Length: 2,536 words
Summary: The water guardian's gone missing, and the only person who can reach to him is Minseok, the ice guardian.
Notes: thank you for the amazing prompts, I ended up choosing the ones about ice and water guardians and although I've tweaked it slightly, I hope you still enjoy this story!
Frigid. Cold. Chilling.
It's probably what people would use to describe the upper parts of snowy mountains where Minseok resides. For Minseok though, it's home. It's warmth, comfort and safety. Being the ice guardian, there are a lot of perks that come with it, and one of it is finding solace in the cold.
Minseok loves being the ice guardian, he's loved it since he was just a young child and as he's grown older, his love for it has only grown. The smoothness of ice crystals, the familiarity of frozen lakes - it all has such a sense of comfort, of home, that Minseok feels the most relaxed when he's in his own element.
There's a routine, a structure, a pattern that he follows everyday. Wake up, bathe, dress and go down to town, quite a bit of a journey from where Minseok lives, to see if anyone needs help - maybe help a bit out with the ice market, or keeping the food refrigerated - and then come back, rest and relax, hang out with friends - both of whom are fellow guardians, Jongdae with lightning and Lu Han with telepathy (thus mind control, with some limits) - or just by himself and his ice.
Today's a little different though. A new guardian has come to town, and Minseok learns of his arrival while he's downtown and his senses tingle, his powers on alert and making his nerves frantic. The ice guardian follows his gut, which leads him to the fire guardian - newly arrived and drinking some warmed tea at an inn.
At first Minseok doesn't do much except stare at the fire guardian from the entrance of the inn, keeping distance. He realizes soon after that keeping a distance will do no good, that he should go meet his opposite.
"Hello," Minseok says, sliding into the seat next to the fire guardian and twists his head to meet the fire guardian's gaze.
"Ah, so it was you," the fire guardian begins to say, a look of understanding dawning upon his face.
"Yes," Minseok answers for him, already knowing the question. The fire guardian had figured out what was tingling his senses and powers as well - Minseok. Just as the fire guardian had done to Minseok's powers. "I'm Minseok."
"Chanyeol," the taller man replies, attaching on a wide smile at the end.
"Nice to meet you Chanyeol," Minseok tests out the name - it fits. "A particular reason for your visit? This is not a town where I'd think about seeing you."
And it's not; not really a place where you'd find a fire guardian. It's a cold, cold town. Fire's too hot for this place.
Chanyeol smiles at Minseok's inquiry and takes time with phrasing his answer, sipping on his tea.
"Joonmyun is missing," the reason is short, simple, specific.
"Joonmyun…?" Minseok questions, not having heard the name before, although the name feels familiar on his tongue.
"Think about it," Chanyeol continues. "I'll give you some time with your thoughts. You'll remember, you'll understand. We need your help on this - you're the only one who can do it, who can connect to Joonmyun."
With that, Chanyeol takes his leave, finishing his tea until just the drained tea leaves remain on the bottom and sliding some money under the cup on the counter.
Minseok orders a cup of tea - peppermint, his favorite, soothing tea - and closes his eyes, drawing himself back into his thoughts. He repeats the name over and over again in his thoughts - Joonmyun, Joonmyun, Joonmyun - and the familiarity he feels is so strong, it's strong, but Minseok can't remember why. Frustrated, he opens his eyes and finds that he's accidentally frosted over a part of the bar counter.
He sighs, accustomed to his tendencies to slightly lose control of his powers when he gets frustrated or angry. He lowers his head and softly blows on the frost, melting it. There's not a lot, so the soft, warm breath of air works in changing the frost to water. It is when he glances at the quickly evaporating water that he realizes why he feels so familiar to the name Joonmyun.
He's the water guardian. Joonmyun's the water guardian. Ice and water flow together, work together - Minseok probably knew him better in a previous lifetime, that's probably why the connection is so strong.
Minseok smiles, happy that he can finally remember who Joonmyun is, but his happiness is short lived as he remembers why he was reminded of Joonmyun. Joonmyun's gone missing - the water guardian's gone missing. Minseok must find Chanyeol again, he has to learn more about this. The how, the why, the when - all these unanswered, pressing questions.
Putting down the unfinished tea, Minseok bows his head in apology for not finishing and slides across some coins in payment, rushing out of the inn to find Chanyeol. His gut will lead him to his opposite once again.
Minseok finds Chanyeol in the company of Lu Han and Jongdae, relaxing and chatting with them as if they don't have a crisis on their hands. The water guardian is missing. One of the four elemental guardians - this is, it is urgent, and pressing and important. Why are they just chatting up like they've met after a long time and have no worries or pressure of time on their hands?
"Chanyeol," Minseok calls out, jogging up to the three guardians. "I remember."
"I knew you would," Chanyeol replies, a softer smile framing his face now, and stands up to greet the shorter man. "I guess you have more questions about the whole event now?"
"Of course!" Minseok exclaims, as if he would not worry about this situation. "How are you not worried about this? The water guardian is missing! He's one of the elementals!"
Lu Han lets out of a silent huff of laughter, "Don't worry Minseok, we'll get through this. Joonmyun is probably just gone to deal with the excessive stress - you must remember about how Joonmyun worries too much." And Minseok really forgets sometimes how Lu Han's lived by without going throughout the last three life cycles - he has better memories of all the guardians.
Minseok's eyebrows scrunch together as he thinks, scouring his memory of any remnants, any information about Joonmyun.
"Come, don't worry, I'll explain," Chanyeol says, guiding Minseok into one of the chairs surrounding the small bonfire.
And explain Chanyeol does. Apparently the rule this out to be one of the stress reliever trips of Joonmyun - he's had a few over the past few years, but none so extreme that he just disappears. Their common theory is that the stress is greater for Joonmyun as the winter solstice ritual is coming in a month's time. Joonmyun has to do a lot, has a lot of pressure on him. Adding that on to Joonmyun being a natural worrier? Nothing good's going to come from it if Joonmyun's not learned to handle excessive stress properly yet - which he hasn't, as it does take him a few years longer to learn than others.
This is why they - the other guardians, the world essentially - need Minseok right now. Minseok is the ice guardian, Joonmyun's the water guardian. They work together - they work better together, more efficient and a better unit. Minseok remains calm and pulls Joonmyun out of his self created pit of worries and stress. Minseok guides Joonmyun, and then follows Joonmyun. Ice and water work in harmony, they're two parts of the same formula - having the base of the same element.
Thus, Minseok can also connect to Joonmyun. Ice is frozen water. Perhaps Minseok can reach Joonmyun through ice, through frost, through his power somehow. And if Minseok can reach Joonmyun, he can help Joonmyun, he can help the others.
Nothing happens overnight, things take time and Minseok's willing to spend that time in order to find Joonmyun. The first step is isolating him so that when he reaches a direct connection to Joonmyun, it's just them two, Minseok can console and help Joonmyun better then.
So isolate himself Minseok does. He finds an iced cave in the upper parts of the snowy mountains and he spends two days there before he gets any results.
There's a small frozen pond inside the lake and Minseok uses it to practice his frost melting powers. Being the ice guardian, he can both create and melt ice, or well at least he can melt frost for now - ice takes longer, and much more practice than what Minseok has done so far. Inside the caves, he also begins to practice his melting powers, and with his mind focused without any distractions, it comes to him much more easily than he expects.
His powers are a natural instinct of course, but creating ice is always easier than melting ice. Being able to master melting ice in a matter of two days is an amazing feat, and Minseok rewards himself with a longer sleep time than usual. And in his sleep, he delves more into the memories of his previous lifetimes, remembering Joonmyun - rather than as a person or a face, with his warmth and connection, with a sense of in a way, finding his other half - his completing half. Not necessarily completing him, but in a sense, filling him up so a space Minseok never really realized was empty, was filled and Minseok felt full, one, deep into reliving those memories.
It's on the morning of the third day, an hour or so after Minseok has awoken and is practicing melting when he glimpses the water guardian in the melted water that drips down the icicle and onto the ground. Joonmyun looks youthful despite the dark circles that under line his eyes and the stress that has visibly covered his body as he sits crouched next to the sea, on the rough and pebbly sand, playing with the incoming salty seawater.
"Joonmyun," Minseok whispers, and then louder, "Joonmyun."
But it's as if Joonmyun can't hear him, Minseok can't reach Joonmyun.
"Joonmyun," Minseok cries out, desperate and restless. Still no response.
Moments later, the water evaporates, and Joonmyun's gone. Minseok's alone again. Why wasn't Minseok able to connect with Joonmyun? Was there another barrier between them?
Minseok tries again and again, melting more and more ice until he is tired to his bones. Joonmyun only showed up that one time in the morning - was it purely coincidental? Minseok wonders whether he can even reach out slightly to Joonmyun anymore.
He must be able to. He should be able to.
He did it once, and he can do it again - he is sure.
It takes a few dozen more tries, with quite a lot of trials and error until Minseok realizes that if he writes a message before hand, he can reach Joonmyun.
The first time he realized it, he had written out "Joonmyun" on a small slab of ice with a pick and then quickly melted it, which resulted in an image of Joonmyun walking along a winter beach. Ecstatic from that result, Minseok continuously tried with repeating writing "Joonmyun" again and again before melting, but it did naught but give him a glimpse of Joonmyun in the melted ice water.
So Minseok began experimenting, writing out different messages before melting the ice - bigger and bigger pieces to be able to write longer messages and get to see Joonmyun for a longer period of time.
Joonmyun, I'm here for you.
You remember me right?
You'll be okay Joonmyun, you can do this.
Let me help you Joonmyun.
Come to me Joonmyun - or shall I come to you?
Let me come to you Joonmyun.
I'll help you. You can always talk to me you know? You can rely on me.
Although Minseok had been sure that Joonmyun was getting those messages, it wasn't until the last one that he got a legitimate response.
Ar'an Sea. North Side.
The message read, as Minseok watched the melted water refreeze into a slab of ice with the message written on it. At once, Minseok began preparations - first returning to his house, disclosing to the other guardians that he was going to meet Joonmyun, and then gathering supplies for his travel.
It took about a three more days for Minseok to reach Ar'an Sea. It was the winter sea, cold but comforting - just the sand, the pebbly shore was a bit uncomfortable to walk across.
Minseok noticed Joonmyun easily since he was the only person there, sitting on one of the bigger rocks with his feet dipped into a little pool of water.
"Joonmyun," Minseok softly called out, but the intended receiver heard it nonetheless. The message was delivered more mentally - but the closer the two guardians were, the stronger their connection. "I'm here. Let me take care of you."xxx
It didn't take long for Minseok and Joonmyun to get reacquainted with each other. The lifetimes of memories, of bonds, bringing and joining them together. After a few hours, a little bit of small talk and a lot of consoling through skinship - Minseok hugging and holding Joonmyun close, safe and warm in his arms - Joonmyun spilled his worries and concerns to the ice guardian.
Being an elemental guardian was hard, to say briefly. The worries, the pressure, the stress and the responsibility - it all seemed never ending, a continuous flow of them and Joonmyun was buried, he was drowning in them. Despite being the water guardian, he was drowning in this situation and he could not pull himself free.
He could not save himself and he had to leave, to get some time for himself, with himself - just by himself. He needed to think through things and prioritize and learn to compartmentalize and handle the stress, the responsibilities and the worries.
He had done so before, in his previous lifetimes, so it was not an impossible task - it was just hard. And without having Minseok by his side, his reliable counterpart, the ice guardian, the task was made infinitely harder.
Minseok smiles to himself after hearing that, despite the circumstances.
"I'm here now," Minseok whispers, leaning down to drop a soft kiss on Joonmyun's forehead, making Joonmyun smile in return and bury his face into Minseok's stomach, wrapping his arms around the ice guardian's torso.
"I know," Joonmyun replies and Minseok can feel Joonmyun's smile even through his two layers of clothing. "And I am so glad for that."
"We'll do it together from now on," Minseok speaks up after a momentary silence. "I'll help you, guide you and follow you. We'll be in this together - we'll make the winter solstice event grand and unforgettable. I'm here now."
Joonmyun's response was his arms tightening around Minseok and a softly mumbled "hmm" in agreement, followed by gentle breaths of relaxation as he drifted off to sleep with Minseok petting and combing his fingers through Joonmyun's hair.
They were together now. They were okay now. Joonmyun was okay.