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“But are you sure?”

Jimin.” Taehyung stresses, accidently skimming his finger across the hot wax at the tip of a candle. He hisses, instantly putting the finger in his mouth. He presses the phone into his shoulder and leans his head onto the speaker. “I’ve got this. Besides, I’ve wasted too much shit over this already, I don’t want it to go to waste.”

Taehyung can’t see Jimin’s face, but he has a feeling the older is worrying his lower lip between his teeth right now, a worried furrow between his fingers. “Jiminie, I’ve been preparing for over a week. Besides, you and the hyungs have done it, why do you think I’ll fuck up?”

It comes a little more defensive than he means, but he can’t help it, being looked down upon by your prestigious family and having overachieving acquaintances who’re renowned in the world of magic would do that to you. Taehyung doesn’t like to think of himself as insecure, but he can't deny that he’s a little eager to prove himself at times. He can almost hear his hyung’s voice in his ear as the thoughts cross his head, “everyone moves at their own pace, Taehyung-ah”, but Seokjin has eleven self made charms to his name, Taehyung wouldn’t expect him to understand.

And he’s ready, he really is. He has witnessed enough summonings in his life to know what he is doing. Granted, not many of them have been of a higher level demon, and the ones that have been were performed by much older and experienced witches than himself.

But that's the point of this, isn't it?

He's not trying to summon an average demon that any witch over the age of twenty can, he wants to know as a witch to summon an ancient, powerful entity in his twenties.

Demons, even average, aren’t something any witch can pull off. Evocation is believed to be a tough craft to master, not exactly because it’s complicated but because it takes, to be precise, balls. Some even believe that it runs in a witch’s blood, that some are naturally good at it. Taehyung disagrees with this. In his opinion, evocation is all about knowledge, which he’s acquired to the brim.

"You know we've rarely summoned a high level demon, Tae." Jimin argues over the phone, sounding agitated, which in turn makes Taehyung agitated. "This isn't safe."

"And I don't want it to be," Taehyung replies, setting the candle down on the floor more aggressively than necessary. "I want to prove I can do this, alright? I want to have this." Taehyung sighs, a little resigned. "Let me have this."

Jimin is quiet over the line, before he lets out a pained groan. "Can I come by at least? after the evocation?"

"Jimin."

Sudden presences in the place of evocation aren't safe, especially at night. The residual dark magic can have unpredictable effects. Most believe this to be a myth, but Taehyung doesn't want to risk it.

"Tomorrow?" Jimin groans over the phone.

"Okay."

"I'll call you okay?"

"I am not a baby."

"I know!" Jimin says, exasperated. "If you get yourself in trouble, Taehyung, I swear to god-"

"You'll kill me." Taehyung finishes, huffing out a laugh, he brushes his hands on his jeans, glancing out of the window at the darkening sky. It's time. "Listen, I need to-"

"I am hanging up." Jimin cuts him off. "Just- be careful, and for the record, this is still a very stupid idea."

Always so supportive. Taehyung loves him to bits.

“Love you.”

Jimin sighs over the phone, can probably imagine Taehyung’s pout in his head if he were to not say it back. “Love you too.”

Taehyung sets the phone down on the couch and takes a breath, turning towards the pentagon he’s carefully laid out on the wooden floor. It’s a little smaller than he would have liked, considering that the circle is supposed to have enough space for him and the demon in it and he’d like to keep a little distance from a creature of hell, but he’s done the best he can in the small space. It elicits the shiver in him, the thought of being so close to a demon. He’s piled up all the information he can about the supernatural creatures, knows their weaknesses and capabilities, and while that does make him feel a little more confident in himself, the thought of being in such close proximity to such a thing is a little chilling nevertheless.

He carefully lights up the four candles, adjusting them so they are just right, facing east, west, north and south, maybe the elemental demons wouldn’t be so picky, but Taehyung is not taking any chances tonight.

He stands in the middle, staring long and hard at the sigil he’s drawn on the floor so he can have it in mind as he reads the incantation.

Taehyung closes his eyes, wills his erratic heart to calm down. He mentally goes over the process one last time.

He is to read the incantation, state his purpose and abruptly end the summoning before the demon can get mad, which there is a slight possibility might happen. In case of an emergency, he is to use the banishing spell that quickly sends the demon back to hell.

He’ll have traces of haven been in the presence of a powerful demon all over him for the next few days unless he chooses to cleanse himself of them, traces that any witch can sense. He’ll carry them like a trophy.

Taehyung begins the incantation.

He’s read it so many times in the past week that he doesn’t even have to think much as he says it, eyes shut tight, he imagines the sigil in his head, a complicated sort of drawing that he has been doodling a lot recently in the corner of his margins just to be more confident.

Slowly, the air around him begins to change. It’s unnoticeable at first but Taehyung lets out an unsolicited shiver amidst the incantation, the atmosphere around him turning from chilly to down right freezing. He only screws his eyes tighter, ignores his heartbeat, the will to stop here and save himself. He hears a sound like a tinkling bell, presumably from the windchime on his window, followed by a few other sounds created by the steadily picking up wind that has begun to surround him.

The incantation ends, Taehyung’s teeth clatter together from the cold. He opens his eyes.

Taehyung blinks, before him at the other end of the circle stands a creature with dark, sleek fur, eyes bright and visibly ferocious. He bears what seems like a thousand, razor sharp teeth at Taehyung.

Now, Taehyung might not be a master at evocation, but he can say with confidence that he knows what a demon looks like and this certainly isn’t.

It’s certainly a creature from hell, but not the one his spell was suppose to summon, this is a-

“Hellhound.” Taehyung croaks, voice hoarse. He takes a step back. All the while he’d been reading a spell to invite a demon into his house, he hadn’t felt this terrified. The bulky wolf-like creature that’s growling low and advancing towards him catches him completely off guard, and he realizes that he hadn’t ever imagined this outcome and therefore has absolutely no idea what to do now. His body locks up in fear, skin paling.

“You’re-” Taehyung stumbles slightly. “A hellhound.”

It only steps nearer, it’s growl much more terrifying than that of a regular dog.

Taehyung gulps, desperately trying to recall the banishing spell he had been sure had been engraved in his brain. He opens his mouth to recite it but is stopped by a sharp bout of nausea, stumbling slightly with a sudden wave of lightheadedness. His foot catches on something and he stumbles to the floor. He tries to keep his eyes on the hound lest it advances on him, but he can’t see past the spots in his vision.

The last thing he remembers before blacking out is the face of the mutt staring right at him, his eyes emanating a glow of their own.

 

By the time Taehyung wakes up in his own bed, he’s convinced that the summoning has to be some sort of stress induced dream.

The spell is full proof after all, extracted from his family library. Taehyung doesn’t remember reading about any consequences like this. Though now that he does think about it, that particular section might have been a bit lengthy and Taehyung might have been a little too eager to pay full attention to it. And was the spell really reliable? He doesn’t know anyone who’s actually attempted it, which made it all the more exciting. Taehyung would have been one of the first people to have successfully done it. Looking back at it now, maybe it wasn’t the best idea.

But oh well, it was only a dream, right? Plenty of time to fact check.

With that thought and the assurance that were he to really have summoned a hellhound into his home, he wouldn’t have woken up tucked into his covers, Taehyung stretches and gets himself out of bed, trying to recall what might have transpired last night.

If it wasn’t a dream, is it possible that he managed to banish the thing after all? Or did Jimin make it home before it could tear Taehyung to shreds?

He shivers. Hellhounds are known to be violent and much less democrative than demons. Even though a hellhound doesn’t hold a candle to the demon Taehyung was attempting to summon, it’s much more risky to be in a hellhound’s presence. They’re definitely not the talkative type.

He almost jumps out of his skin when he enters the living room, for there is a man, in all his naked glory, lounging comfortably on his couch.

“Hey there.” He says, lifting a hand up in greeting when he spots Taehyung and his gaping jaw. “You ought to restock your fridge, it’s pathetic.”

“What are you-” Taehyung starts, averting his eyes because the man currently lounging on his couch is not wearing a thing, before remembering he doesn't exactly owe a stranger who barged into his house overnight any privacy.

“What the fuck are you doing in my house?!”

“You called me here.” he shrugs, flicking a lock of hair away from his eyes. “Don’t you remember?”

“No!” Taehyung hisses, frantically searching his pockets for his phone to call Jimin or the fucking police. “Get the fuck out, dude. I am calling the-”

"Relax." the man soothes, he spreads his legs slightly, entirely too comfortable. He appears young, close to Taehyung's age, except terrifyingly fit. "I won't hurt you, not unless you give me a reason to."

"What does that even mean?!" Taehyung yells. "Who the fuck are you? what the hell are you doing in my house? is there anything else here with-"

The man stands up, still stark naked. His previously lax expression is replaced by annoyance and Taehyung takes a step back, finding it way more intimidating than it should be.

“You called me here, Taehyung.” he says, calm but firm. He takes a step forward and Taehyung automatically takes one back. It doesn’t even register in his brain that this intruder knows his name. He looks about the same height as Taehyung, but his stance somehow makes him seem towering and Taehyung gulps. His back hits the wall.

“Invited me in.” he says, his hand is on the wall next to his head. “So here I am. Won’t go back on your word now, will you?”

"I-" Taehyung pushes back against the wall to put some distance between them, heart beating out of his chest. The naked intruder doesn't seem to have any weapon on him, but Taehyung has no doubt that he can put those intimidating muscles to use if he wants to. He gulps. "I don't know the fuck you are."

He shrugs, nonchalant, eyes still hard on Taehyung. "Well, too bad you're reckless enough to invite strangers in, then." he says, before adding. "Name's Jeongguk, by the way."

Something suddenly clicks in Taehyung's head. The man, the way he knew Taehyung's name, his sudden appearance and the shit he's spewing-

Then could he be…?

“It worked?” Taehyung whispers, awed. He's surprised by how quickly his fear is replaced with fascination, judging from Jeongguk's slightly bemused expression, he is too. “Then, why did you- the form you took last night, that was-”

Jeongguk frowns in confusion before understanding settles over his features. “That was my real form.” he says in a much more lighter voice, stepping away from Taehyung who breathes a sigh of relief. “This one feels more comfortable to me, though. You don’t like it?” He almost sounds disappointed, but it doesn’t register in Taehyung’s brain as he hurries to question.

“So you’re a hellhound? Not the demon I was trying to summon?” Taehyung asks, frantic, he pushes away from the wall.

“Yep.” Jeongguk jumps back on the couch, laying down and propping his elbow on the arm of the sofa. “Don’t look so disappointed, I assure you he’s way less handsome than I am.”

“You’re a hellhound.” says Taehyung, a little hysterical. “But how? The spell was to summon a powerful demon, I didn’t- I can’t have fucked it up that bad-”

“Calm down.” Jeongguk the hellhound chides. “Old spells are tricky, especially the ones that fuck with ancient demons. There’s hundreds of variations of these dusty, old things. You might have picked the wrong one, or-” his mouth quirks up. “You simply made a mistake, not uncommon with inexperienced witches.”

Taehyung sputters, overwhelmed by the sheer irritation the smirk elicits in him. “I am not some inexperienced witch and I didn’t make a mistake.”

“Oh, so you called me here on purpose then? How nice of you.”

Taehyung opens his mouth to retort but ends up just letting out a frustrated sound. He feels angry, disappointed, his previous fear of the hellhound is replaced by immense annoyance at his presence, at his audacity to be lounging on the couch as if he owns the place, calling Taehyung inexperienced and slandering his fridge. Fuck, he needs to go.

"When are you leaving?" Taehyung questions, crossing his arms and resisting the urge to stomp his feet in irritation like a child throwing a tantrum, because annoying as he may be, Jeongguk is still a hellhound, and Taehyung ought to be more careful with a demonic entity sitting on his couch.

"That's up to you isn't it?" the hellhound replies, cradling his head in his arms. "know shit about spells. You're the witch here. Do your spells and send me back."

Taehyung's nodding.

He can only assume that he overestimated his stamina and passed out from the exhaustion of a summoning, which might have been heightened due to the spell being one to summon a powerful demon. My ass, Taehyung thinks, glaring at the way Jeongguk casually sets his feet on Taehyung’s coffee table. All the dots still don’t completely connect. There’s so many questions on the tip of his tongue and no one to ask them of, he can feel a migraine coming. The only thing he can do for now is get Jeongguk out of his apartment as soon as possible, he can berate his stupidity later.

"Right. Uh, I just need to set some things up-" Taehyung turns on his heel, eager to prepare the spell and get a start on solving this mess. He pauses inside the room as he's collecting candles from a drawer, walking over to the closet and pulling out a shirt.

He doesn't bother with handing it to him, simply throwing it over his head with some trousers.

 

“That’s it?” Jeongguk asks, thankfully now clothed, unimpressed as he eyes the candles and the scroll in Taehyung’s hand.

Taehyung brushes his jeans, standing up. “What were you expecting?”

“I don’t get summoned a lot.” he admits. “This is my first time actually. I guess I was expecting it to be a little more gruesome. Maybe a human sacrifice.”

Taehyung shakes his head, straightening out the incantation. “We’re not savages. You need the occasional prick of human blood when a demon is being particularly stubborn but a human sacrifice is definitely not on the table.”

He takes a breath. Fucking up a spell he’d been so sure of didn’t do wonders to his self confidence, and he’s not sure about this banishing spell at all. He isn’t using one used to banish the demon he was trying to summon, considering that Jeongguk is not a high level demon. He’d just copied down used to banish an average demon.

Hellhounds are a reserved species, there’s not much to be known about them, at least in the archives Taehyung is familiar with. They are usually portrayed as guards used by higher demons or witches that have somehow gained control of them. Taehyung had been aware that they can have a human form, like almost any other species from hell, but he had never expected to encounter one, not naked on his couch anyway. He’s not certain how to banish one, and he doesn’t have the time to take a run to a library on the other side of the city, besides, he’d rather banish himself to hell than explain this disaster to the nosy librarian, who would no doubt spread this new dirt on him like wildfire that’d reach his parents’ ears in no time.

Now that would probably be worse than accidentally summoning a hellhound.

He begins reading.

 

“Can you stock the fridge now?

Taehyung resists the urge to pull his own hair out, crumpling up the incantation after reading it over no less than a hundred times in hopes that he had made a mistake "Are you not worried about any of this?"

Jeongguk pulls his legs up on the coffee table, ignoring the agonized look Taehyung shoots him. He has dug out some old jeans from Taehyung's closet that cling to his legs like skin and stretch over his thighs, and Taehyung briefly wonders if hell has gyms.

Jeongguk shrugs. “I’ll find my way back eventually. If anything, this is a nice vacation for me.”

“And how long will that be? Do you know?” Taehyung asks, hopeful. Powerful demons are usually able to recover their ability to teleport back and forth hours after evocation after a short while if they’re not sent back by the witch who summoned them, unlike low level demons who are pretty much stuck if the witch doesn’t send them back with a simple banishment spell. Jeongguk is definitely not a high level demon and a simple banishment spell didn’t work. Taehyung is well and truly lost.

“No.” Jeongguk answers, leaning back against the couch. “I can wait out here until then. Your place is small but it’ll do.”

Taehyung buries his face in his hands. If anyone finds out about a Kim fucking up an evocation and accidently summoning a pet, he’s never going to hear the end of it. He can kiss his hopes of making a name for himself in the witching world goodbye.

He feels drained and angry, most of all, he feels stupid. He had failed to consider all the facts in his excitement and now he has to deal with his overbearing family’s disappointment and ridicule of his peers. He’d been considered a mediocre witch before, no achievements or records under his name but at least he’d been respectable.

The space next to him shifts. “Y’know, I thought you witches were more capable than this.”

Taehyung’s face shoots up at that, it’s remarkable really, how quickly a few words from the other can replace his despair with unadulterated anger. “Can you shut up for a second? I couldn’t care less about your assumptions about witches.”

Jeongguk remains nonchalant. “They’re not my assumptions. They’re what everyone down there thinks, your kind has big talk surrounding it.”

“I am the exception then.” Taehyung retorts, voice rising. In hindsight, he should be more careful with a hellhound, but he can’t care less. “The fucking idiotic witch. Happy now?”

Jeongguk is quiet for a moment, his expression is still indifferent. He averts his eyes from Taehyung’s glare, staring ahead. “You’re angry.”

“No shit.”

“Why would you expect yourself to come up with a solution when you’re so-” he pauses, as if searching for the right word. “Emotional? You should know better than me than humans are useless when they’re emotional.”

Taehyung is taken aback by the words, though they’re spoken without any concern or emotion, they ring true. He deflates, falling back into the couch.

Jeongguk’s right. He needs to calm the fuck down first. He has never worked well when he’s stressed, or without any food in his stomach. If he wants to solve this, he needs a clear head. And Jimin.

“Where to?” Jeongguk asks when he stands up after a while.

Taehyung grabs his jacket from a nearby chair, sighing. “Need to stock the fridge.”

He hears Jeongguk snort behind him.

“So let me get this straight,” says Jimin, frowning. “The hunk in the kitchen is not a hookup?”

No. What the fuck.” Taehyung groans, shoving at Jimin’s shoulder. After Jimin had made sure Taehyung was intact and not indeed dead, he'd lost all his seriousness about the situation, which, typical.

“He’s a demon, but the one I was trying to summon.”

“That’s a shame.” Jimin replies. “He’s exactly your type.”

“He is a hellhound.”

“A hot one.”

“Whatever.” Taehyung dismisses, knowing that arguing with Jimin about this particular topic is fruitless. “I don’t know how to send him back. If anyone finds out about this, I am screwed.”

Jimin hums, thoughtful. “Has he transformed into his original form since he got here?”

Taehyung shakes his head. Jimin reaches out to pat his cheek. “Then you should dial back on your worry. Clean out the house, cast a few cleansing charms and no one will find out.”

Taehyung purses his lip. Jeongguk looks completely human, there is no reason for suspicion as long as he keeps lowkey, but he can’t help but grow anxious with him here, he’d rather he leave as soon as possible. ‘But what about the long run? He can’t just stay here. What if he gets restless or angry? It’s not like I can trust him.”

“For now,” Jimin says. “I think you need to chill out a bit. You’ll figure out how to send him back and even if you don’t, he said he’d get back anyway, right?”

“I can’t just keep a demon in my home with me.” Taehyung stresses. “What if he decides he doesn’t want to play nice anymore?”

“Judging by the state of your apartment, I wouldn’t say he’s playing nice.” says Jimin, snorting. “But if you ask me, he seems harmless. If he’d wanted to hurt you, he probably would’ve by now. Besides, he’s not even that bad of a roommate.”

Taehyung frowns. “Why would you say that?”

“I mean-” Jimin gesticulates, amused. “He did tuck you into bed last night. That seems pretty polite to me.”

“What?” but even as he asks, Taehyung realises with dawning horror that Jimin is right. How else did he make it to bed after passing out?

Somehow, the image of Jeongguk taking pity on him and carrying him to his room seems so bizarre that Taehyung almost bursts out laughing.

“Not all demons are power hungry monsters.” Jimin reminds him. “Maybe he’s one of the chill ones, still, you can crash at mine if you want.”

The idea of giving up his apartment to Jeongguk aggravates him. He’s not kicking Taehyung out of his own apartment.

“I think I am good.” Taehyung says. “I can’t just-”

“Taehyung.”

Jimin and Taehyung look up to see Jeongguk hovering in the doorway, leaning against the doorframe.

“Fix the television. It stopped working.” He demands casually. A control freak, he is. The whole day, he hasn’t done anything other than sit around and demand Taehyung fix this or buy that. He’s even taken to moving around furniture to his heart’s desire and whenever Taehyung confronts him about it, he just ignores him.

Taehyung wonders if banishing is even necessary, death can send him straight back to hell anyway, right?

“Hey.” Jimin greets. “You’re the demon roommate?”

“Hellhound.” Jeongguk corrects, eyes narrowing slightly when they land on Jimin. “A temporary one, yeah.”

“How long do you plan on staying?” Jimin asks, polite but firm. Taehyung has known Jimin long enough to recognize his wariness. He’s being cautious around Jeongguk.

“As long as it takes for him to find a way to reverse the incorrect spell and send me back.” Jeongguk answers, crossing his arms. He appears as indifferent as always but his voice is noticeably more curt, aggressive even. Taehyung gulps. “How long do you plan on staying?”

“Excuse me?”

“I just thought this was Taehyung’s home.” Jeongguk shrugs. “And mine.”

Temporarily.” Taehyung interjects.

“Well, I am his best friend,” says Jimin, sounding amused. “This is my house too.”

Jeongguk turns to Taehyung. “Can I kick him out? I don’t like him.”

“You can’t just kick anyone out, Jeongguk.” Taehyung replies, warningly, though a part of him is a little surprised that Jeongguk cared to ask. “He’s staying.”

Jeongguk lets out an annoyed huff, and the sound is so uncharacteristically whiny that Taehyung bites back a laugh. “Whatever. Fix the cable.” with that, he turns on his heel and walks out.

“Still think he’s a good roommate?” Taehyung snorts, flopping down next to Jimin.

“Has a temper,” Jimin says thoughtfully. “But he seems to like you.”

“As a slave.” Taehyung mutters.

Jimin laughs. “He likes you more than me at any rate, slave or not. Do you think he’d try to kill me if I hang around?”

Jimin decides that he doesn’t want to test out the theory, by night time it’s just Taehyung and Jeongguk in the house.

“I am sleeping on the bed.” Jeongguk proclaims, flopping down on the mattress.

“Do demons even need to sleep?” Taehyung asks. “Why not just wait the night out on the couch? I actually need to sleep.”

“Demons can sleep.” Jeongguk explains, making himself comfortable on the several pillows. “But not like humans. They don’t need it often. I want to sleep, though.”

Taehyung squints. “You’re trying to annoy me on purpose aren’t you?”

“Are all humans as self absorbed as you?”

Taehyung groans, on any other day, he won’t let anyone boss him around in his own house like this, but he’s tired, dealing with a demon roommate will do that to you, even the floor seems like a good option. Hopefully, he can take his revenge in the morning, for now he needs sleep. He grabs a pillow from underneath Jeongguk’s head, purposefully rough before heading for the door.

“Where are you going?”

Taehyung shoots him a look. “To sleep.”

Jeongguk frowns. “The bed is here.”

“And you’re on it.”

“There is enough space for two.”

Taehyung scoffs. “Dude. I am not sleeping next to you."

“If I had wanted to kill you, I would have done it already.” Jeongguk replies simply, even going as far as to scoot to the other side of the bed to make space. “Just get on the bed, Taehyung.”

“If you want me on the bed so bad, just sleep on the couch.” Taehyung huffs, as expected, jeongguk stays rooted to the spot. He sighs.

That morning he wakes up in his bed.

“What the-”

“You’re finally awake.” a voice pipes up from the doorway. Jeongguk leans against his door in a black sweatshirt Taehyung didn’t even know he owned, another old pair of jeans that’s too tight on him. Somehow, he looks neat. “Cook breakfast, I want to eat.”

Taehyung falls back into the bed, hugging a pillow close to his chest. “Get yourself something. I am not making you breakfast.”

“Your stove is inefficient,” he hears Jeongguk say, sounding pissy. “You must be able to stand using it.”

Taehyung squints at the ceiling, then squints at Jeongguk. "You can't figure out how to use the stove?"

"I didn't say that."

Taehyung crawls out of bed, stretching. "You could admit it. Why are you so stubborn?" he says through a yawn.

Jeongguk just glares, and it occurs to Taehyung that he really is angered by not being able to use a stove. Taehyung can’t help a smug grin, but it falters when he remembers something.

"Jeongguk, why am I on the bed?" he asks cautiously.

"I didn't want to sleep." Jeongguk replies simply, but he's looking elsewhere. "And you were so desperate for the bed last night."

Taehyung scowls. "Stop carrying me around in my sleep."

"Well, stop me."

Taehyung grunts, shoving Jeongguk's shoulder quite a bit harshly when he moves past him.

“Come on. I’ll teach you how to use the stove."

Jeongguk follows after him, irritated. “I don’t need to know how to use it. You’re the one who’s going to be using it.”

Taehyung grimaces at the state of the kitchen. The frying pan lies on the floor covered in goo that Taehyung can assume had once been an egg, supplies that you can’t possibly need to cook an egg are scattered about and a few ramen cakes are lying in a water filled pot, ruined.

“Clean this up.” Taehyung demands, bending down to pick up the frying pan.

“I don’t want to.”

Taehyung shoots him a look over his shoulder. “Clean it up or no break fast for you, demon boy.”

“I’ll just eat yours.” Jeongguk says, but he gingerly picks up the mop leaning against the wall.

Taehyung keeps an eye on Jeongguk as he cleans up lest he create an even bigger mess. He also yells out instructions on how to toast bread and make scrambled eggs as he prepares breakfast. He knows Jeongguk isn’t taking any notes but he can see that it’s irritating the other if his annoyed grunts and complaints are anything to go by. Taehyung takes twisted pleasure in the fact.

“You know, you’re awfully bossy for a hellhound.” Taehyung comments off handedly as he places their food on the table.

Jeongguk frowns, sitting down and pulling both of his legs up like he tends to. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Taehyung sits down a little hesitantly, the tone of Jeongguk’s voice putting him at unease. Jeongguk is impassive at best, irritated at worst but now he sounds a little more intense than Taehyung is used to.

“I mean,” Taehyung stuffs his mouth with eggs, swallowing carefully before speaking “Hellhounds, they’re usually guards of witches or more powerful demons, right? That’s what I meant.”

Jeongguk clicks his tongue, and a hint of annoyance creeps into his voice when he speaks. “That’s not the sole purpose of their existence. A lot of hellhounds, like me, roam free. High level demons can have almost any being flanking them, so hellhounds are not exclusive for that job.” Jeongguk pauses before he speaks. “As for those witches, you’ve never actually met a witch like this, have you?”

Taehyung shakes his head no, a little sheepish. He’s embarrassed at being schooled like this, by Jeongguk nonetheless, but he can’t help the curiosity that’s swelling within him as well. He leans forward unconsciously.

“A witch and a hellhound are a rare pair. You’ve probably only seen murals and heard myths. Those hellhounds don’t serve the witches. They’re familiar.”

Taehyung frowns. “Hellhound familiars?”

Familiars aren’t as common as they once were, because magic simply doesn’t exist in nature like that anymore, and shifters, hybrids and other beings who were once trusted familiars of many witches are either extinct or have formed their own communities.

Currently, there are two known witches who have familiars. An Indian green witch owning a majestic macaw, and a powerful warlock last known to be in Egypt renowned for having an agile shifter as his familiar. Familiars are known to enhance a witch’s powers. Many sources say that the bond between a witch and a familiar is that of a soul, and a soul bond, along with immortality, has a few perks. Which is why most witches would walk to hell and back to snag one for themselves.

Any prestigious library would provide you with chock full of knowledge about familiars, about their capabilities and great tales of witches who had been in possession of them. But somewhere along the way, fact was flooded with fiction and now that information can’t really be considered reliable, in Taehyung’s honest opinion.

Nevertheless, Familiars have been the talk of the town in the witching for the past few centuries, so the mention of them makes Taehyung lean forward in anticipation, eager for the information Jeongguk can provide.

“There have been a few known cases of it,” Jeongguk affirms. “But your kind is not educated on the fact that a creature of hell can form such a bond with them, or they find the idea ridiculous,” he laughs, taunting. “For someone as power hungry you lot, you witches sure are picky.”

“So they don’t actually know?” Taehyung presses. “That hellhounds can become familiars?”

“Don’t know,” Jeongguk replies, shrugging. “Even if they were, why would a hellhound agree to something like that?”

Taehyung purses his lip, then nods, mind buzzing with this new information.

Seeing that Taehyung won’t ask anything further, Jeongguk finally digs into his food, which he promptly finishes in just a few humongous bites, the food disappears so fast that Taehyung does a double take.

“What?” Jeongguk asks, as if he didn’t just stuff two entire scrambled eggs and toast into his mouth in a matter of seconds.

“That hungry?”

Jeongguk wipes away grease at the corner of his mouth with his thumb. “No, not really.”

Taehyung pushes his own plate towards Jeongguk. “Do it again.” he whispers, fascinated.

Jeongguk looks down at the plate, then back up at Taehyung, before devouring the food on Taehyung’s plate as well, in just a few, swift motions. He sets the fork down, blinking confusedly at Taehyung’s wide eyed expression.

“How are you doing that?”

“With my mouth?”

“That looked so cool.” Taehyung marvels. “Is that the fastest you can go?”

“You think it’s cool?” Jeongguk asks, he sounds baffled and pleased in one. “I can probably go faster.”

Taehyung hums. “How about an entire bread loaf? How fast can you go?”

Jeongguk appears to think. “Five seconds.”

Bullshit.”

Jeongguk cocks his head, leaning back against the chair. “Three seconds.”

Taehyung snorts. “The praise has gotten to your head. No fucking way you can do it in even seven.” he says, but he’s already standing up and making his way towards the fridge.

“You’re making a fool of yourself.” Jeongguk scoffs, challenging. “Bring it on, witch.”

By the time Taehyung is ready to step foot out of the house to head to the central library with Jimin, half of his pantry is empty and Jeongguk is grinning smugly at him, as Taehyung would be irked if he wasn’t so impressed.

“Don’t fuck up the TV again.” Taehyung instructs, standing in front of a bored looking Jeongguk, fully dressed to go out. “No snooping around in my room, don’t touch the stove, no-”

“Should I just lay on the ground like dead the entire time?”

Taehyung nods, pleased. “Please do.”

Jeongguk scowls. “Why can’t I watch TV?”

“You can watch TV all you want, just please, don’t touch the wires like last time, I actually had to pay to get them fixed after you fucked them so badly last time. Did you try to tear them apart?”

“It was being annoying.” Jeongguk mutters.

Taehyung adjusts the scarf around his neck. “Me and Jimin are heading out to the library to get some research done on hellhound summonings so we can send you back. Sit tight until then and don’t break anything.”

Jeongguk sighs. “What’s the rush? I said I’ll find my way back.”

“We don’t know that.” Taehyung snaps, suddenly agitated at Jeongguk for being so calm about this whole thing. He supposes it makes sense, he’s not the one who will need to come up with explanations for an adult man in his house who appeared out of thin air but still, Taehyung can’t help the irritation that flares up in him at the other’s nonchalance. “You’re not a high level demon, neither are you a common low level one, for all I know you could be stuck here forever.”

Jeongguk scoffs, jaw ticking. “That won’t happen.” he says, so self assured despite not having any answers.

Taehyung throws his hands up in the air. “Excuse me for not trusting your judgement!” With a last angry scoff, he marches towards the door, a newfound vigor to send Jeongguk’s ass back to hell arising in him.

The central library offers a wide range of books, but it’s still not good as a private once, or more specifically, not as good as the archives belonging to his family, but Taehyung refuses to venture there, not yet. Him and Jimin greet the librarian and set about their work.

A lot of modern witches complain about the old fashioned libraries, arguing that storing their encestor’s wisdom on modern devices would be far more convenient, but the majority still prefer to do things the traditional way, which they believe to be safer. Jimin usually scoffs at this, insisting that old witches choose aesthetic over convenience. Broomers, he calls them, a self created term he's convinced is the best invention since a migraine charm. Personally, Taehyung likes the libraries, the atmosphere of them, being surrounded by so much knowledge feels exciting and empowering, and sometimes, comforting.

Right now though? He’d kill to have all of this on PDF. His back is about to give out.

A major disadvantage he had failed to predict is that they can’t be specific when asking the librarians or other witches to help. No one can catch the air of Kim Taehyung looking for a way to banish a hellhound so they’re pretty much on their own.

Slaving away at the library searching to get rid of a demon is not how either of them planned to spend their college break, and Taehyung feels a little guilty for dragging his best friend along with him but Jimin just smacks him when he mentions this and suggests that Taehyung make up for it by buying all the snacks. Friendship.

After several hours of searching, they decide to call it a day and meet tomorrow.

 

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung calls out upon not seeing the other in the main room. He shrugs off his coat and scarf, venturing inside. “I am back.”

The house looks exactly how he’d left it, no sign of a lazy adult man lounging around anywhere. He frowns, entertaining the idea that Jeongguk might have regained his teleporting abilities, or if he simply wanted to explore.

He lets out a loud shriek upon entering the bed room, met with the sight of a humongous black dog lying comfortably on the floor next to a window. It takes an embarrassingly long time for Taehyung to recognize it as Jeongguk and his whole body slumps in relief when he does, heart still thudding painfully in his chest.

He steps closer curiously, the sunset paints his dark fur a light, calming hue. He appears to be napping, paws tucked under. He really is huge, Taehyung marvels, probably more than half of Taehyung’s height, with those wicked looking claws and sharp teeth he’d seen first hand bared at himself. But asleep, rising up and down with gentle puffs of breath, he looks-

Well, he looks cute.

Taehyung can’t help the bout of adoration that wells up in him, the ridiculous urge to coo. He’s always loved animals to an almost obsessive degree, and he misses his childhood pet that he’d had to leave at his parents house dearly. Jeongguk, if you ignore his bulky size, razor teeth, sharp claws, sleek black fur and the low, growl like grunts he lets out in his sleep, almost looks like a large size version of his Soonshimi when he’s asleep. Taehyung’s suddenly fond.

Taehyung refrains from running his hand across his fur or giving him head pets, figuring it might not be the best idea to startle a hellhound in his sleep, but only barely.

Jeongguk’s head raises a bit, sniffing at the air before blinking his crimson colored eyes open. He looks over to Taehyung, letting out a low growl before settling back. Taehyung reaches forward hesitantly, Jeonguk watches him, unmoving, he takes that as a cue to move forward and places a hand over his fur, moving his fingers backwards and forward into the sleekness.

Jeongguk must have liked that, because he shuffles forward. Taehyung can’t help the delighted sound that escapes him. Taehyung pets him for a moment, scratching behind his ears and giggling when Jeongguk lets out pleased whimpers or impatient little growls.

Sure, Jeongguk is slightly more terrifying than Soonshim in the way his demaneor appears aggressive when Taehyung holds back head pats and his eyes glint red, perpetually narrowed and angry, but he’s still a dog, an affection starved one at that. And so, even though Jeongguk might bite his face off at a given moment, Taehyung enjoys this immensely, the day’s frustration melting away bit by bit as he calls Jeongguk a good boy and watches him almost sink his teeth into his hand before whining in pleasure when Taehyung scratches behind his ears.

"Who's a good boy?" Taehyung coos, fluffing up his fur.

Jeongguk grunts low but doesn't budge, appearing almost offended at the nickname.

"You're a good boy, aren't you?" Taehyung boops his, unfazed. "C'mon, who's a good boy?"

Jeongguk only growls, displeased. Jeongguk doesn't really have eyebrows, but his crimson eyes seem to be judging him. Taehyung giggles, patting his head.

 

“I have to make dinner,” Taehyung says when his stomach rumbles. Jeongguk lets out a displeased sound, shuffling forward until some of his weight is settled on Taehyung, pinning him down, and something about that stubborn, demanding gesture is so inherently Jeongguk that Taehyung can’t help the laugh that escapes him.

Jeongguk. You’re hungry aren’t you? Let me go now.” says Taehyung, trying to move away. Jeongguk growls, attempting to intimidate. Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Move, boy. I don’t want to hear you whining about being hungry again. Up you go.”

Eventually, Jeongguk relents, not without much complaining and Taehyung chuckles. Without thinking, he leans down and presses a kiss to his head, failing to see how jeongguk stiffens. He skips to the kitchen, humming.

 

“Do you like head pats that much?” Taehyung teases over dinner.

Jeongguk grunts, stuffing almost half a plate of pasta in his mouth. Taehyung watches in amazement.

“Don’t be ashamed, it was cute,” Taehyung assures him, taking pleasure in how Jeongguk’s face contorts. “You reminded me of my dog back home,” Taehyung reminisces. “He is always begging me to pet him too. It was adorable.”

“Shut up. I was half asleep,” Jeongguk mutters, then, probably eager to change the subject, he asks, “How did the research go?”

Taehyung sighs, smile faltering. “We didn’t make much of a crack. There are some references I note down though, to look into tomorrow. It’s going.” he chews thoughtfully, swallowing before adding, “There isn’t much about hellhounds in the central library, most of which we found was plain fairytale. We might have to go out of town to my family archives for a bit but I don’t know. Hopefully not.”

“Do you not like your family?” Jeongguk asks, blunt.

Taehyung snorts, still not completely used to Jeongguk’s lack of filter. “It’s complicated.”

Jeongguk stares, expectant.

Taehyung sighs. “They’ve never really liked me. Think I am not fit to be Kim. So yeah, it’s hard to love them sometimes.”

“Fit to be a Kim?”

“My ancestors were big shot in the witching world, wrote a lot of books and created multiple charms, the works. Our line has provided a lot of talented witches,” Taehyung elaborates. “I guess my parents kept comparing me to everyone else in the family, and I just wasn’t good enough. It’s-” Taehyung avoids Jeongguk’s confused eyes. “It’s a little embarrassing, but I still wanted to show them, everyone, that I am good enough. That’s kind of why you’re here, actually.”

Taehyung doesn’t talk about this a lot, feels embarrassed voicing it in public, but somehow, that isn’t the deal with Jeongguk, he doesn’t trust him per say, but he doesn’t think Jeongguk would be able to use this information against him even if he wanted to.

Jeongguk doesn’t look judgmental, neither sympathetic. His expression is a little troubled, eyebrows drawn together in a frown. “So, an evocation of a high level demon?”

Taehyung nods. “Guess I am really not Kim enough.” he says with a bitter laugh.

“That sounds idiotic to me,” says Jeongguk, voice firm and if he didn’t know any better, he’d think Jeongguk was trying to console him. “They’re clearly uncooperative, it is what it is, no point being mad about it,” he pauses, assessing Taehyung’s somewhat stunned expression before adding: “Besides, you don’t seem that old to me. Not everybody does things the same way. You mortals are so scared of impending death that you panic over things and don’t give yourself time.”

Taehyung blinks. Out of all people, he never expected to find Seokjin similar to Jeongguk in any way. The thought is amusing enough that he feels a little lighter, coupled with the way Jeongguk is looking at him intensely as if willing him to heed his life lesson till death, he lets out a laugh. “Are you trying to comfort me right now?”

Jeongguk’s eyes widen, hard expression melting into one of shock, then irritation. “I am just saying what I think. Take it as you will.” he goes back to gobbling up the rest of his food, looking at it as if it were the most interesting thing.

Taehyung happily continues with his own meal. He’s almost done when Jeongguk clears his throat.

“You can do that again if you want.”

Taehyung tilts his head. “Do what?”

“The pats, scratching, whatever.” says Jeongguk, feigning disinterest. “I won’t stop you.”

Taehyung breaks out into a grin. “If you want me to pet you, just ask.”

Jeongguk stands, taking his and Taehyung’s plate. “I don’t care. If you want to do it, go ahead.”

Taehyung is a little taken aback by his newly acquired manners but doesn’t comment, standing up as well and walking over to the sink to do the dishes.

“I got it.” Jeongguk says, grabbing the sponge and a pan before Taehyung can come closer to the sink. “Go to sleep.”

Taehyung stares for a moment, baffled. Figuring Jeongguk might get annoyed and drop whatever nice act he’s withholding if Taehyung voices his confusion, he just turns on his heel and walks into his room, flopping down on the bed. Just before he slips into unconsciousness, he has a thought.

Is he trying to make me feel better?

He’s asleep before he can fully process it. In his dream Jeongguk is trying to wrestle a book out of the librarian’s hands, he stops when he spots Taehyung and instantly turns into a hellhound, jumping on top of him and demanding head pats.

 

It’s a common occurrence to see Jeongguk in his true form around the house after that, more often that not, Taehyung will come back from the library to find him either napping or restlessly pacing the house. As he’d promised, he lets Taehyung pet him to his heart’s content, laying across his lap pliantly. It should be scary, having a dog bigger than his own size holding him down like that but Taehyung thinks he’s getting used to it, finds it strangely cute even. It's stress relief for sure. Taehyung has always found playing around with animals therapeutic.

Jeongguk doing the dishes also becomes a common occurrence, so does him mopping the floor and cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. Taehyung never thought Jeongguk would be the type to enjoy doing chores, but the other insists on them, saying it keeps him from getting bored.

It isn’t until Jimin says it out loud, that the implications of this fully hit him.

“He seems comfortable.”

Taehyung hums, still immersed in the book he’s brought home from the library. His attention is focused on a particular paragraph that lists the similarities between hellhounds and ordinary demons.

“You both actually,” Jimin further elaborates. “You both seem comfortable. With each other.”

That catches Taehyung’s attention. “What do you mean?”

“He does the chores without any complaining and you cook for him. You guys just work together is all.”

Taehyung frowns. “He fights with me about like, every single thing. This morning he was convinced that I needed to rob a bank and buy a new fridge.”

“Details. He’s still doing the chores, that’s more than you ask from your average demon.”

“Well,” Taehyung shifts. “He says he likes doing them. Besides, with all of this I don’t know if I’d have enough energy to-”

He pauses.

He could be wrong. It seems too far fetched. Demons aren’t exactly known for conscience.

“He’s trying to help,” Jimin speaks for him. “He appreciates what you’re doing for him. He’s trying to pay you back somehow. That’s what I think anyway.”

“Huh.” says Taehyung dumbly. A strange warmth erupts within him and he hurriedly focuses back on his book before he can overthink this flimsy speculation. What was reading again? Something about similarities?

Jimin leans back, completely discarding the notes he had made earlier in the library. “He’s actually-”

“Taehyung?”

He opens his mouth to speak when Taehyung looks his way but seems to think better of it when his eyes land on Jimin, expression instantly darkening.

“I am not kicking him out.” Taehyung states before Jeongguk can suggest it. He hears Jimin huff a laugh beside him.

“You don’t have to. I’ll do it.” Jeongguk suggests, completely serious, a little eager even.

“Damn,” Jimin speaks up, void alight with amusement. Taehyung doesn’t think it’s the smartest decision to be this lax with a demonic entity who already has it out for you, but Jimin has always beens bold(read: stupid as fuck). “You really hate me that much?”

“Yes.” Jeongguk replies in a heartbeat. “The only reason you’re still intact is because Taehyung likes you.”

It’s really stupid, considering that Jeongguk is literally threatening his best friend but Taehyung feels a little content at the knowledge that Jeongguk would care so much about his opinion. Maybe the stress is finally getting to him.

Jimin raises an eyebrow at taehyung, communicating his surprise at the same thing. Taehyung looks away.

He stands up. “Well, I’ll get going-”

“Good.” Jeongguk interjects.

Jimin shoots him a glare, gathering his stuff. He gives Taehyung a meaningful look that he doesn't understand.

“Why do you hate him so much?” Taehyung asks once he’s gone, part annoyed, part genuinely curious.

Jeongguk wrinkles his nose. “He’s clingy.”

He is telling him about how the ancient vacuum cleaner might be broken before Taehyung can prod further.

Weird, Taehyung thinks. In the beginning, he could understand Jeongguk’s hatred for Jimin because he was irritable and new to the environment but now, when he treats Taehyung just fine, one would assume he’d stop hating Jimin. Taehyung wonders if there could be another reason, but he doesn’t dwell on it for now he is marching into the kitchen to prove that the vacuum cleaner is in fact not broken.

It’s a small change, not one you’d expect Taehyung, exhausted as he is, to notice.

He’d given in and drove them to the other side of the town, to the library owned by the Kims, thankfully, his parents were on vacation so even if they found out he was there, they wouldn’t invite him over for a visit, which is just another term for judgmentally assessing his progress and asking some nosy question they mask as “concern”. Him and Jimin only need to be wary of the librarian and the other patrons.

So, he’s home considerably later than usual, but he still doesn’t expect or Jeongguk’s eyes to zero in on him as soon as he enters the living room and say, “You’re late.”

He’s sitting on the couch, elbows on his knees like he had been waiting, and it’s then that Taehyung notices. “That’s my shirt.” he says.

It’s stupid, every shirt Jeongguk wears is his shirt but this particular is one he had forgotten to chuck into the laundry basket yesterday, Jeongguk usually chooses to dig deep into his closet and wear clothes Taehyung had forgotten he owned, but this shirt is one he had worn just yesterday, it’s probably not the cleanest.

Jeongguk snorts. “I don’t own any clothes. Do you want me to go naked again?”

“No it’s just-” Taehyung struggles to phrase it and for the first time, it registers in his brain that Jeongguk is wearing his clothes, the ones that he himself had been wearing not too long ago. It’s a loose, baggy shirt that Jeongguk fills out, his form being more muscular than Taehyung’s own. “It’s dirty. Why didn’t you just take something out from the closet?”

Jeongguk just shrugs. “I like it. It’s comfortable.” then, “It smells like you..”

Taehyung sputters, affronted. “Excuse me?”

“It’s all over your house, but in this particular shirt it’s-” a pause. “Overpowering.” he says, eyes turning back to the television screen.

Taehyung removes his coat and chucks his bag on the floor, embarrassment settling over him. He’d known that Jeongguk is ridiculously sensitive to smell due his hellhound nature, makes a point to comment on Taehyung’s choice of cleaners or room sprays, but he never registered that that might transcend to his own smell too, somehow, the thought of Jeongguk having a distinct Taehyung scent in his mind sends him in a flurry of self consciousness. He huffs indignantly. “And what’s the problem with that? I smell just fine, thank you.”

“I didn’t say it was bad.”

It takes Taehyung a second to process his words through his embarrassment and when he does, it only serves to fluster him further.

“Oh.” he says eloquently. “Thank you?”

Jeongguk hums, attention still fixed on the television screen. “It’s soft, smells a little like summer. Did you change your body wash recently?”

Taehyung shifts, face coloring slightly at the flattering description. “Yes.”

“That explains the new vanilla scent.” Jeongguk nods, flashes Taehyung an uncharacteristically sincere look. “I like it.”

If he thought he was embarrassed before, it doesn’t hold a candle to how fast his face surpasses pink and turns flaming red at the compliment.

“Okay.” he says dumbly, trying to will away the despicable heat in his cheeks. “Good to know. Thank you or- whatever.”

He fumbles a little before turning around to get out of Jeongguk’s vicinity as soon as possible, but stops in his tracks when he hears the unmistakable sound of laughter behind him, he whirls around just in time to catch Jeongguk’s broad smile, bunny teeth and all, eyes scrunching up with the force of it.

It hits him that he’s never seen the other laugh before.

“What?” Jeongguk asks, grin faltering into a smaller smile that’s no less unusual.

“Nothing.” Taehyung replies, way too fast for it to be anywhere near casual. “Are you laughing at me?” he means for it to sound offended, but it comes out a little weak. He clears his throat.

“Yeah,” says Jeongguk, that smile still in place. It changes his face somewhat, makes him look younger, boyish. “You’re funny when you’re embarrassed.”

“Fuck you.” Taehyung says conclusively, ignoring the funny feeling in his chest and turning away from Jeongguk and his frustrating fucking smile. “I am not cooking for you, go order take out or some-”

Jeongguk just laughs again, and Taehyung has to physically restrain himself from turning around to catch a glimpse of it.

 

It’s saturday and Taehyung is adamant to rest. He’s been running around the whole week, comparing notes and theories and it has rendered him the kind of exhausted you’re not supposed to be on break. Furthermore, despite Jimin’s protests, he still feels guilty about making him do the same. So, they had mutually agreed to take some time off from the research to relax. No one has found out about Jeongguk, and he seems content to just stay in the house or venture out late at night when Taehyung is sound asleep, the point is, he’s staying lowkey and Taehyung is immensely grateful. He doesn’t feel as stressed about sending him back as he had been a few days prior.

He has time. They’ll figure it out.

For now, he’s bent on making up for all the sleep he’s lost in the last few days, and Jeongguk won’t let him.

“It's 12 PM.” he says from where he’s observing him from the edge of the bed. He’s been here for an hour now, informing Taehyung of the time in a bemused tone, as if Taehyung will be appalled and finally get out of his warm, comfortable bed.

Taehyung groans, muffling his face into the pillow. “You a fucking clock now?”

“Taehyung,” he tries, firmer. He places a hand on Taehyung’s blanket cocoon, shaking him slightly. “It’s time to wake up. I know you need rest but if you sleep more than this, you’ll fall asleep very late and feel drowsy tomorrow and be unable to get anything done, is that what you want?”

Jeongguk’s inane lack of human understanding is funny at best, inconvenient at worst, right now, it’s a fucking aggravating. His voice is actually grating on Taehyung’s ears and making him bury his face deeper into the pillow.

“Go away.” he says weakly. “You won’t understand.”

“What I understand is that you’re being lazy, and ultimately making things worse for-” he’s cut off by a pillow suddenly hitting him square in the face. Taehyung can’t help a satisfied cackle.

Jeongguk just blinks at him. “That didn’t even hurt.” he sounds annoyed.

“Did you want it to hurt?” Taehyung sits up straight, stretching. “That could be arranged.”

He’s mid yawn when he’s smacked in the face with a pillow so hard he almost falls right back into the bed. It doesn’t really hurt as much as it catches him off guard. “What the fuck?”

Jeongguk smirks and Taehyung has the thought that it's so different from his smile, more haughty, sharper.

Kind of hot, honestly.

“Payback.” Jeongguk replies easily, leaning back on his hands.

Taehyung reaches behind him, hand grazing a pillow case. He tilts his head, lips thinning into a line.

Jeongguk stares back at him, the curve of his mouth eventually softening. It's not a smile exactly but close enough and Taehyung is so focused on dissecting it that he forgets about his plan for a second.

He yells out suddenly, startling Jeongguk enough so he can yank the pillow from behind him and lunge straight at him.

Jeongguk's look of shock melts into sharpness before the attack can commence, he blocks him easily, pushing him back until Taehyung falls backwards into the bed.

“Is that all?” he teases, teases with that audacious smirk of his, and Taehyung is springing back and going in for another attack, aiming straight for his face.

Jeongguk isn’t able to block properly this time, and Taehyung gets him in the junction between his neck and shoulder, his victory is short lived however, when he’s whacked in the face mid laugh by the significantly larger pillow Jeongguk has managed to seize.

There’s a brief moment of eye contact, Taehyung panting and glaring at Jeongguk, Jeongguk holding up his own pillow in defense, significantly less affected by their little tussle, much to Taehyung’s annoyance. They both lunge at the same time.

In retrospect, pillow fight with a demonic entity isn’t the brightest idea, as it turns out, Jeongguk is fiercely competitive, retaliating to Taehyung’s hits with much stronger ones of his own. Another disadvantage on Taehyung’s side is that he keeps breaking out in laughter at the determined furrow between Jeongguk’s brows as he mercilessly aims Taehyung’s with deadly attacks.

He’s completely on the bed now, bare feet tangling in the mattress as they both try to find to catch each other off guard. At some point, pillows are discarded and it becomes scuffle more than anything. They struggle around the bed, kicking out and holding on to whatever they can get their hands on in an effort to gain the upper hand.

Taehyung wrenches his arm out of Jeongguk’s steel grip, planting a foot on the other side of him and bracing a hand on his chest to force him down, but Jeongguk grabs his wrist, flipping him over with impressive strength.

“Do I win?” he asks, breath still coming out easy, unlike Taehyung who is basically gasping underneath him. Jeongguk moves his hands on either side of him, caging him in.

He is frustratingly strong, and when Taehyung tries to break free, he just pins his wrists above his head with one hand. Taehyung huffs, trying to ignore how Jeongguk is basically a furnace.

A nice smelling furnace. Laundry detergent and hints of something pleasantly musky underneath.

“I win, right?” Jeongguk asks again, rubbing his thumb into Taehyung’s palm, it’s a gesture so strangely gentle that Taehyung stops struggling for a moment.

“No.” Taehyung grits, kicking out. Jeongguk doesn’t budge. “This was a pillow fight. It’s a tie.”

He frowns, and he’s suddenly closer, sharp eyebrows and displeased expression all up in Taehyung’s face. When he breathes, it must be fanning across Jeongguk’s lips. “I am at advantage here, at the end of the game. Doesn’t that make me a winner?”

Taehyung shakes his head, pulling at his wrists despite knowing it’s futile. “It makes you a violent idiot. Get off me.”

“No.” Jeongguk says stubbornly, grip only tightening.

Is he pouting?

“Are you pouting?” Taehyung exclaims. Jeongguk’s frown deepens, lips thinning out into a line and Taehyung misses the sulky pout as soon as it’s gone. “You are!”

Jeongguk’s thumb digs into the apple of his palm and he winces in pain, kicking out. “That hurt, asshole. Get off.”

“Not until you say I win.” Jeongguk retorts simply, looking infuriatingly smug at the advantage he has over Taehyung. “You fucking child.” Taehyung growls. He supposes he’s not any less of a child in this situation, but the irritating mountain hovering over him doesn’t deserve to be appeased. “Fuck, Jeongguk, just-” it’s when he tries to shifts his legs, and his pelvis brushes against Jeongguk’s thigh that a detail he had previously failed to notice flashes through his mind.

He’s hard.

“Are you okay?” Jeongguk’s concerned voice pulls him back. The hand next to Taehyung’s head wanders to his jaw, fingers brushing against the skin of his cheek, more gentle than Taehyung would have expected them to be. “You're really red. Are you sick?”

Jeongguk looks confused, and genuinely concerned, examining Taehyung’s face closely. One of his fingers brushes against Taehyung’s lower lip and he’s suddenly pushing him away with force.

Maybe he catches him off guard, but Jeongguk stumbles back, falling back into the bed with a startled yelp that Taehyung is too winded to appreciate.

“Um-” he says loudly, scrambling for a pillow, blanket, anything. Jeongguk blinks at him, straightening up. “I am going to- go.” Taehhyung announces, swinging his legs to the side and turning away from Jeongguk, willing his heart to leave his throat and go back to his chest. “To the bathroom, I mean.”

The door slams shut after him and he slumps back against it, breathing a sigh of relief, face beet red and heart still pounding.

“There’s a bathroom in your room!” comes Jeongguk’s muffled voice from inside.

Taehyung looks up from his notes when he feels a presence by the door, he pulls out the end of the pencil from his mouth, looking up at Jeongguk in question. He’s been rereading some notes he made at the library a few days ago, important points he had jot down from some texts about hellhounds dating back to the eleventh century, or maybe it was the twelfth. He’s been agonizing over trying to remember the date for some time now.

He usually leaves Taehyung alone when he’s doing this, trying to find a way to send Jeongguk back that is. Taehyung thinks it might be due to his slight hostility towards anything witch related, but he hasn’t voiced this, content to be left to his own devices when he’s at work.

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything, just sits across from him, pulling his legs up.

“What?” Taehyung asks, amused.

“Nothing,” Jeongguk continues to stare at him, then, “You’re wearing glasses.” "I need them for reading." “They’re nice. Look nice on you, I mean.” Jeongguk says idly.

“What do you want, Jeongguk. Spit it out.”

Jeongguk releases a sigh of his own but he looks at Taehyung determined. “I want to help.”

Taehyung shifts. “You mean, help me with researching?”

Jeongguk nods. “Yes.”

Taehyung is shocked, to say the least. He’s long since stopped thinking of Jeongguk as lazy, but as mentioned before, Jeongguk isn’t the biggest fan of witches and Taehyung had thought that Jeongguk believed his search to be useless, anyway, since he is convinced that he will be able to go back on his own.

“Why?”

Jeongguk shrugs, feigning nonchalance. “I just want to. It’s been more than a week and you and Jimin haven’t been able to come up with a solution, maybe I can help. Fact check for you or help with reading, or something else.”

Taehyung purses his lip. He doesn’t doubt that Jeongguk’s input will be useful to the search, but he still doesn’t understand his sudden motivation to help Taehyung. “You’ll be fine reading all these books written by power hungry witches?”

“Power hungry doesn’t necessarily mean incompetent, I think I’ll manage.”

“If you say so,” Taehyung says, still doubtful. He looks back at what he had been reading then back up at Jeongguk. He holds out a few of his notes to Jeongguk. “Why the sudden motivation though? Got bored?” it’s meant to be a joke. Taehyung attempts to appear busy to avoid looking Jeongguk in the eye.

He looks up when Jeongguk doesn’t answer for some time, blinking up at Jeongguk’s somewhat constipated expression.

“You look like you could use help.” he says finally, his indifferent mask betraying sincerity, even a hint of distress. “You’ve been coming home late, and you’re tired.”

“I-” Taehyung stutters, dumbfounded. Jeongguk shifts in obvious discomfort, but he seems adamant to maintain eye contact to get his point across. “Yeah- I guess.”

“So, I figured I could give you a hand. I am done with the chores anyway.” Jeongguk finishes, he hides it well but Taehyung thinks he spies nervousness in his voice.

The proposal, his stance and the concern he expressed for Taehyung should strike him as unexpected, but despite the way it renders him a little speechless, Taehyung finds that he isn’t surprised. Not as much as he would have expected himself to be, anyway.

Maybe it was Jeongguk doing the chores, or letting taehyung play with him in his other form, bantering with him over dinner or sternly waking him up in the mornings, but his concern for him doesn’t seem out of place at all and that surprises Taehyung.
Taehyung shakes himself out of his thoughts, realising that Jeongguk has been staring at him expecting an answer. He clears his throat, passing the notes he had been reading to Jeongguk. “How much of this seems legit to you? Get comfortable, you might be here for a while.”

Jeongguk takes the notes from him, eyeing them warily and before breaking into a small, unexpected smile. “Did I just make a mistake?” he asks.

Taehyung grins, fixing his glasses up his nose and shaking himself out of his overwhelming thoughts. “Signed yourself off to the devil.”

 

“Taehyung.”

Taehyung rifles through a thick book, sure that he had put the slip of paper somewhere in there.

Taehyung. Are you even listening to me?”

“Uhh yeah,” He perks up when his eyes land on a pink sticky note, but when he examines it it’s just a reminder to buy groceries, he crumples it up.

“Ah-wait!” he yells out when the book is smoothly taken from his hands, before shooting Jeongguk a glare. His eyes hurt a little from the effort.

“You need to sleep.” he says sternly, setting the book down out of Taehyung’s reach. He stands up. “Come on. Go to bed.”

Taehyung groans. Ever since that fateful talk, Jeongguk has been helping him the best he can, whenever Taehyung needs to get through something faster or needs to proof check something about hellhounds, Jeongguk is at his service. Other times, when he isn’t doing anything taxing or doesn’t need to fact check anything, Jeongguk has taken to just sitting down across from him, either idly reading something or using Taehyung’s laptop to pass the time. He reminds him to eat or drink water once in a while, so Taehyung doesn’t really mind. Him and Jeongguk have been at this for four hours now, the “lead” he was convinced he had been chasing met a dead end, and he doesn’t want to go to sleep without having at least found something worth reading about tomorrow.

“You’re almost asleep right now, you won’t be able to study more even if you wanted to. Just go to sleep for now.”

“I am not sleepy,” Taehyung replies, yawning immediately after. Jeongguk raises his eyebrows skeptically. “Really, I just need to find something, okay? I don’t want to fall asleep knowing I haven’t done shit today. You go to sleep if you want.”

“You’re tired.” Jeongguk says, a smidge softer. He walks over to Taehyung, sets a warm hand on his shoulder, firm and comforting. “Go sleep, we can do this tomorrow as well.”

We, he says, and Taehyung feels a tiny bit better about the situation.

“Okay,” he sighs, taking off his glasses and stretching his arms. He ignores the several concerning cracks. His eyes feel like they’re on the brink of closing, head fuzzy with tiredness. “My butt feels numb, I don’t think I can walk.”

“Do you want me to carry you?”

Taehyung blinks at the suggestion, then giggles. “Carry me? As in, carry me to the bed like a princess?”

“You think I can’t?” Jeongguk asks, as if already having taken on the challenge. “And, technically, like a prince.”

Taehyung feels too tired to argue, besides, his dignity always takes the back seat when he’s sleepy or inebriated. “Alright,” he holds out his arms towards Jeongguk. “Prince carry me, then.”

He lets out an “oof” when Jeongguk actually leans down and does just that. One of his hands on his back and the other under his thigh. A memory flashes through his mind, of Jeongguk pinning him to the bed and him rushing out of the room in embarrassment upon realising he was sporting a semi. He’d brushed it off as morning wood then, it’s only now, with Jeongguk carrying him, does he remember the effortless strength which he’d used on him , his hand around both of his wrists, his expression heavy.

He hopes his face isn’t as red as it feels.

“You’re heavier than you look,” Jeongguk grunts, adjusting his weight in his arms. Taehyung yelps, winding his arms around Jeongguk’s neck.

Jeongguk seems to find that amusing, grinning, he jostles Taehyung again.

“Fuck you,” Taehyung thumps at his bicep, cursing when action only makes him unsteady. “If I fall I am going to actually kill you.”

Jeongguk begins walking towards his room. “I won’t let you fall, Tae.”

The sincerity with which it’s said doesn’t fit the tone of the conversation, and Taehyung finds himself a little flustered by it.

He’s still somewhat recovering when Jeongguk drops him down on the bed unceremoniously. The bed creaks and Taehyung groans at his ungraceful landing. He hears Jeongguk laugh above him.

“What the fuck,” Taehyung glares at him, rolling on his back. “I think you broke my back.” he whines, head pounding a little from the impact.

Jeongguk snorts one last time, then grabs the edge of the comforter and splays it on top of Taehyung, who doesn’t question the unexpectedly sweet gesture. “Sleep well, Tae. Do you want me to wake you up?”

His fingers are the comforter, so he’s almost kneeling over the bed, looking at Taehyung expectantly in the dim light. His voice has a quality to it, soft and nice.

Taehyung nods. “Y-yeah.”

“Okay.” Jeongguk murmurs, then he’s standing up and Taehyung almost reaches out for him before he can stop himself.

The door closes shut, and Taehyung buries his face into a pillow, a muffled sound escaping his lips.

“Hey, stop with that.”

Jeongguk glances at him, hand stilling where it had been toying with the latch of the glove compartment. He leans back against his seat. “Why?”

Taehyung drums his fingers on the steering wheel, staring sideways at Jeongguk. The sight of him in his cramped car is a new one. This morning, Jeongguk had casually suggested he join Taehyung for grocery shopping. Taehyung wondered if it was because he was getting sick sitting around the house but then again, Jeongguk had the freedom to go anywhere he damn pleased, it was not like Taehyung had any authority to stop him, so it was strange that he would want to go grocery shopping of all places, but Taehyung didn’t question it, figuring that he could use some extra help. “Because it’s annoying me and you might break it.”

“I am not a child.” Jeongguk huffs.

“Yet you’re pouting exactly like one right now.” Taehyung grins.

“This isn’t pouting,” Jeongguk defends. “You’re the pouty one. Whenever you don’t get something you want, you pout.”

“And then I get what I want. It’s useful.”

“It’s unfair.”

“And you, being a demonic entity are the perfect advocate of fairness, right Jeonggukie?”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, but Taehyung spies a small smile on his lips. “You just have to mention that in every conversation.”

They pull up at the parking lot, and Taehyung turns to Jeongguk. “Okay, I’ll tell you where to get what, and you just go get and put it in the cart, okay?”

Jeongguk doesn’t seem necessarily pleased with the instructions but he nods, and they both step out of the car and into the air conditioned supermarket.

He makes Jeongguk push the cart, pulling up the list he had made in the notes app on his phone.

Jeongguk is surprisingly obedient, piling up everything Taehyung orders neatly into the cart and pushing it along. He even occasionally makes helpful suggestions as to what Taehyung should buy.

“We don’t need salmon.”

“I do,” says Jeongguk. “I saw a recipe for it on your TV and I want to make it.”

Taehyung grabs some peppers instead, handing them to Jeongguk. “You won’t be able to cook it, Jeongguk. You don’t even remember the recipe.”

“I do, actually. I wrote it down.” he says smugly.

Taehyung rolls his eyes, wondering when Jeongguk started watching cooking shows of all things. “It’s not that easy, following a recipe isn’t the only thing you need for cooking. You don’t even know how to use the stove!”

“You’ll help me.” Jeongguk counters simply.

“I will?” Taehyung snorts.

“Yes.” And apparently, that’s the end of the argument, because Jeongguk leads them towards the meat aisle and starts looking for it. Taehyung relents, finding his determination to follow a cooking recipe a little endearing. He makes sure to tell Jeongguk that he won't be buying him the cereal he had demanded, which he replies to with that pout he insists on not doing, Taehyung laughs.

“What’s that?” Jeongguk asks curiously.

“Hair dye.” Taehyung drops the box in the cart.

Jeongguk picks it from the cart, examining it. “You want to color your hair gray?”

Taehyung nods. “Looks great on me. I’ll get around to doing it one of these days.”

The urge to dye his hair always strikes him randomly, he hadn’t been planning on it this morning but walking into the store, he’d seen a girl with cute pink highlights and decided why not.

“Why gray?” Jeongguk asks. “A darker color would suit you more. Gray is an unusual color for hair.”

“What century are you living in?” Taehyung scoffs, before, “Wait, for real, how many centuries have you lived?” he asks, curious.

“Time moves differently in hell. I’ve never bothered to keep track, but the first glimpse of the mortal realm I remember is from the 15 century. I am sure there were horses.”

Taehyung blinks. "Dude, you're thousands of years old."

It shouldn't surprise him, immortality is nothing new in his world after all, but somehow the thought that Jeongguk is that much older strikes him just now.

Jeongguk just shrugs.

"You're old," Taehyung marvels. "You're an old man."

He frowns. "I've spent a good time of that time in hell, where as I've told you before, time moves-"

"Grandpa."

Jeongguk shoots him a look, and Taehyung giggles.

"Are you going to scold me?" he asks, teasing. "Like a grouchy old man?"

Jeongguk just shakes his head, setting the box of dye back into the cart and Taehyung has an idea.

"Do you want to dye your hair as well? we can do it together."

"I don't want my hair to be gray." Jeongguk wrinkles his nose.

Taehyung looks back on the shelf and hums. "How about red? I think red would suit you or-"

“Taehyung?”

He whirls around at the familiar voice, heart jumping in his throat. Jung Hoseok excitedly walks over to him, a cart of questionable items in his hand and a blinding grin on his lips. Taehyung gulps, glancing over to Jeongguk who’s also eyeing Hoseok, looking uninterested.

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, trying to sound light and casual. “Hey.”

Hoseok instantly envelopes him in a hug and despite himself, Taehyung relaxes in the embrace, comforted by his familiar scent. "Long time, no see. What happened to coming over every day and emptying my pantry? Or have you forgotten me already?”

"Just some stuff, nothing important." Taehyung dismisses hurriedly. "Expect me to make good on that promise."

“You better. Yoongi’s been locked in the studio for so long I can barely remember what my boyfriend looks like. And there’s only so much time I can spend helping Aunt Su with her research on a one touch cure for cowpox, it’s gross, Taehyung, the woman is unhinged. The other day, she told me to collect internal snail organs and ended up not even needing them! I am going insane, please visit your hyung more or-

Taehyung laughs awkwardly, he would be very talkative with him on any other day, seeing as him and Hoseok have known each other since they were kids due to their families having good ties, and have kept in contact even after moving away because they get along so well, but with Jeongguk right behind him, all he can think of is how he's going to excuse his presence.

As if on cue, Hoseok spots Jeongguk right behind Taehyung. "Who is that?"

Taehyung gulps, forcing on a smile. "He's-"

He trails off when an arm wraps around his waist from behind. He sees Hoseok’s eyes widen comically in front of him. “I am his boyfriend.” says Jeongguk.

For a moment, Taehyung is too distracted by Jeongguk’s proximity to actually process the words, but when they fully register in his brain, he lets out an embarrassing sound half way between a cough and a strangled gasp.

He pushes away to gawk at Jeongguk, who looks like he just announced that the supermarket is out of cereal. “I am your-”

”You got a boyfriend?”

“No! He’s not my-”

“That is amazing!” Hoseok claps his hands together in delight, and Taehyung loves Hoseok, he really does, but he’ll never get over how downright nosy the other man can be.

“Hyung. We’re just friends.” Taehyung insists, as Jeongguk’s hand comes down to rest securely on his hip.

“Yes,” he nods beside him. “Boyfriends.” Taehyung subtly shoves at him.

“You already have a plus one, then!” Hosek says excitedly. “I thought I would have to set you up with someone again-”

“Wait-” Taehyung momentarily stops panicking about the boyfriend situation to ask. “Plus one? What for?”

Hoseok’s smile falters slightly. “You didn’t get the invite? Oh, I forgot, they’re supposed to send those out today! I just got informed earlier from-”

“Hoseok,” Taehyung stresses. “What for?

“Right, you don’t know,” he chuckles. “It’s one of those grand gatherings arranged by Mins for someone’s engagement, I think. I asked Yoongi if he knew whose engagement it was but he said he can’t keep track of his cousins. The point is! Big party, you can bring plus ones.” he finishes, looking at them both excitedly.

“Uh-”

“You’re going. You’re also bringing your hot boyfriend not-boyfriend, who I definitely need to know more details about.” Hoseok winks, before turning to Jeongguk and extending a hand. “Jung Hoseok, you are-?”

Jeongguk stares at his hand for a moment. Hoseok remains smiling, eyes fixed on Jeongguk’s face. He finally takes his hand, shaking it slowly. “Jeon Jeongguk.” he says.

“See you at the engagement, Jeongguk.” Hoseok says cheerfully before retracting his hand. “I have to get these to Aunt Su. See you both later, yeah?”

Taehyung shifts, feeling all kinds of uneasy and panicked. He smiles tightly. “Yeah of course, see you later.”

As soon as Hoseok is out of earshot, Taehyung turns on Jeongguk. “Why the fuck would you say that?” he hisses.

“Say what?”

“The boyfriend thing!” he exclaims. “Why! Would you tell him you’re my boyfriend, jeongguk!”

Jeongguk shrugs, angling the cart towards the exit. “I meant to say friend.”

Taehyung stares at him, baffled. “You literally cut me off to say you’re my boy- come back here!”

 

The bad mood has been climbing up since they left the market. Jeongguk must sense his agitation, for he stays quiet the whole ride back, hands placed in his lap. The invite for the engagement party in the mail doesn’t help, neither does the message he receives from his mother making sure he attends, nor her telling him she wants to meet this “boyfriend” of his that Aunt Su recently informed her about.

“Hey,” Jeongguk says placatedly, setting down the groceries. “I am sorry about-”

“About calling me your boyfriend? Or about fucking everything up for me?” Taehyung asks harshly, discarding his phone. He wonders when he became so careless about this entire situation, about keeping Jeongguk a secret. His mother found out about him for heaven’s sake. “I shouldn’t have brought you with me in the first place.”

"What?" says Jeongguk, defensive. "I didn't do anything. Why are you mad at me?"

Taehyung takes a deep breath, resists the urge to pull at his hair. "Just- I just wish you weren't there. They're going to know Jeongguk."

He knows he’s letting his steadily building up panic transcend into aggression, but he doesn’t do anything to stop it.

Jeongguk opens his mouth to reply but Taehyung cuts him off.

"And why did you even say anything? if you'd kept quiet maybe-"

"It's my fault?" Jeongguk points towards himself, incredulous, and he doesn't seem to be getting it, getting that Taehyung doesn't want to listen to logic right now, and his genuine confusion at being accused is only making it worse.

“Just- just go somewhere else right now and avoid ruining things more than you already have, alright? Just go.” he says, turning away before the sting in his eyes could evolve into full blown tears.

Jeongguk doesn’t move. “She would’ve found out about me regardless of me saying anything or not today.” he says finally, clipped.

“And that’s supposed to make me feel any better?” Taehyung bellows, not knowing where he’s going with this. Jeongguk is looking at him with a hard expression betraying hurt, and Taehyung wonders just when did he grow familiar enough with him to be able to deduce what he’s feeling from his perpetual emotionless face. “They’re going to find out, Jeongguk. I am going to be humiliated.” he says, nearly hysterical.

“You’re angry with me,” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung could swear he doesn’t imagine the slight crack in his voice. There is a small, almost sad furrow between his brows and Taehyung is hit with the sudden urge to smooth it out with his fingers. “I didn’t even do anything. That’s not fair.”

“Well, I am!” Taehyung goes on. He wants to stop being angry at Jeongguk because it’s pointless, and it’s not even his fault but he wants to be angry at someone. The painful itch in his throat that comes with yelling past the constricting of his lungs feels good. “I am angry at you and myself! for- for getting you here in the first place. I wish I never did that fucking summoning in the first place, god.”

The last of Jeongguk’s exterior seems to crack at that. “Okay,” he says, voice strained. He turns on his heel and at the sight of his back, Taehyung feels all the fight drain out of him.

“Jeongguk-” he calls out, not sure what he even wants to say.

Then he’s at the door, hand on knob, he turns back towards Taehyung, face screwed in frustration. Taehyung doesn’t think he’s ever looked more fragilely human. “I am sorry, okay? I didn’t do anything but I am sorry. Just- stop crying. Please stop crying, taehyung.”

The door slams shut after him.

 

In hindsight, getting mad at Jeongguk for the situation was idiotic and immature. Anxiously twiddling his thumbs and staring at the clock as the sun sets, Taehyung realizes that. It’s been five hours since Jeongguk left, and he doesn’t seem to have any plans to come back.

His eye is suddenly caught by a book lying closed on the coffee table. It’s another myth dump he’d spent hours dissecting, and he faintly recalls wanting to return it to the library.

Huh, he hasn’t been to the library in a few days.

The realisation is more winding than it should be. He doesn’t think he’s been to the library in about a week now. He’d promised himself a small break, and now days have gone by and he hasn’t even thought about sending Jeongguk back.

Except for today, when he yelled it into Jeongguk’s face and his expression contorted to produce the most distressed look he’s ever seen on him. Brows furrowing and mouth pulling into a shocked part. He didn’t think Jeongguk was capable of looking so-

Vulnerable.

Taehyung doesn’t realize he’s tearing up until the hot moisture wets his cheeks. He wipes at his eyes furiously, standing up. On his way to his room, he snatches up the book from the coffee table and puts it in a drawer instead.

 

He has a hard time falling asleep that night, and he wakes up with a sour taste in his mouth, anxiety thrumming in his veins.

“Jeongguk?” he calls out in the hall, voice small with guilt. He feels panic climbing when he doesn’t get an answer. Stepping into the hall, he takes a moment to calm himself, so his voice would come out more steady, “Jeongguk, are you there?”

He’s hit with a sense of deja vu as he searches the apartment for him, except this time, he’s a little more frantic, anxiety climbing with every empty space. He covers his face with his hands, sighing out and trying to regain some semblance of calm before throwing on a coat and setting out into the building.

His apprehension only grows when no one seems to have seen Jeongguk leave the building, crawling up his throat and forming a lump that makes it hard to keep his voice level. He gives up and sets back for his apartment, sending Jimin a voice message.

He sets the phone down and buries his face in the couch pillow, the couch Jeongguk has taken to sleeping on. Logically, he knows that Jeongguk will come back to him. Where else would he even go in this city? But in his state of fear, his mind conjures up a million horrible scenarios, not taking into consideration that this is a demon he’s worrying about.

A possibility suddenly emerges in the sea of anxiety that makes his throat clog up.
Does he even want to come back?

He left yesterday evening and it's almost noon now, if he hasn’t gotten lost, there’s only one possibility.

He shakes himself out it quickly lest he open a whole other can of worms, he has enough to worry about already. He muffles a distressed noise into the pillow.

Just as he’s about to call the guard outside again, his phone rings. He sits up hurriedly when he sees that it’s him calling.

Taehyung doesn’t even bother paying attention to the whole thing, reaching down to put on his shoes when he mentions having seen someone matching Taehyung’s description around the corner. He practically sprints down the hallway.

 

By the time Taehyung is back at his door, having made sure that the man the guard had seen was not in fact, Jeongguk but just a barista from the cafe across the street, his cheeks are tear stained.

It’s noon already, did Jeongguk actually just leave because he was mad at Taehyung? Or is he lost and will be home again?

He is hit with a fresh wave of anxiety whenever he remembers how he spoke to him yesterday. God, what if that was his last time talking to Jeongguk? And he didn’t even mean any of what he said, he was angry and scared, he didn’t mean-

Taehyung does a double take when he enters the apartment. There on the couch, sits Jeongguk, completely intact. He looks up when Taehyung enters.

Jeongguk shifts on the couch, opening and closing his mouth, he finally clears his throat, looking uncharacteristically awkward.

“Taehyung, listen, about yesterday-”

He doesn’t get to finish his sentence, for Taehyung is on him in a few strides, enveloping him in a hug that’s sure to make it difficult for him to properly breath.

“Why would you just leave like that you dumbass?” Taehyung questions, strangled. He thumps his back, half-hearted.

"Um-" Jeongguk's hands come up to support his weight. He sounds uncharacteristically flustered. "I thought it would be best to leave you alone. You seemed angry."

"You just left," Taehyung stresses. "Did you know how worried I was? I thought you were lost, or didn't- didn't want to come back-"

"Hey," one of Jeongguk's hands comes up to his face, cupping a cheek and wiping away a stray tear, impossibly gentle. "I wouldn't just run away like that. I just thought you needed some time. No leaving."

Taehyung unconsciously leans into his touch, finding himself unable to look away from Jeongguk's tender expression and his soft, warm mouth saying words that placate the erraticness in his heart.

"Ugh," he says, burying his face in Jeongguk's neck again when he's hit with the stupidest urge to kiss him on the mouth.

Jeongguk probably doesn't even know how to properly kiss.

He looks like he does.

"Are you okay?" Jeongguk asks, patting his back as if he were a baby, and Taehyung is hit with the realisation that he's practically in the other's lap. "You're not crying more, are you?"

"No," Taehyung sniffs. "Just- don't leave like that again. You don't even have a phone. What if you got lost in the city and couldn't get back?"

Jeongguk chuckles, shifting on the couch. Taehyung jostles slightly in his lap. "I'll find my way back. I know the scent of your apartment and-" he pauses. "And of you."

It's such a small, obvious thing, Taehyung doesn't know why it makes his face color, neither does he know why Jeongguk says it like-

like that.

As if it were something intimate, a secret privy only to the two of them.

"That's good," Taehyung sniffs. "Weird as hell, but it's good. Don't disappear on me again."

"Okay," Jeongguk replies simply. He averts his eyes suddenly, hesitating slightly before speaking, "Don't cry because of me again."

Taehyung buries his face in Jeongguk’s shoulder, huffing out an endeared laugh. “I cry about everything. Don’t you worry.”

One of his hands rubs gently on his back. “You shouldn’t. You look bad when you cry.”

“Way to comfort me. Bravo.”

Jeongguk doesn’t reply to that and Taehyung lets him be. Relieved and exhausted all at once, he feels like he could fall asleep with his face in Jeongguk’s tear stained shirt.

“Are you hungry?” Jeongguk asks after some time, and it sounds like another apology that Taehyung doesn’t want from him but his stomach very much does.

Taehyung glares at him with no heat. “You know you’re forgiven right?”

Jeongguk jostles him slightly, like you would to cheer up a baby. “I just want to cook for you.”

“Okay then.” he slumps back into his shoulder, inhaling the scent of laundry detergent and Jeongguk.

"I am going to need you to get off of me for that." says Jeongguk, amused.

Taehyung groans but falls sideways on the couch, laying down and kicking at Jeongguk's legs. "Off you go."

Jeongguk doesn’t let up for a minute, and just as Taehyung is about to ask, he leans down, cupping the side of his head to plant a kiss on his temple.

“I missed you.” he says, smiling a little sadly.

He stands up before Taehyung can question the action, leaning him sputtering on the couch.

 

“I’ve been thinking,” Jeongguk says cautiously, upon Taehyung’s questioning hum over a mouthful of food(salmon, unexpectedly amazing), Jeongguk clears his throat. “That I can go with you.”

“Go with me?”

“To the engagement.” he clarifies. “You know, as your parents already think I am coming, so they’ll ask if I don’t. How about I just go with you?”

Taehyung considers this. He’d been planning on thinking up an elaborate excuse to not attend, the idea that he could just take Jeongguk with him hadn’t even crossed his mind.

“My parents are weird,” he confesses. “They’re both… judgemental. Not fun people.” Taehyung surmises, not exactly to get Jeongguk off the case but more to give him a fair warning.

“Okay.” Jeongguk nods. “Anything else I should know?”

“The community, they’re not exactly prejudiced towards humans, since that’s what you’re going to be pretending to be, but I don’t think my parents would be the happiest about me dating one.”

Jeongguk pauses. “Dating you.”

“Yes?” Taehyung snorts. “You’re my boyfriend, right?”

Jeongguk fiddles with his fork, having eaten inhumanly fast as he tends to do before waiting for Taehyung to finish. He’s told him that he doesn’t have to do it but Jeongguk chooses to stay and watch him eat and try to awkwardly strike up conversation. “I am sorry for saying that. I just-” he hesitates. “I was joking?”

“You don’t sound so sure about that,” Taehyung chuckles, previous anger over the whole deal having dissipated completely. He doesn’t blame Jeongguk in the slightest, but he still finds the incident funny and maybe a little- well, flustering as well. “And I’ve told you, it’s okay. Do you know how to act?”

“Never tried it,” Jeongguk replies honestly. “But it can’t be too hard.”

Taehyung feels a little apprehensive of his confidence, but he doesn’t exactly have much of a choice. “Okay. Just stick with me, hold my hand and let me kiss your cheek. Got it?”

“Stick with you, hold hands, kiss cheek, anything else?”

“When my parents ask how we met, don’t say anything and just let me speak. If they ask you anything specifically-” Taehyung slumps, realizing there’s not much he can do to prepare Jeongguk for this.

Jeongguk stands up, picking up the dishes. “I’ll get a pen and paper, just tell me everything you think I need to know.”

It’s such a Jeongguk thing to say, calculative and logical yet so silly by human standards at the same time that Taehyung smiles, endeared. It’s a bit later that he realizes that the familiar urge he’s feeling in his chest is of wanting to kiss Jeongguk. He brushes it away, standing up to help with the dishes.

 

“Stop messing with it,” Taehyung scolds, fixing Jeongguk’s collar for the fifteenth time. “It looks fine.”

Jeongguk huffs, reaching up a hand that Taehyung swats away. “It’s irritating my neck.”

“I barely have money to buy groceries, much less a fancy suit. Compromise.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, a habit Taehyung is sure he’s picked up only recently, judging by how much he’s been doing it in the past few days. It’s endearing in that way that babies who start imitating things are. Taehyung doubts that Jeongguk would appreciate his comparison.

“There,” he says, adjusting it so it’s just right. “Don’t mess with it again.”

Jeongguk nods. The hand Taehyung moved away grasped in his own. He didn’t notice Jeongguk wiggling his fingers until their hands were basically , , intertwined in the space between them. Jeongguk doesn’t move away, just continues to stare. Something intense and sweet.

“What are you looking at?” Taehyung asks, not looking away either. His voice is soft, subconsciously not wanting to disrupt the private ambiance they seem to have created in the space between them.

“You,” Jeongguk answers simply. More of a breath than a proper sentence.

Taehyung hums, biting his lip. Coy is unfamiliar around Jeongguk. "What about me?"

"Your face." Jeongguk blurts. "That's- that's all I can see from my viewpoint."

Taehyung laughs, lightly flicking Jeongguk on the forehead. “Okay. My face.”

“You have a nice face.” Jeongguk defends, smiling slightly. “Very symmetrical.” Then, “You’re still in your sleep clothes.”

Taehyung stretches his arms above his head, hearing a satisfying crack. “There’s still four hours to go. I just wanted to make sure the suit looks okay.”

“Does it?” Jeongguk inquires, looking a little eager.

“Does what?”

Jeongguk shifts on his feet, fixing the lapels of his suit jacket. “Look okay on me. The suit.”

Taehyung grins, crossing his arms. “You’re fishing.”

In truth, the suit is a little tight on Jeongguk in places, being one of Taehyung’s old ones, not exactly the perfect fit. But Taehyung has never seen him in anything out of his baggy clothes, and the sharp black and white looks good on Jeongguk's well built figure, not to mention the way the dark material stretches tightly over his wondrous biceps. He looks- well, he looks hot.

Jeongguk just shrugs, taking off his coat, then proceeding to unbutton his shirt as well.

"Whoa! a little warning," Taehyung averts his eyes, turning around quickly.

"I have nothing you don't," Jeongguk says behind him, sounding amused. "All humans kind of look the same, don't they?"

Taehyung decides against explaining the concept of modesty to a hellhound. "I am going to go dye my hair. Don't wrinkle the suit."

"Gray?" Jeongguk asks. Taehyung is weirdly attuned to the sound of him taking off his pants right behind. He blushes.

"Yeah, though I'll be making it more vibrant so it might look silver? shinier gray? we'll see."

"Making it Vibrant?"

Taehyung grins, still turned around. "Some cool potions I learned back in highschool. They always make dye much more fun."

 

The magic doesn’t do anything extreme, just adds a unique shine to the dye that makes it glow almost. Taehyung shakes his hair out in front of the mirror, admiring the silver. A successful dye always gives him a confidence boost, which he could really use tonight. He does a simple makeup look that compliments his outfit and puts it on before stepping out the bathroom.

Even if tonight goes terribly, at least he’ll look good going down.

“How do I look?”

Jeongguk looks up from where he’s struggling with his cuffs and does a double take. It should be amusing, the way his eyes widen and his lips part in awed surprise but it makes Taehyung feel stupidly giddy instead.

“You look beautiful-it, I mean, it looks beautiful.” Jeongguk stammers.“It looks beautiful on you.”

Taehyung grins, walking towards him and taking his wrist into his hand to fix the cuff himself. Jeongguk's eyes latch on to his face instead, staring at his hair. He looks transfixed.“Told you it looks great on me.”

“Yeah. It does.”

Jeongguk is looking at him with that intense look again, as if his entire world is limited to Taehyung only. He averts his eyes, clearing his throat. “You’re ready right? We should get going. I called an uber.”

“Okay.” Jeongguk says, still looking at him.

Taehyung steps back, flustered.

Maybe Jeongguk won’t be bad at acting the part of a lover at all.

 

The car halts in the parking lot. Taehyung takes a deep breath.

“The major-”

“Finance.”

Taehyung fidgets, turning to face Jeongguk. “How did we meet?”
“We met through mutual friends on campus. Can you-”

“What’s my favorite color?”

Taehyung.

“I am worried, okay!” Taehyung exclaims before slumping in the seat. “We’re going to mess up. I know it.”

“Tae,” Jeongguk takes his hand in his own. “Look at me.”

Taehyung purses his lips, doing as Jeongguk asks of him.

“It’s going to be alright. I did my homework and you’re excellent at lying.” Jeongguk says placatedly. He holds Taehyung’s anxious gaze carefully, thumb rubbing a circle in the palm of his hand.

“You’re just really bad at catching me lying,” Taehyung whines, yelping in pain when Jeongguk tightens his grip on his hand in annoyance.

“You think too much, Taehyung,” says Jeongguk sighs. One of his hands comes up to brush away a strand of hair away from his forehead. Taehyung thinks Jeongguk might be a little obsessed with his shiny new head of silver. “They probably won’t ask me what your favorite color is. You know that, right?”

“My mom is weird sometimes.” Taehyung confesses. “Like, really invasive. What if she doubts us and starts asking personal questions to see if we’re the real deal?”

“We’ll improvise if she does that.” says Jeongguk, humoring Taehyung’s overwhelming thoughts.

“And what if she asks around for the mutual friends that introduced us?”

“We’ll say she doesn’t know them. Just tell her they are your normal human friends.”

Taehyung knows he is being unreasonable, Jeongguk knows that too but having him placate his worries, no matter how meaningless they are, makes his chest feel lighter. He takes a deep breath, tightening his grip on Jeongguk's hand before letting it go. “Okay. I think we’re ready.”

Jeongguk nods. “Do you want me to hold your hand?”

“Of course. We’re boyfriends remember?” Taehyung opens the door, turning around to throw him a wink. “All yours for the night.”

“Right,” says Jeongguk, looking away. He reaches for his hand to intertwine their fingers again. “Let’s go.”

 

As expected of the Mins, the party is grander than one warranted for an engagement. Glittering chandeliers that reflect the colors of rainbow, a spacious dance floor and smartly dressed people milling about. The Mins never did fuck around with parties.

Taehyung is used to ostentatious gatherings of this kind, so he chooses to observe Jeongguk’s cute astonishment at it all.

“Like it?” he asks, letting go of Jeongguk’s hand to intertwine their arms.

“It's beautiful," he says, eyes latched on to the massive chandelier that reflects seven colors, all woven into the glass. "Very big. Your kind can throw a party."

Taehyung grins. "Of course we can. This is a formal kind of thing. I need to take you to a more fun one sometimes. Magic does wonders to booze."

"Didn't you say you don't like drinking?"

"I don't, but I am not above enjoying what others do under the influence, this one time, Jimin downed a whole bottle of vodka with some funky herb potion mixed in and-"

Jeongguk lets him rant, and Taehyung wonders if mind reading is one of the powers hellhounds possess, because he, without having Taehyung tell him, gets it, gets that talking about Jimin climbing on top of a table and doing slut drop is helping his nervousness and lets him.

"He tried to kiss Hoseok? the one at the market?" Jeongguk asks with polite interest as they make way towards a table, and Taehyung knows he can't put off social interaction in favor of talking to Jeongguk much longer.

"Yes," Taehyung nods. "And when Hoseok said he was drunk, Jimin just bursted into tears and started talking about the stars. Or something."

"Wow," Jeongguk expresses. "How come-"

But Taehyung has spotted two people walking in their direction. He gives Jeongguk an apologetic smile before turning to greet them.

"Hoseok hyung,” Taehyung pulls him in for a hug, to which Hoseok responds with a laugh, wrapping his arms around his shoulders for a proper embrace. He shakes hands with the other witch, Min Yoongi, certified potion master and local cryptid. But more importantly, Hoseok hyung’s friend with the gummy smile and nice, wise words.

“You brought a friend.” Yoongi observes, extending a hand towards Jeongguk.

Hoseok coughs. “That’s his boyfriend, actually.”

Taehyung almost corrects him before remembering that Jeongguk is indeed his boyfriend. For the night.

“That’s right.” Is what he says, pulling Jeongguk close by their interlocked arms.

“Nice to meet you.” Yoongi says to Jeongguk, who takes his hand. “Min Yoongi.”

“Jeon Jeongguk.”

A thing about Yoongi, is that he’s never been the one to care too much about social norms. He holds Jeongguk’s hand in his own and stares right at him for almost half a minute. Lucky for him, Jeongguk isn’t the best at interaction either. He stares back.

Hoseok shrugs when Taehyung looks at him questioningly.

“Anyways,” says Hoseok, bringing them back. “So glad you could make it, Tae. Me and Yoongi were about to hit the dance floor-”

Yoongi looks surprised by this information, but doesn’t comment.

“You guys wanna join us?”

Taehyung looks at Jeongguk, communicating his question through his eyes. Jeongguk gives his forearm a reassuring squeeze.

“Sure thing.”

It’s when they’re at the dance floor, arms around each other that Taehyung says: “You don’t know how to dance.”

Jeongguk looks sheepish. “I don’t. Do you?”

Taehyung secures his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulders, which he finds pleasantly wide. “A bit. Follow my lead.”

Jeongguk turns out to be a fast learner, listening to Taehyung’s instructions with so much attentiveness that Taehyung finds himself faltering mid teaching at a few points, flustered at the attention. Coupled with his hands firm and warm on his waist, Taehyung is having a little difficulty focusing on explaining box steps.

“How are you so good already?” Taehyung asks, bewildered as Jeongguk leads him through a neat spin.

“You’re a good teacher.” Jeongguk replies, sincere. They come back together again and Taehyung is certain that they’re closer than they were before, noses almost touching.

Taehyung has the silliest urge to kiss the mole right underneath his lower lip.

“What are you looking at?” Jeongguk murmurs. His hands climb higher on his waist, and it feels like he has all of him in his hands. It’s a thrilling thought.

Taehyung interlocks his fingers behind Jeongguk’s neck. “You.” he breathes, repeating Jeongguk's words from before.

He’s looking at Taehyung with that look again, that all consuming, intense look, like he’s just seeing him. His eyes drop to his lips.

Taehyung knows if Jeongguk leaned in just a bit more, he’d kiss him.

The urge to do just that vanishes as soon as it has appeared when Taehyung’s eyes land on the pair behind Jeongguk’s shoulder. He gives Jeongguk a pointed look, letting his arms fall from his shoulders.

Jeongguk doesn’t seem to have caught the memo, for he takes Taehyung’s wrist. “You don’t want to dance?” he asks, sounding confused and a little distressed.

“It’s my parents,” Taehyung grits. His face feels hot as it begins to register in his brain that they definitely almost kissed. “We have to meet them.”

Jeongguk turns his head to look, then nods, still looking a little despaired.

In a moment of boldness(and need for Jeongguk to stop sulking) Taehyung cups the side of Jeongguk’s face, turning it to press a kiss to his cheek. “Happy?”

Jeongguk blinks, red creeping in his face. “I-yes. Thank you.”

Taehyung bites back a smile, taking his hand and making his way over to where the couple stand.

“Taehyung,” his mother greets, elegantly lifting her dark green gown to sit down. “How nice of you to make an appearance! Come, sit next to me.”

Taehyung glances at Jeongguk, who squeezes his hand. They both sit down next to each other. Taehyung hugs his mother, the smell of the lavender perfume he remembers her using since forever invading his nostrils. “Hello, mom.” he pulls away rather quickly. “How’ve you been?”

She waves her hand around. “Busy busy, you’d think I would get time to rest after flying all over the world for months. What about you?”

“I am well,” he replies. “Lots of time on my hands because of the break.”

“This must be the friend Su mentioned.” his father muses. He sounds unimpressed, but then again, that’s his perpetual state. He’s an important man, Taehyung’s father. Part of the council of their community in Seoul, and has always had more mind for his work than mingling. “Kim Jaewa.” he says, extending a hand towards him across the table

Boyfriend,.” His mother corrects. “Isn’t that right?”

“Yes.” Jeongguk replies before he can. Aera smiles at him tightly. His mother has one of those brilliant poker faces, that even Taehyung doesn’t know what’s going through her head at the moment.

“How nice of you to finally branch out, Taehyung.” she says to him before turning to Jeongguk. “So Jeongguk, what do you do?”

“I am studying finance at SNU. I am in my second year.” Jeongguk replies good naturedly. “That’s where I met Taehyung actually, at the campus.”

Taehyung has to hand it to him, he’s not half bad at lying. He sounds polite and well spoken, the picture of a nice boyfriend. That’s what Taehyung thinks at least.

"No connections, then?"

Taehyung wouldn't say he hates his mother, neither would he call this unexpected but the judgment that seeps into her tone still makes his jaw clench, and he has to bite his tongue to stop himself from saying something he regrets.

Jeongguk shifts. "Connections?"

Aera laughs, high pitched. "Well, I mean do you know anyone here? or any other community of witches? obviously."

"No," Jeongguk replies. "Up until now, Taehyung is the only witch I knew."

He can see the small shift in his mother's behavior after that, but given that Taehyung had expected this, he tries not to let it bother him. Honestly, he didn't think it would but the way his mother is blatantly uninterested in whatever Jeongguk has to say, and the back-handed compliments she hands out, irk Taehyung more than they should.

Same can't be said for Jeongguk, who looks almost relieved at not being the centre of her attention. That comforts Taehyung, but not by much.

"Impressive, right?" says Aera. "I knew that girl had it in her. Perfecting such heavy protection spells like that at such a young age is no joke."

"It is impressive," Taehyung agrees, preparing himself for the inevitable.

"Remember when you tried to do a simple one on your bedroom when you were, what? fifteen? ah, what a disaster." she shakes her head. "So much talent in the family, wonder why I ended up getting the short end of the straw." she laughs.

It's a thing she does, casually bringing up Taehyung's lack of competence or another insecurity disguised as a harmless jab, so she can excuse it as a joke when he gets hurt. He's irritated at himself for not having gotten used to it already.

"Taehyung is really talented," Jeongguk pipes in, curt. “You definitely didn’t end up with a short straw.”

His father, who had been just observing the conversation with disinterest so far raises his eyebrows in amusement.

Aera laughs, high and patronizing. “His mother can be a better judge of that, wouldn’t you say?”

Jeongguk doesn’t back down. “Or a biased one. I don’t know how much his cousins are capable of and I’ve haven’t gone out of my way to compare, but from what I have seen of Tae, he’s amazing. And very hardworking.”

Taehyung feels a lot of emotions at once, anxiety, embarrassment and flatterment. He forces himself to betray a single one, bursting out into a laugh.

“Aw, you’re so sweet, Jeongguk.” he says, ignoring the way his mother’s smile has faltered. “Please, he’s always doing that, Overestimating my abilities-”

“I am not,” Jeongguk interrupts, annoyed. “I am telling the truth.”

Taehyung gapes at him, flustered and irritated at once. He hopes his face isn’t red.

“Ah well. How nice of him to support you,” Eun says, smile back in place but significantly tighter than before. “But do keep in mind that you will probably find yourself impressed by probably anything as you are- new to all of this.”

Jeongguk doesn’t crack a laugh like she no doubt expects him too, Taehyung doesn’t either. A familiar bad feeling stirs up in his gut like acid.

The grip on his hand tightens. “Excuse me,” Jeongguk says. “I need to use the restroom. Taehyung, come with me.”

Taehyung stares at his parents, then at Jeongguk, conflicted. Finally, he flashes them a nervous smile, standing up. “We’ll be right back.”

Despite his nervousness over what his parents must think of him leaving abruptly to escort his fully grown boyfriend to the restroom, especially after that exchange, he feels relieved as they walk away from the table.

“What?” he asks, watching Jeongguk close the door behind him.

“What?”

Taehyung gesticulates. “Why are we here, Jeongguk?”

“Did you want to be there?”

“That’s not the point. We can’t just leave in the middle like that. They probably think you’re bad mouthing them to me right now or something.” Taehyung says, frustrated. He doesn’t feel angry, really. Can’t at Jeongguk for what he said when it made him feel so warm and comforted in the face of his mother’s disdain.

Jeongguk tongues at his cheek. “Fine. I just didn’t want to sit there. We can go back in a minute.”

Taehyung slumps against a wall. He gives Jeongguk a lopsided smile. “She’s like that. I am used to it. You didn’t have jump to my defense like-”

“I wanted to.”

Taehyung laughs, charmed. “Let me finish. You didn’t have to, but I liked that you did. It was- It was cute.”

The heat disappears from Jeongguk’s expression. “Oh.” he says, flummoxed.

They stand together in relative silence, the kind of silence that lets you stew in the wake of your bad decisions, one that brings dread for what’s to come, except Taehyung doesn’t really feel any right now, just resignation and maybe a little giddiness.

“We should head back.” He says finally. Jeongguk hums, before clearing his throat.

“I think you should kiss me again.” he says, feigning nonchalance that Taehyung sees right through. “To- you know, power me through. Is that the word?”

Taehyung laughs, walking towards him. He cups his face, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “There.”

“How about one on the lips?” Jeongguk blurts, hand encircling Taehyung’s wrist. “We didn’t get to- earlier. That’s what you were going to do, right?”

Taehyung purses his lips, watches Jeongguk’s eyes follow the movement. “Is that what you want?”

He doesn't know what he's playing at. This, whatever they're doing, is probably not a smart decision, considering everything. But in the moment, all of the consequences seem so distant, and the weight of them is simply not enough to stop him. The both of them.

Jeongguk’s reply is instant. “Yes.”

Taehyung leans forward to connect their lips, soft and without any pressure. Pulling away, he looks at Jeongguk’s flustered, slightly dazed expression.

“Again.” He says, winding his arms around Taehyung’s waist. “Do that again.”

The impatience in his tone is exhilarating. Taehyung presses a giggle into the side of his nose. “Okay.”

This time, Jeongguk is the one to press their mouths together, hurried and hungry. Taehyung tilts his face for a better angle, so their teeth don’t knock together and sighs into his mouth.

Jeongguk is an eager kisser. Where he lacks in experience, he more than makes up for it with his enthusiasm. Taehyung lets him cup his cheek, tongue prodding insistent but gentle into his mouth. He feels good, is good, comfortable and broad beneath Taehyung’s hands.

Wrapping his arms around his shoulders, he lets out a surprised moan when Jeongguk bites his lower lip. “Did you just-”

A brisk knock on the door diverts their attention from each other. “Anybody in?”

Taehyung pulls away, patting down his hair and clothes. “Shit.” He gives Jeongguk a pointed look, who just pouts, arms still stubbornly around Taehyung.

“Can’t you just tell them to leave?”

Jeongguk.

Taehyung hurries to the door after Jeongguk has let him go. “Yeah just a sec- hyung?”

Hoseok grins widely at him from the door, Yoongi in tow. “Can we come in?”

Taehyung looks at Yoongi in question, who doesn’t offer him any explanation, locking the door after him.
“Uh-”

“Did we interrupt something?” Hoseok asks, looking between Jeongguk’s rumpled dress shirt and Taehyung’s swollen lips.

“Nope.” Taehyung says at the same time Jeongguk grits. “Yes.”

Anyway,” Taehyung says loudly. “What’s it, hyung? Were you looking for us?”

“As a matter of fact, we were," Yoongi speaks up. Hoseok shoots him an anxious look that he ignores. “We know about Jeongguk, Taehyung.”

He balks, glancing at Jeongguk who just stares hard at Yoongi, almost threateningly. “What do you-”

“You don’t have to worry, Tae!” Hoseok reassures. “We didn’t tell anyone. We just want to help.”

“You can calm down too,” Yoongi says to Jeongguk who crosses his arms, scoffing.

“How,” Taehyung gulps. “How did you find out?”

“I ran into Jimin after one of your library hang outs and he spilled more than he realized, I think.” Hoseok chuckles, hopping onto the sink. “The librarian did the rest of the work. Oh! And remember when I ran into you guys at the store? I might have had some of Aunt Su’s scent enhancers.” he explains. “And Jeongguk’s scent is definitely not human. It’s true isn’t it?”

“It-”Taehyung takes a breath. He nods. He trusts Hoseok and Yoongi, but a lump still forms in his throat as he says, “He’s a hellhound. I summoned him by accident.”

“How do you summon a demonic entity by accident?” Yoongi wonders out loud.

Taehyung huffs, not particularly keen on disclosing that information. “Are the details important?”

Hoseok looks suspicious but doesn’t prod. “No not really. Anyways, you guys should’ve been more careful.”

“He’s just real nosy, don’t worry. You were doing a good job.” says Yoongi. “Now, I don’t think you have found anything helpful in regards to sending him home, have you? If that’s even what you want.” He says the last part a little confusedly. “You guys aren’t actually a thing, right?”

“No no,” Taehyung hurries to say. “We’re trying to send him back but nothing useful has turned up.”

Yoongi nods. "One of my uncles conducted a search on hellhounds almost a decade ago. He kept it secret because well- Mins but if you want, I can look into it for you. I am sure there has to be a banishment spell for them somewhere in there.”

“You would do that?” Taehyung asks, eyes shining. “Hyung-”

He shrugs, as if he didn’t solve the problem that’s been plaguing Taehyung for almost a month. “I’ll come by tomorrow so we can go over his research. How’s that sound?”

Taehyung is nodding. “Yes, that’s-that’s perfect. Actually can we-”

Jeongguk clears his throat, speaking up for the first time. “Hey, Tae, we’ve been here for too long. I’ll go check up on your parents, yeah? You stay here and-” he gestures towards Yoongi and Hoseok. “Sort this out.”

Taehyung watches the door shut behind him, and it hits him like a train.

Jeongguk is most probably leaving.

He’ll have the time to focus on a personal project again, neither would he have to worry about being found out. This predicament that had been hanging over him like a cloud will suddenly be gone.

He feels sick.

“Tae?” Hoseok’s voice snaps him out. “You there?”

“I-” Taehyung blinks. “Yeah. Uh- tell you what, can we talk about this later? Just-call me, alright? I’ll see you guys later.”

He dashes out before they can reply. He finds Jeongguk at the same table with his parents and sits back down. The dinner passes by in awkward conversation and too many jabs, but Taehyung isn’t paying attention. He wants to hold Jeongguk’s hand, so much that he practically itches to. But the thought feels him with guilt, as if he doesn’t deserve it. Which is stupid, because he hasn’t really even done anything.

He notices that Jeongguk doesn’t make a move to hold his hand either, barely even looks at him the rest of the night. Taehyung doesn’t comment.

 

They’re on their way home, the silence heavy between them when Jeongguk speaks. “How long?”

“Huh?”

Jeongguk doesn’t turn to look at him. “How long till the spell is in works?” His lips thin. “How long do I have here?”

“I-” Taehyung fidgets. It’s strange to feel nervous around Jeongguk, as if he should be careful with his words. “I honestly don’t know. With hyung’s help, we have a better chance of getting it done quicker than with just me and you.” He licks his lips, drumming his fingers on his thigh. Jeongguk remains quiet. “There’s no guarantee that the spell will work anyway, so-”

“It will,” Jeongguk cuts him off. “Even if it doesn’t, you’ll find one that does.”

The car halts to a stop, and Jeongguk steps out before Taehyung can reply. His heart is beating fast as he gets out, loud and angry. His hands ball into fists as he walks after Jeongguk.

“Hey, are you mad at me?” Taehyung asks loudly, slamming the door shut after him. Jeongguk’s back is turned and it makes Taehyung more angry, and maybe a little sad, that he can’t even bother looking at him right now.

“I am not mad.” Jeongguk replies, back still turned. “Just- what’s your obsession with this? With getting me out of here?”

“Are you being serious right now? I am doing this for both of us. I am trying to help you.” He snaps. “And look at me-”

Jeongguk turns around then, and his glossy eyes make Taehyung falter. “No you’re not.” he says, voice strained in a way that makes it apparent that it’s close to cracking. “How can you help me without even bothering to consult me on anything? You might be helping yourself, yeah. Don’t-don’t group me with you, Taehyung.”

Taehyung balks. He should probably stop now, Jeongguk is crying. He takes a step closer and Jeongguk only steps back. The expression with which he looks at Taehyung is a mix between anger and hurt, as if Taehyung has committed a crime that he should be apologizing for.

"You want to go back," Taehyung ignores the sting in his own eyes. "You literally helped me look for a way to send you back. What are you saying? that you don't want to go? that I should have asked for your permission before talking to Yoongi about the spell? just what-what do you want now?"

Jeongguk takes a deep breath, and they both look at eachother.

Taehyung knows that he himself doesn't want Jeongguk to leave, not in the moment, he doesn't. But he can dismiss it because Jeongguk wants to go, he can get himself to get over it somehow. But Jeongguk, what he's saying right now, implies that he doesn't want to leave either and-

Taehyung doesn't know where that leaves them.

"Taehyung," Jeongguk speaks up, and Taehyung frowns, noticing the way the air has changed, seeming chillier than before.

"What is happening." He asks, gulping. "Jeongguk, what are you doing?"

"I-" Jeongguk gulps. His eyes are different, the pupils red. "I am sorry for lying."

"Jeongguk," Taehyung takes a step closer, heart beating wildly. "What's happening? is there something wrong-"

It happens in a blink of an eye, one second Jeongguk is looking at him with a look that's almost apologetic, the next, Taehyung is staring at the empty air.

Taehyung steps back, before looking around at the empty apartment. His foot gets caught up in something and he falls on the ground, breathing heavy.

Jeongguk just teleported.

 

“Hyung,” Taehyung says when he opens the door next morning, eyes bloodshot and out of breath.

Yoongi frowns, stepping inside. A heavy looking bag is slung over his shoulder. “Taehyung, what’s-”

“Does your uncle have anything on how to summon a hellhound?”

 

“So you think he might have recovered his teleporting abilities only a few days ago?”

Yoongi nods, setting aside the scrolls he had been pouring over. “Or maybe just yesterday.”

Taehyung slumps, rubbing his eyes. “Just- for some time right? He knew he could’ve gone back?”

“Yes.”

Taehyung sucks in a breath.

The knowledge that when he’d been intent on sending Jeongguk back, the other had wanted to stay instead has been apparent for over a night now, but it still makes Taehyung feel guilty as hell, moreover, it makes him feel desperate. He needs to find Jeongguk.

He doesn’t know what he’s going to do once the hellhound is back, what he’s going to say, but for now, all he knows is that the possibility that he might never see the other again is making his head hurt and his eyes sting.

“So,” Yoongi leans back against the couch, looking pensive. “What happens when he’s back? He’s still going to be a demon and the Kims are still going to be who they are. You know you can’t just make him your boyfriend and live happily ever after.”

Yoongi doesn’t sound judgmental, just concerned, but Taehyung still feels defensive when he answers.

“I don’t- I don’t know. Let's just get him back first. I want to see him or at least-” Taehyung ignores the pang in his chest. “Say goodbye. Properly.”

“You know,” Yoongi says, choosing his words carefully. “If Jeongguk likes you as much as he looks like he does, you two could-”

Taehyung looks up from the papers that don’t even make much sense, either because he’s sleep deprived or because Min Jeong-Hoon had really bad handwriting. “What?”

“You two could bond. As a familiar and a witch. It’s possible.”

Taehyung looks back down. He can’t say he hasn’t considered it. A bond. He gets to keep Jeongguk close and has the approval of his community. Moreover, a bond can enhance his magical abilities to an extent his kind has forgotten about. But he doesn’t even know if Jeongguk would want that with him, neither does he care much about the fictional sounding benefits of a soul bond with a hellhound. He just wants to see the idiot again.

“It’s just a suggestion,” Yoongi reassures. “You don’t have to think about it right now. I'll Look through the rest. You go get some sleep, okay?”

Taehyung wants to argue, tell him that he can’t sleep, despite the way his entire being feels strung out and exhausted. He just knows that once he lays down, every single worry will assault him until he can’t breath. He stands up anyway.

“Hyung,” he says at the door of the bedroom. “Thank you.” His voice is small. It’s definitely not enough to convey his gratitude, for his help, for the way he hasn’t pried, but it’s all Taehyung feels like he can do right now.

Yoongi nods, and Taehyung really wants to hug him but he’s not sure he has the energy. “Of course, Tae.”

Taehyung does eventually manage to fall asleep, but he dreams of Jeongguk too many times. He dreams of the kiss, but this time when he pulls away Jeongguk has already left.

 

The entire process is longer than either of them had anticipated. The notes are a mess, and have so many errors that Taehyung is filled with apprehension over the reliability of them but he tries not to think too much about it. Hoseok comes over to help, mostly to cheer Taehyung up and kiss Yoongi when he is tired. Jimin has pretty much taken to living in Taehyung’s apartment. He hadn’t been the most enthusiastic about the whole ordeal, but eventually decided that he just wanted Taehyung to be happy. And despite the pit that’s settled into Taehyung’s stomach since the first night Jeongguk left, he feels a little bit more optimistic. He’s trying not to dwell on what he will actually say if they manage to find Jeongguk, if he’ll ask him to stay or if he'll say goodbye. He focuses that energy on research.

Yoongi does believe that the spell is full proof, it’s just that neither of them are sure how they’re going to summon him. Some tricky methods in evocation allow you to summon a specific demon, but they don’t know if it’s going to work with hellhounds.

 

It’s almost a week later that Yoongi comes up with a spell that toes on the line of self created, but it might work. And at this point, it seems enough.

It’s close to four hours to midnight, and the preparations are almost done. Taehyung feels like his heart has been in his throat for the whole day.

He’s trying to get his nerves under control when he gets the call, and they worsen when he sees the ID.

“Mom?”

“Taehyung,” she says, and the tone of her voice makes him gulp nervously.

“Mom,” he says, taking a breath. “I am actually a little busy right now. Can you call me later?”

He hears his mother sigh over the phone, a displeased one that puts him on edge. “How is your boyfriend, Taehyung?”

Taehyung shifts. “You called to ask about my boyfriend?”

There’s silence over the line. “I called to ask why my son’s lover is a demonic entity.”

Taehyung feels the blood drain from his face, throat constricting. “What are you talking about?”

It’s a lost cause, he knows the certainty in her voice all too well.

“I am not an idiot, Taehyung,” she hisses. “Neither is everyone else. What did you think you’re doing? How did he even get here?”

“I-,” Taehyung’s heart is beating erratic in his chest. He wants to throw the phone away, get it away from him somehow. “How did you find out?”

“No one knows how to keep their damn mouths shut around here, especially that librarian” she says, scoffing. “And with you prancing around with that demon, calling him your boyfriend, you really thought no one would find out? Just what do you think you’re doing, Taehyung?”

Taehyung licks his lips. “You don’t-” He takes a breath, bracing himself for the reaction he knows his words will result in. “I can handle it. You don’t have to-”

“You don’t even know how to cast a banishing spell, do you?” she hisses, some sardonic amusement creeping into her voice. “Stay put. Me and your father’s co worker will be there tomorrow-”

“No-” Taehyung cuts her off, voice too firm for the turmoil he’s in. “You have to stay out of it.”

“What do you mean I have to stay out of it?”

He knows the exact expression she’s making right now. And for what maybe the first time, he speaks out despite it.

“Mom. You don’t need to come here. You’re not banishing him.”

He could tell her the truth, say that Jeongguk is already gone but he doesn’t. Jeongguk will be here again, one way or another. His mother doesn’t need to know that he’s summoning him again.

“Taehyung, have you lost your mind?” she almost yells, a tiny bit of composure slipping. “What, do you want to keep him or something?”

“This is none of your business.’’ He grits out, feeling fiery instead of scared. “I am a fucking adult. I’ll handle it on my own. Don’t come here.”

“The wonders you’ll do to our reputation is my business!”

Taehyung has a white knuckled grip on the phone. “Your reputation. Keep me out of it.”

There is a pause, a long one. “If this demon of yours does damage that reaches the council…” She says, sounding more in control now but it is cold. “I hope you know You’re on your own Taehyung.”

“I have to go,” Taehyung says, hanging up before she can respond.

 

“Tae? You okay?”

Taehyung looks up at Jimin staring at him from the kitchen and falls back against the couch. “They know.” He says simply, helplessly.
A part of him registers that he doesn’t feel as terrible as he had previously thought he would in this scenario. He just wants to see Jeongguk, and maybe sleep. He can deal with his image obsessed parents later.

“Shit-your mom? How did she-?”

“I don’t know.” Taehyung exclaims. “I told her to keep out of it and she said that if anyone finds out, I am on my own.”

Jimin walks towards him, concerned and careful. “Are you okay?”

“No,” he replies honestly. “But it’s not because of her. I don’t care about it right now. One problem at a time.”

It’s strange, that what he had been so scared for the whole duration of Jeongguk’s time here just happened. He doesn’t know what he expected himself to feel, but it was certainly not the urge to dismiss the matter for now to focus on Jeongguk.

She knows about Jeongguk, about the accident. Taehyung can’t care right now.

Jimin snorts. “I said that right?”

Taehyung opens his mouth to respond, but they’re interrupted by Yoongi walking in the hallway.

“It’s time.”

 

It awakens a sense of deja vu in him, to stand in the middle of the circle with anxiety thrumming through his veins, a scroll in hand. This time, Yoongi and Jimin are in the room, just a few steps away.

Yoongi nods at him, and Taehyung begins the incantation.

He feels both fear and excitement when the wind picks up, air chilling around him. In the middle of a circle lies a bowl that has Jeongguk’s scent in it, from the water his(Taehyung’s shirt) has been washed in. It’s an old method, but Hoseok had seemed adamant that it’s full proof. The air thickens with the scent, until it’s all Taehyung can smell. Mid incantation, it suddenly fills him with longing that almost makes his voice crack.

Instead of a hound, a humanoid shape appears in the middle, the dark aura around it parts and Taehyung gasps.

His feet move on their own accord. “Jeongguk.” he says, voice weak.

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk’s tone is too much like the way it used to be, way back in the beginning. Except now, the curt indifference causes genuine hurt instead of annoyance. Taehyung falters.“Why am I here?”

It’s hard to not let it affect him, but Taehyung closes the distance between them, and a brief look of panic flashes on Jeongguk’s face. “I want to explain myself.”

Jeongguk’s jaw ticks. “What do you want to explain? Aren’t we done? Isn’t this what you wanted?”

Taehyung is shaking his head. “No,” he says. It’s a struggle to keep his voice level. “You know it isn’t.”

Jeongguk’s eyes wander to Yoongi and Jimin, and then back to Taehyung. He stakes a reisigned sigh. “Tae,” he says, distressed and small and Taehyung is hit with the urge to take him in his arms. “What do you want from me now?” he asks. “Haven’t you-,” he looks away, “haven’t you done enough?”

“I am sorry, okay?” Taehyung says desperately. He gives in to the urge to and steps closer, wrapping his arms around Jeongguk before he can think more of it. “I am sorry. I wanted you to stay but I didn’t know-”

“What?” Jeongguk’s hands hover awkwardly over his waist, but he’s not pulling away.

“Don’t leave.” he says, angry at himself for not being able to form any words that can convey what he wants to say. A whole week of preparing apologies and explanations, but now his throat is closing up and he wants to hold Jeongguk until he cannot care about anything else. He buries his face in Jeongguk’s shoulder and he thinks he is crying. “Don’t you fucking leave again.”

“Tae-” Jeongguk starts, choked. “Taehyung.”

His arms wrap around Taehyung tentatively, until they’re as tight as Taehyung’s own. His breathing is ragged next to Taehyung’s ear.

So much for a goodbye.

 

By the time Taehyung has calmed down and Jeongguk has shed his fair share of tears, Yoongi and Jimin declare that they are heading to bed.

“God,” Jimin sniffs. “You guys are fucking pathetic.”

Yoongi pats him on the back and hands him a tissue, and he gives Taehyung a small smile.

“Think over what I said, yeah?” He reminds him, before sitting down on the couch and curling up there, He’s asleep in literally a second.

“Sleep in my bed,” Taehyung tells Jeongguk. Somewhere between worrying whether or not he’s going to see him ever again, Taehyung has lost any sense of shame he should have around the other. He tugs at his hand, and Jeongguk is too happy to comply.

Curled around Jeongguk like he had longed for so much in these past few days, Taehyung can’t fall asleep. His mind is buzzing with adrenaline and numbing relief at the same time, and maybe fear too.

“Tae,” Jeongguk murmurs. His hand is warm on Taehyung’s waist, voice low and private. Taehyung wishes they would never get up. “You’re worrying.”

Taehyung sniffs, burying his face in Jeongguk;s neck. He inhales. “Of course I am worrying. That’s what I do.”

Jeongguk shifts them so Taehyung is lying half on top of him, ear pressed to his chest. There’s something comforting yet overwhelming about the steady thumping of his heart in Taehyung’s ear. Jeongguk rubs his waist soothingly. “Talk to me? I am worried too.”

“My mom called,” Taehyung blurts. He doesn’t want to ruin the delicate, quiet moment but the urge to tell Jeongguk wins. “She knows, Jeongguk. My dad might too. I don’t know what they’ll do.”

He supposes they won’t be too keen on putting him on trial, or even bringing the matter up with the council because of how it might affect their precious image. They cannot force him to let go of Jeongguk either, pressure yes, but Taehyung won’t let them order him around with this. He’s sure they can do something. A lot of things.

And there’s the matter of keeping it a secret. They already failed twice despite being careful, Taehyung doesn’t know how many more people are going to end up finding out.

There are just so many complications with this, with Taehyung simple wanting Jeongguk close.

Jeongguk hums. He removes his hand from his waist to hold Taehyung’s instead. It’s silly, but the way their joint hands are hidden between them makes Taehyung smile, giddy. “Remember when I told you that time works differently in hell?”

Taehyung hums in affirmation.

“This time, when I went back-”

“You mean like you could have for days and didn’t?” Taehyung says, it’s half teasing and half genuine. Maybe he should have left this particular topic for the morning, like he is with so many things.

“I didn’t want to leave,” Jeongguk says honestly. “I couldn’t bring myself up to tell you.”

Taehyung purses his lips. “I didn’t want you to leave either.”

“I was afraid you did. Or thought you did. When you got so interested in what Yoongi had to say at the party, I felt like it was all confirmed.” Jeongguk sighs. “So I ran away before you could tell me to. I don’t know why I thought that would hurt less.”

Taehyung’s breath stutters, a lump forming in his throat. “Oh.”

“Hey, don’t cry.”

“I am not crying.” Taehyung wipes at his eyes just in case, sensing only the smallest moisture.

Jeongguk takes his other hand too, moving it away from his face. “If you cry, I’ll cry too.”

Taehyung laughs. “Okay. I won’t, just- I missed you. So much. Continue with whatever you were saying about hell and time now.”

The light is too dim, but Taehyung can still make out Jeongguk staring at him for a moment, fond and sad all at once, before sighing. “So back there, I’ve always disregarded the time because you can’t keep track of it. No concept of long and short, it’s hard to explain. But this time-” He pauses. “I think it was different. I still can’t make out how long it was in human terms, but to me, time felt long. Like it wasn’t passing. I don’t even know why I wanted it to pass.”

Taehyung shifts. “What do you mean?”

Jeongguk takes a breath, His eyes are intense even when Taehyung can’t fully make them out. “I don’t want to be there. I don't think I can. I’ll go mad, Taehyung. Not knowing if I’ll see you again...Hell is so different when there is a place you want to be at. It’s unbearable.”

“Then stay.” Taehyung breathes. He doesn’t understand what Jeongguk is describing, to be honest. All he knows is that Jeongguk can’t leave him and he doesn’t want him to either. “Yoongi said-he said we can bond. Like a witch and a familiar bond.”

Jeongguk hesitates. “You’d want that?”

It’s not as much of a question of whether or not he’d want that as much as of if they’d be able to go through with it. The practice is centuries old, after all. It’ll be a lot of trial and error.

But if they were to actually bond like that, Taehyung’s parents wouldn’t be against him, and the council wouldn’t be either since it’s technically not forbidden or dangerous. And Jeongguk and him would stay connected even if he goes back to Hell, always by each other's side.

But it’s a big thought.

“I want you.” He replies simply. He lets go of Jeongguk’s hand to cup his face, planting a kiss to the corner of his mouth. He rests his forehead against Jeongguk’s, eyes shut. “Just- can I delay thinking about this right now? It’s too much. Let’s kiss instead.”

Jeongguk is quiet for a bit, and Taehyung is about to urge him to move when he cups his face, pressing a drawn out kiss to his lips that doesn’t simply feel like a kiss. He rests against him like that, just breathing him in.

“Jeongguk-”

“I am sorry.” He says against his mouth.

Taehyung pulls away to grip at his shoulders, maybe a little too tight. “I know. We’re both sorry. It’s okay.”

Jeongguk captures his lips again for a real kiss, and Taehyung melts into it. They’ve only kissed a handful of times, but Taehyung already feels like it is a long time habit that he cannot let go of. Jeongguk nips at his bottom lip and Taehyung giggles.

There are things that need to be talked about, decisions that are to be taken and problems to be resolved. Taehyung will have to call Yoongi and possibly some other contacts to discuss familiars, he still has to get back at his parents and of course, him and Jeongguk cannot go back to how they were, not without some much needed communication.

But with Jeongguk pressing kisses to his cheek as he laughs delightedly in the dim light, wrapped up in the cozy blanket and each other, he feels like he'll get through it, he feels like he can get through anything. They can.