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Sicheng holds his hand out for Ten to take. The last streaks of light have faded from the horizon, painted over with blue like in one of Ten’s paintings. The wind blows Ten’s hair back away from his face as he slips his hand into Sicheng’s. 

“Ready?” Sicheng asks, and he doesn’t need to look at Ten to see the smile on his lips.

“Let’s go home, Sichengie,” Ten says. 

 

 

Yangyang, sprawled over a nest of blankets in the dining hall, notices them first. When Ten toes off his shoes and they clatter onto the ground, Yangyang looks up from his book. Ten holds a finger up to his lips and then holds his arms out for Yangyang to crash into. They tumble to the ground in a pile of boy and limbs. Sicheng leans against the door and waits for Yangyang to realize that he’s there too.

“Ten-hyung,” Yangyang says into Ten’s armpit, “you didn’t tell anyone you were coming back?”

“We wanted to surprise you,” Ten grunts, crushed under the lanky weight that is Yangyang. “I don’t know if I’m going to survive long enough to make it to my own bed, though, if every single witch in this coven is determined to squish me half to death.”

“We?” Yangyang says, and he looks up and yelps at the sight of Sicheng.

“How long have you been here,” he whines, stepping on Ten’s toes as he bounds into Sicheng’s arms. He’s warm and giggly as he flies into Sicheng’s chest, and Sicheng just manages to catch him and settle him back onto his feet. 

“The whole time,” he says, ruffling Yangyang’s hair. “You were too busy with your Ten-hyung to notice me.”

“I’m sorry,” Yangyang whines, “I was distracted! You know I can’t focus on more than one thing at a time!” 

Something explodes in the distance. Yangyang winces. Barely a second passes before Taeyong hurries into the room.

“Hi, Sichengie.” He glances around, eyes wide and sparkly in the dim light. Yangyang detaches himself from Sicheng’s arms and edges around him, peeking over his shoulder. “Do you know where the explosion—wait. Sicheng?”

“Hi, Taeyong-hyung,” Sicheng says. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too!” Ten pipes up, sprawled over Yangyang’s back. Taeyong yelps, slips, and goes down. Yangyang sighs and catches Taeyong’s shirt collar to pull him back up onto his feet.

Ten? ” Taeyong says. His eyes get even bigger, if that’s possible, glancing between Ten and Sicheng like he thinks they’re the ghosts Dejun talks to. “What—how—”

“Surprise?” Sicheng offers, waving a still-gloved hand. Taeyong closes his eyes and counts to ten (ha). He opens them again.

“Not dreaming,” Taeyong mutters, “not dreaming.” He pinches at his own elbow and flinches. “Nope. Definitely not dreaming.”

“Is it so hard to believe that your favorite dongsaengs are back?” Ten teases, pulling Taeyong down with an elbow around the neck. He plants a wet kiss on Taeyong’s cheek. Taeyong wrinkles his nose, but his arm slips around Ten’s waist, hand curling possessively over his side.

“Don’t delude yourself,” Sicheng says, smiling. Yangyang snorts from behind him, sliding away back to his nest of blankets and last minute homework. “Hyung’s favorite dongsaeng is obviously Doyoung. You’ll always be my favorite , right?”

“Where did you even hear about that?” Taeyong huffs. He reaches out to pinch Sicheng’s ear. Sicheng bats his hand away.

“Taeyong-hyung!” a voice down the hallway calls. Sicheng registers it as a tired Renjun. He has examinations this week, he’d told Taeyong to tell Sicheng through a dream-message. 

“In here,” Taeyong yells back, pouting at Sicheng.

“The explosion was me, I was testing out a potion but moonshine and essence of sleep really don’t mix well, Jeno helped me clean it up so don’t worry!” Renjun rounds the corner with eyebags stark against his eyes. (You’d think being a witch would make school more bearable but no, it’s just as bad as regular school was, he’d complained to Sicheng.) 

“No damage?” Taeyong asks, hopping up onto the tall dining table. Being such a large coven, their dining hall—and dorms-slash-living-space—is huge, carved deep into a mountain and straight out the other side with Johnny and Kun’s combined magic. They have three dining tables—tall, short, and shorter. Renjun spots Sicheng and slams straight into the tallest table with a resounding groan. 

“Ow,” he groans. “Sicheng-hyung, you didn’t tell me you would be back today, you traitor.”

“I didn’t tell anyone,” Sicheng points out mildly, “because then you’d have heard about it by now.”

“Yeah, okay,” Renjun says, and he shuffles around their mismatch of chairs to hug Sicheng tight around the neck.

“I’d say I’m surprised you’re not more surprised,” Ten says, “but you don’t look coherent enough to be surprised, so.”

“Shut up,” Renjun mumbles, tugging at Ten’s shirt until he’s close enough to wrap an arm around too. Renjun rests his forehead on Ten and Sicheng’s shoulders and lets the tension bleed out of him. “Glad you’re back. You didn’t hear me say that.”

“Okay, baby,” Ten smiles. Taeyong shuffles over to the cabinets for a potion.

“I heard it!” Yangyang yells. Renjun sticks his tongue out at him. Sicheng wraps an arm around Renjun’s skinny shoulders (no matter how many potions he makes to keep up with the running gag that he has the biggest shoulders in the coven, Renjun is just tiny) and rests his head against Renjun’s, breathing in deep. It smells like cold, fresh, mountain-air, and like Renjun’s shampoo, and like everything is right in the world.

He’s glad to be home.



Dejun wakes up to a ghost shaking his shoulder. 

“Dejun, Dejun, Dejun,” Minghao sings into his ear, “there’s a surprise in the dining room I think you’d really like!”

Dejun rolls over groggily to swat at him, only to get the cold shivery sensation of his hand passing through a little more than nothing. “What time is it? Stop bothering me.”

“It’s time to GET UP,” Kun yells, surprisingly on-pitch. He pokes his ghost-hands into Dejun’s stomach until Dejun rolls over onto the ground in a pile of blankets. 

“Ygood?” Mark slurs, shifting in his bed. “The ghosts bothering you?”

“Yes,” Dejun says, as Minghao complains we’re not bothering Dejun, we’re waking him up so he won’t miss out! like Mark can hear what he’s saying. “Sorry, I’ll get out of here for a bit.”

“K, g’night,” Mark says, head mushed into his pillow. He starts snoring again as Dejun clambers out of his warm blanket pile, snagging one to pull around his shoulders, into the cold hallway, closing the door softly behind him. He follows the sound of Johnny’s snoring to the dining hall, Minghao and Kun floating along behind him. (“We’re your ghostly entourage!” “That’s not even funny!”)

Warm laughter rings from the dining hall as Dejun pads through the entrance on slippered feet. He shivers and wraps the blanket tighter around his shoulders, glad for the warmth of his Ten-brand quilt. When he spots who the laughter is coming from he has to wonder if he’s summoned the ghost of Ten with that thought or something, but Ten is very much alive and right in front of him, head thrown back, hand gripping Jisung’s shoulder for support. 

Various coven members are scattered around the room; Taeyong’s feet are swinging merrily from his perch on the tall table, Yangyang is buried in a pile of blankets, reading his Shapeshifting 101 book upside-down, and Renjun is tucked in next to him, sound asleep. Jeno’s eyes are crinkled into a smile from where he’s sitting at the short dining table, mug of Doyoung’s shimmery purple sleep potion cupped in his hands, and—

“Sicheng-ge? Ten-hyung?” Dejun mumbles, rubbing at his eyes. When he opens them again, Ten and Sicheng are still there.

“Told ya!” Kun crows gleefully, swooping across the room to poke his finger into Yangyang’s cheek. Yangyang startles up and glares at Dejun.

“Control your ghosts,” he whines. Dejun doesn’t have the heart to say that: a) they’re not his ghosts, technically, and b) he has absolutely no control over them whatsoever, so there’s no point. 

“Am I imagining you or are you real?” he says instead, blinking at Ten. Ten cackles and swings himself off of the counter to approach Dejun.

“I’d like to take that as a compliment,” he grins, slinging an arm around Dejun’s neck and pinching his cheek, “but I know it’s you thinking your ghosts are playing tricks on you again. How many times have I told you they’re friendly ghosts?”

“Sure don’t act like it,” Dejun says, over Minghao’s protests, “I just went to bed and I have class in the morning, but Minghao and Kun here woke me up to see you. Not that I’m not glad to see you I just—it couldn’t wait? You’ll still be here in the morning. Right?”

“Yes, Dejun,” Sicheng smiles. Dejun missed his little pointy elf ear, even if he’s probably laughing at Dejun on the inside. “We’ll still be here in the morning, be nice to Minghao and Kun, and you’ll survive with one of Doyoung’s nasty wake up potions.”

“He told me he’d stop giving me them if I kept needing them every day,” Dejun mumbles. “Apparently it’s not healthy to stay up late and wake up early all the time, who would’ve known?”

“He’s right,” Taeyong yawns. “And he’s going to yell at me too if I stay up late. I’d better get to bed.”

“Night, hyung,” Ten calls, as Taeyong ambles his way into the hallway. The room choruses “good night”s and “sleep well”s, sounding like the flock of birds Kun had befriended once. Dejun elbows Ten off of him and hops up on the tall table in Taeyong’s spot.

“Who else have you guys seen?” Dejun says, adjusting the blanket around his shoulders.

“Good question. I think—Yangie, Taeyong-hyung, Renjun, Jisungie,” Ten counts off on his fingers, “Jeno, Taro. You. Do Minghao and Kun count?”

“No,” Dejun says, ignoring Minghao and Kun’s protests. “So Haechan-ah hasn’t found out you’re back yet? I mean, if he did, his scream would probably wake me up, but I’m surprised.”

“He’s passed out in the library,” Jisung supplies. “Taro-hyung too, but he came in here and said hi to Ten-hyung and Winwin-hyung first.”

“Wish that were me,” Dejun mutters. Sicheng laughs and watches him fight to keep his eyes open. The fire in the kitchen is a warm yellow. Its color reflects the coven’s mood, and yellow means happy, so Ten and Sicheng must be boosting morale, or something. Dejun did miss Ten’s freaky way of popping up more unnoticed than the ghosts and Sicheng’s terrible almost-poisonous attempts at cooking.

“Go back to sleep, then,” Sicheng offers, holding out a hand. Dejun takes it and leans into Sicheng’s side, and Sicheng dumps him in Yangyang’s blanket nest next to Renjun.

“Hey, I didn’t say he could come in here,” Yangyang says. Sicheng rolls his eyes and pats Dejun on the head rather awkwardly, like he doesn’t know how to express affection, which he doesn’t.

Renjun’s pointy elbow digs into Dejun’s side, keeping him awake just long enough to murmur “missed you” before he falls asleep.

 

 

Ten steps out of the shower of his own room (!) after a good night’s sleep in his own bed (!) for the first time in months and dreads the other half of the coven finding out they’re back. 

With the exception of Yangyang, who is dramatic for the sake of it, and Renjun, who expresses love for people by putting them in chokeholds or feeding them potions that will prevent them from saying anything mean about him, compared to the people who were awake last night to greet Ten and Sicheng, the rest of the coven tends to be…on the louder, more screamy side. And after the client they’d spent months dealing with, Ten just wants to give his poor eardrums a break. But alas.

First is his roommate, Kunhang (alias Hendery, which is ridiculous, because in what language is that a name? Ten speaks five of them and he doesn’t know), who is a screamer. Ten means that in the most affectionate way possible, but walking into the room and being greeted with a resounding chorus of screams from a just-awoken Kunhang is not the best way to start his day of social interaction.

Ten covers his ears and throws a fuzzy slipper at Kunhang across the room. Kunhang mimes zipping his lips shut and then dives on top of Ten with crazy sleep-hair and his favorite pair of ugly dinosaur patterned pajama bottoms. He has no shirt on, even though it’s the dead of winter and even with the whole witches thing it’s cold in the mountains. Thankfully, the rooms are mostly soundproof, so only Sungchan knocks to see what’s wrong. When he pokes his head in Ten waves. Sungchan waves back, a rather befuddled look on his face, and closes the door. Ten can hear his footsteps backing rapidly down the hallway.

Next is Chenle, who Ten encounters trying to find a spare toothbrush, because in the months they’ve been gone his has disappeared (understandable). Kunhang has been convinced to not blab and wanders into the dining hall for breakfast. Ten finds a toothbrush in the ugliest shade of green possible in the bathroom cabinet, brand new, labeled Ten , and thinks Doyoung must have gotten it in that color just to spite him.

“Oh, hi, hyung,” Chenle greets, when Ten turns around. He’s sitting on the toilet, seat flopped down, trying to charm his hair (black with pink streaks. Cute) into agreement. It poofs up into a mohawk and Chenle scowls.

“Need some help?” Ten asks. Chenle shrugs, so Ten runs a hand through the mohawk until it lies flat. 

“Cute hair,” Ten says, when he’s patted down the last stray strands and is halfway out the door. Chenle smiles at him. “Sicheng is probably in his room sleeping. Go wake him up as loudly as possible, he deserves it.”

“Okay, hyung,” Chenle calls after Ten. “Glad you’re back!”

Next, Ten finds Donghyuck and Jaemin in the library. He wanders past the open-faced door, spies Donghyuck and Jaemin hunched over piles and piles of books, and pivots on his foot to plod into the fluffy carpeted library. It’s soft against his feet, and Ten flicks his finger to send a gust of wind into Donghyuck’s face so he loses his page.

“Hey,” Donghyuck complains, before spotting Ten in the doorway. “Oh. Hey . Does Johnny know you’re back?”

“Not yet,” Ten says. Jaemin looks up from his books and drops them with a clatter. He doesn’t seem to care about the pages that crumble out of the book with the crustiest spine.

“Hyung!” he exclaims, face bright. He stands and lifts Ten in a hug. 

“I miss when you were shorter than me,” Ten complains, “you didn’t use your height to lift your poor vertically challenged hyungs straight off the floor back then.”

Jaemin beams at him. “I missed you,” he says. Ten kisses his temple and pinches Donghyuck’s cheek.

“Missed you too,” he says.

 

Ten? ” Jungwoo yells across the dining hall. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the greatest idea to come into the dining hall at rush hour, but Ten is hungry and misses Doyoung’s cooking. Neither Ten nor Sicheng can make a palatable meal to save their lives.

“Hey, Jungwoo-ah,” Ten calls back. “Did you miss me?”

Did I miss you,” Jungwoo shouts through bulging cheeks. “What kind of question is that?” Ten is glad he hasn’t changed, at least. “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming back?”

“I didn’t want to get swarmed,” Ten says sheepishly, surrounded by a crowd of Doyoung, Mark, Taeil, and Jungwoo. “It didn’t work. Hey, you all.”

Mark leans in and slings an arm around his shoulders. “Hi, hyung. I missed you!”

“I missed you too, Markie. And you, Woo-ah.” Ten pulls Jungwoo down until he can ruffle his hair without extending his arm at a ridiculous angle to account for Jungwoo’s height. 

“And I assume you only missed my cooking,” Doyoung says, dry, lips twitching. Ten nods and smacks a kiss to his cheek.

“That’s right,” Ten grins. His cheeks hurt a little from smiling.

“Where does that leave me?” Taeil asks. His smile is just like Ten remembers. 

“As my favorite hyung, of course,” Ten says, and he hugs Taeil around the neck before hip checking Doyoung.

“I missed your food, Doyoung-ah,” he tries for his most plaintive look. “Will you pleaseee get me some food. I’m starving.”

Just then, Johnny ambles into the dining hall, slow and tired like a bear waking up from hibernation. “Tired,” he whines, stumbling into Taeil, who pats his head and looks at Ten like please help me I am not equipped to deal with this . Ten grins at him.

“Johnnyboy,” Ten coos, “I have a solution for you.”

“Whazzat,” Johnny slurs, eyes closed.

“Me,” Sicheng says, popping up from behind Johnny. Jaehyun is clinging onto his back like an overgrown koala, and Sicheng drags him away. Johnny stumbles awake when Jaehyun kicks his shin accidentally. Yuta, on the other side of the dining hall, greets the Sicheng-Jaehyun pile with a kiss on the cheek each. Sicheng takes it with a smile. Jaehyun reaches out to pinch Yuta’s cheek in return. Ten is kind of sad to have missed Yuta’s reaction to Sicheng being back, but he’ll get it out of someone later.

Tennie ,” Johnny says, taking short steps to wrap Ten into a hug. He lifts him up and spins him around, once, twice, three times.

“Hi, John,” Ten smiles, reaching up to cup Johnny’s cheeks. “I missed you.”

“Missed you too,” Johnny mumbles. Ten leans his head against Johnny’s sturdy shoulders and watches Sicheng fend off an enthusiastic trio of Jungwoo, Dejun, and Mark, and breathes out a happy sigh.

Ten is home.