Apologies for the lateness! I really wanted to finish this to some degree before posting and, well, life stuff happened as usual. It's not really done now either, but I kind of like it. Here's astrophysicist/wizard Taekwoon and his quite human assistant Sanghyuk!
"That book," Taekwoon asks in a hushed tone, "where did you find it?"
His hand is wrapped tightly around Sanghyuk's wrist, eyes searching the boy's face as if it'll tell him all he needs to know, his gaze occasionally flickering down to the book in Sanghyuk’s hand. Something about it had shaken Taekwoon the moment he saw his assistant enter the lab with the book in his hand, which Sanghyuk doesn’t really understand - it’s just an old story book. But Taekwoon is Taekwoon, and he looks very serious about this. “It was in the library, in a section that has a bunch of old dusty books,” he answers obediently, and then grins playfully. “Why, is it a lost gem from the good old days?”
The grip on his wrist loosens, and Taekwoon carefully takes it from Sanghyuk, lips parted in astonishment. “Something like that,” he murmurs, and simply the fact that he ignored Sanghyuk calling him old says something about how important this book must be. “Is it okay if I keep this for a bit? It’s, uh, relevant to my research.”
“Your research on weakly interacting massive particles? I didn’t think a fairytale book would cover astrophysics,” Sanghyuk counters, curiosity peaking at the strange way his boss is acting.
Taekwoon grimaces like he’s been caught, but otherwise ignores him in favor of flipping through the pages with the kind of awe Sanghyuk only sees on his face when he’s discovering something exciting in space.
“Keep it,” Sanghyuk says with a shrug, dropping his backpack on the floor and pulling out his laptop. “It’s not as important to me as it seems to you.”
That breaks Taekwoon out of whatever trance he is in, and he looks up at the other in surprise. “Oh, no,” he assures, “I swear I just need to find something in here and you can have it back. It’s a very good book...” He trails off and tries for a small smile.
“What’s with that book, hyung?” Sanghyuk can’t help himself, peering at his boss over the screen of his laptop while it turns on. “Is it actually some book you loved when you were young, or what?”
“Ah, it’s…” Taekwoon’s voice is soft, and his eyes are moving around as if he’s looking for an exit. “A magic book. I can’t really explain it.”
It takes him a moment to process that. “A magic book,” Sanghyuk deadpans. He thought they were closer than this. “Seriously? You could have just told me it’s a secret. If you absolutely don’t want to tell me, try a more convincing lie next time.”
“But-” Taekwoon starts, regret already showing in his eyes, but Sanghyuk cuts him off.
“Whatever. It’s whatever. Not important. Just use the book as much as you want, I don’t need it,” he says, logging into his computer and staring at the screen to avoid looking at Taekwoon. Surely his friend feels bad for lying now, which is what Sanghyuk wants, but he hates seeing Taekwoon’s wounded expression, especially when he’s the cause of it. It’s just a book, but something about the situation upsets him.
The thing is, Taekwoon has always been a little on the strange side, even for an astrophysicist. It’s one of the things Sanghyuk likes about him, and about working for him. When he applied for the position he never thought he’d actually get it, and he never thought he’d feel so comfortable with Taekwoon, who is mostly quiet and sort of strange and very very dedicated to his job. But he does feel comfortable with him, which is why he thought Taekwoon felt comfortable enough to tell him anything. Clearly, there is something special about the book, to surprise Taekwoon as much as it did; why can’t Sanghyuk be let in on it?
For a few minutes, the only sounds in the lab are from Sanghyuk’s keyboard as he pulls up his work from last night and tries to focus on the calculations. The silence is heavy, making Sanghyuk’s gaze wander, though there’s not much to look at. Taekwoon quietly sips his coffee, the mug clunking on his desk as he sets it down.
“I’m going to find Hakyeon,” he says, breaking the uncomfortable silence and putting a few things into his messenger bag, including the story book. He doesn’t meet Sanghyuk’s gaze. It feels awkward now. “I need him to look at some articles and… whatnot. I’ll probably be back soon.”
They both know that Taekwoon could very easily just send the material to Hakyeon over email and spare the trip across the huge research facility; he doesn’t need to leave the lab at all. But it’s probably better if he does, so they can clear the air. So Sanghyuk can come to his senses and calm down, and actually get work done.
Still, he wonders why Taekwoon would bring the book to Hakyeon. He knows that the two have known each other for ages, but the thought that Taekwoon might talk to Hakyeon about the book somehow makes Sanghyuk upset all over again. He bites back a mean remark that carries no weight. “Yeah, see you later,” he mumbles. “I’ll watch the lab.”
The sound of the door closing leaves Sanghyuk in complete silence. It doesn’t make him feel better.
Sanghyuk is starting to feel restless; foot tapping on the floor, fingers tapping on his desk. Every time he hears people outside he snaps into attention, listening intently. His gaze wanders to the lab door. No one enters. Still no Taekwoon.
It’s been over two hours since Taekwoon left to see Hakyeon. Actually, it’s nearing the end of Sanghyuk’s shift, but he doesn’t want to leave before Taekwoon comes back. He wants to apologize for getting mad about something so small and insignificant. The book’s secret was clearly important enough to Taekwoon that he didn’t want to tell Sanghyuk, whatever it might be. He gets it, he wants to say. Let’s just forget about it and get back to our normal work, he wants to say. But Taekwoon isn’t there, he still hasn’t returned, and there is no one to say these things to. The silence is maddening.
“Fine,” Sanghyuk says out loud, “I’ll go and see what’s happening.” He packs his things into his backpack and hangs it off his shoulder as he goes to exit the lab, making sure to lock the door when he leaves.
Hakyeon’s office isn’t far from the lab. Sanghyuk has been there many times. He was invited the first time, Hakyeon wanting to welcome Taekwoon’s new assistant with tea and snacks, and Hakyeon spent almost an hour talking about Taekwoon and how adorable Sanghyuk was and how he definitely thought the boy would enjoy himself at the facility. Since then he’s been sent there on errands for Taekwoon: sometimes with large stacks of books, notes and photographs; sometimes with a simple post-it note that ended up with Sanghyuk running back and forth between the two with post-its, playing messenger until he finally asked Taekwoon if they couldn’t just resolve this face-to-face. It’s fair to say that Sanghyuk has gotten to know Hakyeon in the time he’s worked here. Hakyeon is cool. Sanghyuk just doesn’t understand what he and Taekwoon could be doing that would take almost three hours when it could have been resolved in less than one.
When he arrives outside the office he stops, hearing voices speaking, a faint breeze, the sound of pages rustling.
“ Stop it, Hakyeon!” Taekwoon urges, his voice muffled by the door.
“That would be much easier if someone hadn’t dropped my wand in the middle of the- watch out! ” Something slams into the door, making Sanghyuk jump away in shock.
“I’ll find your damn wand,” Taekwoon says, “Just give me - a second! It’s not my fault your office is a mess.”
“It’s an organized mess! ” Hakyeon counters desperately, and Sanghyuk chooses that moment to open the office door and enter the room.
He doesn’t know what he expected aside from the usual mess of Hakyeon’s office, but he did not expect to see a whirlwind of a storm blowing papers and books across the room. Hakyeon is backed into a corner behind his desk, and Taekwoon is on the other side of the room, frantically searching the floor, both of them sporting messy wind-blown hair that makes them look more like mad scientists than any lab coat ever could. They both look to Sanghyuk in surprise when he enters, blinking at him, and he blinks back in utter confusion. “What the hell-” he starts, but isn’t sure how to continue. He startles when a sheet of paper lands on his face, insistently clinging to him until he grabs it and tears it away, hoping it wasn’t too important as it flies into the whirlwind, sure to be ruined.
“Sanghyuk!” Taekwoon calls. “Get out, it’s not safe!”
That’s obvious, Sanghyuk considers saying, but it feels unnecessary. He doesn’t understand what he’s just gotten himself into, not to mention why it’s happening in Hakyeon’s office. It would probably be best to listen to Taekwoon and get out of here, but he and Hakyeon are still unsafe. Sanghyuk hesitates, gaze sliding over the office.
“Taekwoon, the sooner you find my wand, the sooner we can get out of this,” Hakyeon shouts, ducking when a pen flies out of the storm and towards his head.
“Don’t talk about that ,” Taekwoon says, grasping at a chair to steady himself with a particularly strong wind gust, “when he’s here!”
“For God’s sake, he’s in the middle of this, do you really think we’re getting away from this without an explanation?!”
There’s something glinting on the floor beside the bookshelf, a thin stick with a bright blue tip that shines. It stands out to Sanghyuk somehow. Find my wand , Hakyeon said. That stick looks like a wand, doesn’t it? He doesn’t know how it might work, or if it works at all - he doesn’t really believe in magic - but the two scientists seem very convinced that it’s important.
“ He is right here, guys,” Sanghyuk calls, approaching the shelf cautiously, “and I’d very much like an explanation, but uh, you were talking about a wand, right?” He bends down and snatches the stick, surprised at how light it feels in his hand. “Is this it?” he asks and holds it up for Hakyeon to see.
A joyful shout comes from Hakyeon, and Sanghyuk feels like the other might start jumping up and down and doing fist pumps. “Yes! That’s it!” he cheers. “Give it to me!”
Sanghyuk considers throwing the stick at Hakyeon, but figures it might be smarter to get close enough to hand it over safely, so it doesn’t get lost again. He starts to walk closer to Hakyeon, but the wind is slowly getting stronger, making him unsteady. It feels as if the room is being turned over and shaken, like a doll house.
Another strong gust of wind has Sanghyuk losing his balance, crashing onto the floor with an oomph! As soon as his head stops spinning, he grabs onto the bookshelf, holding on for dear life while making sure the stick is still in his hand.
“The book!” Hakyeon shouts. “Close the book!”
Which book? Sanghyuk doesn’t understand, but then he sees Taekwoon crawling towards the source of the storm, and finally sees that on the floor is an open book, its pages rustling wildly in the wind. “Hyung, it’s too strong,” he calls. Taekwoon only shakes his head and keeps crawling, determination and some desperation in his eyes.
The wind catches on Taekwoon’s sweater. As if on reflex, Sanghyuk shoots his arm out, aiming the wand at the storm, and yells out when it emits a light so strong he has to press his eyes closed.
The silence comes so suddenly that Sanghyuk hears a ringing in his ear, then loud panting from all parts of the room including himself.
He carefully opens his eyes. The office, fittingly, looks like a storm passed through it. Hakyeon is climbing over his desk, staggering slightly when he gets back on his feet. He looks around, wailing at the mess that’s become of his office.
Taekwoon is lying on the floor, hands over the book, finally closed. His eyes are also closed, and though he’s panting he doesn’t really look awake. “Hyung?” Sanghyuk tries. “Are you okay?”
Slowly, the man’s lids slide open, gaze moving around until it focuses on Sanghyuk. “Yeah,” he says softly and begins to sit up. “How did you- only Hakyeon can use that.”
“Use what-” Sanghyuk begins, and then remembers the stick in his hand. He looks down at it and shrugs. “I have no idea. What is it, anyway? What the hell just happened?”
“It’s a very long story,” Hakyeon interjects, grabbing the wand from Sanghyuk’s hand. “I’ll be having this.”
Finally passing the baton to carpesoo!