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by the moonlight

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it wasn't as if donghyuck wanted to be woken up by a horde of bunnies on his stomach.

of all things, bunnies. they weren't remotely donghyuck or witch-like, even if their fur was the exact colour of beige that his eyes were when he took off his contacts. there were seventeen of them, as if they wanted to remind donghyuck that he was, in fact, seventeen. bullshit. he felt the same as he had yesterday, when he was sixteen.

it was incredibly superstitious that this of all days is his birthday, especially in the witch community. not like there really was a witch community, but if there was, donghyuck would either be viewed as a curse or the most powerful witch of the century. he could possibly be viewed as both, depending on who you talked to.

the leo eclipse was supposedly the point in time where strong magic was strongest and the pathway between realities was the most open. any nonsuspecting person who didn't know how to act could be tossed between them on the day that was today, donghyuck's birthday.

he of all people should know, technically. he remembered a day in middle school when mark lee tried bringing cupcakes to his birthday party and they fizzled out of existence. donghyuck swore he saw a hand reach for them from a place he could only describe as a netherland. of course, nobody believed him, because he was thirteen.

that was incredible, donghyuck thinks. in four years, so much changed.

he shares an apartment with jisung, who was most likely up four hours ago. he lived with jisung because the kid was least likely out of anyone that he knew to question the circumstances. if donghyuck wanted to sit in their backyard surrounded by candles and incense, jisung was fine with it. he would probably internally question it, but he'd be fine.

donghyuck wondered if he could share his magic with jisung one day. he was enough of a normal kid, but there was something in his eyes that made donghyuck wonder. if jisung told him that he saw a spirit one day or that his best friend was a werewolf, donghyuck wouldn't be surprised. maybe that was why they complimented each other.

speaking of...

"donghyuck hyung!" jisung shouts, bursting into the older's room with a cat in his arms. "your cat is trying to eat me, i sweat to god -" he trails off, taking note of donghyuck's situation. "i didn't know you had bunnies?"

"i don't," donghyuck replies, sitting up. "they're just here."

"there are half a million of them," jisung says exasperatedly. "i can't live like this. my carpets will be ruined."

"they'll be gone by tomorrow," donghyuck promises. "probably. that's usually the way this works."

jisung groans. "i don't want to know how many times this has happened to you. your cat is physically trying to eat me, she's nearly taken off my whole face today."

donghyuck observes his cat, mina. it wasn't like she was an ordinary cat; anything owned by donghyuck wasn't normal in the slightest. he had been expecting this in moderation, since the leo eclipse did have a tendency to have a larger effect on cats.

"she's probably just reacting to the shifts in the moon," donghyuck replies vaguely, standing up. the bunnies scatter around him, determined to follow him wherever he goes. "she'll be fine by tomorrow."

"oh, right." jisung searches for words. "the eclipse is today, right?"

"it is," donghyuck nods. he's mildly distracted on his search for clothes, wondering to some extent why he needs to pick out clothes when they'll just be hidden behind an apron anyways. "expect everyone and everything to be strange today."

"like your bunnies," jisung notes, "with red eyes."

donghyuck pauses. brown-eyed bunnies, he expected. black-eyed bunnies weren't too rare either. he could handle the occasional blue-eyed bunny as well. but red eyes? he vaguely remembers a disney movie with a small, red-eyed bunny. other than that, he would call himself crazy for even thinking of one. he lived a strange life, but never had he yet encountered a red-eyed bunny, much less seventeen of them.

he looks down at his birthday bunnies. all of their eyes are firmly trained on him, their eyes filled with about as much emotion as a bunny could have. bunnies don't have emotions. donghyuck was extremely unsettled.

"exactly," donghyuck decides, picking out an outfit that would have been a shame to hide behind an apron. "that's normal, right?"

jisung stares at him, as if trying to guess if he's joking or serious. finally, he hands mina over ("she won't eat you") and leaves.

--

he has to leave the bunnies in the main room. he wants to trust that they won't destroy the tables, but judging from their red eyes, he braces himself for the large bill that he'll receive after they're done burning down the building.

luckily, none of his customers at his home Wendy's seem to be too allergic to the bunnies. in fact, not many of the adults interact with them. the only ones who seem to really see them are the younger kids. donghyuck ignores the warning tug in his gut.

the first man to interact with the bunnies enters just as the Wendys flickers. for a few seconds, the Wendys isn't a Wendys, and they're instead in space, a million stars swirling around them. donghyuck doesn't know if he's standing or falling, and he doesn't know if those even exist.  every definition is muddled. nothing is real.

someone seems to stand between donghyuck and his new customer, and he looks surprised. the vision disappears just as soon as it came, and if donghyuck didn't know what it was, he would have questioned if he'd seen it at all.

unlike in the vision, his customer looks just the same as he did earlier - no change in demeanour or expression. however, donghyuck sets him apart immediately; his first focus isn't on the Wendys menu like most people, but on the bunnies, seventeen bunnies hopping around the Wendys and behind the counter and even on top of the counter - donghyuck swats one off - and at his feet, a few drawn to him as they had been to donghyuck. he doesn't know how to feel about it.

"you have bunnies in your Wendys," the customer remarks, reaching down to pet the closest one. it leans into his touch instead of running away. donghyuck has never had bunnies, but somehow he doesn't think that's normal bunny behaviour.

"it's just for today," donghyuck finds himself saying. "you know, leo eclipse, new beginnings. one-time deal. most people don't even notice them."

"there are seventeen bunnies in your Wendys," the customer deadpans. "how could nobody notice them?"

donghyuck laughs dryly; a question that he's echoed for four years to the day. "no idea, sir."

"the name's jung jaehyun," he says, though donghyuck didn't ask. "your nametag says - haechan?"

donghyuck chokes.

he feels as though someone had just ripped his guts out of his insides. although unwanted, his feet feel planted into the ground and yet he's floating, and that's his name, although it isn't, but it feels so right on the inside and his hands feel really warm -

calm. donghyuck takes deep breaths, realising the stranger was incredible still. everything was, down to the cars outside to the people making food behind him. the only things that still moved were the bunnies, as if time and space didn't apply to them. taking into account how different they were from normal bunnies, donghyuck could reach a logical conclusion that they probably didn't.

with shaking fingers, he took off his nametag and peered at the characters there. Lee Donghyuck, his nametag read. not haechan. never haechan.

everything starts to flow again. donghyuck feels human again, feels normal - whatever normal meant to other people. he looks at the stranger's face and wonders if he ever said haechan at all.

"donghyuck," he corrects, just for safety. "what can i get for you today?"

the day continues as usual. the bunnies miss jung jaehyun, though none of them follow him out the door. they seem to have an otherwordly attachment to donghyuck. he's not sure how he feels about it. he's not sure about anything at the moment.

the Wendys doesn't flicker again.

--

the bunnies are still there when he unlocks the door and walks into his apartment several hours later, all crowding around him like ducklings around their mother. he tries closing a few of them outside, but they phase through the door. donghyuck isn't surprised anymore.

jisung has a friend over that donghyuck doesn't recognise. he could hear their angry shouts from inside and assumed that they were playing video games, but it turned out that they were watching anime. donghyuck recognises the episode of boku no hero on the tv, but he doesn't join them. he only has five hours until the eclipse, and if he doesn't prepare properly, he could find himself passing through space and burning up in the image of the sun. donghyuck is said to have a bright disposition, but that's not the way he plans on going.

he takes a three-hour nap as he usually does, just to make sure his body is rested. his candles are lit, the sugar is sprinkled, he's poured the essential oil. donghyuck is ready for any alternate realities thrown at him. in his small backyard with the moon rising behind him, he feels protected. he feels invincible.

the bunnies take their place outside the circle of candles, and suddenly donghyuck just feels watched. his hands are splayed in the correct position, fingers open and back just slightly on his knees, but now he feels like the bunnies could come up and bite him and drag him away to who knows where. it's never a thought donghyuck's had before. he doesn't know how to react.

eventually, he feels calm. he's calm enough to breathe, in and out, and let the world take his spirit away. his consciousness reaches far out, exploring every inch of the backyard. if donghyuck had the presence of mind, he'd sigh in relief, feel happiness. somehow, he knew that this is where the world wanted him. reaching out with his mind and achieving peace in a realm no humans would ever breach conjured emotions that humans couldn't think to describe. donghyuck couldn't either. perhaps this was the humanity in him.

donghyuck slowly became the flames around him, the incense that wafted up and burned in the breeze. he formed as one with the small trees near the fence of their backyard and felt their growth, and maybe they grew a little quicker. he didn't exist in time and space. he was further than that, now.

he felt something tug at his attention, and - with what could have been a smile, if he'd had the mind for it - his consciousness drafted to it.

and then he rips.

his consciousness is bunched together as the whole world glitches. static filters across the inside of his eyelids as he is forced to become solid, the passage between whatever this is making donghyuck hot to the point of burning.

haechan. for some reason, this name - his name, it feels so good, so incredibly good, he almost loses humanity - seems to push him apart and pull him together at the same time. red flashes across his vision and something seems to scratch at his eyes, tearing away the contacts he wears from beneath the lids.

he feels bulky, very human, and very uncomfortable. for the first time, he feels the weight of donghyuck and haechan in one entity, and knows with absolute certainty that something will have to be sacrificed.

"donghyuck?"

his eyes shoot open, his back on the grass. he becomes vaguely aware of jisung shouting at him from somewhere above him, so he rubs his eyes a few times and looks around.

the world without his contacts looks like someone removed a thin sheet from his eyes, one that changed the definition and colour just slightly. donghyuck couldn't remember the last time he'd taken off his contacts. everything looks sharper.

he stands up, prepared to walk back inside, but the world doesn't quite approve of his decision. there are no candles, and there's no back porch. frankly, there's no fence, no small trees, and no house in general. there's only him, and jisung, and his friend.

"jisung?" he voices, confused. "where are we?"

jisung points behind donghyuck. the boy turns, and something inside him burns.

this is what called him.

it's a red building, covered in vines. the building itself isn't red, but there red all around it in donghyuck's vision. there's still a sign that reads NEO CULTURE TECH INSTITUTE on the side with the words going down, one letter after another. it seems to only be one story, but it's huge, and donghyuck isn't sure how he didn't notice it before.

"neo culture tech institute?" donghyuck voices. the name felt familiar, but not in a good way.

"an institute way before its time in technology," jisung's friend says, his eyes wide. donghyuck jumps - his voice was melodious, too melodious. all of his instincts in magic told him to run. he stays.

"i'm na jaemin," the boy says, finally. "neo was way before its time, probably the most successful tech institute known in all history. i'm a tech major, so we learned all about them in school. the school closed 50 years ago today, i think, because the five head employees were murdered."

"i heard about that," donghyuck realises. "from my dad, when i was ten."

donghyuck's ex-dad, a man who built computers for a living. donghyuck looked up to him, just a little, until his thirteenth birthday.

"hello?"

all three of them jump and turn, but there's no sign of the voice.

a figure appears on the hil behind them, waving its arms. jaemin waves back, and the figure approaches them.

he's tall, with brown hair and brown eyes. "johnny seo," he says.

"na jaemin."

"jisung."

donghyuck doesn't volunteer his name. johnny doesn't ask.

"how did you get here?" jaemin asks.

"i drove," johnny says, as if it should be obvious. "i don't really know why exactly i'm here, i just felt like i should be. this is neo culture technology institute, yes?"

"yeah," jaemin tells him, "obviously."

"hey! down there!"

the four of them look up. this time, three people come down the hill.

"i'm yuta," one says. "this is chenle and kun. did you guys get the call as well?"

it wasn't exactly a call, donghyuck wants to say. more of a kidnapping.

"yeah," johnny replies, "i guess so."

"how did you guys get here?" jaemin asks again.

"we walked," kun tells him. "it's better for nature than a car, and our hotel was rather near anyways."

"yeah," chenle adds sarcastically, glaring at kun. "only a whole three miles. that was nothing."

"don't treat your mother that way," yuta scolds.

there's a silence that lasts a little while. donghyuck doesn't know if it's because nobody has anything to say, or because the building is suffocating.

"hey, is that donghyuck i see?"

someone donghyuck recognises rolls down the hill in glory and pops up next to him, leaves in his hair and dirt on his vest, just like donghyuck remembered him. the human embodiment of happiness, and of donghyuck's bitterness.

"mark's boyfriend," he recalls. "lucas."

"yeah," lucas nods. "glad to see that you remember me! you're as shiny as ever, i see."

donghyuck remembers lucas.

there was always something magical to him. he was almost on the opposite side of the spectrum as donghyuck - if he was explosive magic, then lucas was magic that pieced people back together but with one part missing. mark would affectionately call him chaotic good.

there was something that set lucas apart from humans, something that donghyuck didn't quite know how to explain. if lucas told him that he had a Name, something that held his secrets and wellbeing, donghyuck would believe him without a doubt. there was something to the older boy that was hard to ignore.

but when he started dating mark, donghyuck's best friend since second grade, he really tried his hardest.

"my friend sicheng is coming as well," yuta spoke into the silence. "he'll be along in a few minutes, he stopped to get coffee."

"is that him?" chenle pointed up the hill.

"baby," kun tells him, "that's three people, not one."

they roll down the hill as well ("truly intellectuals," lucas observes, "i hope all of you did the same") and integrate themselves into the group at the bottom, casting curious glances towards the red building. they introduce themselves jeno, renjun, and jungwoo, and at this point donghyuck feels like their group is complete, minus sicheng. if anyone else came to join, he felt like he might actually explode, and since he was capable of doing that, he was anxious to leave.

"there's sicheng over the hill," chenle pointed, and actually turned out to be right. as donghyuck locked eyes with sicheng, a volt of electricity - warm, yet alarming - shot down his spine. magic, one hundred percent.

"let's go," donghyuck says, for the first time. "we were all kind of called here, right? it's the leo eclipse. we'll end up going in whether we like it or not."

"why are we exploring the place where guys died at 12:35 in the morning?" sicheng asks, seeming mildly upset. "i could have been sleeping."

"babe, you wouldn't have been sleeping," yuta informs him. "let's go in, shall we?"

--

the first thing that strikes him about the NCT is how red it all is.

it's not the building, it's the lights ("why are there lights on in here? this place closed 50 years ago?" "don't question it, jaemin, it's what i've learned"). everything about the building is just red, and it attacks you from in front and from behind. donghyuck couldn't shake the feeling that he was watched. he finds himself wishing for the bunnies.

"should we split up?" chenle asks timidly.

"baby," kun says sympathetically, "that's the worst idea you've ever had."

"that's not actually a terribly bad idea," donghyuck says, for some reason. "but we'd need at least four people in a group."

"we can do that," yuta says immediately. "i say chenle, kun, sicheng and i."

donghyuck locks eyes with sicheng, and suddenly everything seems just a bit more red. they seem to come to a silent agreement - one of us in every group.

"i'll take renjun and jeno, obviously," jungwoo says. "and, uh, johnny?"

"sure." johnny shrugs.

no witches in that group. donghyuck almost feels obligated to volunteer until a voice appears down the hall, echoing in donghyuck's ears and bringing blue to the room.

"i've not seen anyone in this building in years."

donghyuck turns with the speed of light, his fingers clenched into a fist.

"i'm sorry," the man at the end of the hall says, his hands raised in self-protection. "it's just - it's been so long. i thought i'd never get to leave."

kun gasps, taking a few steps back. "t-taeil?"

yuta jumps in mention of the name, leaning forward to inspect the man. "taeil?"

the man comes closer, keeping his eyes carefully trained on donghyuck like a rabid dog. "i've been trapped in here for three years."

"i thought you were dead," kun tells him, his hands shaking. chenle envelopes him in a hug, but kun doesn't seem to feel it.

"my car crashed near here and nobody came to get me," taeil tells them. "it was raining, so i came inside for shelter. i've not been able to get out since."

"how are you still alive?" jaemin asked.

taeil glances at donghyuck, and that same spark that he felt with sicheng runs up his spine. donghyuck knows.

"it doesn't matter," donghyuck decides. "we're splitting up. taeil hyung, can you go with jungwoo's team?"

"sure." taeil nods. "i'm up for it. at least i'll have friends."

"okay." donghyuck breathes in and out. he feels, in his gut, that he's doing something right. the call is around them, in this building. this is where he needs to be. "lucas, jaemin, jisung - you three with me. we'll take the right hallway."

they split up, donghyuck's group automatically forming into a small clump. he leads, with lucas by his side. he's not sure how he feels about this.

they only take a few steps before the first vision appears. donghyuck knows that they aren't there, not truly, but five men sit a little ways in front of him before flickering and disappearing.

nobody else seemed to see them - but maybe lucas does, from the way that he takes a small step back.

"donghyuck," lucas breathes.

he's always liked the way humanity sounds on lucas's lips.

"donghyuck, that looked like mark."

his head shoots up to look at lucas. there's no spark, but lucas's eyes are wide. donghyuck wonders if he got used to lucas's magic in seventh grade.

"i didn't see him," donghyuck admits, his voice low. the building's silence is suffocating. "i just saw five of them. i didn't see their faces."

"one was mark," lucas says, with absolute certainty. "we have to keep going."

donghyuck remembers, with a sort of stabbing pain, that the two are dating.

"i didn't see anything," jaemin volunteers.

"that's normal," jisung informs him. "hyuck sees things that other people don't. just accept it and move on."

donghyuck looks at him sharply. jisung's not asked many questions about hyuck's lifestyle - even with the bunnies - but just how much did he actually know? how much had hyuck let pass under a guise of 'doesn't ask questions'?

"that's not something that you just accept and move on," jaemin tries, but the group has already surged forward in the hallway. only red light coats their path.

"the hallway opens up," lucas tells donghyuck suddenly. "i can't see what's beyond that, it's too foggy."

"we'll find out," jisung says. he carries his shaking voice with pride. donghyuck doesn't know if he could be so bold.

but then, this is the leo eclipse, the time of boldness. if donghyuck doesn't accept the pressure of the stars now, can he trust himself to do it later?

haechan, something inside him whispers.

he walks into the fog.

--

the fog disappoints him at first. there are hallways leading to the left and right, dimly lit by red, and he can barely make out a hallway in front of him. however, before the hallway stands a glass box, an empty glass box, tall enough and wide enough to fit a person, exactly one. the back is covered with tile, and there's no way in or out. just looking at it, donghyuck feels claustrophobic.

and then the air shimmers, and inside the box, someone flickers into existence - not quite there, not quite solid, but visible.

behind donghyuck, lucas chokes, but donghyuck can't say a word.

"mark," lucas says, then. "mark, what are you doing?"

mark lifts up his head, the beret tilting slightly to the right. donghyuck reaches out, almost unaware of what he's doing, and touches the glass.

"what are you doing?" he asks, his voice barely there. "mark, why are you in there?"

a foot becomes visible, holding up his weight on the back of the box. he seems still, as if suspended, or somehow asleep, or -

donghyuck retracts his hand as if shocked. he knows what mark is doing - he's meditating like donghyuck did inside the candles, sending his consciousness out. calling donghyuck to him.

staying alive.

"we have to go," donghyuck finds himself saying, his voice oddly guttural. "let's go left."

the left hallway is blue.

"we can't just leave him!" lucas protests, his voice choked. "that's mark, our baby, donghyuck."

ours.

"we'll come back for him," donghyuck tells lucas. "but we have to know what's going on."

"i can't believe -"

"lucas," jisung says gently, "we should go."

lucas flenches, as if jisung had said something else. donghyuck finds himself wondering, again, just what he doesn't know about jisung.

they go down the left hallway and soon encounter plants. jaemin lets out a cry of joy, running over to one of them.

"we shouldn't touch them," donghyuck says quickly. "we don't know -"

"these are engineered plants," jaemin says in awe, running his fingers over the leaves. "they grow forever and never die, coded just like artificial skin. this place is amazing. way before their time."

donghyuck feels watched. he goes ahead, and lucas follows him.

pillars signal another opening. this time, there are no hallways, just a large door made of marble that nearly blended into the walls. there's another glass box with another man sitting on the left, illuminated by blue lights in every corner of the box. his eyes are open and seem to follow them as they walk around the glass, no tiles to protect them from his gaze.

donghyuck turns his back on him to push the door, which slides to the side with a loud groan that makes all of them flinch. when donghyuck turns back around, the man is standing up, his fist on the glass as if to break it. his mouth is open in some sort of silent scream. donghyuck has no idea how he got up so quickly.

he runs through the doorway, followed quickly by the others. even if there was no way for the man to get out, they felt uneasy. nothing about this was safe. nothing about this was good.

donghyuck closes the door, leaving it cracked just in case something happens. just in case.

"chemicals," lucas says, breaking the air.

donghyuck turns around. indeed, glasses of weird liquids that donghyuck couldn't identify if he tried stand close to each other in groups. the room is pure white.

lucas had always liked science, so he takes the lead, grabbing a group of glasses close to each other. before donghyuck could react, he dropped them all on the floor in a pile. the noise made jaemin scream.

the glass didn't fall to the floor. the liquid became gas almost immediately, the colours that donghyuck instinctively knew carried gasses and smoke that he shouldn't inhale floating upwards in a spiral. the colours flowed in the shape of a man - jisung gasped, so donghyuck guessed that they could see it too.

as lucas backs away, a familiar glass box becomes visible around the man. lucas runs back to join donghyuck as everything solidifies, and the back of the man ends up being towards them. he doesn't move.

"his -" jaemin points to the opposite side of the glass. the man's reflections move, but he doesn't. in the reflection, he walks towards them, through the glass and right towards them.

donghyuck is frozen. this is something he's never witnessed before.

haechan.

the room fades away.

 

==

 

freedom.

his eyes open to blue and yellow, unfiltered and yet foreign. he sits up too soon, aggravating his neck. he pops it without a second thought.

"haechan."

he looks up, a sad, familiar face in front of him. his odd customer, jung jaehyun. he's not seen something this solid in too long.

"jung jaehyun," haechan greets. he realises with a start that he's haechan, not donghyuck. he's not sure what made this change. he's not sure where he is.

his body is gone, that much is certain, or at least what haechan would classify as a body. he places a hand on his heart, and while it's solid, he feels like it should go through.

"you've done well," jaehyun tells him, his voice sad and echoing.

"i've done nothing."

"on the contrary, you've done much." jaehyun sits with him, and haechan feels solidarity, as if they're the same. maybe they are.

"haechan, you pursued your calling. that's what caught our attention."

"ours?"

"you left your family and found your own. these people around you - they're who you're meant to be with. don't worry about it anymore."

"i don't understand."

"yes, you do." jaehyun is old, understanding. haechan knows that he's well over seventy, though he doesn't look a day over twenty. suddenly, he feels very, very young. "you understand, haechan. and you need to understand what you have to do next."

haechan looks at him, sees him solidly. "what i have to do next?"

"we've been trapped here for fifty years." jaehyun laughs, a hollow sound that echoes. "it's time for us to rest. free us."

freedom.

"i don't know how to free you," haechan says, though he wants to say other things. "i can't."

why me?

"you can," jaehyun tells him, "once you free yourself. don't hold yourself back, and then you can set us free."

haechan swallows. he wants to say that he doesn't know how to free himself, but he does. he felt the conflict inside him earlier. he has to chase who he really is.

he has to become the sun, the vision that jaehyun showed him in the Wendys. it wasn't a coincidence. none of this is.

"i - i think i understand."

"good." jaehyun stands up, and helps him up as well. his hand is surprisingly warm for a man who's dead. "and remember: the people who become your family will always come back to you in the end."

blue and yellow solidify into white, and haechan is back in the room of marble, back with his friends, back with lucas, whose spark is dim.

lucas grabs his shoulders, checking him over and making sounds of protest. "donghyuck! where did you go? what happened to you?"

he's confused, then, and he looks at lucas with eyes that he knows are beige. contacts don't matter to him. not anymore. "what's your name?"

lucas takes his hands off of his shoulders and tilts his head. "what do you mean? you know -"

"my name is haechan," he says, and it feels real.

"haechan," lucas repeats, and oh. this is what he needed. this is what jaehyun meant.

where humanity sounded so good in his mouth, magic sounds so much better.

"i'm yukhei," lucas tells him, and haechan feels obligated to repeat it, so he does.

"yukhei." it sounds sweet and explosive: perfect. he says it again, "yukhei."

and maybe it's just because of the magic, but sicheng appears, too, tears dripping from his coffee cup. "winwin," sicheng tells them, and it's better, not quite the same big difference, but an improvement on what was there before. taeil's there, too, speaking "moon taeil" into the world, and it's complete. haechan decides there that more is better, and from the looks of it, yukhei does too. and they'll decide what that means later, but for now, they hold hands, and they walk into the final room.

the rest of them stand there, huddled around the last glass box. jaemin's nearly having a nervous breakdown about all of the plants and the anxiety, and jisung's trying to calm him, chenle right next to him. and maybe it's just the magic in him, but haechan sees a bond that breaks the laws of space and time, and he smiles.

he walks up to the glass and the man standing inside, a red bandana wrapped around his head. how fitting, haechan thinks, to start this with red bunnies and end with a red bandana.

for the first time, while everyone watches, haechan reaches out with open eyes. his vision expands, his focus splitting into a million pieces. he feels a tug in his stomach, burning hotter and hotter.

haechan pictures the vortex of space and realises that he's the figure in the middle. he, haechan, is the center of the vortex. he is the vortex. he is the explosion.

he doesn't quite see how it happens. in his fractured lens of vision, he sees fire, gathered by his vast consciousness and pushed inward. he sees himself going up in flames first, the glass getting too hot to touch and then not being there at all. he sees the glass shattering and knows within himself that the other glass has shattered too, that the tile has collapsed and the chemicals have released.

he sees his family around him and the magic in the room, personified in yukhei and in winwin and moon taeil, names that are magic and that are exploding. the whole building seems to shudder, and everything is red and then nothing at all.

haechan is sucked in and then out, travelling backwards through passageways and broken glass, thrown through walls that he phases through as he scatters. vaguely, he knows that he can't bring himself back from this, and he's glad. being scattered is worth it if they were free.

two hands grip his, and he's forced into solidity. four men stand in front of him, not quite solid, and not quite gone. they speak magic into life.

"taeyong."

"ten."

"doyoung."

an eye smile. "jaehyun."

his left hand is squeezed, and with the energy he has left, haechan looks at him. "mark lee."

when haechan looks back, the four are gone. his hand is cold.

jisung speaks. "we should go."

nobody questions it. they all stand up and leave the neo culture technology institute.

none of them will ever be the same.