Changkyun is young, barely a hundred and ten years old, so he doesn’t really remember the War. All he knows is that he was very young when it happened, and he heard too many explosions and saw too many bloodstains and went to too many funerals. And, of course, he knows that he hates demons.
His parents had taught him that other vampires were the only people he could trust, and that every other species was to be despised, especially those of the demonic variety. But when he had arrived at Loen School for the Supernatural, he had found friends from all species - the first friends he’s had since the War took his old playmates and their families.
Hyunwoo and Hyungwon are both vampires, Turned at 25 and 23 human years respectively, so technically they’re both half-bloods, unlike Changkyun himself, who was born a vampire and thus is a pure blood. Despite looking about the same age (Changkyun Settled at 97, but since pure blood vampires age differently than humans he looks like he’s about 22), both of them are older than him in actual years, a fact Hyungwon likes to bring up at times when he wants Changkyun to do things for him. Hoseok is a warlock, a strong one at that, and Changkyun would be scared of him if he hadn’t seen him cuddling a bunny on school grounds and blushing whenever anyone remotely attractive looks at him, Hyungwon included. Jooheon, his best friend, is a werewolf, thankfully already mated - because the few wolves at school who aren’t mated yet are vicious. Changkyun thanks his lucky stars for Jooheon, because he’s a huge calming presence in his life, always there when Changkyun needs comfort and reassurance. And then there’s Minhyuk. He had only found out Minhyuk was a demon a year after they had become friends, and at that point he was already so attached to his sunshiney personality that even that fact couldn’t deter him. Minhyuk is unlike any other demon Changkyun has ever encountered, always smiling, always ready to make a joke, and always clinging onto either Jooheon or Hyunwoo. Nothing like the other demons at school.
He’s only run into them a few times, but every time they all scowl at him, their eyes glinting red from across the halls. He glares right back, sometimes flashing his fangs depending on his mood, and they usually all scatter immediately, always looking at the ground. Only one demon has never been intimidated by him, and that irritates Changkyun to no end. The boy in question has a shock of red hair, a sharp jawline, and one of the most intense gazes Changkyun’s ever seen. The first time they had locked eyes, both frowning at the other, Changkyun had almost wanted to back down - but the memories of dried blood and funerals and swearing vengeance for lost family had made him bare his teeth and hiss, and the demon had looked away first, but not like he was scared. The expression on his face had made it seem like Changkyun was beneath his time.
He doesn’t know that demon’s name, but on the rare occasion he sees him in the halls, he’s in a bad mood for the rest of the day. The one time he asked Minhyuk about him, his demon friend had burst into laughter instead of giving him an answer, so he was no closer to knowing anything about this boy who he guesses is almost like his rival.
It’s the end of October and Changkyun is tired. He’s tired of going out and meeting people he has no intention of being friends with, he’s tired of making small talk, he’s tired of getting completely drunk off whatever booze Hoseok and his other warlock friends concoct and waking up the next morning with no recollection of what had happened the previous night, his only hints the glitter on his clothes and wherever he finds himself. And he has homework that he’s neglecting. So, instead of accepting Jooheon’s invitation to go to the party he and Hyungwon are hosting in Hyungwon’s dorm, he takes his bag and heads somewhere quiet.
The hallways are empty, which is unsurprising, since it’s Halloween and everyone is at one party or another, and Changkyun makes it to the library without running into any other students or teachers. He pushes open the glass doors and walks in, treading softly to avoid waking up the dozing aide at the front desk, and makes his way up to the seventh floor.
His favorite spot to study is there, at a little table tucked in the Ancient Arcana section, away from the hustle and bustle of the first three floors and the loud study rooms on the fifth. No one ever comes into this section of the library except for him, which gives him the peace and quiet he likes.
Changkyun pats the back of the chair as he swings his bag down and sits. He stretches his arms over his head, rolling his wrists to crack them a couple of times, before he pulls out his notes and Mystic Science textbook. He spends about an hour taking notes on the next chapter on astrology and the influence of the planets on magic users, and then he takes out his exam review packet to go over a few of the questions he doesn’t quite understand. Once he finishes that, he takes a swig from the spare bottle of blood that he keeps with him (it’s good for energy, especially during long homework sessions) and digs in his bag for his Arcanic History project assignment.
His professor had given them the research paper guidelines that day in class, adding that she expects them to have a finished draft in three weeks so they can spend time editing with her. Changkyun grins as he looks over the assignment again - he knows what he wants to write about, and seeing as no one besides him has an interest in older forms of magic (everyone else wants to talk about the ancient Powereds and wars that happened a millennium ago), he’s pretty sure his topic, whatever he picks, will be unique. He stretches again as he stands from his desk, rolling his shoulders to release the stiffness from hunching over for so long, and heads to the row that holds the books on ancient spells.
He scans the shelves as he walks slowly down the aisle, reading titles and trying to figure out exactly what he wants to write about. He stops on a book titled Circulos Ritua and Other Magicks and takes it, an idea about the uses of ancient rituals and their descent into modern magic forming in his brain. He quickly circles the shelves again, grabbing Les cercles d’invocation and A Brief History of Elemental Circles before he makes his way back to his desk.
He starts with A Brief History, skimming the table of contents and smirking to himself as he finds a couple of chapters on maxima rituals, one of the more common spells warlocks perform because they maximize spell effectiveness and elemental power. He’s seen Hoseok do earth maxima rituals more times than he can count, for both himself and for Hyunwoo, who has a relatively small amount of earth magic but really knows how to use it. He writes down a few things from the chapters, drawing arrows and sketching out a couple of the spell diagrams for reference, before moving on to Les cercles . He thanks the moon that his parents had taught him Old French when they had lived on the outskirts of Sorcière some fifty years ago, before they had moved back to Mapob and he had started at Loen. He slowly makes his way through the book, translating chapter titles where necessary, and he grins when he finds a section detailing spell trees.
As he takes notes and scribbles potential connecting thoughts and ideas, his mind wanders to the complexity of magic. Witches and warlocks can use all types of magic, while vampires, demons, and fae can only hold one form of elemental magic - but they are able to directly manipulate it, whereas the others need external aid. Werewolves have no specific magic, but their speed and heightened senses are unparalleled when shifted. Changkyun is still slightly bitter about that fact, since he had bet Jooheon his mWiFi code for a month on a race last year, and going a month without mWiFi was not the easiest thing to do, especially during exams. He did, however, win the fire magus tournament after, which meant that Hoseok supplied him with booze for a month - which made the lack of mWiFi bearable.
He opens his hand and, after a moment of concentration, lets flames lick along his fingers for a minute before extinguishing them. He’s lucky he was born with fire, an element that matches him in almost every way he can think of, instead of air like his parents.
A shiver runs through him and he quickly stretches his fingers out again to summon the flames back. He manipulates them into a small, yellow-orange ball that he sends to hover over his shoulder, giving him a little bit of extra light and warmth since the lamps in this section are dimmer than normal, before he continues scanning the spell tree in front of him.
His outline starts coming together, lines connecting the ancient spell circles with their more modern use of wand movements and warlock runes, as well as the evolving specificity of spells and how direct manipulation developed alongside them. Changkyun grins as he wiggles his fingers and his fireball flares before settling back into its warm glow. He’s eternally thankful he’s not a warlock, since all of their magic has to be run through conduits and spells and potions. He doesn’t quite understand exactly how witch and warlock elemental magic works, since, well, he isn’t one, but he is happy that he can instantly summon a fireball when he’s cold or needs light instead of having to perform one of these long, convoluted fire spells. He shrugs as he closes Les cercles. Warlock magic is something for Hoseok to know, not him.
Changkyun pulls the last book towards himself and groans as he opens it. The cover had been refurbished, which had misled him - the book is very old, its pages made out of what feels like parchment, and it’s written entirely in Fae glyphs. Which he’s only just started learning this year. He’s confident in the alphabet - as in, he can sound out the words and sentences, but he really has no clue what anything means. The only words he knows for certain are the four main elements, a few magic terms, and species names.
He flips through the book, trying to find drawings or sketches or any form of picture to give him some sort of context to the tiny glyphs covering the pages, with no luck until he lands on something that looks like a spell circle. The diagram is eerily similar to one of the other element rituals he had copied earlier, so he quickly pulls his notebook towards him and begins to copy it down on a new page.
The circle takes shape, and he notes that the inner lines make a pentagram, connecting five points on the circle that each hold a glyph. He looks at the book again. Four of the glyphs he knows - power, magic, knowledge, and strength, in that order - but the fifth, the one at the top of the circle, he doesn’t. He writes it down anyway, scribbling “translate?” on top of the page and double circling the unknown word, before continuing to transcribe the glyphs in the diagram. He thinks he recognizes a list of species in the middle, but there are weird glyphs on the end of each word that he thinks might change the meaning so he’s not entirely sure.
He finishes copying and glances at the book again. There’s a line of text underneath the diagram, and he props the book up to get a better look.
“ Ah-mor ray-ehl, ah-mor ver-uhm, veh-ni et man-eer-ray in sem-pi-ter-num," he sounds out. “ Nam glo-ree-ah nos-tra est. ” He wrinkles his forehead, mumbling “What the hell does that mean.”
Changkyun slumps back in his chair, a wave of exhaustion sweeping over him, but he shoots to his feet when his fireball winks out.
The drawing in his notebook flares bright, electric blue, and then dark grey smoke pours from the page, encircling him in an opaque tornado. He sees a flash of gold and then his head explodes, purple and red and white lines splintering over his field of vision before everything goes dark and he feels a rush of hot air blast across his face. He stumbles back, his legs hitting the chair, and he blindly reaches for it, collapsing into his seat as the smoke dissipates into nothing.
Changkyun rubs his eyes, doing an internal check to make sure he still has all of his limbs and organs, and then he looks up from the ground and yells in shock.
For there, sitting on top of his notebook, arms crossed, looking extremely disgruntled - almost like he’s ready to murder someone - is the red-haired demon boy.
“What - You - how - what the FUCK,” Changkyun stutters, his brain unable to fully comprehend anything. “What the fuck is happening?”
“You fucking summoned me, that’s what’s happening,” the boy snarks back, glaring at him. “And you cost me a lot of fucking money by doing so, so I’m not exactly in the best mood.”
Changkyun gapes at him. “I didn’t summon you,” he manages, still reeling slightly.
“Well, you did something , that’s for damn sure,” the boy says. He jumps down from the table. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t. Fucking. Be here.” He pokes Changkyun’s chest for emphasis, which shocks him into action.
“Don’t touch me,” he spits, jumping away from the boy and shooting him a dark look.
The boy rolls his eyes in response. “Or what, your nice pure vampire body will get infected by my demon magic?” He wiggles his fingers in Changkyun’s direction, smirking when Changkyun flinches. “Good to know you’re as much of a coward as the rest of them.”
Changkyun hisses, fangs bared, at that, but the demon boy just turns away from and begins to pace.
“I can’t believe I lost the summoning bet this year,” he mumbles, a stormy look on his face as he starts counting on his fingers while he walks. “A hundred to Sehun, two hundred to Vernon and Mingyu, five hundred to Jihoon, that bastard, a hundred fifty to Minhyuk, seventy five to Jeonghan-what the fuck.” The demon tries to take another step forward and freezes mid-air, his leg pressing against some sort of invisible boundary. “Why can’t I move.” He whips around and storms over to Changkyun, eyes slowly starting to glow red. “What the fuck did you do, vamp?”
The venom in the demon boy’s voice when he hurls the word vamp at him is more than enough to get Changkyun well and truly pissed off. “First of all, demon ,” he snarls, letting his fangs show even more, “I don’t even know why the fuck you’re here. You’re ruining my night.”
The boy rolls his now-scarlet eyes. “Like you didn’t ruin mine by fucking summoning me,” he shoots back.
“I DIDN’T!” Changkyun explodes, his frustration and shock and annoyance all coming to a head. “I literally just copied an old ritual into my notes and the next thing I fucking knew you were sitting on my fucking desk!”
The boy blinks at him before he bursts into mean, cold laughter. “You’re shitting me,” he sniggers, half doubled over. “You’re doing homework? On fucking Halloween?”
Changkyun doesn’t say anything, just glares at him, fangs still on display.
“God.” The boy turns away from him and tries to walk away, but just like before, an invisible barrier stops him from going more than ten feet. He growls. “Since you’re such a smartass,” he says, whipping around to angrily march back, “tell me why the fuck your stupid circle won’t let me OUT.”
Changkyun rolls his eyes. “As I said,” he snaps, “I don’t know.” He points to the Fae book lying open. “I was just copying that ritual when you appeared.”
The demon glances at the book and his eyes widen. “This one?” He taps the pages with a finger. “Are you sure?”
Changkyun nods. “It looks practically identical in layout to some of the element rituals warlocks use, and I’m writing a paper on the development of spells and rituals so I figured it would be helpful for research and I was going to try and translate some-“
The boy interrupts him. “This is a species-specific ritual,” he says, scanning the page. “It’s supposed to work for demons only.”
The boy’s red eyes lift from the page to meet Changkyun’s, and to his surprise the red is fading, leaving the boy with a very pretty pair of dark brown eyes. He could never tell what color the boy’s eyes were before, since every other time he’d seen him they’d been across the hall from each other. He’s surprised that they’re a nice color. “This ritual is only supposed to work for demons,” the boy repeats, glancing away from Changkyun. “At least I think that’s what this sentence says.”
“You know Fae?” Changkyun asks, unable to keep the shock out of his voice.
“Don’t look so surprised, vamp,” the boy snaps, but the venom that had originally been in his voice is gone. “I’m not stupid, much as you’d like to think so.”
“I never said you were,” Changkyun retorts, his face coloring slightly as he had previously thought demons in general were on the lower end of the intelligence spectrum - Minhyuk being the exception.
“You thought it,” he fires back, and Changkyun has no response to that. “Anyways.” The boy looks over at him. “I really don’t want to be stuck in this fucking circle, but only the caster can undo a spell, so we’re going to have to figure this out.” He frowns. “Show me what you were doing when this happened.”
Changkyun crosses his arms. “Are you going to be this bossy the whole time you’re here?”
“Yes,” the boy says, running a hand through his red hair. “The sooner we figure out what happened, the sooner I can get out of this accursed circle and get back.” He runs his hands through his hair again, and Changkyun doesn’t miss the way his fingers tremble when he drops them to his sides. “Don’t just stand there, vamp,” he snaps, his voice shaking slightly, “hurry up and help me fix this.”
“Okay, okay, god,” Changkyun says, holding his hands up in surrender as he walks back over to his desk. “I was sitting right here, copying the spell, and then I read this line of glyphs -” he points to the line under the drawing “- trying to figure out what it meant and then smoke was everywhere and when it cleared you were sitting here.”
“Did you read them out loud?” the boy asks, skimming the page again, one hand clenched around the desk and the other fisted in the bottom of his shirt, his knuckles white.
“Yeah,” Changkyun says slowly. “Sometimes reading glyphs out loud helps me understand them better, since I just start-”
“That was the fucking incantation, you idiot!” the boy yells, cutting him off. He pushes himself off the desk and starts to pace again. “From what I can tell,” he starts, hands constantly tugging at his shirt or rubbing his neck like he can’t force them to stay still any longer, “this is a demonic favor grant ritual, used when someone wanted to call in a debt. The Fae in that book is Old Fae,” he says, gesturing briefly at Circulos Ritua. “It’s very different from what I learned and what they teach here, since the language has gone through multiple changes in speech and intonations, so I’m only fifty percent sure that’s what this is since I don’t know some of the Old Fae words and I think some of the other words have different translations depending on when this book was written.” He keeps pacing, his hands creeping up to start tugging at his hair as if he needs the feeling to keep him grounded. “So I’m not entirely certain but if this is a favor grant, there should be no reason why the circle is keeping. Me. Inside!” The boy’s hands tighten on his hair, and Changkyun watches as he pulls and his knuckles go white yet again. “Favor grants give the summoned the freedom to go anywhere in order to carry out the favor so it doesn’t make any sense , why am I stuck here, why can’t I leave, this doesn’t make sense, how did you summon me, why can’t I LEAVE.” His mumbling gets worse and he pulls harder on his hair, his breathing coming faster and faster as he continues to pace.
Changkyun recognizes the signs of an oncoming panic attack right as the boy freezes, his leg pressing against the circle boundary. “Let me out, you fucking spell, let me fucking out,” the boy says, frantically testing different directions by kicking his leg, but whatever boundary is there holds, even under the multiple blows. Changkyun can hear his breathing getting more and more ragged.
“Hey,” he says, standing back up. “Hey, are you okay?”
The boy doesn’t seem to hear him, because he keeps pulling at his hair, his fists clenched, still pacing back and forth, distress evident in his face. Changkyun swallows his pride and his hatred of demons, because at this point they mean nothing, not when this boy is halfway to a breakdown, and goes right up to him, grabbing his arm.
“Hey,” he says, more forcefully this time. “Red.” He winces at the name but as he has no idea what the demon’s actual name is, it’ll have to make do. “Focus on me, alright? You’re okay, you’re gonna be okay.”
The demon wrenches his arm out of Changkyun’s grip - or, at least, he tries to, but the way he’s holding onto his hair makes it impossible for him to break Changkyun’s hold. “Let. Go,” he gasps, the beginnings of hysteria making his eyes brighter and more intense.
Changkyun shakes his head. “Breathe, Red,” he says, “you have to breathe. Focus on me, come on.” He keeps talking, watching the demon’s eyes flick back and forth from the library walls to his face. “Come on, Red,” he says, keeping his voice calm even though he’s now seriously worried the boy is going to pass out right here. “Deep breath in, push it all out.”
The demon shakily inhales, his eyes now focused somewhere below Changkyun’s face, and it’s slightly uncomfortable to think that the demon is staring at his neck but if it helps him calm down, he’ll allow it. Changkyun swallows and repeats, “Deep inhale, long exhale.” The boy follows his instructions, and slowly the tension ebbs from his face. He carefully unclenches his hands from his hair, wincing as he runs a hand through the strands, and when he sighs Changkyun finally lets go of his forearm. His surprisingly strong, wiry forearm.
“We’re gonna figure this out, Red,” he says to distract himself from that thought. “You’re not going to be stuck here.”
The demon nods. “Kihyun,” he says, so quietly Changkyun almost misses it.
“My name is Kihyun,” he says, cheeks flushing slightly as he glances at him.
Changkyun gives him a small smile in return. “I’m Changkyun.”
Kihyun follows him back to his desk, still opening and closing his fists as if to get all the feeling back in his hands. Changkyun doesn’t comment on it, just grabs another chair from one of the other desks and puts it next to his. Kihyun sinks into it and immediately pulls Circulos towards him. “Let me see your notes,” he says, holding out his hand.
Changkyun blinks but passes him his notebook. “Like I said, I was only copying the circle, I didn’t think it would do anything, I’m not sure-”
“Hold on.” Kihyun points to where Changkyun had circled the glyph he didn’t know. “Why did you double circle this?”
“I didn’t know what it meant,” Changkyun admits, scratching the back of his neck. “See, I wrote translate above it.”
“That might be what’s causing the boundary,” Kihyun says. “This glyph either means ‘soul’ or ‘body’, I’m not sure which because their glyphs looks practically identical, and in other rituals I’ve seen double circles create boundaries, so…” He trails off.
“So you’re saying that me taking notes messed with the way the spell is supposed to run.”
Changkyun slumps in his chair at Kihyun’s response. “God.” He closes his eyes for a second before pushing his bangs back off his forehead and refocusing. He notices Kihyun’s eyes flick away from him, his face impressively blank, before he points at a paragraph with one of his strong-looking fingers.
“This is the paragraph that describes the spell effects,” Kihyun says. “I can only roughly translate the section, though, I’m nowhere near certain about any of the meanings.”
“What does it say?” Changkyun asks, leaning over to better see the glyphs.
“Well…” Kihyun shifts in his chair. “I think this says we can’t use magic while the circle is in effect. A magic damper.” He looks at Changkyun. “I don’t have full control when I’m stressed… so can you try? I don’t want to accidentally destroy the library or something.”
“You don’t have full control yet?” Changkyun gapes at him. “How old are you?”
“For your information,” Kihyun snips, sending him a dirty look, “I have perfectly fine control for my age.” He crosses his arms. “It just gets… unwieldy, you know, after…”
“A panic attack?” Changkyun supplies.
Kihyun shoots him another glare but shrugs in acquiescence. “Sure. Whatever you want to call it.”
“Okay, no worries.” Changkyun doesn’t push him further, sensing the uncomfortable air. “I’ll try.”
He extends his hand, uncurling his fingers and wiggling them a little to summon the flames.
He tries again, concentrating harder. Still nothing.
“Well,” he says, frowning, “I got nothing, so you’re probably right.” He glances at Kihyun, noticing his tense shoulders. “What’s your element, then? If you were afraid of destroying the library.”
“Air,” Kihyun says after a pause, still looking at the table.
“Well, that makes sense,” Changkyun quips. “Wind in a library, wouldn’t want to ruffle some pages or anything too dangerous.”
He grins when he sees a tiny smile on Kihyun’s face. “I guess I can live without magic for a bit,” he adds. “What else we got?”
“Hmm.” Kihyun’s smile vanishes, almost like he forced it off his face, and he looks back at the book. “Um, so I’m pretty sure this part says…” He trails off.
“Uh… the boundary is part of it. The spell, I mean. And if we try to break the boundary, or try to reverse the spell, the boundary shrinks.” Kihyun looks over his shoulder, scanning the air behind them as if to try and find where the invisible line is. “Do you think…”
“What, that you kicking it counts?” Changkyun shrugs. “I don’t think so.”
Kihyun exhales heavily. “Only one way to find out.” He stands up and starts to walk away, only to bump into something five feet from the chairs.
“Shit,” Changkyun murmurs. “It was around ten feet before.”
“It was bigger before?” Kihyun sounds surprised as he walks back to his chair. “It felt the same to me.”
“No, definitely smaller now,” Changkyun says. “It might have felt the same because… you were, um…”
Kihyun folds his arms, a wry smile crossing his face as he sits back down. “Then I won’t kick it anymore, for my own sanity.” He glances at the book again and pales. “If we ever get out of this.”
“What? Why?” Changkyun leans over. “What’s the other effect?”
“So…” Kihyun takes a deep breath. “The spell will only release when the condition is met. But, according to this line…” He points at a sentence. “If one or both of us have - bad feelings, I think it says, about the condition, then we’ll both, uh, become human. Immediately.”
“Fuck,” Changkyun breathes. The enormity of the consequences settles between them, a huge, heavy weight on Changkyun’s shoulders. He needs to lighten the mood, needs to say something to make this less depressing, less anxiety-inducing, so he says, “There goes my idea of having you do my homework for me.”
He’s rewarded with a snort. “Brat,” Kihyun says, rolling his eyes and trying to cover his smile with a hand. “You have someone stuck in an ancient favor grant ritual and the first thing you think of is making them do your homework?”
“Yeah,” Changkyun says, smirking. “I don’t want to do it myself, so why not have someone else do it?”
“Devious,” Kihyun replies, smirking as well, before his face turns serious. “But that seems very malicious to me. I’d rather not risk it.”
“Fine,” Changkyun gripes, grabbing his notebook and shoving it in his bag. “Don’t work with me to get out of the spell, I see how it is.” He stuffs the other two books in as well and is reaching for the third when Kihyun puts his hand on his arm.
Changkyun looks up, meeting Kihyun’s expressive brown eyes. He can feel the warmth emanating from Kihyun’s hand through the sleeve of his sweatshirt. “What,” he says brusquely, shaking Kihyun off and snatching Circulos.
“We’ll figure it out,” Kihyun says, seemingly unfazed. “You’re smart. I’m smart. I’m sure we can come up with a solution.” He pushes his chair back and stands up, stretching his arms over his head, making his black sweater ride up slightly. Changkyun quickly looks away from the sliver of revealed skin, taking a deep breath to try and make his cheeks less warm.
“Anyways,” Kihyun continues, “I have to let my friends know that I’m alive, and, unfortunately, pay them all their winnings. And since I can’t teleport because of the magic damper, we’ll have to walk back to my dorm.”
“Why do you have to pay them?” Changkyun asks, shouldering his bag as he stands from his chair.
“We have a standing bet every Halloween,” Kihyun says, falling into step beside Changkyun as they head toward the stairs. “For when one of us gets accidentally summoned.”
“It’s more common than you think,” Kihyun adds, shooting him a look. “Last year, three of us got summoned - Sehun by some idiot human children, Vernon by I think he said an old witch who wrote down the wrong glyphs, and Sooyoung by this nasty wolf that wanted a virgin human but got her instead.” He grins, and the intense, dark look on his face makes Changkyun feel quite a lot of things, things that he absolutely should not be feeling. “That bastard deserved what she did to him.”
“You know I don’t know who any of these people are,” Changkyun says, partially to derail his previous train of thought and partially to keep Kihyun talking as they wind down the library stairs. He has a nice voice. “Are they friends of yours?”
“You could say that,” Kihyun replies, rolling his eyes. “I hang out with Sehun and Vernon sometimes. And Sooyoung, well, she’s very, how do I put this… insistent on knowing everyone.”
“I see,” Changkyun says, hopping down two stairs to the landing. “Sooyoung sounds like my friend Minhyuk.” He turns to Kihyun as they start down the next flight. “He’s a demon, you might know him.”
“Which Minhyuk?” Kihyun looks disinterested, a little bored even, as he keeps pace with Changkyun.
That makes him smile. “Which one?” he asks again.
“There’s more than one?” Changkyun blinks in shock, which makes Kihyun smirk even more.
“Yeah,” he says. “I guess it’s a common name.”
“Okay, well, uh…” Changkyun pauses to think about how to describe his friend. “Tall, noodle body, long face, loud laugh, I think he still has white-blond hair unless Hoseok made him dye it again?”
Kihyun gasps before he bursts out laughing. “You… you’re friends with the snake?” He laughs so hard he has to hold his stomach. “Oh my god, I can’t believe this.”
“The snake?” Changkyun pauses on the last couple of stairs. “So you DO know him.” He jumps to the bottom and waits for Kihyun to join him.
“Do I know him…” Kihyun gasps for air, the smile on his face an image Changkyun secretly wants ingrained in his brain forever. “I’ve known Minhyuk since I was eighteen,” he says, grinning wistfully. “He annoys the shit out of me, but he’s one of my best friends.” He steps down to the floor and they resume walking. “He did mention that he had adopted a baby vamp, but I thought he was fucking with me.”
“I am NOT a baby,” Changkyun says indignantly, pouting slightly. “Just because he’s like three years older than me does not give him the right to say that.”
“Wait, you’re what?” Kihyun looks surprised. “You’re three years younger than him?”
“Yeah,” Changkyun says gloomily. “Makes them all boss me around, like I couldn’t end them all without even trying.”
“That makes you three years younger than me, too,” Kihyun says as they round a corner.
“Great.” Changkyun rolls his eyes. “Someone else to boss me around.” His traitorous mind thinks that he might like it if Kihyun bossed him around, and he swallows quickly to fend off the warmth he feels rising in his cheeks.
They turn another corner and Changkyun smiles when he sees the library aide fully asleep at the circulation desk. “Hold on a sec,” he says quietly to Kihyun, who stops moving and glances at him with an air of confusion. He pulls a piece of paper out of his bag and rummages for a pen, and as soon as his fingers close around one he pulls it out, grinning madly. “Gotcha,” he crows, before he remembers the aide and quickly looks behind him, panicky. Kihyun makes a muffled sound and Changkyun looks back at him to realize he’s covering his laugh. He shoots Kihyun some finger guns (finger guns, his brain supplies, why did you do that, you’re not twelve) and scrawls a note.
“Why are you doing that?” comes Kihyun’s voice, much closer than he expects, and when he raises his head to answer Kihyun has to scoot back a little to avoid them bumping. “Writing a note, I mean,” he continues, looking away from him and twisting his hands. “Shouldn’t you wake him up to check the books out?”
“Seems like you know a lot about library rules,” Changkyun says, quirking an eyebrow. “And here I was thinking you were making fun of me for studying and being a, what did you say, a goody two shoes? A smartass?”
“Just because I don’t study on holidays,” Kihyun splutters, looking very indignant, and Changkyun has to laugh.
“It’s okay, Ki.” The nickname slips out, almost unnoticed, but Changkyun realizes what he’s said at the same time Kihyun’s eyes widen slightly, and he steamrollers past it without thinking too much about it, because he knows if he does he’ll have to acknowledge the thoughts he’s been having for the past hour, and he does not want to think about those thank you very much. “I do this all the time, they know me. Besides,” he says, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “waking up Damien is not the best idea.” He gestures to the aide.
“I’ll defer to you then,” Kihyun says, and Changkyun smiles a little, completely ignoring the fluttering feeling in his chest.
He quietly walks over to the desk and carefully puts his note down, under the wolf paperweight he always uses for his late-night notes, and then quickly heads out of the library, Kihyun at his heels. As soon as they cross the threshold, Changkyun ducks behind a pillar and starts going through his bag.
“What are you doing?” Kihyun hisses.
Changkyun ignores him, mumbling “I swear Jooheon put it back in here,” as he continues to search. “Aha!” He pulls out what he was looking for and wipes a smear of dirt off the head.
“What the hell, Changkyun!” Kihyun says, grabbing the sleeve of his sweatshirt. “First off, why do you have an AIRHORN, and second, what are you going to do with it?”
Changkyun grins. His wolfish grin, the one Jooheon always says is eerily similar to actual werewolves, the one that Hyunwoo calls his troublemaker grin. “I said waking up Damien is a bad idea for the people who do it,” he starts, wiggling the air horn. “I never said he shouldn’t be woken up.”
Kihyun blinks, and then he meets Changkyun’s eyes, and the steely glint in his eyes and the smirk spreading across his face makes Changkyun grin even wider. “Alright, vamp,” Kihyun says, “let’s see what you’ve got.”
Changkyun immediately starts fiddling with the contraption, fingers twisting the attached wires back into working order. “Do you think three seconds is enough?” he asks absentmindedly as he turns the little timer Hyungwon had installed when they’d used it to prank Hoseok.
“What?” Kihyun startles upright.
“How fast can you run?” Changkyun asks, settling on three.
“Wha-” Kihyun closes his mouth as Changkyun grabs his bag, pushes the button on the timer, and rolls it into the library.
“Go!” he says, pushing Kihyun slightly, just as the air horn goes off. Kihyun blinks in shock for one second before he starts running, Changkyun right behind him, Damien’s roar of anger at being woken following them.
They collapse against a wall once they run for five minutes, making loops and doubling back to confuse anyone who might be chasing them. Changkyun leans his head back, breathing hard, and then he looks over at Kihyun, who looks back at him, the flush of exertion in his face, also breathing hard. They lock eyes for a brief moment and then they both explode into laughter.
“Did you see -“ Kihyun gasps, giggling up a storm, “did you see the look on his face?”
Changkyun nods, laughing too hard to answer at first. “It was amazing,” he gets out before lapsing back into giggles.
They sit there for another few minutes before their laughter finally slows. “So,” Kihyun says, leaning back against the wall.
Changkyun glances over at him and has to control his expression. The torchlight is hitting Kihyun’s face at a practically perfect angle, all of the sharpness of his features emphasized, and Changkyun can’t help but notice how handsome the demon is. He mentally slaps himself before he responds.
“You’re not so bad, vamp,” Kihyun says slowly, still staring straight ahead. “I wouldn’t have expected it.”
“Expected what?” Changkyun shifts to fully face him.
Kihyun doesn’t look at him. “You know…” He swallows. “You’re funny. And intelligent. And really, uh, caring. Kind of goes against everything I’ve ever experienced regarding vampires.”
Changkyun feels his face flame at the compliment. “Thanks,” he mumbles, looking down at his hands. “You’re… not what I expected either.” He looks up to see Kihyun studying him, his eyebrows drawn together. “I don’t mean that in a bad way,” he hurries to say, holding up his hands. “You’re really smart, and you’re strong, and you keep surprising me.”
“Is that a good thing?” Kihyun asks.
Changkyun meets his gaze and is taken aback by the intensity he sees in the demon’s eyes. “Yeah,” he says quietly, “it is.” He offers him a small smile. “You’re… unpredictable. Every time I think I know what you’re going to do, you surprise me. And… I don’t know, it’s nice. It’s not boring. And I hate boring.”
“Glad I don’t bore you,” Kihyun says, and Changkyun looks up from his hands to see the demon smiling at him.
“Maybe…” Changkyun pauses to get his thoughts in order. “You know, after we get out of this circle, maybe… we could hang out sometime. Try and get rid of the whole demon versus vampire prejudice.”
Kihyun doesn’t respond for a second, the look on his face almost like he’s surprised by the offer. Changkyun turns away from him and makes to get up, muttering, “Or not, it was a stupid idea, you don’t have to say yes,” when Kihyun softly says “I’d like that,” making him freeze.
“I’d like that,” Kihyun repeats, and Changkyun swears he sees the corners of Kihyun’s eyes glistening before he runs a hand through his hair and stands. “Come on,” he adds, smiling ruefully. “We have to go pay my idiot friends.”
“Lead the way,” Changkyun says, gesturing in front of him. “I don’t know where your dorms are.”
“Brat,” Kihyun responds, and they grin at each other for a second before Kihyun starts walking.
Changkyun hurries to catch up, lest Kihyun hit the boundary again and it shrinks even more. Not that he would necessarily mind being closer to Kihyun, but he really doesn’t think that would be good for Kihyun’s state of mind.
They turn a corner and head down a flight of stairs, Kihyun winding his way through the halls with a sense of confidence, and Changkyun can’t deny any longer that he finds it sexy as hell. He finds Kihyun sexy as hell.
To distract himself from that thought, and to break the silence, he says, “What about if you bring me food from the dining hall as my favor?”
“What am I, your slave?” Kihyun shoots back. An image of Kihyun in chains - in nothing but chains - flashes into Changkyun’s brain and he is so, so glad he’s slightly behind Kihyun so his flaming cheeks cannot be seen by the demon in question. “Not a chance,” he adds. “Nothing menial.”
“Then, what if you… uh… ask for an extension on a project for me?” Changkyun replies. “That’s school-related, it’s not menial.”
“I’m not talking to a professor for you,” Kihyun says. “I’m not your parent.”
Changkyun rolls his eyes. “Fine.”
They cut across the open space near the dining hall and go down another flight of stairs. “Your dorms are really far from the rest of school,” Changkyun comments.
“Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass,” Kihyun responds. “But normally I just pop over to my classes; I don’t like making the walk if I don’t have to.”
“But…” Changkyun trails off.
“It’s just…” He glances at him. “I thought there was a teleportation damper over the school. Minhyuk always bitches about it.”
Kihyun looks thoughtful. “I never knew about that,” he says.
“Well, does anyone else besides you teleport places?” Changkyun asks.
“I’m actually not sure,” Kihyun answers. “I… kind of… don’t really spend time with other people.”
“That’s fair,” Changkyun says, sidestepping a loose tile. “People suck.”
Kihyun groans. “Did you seriously just make a terrible vampire pun?”
Changkyun blinks. And then he gives Kihyun his patented shit-eating grin as he realizes what he said.
“Oh my god.” Kihyun drags his palms down his face. “I cannot believe this.”
Changkyun strikes a pose. “Terrible puns are my specialty,” he says.
Kihyun glances back at him and snorts. “You look ridiculous.”
“That’s what I was going for.”
They continue to walk in comfortable silence until Changkyun says, “Laugh at my jokes. That’s my favor.”
“Can’t laugh at something that’s not funny,” Kihyun responds without missing a beat.
Changkyun gasps, putting a hand to his heart. “You don’t think I’m funny?”
“No,” Kihyun says, with the straightest face Changkyun’s ever seen.
“You wound me, Kihyun,” Changkyun cries, holding his chest and stumbling dramatically to lean against the wall. “And here I thought we were becoming friends.”
“Are you always this dramatic?” Kihyun asks, his arms crossed as he comes to a stop in the middle of the hallway.
“Only when I’ve truly been hurt,” Changkyun responds, putting on the saddest face he can and gazing at Kihyun, whose eyes are trained on a lamp a few feet away from them.
It’s because he’s staring so hard that he sees the moment Kihyun’s mouth twitches into a smile before he wrests control back and forces his face blank.
“You laughed!” Changkyun crows, straightening from the wall and throwing his arms in the air. “I made you laugh, Kihyun, I saw it, you laughed!” He grins and starts dancing around, doing every silly dance move he can think of. “I made Kihyun laugh, the unflappable demon laughed at my jokes, I am the funniest being alive.”
“Shut up, you fool,” Kihyun hisses, but he’s really laughing now, unable to contain his amusement any longer.
“I am holding onto this memory forever,” Changkyun proclaims, pointing at him. “The time I made you laugh.”
“Okay, okay, I get it,” Kihyun says, his smile lighting up his face. Changkyun didn’t think it was possible for him to be any more beautiful, but here he is being proven wrong because a smiling Kihyun could outshine the sun.
“Now stop acting like an idiot and keep walking,” Kihyun adds, something like fondness sweeping across his face for a second before he schools his features into his usual blank stare, the hint of a smile still playing around his lips.
Changkyun salutes and starts walking again, trailing Kihyun as they continue to wind their way through the halls.
They go down one more flight of stairs and take another left before Kihyun says, “This is it” and stops in front of a dark blue door. He opens it slowly and sticks his head inside, almost like he wants to prevent Changkyun from seeing what’s inside, but his hand falls from the door and it swings wide, revealing a sparsely decorated room empty of people.
Kihyun takes a step inside and looks around before shaking his head and picking up a piece of paper that had been laying on the blue and grey rug. “Dumbasses,” he mutters.
“Who, your friends?” Changkyun asks as he looks wistfully at the comfy-looking couch (his feet are starting to ache from the long day).
Kihyun blows out a long breath. “Yeah,” he says, folding the piece of paper and sticking it in his pants pocket. “They left me a note. Said they didn't feel great about staying in here without me, so they were going to go to a party.” He shrugs. “I don’t know what party, they didn't say, and I’d rather not crash a bunch looking for them.”
Changkyun watches as he sits down on the couch. “This is your room?” he says incredulously.
“That’s what you got from all that?”
“Uh, yeah. This is nice.” Changkyun pivots in place, scanning the breadth of Kihyun’s room. “Way bigger than my room, that’s for damn sure.”
Kihyun huffs an exasperated laugh. “Good to know,” he says. “But now I can’t pay my friends until tomorrow, so my idea for how to spend time until we figure this out is gone.”
Changkyun shifts his weight, his bag feeling heavy on his shoulders. “Well…” he starts. “We could, uh, swing by my room and drop my bag off, and then go from there?”
Kihyun stretches his arms over his head (making his black sweater ride up again, and Changkyun has to drag his eyes away from the yet-again-revealed strip of skin) before he stands up. “Fine,” he says. “Your room it is.”
“Um…” Changkyun glances at him. “I’m… not entirely sure where we are.”
Kihyun rolls his eyes as he holds the door open for Changkyun to leave. “Where would help you and your terrible sense of direction?”
“Shut up,” Changkyun groans. “Jooheon and Hyungwon already make fun of me enough about that.”
Kihyun closes the door behind them and raises an eyebrow, waiting for an answer.
Changkyun scratches the back of his neck, suddenly slightly uncomfortable under Kihyun’s piercing gaze. “If you get me to the dining hall, I can go from there,” he says. “I make that walk so much I could do it with my eyes closed.”
Kihyun’s hard eyes glint with challenge and Changkyun quickly backtracks. “Just an expression, I really don’t think that would be a good idea, I’d probably trip over my own feet and smash my face into a wall or something.”
“I wouldn’t let you do that,” Kihyun says, the barest hint of a smirk appearing on his face, but he takes the lead anyway, heading back down the hallway to the stairs they had just come down. Changkyun hurries after him, careful of the boundary, and they traipse up the stairs, the only sound their feet hitting the stone steps.
They wind their way through the halls, passing areas that Changkyun thinks look a little familiar, but Kihyun doesn’t say another word, and the silence is starting to grate on him. Normally, he finds silence comfortable, and it’s not like earlier when he and Kihyun were walking because he most certainly felt the ease of their silence then, but now… the air has a different feel to it. Changkyun’s not sure what it is, but it makes something in his chest tighten. To try and get rid of the uncomfortable feeling, he reverts to his default defense mechanism.
“What if,” he says, making Kihyun whip his head around to look at him, “you cleaned my room for me as the favor?” He meets Kihyun’s gaze and shoots him a snarky grin.
Kihyun just shakes his head, his lips pressing together the only outward sign of emotion on his face.
They keep walking.
“Do my laundry for me?” Changkyun offers as they round a corner and see the dining hall up ahead.
“Like I said,” Kihyun snaps, “I’m not your maid.”
“And you won’t swing by the kitchen to get me a snack,” Changkyun says, just to see if he’ll change his answer, but Kihyun says “No” very flatly and continues to walk until he reaches the middle of the open area by the entrance to the dining hall.
“We’re here,” he says, crossing his arms. “Now you lead.”
Changkyun gives him a look before he starts heading to the stairs on the left side of the space. Kihyun follows, expression completely blank, eyes still hard.
“You seem organized,” Changkyun continues as they climb the stairs. “I’m not, my room is a total disaster, so maybe you could organize my papers and such for me? Would make it a hell of a lot easier for me to find things, you know-”
“No, you’re not organized, or no, you won’t do it?”
“I won’t do it.”
Changkyun presses his lips together to control his growing frustration as they head down a hall lined with classrooms.
“Nothing menial,” Kihyun adds, glancing over at him. “Remember?”
Changkyun rolls his eyes. They round another corner and he’s about to say something incredibly sassy when he gets another idea. “Will you keep tabs on two of my friends for me, then? I really think Hyungwon and Hoseok are fucking but no one knows for certain, this would be a great way to find out-”
“Absolutely not.” Kihyun cuts him off, arms crossed. “I am not spying on anyone.”
Changkyun glares at him for a second before moving on, mumbling to himself, “Fucking priss, says he wants to get out of the circle but refuses every favor I suggest.”
“What did you say?”
Changkyun freezes for a second before thinking fuck it and whirling around to look at the demon following him. “I said,” he hisses, fangs dropping out, “you’re being a fucking priss. You clearly don’t want to be here, I didn’t even MEAN to summon you in the first place, both of us want to be out of this damn circle, and yet you shoot down every. Fucking. Idea. I give you! What is your fucking problem?!”
Kihyun blinks and his entire face changes, going from the blank mask to something very, very dangerous. “Are you fucking serious?” he asks, his voice like a viper. “That bullshit you’ve been giving me are what you call ideas? And I thought you were somewhat intelligent.”
Changkyun balls his hands into fists, digging his nails into his palms to try and control the rage roiling in his gut. “I’ve been trying to find a solution!” he shouts. “Better than what you’ve been doing, just saying no to everything and looking like a statue the whole time, not trying to help-”
“Because I don’t know if I can help!” Kihyun yells, and Changkyun shuts up. “This circle is so tricky, it’s almost like whoever created it wanted the caster and whoever they summoned to stay together, and I really don’t want to have something go wrong, and the more I think about it the more I can’t find a way out.”
“Yeah, but both of us are smart,” Changkyun says, the anger draining out of him, leaving him only frustrated and slightly exhausted. “Maybe if you actually tried to collaborate and work with me instead of figuring it out yourself, we might be able to find a solution.”
“THERE IS NO SOLUTION!” Kihyun shouts, his hands coming up to hold the tops of his arms, almost like he’s trying to hold himself together. “We’re going to be stuck in this fucking circle forever-”
“No, we’re not,” Changkyun shoots back, his frustration growing. “If you could pull your head out of your negative ass for maybe five seconds, you’d see that I’ve been trying to give you a way out…” He trails off as Kihyun lets out a long-suffering sigh.
“God,” he complains, looking up to the ceiling, “we’re fucking doomed.”
He drops his bag and storms right up to the demon, grabs the neck of his sweater, and throws him against the cool stone wall. Kihyun’s spluttered noise of indignation cuts off as Changkyun presses his arm down, pinning him between the wall and his own body.
“I can’t fucking believe you,” Changkyun fumes, his pulse thrumming with adrenaline. “I’ve been doing my best this whole time to try and fix this, and you’ve just given up.” He locks eyes with Kihyun, glaring at him and baring his fangs. “The least you could do is attempt to be helpful, hm?” He applies more pressure to his forearm, keeping the demon still.
Kihyun’s tongue darts out to lick his lips and Changkyun’s eyes instinctively drop to follow the motion, and it is only then that he realizes how close they are. Their chests are barely brushing against each other, he can feel the warmth of Kihyun’s skin through where his hand is fisted in his sweater, and one of his legs is slotted between Kihyun’s even though he has no memory of putting it there. Changkyun swears he can feel the air change, get warmer and thicker and heavier with the ideas that are currently running through his mind at 500 miles an hour, and his heart is racing even more than it was before.
He drags his gaze away from Kihyun’s soft-looking lips and back up to his eyes only to find his gaze dropped as well, and from the way he swallows when Changkyun licks his own lips he knows exactly where he’s looking.
“Hey,” he breathes, and Kihyun’s eyes dart away from his mouth. “Do you feel that?” he asks.
Kihyun’s cheeks flush pink. “The… the thrumming?” he asks, eyes now trained on a spot over Changkyun’s shoulder.
Changkyun nods. It’s almost like a current is running through the air around them, intensifying everything. “You don’t think…” He trails off, feeling his face warm, and looks away from Kihyun’s very attractive face to study the wall and try and calm himself down.
“The circle. The favor. You know, not like a regular favor, but… uh…” Changkyun wiggles his eyebrows a little, staunchly not looking at the demon he has pressed against the wall in a position one could certainly call sexual if they didn’t know what was going on.
Kihyun inhales as he realizes what Changkyun is getting at, and Changkyun can feel his entire body tense, which most definitely does not help his mind calm down.
“I mean…” Kihyun licks his lips again, and Changkyun can’t help it, his eyes are drawn there like magnets. “It couldn’t hurt to try,” he says quietly.
The two of them are so close now Changkyun can feel a little puff of air on his cheek every time Kihyun exhales. “You said I should try,” Kihyun adds. “I want to try.”
The words hit Changkyun harder than anything else they’ve said to each other over the course of the last few hours, and he wages a war with himself on whether he should just go for it and finally find out if the demon’s lips are as soft as they look or if he should do the right thing and let him go and pretend this conversation never happened, but as soon as Kihyun breathes “Changkyun” like he knows about the conflicting thoughts battling in Changkyun’s brain, it’s over.
“Are you sure?” he says, his voice even lower than usual, Kihyun’s proximity giving it a rough edge.
Kihyun nods and that’s all the permission he needs to close the distance between them and carefully, gently press his lips to his.
The whole room shakes and a few people let out frightened squeals as the ripples pass over them. “What the hell was that?” a tall warlock yells.
“Someone Mated,” says a slim, dark-haired witch from the corner of the couch where she’s leaning against another girl’s shoulder. “First one of the year.”
“And on Halloween, too,” her girlfriend giggles, putting her drink down to card her fingers through the girl’s hair. “We didn’t make that much noise when we Mated at the end of last year, did we, Joo?”
“Shut up, Seulgi,” the dark-haired girl says, relaxing into her touch. “But no, we didn’t. Maybe it’s different for vampires.” She sniffs the air. “At least, that’s who I think it was. The scent is… unclear.”
“Hey, Chungha,” Seulgi yells. “Get over here.”
Chungha appears almost out of nowhere, her nostrils already flaring. “What do you smell? I want to see if Joohyun is right,” Seulgi says.
Chungha’s eyes glow were-yellow and she inhales deeply. “I don’t know,” she says, her shoulders slumping. “I got a hint of vamp, but I also think there might be a little bit of demon? There’s a lot of different notes combining.” She pinches the top of her nose. “It’s… giving me a headache. Too overwhelming.”
“Interesting,” Joohyun murmurs.
“Well, whatever,” Seulgi says. She stands up and whistles for attention. “Someone out there just Mated,” she yells, and everyone cheers, raising their cups. “Bottoms up!” She downs her drink and the party restarts, the last couple minutes forgotten.
Chaerin’s eyes flare red as the blast washes over her. She pushes her chair back from the desk, making Jiyong look at her curiously. “Did you not feel that?” she asks, drumming one long, tapered fingernail on her chin.
“No, I did,” he reassures her, running a hand through his dark red hair. “It just felt more like vamp.”
“Well, it wasn’t,” she snaps, pulling her long blonde hair into a ponytail. “I have to go.”
Jiyong gives her a wicked grin. “Let the newbies know how much fun they’re in for, mm?”
“God, you and your innuendos,” she responds, rolling her eyes, before she vanishes in a puff of black smoke.
Hyungsoo shoots upright from where he’s leaning against the wall, his skin covered in cold sweat. “Babe,” he murmurs, turning to the shirtless woman standing in front of their shared closet, “someone Mated.”
“I felt it,” Jihyun says. “Go.”
“I love you,” he responds, dropping a kiss onto Jihyun’s tan shoulder before he takes off, running as fast as he can, the walls blurring around him as he flies towards where his senses are telling him the couple are.
The first press of their lips is gentle, and Changkyun can’t believe that he’s really doing this, he’s really kissing Kihyun of all people, but as soon as he makes to pull back Kihyun sighs against his mouth and brings his hands up to wrap around Changkyun’s shoulders, so Changkyun gives into the thoughts he’s been having for the past few hours and lets himself go, kissing him again, adding a little more force, and savoring the way he feels pressed against him.
Kihyun lightly nips his bottom lip and he opens his mouth reflexively, allowing their tongues to tangle with each other. Changkyun is lost in the way their mouths meld together, the way Kihyun’s tongue swipes against his, the way a multitude of feelings are rushing over him like a wave. Kihyun’s mouth is warm, his lips soft, and Changkyun winds his fingers into the hair at the back of Kihyun’s neck, pushing himself even closer to the demon and deepening the kiss.
Kihyun lets out a little whine when he does that, digging his nails into Changkyun’s arms, and the twinge of pain that radiates from his hands makes Changkyun arch and gasp needily into his mouth. He feels Kihyun smile slightly against his lips before he responds with equal fervor.
The last coherent thought Changkyun has is that he thinks he could die like this, kissing Kihyun, before his mind goes blank and all he can do is feel.
Hyungsoo skids to a stop and gapes at the corridor. “What the fuck,” he says, and whirls around when he realizes someone else said that at the exact same time.
His fangs drop down and he hisses at Chaerin, whose eyes are blazing red, her talons out as she glares at him.
“What the hell are you doing,” she spits, slowly moving with him as they start to circle each other.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Hyungsoo shoots back, eyes tracking her every move. “This is a vampire Mating.”
“Clearly,” she sneers, “your head is screwed on backwards, because this is a demon Mating. Despite it being like nothing I’ve ever witnessed.”
“You’re right,” he whispers, seemingly in shock. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. Except…”
Chaerin looks at him and stops as well. Hyungsoo looks simultaneously shocked, elated, and terrified.
“What is it?” she snaps, his expression making her uneasy.
Hyungsoo glances at the corridor. The ball of dark smoke is still roiling, streaks of flame and what appears to be crackles of lightning darting through it, and in the center of the vortex they can barely make out two figures entwined against the wall. “It… it matches the description written down from when Hyorin, rest her soul, Mated with Bora.” Hyungsoo quickly makes the sign for warding off evil.
Chaerin gasps. “You don’t think…” She backs away from the corridor. “No. No way in hell. My family has barely recovered from the last time there was a Powered.” She takes another step backwards. “I am not dealing with this.”
“Don’t,” she hisses, pointing at Hyungsoo, her finger shaking slightly.
“They’re either a demon or a vampire,” Hyungsoo says softly. “No one knows who it is. But we’re the only two Mating counselors here, they have to be one or the other.”
“Fuck that,” Chaerin says, her voice trembling. “The last demon Powered murdered half my race despite being one of us, and the last vamp Powered forced the rest of us into either hiding or slavery. I am NOT taking my chances.”
She shoots him another look before she vanishes in a puff of smoke.
Hyungsoo sighs and pushes his quivering hands through his hair before he approaches the vortex. He summons a shield of hard, dense air to surround him, just in case, and then when he’s close enough he loudly clears his throat.
The sound of someone coughing pointedly permeates Changkyun’s brain and the two of them jerk apart, only to both wince and stumble back against the wall when a huge boom echoes through the hall.
“The hell was that?” Kihyun asks, glancing over at him. “Do you think-”
Changkyun widens his eyes, hoping his panicky, muttered “shut up” will do the trick, and Kihyun closes his mouth immediately.
“Care to enlighten me about what’s going on?” comes a voice, and Changkyun gulps as he looks away from Kihyun to see Kim Hyungsoo standing a few feet away from them, arms crossed, his long black hair covering his eyes just enough so that Changkyun can’t read his expression.
“Oh, uh, sorry, sir… um, I mean Professor Kim… uh…” Changkyun trails off as the older vampire stays still, his menacing air causing him to wring his hands nervously. “Um… we were… uh…”
Kihyun puts a hand on his arm, and Changkyun relaxes at the touch. “We were kissing,” he says firmly, and Changkyun sees out of the corner of his eye that the demon’s eyes are starting to glow red. “Is there a problem with that?”
Changkyun feels his entire face go red, so to save himself from further embarrassment he stares at where Hyungsoo’s burgundy dress pants meet his black shoes.
“No,” Hyungsoo says slowly. “But there is a slight problem, Yoo Kihyun, because it seems that you two have Mated.”
Changkyun’s head flies up at that. “What?” he gasps. He can sense the tension radiating off Kihyun’s body next to him. “But… but that’s not possible.”
He looks at Kihyun to see him shaking his head slowly, minutely. “That’s not possible,” the demon repeats, his hands starting to tremble in what Changkyun somehow innately knows is a combination of panic and fright.
He clenches his fists and shifts forward so that Kihyun can stay behind him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Kim,” he says slowly. “We’re not Mates.”
Hyungsoo uncrosses his arms and holds his hands out in front of him, taking a step towards them. “I know it doesn’t seem to make sense,” he starts, “but-”
“Nothing about tonight makes sense!” The words burst from Kihyun and Changkyun whirls in shock. Kihyun’s eyes are frantic, blazing bright red, his hands shaking uncontrollably as he clenches them into fists. “First I get summoned out of nowhere by him, and we can’t figure out why, and then I start having…” He grits his teeth. “Feelings,” he forces out, “and then a bunch of weird shit happens and now you fucking show up and tell us we’re somehow Mates?” His voice rises with each word until he’s shouting. Changkyun glances between him and Hyungsoo, unsure of what to do, but very concerned about the way Kihyun is trembling.
“Nothing makes sense,” Kihyun yells, “and I just want it to fucking stop!” He turns and raises his fists to bang them on the stone wall and everything goes into what feels like slow motion.
Changkyun’s ears pop because of the sudden drop in air pressure, and his magic flares in his gut, warning him of danger, and he barely gets a wall of flame to shield himself up in time.
Kihyun hits the wall with a wordless shout and lightning explodes from his fists, flaring around him and sending bolts in five different directions, but none of them go near Changkyun, seemingly directed around him by an invisible force.
Changkyun lowers his arm and his shield after a second, gasping when he sees Kihyun crouched on the floor, staring at his hands, still shaking like a leaf in wind.
“Kihyun,” he breathes, rushing to him. “Are you okay -”
“Don’t touch me,” Kihyun says raggedly, shifting away from Changkyun’s hand. “I might hurt you again.”
“You won’t,” Changkyun says, “and you didn’t. See, I’m fine.” He extends his hand again. “The bolts didn’t go anywhere near me.”
Kihyun slowly looks up at him, taking in every inch of unharmed skin, and then he slumps against the wall. Changkyun catches him before he hits his head, and Kihyun leans into him as if to take comfort from him being there. “I don’t know what’s happening to me,” he murmurs, opening and closing his hands, his voice thick. “I don’t know why there were bolts, I don’t know… I just want answers.”
“Sorry to interrupt,” Hyungsoo’s dry voice comes, and both of them look at him. He shoves his hands into his pants pockets. “But I think I have an answer that might explain everything.” He leans against the column closest to where Changkyun and Kihyun are sitting. “Kihyun… you’re a Powered.”
Kihyun’s face drains of color. “But… I…”
“Have you ever manipulated lightning before?” Hyungsoo asks, not unkindly.
“No,” Kihyun says quietly.
“What’s your element?”
“And yours, Changkyun?” Hyungsoo looks over at him, glancing at where his arm is wrapped around Kihyun’s shoulders.
Changkyun blushes before answering. “I’m fire.”
“Interesting,” Hyungsoo says, rubbing the back of his neck. He looks over his shoulder for a second and then back at the two of them. “I think your lightning set off a sensor or something, Kihyun,” he adds. “The best place for us to continue this conversation would be my office.” He pushes himself off the wall and comes to stand in front of them. “Changkyun, can you follow me and carry him?”
Kihyun glares. “I can take care of myself,” he says.
Hyungsoo looks behind him again. “If you want to leave a trail for whoever sensed the lightning, be my guest,” he says. “But if you don’t, Changkyun or I will carry you. Your choice.”
“Come on, Ki,” Changkyun says comfortingly. “I won’t drop you.”
Kihyun elbows him half-heartedly but nods in agreement. “Changkyun,” he says to Hyungsoo, who nods.
“Okay, then, let’s go. I don’t want to stay in the open for longer than necessary.”
Changkyun crouches and Kihyun climbs onto his back, locking his arms around his neck and burying his head in the crook of his shoulder.
“Ready,” he proclaims, straightening up, and Hyungsoo says, “Follow closely,” before he takes off running.
Changkyun gulps and says, “Close your eyes,” to Kihyun before he breaks into a sprint.
They come to a stop in front of a door made out of dark teakwood, and Hyungsoo pushes it open, ushering them inside. Kihyun slides off Changkyun’s back and immediately collapses into a high-backed red armchair, and Changkyun glances around the room as Hyungsoo closes the door behind them.
It’s a comfortable-looking office, with two more armchairs and a loveseat surrounding a little table, and a desk with a very full bookshelf behind it in a corner, and a fireplace on the opposite wall. Changkyun sinks into the armchair next to Kihyun as he tries to scan the titles on the bookshelf, but Hyungsoo breaks his concentration when he says, “If you could light the fire, please, Changkyun.” He starts and nods, cheeks flushing, before he takes a deep breath, turns, and tosses a fireball into the wood sitting there. The crackle of the flames calms his nerves, and he turns back to face Hyungsoo, hoping his emotions are not splayed across his face.
Before he can say anything, however, Kihyun looks up from his hands and says, “Explain.”
Hyungsoo sighs and leans back into the couch cushions, folding his hands over his knee. “What do you know about Powereds?” he asks.
“That they’re the cause of all our problems,” Kihyun says immediately.
Hyungsoo doesn’t look surprised at his answer. “What else?”
“They’re stronger than everyone,” Changkyun says carefully. “Their power reserves are deeper, so they’re able to do more with the spells we have and develop new, more intricate, more difficult tactics.”
“Anything else?” Hyungsoo looks between the two of them.
Changkyun laces his fingers and swallows heavily. “They’re the reason we had the War,” he says, managing to not glance at Kihyun when he hears him inhale sharply.
When Kihyun doesn’t add anything, Hyungsoo leans forward. “You’re both right,” he says. “The existence of Powereds has long been a topic of much discussion, most of it not very favorable. I’m sure you two have both covered the Jo dictatorship and the Lee massacre in your history classes.”
Both of them nod solemnly, and Hyungsoo grimaces before continuing. “Those are two of the most recent incidents, so they’re more prominent in the collective memory. But there is a history of violence, abuse, and bloodshed caused by Powereds that stretches back millenia.” He swallows and Changkyun notices the utter sadness in his face when he starts to speak again.
“The last Powered, Hyorin, rest her soul, was trying her hardest to change the perception of Powereds. She was a witch, blessed with the power to manipulate light, which in turn boosted her already extraordinary healing aura. She promoted peace and camaraderie, but the fact that she chose no side, and helped all who came to her no matter who they were…” Hyungsoo swallows. “She made enemies, and one of their many assassination attempts succeeded.”
“Did… did you know her?” Kihyun asks, his voice tentative.
Hyungsoo lowers his head. “Hyorin was… a great friend of mine,” he says. “Even better friends with my Mate, as they had known each other since their school days. She was always smiling, every time I saw her.” He sighs, rubbing a hand across his face. “Unity could have been possible, under her,” he continues. “But she wanted nothing to do with politics and the power game, content to stay in her cabin with her Mate and heal people. After she passed, though, the fighting broke out again. And when the Oracle started to show signs of an upcoming prediction, well…” Hyungsoo looks at them meaningfully.
“The War,” Changkyun whispers.
“Exactly.” Hyungsoo folds his hands and rests his chin on top of them. “How much do either of you know about the War? How old were you during the worst of it?”
“I was ten, I think,” Changkyun says, looking at his hands, at the top of Hyungsoo’s desk, at anywhere but the demon in the armchair next to him. “I remember being shoved into a hidden closet by my parents when a league of… um, demons, attacked my house during their raid on my city. And a lot of other vampires in our area were killed.” He gulps. “Sometimes I still get flashes of the bloodstains I saw when my parents came back for me.”
Kihyun lets out a little gasp and Changkyun clenches the arm of his chair so hard his knuckles turn white, resisting the urge to turn. “Other than that, I don’t really know a lot about it,” he adds.
Hyungsoo nods before looking at Kihyun. “Do you have anything to add?”
When Kihyun stays quiet, Changkyun finally gives in to the niggling feeling in his chest and looks at him as well, right as Kihyun glances at him. Their eyes meet and Changkyun is shocked by the depth of emotion he sees there.
“It had to do with control of the Oracle,” Kihyun says, finally looking back at Hyungsoo. “My family stayed underground, so that was all I knew about it.”
“Right,” Hyungsoo says. “The signs of a prediction about the next Powered were becoming more evident, and the ruling factions knew that whoever had control over the next Powered would have control over everyone, so a few of them got it in their heads that they needed to have the Oracle.”
He exhales, and the lines on his face are thrown into greater focus. “That conflict just pushed everything that had already been a problem into the forefront. And you know how much havoc it wreaked on all of us.”
Changkyun swallows, lowering his head.
“Did they ever find the Oracle?” Kihyun’s voice is small, smaller than it’s been all night.
Hyungsoo shakes his head no. “She died in an attack on her home, and no one knew if she made the prediction, and if she did, no one heard it.” He glances between the two of them again. “Once the news of her death broke, the fighting stopped and the Treaty of Hwangak was signed, but, as both of you know very well, the tensions and prejudices remained. And now here you are.” He inclines his head to Kihyun and sits back in his chair.
Changkyun stiffens when he realizes Hyungsoo is done talking. “The history of the War is all well and good,” he says sharply, meeting Hyungsoo’s eyes, “but you still haven’t told us why - or how - we’re supposedly Mates.”
Hyungsoo closes his eyes briefly before running a hand through his hair and leaning forward again. “Do you know what causes the Mating bond?” he asks.
Changkyun feels his fangs drop down as his frustration spikes. “Enough with the questions,” he snaps, “just-”
A warm hand lands on his arm and he cuts himself off, whipping his head around to look confusedly at Kihyun.
“Equivalent power levels and matching souls,” the demon says, hurriedly glancing away from him. “Something in each species’ genome determines it.”
“Exactly,” Hyungsoo says. “Except for in your case, and the case of all other Powereds.”
“The magical amplification of Powereds is thought to overrule the species-specific genome,” Hyungsoo explains, and Kihyun leans forward to listen without letting go of Changkyun’s arm.
“Because of the amount of magic in a Powered’s system, an inter-species Mate could increase the amount of magic in their descendants, which would cause a general power imbalance. We’re not exactly sure how it works, but some of the leading researchers believe that is the driving force behind the external selection of a Mate. As for the non-Powered Mate, it is believed that they are usually someone with a large amount of magic for their species, as they need to be somewhat comparable to their Mate. And I have heard, Changkyun, that you are one of the more talented fire wielders this school has seen.”
Changkyun jerks upright at that. “Thank you, sir,” he says, willing his cheeks to be less warm, because he most definitely had not been staring at where Kihyun’s hand was resting on his forearm and only half paying attention.
“And I’m sure you’ve felt the ripples when a Mating bond solidifies before,” Hyungsoo continues.
“Yeah,” Changkyun says, “there was one last fall.”
“Oh yeah, those two witches.” Kihyun shrugs. “It just felt like a wave in the air.”
“So that happened earlier, with you two,” Hyungsoo says. “And the entire building shook.”
Changkyun and Kihyun glance at each other.
“And,” Hyungsoo adds, raising his eyebrows, “when I got to the corridor where you were, you were surrounded by a cloud of grey smoke with flashes of lightning and streaks of flame running through it.”
“We were?” Kihyun gasps.
“Wait,” Changkyun says, glancing at Kihyun again. “That could have been the spell circle. That’s similar to what I saw right before you appeared in the library.”
“What spell circle.” Hyungsoo’s voice is flat and Changkyun cringes as he leans over to dig in his bag for Circulos Ritua.
“Well, um, I might have accidentally cast this old favor grant ritual and somehow summoned him and then bound him in the circle.” Changkyun speeds through his words as if it will make the fact less embarrassing before he opens the book and shows Hyungsoo the ritual.
“Wait.” Hyungsoo taps the book. “This is the ritual you performed.”
“Accidentally,” Changkyun mumbles, but he freezes when Hyungsoo break into a grin.
“You two are so lucky this wasn’t anything but what it is,” he says, laughing a little. “Neither of you know Old Fae, correct?”
They shake their heads.
“We thought it was a demonic favor grant,” Kihyun says. “At least that’s what I thought it said. My Fae is rusty at best.”
“Close,” Hyungsoo says, still smiling. “It is a demon-specific ritual, but it’s a very old one used for summoning your Mate.”
Changkyun and Kihyun look at each other again. Kihyun’s ears and neck are flushed, Changkyun notes, but he feels his own cheeks warm as well at the implication.
“If anything,” Hyungsoo continues, “that confirms it. You two are Mates. The only way out of this circle is solidifying your Mating bond, which you did.” He pauses, tapping a finger on his chin. “But the release from the circle would have been the boom after I showed up. The smoke, lightning, and flames, I believe, are a side effect of the Mating bond when one member is a Powered.” He turns and pulls a thin brown book from his bookshelf. “What I witnessed from you two is very similar to the eyewitness account from when Hyorin and Bora Mated.” He flips through the pages until he finds something, and then passes the book to Kihyun.
Changkyun leans over to see what is written there.
A dark cloud of smoke surrounded them, with flashes of golden sunlight and interwoven lines of blue. I was afraid, but could not call out to them for fear of disrupting the Bond being created. For that is what it was, somehow, despite Bora being a vampire and Hyorin a witch. I felt the ripple as soon as their lips had touched. But the smoke and the sunlight and the blue vanished as soon as they broke apart, and their smiles of joy touched me in my own heart, and I smiled with them.
“So…” Kihyun looks up from the book. “Changkyun and I are Mates.”
“Yes,” Hyungsoo confirms.
Kihyun passes the book back to him. “I… Okay.” He sighs, and the sound makes Changkyun slip his hand into his.
“Hey,” he says, rubbing his thumb across the back of Kihyun’s hand to try and give him some comfort. “We’ll figure it out. It won’t be easy, for sure…” Kihyun snorts and he grins, happy to have made him laugh again. “But we can do it. Together.”
Kihyun’s hand twitches in his and Changkyun lets him wind their fingers together, the warm weight sending sparks through his bloodstream and igniting something deep within him.
“Together,” Kihyun agrees, smiling softly at him, and Changkyun lets himself fall, fall into the newly lit flame of love that he has, against all odds, summoned for Yoo Kihyun.