being so close to their audience with the Council, but did as he was told. By the time he had arrived with two chilled tin cups filled with water, Namjoon was next in line, and just as soon as they'd drained the vessels, they were called in by an elder witch, one in the Council's employ, who no doubt was there to look innocuous but actually observe and assess each visitor's magick—and threat—level.

"Namjoon," the elder greeted the man, nodding his head as Namjoon and Hoseong bowed to him. Namjoon, too, was old—but the sheer magnitude of this witch's power was something to be in awe of. He must have had a thousand years on Namjoon, if his guess was correct.

"Seokjin," Namjoon replied, drawing himself up to his full height. Unlike many of the other witches waiting, he had supplies with him, and Seokjin considered them curiously, his expression mirroring Hoseong's every time Namjoon showed him something new.

"And what are you presenting to the Council today?" he asked, tone innocent, though Namjoon had visited the Council enough times over the past few centuries to know he was digging to see if he should even be allowed before them.

"Magick tattoos," Namjoon said, holding out his arm and pulling the cuff of his shirtsleeve up, revealing the spiral he'd marked himself with. "I can infuse any witch with extra power, for want of a better word, and they no longer will need to draw from rocks or metals. They will carry it in their very skin."

Seokjin raised his eyebrows, pursing his lips. "Intriguing," he said, reaching out a hand. "May I?" His fingers hovered above Namjoon's wrist.

"Of course," Namjoon said, glancing at Hoseong as Seokjin's fingers brushed over the spiral, black and rich in his skin. The two of them shared a grin before Seokjin spoke again.

"Iron," Seokjin said, able to tell, so familiar with the elements as he was. "Very, very intriguing."

"Thank you," Namjoon replied. "If you would like one, it would be my honor."

Seokjin chuckled, clasping his hands behind his back. "It seems like a bit of unorthodox magick," he said, trying his hardest not to sound skeptical. "If the Council approves, then I may take you up on the offer." He held his arm out, gesturing to the door—which opened, unprompted, and the witch who had gone in the meeting room last exited, bowing to Seokjin as she made her way past the line, still stretching across the square. "You're up."

In lieu of answering, Namjoon and Hoseong bowed to him, their feet shuffling across the flagstone floor of the entryway before crossing the threshold of the door, stepping onto the hardwood floor reserved for the interior rooms of the building.

Before them sat seven witches, side by side at a long table, all dressed in inky pitch the same as Namjoon, all with their hands folded and eyes trained on the entering pair. Namjoon knew one of the witches—the youngest (though still centuries old, like himself) and newest addition to the panel: the innovative and open-minded Jimin.

"Namjoon," Jimin said warmly, sitting up a bit straighter at the sight of his friend. They had both been discovered at nearly the same time by the Council's scryer, and had spent their youth together apprenticing, learning, and growing. "It's so nice to see you." Jimin's position with the Council had kept him from social visits for quite some time—Namjoon couldn't even remember the last time he had had a conversation with Jimin that wasn't a matter that needed Council approval.

Behind him, Namjoon could sense Seokjin closing the door to the Council's chamber—his immense power muted, but still very present in Namjoon's periphery.

"What brings you here today, Namjoon?" the witch sitting at the center of the table said. He was old—probably at least as old as Seokjin—but he looked to be only a few years older than Hoseong. His skin was unmarred, face dark and handsome. For as often as Namjoon had visited the Council, he had never taken the time to get their names straight, save for Jimin. They were all of varying backgrounds, from countries all over the world, come together as a group of the most powerful witches in existence—but he had never quite had a head for names foreign to his own home country.

The five other witches looked on in interest as Namjoon stepped aside and presented his apprentice.

"This is Hoseong," he said, nodding to the boy. "I've brought him for your assessment. I want you to each get a read on his strength, feel what courses through him. And then, I want you to watch as I double it."

Jimin quirked an eyebrow, leaning forward and resting his chin on his hand, the point of his elbow resting against the table. The other witches exchanged glances—they already had pinpointed the exact level of magick both of them had within, surely, but they at least made a show of pretending to evaluate Hoseong again.

"Proceed," the leader said, sitting back.

"Might I borrow your chair?" Namjoon asked, voice polite but edging on mischievous, as he spared a glance toward Jimin, who smirked back at him.

"Yes," another of the Council witches said—she was a conjurer, and with a wave of her hand, a high-backed armchair appeared. Namjoon directed Hoseong into it, taking the pack he was holding, opening the flap on top.

"Are you going to elaborate on the doubling of his strength?" another witch asked—she had long white hair and gnarled fingers, steepled as she watched, her cloudy eyes still alert, even though Namjoon wondered whether she could see them in the most literal sense, because her inner eye must be completely clear.

"I'm not," Namjoon said; the seven witches, including Jimin, made some noises of dissent and disbelief. "You'll understand in time."

Hoseong looked up at Namjoon, who nodded to him; he stripped off his shirt, folding it and placing it on his lap. Namjoon reached into the pack, drawing out a bottle filled with a dark black liquid. He looked around his immediate area, then back up to the conjurer.

"Might I have a table?" he asked; she paused, then nodded, and a spindly table appeared, enough to hold maybe three bottles like the one Namjoon was holding. Fortunately, he only needed room for the one. He placed it on the wooden surface of the table, then reached back into the pack to retrieve the other tool he would need—a thick needle.

Namjoon worked quietly, and Hoseong sat perfectly still, eyes closed, understanding the importance of what he was doing. Namjoon dipped the needle into the unstoppered bottle of ink, then pierced the back of Hoseong's shoulder in the pattern they had agreed upon: the rune meaning "strength"—it had seemed the most apt.

The clearer the tattoo on his arm became, the more the Council understood what he was doing—and once Namjoon was finished, the questions poured forth.

"What is the ink made of?"

"How did you discover this was possible?"

"Is it permanent?"

Namjoon stoppered the bottle again, folding his hands and letting them rest against the front of his hips—but before he could answer any of those questions, Jimin's voice rang out.

"Is it safe?"

"It is safe," Namjoon said, again pulling up the sleeve of his shirt and showing off his own spiral. "And it is, to some extent, permanent."

"To some extent? Either it is or it is not," the witch who had asked that particular question said, scowling as he pushed further.

"The mark will always remain on the skin—but I am able to refill it with more ink. The witch is imbued with the ink, which—"

"Yes, what is the ink made of?" asked another witch, whom Namjoon recognized once he looked at her as the scryer who had pulled him from his prior life into the world of magick.

"For right now, it is simply ink as you would write with," Namjoon said, "which I have mixed with liquefied metal—metals that we use to draw power from anyway. The witch carries it with them. I know you can feel it in him."

"I can," Jimin said, eyes now firmly on Hoseong, roving over him. "I...do like this idea, Namjoon."

"I think many others will too. Think of the possibilities—and all we need to do is mix in antimony to counter any negative effects, or even the essence of herbs—the possibilities are endless," Namjoon said, his arm around Hoseong, hand resting on his unmarked shoulder.

"You will tattoo other witches," the leader said—Namjoon decided he should learn his name, just on principle— "and report back to us your findings next month. If other witches feel favorably about this tattoo imbuing you are doing, then you will receive the blessing of the Council to teach this art to others, and to practice it at your leisure."

"Thank you," Namjoon said, looking to Hoseong, who rose beside him and put his shirt back on. The table and chair vanished, and the pair bowed to the Council before turning to leave. The door opened as they approached, and Seokjin gave Namjoon a knowing look as they strode past him.

He would see him again, soon, for his own tattoo, imbued with iron and silver and cobalt. The endorsement of the Council, and of Seokjin, gave Namjoon's idea all the support it needed, and soon witches were arriving from other villages, even other countries, to receive a magick piece by him. Word spread quickly, as it usually tends to, and before long, Namjoon was teaching the art to other witches that he deemed responsible enough to carry on the trade. Progressions in technology, as the years passed, made the metals and needles more accessible.

Progressions in Namjoon’s own life only made tattooing and imbuing the ink even easier too. Hoseong, still not the most powerful witch but fully-fledged after years under Namjoon’s tutelage, went off on his own, to stake his place amongst the witch community. The last Namjoon had heard, he hadn’t chosen a concentration or focus—a strange way to go, but sometimes witches had a calling to do what their hearts wanted and not settle for any one particular type of magick. He himself had done the same thing for many years, until he had begun testing imbuing and tattooing with magickal ink.

Years passed—Namjoon took on several more apprentices, some of whom wanted tattoos from him, and some of whom did not. Many of his prior students came back to him, asking for rune tattoos or even simple designs. Over the years, Namjoon truly had improved in drawing—sometimes, if witches wanted larger pieces, he would accede and provide them what they wanted. He had nearly perfected the ink recipes, modifying the amount of antimony included to counteract negative effects of metals—particularly ones that were stronger, carried more magickal clout.

Namjoon had earned himself a spot in witch history—the inventor of the technique that allowed witches to carry extra magick along with them. He was viewed as an innovator, a genius, and while others did eventually become masters in the craft, he was the one everyone coveted a piece from. He was on top of the world—covering himself in his own pieces, his strength multiplied many times his already immense reserves, he was confident that what he had invented, what he had done for witches, would live on for many, many years to come.

It was why, perhaps, the success had gone to his head, just a bit. Most of the witches who asked for larger pieces were ones that Namjoon had known for centuries—Seokjin, for example, returned to him many times, asking for more. Another few members of the council visited him—not even when they were in session, but just because they wanted their own magick adornments—and he supposed that it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Hoseong returned.

The two hugged like long-lost brothers, Hoseong’s rune mark visible beneath the sleeveless shirt he wore. Namjoon couldn’t remember how long it had been since they last saw each other—he clearly had gotten other imbuers to refill his ink, but the time had come, Hoseong explained, for a new piece. He wanted something extensive, with as many metals as Namjoon could mix together, something that would give him the power that he had always wanted but hadn’t been gifted naturally to receive.

Namjoon considered the request carefully—Hoseong, he remembered, was not as magickally inclined as other apprentices he’d had; he wasn’t as strong—but he had been a fully-fledged witch for decades, if not more by the time he’d returned. He’d given many witches, even some younger than Hoseong, large pieces. He had absolutely no qualms about working with Hoseong on the design, and then settling him down on a low table to tattoo him.

Electric pens had recently come into vogue—and Namjoon had trained himself to use the devices—he was honestly amazed that a nonmagick man had come up with something as clever as the rotary technology employed in what Namjoon used to mark skin with magick ink. It allowed him to apply larger tattoos much quicker than normal, and by the time he’d sketched out what Hoseong wanted—a huge display of runes mixed with symbols ranging from seven-pointed stars to leaves to even flowers—Namjoon knew this would be one of the most impressive pieces he’d ever done. They got started as soon as Namjoon mixed the ink—Hoseong had asked for some of everything, and Namjoon had certainly delivered, mixing plenty of antimony with iron, cobalt, copper, zinc—and many others.

They sat together for hours, Namjoon’s electric pen working over the skin of Hoseong’s back, pausing occasionally to fill the ink reservoirs, but finally, everything was complete. He’d just begun to work on a spell to heal Hoseong’s tattoo when something—something went terribly wrong.

“Seonsaeng-nim,” Hoseong said, using the old term for him—out of respect, and given his tone, seemingly out of fear.

Namjoon paused in his weaving of words, his own tattoos warm to the touch as he drew power from them to heal. “What is it?” he asked. He just barely managed to conceal the waver from his voice, but even as he asked, he could see what it was. Hoseong’s skin, around the edges of the tattoo, had begun to blister and peel, the ink pouring out of him. Namjoon froze—he had never seen this happen before, even when he hadn’t thought to use antimony during his first tests of magickal tattooing—and now that it was happening before his very eyes, he had no idea what to do to stop it.

“Seongsaeng—Namjoon,” Hoseong moaned, leaning heavily on the table, rivulets of ink running down his bare back, his legs. “It hurts.”

“Hold still,” Namjoon urged him, stepping closer—but even as he watched, he could tell that there was no repairing this. He’d done too much—he’d been stupid not to realized that someone like Hoseong couldn’t handle this much magick shoved into his skin. Hoseong was trembling in pain, his legs faltering, and Namjoon moved him back onto the table as gently as he could—his skin was hot to the touch, even where he hadn’t been tattooed, and Namjoon was at a loss to help. The only thing he could think to do was—but no, he couldn’t, not without explaining to him first—

“It—what’s happening?” Hoseong managed to ask, his voice weak, eyes slipping closed as drool leaked from his mouth, unable to stop himself given the severe amount of agony he was in.

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon breathed, reaching out to cup Hoseong’s head, one hand on his forehead, the other resting atop his crown. “Sleep. Sleep now,” he said, pulling power from a different tattoo this time, one imbued with chromium; Namjoon used its influence to help Hoseong’s mind move from the waking plane to that of sleep, so he wouldn’t know when his body failed him.

Hoseong slumped over the table, limbs limp, and Namjoon forced himself to watch where his cockiness had gotten him: a man, an innocent witch, dying on his table, his skin peeling upward in ribbons as his body rejected the sheer magnitude of magick that Namjoon had put into him. Vaguely, he wondered if Hoseong had a partner or familiar who would be expecting him back home—if he did, surely Namjoon would need to deliver the news himself. But first—he needed to call an emergency meeting with the council. He needed to make amends—he needed to inform them that he was no longer going to practice magick.

Chapter Text

The Council were swift. There had never been any doubt in Namjoon’s mind that they would be, of course, but they also were not nearly as harsh as he had assumed. The majority of them, ones who had gotten tattoos and refills many times over the years from Namjoon, agreed that rather than allow free practice of the art of imbuing ink, there should be training and mandated guidelines. Namjoon, however, felt too guilty to continue.

Hoseong hadn’t had a family anymore—his relatives had all passed away decades before, and he had never taken a partner. He did have a familiar, Namjoon found out, and he had taken it upon himself to go convey the news. The animal was a cat, because of course it was—they were the easiest for witches to connect with, and Namjoon sincerely doubted whether Hoseong would have had enough magickal prowess to attach any other kind of creature to himself.

Witches and their familiars shared a special bond—and while Namjoon knew that he wouldn’t be able to communicate directly with the cat, he would be able to explain, in simple terms, what had happened. The feline was old and wary of him as soon as he entered Hoseong’s humble cottage home. It avoided him like the plague until he explained who he was, drawing upon one of his tattoos filled with platinum to grant the familiar foresight—to know that it could trust him, at least until he explained why he had come.

He’d left Hoseong’s home with bleeding scratches and bites shortly after he’d arrived—the cat wanted nothing more to do with him, and streaked off down the lane, yowling and reeling with its loss.

Ashamed, Namjoon returned to his village. He continued taking on apprentices, teaching them but refusing to perform tattoos any longer—and eventually, even those young witches in danger of being killed in their home towns or countries for witchcraft would request not to be placed with him. He had lost his touch—lost what made him such a skilled and charismatic witch—and fell into a life of solitude.

The years passed by and Namjoon spent them alone, counting the days since he had unwittingly murdered the apprentice who had helped him with his most ingenuitive idea. He knew that it had been an accident—even his confession to the Council had not been met with punishment, but rather a firm yet kind hand. His exile was self-imposed, but there were still times when he would wander into the village proper for supplies, or for food, and he felt like he was being watched. Judged.

Modern times were kinder to the witch—tattoos became something of a worldwide practice, something that more and more people used to adorn their skin—and with it, returned Namjoon's urge to create art again. He wasn't entirely sure if he would ever tattoo witches again—did he even deserve to, really?—but surely tattooing nonmagick folk with plain, normal ink would serve his creative side just as well.

And it did—for a time.

It didn’t happen often, but sometimes witches left the Council. For personal reasons, or they no longer found service to the greater witch community to be fulfilling—for whatever his reasons were, Jimin left the council and began taking apprentices again. Namjoon had stopped requesting them at around the same time grunge seemed to be reaching its peak—nearly a full century had passed since Hoseong’s death, and really—Namjoon had thought that immortality had its benefits, but that had been until he stopped practicing magick, the only true craft he’d ever known. Even his tattooing had been a result of that, and it wasn’t easy to make a living as a nonmagick person.

He’d set up in a big city, where people were more open-minded about strangenesses that others possessed, and where belief in witchcraft had fallen by the wayside. One good thing about the tall buildings and loud traffic: Namjoon would never be overheard if he didn’t want to be.

Taking a job in a tattoo parlor would have been the smart choice—but he went one further, opening his own shop and catering to a clientele of witches. He didn’t make his presence known—only his closest personal friends knew he was mixing his special inks again, and only they were imbued with his magickal ink.

Jimin had entered his shop, apprentice in tow, some time after the turn of the century. Namjoon had been downstairs with another witch—someone he’d owed a favor from a few decades before, and who just cashed it in now—but Jimin managed to make small talk with Namjoon’s business partner until the pair of witches emerged.

“Ah, Joon,” said Namjoon’s partner—a bright-eyed and softspoken fledgeling tattoo artist named Jeongguk. “This guy says he knows you from your old job?”

Namjoon glanced over, tensed, straightened up, then clapped the witch he’d just tattooed on the shoulder and gave him a smiling nod. “We’re square on payment,” he said. “It was nice to see you again.”

Jeongguk watched as he left the shop, leaving the four of them alone—he was aware that Namjoon was supposedly a “witch,” though he wasn’t entirely sure what he did in his little studio downstairs, and he didn’t particularly want to know. As long as whatever it was was above board, and not a threat to the cleanliness of the shop or the business they shared, he couldn’t really care less about it. He trusted Namjoon, and that was enough.

“Hey,” Namjoon said, ambling over, realizing that Jimin and his apprentice were going to wait for him to approach. “How’ve you been?” Namjoon reached out a hand to shake Jimin’s; he took it. It was after they released each other that they realized that Jeongguk was waiting for an introduction, his hands clasped behind his back, sleeveless shirt exposing his flexed muscles and tattoo-covered arms, the low neckline even showing off some of the pieces that inched their way up over his chest to his neck.

“I’m Jeongguk,” he said, brightly, even though it was clear that Namjoon wanted him to clear out.

“Jimin.” Reaching his hand over the counter between them, Jimin shook Jeongguk’s hand as well, nodding to him. “You’re the other owner of the shop?”

“He is,” Namjoon said, “but I think he was working on a piece for a client in back, no?”

“I’m good for right now,” Jeongguk said, just to be annoying—the age difference between them did allow for fresh perspectives, when they came to the other for advice or an opinion on a work in progress, but it also allowed for Namjoon being hopelessly irritated by his younger partner. Nevermind the fact that he had centuries on Jeongguk—he’d stuck to pretending to be in his early thirties in recent years, and even so, they could easily be irritated by a young twenty-something.

“What do you want?” Namjoon asked him, rolling his eyes as Jimin and his apprentice looked on, amused.

“I just wanna meet your friends,” Jeongguk said, assuming that Namjoon knew both of them, instead of just Jimin. “Are you guys witches too?” He snickered.

“Caught us,” Jimin said, grinning, not bothered in the slightest by Jeongguk’s incredulity.

“Whatever you say,” he replied, shaking his head—he wasn’t the kind of person who believed in the shit that happened in Harry Potter or anything, but he definitely believed people could have, like...a connection with nature, or whatever. As for himself, though? He didn’t buy into magick. People made their own luck and controlled their own shit—no spells for him. “Let me know if anyone comes in,” he said to Namjoon, turning to head into the back room to continue working on the exact piece Namjoon had referred to before.

“What brings you here?” Namjoon asked Jimin, once Jeongguk was out of earshot. He eyed the apprentice witch—Namjoon could tell that was what he was immediately, his senses not dulled even though he hadn’t done anything extraordinary with his magick in years. The boy was probably around Jeongguk’s age, if he had to guess, and he had serious potential—he wouldn’t have been surprised if Jimin had chosen him for a reason, given that his strength was already pretty high for someone so young.

“I need a refill,” Jimin said, “and we were passing through the city.” Namjoon nodded—he’d purposely chosen the location for the tattoo shop, just on the edge of a small witch community tucked into the radius of a few city blocks. Surely Jimin had been looking for something else, and made Namjoon’s shop a pitstop on his agenda. “And my apprentice had some questions for you as well.”

“You can head downstairs,” Namjoon said to Jimin, gesturing to the stairwell he’d emerged from, then turning his attention to the apprentice as Jimin left them.

He was slight, his hair fluffy and dyed light brown. Unlike Namjoon’s apprentices, Jimin apparently allowed him to wear whatever clothing he wanted—but he supposed times had changed. The young man was wearing a pair of jeans, the denim black and faded, with an old band t-shirt and a green bomber jacket over it. Certainly, in his day, Namjoon’s apprentices would never have gotten the freedom to dress in such a flashy way—but then, he supposed, witches weren’t in as much danger as they had been, once.

“What's your name?” Namjoon asked. He rounded the counter, resting his elbows on it as he looked up at the apprentice witch. "And how can I help you?"

The apprentice's cheeks rounded up like apples as he smiled widely. "My name is Hoseok," he said, and something pinged in Namjoon's brain, the similarity to a name that he'd tried to avoid thinking about when he felt too guilty. His question sounded, to Namjoon's ear, something like "I wanted to ask you about getting some work done," but the words faded as his heartbeat rushed in his ears, nearly drowning them out. An apprentice witch, a name that was too close for it to be coincidental—Namjoon shook his head, standing up straight.

"Sorry," he gasped out, still shaking his head no. He lifted one hand palm-out to Hoseok, stepping back from the counter that separated them, ignoring the curious look (of course he was curious, of course he was, because Hoseong had been too) and questioning words. "I can't help you."

"But—" Hoseok tried again, moving to step around the counter to get closer to Namjoon, who was already fleeing, hurrying toward the stairs to follow Jimin.

"I can't help you," he said again, more final this time, turning his back but looking over his shoulder. "I can't."

Hoseok stopped at the break in the counter, glancing over at Jeongguk, who had emerged from the back room to see what had upset Namjoon so much. The last thing Namjoon heard was Jeongguk offering to show him his portfolio, and then the door to his private studio swung shut behind him.

Jimin was seated in the chair set up in the center of the room, and he turned to look at Namjoon, standing by the closed door. He raised one eyebrow, back twisted to look at him, eyes sweeping over his form; Namjoon was clearly agitated, his breathing quick and unsettled.

"What on earth did he ask you?" Jimin asked, unsure whether to be amused or concerned at Namjoon's quick change in disposition.

"He—He wanted a tattoo from me," Namjoon replied, taking a moment to regain his composure. He thought, given both Hoseok and Jimin's reactions, that maybe he was overreacting, but the details were sticking with him. It was too close to the way things had been, when he'd fucked up and had to take a break from magick, just for his own peace of mind. He'd thought that he'd found it—but apparently the universe wasn't too keen on letting that happen.

"Yeah," Jimin said, turning himself bodily so he was sitting sideways in the chair. "That's why I brought him along. What, are you not going to do it?"

"I can't," Namjoon said, taking a step further into the room, wondering how Jeongguk was faring upstairs, trying to convince Hoseok that he was just as good an artist as Namjoon was, and that he even worked with color unlike his older counterpart.

Jimin's eyes flicked around the room, looking for a reason why, before settling back on Namjoon. "How come?"

"You know why," Namjoon insisted, but chose to explain when Jimin looked on with a confused expression. "Because of Hoseong."

"Oh," Jimin said, face softening, his voice barely more than a whisper. "No, ok, that's—that was just a horrible accident, Joon, you wouldn't make that mistake again. How many tattoos have you done since you started up again? Nothing like that has happened since. With anyone. Everyone is—everyone is more careful now."

"I don't care," Namjoon replied, and Jimin pursed his lips, clearly thinking he was being a little ridiculous—but then, as far as he knew, Jimin had never accidentally ended someone's life with his own two hands. “I can’t.”

Jimin studied him closely, scrutinizing, but then huffed a short-lived sigh. “Ok. Can you refill mine, at least?”

Namjoon sighed, covering his face with his hand for just a moment before forcing himself to snap out of it. He moved to Jimin’s side, sitting on the low, rolling stool set there. “What are we refilling today?” he asked.

“A few,” Jimin answered, keeping his voice measured. He leaned forward, stripping his shirt off as he did, and revealing the outlines of quite a few pieces that Namjoon had done for him, all empty and ready to be imbued with metallic ink again.

Closing his eyes, Namjoon allowed his hands to hover over Jimin’s bare skin, reading with only his senses the trace metals left there, so he would know which bottles of ink to grab. There were two on Jimin’s chest to be redone, one on his arm, and one on his back. Namjoon stood, gathered the ink he needed, and slid his fingers into a pair of gloves before he even realized what he was doing.

“You use those now?” Jimin asked, smirking—he never used to, and he typically didn’t for his magick tattoos, but he was a thousand miles away inside his own head.

“Habit,” Namjoon said, leaving the latex gloves on as he readied the ink and his tattoo machine.

The two of them didn’t talk much over the buzz; the only words exchanged were Namjoon’s requests for Jimin to change position or Jimin’s small grimaces of pain when Namjoon hit a particularly rough spot. By the time they emerged from the basement, Jeongguk was already tattooing another of his own clients, and Hoseok was seated on the bench outside the shop, legs cross and back to them, staring down at the phone in his hand.

“You let him have one of those?” Namjoon asked—old-fashioned to a fault.

“I got him in 2010,” Jimin replied, laughing and drawing Jeongguk’s attention. He glanced back at them before returning to what he was doing. “He showed up with it.”

Namjoon tsked—his apprentices had been sent to learn from him, not to cloud their judgement and knowledge with the opinions of outsiders.

“What do I owe you?” Jimin asked, turning to face Namjoon, tugging his sleeve down over the already-healed tattoo on his bicep.

“Just—convince him not to get an imbued tattoo,” Namjoon said, meeting Jimin’s eyes, his gaze fierce enough to keep Jimin’s question why at bay. “From me or from anyone.”

Jimin frowned but nodded hesitantly. “All right. But I hope you know he’s not going to want to agree, considering I’ve had tattoos since before even his great-grandparents were born.”

“You’ll figure something out,” Namjoon said, gesturing to the door just as it opened. Two giggly young women walked in, one of them eyeing Hoseok through the window, and Namjoon approached them, finished with Jimin.

“I’ll text you!” Jimin called, grinning and winking at Namjoon as he exited the shop—Namjoon hadn’t given him his number, hadn’t even told him he had a phone, but Jimin had always been insightful like that.

“How can I help you ladies?” Namjoon asked, ignoring his fellow witches as they strolled away down the sidewalk, focusing instead on the cell phone being held out toward him, a photo of a flower they both wanted glowing up at him.

“Hi.”

Namjoon heard the greeting, the voice that sounded familiar although he couldn't quite place it, but he didn't look up. He was seated at his station—his nonmagick one—a middle-aged man laying flat on his stomach before him, as Namjoon lined a rather large back piece for him.

"Hello," the voice said again, louder this time, over the buzz of the tattoo machine Namjoon was holding. With a sigh, he finished pulling a line and looked up, letting the hum of the machine's engine die out—just as his stomach lurched up into his chest.

Hoseok was standing on the other side of the counter, leaning over it, staring straight at him.

"Hi," Namjoon managed, his current client shifting a little into a new position, now that he didn't have to remain still.

"Can we talk?" Hoseok asked. He was alone, Jimin nowhere in sight, and he was still wearing that bomber jacket, though the this time he was wearing a dark plaid shirt beneath it, collar peeking out.

"I'm busy," Namjoon said, dismissing him. "Guk! Can you come out here and help someone?" He heard a shuffling from around the corner that led to the back room, but his eyes didn't leave Hoseok's face—his expression had soured, enough that Namjoon could practically feel him changing the mood of the room, and by the time Jeongguk had emerged, Hoseok had turned on his heel and walked out.

"What happened?" Jeongguk asked, stopping and glancing from the shutting door to Namjoon.

"Guess he changed his mind," Namjoon said, still feeling a bit frosty from Hoseok's influence. He was powerful—Jimin surely had his hands full with that one.

"Guess so," Jeongguk said, turning around himself as Namjoon went back to his work, apologizing briefly to the man he was tattooing, wiping at the tattoo with the crumpled-up paper towel he held.

He barely glanced up, wiping the man's back again, as Jeongguk returned to sit in his own chair at his station up front, notebook on his bent legs as he reclined, finishing the piece he was working on in case any other walk-ins entered the shop.

The tattoo shop that Namjoon owned with Jeongguk catered to a small enough clientele that they were able to subsist with just the two of them as the only artists employed. Namjoon had more than enough money in his personal finances to keep the shop open, so even if they had a slow month, there was never any danger of having to close the doors.

It didn't quite afford them the luxury of having days off, though, considering they had agreed that one of them should always be available if the other had an appointment, but during lulls in the shop's activity, they both enjoyed some quiet time to himself. Jeongguk would disappear into the back room and lounge around, propping himself up on the stool beside the light table they had back there. He would pop in his earbuds and doze off, posture always perfect, leaning back against the wall. Namjoon knew better than to bother him when he was like that—it was almost as if he was meditating, although with the metal music screaming out of his headphones, Namjoon had no idea how he could focus on anything calming whatsoever.

For Namjoon's part, he preferred to get out of the shop itself. He would go for walks, feet navigating the blocks he had walked for years, until the sidewalks became unfamiliar to him and he no longer recognized his surroundings. He had discovered a few restaurants that he'd come to love that way, not to mention shops that caught his eye—and if, in the evenings, he'd wandered into bars and happened to find a young man or woman who sparked his interest, well. He could hardly be blamed for letting Jeongguk close up the shop that night, could he?

It was after one such walk that Namjoon returned to the shop, a beer can wrapped in a paper bag clutched in his hand. Jeongguk was seated, eyes focused on what he was doing—a tattoo on the foot of a woman grimacing in pain—with two people waiting. They both turned to look at Namjoon as he entered, frowning a bit as he took another sip from his beer, knowing what it was just by the fact that he'd needed to hide it while on the street.

"Oh," Jeongguk said, pausing his work for the moment (the woman breathed an audible sigh of relief and relaxed back against the chair). "Those two were looking to get something done," he said, even as they left, chattering amongst themselves at how irresponsible it was for a tattoo artist to be drinking during his shop's open hours—but how could they know that Namjoon, as a witch, had an insanely high tolerance? "And your friend came back looking for you."

Namjoon stiffened up a bit at that, turning to face Jeongguk from where he'd been watching the man and woman who had left the shop hustle down the street. "My friend? Jimin?"

Jeongguk had placed his tattoo machine down on the counter and chosen a squirt bottle filled with a pale greenish liquid; he squeezed some of it onto the woman's half-finished tattoo cleaning it up a bit before leaning in to inspect the lines. "Nah, that other guy." Namjoon had opened his mouth to inquire who, exactly, before Jeongguk spoke again, reaching for his machine. "Hoseok."

Namjoon's grip on his beer can tightened just a bit, face turning to a scowl. He had no idea why this kid had come back a second time—No. That was a blatant lie. He knew exactly why Hoseok kept coming back, and without Jimin. The only thing he was doing was pushing himself further onto Namjoon's bad side, getting him annoyed without even speaking to him, and any hope he had of actually getting a tattoo from him was slowly and surely dwindling to an even more microscopic chance than there had been in the first place.

"Next time he comes in, if I'm not here—tell him to wait for me," Namjoon said.

Jeongguk picked up his tattoo machine again and pursing his lips as the woman on his chair immediately tensed up.

"Just relax," he said, nodding to Namjoon as he walked past, indicating that he had heard and would remember his instruction. "It'll hurt less if you try to loosen up a little."

"Hurt less," the woman said, clearly disbelieving, huffing a short and unamused laugh. "Sure."

Namjoon clicked the door to the back room shut behind him, wondering it maybe Jeongguk's method of relaxation had some merits. If only he had had some headphones.

Hoseok didn't make any appearances for a week or so—or, at least, he never came when Namjoon was in the shop and it was possible that Jeongguk had forgotten to pass on the message that he'd stopped in.

Jimin had, in fact, texted Namjoon—nothing important, and certainly nothing urgent, but Namjoon had blown off the question about meeting for coffee and catching up for real after their last short-lived interaction, and instead pushed for information on Hoseok. His friend hadn't been too keen to give it up, so Namjoon acquiesced to the request to meet him for a drink. He'd changed it from a coffee to a beer, and pushed the time back to late evening, so he could get a full day's work out of it before closing up shop.

Jeongguk headed the opposite direction from Namjoon after they locked up, needing to catch the subway back uptown, but Namjoon had chosen a specific pub that was only a couple blocks away in the heart of the witch neighborhood that held many of his regular haunts.

By the time he arrived, sidling up to the bar, Jimin was already there. It was a dimly lit space, the air around them thrumming with the sheer magnitude of magick coursing through the bar's patrons—it wasn't a place that young witches came, and truth be told, Namjoon wasn't even sure if apprentices would be allowed in.

"You got something against coffee?" Jimin asked, gesturing to the bartender that he wanted a second bottle of whatever he'd chosen to drink—one materialized on the bar in front of Namjoon, right on top of the cardboard coaster set there.

"I got something against leaving work for no reason," Namjoon replied, picking up the bottle. It was so cold, it seemed to numb his fingers a little. Not for the first time, he smirked at the way witches already tried to impress each other.

"Oh, ok," Jimin scoffed, taking a sip from his bottle and straightening up, then turning a bit on his barstool to look at Namjoon. "So, why did you deign to grace me with your presence tonight, then?"

"Your apprentice," Namjoon said, huffing a sigh through his nose, "is out of line."

At that, Jimin quirked an eyebrow, shaking his head a little, almost imperceptibly. "What do you mean? He's got a lot of promise, and—"

"I mean he keeps coming to see me at my shop," Namjoon said, and it was clear from Jimin's expression that he hadn't known. "He doesn't seem to want to take no for an answer about the tattoos."

Jimin licked his lips, tapping his fingertips on the bottle, but he remained silent for a long few moments. "So just tattoo him."

"I can't." Namjoon's voice was heated, just a little, when he spoke—the bartender and a couple nearby witches glanced over. "I won't. You know why."

"Well, maybe he would know why if you would just tell him," Jimin pointed out, giving Namjoon an appraising look and shrugging his shoulders.

"You wrote the rules, Jimin," Namjoon countered. "On the Council. You helped write the rulebook and it states, clearly, tattoos are to be given at the discretion of the artist, upon evaluation of the receiving witch, and—"

"Gods, did we really make it that boring?" Jimin asked out loud to no one in particular, because Namjoon was still speaking.

"—you'll notice that it says witch. Not apprentice."

Jimin leveled Namjoon with a look, pointed and clearly annoyed. "He's not Hoseong, Namjoon," Jimin said, ignoring the flinch. "I felt that boy's strength double after you tattooed him once, and even then was barely a drop in the ocean of that village, much less the Council's chambers. He had next to nothing. Hoseok is different. I know you can feel—"

"It's my decision," Namjoon interrupted him, putting his bottle down onto the bar with a bit too much force. "And I'm telling you—and him—no."

Jimin watched him for a long moment, the air crackling around them—Namjoon thought for a moment that it was because of their opposition, because of their disagreement, but then a witch fizzled into existence beside them, materializing out of thin air.

"Sorry to interrupt," she said, laughing. "Thank goodness you weren't standing where I am!" She patted each of them on the shoulder before hurrying over to meet another group of her friends seated at a table, each of them laughing at her sudden appearance.

The witch hadn't quite lightened the mood, but she did dispel some of the tension. Namjoon loosed a heavy sigh and met Jimin's eyes, shaking his head.

"I did want to explain everything to him," Namjoon said, after a moment. "But he only came in twice, and hasn't been back since."

"Can I tell him to pay you a visit?" Jimin asked, lifting his drink to his lips. He watched Namjoon over the bottle.

"Yeah," Namjoon replied, after considering it for a moment. "Yeah, please do."

Chapter Text

The more days that passed between Namjoon's meeting with Jimin at the bar, the less likely it seemed that Hoseok would actually come to see him, like he'd asked. He'd asked Jimin to have Hoseok come to him, just to give him the chance to explain why he wouldn't tattoo the apprentice witch, but Hoseok hadn't come to the shop again.

Jeongguk had asked about him a couple of times, just in passing, but Namjoon would only shrug his shoulders in response, not really knowing what to say. It wasn't like he had any information to give anyway, and after another week or so, Jeongguk dropped it.

Enough time had passed that Namjoon assumed that his treatment of Hoseok, as cold as it had been, officially deterred him from following up, even after he'd given the ok. The part of his mind that would flick to Hoseok every time the door opened and he glanced up to meet it had stopped automatically turning to the young witch. It was back to business as usual for the remainder of the month, and then the next few.

When Hoseok did return, Namjoon hadn't been there. Jeongguk didn't place him right away, pausing in working on the sleeve he'd been shading, but when he realized who it was, he sat up a bit straighter.

"Oh, shit," he said, "you came back."

"Is Namjoon here?" Hoseok asked, his grin wide, not making small talk and instead getting right to the reason why he'd come.

"Uh, no," Jeongguk replied, swiveling his hips a little on the rolling stool he was seated on. "He should be back in a few, though, if you wanna wait." He paused. "Last time you were here he wanted you to wait for him, so."

"I'll be out front," Hoseok said, like the shop belonged to him, and left again out the front door, settling himself down on the bench, leaning back against the plate glass window. Jeongguk watched him for a long moment—it was summer, so he wasn't wearing his bomber jacket, and seemed to have replaced it with a black tank top, cut down the sides, with a flannel tied around his waist. His black jeans remained much the same. Jeongguk thought he seemed a perfectly normal amount of cool—he had no idea why Namjoon was so fucking weird about him.

"Sorry," he apologized to his client, making his tattoo machine give a few staccato buzzes before he began tattooing again.

Jeongguk wasn't quite sure how long Hoseok sat outside waiting for Namjoon, but he finally turned up after another hour or so. Hoseok was sitting on the bench, leaning forward this time, focused on his phone. He didn't notice the pair of shoes just in his periphery until a voice accompanied them.

"Those things rot your brain."

Hoseok looked up, craning his neck to see who had spoken—Namjoon. "Hey. I think that's what they say about TV, not phones."

"If it has a screen, it's bound to rot something." Namjoon shifted his weight. "What took you so long?"

"I was busy," Hoseok said, clicking his phone screen off and putting it in his pocket. He sat up straight but glanced to the bench beside him, like he wanted Namjoon to sit. He didn't. "But Jimin seonsaeng-nim said you wanted to talk to me."

Namjoon sucked his teeth, debating whether he really wanted to, after so much time had passed. He shifted his weight again, to the other foot, then nodded. "Yeah. Come in."

Together, they walked back into the shop, Jeongguk lifting a hand in greeting to his partner, the multicolored paper towel in his hand preventing him from actually waving. Hoseok paused by the counter as Namjoon stepped through the break in it, assuming he was to remain there, but Namjoon crossed to the door leading to the staircase down to the basement. He pushed the door open and then, realizing that Hoseok was no longer behind him, turned to look.

"Come on," Namjoon said, smirking a little as Hoseok jumped to attention and then hurried after him, following him down the stairs.

"Is this where you murder me so I'm never heard from again?" Hoseok joked, drawing only a blank look from Namjoon. He huffed. "Kidding."

"This is where I tattoo witches," Namjoon explained, even though he was certain that Hoseok already knew—he'd watched Namjoon bring Jimin down here. Not missing the way Hoseok's face lit up, Namjoon was quick to nip that in the bud. "But I brought you down here to talk."

Hoseok's smile melted away as quickly as it had appeared. "May I sit in your chair for tattooing witches but only talking to me?"

Namjoon held his gaze, entirely unamused, but nodded. "Go ahead."

Hoseok sat, watching as Namjoon kicked his wheeled stool into place, then dropped down on it. They were at an even level, which felt nice, even though Hoseok was still technically an apprentice, and if Namjoon wanted to remain above him, even talk down to him, it would be totally acceptable.

"Did Jimin tell you anything about me?" Namjoon asked, to start, and Hoseok nodded vehemently.

"He told me that you invented imbuing tattoos with metals, and that you're the best one around to do it. It's why I want you to so bad—Jimin lets me siphon magick from him for spells, but that's why I want my o—"

"All master witches do that for their apprentices. They have for millennia—the only thing that changed with tattooing is it amps up their strength and their reserves of magickal energy," Namjoon interrupted him. Hoseok listened, nodding, and then continued on as though he hadn't even spoken.

"So, that's why I want my own. Seonsaeng-nim already tells me how powerful I am, he says that someday I could even surpass him, which I honestly can't wait for because, like—the student will become the master." Hoseok apparently seemed to think this might sway Namjoon—but he just looked on, expression still blank. "It's from Star Wars."

"Ok," Namjoon said, dismissing him again. "Look. All of what Jimin told you is true—even the part about surpassing him. I can...I can feel the magick inside you, Hoseok, but—" He paused, because Hoseok had tried to speak again, but Namjoon held up a hand to silence him. "Let me speak. You need to understand why my answer is no, and why to you, and all apprentices, it will remain no."

Hoseok pursed his lips and furrowed his brow; he settled back into the chair and crossed his arms over his chest, looking very much like a petulant child. Namjoon felt that his thought that Hoseok was a handful was even more affirmed.

Assuming that Hoseok was simply waiting for him to speak again, Namjoon rolled around in a circle, the wheels of his seat squeaking a little as he did, and then he opened his mouth.

"When I came up with the idea for imbuing ink to tattoo witches, I wasn't—I didn't do it alone. I had an apprentice then, who—he helped me. He got me the supplies I needed, and he was the first person that I tested the process on other than myself. He was with me when I presented the idea to the Council for their approval." Hoseok's expression remained impassive—he couldn't understand yet what that had to do with him. "His name was Hoseong."

Something clicked then, although Namjoon figured that it was only because of the similarity of their names. He at least had the courtesy to look slightly intrigued instead of indifferent.

"As an apprentice, his magick was far less than my own—but even then, it was nothing compared to the average witch. Nothing compared even to you, and you're still young as well." Namjoon held Hoseok's gaze, though he felt an increasing desire to look away, the shame and agony of Hoseong's story rising up to the surface again.

"But he studied hard. All he wanted was more knowledge—he wasn't all that talented, but he was a hard worker and that meant more to me than someone trying to work outside of their reach. He eventually graduated from apprenticeship and went out on his own."

"So what, did he try to take credit for the idea, or something?" Hoseok asked, before Namjoon could stop him. "I think everyone knows by now that this was your idea." At Namjoon's pinched look, Hoseok added, "Tattoo master witch artist-nim."

Namjoon didn't crack a smile, or even soften his expression. "Be quiet and listen," he said. "That's the problem with your generation—you think you know everything and never shut up about it."

Hoseok opened his mouth again, but another narrowed-eyes glare from Namjoon and he snapped his jaw shut.

"Hoseong lived for years on his own, as a fully-fledged witch. He was successful, and well-liked, and when he returned to me for more tattoos, I thought—Surely, he can handle them. He's been out in the world for so long. He knows his limits, and I know his limits, having worked so closely with him since his youth.

"He came to my cottage, and we worked on the design. I readied all of the ink I would need and began my work. It took hours—it was a huge piece, and it would have been one of the best I'd ever done. Even to this day, still. One of my best." Namjoon paused in his story; Hoseok had watched as his gaze moved to settle on his ear, not looking at him anymore, and he could feel the mood in the basement room seem to shift a few degrees cooler. He hadn't expected a sad story, but it seemed now that he was wrong.

"Would have been?" Hoseok repeated, his tone quieter this time, gentler.

"It was too much," Namjoon said, quickly, wanting to get the words out as fast as he could. "His body couldn't take the sheer amount of magick I'd put into him—it was beyond him." He flicked his eyes to meet Hoseok's for a brief, fleeting second. "It killed him."

Hoseok felt the words like a stab in the gut—it wasn't what he'd thought Namjoon would say. Something so terrible had been so far from his mind—he'd expected a stupid reason, or even a petty one—but this was beyond a legitimate reason not to tattoo, and he had no idea what to say.

"I'm—" Hoseok tried, licking his lips even though his mouth felt incredibly dry. "I'm sorry."

Namjoon rubbed his hands together, lowering his line of sight to the floor before lifting his hands in a noncommittal shrugging gesture, parting them palms-out. He clasped them again, this time shrugging his shoulders. "I am too." He took a deep breath. "But this is why—this is why I will not tattoo you with imbued ink. I'm not risking it happening again. I only imbue witches who I know are capable of handling what I put into their bodies. And I can't trust that of you yet."

Hoseok took a deep breath too, nodding as he did; he pushed himself up from the chair to stand, looking down at Namjoon. "Then I'll come back after I'm not an apprentice anymore." He grinned, his own mood seeming to lift Namjoon's, even though he didn't feel like being happy in that moment. "We'll talk then."

Namjoon wanted to reply—he really tried to get the words out—but Hoseok had turned on his heel and left, hopping up the stairs before he could say anything else. Jimin's handful was starting to become Namjoon's own, and he really would have preferred that not to happen.

"So are you gonna tattoo that guy?" Jeongguk asked, after Namjoon finally emerged from the basement. Hoseok had gone up earlier, but Namjoon remained on his stool, trying to make sense of...whatever the hell that had even been. Hoseok had taken it all with a bit too much grace for someone who had just been told he wasn't allowed to have what he wanted.

"No," Namjoon said, coming up behind Jeongguk to take a look at the sleeve he was still working on. "That looks great."

"Sick, right?" Jeongguk asked, lifting the needles from his client's skin and turning to look up at Namjoon. "Thanks." He returned to his work, and Namjoon was grateful—he was able to spend the rest of the evening, save when he had to talk to a couple of walk-ins, wondering when Jimin would declare Hoseok finished with his apprenticeship.

It wouldn't take much longer, he would find out—

A couple of months passed, wherein he and Jimin met at the bar for drinks with increasing frequency, though he never mentioned Hoseok's transition from apprentice to witch. Namjoon would ask sometimes, trying to keep his tone light and the questions few and far between, but Jimin tended to enjoy giving him a knowing look whenever he replied, and Namjoon cursed himself for being centuries-old friends with someone as intuitive as Park Jimin.

The weather had just begun to turn cold when Hoseok reappeared, green bomber jacket draped over his shoulders, in the doorway of the tattoo shop.

For some reason, Namjoon was glad that Jeongguk was in the back, music blaring and probably damaging his hearing—millennials, honestly—and the feeling only intensified as Hoseok stepped in, still minding the boundary of the counter.

"Hi," he said, before Namjoon could speak. He leaned both elbows on the ledge, resting his chin on his hands. "Guess who's a big boy witch now?"

Namjoon didn't bother looking over his shoulder to make sure that Jeongguk was still in the back room—he would be able to sense him approaching, especially now that Hoseok had him on his guard. "Jimin finally cut you loose?" he asked, trying to mirror Hoseok's confident cockiness, but not quite sure he achieved it.

"Yep," Hoseok replied, grinning. He straightened up. "So, I was thinking maybe a sleeve—"

Namjoon snickered, trying to keep himself focused—if Hoseok was manipulating the energy of the room, which he was beginning to comprehend, then he would need to keep his wits about him. "I never said I would tattoo you."

Hoseok looked taken aback just long enough for Namjoon to feel satisfaction, and then he was right back on his game—or, trying to be, anyway. "You never said you wouldn't."

Namjoon chuckled, not meaning to sound derisive but not managing much else. "That's literally the only thing I said to you."

Hoseok's cheeks hollowed, the polar opposite of their normal roundness, as he sucked them in. "Well, that was back when I was an apprentice."

Namjoon laughed—but this time, it was a bit more good-natured, and Hoseok let himself relax.

"We can discuss exactly what you want," Namjoon said carefully, already knowing that a slip of the tongue could get him into a position that he definitely didn't want to be in.

"I know what I want," Hoseok insisted, standing up as straight as he could, ready to shrug his jacket off to point at different areas of his arm, but Namjoon stopped him.

"Not here," he said. "Go downstairs, I'll be right there, ok?"

Hoseok nodded once to him, slipping past—at close range, Namjoon could feel the way he altered his perception of the mood between them. He was powerful—he might be able to handle more ink than someone else of his age, but Namjoon would have to explain that he would need to assess that prior to putting needles to his skin.

Rounding the doorframe to the back room, Namjoon found Jeongguk in exactly the same position he'd last seen him: Head back, eyes closed, doing permanent damage to his eardrums. He'd tucked each foot beneath the opposite knee—Namjoon had no idea how the kid managed to keep his balance poised on top of that stool, but that was inconsequential. Namjoon needed him to sit up front.

"Hey, Guk?" he asked, knocking on the wall. It took a moment for Jeongguk to open one eye, peeking at him, but once he saw Namjoon standing there, he lifted a hand to pluck one of the earbuds out.

"'Sup?"

Namjoon sighed internally at the way actual words and phrases had fallen out of the common vernacular, but actually answered the question. "I have an appointment downstairs," he said. Even as Jeongguk unfolded his legs to stand, Namjoon asked, "Do you mind sitting up front?"

"Sure thing," he said, nodding to the witch, then following him back up to the front of the shop. They branched off when they reached it, Jeongguk heading outside to sit in the cool evening air, Namjoon turning to his right to follow after Hoseok.

When he arrived in the basement, Hoseok wasn't in the chair like he'd expected him to be—he was standing by Namjoon's supply cabinet, examining the glass bottles and flasks of ink that he stored there. Before Namjoon could scold him, Hoseok turned, the ink sloshing a little in the bottle.

"This is copper, right?" he asked, and Namjoon considered that maybe he should be impressed that he could tell, before remembering that he'd been using Jimin's magick tattoos for probably most of his witching exploits, up until just recently, so he had some experience with imbued inks.

"Yes," Namjoon replied, already feeling a bit better about tattooing him, but knowing that at least some of it was Hoseok's influence. "Did Jimin teach you mood manipulation?"

"I thought we were here to talk about my tattoo," Hoseok said.

"We are." Namjoon reached out to take the bottle of copper-infused ink from Hoseok. "But I need to evaluate whether I even want to give you one, which means you need to answer my questions."

Hoseok's eyes dipped down to the bottle, still clutched in Namjoon's hands, but he nodded and stepped around him, taking his seat back in the chair set in the middle of the room. "I don't like to call it manipulation," Hoseok said, beginning to explain. "That makes it sound...not so nice. I like saying I'm an influencer instead."

"Did Jimin teach you?" Namjoon repeated his question.

"No," Hoseok answered, tucking one of his legs up, foot on the chair—though at Namjoon's disdainful look he lowered it again. "No, I've actually been able to do this since I was a little kid. My friends and cousins and stuff all said we were spoiled because my parents would buy me anything I wanted, but my sister knew the truth and never told on me as long as I used it to get her stuff too." He grinned, like it was clever. Namjoon remained silent, wanting him to continue. "Anyway, he didn't teach me—he just helped me hone it into exactly what I needed. Although, I guess you're too powerful to really be influenced by it that much."

"To be manipulated by it, I think would qualify in this specific situation," Namjoon said, smirking. Hoseok smirked back at him, and Namjoon felt that they would come to an understanding after a bit more discussion. He turned, placing the copper ink back in the cabinet, then took his seat on the stool. "What were you thinking for your piece?"

"I was thinking of platinum and gallium inks," Hoseok said, and Namjoon was surprised—he'd meant design-wise. He certainly hadn't expected Hoseok to cite metals straight off the bat. "Platinum, because it would enhance my foresight—which way I should influence a certain mood, which is super useful—and gallium, 'cause it enhances intelligence and the way people perceive reality."

Namjoon's mouth had opened of its own accord, shocked that Hoseok actually seemed to have done research on his trade. "Did Jimin suggest those to you?"

"Nope," Hoseok said, shaking his head, clearly smug; he was proud of himself. "I've been a real witch for a couple months now—but I decided to get to know what the fuck I was asking for before I came to ask for it. Figured you'd like that better—and if your dropped jaw is anything to go by, I think I was right."

"I'm definitely surprised," Namjoon said. "In a good way."

"In the best way?" Hoseok wheedled, ginning when Namjoon didn't say no. He didn't say yes, either, but he didn't say no.

Namjoon decided that the easiest times to work with Hoseok were when Jeongguk was otherwise occupied. He didn't ever ask too many questions about Namjoon's basement tattooing, but he did know that if he kept on bringing the same client down there, Jeongguk would catch on that there was no tattooing happening. It was best to bring him in when Jeongguk was drawing in the back, or, even better—after hours at the shop.

Jeongguk must have thought he was pulling late nights, or at the very least had decided to lock up every night, because Namjoon would always hang back after he was ready to leave. It was then that he'd sneak Hoseok into the shop—with the security gates pulled down over the front windows and door, they could sit in the shop proper. The lighting was better, and truthfully there was less magick in the air to interfere with Namjoon's assessment.

The first time he'd had Hoseok in late, they'd just talked again. Namjoon asked him about what he wanted, and why—just more in depth questions about his reasons. Truthfully, they held no bearing on his magickal capabilities—he just had to determine if Hoseok was someone he wanted to tattoo.

The answer, he’d found, was a resounding yes. Hoseok, even for someone who had been an apprentice only recently, seemed decades older. Namjoon was certain that Jimin had something to do with that, really—witches as old as they were carried themselves a certain way, and tended to transfer that to their students. Hoseok liked to crack wise—but he knew when it was appropriate, and when it wasn't. Well, mostly.

"Evening, Ink Master," Hoseok said, slipping into the shop as soon as Jeongguk had left for the night. "Got any more questions for me?"

"As much as I absolutely love hearing you talk," Namjoon said, sparing a glance toward the front windows; the security gates lowered and locked themselves behind him, and they were granted privacy from prying, nonmagick eyes. "No."

"Does that mean—" Hoseok managed to say, before Namjoon cut him off.

"No," he repeated. "No. But you're one step closer. I'm going to feel how much magick you can handle."

"Oh yeah?" Hoseok asked, leaning against the counter beside where Namjoon was standing, his arms crossed over his chest as he raised his eyebrows a few times. "Gonna feel me up?"

"If you'll take a seat," Namjoon said, gesturing to the chair set up at his station, and completely ignoring his suggestive question.

Hoseok did as he was asked, rounding Namjoon and tossing himself, none-too-gracefully, into the seat. Namjoon strode over, taking in the way Hoseok looked as though he was lounging there. He sat down next to him, locking the rolling stool in place with his heel, then reached out his hands. Hoseok looked at them, then up at his face.

"Jimin mentioned you were a romantic."

"Can you be serious for once?" Namjoon asked, knowing that Hoseok could read the spike of annoyance without his tone giving it away. "Please."

"Sorry," Hoseok replied, reaching out and taking Namjoon's hands. He closed his eyes, holding them, feeling the magick coursing through Hoseok's body. He had been right—he was powerful, especially for someone so young, but Namjoon needed to get a read on exactly how much so, before he would risk touching him with a tattoo machine.

To his credit, Hoseok allowed the handholding to continue for a long while before he questioned it, much less moved at all. He cleared his throat—and Namjoon promptly ignored him, shifting his grip just a little, his first two fingers pressing against Hoseok's wrist, his thumbs curled around his palms.

Another cough, and Namjoon tilted his head to the side just a touch, but didn't respond. He was too in tune with Hoseok's magick, concentrating too hard to break it because someone didn't like holding hands with another man—

"A-hem," Hoseok said out loud, not bothering to pretend there was a tickle in his throat but instead demanding Namjoon's attention.

"What?" Namjoon snapped, opening his eyes and furrowing his brow.

"Is it working?" Hoseok asked, puckering his lips as he studied their still-linked hands.

"Yes," Namjoon said, unintentionally squeezing Hoseok's wrists. "Let me concentrate, please."

"Hooo-kay," Hoseok whistled out, letting his arms fall limp again, secure in their position by Namjoon's strong hold.

The elder witch closed his eyes again, studying the way Hoseok's body held its magick, the way it moved as he used it—

He paused, feeling the familiar swell around him, as magick was expended.

Why was Hoseok using magick?

Opening his eyes, Namjoon understood immediately. Hoseok looked softer, the lighting seeming to have dimmed around them, and it was barely a split second before he realized that Hoseok was altering the mood of the room.

"What are you doing?" Namjoon asked, feeling his chest flutter as Hoseok looked up at him, his bangs falling over his forehead, eyes blinking slow and coy.

"Whatever do you mean?" Hoseok asked in return, and his tone was playful, flirtatious. Namjoon's throat tightened as Hoseok's fingers brushed against his palms.

"Stop that," Namjoon said, suppressing the urge to giggle like a schoolgirl as the realization hit him again that he was holding both of Hoseok's hands.

"But Ink Master-nim," Hoseok said, raising the pitch of his voice. "You make my heart go bangya bangya."

With a final look (which didn't come across half as scathing as Namjoon wanted), he pulled their hands apart. Ignoring the part of himself that ached at the loss of physical contact, he huffed and tried to moved backwards and away on his stool—which was still locked into place. Namjoon lost his balance and, overcompensating, leaned forward, almost landing on top of Hoseok, just managing to brace himself on the arms of the chair.

"God damn it," Namjoon said, pushing himself upright as Hoseok collapsed in a fit of laughter, the modified mood dissipating around them. "You are so—"

"Charming?" Hoseok asked, grinning up at Namjoon.

"Obnoxious," he corrected, shaking his hands out—he could still feel Hoseok's power, and it had certainly made an impression.

"But I can handle a tattoo, right?" For the first time since he'd walked in, Hoseok looked serious. Namjoon wished desperately that he could act less childish more often, but the fact remained that someone, especially someone who could bewitch him—was something special.

"Yeah," Namjoon said, after a moment, despite how badly he wanted to deny Hoseok. But Jimin had been right—he was immensely powerful, and he would likely only benefit from tattoos. It wouldn't do for Namjoon to hold him back—he might have felt like he had a responsibility to Hoseok, as a witch, to help him. "You can definitely handle one."

"When?" Hoseok asked, a smile threatening to appear, tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"Let's talk design," Namjoon said, the statement an answer in and of itself.

Chapter Text

Hoseok had ended up letting Namjoon have free rein, mostly, on his tattoo. The longer they'd discussed it, the clearer it became, to Namjoon at least, that Hoseok already had a focus in mind, even if he himself wasn't aware of it: Empathy. Hoseok was so in tune with his own emotions—really, he had to be—but part of his skill set, that Jimin had surely nurtured, was his ability to read other people's too. His tattoo, imbued with gallium and platinum, would only enable him to do just that, and then some.

"I'll mix some copper in your ink, too," Namjoon said. It was after hours, Jeongguk long gone, and Hoseok was sitting in the chair again, loose tank top draped over his form.

"Sounds good," Hoseok replied, not looking up at Namjoon as he readied everything he'd need—he was studying the intricate stencil Namjoon had placed on him. It was a tree branch, dotted with leaves here and there, more in some places, less in others. He would be using imbued ink and regular ink as well, so the tattoo would remain visible and permanent, even when he'd used up his magickal ink.

"I'm going to line everything in normal ink first," Namjoon explained, sitting down beside him. "If you need to stop or take a break, let me know."

"I think I'll be fine," Hoseok said, chuckling. Namjoon knew that witches, sometimes, would numb the pain with magick. He expected Hoseok to do the same. The upside was that it allowed Namjoon to tattoo uninterrupted and quickly, finishing a piece in a substantially shorter time than a regular one on a nonmagick person.

Hoseok remained still, eyes closed, letting Namjoon concentrate as he lined the tattoo. They'd blocked out the entire night, wanting to get the lines finished to let them heal before tackling the shading, and magick ink, another day.

With one last swipe of the paper towel, Namjoon set down his machine. "Done, I think..." he said, leaning closer and dabbing at the tattoo, inspecting his linework. He didn't work faster than the average artist, but working uninhibited on someone who didn't move at all, not even a twitch, definitely helped.

"I'm sure you'll heal this up," Namjoon said, "and the antimony will help with that, too, but I want to give your body a couple weeks before I touch this again."

"Do I need that long?" Hoseok asked. He tucked his chin to his shoulder, watching as Namjoon cleaned off his arm, the black lines vivid in his skin, each one pulled with care, stitched together with the others to weave a flawless tattoo—one that only someone with decades of experience could pull off.

"Probably not," Namjoon answered honestly. "But we're going to wait that long, because I'm the Ink Master and I say so."

"You're—" Hoseok started, but broke off to laugh. Namjoon smiled, glad that Hoseok thought his wisecrack had been funny. "Glad you're finally lightening up."

Namjoon didn't reply, instead taping up Hoseok's arm with plastic wrap. "Wash this in a few hours—"

"I know how it works," Hoseok interrupted him, drawing a scowl from Namjoon. "Jimin went over it with me a million times."

"Then I'll see you in two weeks," Namjoon said, slapping some aftercare and a little sheet of instructions into Hoseok's palm, and grinning at him as he left the shop.

Jeongguk was still in the shop when Hoseok returned—they’d expected him to be, though, because Namjoon wanted as much time to work on the tattoo as he could. Hoseok entered, the door clanging shut behind him as he did, and Jeongguk glanced up. He’d just opened his mouth to greet him, when he noticed the black lines on his arm, and he changed tack.

“When the hell did you get that done?” he asked, realizing that it might not have been the most tactful question—it wasn’t like he knew this guy, and maybe he shouldn’t have assumed that he knew Namjoon’s business. What happened in the basement stayed in the basement.

“Couple weeks ago,” Hoseok said. “Namjoon gave me a...private session.”

“Enough with that,” Namjoon said, appearing from the stairway just as he spoke. “Get down here.”

“Someday you’ll really get me to believe you’re a witch,” Jeongguk said, as Hoseok slid past Namjoon to head downstairs. “You’re too weird not to be.”

Namjoon only grinned at him, throwing a wink in for good measure before he closed the door, blocking off the light and sounds from the shop proper, heading down after Hoseok. When he arrived, the air around him was already thick with magick—Hoseok was excited, and the mood of the room matched. Namjoon couldn’t help but get wrapped up in it, smiling despite himself.

“Ready?” he asked, crossing to the cabinet that housed his magick ink. He mixed some for Hoseok especially, enough to shade the entire tattoo with it, each of the metals mingling together in the bottle. He’d store it for his next refill, too, as long as Hoseok was satisfied with the piece and wanted to return to him.

“I’ve been ready since the day I met you,” Hoseok replied, meeting Namjoon’s eyes before settling himself back in the chair. It wasn’t the bratty remark that it might have been any other day—Hoseok didn’t even crack a smile. He was serious—he was ready.

“Let me know if you need to take a break,” Namjoon said, readying his machine as he leaned forward, bending himself closer to Hoseok and beginning to tattoo him, bringing the branch and leaves on his skin to life.

For his part, Hoseok closed his eyes, relaxing himself and his body using a spell, numbing the pain just as he’d done the first time. It made things easier—for himself and Namjoon—and he was eager for it to be finished as soon as possible.

Namjoon worked diligently, each pass of the needles exactly where he needed it to be, the shading perfect. Even though he would need to repeat it after Hoseok had used up his ink, Namjoon still wanted it to look good. It was there for a useful purpose, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be aesthetically pleasing, too.

They’d both lost track of time, of how many hours they sat down there, but as Namjoon tattooed, he could feel Hoseok’s energy growing, his strength climbing, imbued with the metals he’d chosen—and Namjoon felt himself getting attached. It wasn’t uncommon for him to feel that way about a client, especially when they had a focus or interest in mood magick, but there was something else about Hoseok that drew Namjoon to him. He was a pain in the ass—that was without question—but he was a talented witch, if his time with Jimin proved anything, and he would only get stronger as he aged.

It almost pained him to admit it, but Namjoon could see a lot of himself in Hoseok—he’d matured with age, but he was sure that when he was an apprentice he was just as annoying as Hoseok was, his own master witch undoubtedly irritated by him more often than not.

But on the other hand, he would do good. Maybe that was bold of Namjoon to think they had in common, but he’d begun to believe that despite what had happened with Hoseong, he could become a good person again, a good witch. He could stop letting tragedy hold him back—but still honor Hoseong’s memory by helping others.

It didn’t do to let his mind wander while tattooing, so he pulled himself back to concentrate on it, shading a leaf along its center vein as the door to the stairway opened. Jeongguk knew that he wasn’t supposed to come downstairs—so he just yelled.

“Joon hyung?” he called. “I’m leaving. You good down there?”

“Good,” Namjoon shouted back, watching as Hoseok’s eyes slid open slowly, meeting his. The mood shifted again, and Namjoon knew that it wasn’t a game this time—Hoseok genuinely felt warm and thankful, the room filling with the feeling of it—and Namjoon’s chest shifted to match. This young witch—he was something special.

“I’m gonna lock up up here then,” Jeongguk said. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you,” Namjoon echoed, his hands frozen in place, not looking away from Hoseok’s face. He’d been joking when he charged the air with romance, changing the mood all those weeks ago—Namjoon was sure he’d been joking—but whatever he was doing now, it wasn’t a joke. It was sincere. Namjoon could tell—he’d felt it before Hoseok had influenced the mood to be anything else.

Upstairs, they heard the radio shut off, the silence just as loud, and then the security gates clanging closed. Jeongguk was gone, and they were alone.

“Almost finished?” Hoseok asked, breaking the silence and looking at his arm. Namjoon hadn’t moved in a minute or so, and he shook his head to bring himself back to the present.

“Almost,” he answered, studying Hoseok’s face. It felt, strangely, that he was seeing him for the first time—he was the witch he was supposed to be, with the tattoo now on his arm, his magick only enhanced by the ink Namjoon had put into him.

“Everything ok?” Hoseok tilted his head to the side a little bit, gaze roving over Namjoon’s face just the same.

“Yeah,” Namjoon said, taking a breath, then lowering his face to look at Hoseok’s arm, starting up his tattoo machine again. They really were nearly finished, even though it had been hours—more than he’d realized, if Jeongguk leaving was any indication—but he needed to make sure everything on Hoseok’s arm looked as it should.

He only shaded a few more spots, taking care not to lean too heavily into his skin, and the next time he wiped Hoseok’s arm with the already half blackened paper towel, he deemed the tattoo finished.

“Take a look,” Namjoon said, rolling his stool back and gesturing to the mirror on the side of the cabinet. “Let me know what you think.”

“I feel so—good,” Hoseok said, laughing a little—Namjoon even felt mirth bubble up in his chest, and it made him feel good too. He went about cleaning up, stoppering the bottle of Hoseok’s ink and putting his machine away, while Hoseok pushed himself out of the chair and stepped over to the mirror. He held his arm out, tracing each line in his skin as he looked. It was almost entirely healed already—the perks of being a witch—and he turned around to face Namjoon, just as the elder witch stood up himself.

“How much do I owe you?” Hoseok asked, wondering if it would be monetary or some kind of magickal favor to be repaid later. The mood of the room was entirely euphoric—Hoseok was beyond thrilled, and his power was amped up just by the tattoo that he’d just been given. It was a lot to get used to—it made sense that he couldn’t control it all to well just yet.

“First one’s on me,” Namjoon said, shifting his weight from foot to foot—he hadn’t felt this jumpy in years, but he’d forgotten how much he liked it, and he didn’t want it to dissipate.

“Oh yeah?” Hoseok asked, his head leaning to the side again, hands on his hips. His tank top was too loose on him, Namjoon thought—from the angle he was at, he could see into one of the overly large arm holes, see the expanse of Hoseok’s slender torso and waist—and it wasn’t lost on Hoseok, reading him like a goddamn book. “I could be on you, too.”

Make that a pulp romance novel.

“Ok,” Namjoon said, not quite sure what he even meant by it. Ok like—yes please? Or, ok like—wait a second?

It seemed to give Hoseok pause too, because he clasped his hands together, cracking his knuckles. “I’m trying not to change the mood in here too much, but just, like, tell me if I’m being out of line or anything.”

Namjoon held his gaze, staring into his eyes even as he shuffled closer, bootsoles echoing over the concrete floor beneath them. He didn’t stop until he was in Namjoon’s personal space, nearly right up against him, and their height difference wasn’t really enough for Namjoon to have to angle his face down as Hoseok turned his up, and then they were kissing, and Namjoon knew that it had absolutely nothing to do with Hoseok’s magick focus—it was all them. Just them.

One of his hands came up to Hoseok’s side—it slipped unintentionally beneath his shirt, his palm touching bare skin, as Hoseok leaned into him a bit more, their lips moving together until Namjoon licked over his lower lip, parting them for him and deepening the kiss. Hoseok’s hands were on him too, touching his back, and then their noses were brushing together as he pulled back.

“You—What are—That—” Namjoon stammered, unsure of which question he wanted to ask, so he began them all and finished none.

“I mean,” Hoseok said, and Namjoon felt the mood dampen just a little, like Hoseok was suddenly self-conscious. “You’re, like, a super big deal? I’ve wanted a tattoo from you since—since I found out that that was even a thing witches did. And, like, then meeting you, and, I was flirting with you this whole time, just...on the off chance you’d be receptive, and you never really blew me off, so I just...took a shot.”

It was brave and brazen—not the way he spoke, but admitting all of it like he wasn’t afraid of Namjoon rebuffing him, even though it could have been a very real possibility. It could have, if not for the way that he’d totally kissed back. Namjoon licked his lower lip and nodded, looking around the basement room, before looking back at Hoseok.

“Maybe we should do this...elsewhere?” he asked, and Hoseok looked up at him, the mood skyrocketing again, then evening out as he exercised control that he hadn’t needed to in years.

“Sorry,” Hoseok apologized, clearly flustered. “Not used to all...all this power, yet.”

Namjoon smirked, reaching out to let his hand smooth over Hoseok’s bare arm, feeling the power coursing through him, but also feeling the way Hoseok trembled, just a little, at his touch. “Let’s go.”

With a nod and a smile, Hoseok followed him up the stairs, waiting patiently (but bobbing up and down on his toes) as Namjoon closed up the shop again.

The witch neighborhood was active, even at the late hour. Of course it was—that was one of the witch stereotypes that tended to be true, for the most part—but Namjoon ignored the cafés open late, only for certain customers, and passed by the shops that were nonmagick-friendly during sun-up and turned into something completely different after nightfall.

"You live around here?" Hoseok asked, almost surprised.

"Is that strange to you?" Namjoon countered, turning to look over his shoulder at the young man trailing behind him.

"Well—kind of?" Hoseok said. Namjoon looked back at him again, questioning that answer, so Hoseok explained. "You just tried for so long to be—I don't know, nonmagick? That I just didn't expect you to actually live in a magick area."

Namjoon huffed an amused snort of laughter through his nose, stopping before what appeared to be a run-down brownstone. "Hard to get away from your roots." He hopped up the steps of the porch, and Hoseok hung back, frowning.

"You live here?"

"You of all people should know looks can be deceiving. Do you think Jimin and I would look like this if not for magick, really? Come." Namjoon opened the door—the inside appeared to be pitch dark, only ambient light from the street outside illuminating the foyer, if that was what it was. Hoseok didn't like the look of it—but Jimin trusted Namjoon, and Hoseok trusted Jimin, and that was good enough for him.

Namjoon stepped in first, all but disappearing into the darkness—Hoseok could just barely see his silhouette, until he crossed the threshold too, and then he saw exactly what Namjoon meant.

The entrance had been bewitched, because the brownstone no longer looked derelict and empty—it was brightly lit and finely furnished, not quite to Hoseok's taste, but Namjoon had been alive for centuries, so. Hoseok supposed his tastes were a bit more refined. Not completely, though—he had brought home a twenty-something who hadn't stopped flirting with him since day one.

"It's to keep out anyone I don't want here," Namjoon explained, shutting the door and flicking one finger at it—it locked, sealing itself shut with magick. "If anyone enters without my invitation, they find themself in a situation they'd...rather not be in."

Hoseok blinked. "You send them to a haunted house or something, don't you?"

Namjoon almost kept a straight face, but then he grinned. "I mean, it's not real—"

"You send people you don't like to a fucking haunted house," Hoseok said, on the verge of laughing now. "Oh my god, you absolute dick."

"It's not real," Namjoon repeated, watching as Hoseok laughed, shaking his head at the very idea.

"I love it," the younger witch decided eventually. "Hey, can I bring Jimin over sometime and watch as he loses his shit trying to escape?"

"Jimin is powerful enough to get out of—" Namjoon began, but stopped himself. "This is not—why we're here."

Hoseok's laughter died away, and he met Namjoon's eyes. "Right. Right. Hey, if we walk into your bedroom does it take us to your kinky sex dungeon—"

"I can make you forget you were ever here, you know," Namjoon threatened—and it was an empty one, too, because Hoseok stepped closer, and Namjoon didn't move away, didn't even look away. Hoseok's hands found his back again, pressing close to him, holding them together as they kissed. It wasn't rushed, their lips moving together slowly, Hoseok's fingertips digging points into Namjoon's shirt. They could both feel the rush of it, the way Hoseok's magick worked—not changing the mood this time, but enhancing it, both of them feeling things more strongly than they might have normally.

"Up—stairs," Namjoon tried to get out in one, but failed because Hoseok had kissed him one last time in the middle of the word. They climbed them together, not quite hurrying, and once they were back on an even footing, Hoseok grabbed Namjoon's wrist, turning him back to face him. Their lips met again, and this time Hoseok licked into Namjoon's mouth, kissing him deeply right away—it was like he simply couldn't stand to be apart from Namjoon now that he had him right at his fingertips.

Namjoon weakened under his touch, both hands slipping inside of Hoseok's shirt to glide over his bare skin, feeling his warmth and softness, though he was slim enough that Namjoon felt the jut of his ribs as he caressed him.

Hoseok bumped him back against the wall, just narrowly missing the large, antique grandfather clock that he'd been gifted by an old lover a couple hundred years prior: a rich woman who had taken to Namjoon when he was able to cure her illnesses with magick (not that she knew that)—and bed her better than her husband ever had, if what she'd told him was true.

But she—and the clock—were of negligible concern when Hoseok had him pinned to a wall, their hips tight together, jeans rubbing as Hoseok ground his front forward against Namjoon. He kept his palms flat against the younger witch's back, holding him close as he slid them down, fingertips just slipping into the waistband of his jeans.

"Where's your—your sex dungeon?" Hoseok asked, breathing out a laugh, and Namjoon chuckled too, even though it was ridiculous.

"This way," he said, but before he let Hoseok move away, he gave him another languid kiss, their mouths lingering together. Namjoon wanted to memorize the feeling of it, the way Hoseok tasted and the way it felt when his lips parted to let him in. It took another few moments for them to gather themselves enough to move, but when they did, Hoseok wrapped his fingers around Namjoon's wrist again, clinging to him. Namjoon shifted his arm, letting Hoseok hold his hand instead, and pulled him through a drawing room, straight down a short hall, before finally reaching his bedroom.

"Not what I expected," Hoseok said, standing in the doorway. It looked modern—sleek black furniture, clearly handmade, but not dated the way the grandfather clock or the furniture in the foyer had been. He probably could have bought it in a store, all as a set.

"If it was a sex dungeon, wouldn't it be below ground?" Namjoon asked, leaving Hoseok as he stepped a bit further into the room.

"No, I just mean—you're clearly Old-School Witch over here," Hoseok explained. "But this looks like it came out of a catalogue." He paused. "It did, didn't it. Oh my god, you're such a boring adult."

"Do you ever get tired of insulting me?" Namjoon asked—and, in an effort to try and distract Hoseok, pulled his shirt off. He wasn't as toned as he'd been, once, but he still had a fairly nice body, and he figured Hoseok wouldn't mind terribly given that he'd clearly had a crush on Namjoon for longer than he would admit.

"Not really," Hoseok answered, but Namjoon's attempt at distraction had worked—Hoseok's eyes slid down over his body, scanning the tattoos on Namjoon's form, hungry to take them all in. Namjoon felt the room slide from vague yet vested interest to something a bit hotter, a bit more eager. Hoseok was very, very bad at concealing how he felt, and Namjoon liked it.

"Come," Namjoon said, gesturing for Hoseok to move closer with one finger. He did, as Namjoon sat on the edge of his bed, legs spread wide for Hoseok to stand between, and once he was close enough, Namjoon pushed the hem of the tank top up. "Take this off."

Hoseok did as he was told, stripping it off of himself and dropping it to the floor. He made to climb on top of Namjoon, but strong hands held him in place; he looked down in time to see Namjoon leaning forward to kiss him, lips moving over his stomach and then chest as Namjoon arched himself up. It wasn't overly easy to reach, Namjoon realized—he slid himself back, this time letting Hoseok straddle him, hands on his shoulders as leverage to keep his back as straight as he could. Namjoon ducked his head, kissing Hoseok everywhere he could reach—his neck, shoulders, chest, mouth dragging over him slowly, lower lip catching on his nipples to give them small, fleeting sucks before he moved on.

Namjoon could tell from the way Hoseok was squirming on his lap that his entire body felt lit up. He was tensing and clenching his thighs until finally he let his knees slide apart, dropping himself down on top of Namjoon. He rolled their hips together, slow and purposefully, as he took Namjoon's mouth in a kiss again. Namjoon opened up for him immediately, letting Hoseok in as small whimpers and whines passed between them the longer their still-clothed cocks ground together.

"Mm," Namjoon hummed, pulling away, letting his hands drop to Hoseok's hips, trying to still him and not quite managing it. "Let's—let's move."

Hoseok licked Namjoon's lower lip, sucking it into his mouth to kiss him more—but Namjoon pulled back, this time keeping Hoseok from moving.

"Let's get these off you first," Namjoon said, sliding his hands around to Hoseok's front, unbuckling the belt he was wearing, smirking a little at the pyramid spikes on it. He remembered when these first came into style. "I didn't know these were still a thing."

"Can't beat a classic," Hoseok replied—a classic to him, perhaps, but Namjoon wasn't sure he'd ever seen the appeal. Once the belt was out of his way, he worked on Hoseok's button and fly, working his jeans down until the younger man slipped right out of his hands, standing up near the side of the bed, undressing himself. He crouched down, untying his boots, and when he stood again, kicked them off along with his jeans, leaving his form-fitting underwear which really left nothing to the imagination. "Well?"

Namjoon didn't listen to him, at first, taking in the way Hoseok looked. He was slender, but Namjoon had felt the muscles in his arm, flexing as he tattooed, and he could see how strong his legs were—he wasn't too thin to have the slightest outline of abs on his front, either—he wanted to feel Hoseok against him—

"Show me yours, I'll show you mine," Hoseok said, pulling Namjoon's attention back to his face—he was smirking, one corner of his mouth pulled upward. He liked to test Namjoon and his patience, and Namjoon liked to shut him down.

Standing, their fronts almost flush, Namjoon was glad to see the smirk melt away from Hoseok's mouth. Throwing him off his game would be so much fucking fun, he could tell already. Namjoon lowered his hands to his own jeans, unbuttoning and unzipping them before pushing them down, wriggling just slightly as he worked them down around his thighs, pushing his briefs down too, then stepping out of the rest of his clothing to leave himself completely naked. He met Hoseok's eyes as he climbed back onto the bed, pushing himself toward the center this time, giving each of them an unobstructed view. "Well?" he asked, using the same intonation that Hoseok just had.

"You're funny," Hoseok said, clucking his tongue a little as he hooked his thumbs into the elastic of his underwear, giving Namjoon the up and down before bending at the waist and stepping out of them, kicking them away after they caught on one of his feet. He almost muttered a "sorry" just out of embarrassment, but he caught the way Namjoon was drinking him in first, luckily, and said nothing else.

Flicking his tongue out over the corner of his mouth, Namjoon changed his position, turning to lie back against his pillows, legs spread, and Hoseok didn't waste any time in clambering onto the bed too, settling himself down on top of Namjoon. He whined quietly as his cock slipped against Namjoon's, while the elder witch groaned softly, digging his heels into the bed and lifting himself up against Hoseok, wanting more contact and friction.

"Shit," Hoseok mumbled, propping himself up on his hands and knees, using what leverage he had to fuck his hips forward, sliding his length against Namjoon's; he dipped his head back, letting it rest against the pillows, and finally just wrapped his arms around Hoseok again.

He slid his hands down to his ass, palming at him while Hoseok rolled himself against Namjoon, catching his lips after a few failed attempts at a kiss—bowing his back, he worked their cocks against each other, kissing Namjoon, tongues sliding together. They were both getting hard as Hoseok bucked into him, and Namjoon whined as Hoseok sucked his tongue.

"Fuck me," Namjoon breathed out, quiet, almost like he was asking Hoseok if he even would, instead of saying it was what he wanted.

"I'll fuck you," Hoseok replied, not missing any of his confidence now that they were here, now that they were in it. He licked into Namjoon's mouth again, sucking his tongue and taking his time, wanting to savor every inch of Namjoon that he could. He'd stopped moving his hips, instead holding himself up with one hand, knees still pressing points into the bed, and lowered his other hand between their bodies.

"Hoseok," Namjoon gasped, feeling his hand gather both of their cocks together, holding them both as he fucked into the circle his hand made, their heated skin sliding, the friction intense from lack of lubrication. "Fuck, you little—"

"You love it," Hoseok said, cocky, and Namjoon felt the mood shift around them—he almost laughed, honestly, because Hoseok was so good at reading him it was a little disconcerting. The room felt safe and hot, everything Hoseok had in him turning it that way, wanting Namjoon to feel comfortable, especially if he was nervous about asking Hoseok to be the one doing the fucking. "Where is everything?" Hoseok asked, like his hand wasn't still wrapped around them, stroking them both off. His thumb swiped over the head their cocks one by one, slicking up his finger—and then his hand was gone.

Namjoon opened his mouth to answer the question, a little shock of pleasure still running through him at the teasing of his slit by Hoseok's thumb, but before he could speak, Hoseok was cupping his face.

"This first," he nearly cooed, and Namjoon looked from Hoseok's face to where the side of his thumb was resting against Namjoon's lower lip. Parting his lips further, he took Hoseok's thumb into his mouth, sucking the precome from his finger, tasting both of them mingling together. He swallowed, Hoseok withdrew his finger, and Namjoon licked his lips before answering his question.

"Side table drawer," he said, but he didn't even give Hoseok the time to climb off of him. Namjoon reached his right arm out to the side, letting it rest on his bedspread, but with a turn of his wrist, the items Hoseok had been asking about simply appeared beside them.

"And you people say my generation is lazy," Hoseok quipped, picking up the condom and dropping it on Namjoon's bare stomach. He reached for the lube next and snapped the cap open, squeezing some onto his fingers.

"Watch it," Namjoon said, half-hearted—Hoseok had just reached down between his legs, taking hold of his cock with his dry hand, giving it a small squeeze before lowering his other hand even further, one finger circling Namjoon's hole before pushing the tip in, just enough to open him up a little.

Namjoon parted his legs further, giving Hoseok more room as he bent his wrist, sliding his finger in. It didn't take long for Namjoon to loosen up enough for him to work two into him, scissoring them gently, gradually stretching him. Namjoon closed his eyes, turning his head this way and that, pressing it into the pillows behind him—he lived for the exact kind of treatment that Hoseok was giving him, and part of him wanted to expend some magick later on, just to give it to him just as good in return.

"That good?" Hoseok asked, tone teasing, and Namjoon felt a pull in his lower abdomen that had nothing to do with the way Hoseok was touching him.

"Yeah," Namjoon sighed, nodding, his hair brushing over the pillow and making the softest noise, barely audible over his breathing.

Hoseok settled himself a bit differently, sitting on his folded knees, as he fucked Namjoon with his fingers, parting them as he withdrew them, loosening his hole on each pass. Namjoon loved it—had missed the feeling of being full—and by the time Hoseok was teasing entrance with his third finger, Namjoon knew that they weren't going to stop after they finished, not the first time. Maybe not after the second time, either.

Namjoon lifted his hips, arching his back as Hoseok slipped his third finger into him, beginning to stroke his cock slowly, moving his hand up and down on his length. He grinned to himself as Namjoon gasped, inhaling sharply as Hoseok worked him open, stretching him on his fingers, until Namjoon was nodding and reaching down to take hold of his wrists, stopping him.

"I'm good," he sighed, letting go of Hoseok as he released Namjoon's cock and gently slid his fingers out of him. Namjoon's hands fell to his front, one hand curling around his own length, teasing the underside of the head with his fingertips, as Hoseok picked up the condom, tearing the wrapper.

He unrolled it onto his length, pinching the end before letting some lube drip directly onto his dick, slicking it up and leaning forward a little to position himself. Namjoon drew his legs up, exposing his ass to Hoseok; he let the head drag over his hole—it fluttered around him as he pushed in, carefully, not wanting to move too fast even though he'd taken his time stretching him for exactly this.

Namjoon arched himself up again, eyes closed as he reveled in the way Hoseok moved into him until he was fully seated, filling him up. His knees squeezed Hoseok's sides, ankles hooked together over his back, and Hoseok lowered his front to rest against Namjoon's, bracing himself on his knees as he did, rolling his hips backward only to fuck forward into him again. He took care not to be too rough, but he didn't go easy on Namjoon—he fucked him hard enough to jostle him on the bed, the bedspread wrinkling underneath them as they moved.

Short whimpers fell from Namjoon's lips—he was wrapped nearly entirely around Hoseok, clinging to him as they moved together; the slide of his cock in and out satisfied Namjoon in a way he hadn't been satisfied in so long. Hoseok was pressed right up against him, and it only took Namjoon lifting his head up, making eye contact with him, for Hoseok to take the hint—they kissed, hard, tongues moving together as Hoseok kept his hips moving against him, front slapping into his ass.

It didn't take long for Namjoon to start moving in tandem with Hoseok, lifting his ass up into him as Hoseok bucked down, meeting him on each thrust, pounding into him deeper every time. Hoseok broke the kiss, leaning his forehead against Namjoon's, panting against his cheek.

"Fuck," Hoseok moaned, slapping the pillow beside Namjoon with his hand, curling his fingers into a fist into it. "You're—really fucking tight for—" he paused, taking a shuddering breath "—for someone who's been getting fucked for centuries."

Namjoon clenched down on Hoseok, the friction between them delaying his response—but he came up with a good one, after a long moment. He only snickered, leaning up to kiss him, before mumbling something to himself. Hoseok either didn't hear or didn't think to question it, which was good—all good. Namjoon licked his lip, licking into Hoseok's mouth, and then curled two fingers on his left hand.

Hoseok's hips stuttered, and he met Namjoon's eyes, the glint of mischief there cluing him in. "Are you—" he asked, fucking forward into Namjoon as he felt it again, the feeling of two fingers brushing over his hole even though no one was touching him.

"Should I stop?" Namjoon asked, moving his index finger in a circle. Hoseok swallowed thickly, amazed at the sheer power and nuance Namjoon had, to be able to craft a spell to do this to him, but he shook his head.

"No," he breathed, well aware that Namjoon had snickered at his reaction, but not really caring either. He resumed his movements, fucking him slowly, shallowly, not moving out of him fully but instead thrusting back in to try and fuck Namjoon deeper, the whole while Namjoon using magick to open Hoseok up too. It was probably the weirdest thing Hoseok had ever done in his life—thus far, anyway—but he couldn't say he disliked it.

"Good," Namjoon moaned, still moving his fingers, parting them gingerly and feeling his chest swell when Hoseok faltered above him again, moaning himself at the sensation of being opened up on nothing but magick. "Don't st-stop, Hoseokie," he said, managing to keep his composure long enough to get the words out in a relatively even tone.

"I'm—" Hoseok tried, voice breaking as Namjoon tightened up around him. "I'm not," he finally said, his entire body trembling as Namjoon starting moving three fingers—he saw it out of the corner of his eye just as he felt it between his legs, his body being prepped for whatever Namjoon wanted to do to him after this. Vaguely, he registered Namjoon's free hand moving between their bodies, his cock trapped between them but still apparently needing attention.

It took some effort for Hoseok to push himself up to give Namjoon the room to touch himself, but once there was enough space, he felt Namjoon's hand moving quickly, his knuckles rubbing against Hoseok's front as he jerked himself off. Hoseok's entire body felt sensitive, no matter whether it was Namjoon's magick touch or his actual one, Hoseok shuddered, knowing he was so close to filling the condom, but wanting to hold off at least until Namjoon was close to his finish too.

Beneath him, Namjoon squeezed Hoseok's middle with his thighs, heels digging into his back as he bucked his hips up, chasing his orgasm—and then Hoseok felt it. His fingers went slack, the spell ending even though he'd been stretched—he could tell whatever Namjoon had done, worked—and now he was almost there, just like Hoseok—

Biting his lip, trying to keep himself together, Hoseok snapped his hips forward, fucking deep into Namjoon before pulling out, repeating the action, pistoning his hips into Namjoon's tight heat, the friction a goddamn blessing as he moved. Namjoon was gasping, his hand moving in short, quick jerks, wet with precome, as his other arm reaching to wrap around Hoseok, holding tight to him. Hoseok felt him come—the wetness on his stomach, the way Namjoon's ass squeezed around him, so fucking tight, his hand smearing semen over the both of them—and Hoseok was right behind him, spilling into the condom, grinding his hips against Namjoon's ass, wanting to feel him deeper, as Namjoon loosed a noise akin to a groan mixed with a sigh.

"Fuck..." Hoseok said, drawing out the word but trailing off to silence. He waited for Namjoon to relax his limbs before pulling out, pinching the condom around himself as he did, and once he was far enough away from Namjoon, he sat, easing it off and tying it. He'd just glanced up at Namjoon, wanting to know where he should toss it, when it vanished from his hand.

"Can you go again?" Namjoon asked, sitting up—slowly, and carefully, but moving himself nonetheless.

"Really?" Hoseok asked, just wanting to be sure. Namjoon fingering him open with magick was a nice touch, but he wasn't sure whether it would actually go anywhere—he had to admit, though, that he was thrilled by the prospect. He watched as Namjoon nodded, placing his hand flat against the bed. When he moved it away a second later, there was another condom where his palm had just been. "I mean, I'm good, but you—"

"If you're thinking about making another joke about my age, maybe think again." Namjoon held his gaze, then lifted his hand, making a loose fist with it, and Hoseok gasped as he felt pressure on his cock, like someone was jerking him off, but there was no hand there. "Now come here."

Hoseok whined quietly as the magick hand slipped off of his cock, and he crawled over to Namjoon. His stomach was clean, completely clear of the spunk, and once he put his hands on Hoseok, the mess on his stomach vanished too.

"You're too much with that," Hoseok mumbled, letting Namjoon move him onto his lap. He felt the familiar pull of sleep tugging at his mind, but when Namjoon leaned in to close the distance between them again, he felt invigorated. He wasn't sure if it was magick or the prospect of being the one on the receiving end this time, but Hoseok kissed him back with newfound fervor, their noses brushing as he tilted his head to the other side.

Namjoon let Hoseok take the lead, lips moving over his and letting him in to kiss deeper as he fumbled with the condom behind Hoseok's back. He tore the wrapper, tossing it aside as he pulled back and away, Hoseok leaning in to try and keep the kiss going, but Namjoon turned his head, smiling a little at how eager Hoseok still was.

"Relax," Namjoon said, as he rolled on the condom. "Or are you too young to have any kind of self-control?" He poured some lube into his hand, stroking it over his cock to ready himself for Hoseok.

"Ha ha," Hoseok laughed, deadpan, looking down between them as Namjoon’s hand worked over his own length, then situated himself back against his pillows again, splaying his hands out on Hoseok's hips, moving him up above his still-erect prick.

"Come," Namjoon said, sliding one hand to Hoseok's lower back, moving the other to his own cock, holding it steady for Hoseok to sit on. And he did, sucking in a breath—almost like he was unsure that it would really work when put to the test—but he slid right onto Namjoon, breath punched out as he took more of him right away than he'd meant to. But Namjoon's hands were on him now, guiding him further onto his cock, and Hoseok just let him do it. He moaned quietly, squeezing down on Namjoon, who rolled his hips up into Hoseok but otherwise stayed still.

Hoseok took the hint—he moved his shaky hands to Namjoon's shoulders, leaning over him as he moved, fucking himself on Namjoon's cock, taking care not to pull too far off of him so they would stay joined together. He bounced on Namjoon's cock, rolling his hips; his own dick was trapped between them this time, the pressure and friction on it enough to push him closer to his second orgasm, still sensitive from the first one.

Neither of them seemed able to last very long, still overstimulated from the first time—Namjoon spread his legs, wanting to ground himself for when he lifted his hips, letting Hoseok's weight drive him further onto his cock as he did. He fucked up into Hoseok, feet flat against the bed, as Hoseok pulled off of him, just enough to feel it when he sank back down. His back arched away from Namjoon, breath puffing out in short pants.

"Hoseokie," Namjoon said, his voice low and dark, soft like velvet. Hoseok's hands tightened around his shoulders—he was close, already, he could tell, and without even thinking, he changed the mood in the room to one of urgency, of needing to get off as quickly as he fucking could, because that was how wound up he felt.

Loosing a soft groan, Hoseok squeezed his eyes shut, riding Namjoon as he moved his hips faster, wrapped up by what Hoseok was doing with his magick—he was close, too, and he sat up, changing the angle he was at inside of Hoseok, pulling him in to kiss him, sloppy and without care, just wanting to touch him as much as possible.

Hoseok let Namjoon move him, too far gone to move himself, and then Namjoon fucked up into him just right, just hard enough, just sudden enough, and Hoseok was coming between them, untouched, his cock spurting semen onto his front and Namjoon's alike. He moaned, his hands sliding over Namjoon's shoulders to his back, weakly bouncing on his cock still, wanting to feel Namjoon come undone beneath him. He moved as quickly as he could, but with aftershocks still coursing through his legs, it was more of a languid movement than anything else, rocking his hips back and forth. Hoseok's mouth was still on Namjoon's, kissing him deep and slow, and then Namjoon's hips stuttered; Hoseok swallowed his moan, mouth twitching at the corners to smile against Namjoon's lips as he came too, lifting his hips up into him, wanting to milk his orgasm for all he could.

Breaths mingling together, Hoseok leaned forward to kiss Namjoon; he missed, his lips brushing against his cheek instead, misjudging the distance completely to end up glancing off his ear.

Namjoon sighed a short laugh, the mood slowly shifting from urgent to tense.

"You're fine," Namjoon said, helping Hoseok move off of him. The condom and sticky come disappeared from their bodies, and by the time Namjoon had tossed his bottle of lube back into his bedside table drawer, Hoseok had turned down the bed, climbing right in. "And...you're staying."

Hoseok turned his head, hair already mussed from the pillow he was laying against. "Honestly, I'd like to see you try to get rid of me now," he said.

Namjoon opened his mouth to reply, closing it slowly as he felt Hoseok use some of his magick, shifting the mood yet again, this time from the fading tension to content calmness. Taking his place beside Hoseok, pulling the bedsheets over both of them, he responded, finally.

"Me too," Namjoon said, already knowing he didn't—and wouldn't—want to.