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New place, new school, new beginning. That’s what Kyungsoo’s parents had insisted this move would bring. Kyungsoo’s mother had gotten a new job in another city, so off it had been, away from the home Kyungsoo knew best. Not that he really enjoyed it all that much, the kids in upper years had been jealous of how quickly he’d taken to wand work and managed to pass his familiar exam before some of them were even being considered to take it, while the students his age refused to meet his eyes like they were scared he’d cast some hex on them. As a result, Kyungsoo spent most of his school time shoved in between the walls where he couldn’t move or dumped into garbage bins just for the minor inconvenience.

 

Kyungsoo sighs, staring out the window of the mostly broken down car his father insists he not help fix, as his newly earned familiar mewls pitifully from his place in a carrier beside him.

 

“Oh, be quiet Zitao; we’re almost there,” he hisses, but Zitao only yowls even louder in response.

 

Where ‘there’ is Kyungsoo isn’t quite sure. House after house has passed by his window, not to mention the hours of highway monotony, but his mother had said the trip would take about three hours total, so they must be close.

 

As if on cue, the car slows, turning into a driveway that is, sadly, unremarkable. The house is unremarkable too, sandwiched in between two other practically identical houses, it seems completely impersonal, like it belongs to someone else and Kyungsoo’s family serve only as interlopers.

 

Looking around as he steps out of the car, Kyungsoo only feels even more of an outsider. Nowhere on the block are any signs of other witches, not a single potted magical herb or silly rune drawn on the sidewalk in chalk, nothing. Well, nothing but prim lawns and beige siding.

 

Kyungsoo clutches Zitao’s carrier to his chest, suddenly anxious the whole neighbourhood will know a witch has moved in to their mundane community, and speed walks into the house. He loses momentum once he’s through the doorway, but refuses to head back outside, choosing instead to lean against a door jamb and at the very least let Zitao roam free.

 

 

Two weeks into Kyungsoo’s new life, and three weeks into his relationship with Zitao, he finds out Zitao’s really kind of a crappy familiar. Familiars exist to be extensions of the self, an animal with which one can share a bond like no other; they not only serve to augment a witch’s power but also support them emotionally and physically, the strongest of familiar bonds being said to speed up the healing process or fend of illness.

 

As such, acquiring a familiar can only happen once one passes a series of tests concerning both skill and personality. On average, people first take the test when they reach their final year of high school. Kyungsoo, however, managed not only to take his tests but pass them in only his second.

 

When he’d first been introduced to Zitao, Kyungsoo had assumed they would bond immediately and that Zitao would be all kinds of helpful and guiding. The reality is that he’s barely seen Zitao in two days. They haven’t known each other that long, but surely Zitao should at least be making the same effort Kyungsoo is.

 

Kyungsoo chucks his wand at the wall, giving a short cry of frustration. No matter what he does he just can’t figure out how to make the spring crocus he’d conjured to bloom. Kyungsoo’s speciality is plant magick; he’s poured countless hours into conjuring, nurturing, and utilizing the magickal properties of plants, so it should be simple, he’s done it countless times before with other flowers. What’s the issue with this one? Oh, wait, that would be the kind of question he’d ask his familiar.

 

He stands up, determined to find Zitao, and stretches out the psychic link the elders had insisted he would have with Zitao. Nothing.

 

Letting out another frustrated growl, he stomps down the stairs and out the door, grabbing his wand on the way out and shoving into the pocket of his shorts.

 

Zitao isn’t anywhere to be found in the backyard, no matter how many times Kyungsoo calls his name he doesn’t make himself known, so Kyungsoo ventures further into unknown territory.

 

Their house backs onto a large field shared by the whole block as well as the block behind that. During different months perhaps it would be well maintained, but, as it stands, Kyungsoo can’t see anything through grass taller than he is, waving softly in the summer breeze.

 

It seems so private a place to enter Kyungsoo feels like turning around, but he spots muddy paw prints on the asphalt leading up to the field, so takes a deep breath and steps into the grass.

 

 

Kyungsoo isn’t sure where he is anymore; having somehow not left a large trail in the grass, he loses all sense of direction.

 

“Zitao?” he calls once more, and this time he hears a soft meow to his right.

 

Following the direction of Zitao’s vocalization, Kyungsoo stumbles into a clearing.

 

The clearing itself is immaculate: a perfect circle. In the middle sits a boy wearing a large brimmed hat, glasses perched on the tip of his nose and a book in front of his legs, laying open to an indeterminate page. As Kyungsoo steps into the circle in earnest the air shifts and the boy speaks up, “Take your shoes off, this is hallowed ground.”

 

Kyungsoo slips out of his sandals, “Sorry, I didn’t know anyone else was out here; I’m looking for my pet cat.”

 

The boy chuckles, finally looking up from his reading, “Somehow I don’t think he’d appreciate being referred to as your ‘pet’” as he finishes the sentence an indignant mewl sounds and Zitao pokes his head out from the cradle of the boy’s lap, “I’m Jongdae by the way.”

 

Jongdae smiles, lips curling, and Kyungsoo struggles to introduce himself, “Kyungsoo,” he intones, trying to look anywhere but into Jongdae’s eyes.

 

“I know,” Jongdae’s smile turns to a smirk, “sit down,” he gestures to the ground, and Kyungsoo complies even as Zitao nuzzles into the crook of Jongdae’s elbow.

 

“Oh really?”

 

“Yup, Zitao here’s pretty talkative,” Jongdae pets Zitao’s head, and Zitao purrs.

 

Zitao never purrs.

 

Kyungsoo feels his self-esteem sinking into the ground.

 

He blinks, “Wait, you can talk to him? You’re a witch?”

 

“Sure am, and very happy to no longer be the only witch on the block. It really is nice to meet you,” Jongdae shuffles forward on his knees, peering at Kyungsoo, “Although, with a familiar and all, I figured you’d be older.”

 

Kyungsoo huffs a laugh, “Yeah.”

 

“I didn’t mean that in a bad way though, I’ll be starting my last year come fall, so soon we’ll both have familiars,” Jongdae leans back, and Kyungsoo can breathe again.

 

“I— I should get back home,” Kyungsoo stands, brushing imaginary dirt from his butt, “My mother will worry.”

 

He reaches down for Zitao who skips out of his hands and starts off out of the clearing, “Wait!” Jongdae calls, and Kyungsoo spins back to face him, “Before you go, a token of our meeting.”

 

Jongdae takes his wand from the back pocket of his own shorts and mutters something under his breath. His eyes glow white for an instant and then in his hand rests a sprig of blue periwinkle. He smiles again, and hands it to Kyungsoo.

 

“You’re always welcome here,” he says, “I know I could use the company.”

 

No one’s ever given Kyungsoo flowers before, and he blushes in spite of himself, “Sure,” he mumbles before definitely not running away.

 

 

Zitao doesn’t leave him alone when they get back in the yard, yowling and butting his body against Kyungsoo’s legs.

 

“I don’t know what you’re trying to say!” Kyungsoo grumbles, stomping his feet in place.

 

Zitao just meows louder in response and paws at the door, “Ugh, fine,” Kyungsoo holds the door open, letting Zitao run in before following.

 

Zitao disappears down the stairs and Kyungsoo feels pressure building up in his chest, “You’ll talk to a stranger but you still won’t talk to me, huh.”

 

He heads up the stairs back to his room, only to find his crocus completely wilted. Periwinkle clutched in his fist.

 

It pushes him over the edge, tears spill down his cheeks, as he slams his bedroom door shut.

 

 

The next morning Kyungsoo rifles through his wardrobe after breakfast. After a shoddy night’s sleep he’s determined to show up Jongdae, assert his dominance or something, anything, regain some dignity.

 

He digs to the bottom and finally pulls out his only white tshirt to go along with the shorts his grandmother had gotten him for his birthday two years ago. He hardly ever wears them, as they don’t quite suit his lazy style, high-waisted and short, dark blue with three gold buttons.

 

He tucks the loose shirt into the shorts and sizes himself up in the mirror. He looks pretty good, he figures, ruffling his bangs in an attempt at ‘fashionably dishevelled.’

 

Zitao strolls in, pushing the door open, and hops up on Kyungsoo’s bed, licking his paws.

 

“What do you think?” Kyungsoo asks, spinning around to face his familiar.

 

Zitao yawns, rolling onto his back, “Oh, I see how it is,” Kyungsoo rolls his eyes and heads into the hallway.

 

“I’m going to the field outback,” he calls to his parents as he passes the living room, forgoing sandals from the get go. He slowly opens the back door, as the door swings its full arc he hears a fast patter of tiny feet, smirking he steps to the side as Zitao runs out into the yard and looks back at him pointedly.

 

 

Kyungsoo lets Zitao lead the way, tail swishing more happily than Kyungsoo’s ever seen it. He crushes the heaviness that threatens to cloud the positivity of his carefully chosen outfit as soon as it rears its head, focusing instead on the feel of the grass past his palms.

 

It seems to Kyungsoo like they’re heading in the wrong direction, but Zitao manages to lead him to the clearing all the same. This time, however, Kyungsoo finds himself alone. The clearing seems dimmer without Jongdae, and Kyungsoo’s almost angry at the thought of having planned all this for naught. Even so, he plops himself down and figures he can at least practise some conjuration while he waits.

 

The sun hits midday before Jongdae makes his presence known. Kyungsoo’s about to give up and head home for a meal, as he feels the same shift in the air as the day before and Jongdae saunters into the circle, undershirt paired with dirty jean cutoffs.

 

He catches sight of Kyungsoo and smiles, sitting down and crossing his legs in one fluid motion, “Long time no see.”

 

Kyungsoo shrugs, trying not to look up from where he’s growing a peony, and subsequently failing as his eyes flicker up despite himself, piquing on the corner of Jongdae’s lips, “It’s quiet here.”

 

Zitao lifts his head up from the edge where he’d been sleeping and trots over to Jongdae’s side. Jongdae scritches behind Zitao’s ears, as Zitao keens happily.

 

Kyungsoo licks his lips and turns back to the peony he’d been growing. He focuses on changing its colour, and out of the corner of his eyes he sees Jongdae pick Zitao up and whisper conspiratorially in his ear. Jongdae places Zitao back on the ground and he trots off into the grass.

 

Before Kyungsoo can comment on it, Jongdae plucks the peony from the ground, “How well do you know the language of flowers?” he asks, smiling that infuriating smile at Kyungsoo.

 

Truth is, Kyungsoo doesn’t know as much as he should, especially being specialised in them, his pride doesn’t want to let Jongdae know however, so he settles for, “Enough,” and a shrug.

 

Jongdae chuckles, “It’s one of my favourite subjects, though I’m weather focused. Magickally speaking, peonies, for instance, can represent protection, or help with emotional exorcisms, but in the language separate from their properties they mean ‘bashfulness’” he plucks the bloom and brandishes it.

 

“What does it matter?” Kyungsoo scoffs, smacking Jongdae’s hand away and feeling his face heat up, while he internally vows to head to the library and look up all he possibly can about flower meanings outside of magickal properties.

 

Jongdae laughs, settling down so he’s laying on his back, hands playing with the grass, “Why wouldn’t it? For instance, I have this friend named Junmyeon, in his last year, who’s always taking on too many responsibilities and feeling overwhelmed. So, if he’s super stressed I’ll send him a sprig of mistletoe for ‘surmounting difficulties’ or a pine branch for ‘pity.’”

 

Jongdae laughs, stomach shaking, and Kyungsoo shifts until he’s perched on his knees, “You can say all kinds of things, even declare war! Sometimes it’s just easier to send someone a flower rather than go out and speak to them.”

 

Kyungsoo can understand that. Spirits know he’s spent the entirety of his high school career avoiding people. Until now, for some reason.

 

The grass rustles, and Zitao saunters back into the clearing, bypassing Jongdae and butting his head against Kyungsoo’s knees, “What’s gotten into you?” Kyungsoo chuckles, as Zitao becomes more and more insistent, yowling louder and louder.

 

“He wants you to head home,” Jongdae drawls, lifting his head up and squinting in the sun.

 

Kyungsoo nods, resigned, as he stands up, “Alright then, allons-y.”

 

He gestures for Zitao to lead the way again, but, as he turns, he feels Jongdae grab his arm, “For the road,” he says, smiling, and flicks his wrist, producing an aster amellus, “Farewell.”

 

Kyungsoo takes the flower and only half manages not to bolt into the cover of the grass.

 

 

Kyungsoo places the aster blossom carefully into a vase he grabs from the kitchen on the way up to his room, situating it perfectly in the middle of his dresser. There’s no use in self-denial; he’s flattered, flustered, and more than a little confused.

 

No one’s ever... bothered to make an effort towards being his friend. His own damn familiar won’t even talk to him, so why would Jongdae? Jongdae who’s so at ease, so exuding of confidence with his tousled hair, and his sparkling eyes, and his quirky lips, and—

 

Kyungsoo reminds himself to take a deep breath and find his centre.

 

He throws himself onto his bed, face first, “You don’t even know they guy Kyungsoo, calm down.”

 

Zitao leaps up next to him and meows indignantly, “Shut up Zitao, you know him better than I do and how is that fair?”

 

Zitao swishes his tail, chirping once.

 

Kyungsoo responds by sighing and smushing his face into the mattress, “I wish you’d talk to me,” he mumbles.

 

As he goes to bed that night, Kyungsoo swears to himself that he won’t head to the field outback, at least for a few days.

 

 

Kyungsoo holes himself up in his house, researching mundane flower language. As always, he’s grateful for the internet and its many wonders, but takes a trip to the library as well, crappy angelfire sites only taking him so far.

 

In his studies he finds out his issues with flower conjuring might have to do with emotional dissonance. The big dusty lore books at the back of the library say some flowers won’t show themselves to someone out of step with their inherent message, mundane or otherwise.

 

He breaks his self-made vow and heads back to the field as Friday turns to Saturday. He finds he can’t stay away, eager for the companionship of someone who doesn’t seem intimated, someone who seems to actually want to spend time with him.

 

As he gets ready to head out his mother stops him, “Sweetie, I know you’ve been heading to the back field a lot, but we’re meeting with some neighbours today, coworkers, and,” she sighs, “I know you’re going to hate me for saying this, but I worry. I want you to have a chance at making some friends, so you’re coming with us, no questions.”

 

Kyungsoo deflates, shoulders sinking despite himself, “I can make friends on my own mum.”

 

I know sweetheart, but indulge me,” she grabs Kyungsoo by his shoulders and spins him around towards the foyer, “Just make an effort.”

 

 

K yungsoo spends the rest of the afternoon brooding while his parents play boggle and chat. At some point he must nod off, as he wakes up to Zitao pawing at his face while his parents put their shoes on, “Time to go,” his father says, tossing Kyungsoo’s sandals at him.

 

They opt for walking, sun still fairly high in the summer sky. Around the block, people are out and about. Kids roughhousing, dogs barking, suburban bliss. Kyungsoo shuffles on behind his parents, sidewalk too thin to fit the three of them abreast.

 

Here we are,” his parents veer off up a walkway, and Kyungsoo stumbles in following after them.

 

T he house looks much like theirs, porch wooden instead of concrete and door painted a deep burgundy. His mother knocks on the door, and Kyungsoo braces himself. Answering the door is an unfamiliar woman who greet his mother like an old friend.

 

“Come in, come in, my boys are just upstairs,” she says, patting Kyungsoo’s back.

 

H e bumbles into the house, taken with the flow of his parents into a living room. Kyungsoo sits himself down on the chesterfield, resisting the urge to jiggle his legs by clamping his hands in his lap.

 

Boys!” his mother’s coworker calls up the stairs, “Company’s here, come on.”

 

S he walks back into the room, “Teenagers,” she shakes her head laughing and winks at Kyungsoo who chuckles politely.

 

A few seconds later two sets of feet thump down the stairs. First into the room is a sleepy looking boy, fringe dangling into his eyes, on his heels turns out to be a familiar face, “ Fancy seeing you here,” Jongdae smirks, crossing his arms and leaning on the door jamb.

 

Oh, you two know each other?” all the parents chorus, and Kyungsoo feels like sinking into the upholstery.

 

Yeah,” Jongdae shrugs, “we’ve been studying outback.”

 

“Well that saves us one introduction I guess,” Jongdae’s mother laughs, “Kyungsoo, you already know Jongdae. This is Jongin.”

 

Hi,” Jongin says, waving once.

 

“Hi,” Kyungsoo replies.

 

Well,” Jongdae claps, “wonderful, I feel enriched Nini, thank you,” pushing his hands outward.

 

J ongin stands up to shove him, “Boys!” their mother chides, “Why don’t you two give Kyungsoo a tour of the house.”

 

“Sure thing,” Jongdae laughs as Jongin drones, “fine.”

 

Kyungsoo takes his cue and follows them out of the room, “So you’re a witch too huh?” Jongin says, loping his way in front of their little group, as Kyungsoo’s guided up the stairs.

 

“Yeah,” Kyungsoo shrugs.

 

Nini, don’t you have some yugioh to watch?” Jongdae snickers, and Jongin sticks his tongue out in response.

 

J ongin flips his brother the bird before heading back towards the staircase, “I’m gonna go be a dutiful son, have fun.”

 

Jongin skips down the stairs two at a time, “He seems nice,” Kyungsoo says, and Jongdae rolls his eyes.

 

“He’s a little brother. You know, I love him, but I want to strangle him sometimes.”

 

Kyungsoo shrugs, he can guess, but siblings have always been the stuff of television.

 

“C’mon,” Jongdae nudges Kyungsoo shoulder to shoulder, “I believe you were promised a tour.”

 

 

Spending time with Jongdae is fun. Spending time with Jongdae at his house is kinda nerve wracking, but still mostly fun.

 

Jongdae doesn’t bother to even try at a semblance of a tour, walking off towards a room at the end of the hall. Kyungsoo follows, watching his feet so as not to knick Jongdae’s heels.

 

Jongdae pushes the door open, spinning around to leer in Kyungsoo’s space, “Welcome to my lair,” he steps aside and gestures for Kyungsoo to come in.

 

“Make yourself at home,” Jongdae laughs, as Kyungsoo steps into the room.

 

Jongdae’s room seems much like he is, open and bright, even in the dimming evening. Behind Jongdae’s bed the wall is covered most entirely in some kind of national geographic collage, “My pride and joy,” Jongdae says, gesturing to the wall before taking a seat on his bed.

 

“It’s nice,” Kyungsoo replies, and it is, glossy photos spanning from weather photos to cute baby animals.

 

Jongdae pats the bed next to him, “Pop a squat.”

 

Kyungsoo perches on the edge of the mattress, and Jongdae shoulders him lightly, “Why so stiff? Is it the roof, I know you plant types.”

 

Kyungsoo chuckles, “I’m just, I don’t know,” he feels himself blush, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of his proximity to Jongdae. He takes a deep breath and tries to let go, Jongdae invited you here, he wouldn’t be hanging out with you if he secretly didn’t like you he’d have pushed you off on Jongin.

 

“You’re so cute,” Jongdae chimes, and Kyungsoo’s blush deepens, even as he tries to deny his cuteness.

 

 

Once Kyungsoo lets go, everything goes much better than expected. Turns out that before Kyungsoo’s family moved in Jongdae was the only witch in the neighbourhood, Jongin not being magickally talented, and he was bussed to the local witch school, “So now that you’re here we can head out together!”

 

He feels more at ease with Jongdae here than he had in the field, no constant reminder of his familiar’s preference for Jongdae hanging over his head.

 

Before Kyungsoo knows it, they get called down for dinner. Jongdae reaches out a hand and helps Kyungsoo up from where he’d slumped onto the floor. His hand’s warm as it wraps around Kyungsoo’s, pressure firm and almost comforting. Kyungsoo smiles and heads for the staircase.

 

 

Kyungsoo’s parents, surprisingly, don’t say anything when they get back home. His mother pats him on the shoulder blade, but other than that makes no effort to stop him from heading to bed, soft “goodnight” seeing him off.

 

Zitao perks up as Kyungsoo walks in the room, mewing once abrasively from his place in the centre of the bed.

 

“Hey,” Kyungsoo replies, moving over to the hamper and slowly changing into his pyjamas.

 

Zitao stares at him, silent for once.

 

“What?”

 

Zitao flicks his head in the direction of the dresser, periwinkle still prominently displayed.

 

“Yes it was Jongdae’s house, did you know that already? Is that even what you’re asking?”

 

Zitao yawns, shaking his head and placing it back on his front paws.

 

Kyungsoo sighs and backflops onto his bed, thoughts of Jongdae swirling in his head, and lies still as it bounces under his momentum, “I’m screwed.”

 

 

After that Kyungsoo vows not to head back to the clearing for at least a few days; he doesn’t want to come off as too eager after all. He dives so completely into studying and practising that he ends up barely thinking about Jongdae at all, aside from an embarrassing dream or two and brief flashes when he catchesZitao’s tail flick around the doorway out of the corner of his eye.

 

Before he knows it, a week has passed, Kyungsoo only leaving the house when he has to (it helps he’s a fairly good liar too, his parents believing him when he tells them he totally went out that day).

 

On Saturday, Kyungsoo gets called down by his mother. Tromping down the stairs, he finds her standing in the foyer holding a bouquet, red petals peeking up from the paper wrappings .

 

It’s for you?” she says, eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, and holds out the package for Kyungsoo to take.

 

K yungsoo grabs them, turning the package around so he can see the flowers inside. The majority of the bouquet is made up of red carnations, a choice that strikes Kyungsoo as odd, carnations usually being a flower of maternal love. Nestled between them are zinnias, yellow mixed with a red that matches the carnations perfectly.

 

They were just sitting on the porch when I checked the mail,” his mother says, shaking her head.

 

“How’d you know they were for me?” Kyungsoo asks, “I didn’t see a note.”

 

She smiles, giving one huff, “Your father’s far past grandiose gestures when it comes to me, besides there was a note.”

 

She whips out a small piece of lined paper from behind her back, and Kyungsoo squawks, lunging for it as she laughs.

 

Thankfully, she doesn’t put up a fight, releasing her grip on the note as soon as Kyungsoo gets his hands on it. He spins, mumbling out a thanks before running back up to his room, his mother’s bemused chuckling echoing up the staircase.

 

Back in the safety of his room, Kyungsoo tosses the bouquet on the bed and unfolds the note. Zitao, laying stretched out on the windowsill, leaps off onto the bed and sniffs at the flowers.

 

For Kyungsoo: the note reads, been awhile, I hope you’re doing okay. Don’t ask about the mums, I’m still working on accuracy, hehe. The zinnias are for ‘thoughts of absent friends’ (though i’m sure you know that, hehe). You know where to find me. -Jongdae

 

Kyungsoo whines, flopping back on the bed, and Zitao hisses slightly at the disturbance before bumping Kyungsoo forehead to forehead, “What do you want now? Can’t you see I’m having a romantic crisis?”

 

Zitao mews unblinkingly, sitting back on his haunches, before looking out the window pointedly and then back to Kyungsoo.

 

“What? You want me to go now?”

 

Zitao leans forward and licks the tip of Kyungsoo’s nose, then turns and leaps of the bed, turning to stare at him in the doorway.

 

Kyungsoo sighs, “Fine, but I swear...”

 

 

As Kyungsoo enters the clearing, Jongdae looks up, sunlight reflecting in his eyes. Suddenly, Kyungsoo feels like running away again, but he settles for digging his toes into the dirt to ground himself and smiling.

 

“You got my note?” Jongdae chuckles, leaning forward to put pressure on his crossed legs.

 

“Yeah,” Kyungsoo shrugs. Zitao pushes himself against his legs, and Kyungsoo takes that as a sign he’s making a fool of himself, so he sits across from Jongdae, resisting the urge to tear the small blades of grass out one by one, “sorry, I, I don’t know, got stuck in tunnel vision.”

 

“Well, that won’t do,” Jongdae chides.

 

After an agonizing moment of silence, at least for Kyungsoo, he speaks up again, “C’mon, let me show you something,” and stands up, grabbing Kyungsoo’s hand and pulling him with.

 

Kyungsoo lets himself be dragged along into the tall grass. He can’t see where they’re going, but Jongdae seems totally sure of himself, not hesitating in the slightest.

 

A minute or so later they come out into another clearing, this one in the corner of the lot, cut off by fences forming a kind of baseball diamond shape. In the corner sits a small willow tree, abundant with life. Jongdae ducks under the bows, and Kyungsoo barely escapes smacking right into the branches, a little stunned he never noticed the tree before, though it isn’t ridiculously tall.

 

“The field isn’t always so overrun,” Jongdae says, as he lets go of Kyungsoo’s hand in the shade, opting to sit against the trunk, “it’s just the person who normally mows the lawn has been ill, and no one else wants to do it.”

 

“I don’t really mind,” Kyungsoo replies, sitting down across from Jongdae, “it adds a level of... something to it,” he finishes with a laugh and a shrug, lost for words.

 

Jongdae wiggles his fingers, “witchyness?”

 

“Sure,” Kyungsoo laughs again.

 

Jongdae sighs, leaning back against the tree, “I’ve lived in this house practically my whole life, when Jongin was littler he used to hang out back here with me too,” Jongdae shakes his head, peering up towards the canopy. The motion makes his Adam’s apple stand out and Kyungsoo looks away, face reddening.

 

Jongdae tilts his head back to its normal position, “I can’t say I miss having him around, but it’s definitely nice to have company again,” he looks to his knees, biting his lip, “Especially yours.”

 

If Kyungsoo didn’t know any better, that would sound almost like a confession. Zitao butts against his hip, and Kyungsoo startles, having forgotten he was there. Zitao seems to sigh before heading over and doing the same thing to Jongdae.

 

Unlike Kyungsoo, however, Jongdae picks Zitao up by the torso, holding him up face to face, “You think you’re so clever don’t you.”

 

Zitao meows, stuggling a little in Jongdae’s grip, “No way,” Jongdae starts, “this is your fault.”

 

“Just what exactly are you blaming my familiar for?” Kyungsoo raises his eyebrows, no idea what Jongdae’s trying to get at.

 

Jongdae spins Zitao around looking at Kyungsoo from the juncture between Zitao’s neck and shoulder, “Everything~” he whispers, shaking Zitao’s body for emphasis while the cat sulks.

 

“I don’t follow.”

 

Jongdae puts Zitao down, flattening his fur, before cracking his knuckles, “I guess... it’s easier if I just show rather than tell, yeah.”

 

He closes his eyes, letting out a deep breath before opening them again, irises glowing white. He stretches his hands out in front of him, palms down. Eyebrows furrowing, sweat gathers on Jongdae’s forehead as he concentrates. A few seconds later, blossoms spring up from the earth.

 

Jongdae smiles, eyes back to normal, inspecting the flowers before picking half of them and wreathes them together with his powers, “For you,” he says, floating the wreath over to Kyungsoo.

 

Kyungsoo goes to take it, but it lands neatly on his head, “What for?” he asks, reaching up to feel the petals.

 

Jongdae places a finger to his lips and picks the other half, making a wreath for himself, “It’s a mystery,” he says, before standing up and suggesting they head for home.

 

Kyungsoo follows, mentally catalogueing the flowers the encircle Jongdae’s head. He recognizes jonquils and bluebells at a glance, and, as they part, he thinks he identifies hawthorns and red columbines.

 

 

The first thing Kyungsoo does when he gets home is rush to find his mundane flower encyclopedia. Whichever flowers Jongdae picked, he picked them for a reason. Kyungsoo takes his wreath off, tossing it on the bed, placing the tome down next to it.

 

Unsure of whether he should look up Jongdae’s or his own first, he calls for Zitao. For once, Zitao comes, leaping onto the bed, as Kyungsoo kneels with his arms over the edge, “Which should I look up first, oh wise one? The flowers Jongdae picked for himself or the ones he picked for me?”

 

Zitao huffs before moving so that he’s laying on the tome and the wreath. Kyungsoo sighs, confused, and figures that might mean ‘who cares.’

 

He goes with Jongdae’s, worried he might forget otherwise. Bluebells for constancy, hawthorn for hope, and red columbine for anxious and trembling: a state Kyungsoo suddenly finds himself in as he finds the definition for jonquil, I desire a return of affection.

 

Still a little lost, Kyungsoo takes a deep breath and focuses on his gifted wreath. There are variegated tulips, yellow mixed with pink, burgundy roses, currants, and one single coreopsis arkansa. He finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into the mattress with each flower.

 

Beautiful eyes the tulips say, unconscious beauty the roses echo after, t he currents call thy frown wilt kill me , but softly, softly, the arkansa whispers love at first sight.

 

Zitao yowls, and Kyungsoo tries not to faint.

 

 

The next morning Kyungsoo wakes up feeling much more reasonable and refreshed. If it’s a return of affection Jongdae wants, it’s a return of affection he’s gonna get.

 

When he gets to the kitchen, however, Kyungsoo sees an unfamiliar boy sitting at the table. He stops abruptly, momentum stumbling his feet across the tile, nearly unbalancing him, “Who—?”

 

“Kyungsoo!” the boy crows, smiling cutely.

 

“Yeah, hi, who the hell are you and why are you in my house?”

 

The boys face falls, sweet smile turning to a scary looking pout, “You don’t recognize me?” he whines, eyes catching the light and revealing oblong pupils.

 

There’s no way...

 

“Zitao?” Kyungsoo tilts his head in disbelief, even as the boy launches himself from the table to give Kyungsoo a deathly tight hug.

 

“We did it! I’m so proud of you! Of course it’s me, who else?” Zitao says all in a rush.

 

Kyungsoo can’t breathe. He hits Zitao in the ribcage a couple of times before the familiar lets go muttering apologies.

 

“But you’re, well, human, and,” Kyungsoo peers up at Zitao, “tall.”

 

Zitao scoffs, “I’m not human.”

 

“Don’t be ornery.”

 

“It’s not important,” Zitao crosses his arms, “it just means I’m not a total failure... and, hey, neither are you! Isn’t that exciting!”

 

“Thrilling,” Kyungsoo deadpans.

 

Zitao claps his hands together, “We’re wasting time. You need to change, I’m not letting you do anything dressed like that honestly, I know you have more interesting clothes, let’s go.”

 

Zitao herds Kyungsoo back up to his room, though, Kyungsoo doesn’t see anything wrong with his black tshirt and jeans combo.

 

Zitao sits Kyungsoo down on the bed and rifles through his wardrobe, occasionally pulling an article out, flicking it in front of himself, muttering, and tossing it away. Eventually, he decides on an outfit and throws it at Kyungsoo, shirt smacking him right in the face.

 

Kyungsoo rips the offending article off his head and holds it out in front of his face. It’s a denim dress shirt Kyungsoo can barely remember even owning. He brings it up to his nose and it smells like closet.

 

“Zitao?” Kyungsoo gets his familiar’s attention, and holds up the shirt, “Just how is this better than what I have on?”

 

Zitao rolls his eyes, “No accounting for taste,” he mumbles, and Kyungsoo pushes himself off the bed to smack Zitao on the arm.

 

He changes anyway, not entirely sure if he could take Zitao in hand to hand combat. He settles for glaring holes into the back of Zitao’s smug head.

 

Once deemed acceptable, they head for Jongdae’s house, cutting through the field. Having Zitao around in humanoid form is a little disconcerting, though, he supposes, it’s not exactly an uncommon ability for familiars to have. It does, however, raise other questions.

 

“Why did you talk to Jongdae and not to me?”

 

“Because I couldn’t talk to you, you wouldn’t let me,” Zitao pouts, before reciting, as if presenting in front of a really boring class, “A familiar must, at all times, look out for their charge’s best interests. A bond between familiar and charge must be formed through mutual trust and dedication,” he yawns, “blah blah, and so on, the point is, I’m not allowed to do anything without our subconsciously both agreeing on it.”

 

Kyungsoo stares.

 

“Okay, I know what you’re thinking, but trust me, the ‘for their charge’s own good’ part totally takes precedence, and you have to admit this is turning out well.”

 

“Don’t jinx it.”

 

 

Kyungsoo rings the doorbell then wipes his hands on his thighs. Kyungsoo hears footsteps thump and then Jongin’s opening the door, “Oh, hey, what’s up?”

 

“Hi,” Kyungsoo waves, “is, uh, Jongdae home?”

 

Jongin rolls his eyes and smiles, “Yeah,” he cocks his thumb over his shoulder, “he’s in his room... who’s—?”

 

“Jongin this is Zitao. Zitao, Jongin, you should hang out,” Kyungsoo grabs Zitao by the shoulders and pushes him into the house, as he waves at Jongin and gives a ‘hi’ of his own.

 

Kyungsoo half jogs up the stairs, still not quite sure how he’s supposed to go about this. Just remember, you know he likes you back, don’t be a coward.

 

He takes a deep breath and knocks on Jongdae’s door, “Yeah?”

 

“Hey, it’s Kyungsoo; Jongin let me in.”

 

Jongdae opens the door, tentative smile on his face, “Hey.”

 

Kyungsoo hadn’t gotten this far in his planning, he stands there, trying to think of something to say. Jongdae’s smile fades, and he opens his mouth to speak, but Kyungsoo shushes him before he can say anything.

 

“I guess it’d be better to show rather than tell,” Kyungsoo chuckles before focusing on his own magick.

 

“What’s this?” Jongdae asks, as he’s handed a freshly conjured flower, deep purple with a yellow centre.

 

“Ambrosia,” Kyungsoo says, he licks his lips, “love returned.”

 

Jongdae grabs Kyungsoo by the wrist, pulling him into his room, “Can I?” he says, sitting them down on the bed.

 

“What?”

 

Jongdae blushes, “Kiss you dumbass.”

 

“You can try,” Kyungsoo laughs, bumping his nose against Jongdae’s shoulder, “of course you can... dumbass.”

 

Jongdae cups Kyungsoo’s face, brushing their noses together before closing his eyes and pressing a chaste kiss to Kyungsoo’s lips.

 

“You’re such a loser,” Kyungsoo mumbles, laughing, as Jongdae takes to peck after peck.

 

“And yet,” Jongdae teases, bumping their noses again.

 

“And yet,” Kyungsoo sighs, a single pink rose blossoming in his hands.

 

END