“Just how frequently do you clean this place?” Doyoung grumbled, back aching from being bent over for a prolonged period of time. He pushed the washbroom across the wooden floors of the room with a huff, the soapy water covering the expanse of the floor.
Donghyuck scoffed from his spot in the fireplace, wisps of flame shooting out of his core. “There has never been a need to clean until you decided to barge in.” The fire demon was still upset about Doyoung moving him from his spot in the fireplace—which had almost led to his flame being put out. But Doyoung had to clean the piles of ashes that had accumulated in the fireplace, and he couldn’t do that with the fire demon sitting right in the center.
“Just because there has never been a need, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t,” Doyoung quipped, sending Donghyuck a pointed look before picking up his wooden bucket to retrieve more water from the bath upstairs.
He barely made it three steps before a roaring wind passed outside of the door behind him, causing him to turn around and peer at the door curiously. There was a magic knob just next to the door frame that had 4 different settings - 4 different doors that led to 4 different places. Red led to the port city of Busan, Blue led to the capital Seoul, Green led to the grasslands, and Black… Doyoung was not allowed to know where Black led.
The knob spun around in a frenzy before landing on Black with a ding, then the door opened to an immense darkness that Doyoung could not see into. In a second, the darkness shifted and morphed until the shadows made way for a figure to stumble through the threshold. Once he was completely inside the house, the door slammed shut behind him and the knob spun back to rest at Red.
“Yuta…” Donghyuck said, looking in horror at Yuta - or whatever that thing walking in was - as he climbed up the stairs and into the living room.
A mysterious black substance was covering Yuta on all sides, conforming to his shape and sticking to his skin while also leaving a sticky, gross trail behind him. He was dragging his feet, barely enough energy in him to stand up.
“Oh lord,” Doyoung breathed. He dropped his bucket and ran over to Yuta. “Let’s get you into the bath. Mark!”
A short boy came running down the stairs, a flurry of papers flying behind him as he raced to face Doyoung. “Yes?” he asked, breathless as he readjusted his glasses and looked up at Doyoung.
“Could you please draw the bath, Mark?”
Mark took one look at Yuta leaning almost all of his weight on Doyoung, the sticky black substance starting to seep onto and soak Doyoung’s clothes, and nodded fervently. He spun around and ran back up the stairs towards the bathroom to turn on the faucet.
Doyoung tried to jostle Yuta higher up so he could hook his arm around the man’s waist, but the substance didn’t allow him a proper grip on Yuta. He kept slipping out of Doyuong’s grasp as he tried hauling them both towards the staircase.
His breath came out in short pants, exhaustion creeping up on him only two steps up the staircase. “God, you are heavier than you look.”
Yuta didn’t respond, but a new wave of the black goo started oozing out from god knows where pouring down the slope of his back and over Doyoung’s forearm around his torso.
It felt like eons until they were finally at the top of the staircase, Mark rushing out of the bathroom to assist Doyoung in carrying Yuta the rest of the way. Doyoung sighed in relief once Yuta was finally dropped into the tub, water sloshing violently at the force. A harsh hissing sound filled the entire room and steam rose from the tub, completely hiding Yuta from sight.
“Start cleaning up the trail of whatever this is , and I’ll take care of the rest,” Doyoung told Mark, who sent him a small salute and slipped out of the bathroom without a word.
Doyoung turned back to the tub, the steam finally clearing enough for him to see the gooey substance being washed away slowly by the mixture of spells Mark no doubt dumped into the bath before Yuta got in.
He couldn’t see Yuta’s face because he dunked himself under the surface of the water, unmoving as the magic cleansed whatever impurities stuck to him. “Look at you, you big baby,” Doyoung sighed, grabbing the small stool by the door and placing it next to the tub before plopping down on top of it. “Couldn’t even carry yourself up the stairs. Left me to do everything, just like always.”
Yuta didn’t respond, but Doyoung knew he had heard him because a small spurt of bubbles came floating to the surface, growing and growing until they detached from the water and rose all the way to the ceiling, sticking to the wood.
Doyoung couldn’t help but let out another sigh. “What am I going to do with you?” he whispered to himself, staring at a random spot on the porcelain tub and letting his eyes unfocus. The spells would need at least half an hour to completely cleanse whatever it was on Yuta, so Doyoung resigned himself to waiting and making sure Yuta didn’t drown himself in the process.
An hour later Doyoung was pulling the covers over a mute Yuta who had immediately faced the wall once he settled into his sheets, barely sparing Doyoung a glance. The bath would’ve ended sooner if Yuta hadn’t absolutely refused to get out of the tub once the spells had worn, only poking his head out of the surface when he needed to take a breath.
“Are you going to tell me what happened out there or are you going to keep moping around like the baby you are?”
Yuta didn’t move a muscle, but Doyoung knew he was only pretending to be asleep so he didn’t have to speak. Doyoung didn’t know what happened, but if Yuta was going to act like a petulant child then he wasn’t going to deal with it.
He grabbed the dirty linens off the edge of the bed and turned to step out of the room.
“It was the Witch of the Waste.”
Doyoung looked behind his shoulder, unsure if he’d understood Yuta correctly due to his mumbling - but he heard him loud and clear. He leaned down and placed the linens on the floor, tentative as he walked back towards the bed. “Are you sure?”
Yuta gave the smallest of nods, a gesture so minuscule anyone could’ve missed it - anyone but Doyoung.
Doyoung sat on one side of the bed, body turned towards the headboard so he could look down at Yuta, who was still facing the wall. “What happened?”
Yuta said nothing for a few minutes, the silence sitting over the both of them like a soft blanket that was frayed at the edges and scratched Doyoung’s skin. He waited patiently, not rustling the blanket until Yuta was ready to tell him.
It must have been really bad, Doyoung belatedly thought to himself, because instead of giving Doyoung a vague dismissive answer with a smile like he always did, Yuta fully turned around in bed and met Doyoung with a hard stare. “What do you think? That old hag sent her dogs straight into the heart of the battlefield while I was fending off the beasts.”
Doyoung couldn’t help but wince, inwardly curling up at the image of Yuta being cornered by both enemies at the same time, and the monstrosities they would send his way. “Do you know what they hit you with that caused this?”
Yuta gave him a grim shake of his head. “A whole mixture of spells, definitely too complex for her to concoct herself. I’m guessing she had outside help.” He let out a humorless chuckle. “All for my stupid little heart. If she wants it this bad she can have it. It’s worthless to me.”
A resounding smack sounded throughout the room, fading to silence. Yuta looked at Doyoung with a mixture of shock and disbelief. Doyoung huffed loudly, feeling his face flush with heat as anger sizzled underneath his skin like a fire bubbling under a hot pot of water.
“Never,” Doyoung started, curling his hands into fists, shaking slightly with the effort to calm himself, “And I mean never , say that again. Do not take the fact you have a heart for granted, Yuta. Your heart is the only thing that separates you from the Witch of the Waste, or from all the beasts and enemies fighting this useless war.” He refused to look at Yuta, instead directing his gaze down at the sheets of Yuta’s bed, pristine white and pulled tautly. “Your heart is the only reason I’ve stayed,” he whispered.
Nothing was said for a long while. The anger coursing through Doyoung’s veins slowly shifted to shame at his outburst, and embarrassment slid off him in waves. He desperately wished to take back what he’d said, or quickly change the subject and move on and forget any of this ever happened and-
Doyoung whipped his head up, eyes popping out of his head at the tone of Yuta’s voice. Yuta wasn’t looking at him, the line of his eyebrows hard and lips downturned. He had never once frowned, not even when facing his enemies - those times he would wear a sort of half annoyed half amused smirk that gave off his aura of confidence and nonchalance. Even during their conversation just now he hadn’t frowned, had only set his lips in a hard line. It made a cold chill run down Doyoung’s spine.
“No,” Yuta cut him off, and Doyoung immediately shut his mouth, unsure of what to do or say - afraid of upsetting Yuta any further. “You’re right,” Yuta said, voice soft and hesitant - also very unlike the Yuta Doyoung knew and was used to. “I’m just,” he paused, shoulders slumping. “I’m so tired of fighting. I don’t even know who or what I’m fighting for anymore.”
Doyoung’s hand twitched in his lap, wanting to reach out and do something, anything . If he was still the Doyoung from a month ago, content with his quaint little life as a hatmaker with no room for fun, maybe he would have stayed still. But he wasn’t the Doyoung from a month ago. So many things had changed since then - being cursed by the Witch of the Waste, finding himself in the castle of the infamous Howl Yuta Pendragon that everyone told him to avoid, and then deciding to stay even after everything he had witnessed and been through. Had he been the same Doyoung from a month ago he would have stayed still, but he wasn’t, so slowly but surely, he reached his hand forward and gently placed it on top of Yuta’s, which was resting next to his pillow.
At first, Yuta didn’t react, but then he flexed his fingers and twisted his hand so he could slide their palms together and link their fingers.
“This may sound selfish,” Doyoung whispered, “but if you can’t find a reason to fight, then fight for me. Because I promise you I will never stop fighting for you, so the least you could do is promise the same to me.”
He risked a glance up at Yuta’s face and found the other already looking at him, all soft eyes and easy smile - the Yuta he knew.
“Okay,” Yuta said simply, smile growing as he squeezed their hands once, then twice. “I promise.”
Doyoung resisted the urge to let a giddy smile spread across his face, cooling his expression and nodding his head. He pointedly ignored the heat in his palm from where their hands were linked together, ignored the way their hands perfectly slotted together, as though meant to be.
“You should get some rest,” Doyoung said, voice soft. “You’ve been through a lot today.”
Yuta hummed, casting his gaze away from Doyoung to look at their hands where they rested on top of his pillow. “Yeah, I should.”
For some reason, Doyoung didn’t want to let go of Yuta’s hand. Something felt incomplete , but he couldn’t put a pin on what it was. He desperately wished to say something, but he was afraid anything he said would somehow shatter the atmosphere that swirled around them, delicate, like soft mist clinging to leaves on an early spring morning.
But if there was one thing that had changed since Doyoung found himself residing in this moving castle, it was that he wasn’t going to be a coward anymore. So, with as much confidence as he could muster, he leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss on Yuta’s cheek.
Not wanting to deal with the shame that would no doubt drown him if he thought too long about his actions, Doyoung quickly backed away, letting go of Yuta’s hand and shifting to stand up off the bed. He was almost all the way off the bed when he was suddenly jerked back harshly by a hand that wrapped tightly around his wrist.
He let out a squeak in surprise as he fell back onto the bed, picking his head up to look at Yuta and ask him just what the hell was he thinking when suddenly soft, plush lips were pressing against his, hard and earnest. His eyes fell shut as the feeling of Yuta’s lips against his overtook his entire body, leaving a soft buzz across the expanse of his skin that turned his muscles to jelly. Yuta’s tongue darted out to lick at his bottom lip and Doyoung let out a soft gasp, letting Yuta’s tongue slip inside. A high whine caught in the back of his throat at the foreign but pleasant feeling, which only spurred Yuta on more.
Every part of Doyoung was on fire, burning from the inside out as he let himself fall against the soft sheets as Yuta shifted to rest on top of him, all while never disconnecting their lips. Doyoung felt lightheaded, as though he was swimming through a sea of clouds with no end in sight, his only anchor being the warmth of Yuta’s tongue against his.
After a few seconds Yuta pulled back slightly, and Doyoung let out a hot pant, chest heaving from not breathing for those long, glorious seconds of kissing. He blinked his eyes open and found Yuta’s face hovering only a few inches above his, a fond smile on his lips. At least, that’s what it looked like to Doyoung - he had to cross his eyes to really get a good look at Yuta.
“Do you think you could just kiss my cheek and walk away and not expect me to do something in return?” Yuta breathed, voice hushed.
Doyoung opened his mouth to respond, but then his eyes flickered up to Yuta’s hair and all that came out was a winded snort that collapsed into a fit of breathless giggles. His breath left him in a frenzy for an entirely different reason this time as he couldn’t stop the laughter from bubbling out of his chest and filling the entire room.
“What?” Yuta asked, taken aback by Doyoung’s behavior. Doyoung couldn’t even calm his chuckles long enough to take a deep breath, let alone try and speak.
“It’s,” he wheezed, cheeks hurting with the force of his laughs, “your hair .”
Yuta’s eyebrows furrowed, leaning back so he wasn’t on top of Doyoung anymore but sitting on his thighs. “My hair?” He reached up to card his fingers through the strands, confused by just what Doyoung could be practically losing his shit over. He pulled the strands over the front of his face, and his eyes blew wide.
Doyoung burst into another fit of laughter as Yuta let out a shriek of horror and scrambled to climb off him and rush over to the floor-length mirror next to his dresser. “Oh my god, it’s horrendous !”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Doyoung scoffed, having finally calmed down. He stood up and walked over to look into the mirror next to Yuta. His once golden blond hair had turned a deep red everywhere from root to tip.
Yuta’s cries of terror had sounded throughout the whole house, and while he was moping about “my poor hair,” Mark had run up the stairs and into the room to see what was the trouble.
“Oh gosh,” Mark said upon noticing Yuta’s hair, which only sent the wizard into another fit of hysterics. If Doyoung had any strength left in his core he would’ve started laughing loudly once more.
“Mark, please tell me you know what caused this and how I can fix it,” Yuta whined, eyes desperate as he looked down at the young boy standing by the door.
Mark tilted his head to the side, taking in Yuta’s appearance. “I think this is a side effect of one of the spells I put into the bath. My best guess is that your emotions are showing through your hair. Deep red means arousal and passion.”
Immediately both Doyoung and Yuta went silent, their necks wearing matching pink flushes as the weight of Mark’s words sunk in. “Oh,” Yuta mumbled, cheeks flaming. “Well, thank you Mark.”
Mark nodded and left the room once more.
Doyoung shifted his weight between his feet for a few moments before walking up and tentatively bringing his hand down to lace his and Yuta’s hands together, squeezing lightly. “I think it looks nice,” He said quietly, bringing their joined hands up to press a gentle kiss to the back of Yuta’s hand.
Yuta sent him a small smile and said nothing else, but the way his hair slowly morphed into a blossom pink was answer enough for Doyoung.