seungkwan’s not sure what he’s supposed to be expecting. he stands in front of the shelf, eyes following the hand - paw, actually - of the cat themed clock. it’s no bigger than his head, but it’s an unsightly combination of faded red, white, and green paint, with gold around the eyes. it seems to follow his gaze from left to right. it’d be a wonderful piece of craftsmanship if the nose wasn’t fucked up.
he steps away, digging his hands a little deeper into the pockets of his jacket, one fist curling around the piece of jade, cool to the touch despite his clammy hands, the other curling around a piece of paper.
junhui is hardly someone that seungkwan knows well, but he’s easy, open, and the sharp look in his eyes is hard to forget. his recommendations seem like they come without a price, and seungkwan is banking on a good favor for the sliver of advice that junhui has offered him. a place where you can buy anything - anything at all. the more seungkwan wants, the less money seems to matter.
antique shops are always full of odd trinkets, but this one is practically stuffed, and seungkwan finds it somewhat difficult to navigate between the many shelves and boxes on the floor. it looks less like a shop and more a storage space, and with the dust floating in the air around him, he doubts this place gets that many customers for much the same reason. it’s that odd hour before sunset where the light bakes the streets warm and the gold-orange sheen creeps over everything. he’s pretty sure this place should have turned on the lights a long time ago, but when he looks up, he can’t find any fluorescent lights like he’d expected. Just the bare ceiling, cracked and spotting.
the counter is a little out of the way, and unsurprisingly empty.
seungkwan rings the bell and waits. oddly, there’s a mirror on the wall behind the counter, oval shaped and with an intricate frame. it looks vintage, and he muses to himself how much it must be worth. his reflection reaches up to point at his hair, the way his bangs sit oddly, and when seungkwan blinks, he simply finds himself staring back, bewildered.
he fixes his bangs and clears his throat, just as someone comes from the backroom that is separated only by a thinning curtain. he's dressed neatly in a black slacks and a white button up, sleeves rolled to the elbows.
this isn’t what he was expecting. xu minghao - name tag chipped and fading - is thin enough to qualify as frail, but his presence is both imposing and relaxed. his face is soft, framed by dark hair that reaches his shoulders. his eyes are behind a pair of too large glasses, slipping down his nose, but his gaze is electric, starting a knot at the back of seungkwan’s throat. at the back of his head, a voice whispers look away. it is not his own.
“hello,” there isn’t a trace of any accent, but something immediately sets himself off as foreign. he doesn’t belong in this city. “how can i help you today?”
seungkwan clears his throat - again - and puts on a beaming smile, standing a little straighter. “I heard this is place you can buy anything?”
“yes,” a smirk, “it says so on the window.”
seungkwan bristles. “yes. well, i was hoping to buy a favor. junhui said i should come to you.”
“junhui?” minghao raises an eyebrow, several emotions flickering over his face before it settles back into a pleasant neutral. “well, i can’t make any promises, but i assure you everything you see is-”
“can i be frank? i’m going to be frank. i heard you can help me take care of someone and your methods aren’t… ordinary.” seungkwan digs the piece of jade - a glorious green, a perfect circle that fits in his palm - and holds it between his thumb and forefinger. minghao’s eyes zero in on the piece, and seungkwan grins at having his attention now.
he’s never been one to beat around the bush. he pockets the jade again, and minghao leans forward. “that’s not how i do business here. especially not with strangers.”
“then let’s not be strangers. my name is boo seungkwan. i’m twenty four years old, i’m a capricorn, i’m an actor, and i want someone dead. who are you?”
minghao rests his hands against the edge of the counter, and seungkwan counts the rings on his hands - eight, spread across both. he’s taller than seungkwan, shoulders cut nicely in the crispness of his shirt. he’s not bad to look at it, but he’s certainly forgettable. again, the voice at the back of his tells him look away.
“do you will people away? is that why this place looks like this? you’d think an antiques shop would be a little more presentable but i think,” seungkwan rests his hands on the counter and leans in, pleased that minghao does not lean away, “i think you don’t want people to come in here. i can hear your voice in my head, you know, telling me to look away. that’s magic, isn’t it? I can smell it on you-” he can’t, “-i know what you do here. tell me if you’ll help me or if i should leave now.”
minghao stares, hard, and seungkwan swallows, losing some of his bravado, but he doesn’t back down. finally, the corners of minghao’s mouth curl up in a smile, a pink crescent on his face. the setting sun casts his skin a flush gold, and he seems to have an unnatural shimmer in the light, dimmed as the shadow falls over him.
“i’m xu minghao. i think you should be nicer to people when you ask them to kill someone for you.”
“that’s not what i asked for.”
minghao laughs - the sound catches seungkwan off guard, but he thinks he’s done something right. “come - let’s not talk here.”
there’s a noise that comes from behind seungkwan, a tiny clatter, but he doesn’t turn back as he walks around the counter. minghao holds the curtain aside and seungkwan steps up, standing as close to him as he can without touching as he locks eyes with minghao, sizing him up. minghao, to his credit, doesn’t seem fazed, even though a shiver runs up seungkwan’s spine. he wants to remember this face.
he’s never done a backroom deal before - even just calling it that makes him feel a little excited, unable to keep that childish giddiness from seeping into his footsteps at the thought of acting out like this.
the back room seems much like the first, except there’s a series of cabinets, age old and wooden, lining the walls and two large tables in the center, several books open on top of them amongst an array of bowls and murky jars. there are two doors on opposite walls, but they remain closed. the whole room smells of smoke, and when seungkwan turns his head he finds there’s a fireplace on the same wall with the door he’d walked through, but there was no indication that there was an indented fire place on the other side of the wall. he’s pretty sure there’s you can’t make chimneys anymore in the city.
he’s talking to a real magician. a real magician. all of them were supposed to have been driven out before he was born. this is surreal.
“please, take a seat.”
seungkwan isn’t sure where to sit, but a chair turns by itself, scraping against the floor and seungkwan supposes that’s an indication if he’s ever seen one.
minghao walks towards one of the counters in the back. “tea? coffee?”
“i’m fine, thank you.” seungkwan knows better than to accept. he rubs the piece of jade in his pocket for protection, as if to sap what protective powers he can out of it before it eventually leaves his possession. minghao hums, leaning against the counter as he stirs a mug. the sound of the spoon scraping the ceramic edge is oddly soothing.
“so. i’ll be frank.” seungkwan beams at that, and minghao seems to have a hard time maintaining that customer service smile of his. tempting as it is, seungkwan doesn’t want to test that limit. his brain returns to the endless possibilities of his imagination now that minghao isn’t lingering around the edges. “what do you want from me?”
“i need min hongseok to cheat on his boyfriend. he’s loyal which is nice i guess, but i need him to you know, diddly doo someone else in front of his boyfriend.”
“you’re coming here because you want someone dead and you can’t even say fuck?”
minghao says it nicely. that voice again - now that it’s not pushing seungkwan away, it seems to draw him instead. he can’t tell if that’s real, but he wonders if magicked attractiveness is sad or not - even if it’s something he’d totally do if he had the power to.
“that’s beside the point - anyway, you can’t judge me here, okay?” minghao raises a brow, taking an audible slurp of his - tea? “i want kang suhyun to be heartbroken. i need his life ruined. whether you kill him for me or not doesn’t matter to me.”
“this suhyun person, i thought you wanted him dead.”
seungkwan shrugs. “everyone in the business knows he’s unstable. and i’ve been emptying out his medication during rehearsals. if he wants to off himself, who am i to stop him? some people just need a little push.”
“that’s dark.” minghao shouldn’t be smiling like that. it does things to seungkwan to know he’s being appreciated for the dark thoughts he keeps to himself. he presses his legs together under the table.
“and i know i can’t afford a real murder. besides, even if he doesn’t kill himself, i just need him fucked up for the next couple of weeks. this is going to be my breakout role. my face is going to be all over this city.”
minghao sets his cup down and crosses his arms over his chest, staring down seungkwan. admittedly, all of this seems too easy. too quick. seungkwan drags a nail over the table, meeting minghao’s gaze with all the courage he can muster.
seungkwan lets out a breath. “thank god. i wasn’t sure what i was going to do if you said no. like, i don’t want you calling the cops on me, conspiracy to murder is not what i want next to my name on google.”
minghao mutters something under his breath, looking up at the ceiling like he’s praying. seungkwan takes the moment to appreciate the lines of his throat, sitting straight when minghao looks at him again.
“you really are something, boo seungkwan.”
seungkwan rests his elbows on the table, cupping his chin in his hands. he knows his makes his cheeks look plumper, impossibly cute. “am i? I’d very much like to be an important something, mr xu,” minghao narrows his eyes, “won’t you help me?”
minghao steps forward, taking a seat across from seungkwan. “show me the jade.”
seungkwan huffs, put out that his cuteness was ignored, but he takes the piece out of his pocket and sets it on the table between them, careful not to take his hand off it. he doesn’t trust minghao yet, not completely. he’s not that impulsive, no matter how attractive minghao seems. this close, with the fireplace throwing a flickering light over the both of them, the shadows of minghao’s eyelashes crawl over his cheeks, long and thin.
“usually i’d take half the payment up front, but it would be a shame to split such a fine piece. where did you get it?”
seungkwan tuts, winking conspiratorially. minghao doesn’t blink. “my, a boy can’t share all his secrets, can he?”
minghao hums, leaning forward till he’s inches away, and seungkwan frowns, pulling away. “that’s strange. i can’t see where you got it from. who gave it to you? did they have magic too?”
seungkwan blanches. “what - what do you mean you can’t see where i - can you read minds too?”
minghao shrugs. “mostly. a lot of things are obscured from me, but you’re easy to read. not about this, though. besides, do you think i would have trusted you so fast if i wasn’t sure you weren’t a cop?” minghao doesn’t just point at the jade, he presses the tip of his finger against it, and when seungkwan moves to pull it back, he finds that he can’t, his entire arm paralyzed.
did minghao ‘read’ the moment seungkwan had called him hot? that’s embarrassing. seungkwan doesn’t appreciate having his hand forced like this - literally and figuratively speaking. he gains nothing from this vulnerability.
“fine. full payment up front, but i want kang suhyun ruined. i want his life to be over and i want to watch it happen.”
“that’s a lot to ask for.” minghao pauses, before smiling. “but i can do that for you.”
there’s a odd silence, the crackling of the fireplace silenced. does this guy just not have any lights? seungkwan doesn’t look up to check, not intent on breaking eye contact. “so? what now then? do i have to sign something? do i have to give you blood? like, how do i know you’ll keep your end of the deal?”
“no, not exactly.” seungkwan can’t tell what question is being answered here.
minghao pulls his hand away, but seungkwan finds his arm still frozen. great.
minghao stands, heading to the counter before returning with a long knife, the length of his forearm and impossibly thin. a chill runs down seungkwan’s spine. “give me your hand. this might hurt a little bit.”
well that’s not ominous. seungkwan lifts his right hand, glad to see that whatever trick minghao had played on him was over now. he holds his breath as minghao presses the tip of the knife into seungkwan’s finger (it does hurt), a drop of blood welling up and sliding down, dropping into the center of the jade piece. as soon as minghao lifts up the knife, the blood dries up and the cut disappears.
minghao repeats the same thing on his own finger, his blood falling to mix with seungkwan’s on the jade. “this binds my word to yours.” minghao whispers something, too quiet for seungkwan to hear, and the blood swells and bubbles up before seemingly melting into the jade.
there’s a moment of silence as seungkwan turns his hand over, rubbing over the part where the knife had cut him. he can still feel the cut and the pain emanating from the spot, but the cut is gone, healed as if it had never been there in the first place. “so? how long should i wait?”
minghao sits down. “one week from now. curses work better at night, so we’ll see.”
the fireplace roars, and the light hitting minghao’s face turns his eyes a fiery red, shining bright as the whites of his eyes turn black. the image is gone after a second, minghao’s eyes are once again that piercing, empty, human, brown. seungkwan cannot bear to look away.
“yes. i suppose we will.”