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Little White House

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He is little, very little, the first time his grandmother tells him the rules of the forest.


You always bring something iron. You never take without giving. And do not, under any circumstances, cross the river.


“The river has a bridge, though,” he remembers telling his grandmother, once, when he was eight. “Things with bridges are meant to be crossed. Someone must have been over there, once.”


“A river is a gate,” she replied, looking back at him over her shoulder from her place at the kitchen stove. “Sometimes you try to fight the river, and sometimes you try to ford it. But there will always be something on the other side of the water, so sometimes you need to leave the river behind. And you stay away from that something, Kim Seokjin.”


Things with bridges were not meant to be crossed, in the forest. Paths with fallen trees were not meant to be taken, and fur caught on bushes was not meant to be a trail marker. Blood on the roots of a tree meant ‘go home, little rabbit’, and berries were not meant to be picked. A front door was never an invitation- a back door was always a warning to escape while you still can. Gates were never meant to be left open, because whatever they held back was not something you wanted to let out. But still, he grew up in between the trees, spending weeks there at a time while his parents were away. And the trees knew him, eventually, as their own.


He goes into the forest when he is twenty, with a bag full of sage and salt, and a bottle of rice wine at the bottom. One pear, one bag of almonds, one nasturtium seed, one sprig of rosemary. It’s almost noon, and the sun is high.
Come here, little rabbit, come here, the river whispers, when he sits down beside it to eat his fruit. It’s bright out. The spring is green in the forest this year, and things are budding beautifully. One time, he had sat here for so long that the river herself had come out to see him, when he was twelve. She sat beside him on her own banks, and held his hand like a mother.


“Everything in the forest is beautiful,” Jin said to her, small eyes wide with curiosity. “How do you feed them all so well?”


“It is not hard to love them,” she said, brushing his hair back with wet fingers. He laughed, a droplet falling on his nose, and wrinkled his face at her. “I have spent years giving them my spirit, and they always give some back.”


“I think they are just beautiful because you are beautiful,” he’d said, and she smiled at him so brightly it almost blinded him right there.


“Don’t be too sweet out here, little rabbit,” she kissed his forehead before she went back to her blood, running through the roots of the trees he sat under. “The wolves will eat you up.”


Everything out in the forest had teeth, even the river. He has seen her drown a mouse and swallow a dragonfly. He has seen foxes take their last breaths beside her, choking on her, giving themselves over to her. But she protects him, and today, he is going to cross the bridge that bypasses her sharpened mouth. His phone buzzes in his pocket- it’s probably his grandmother, asking when he’ll be home. He doesn’t answer it. Not yet.


The first step out onto the boards is creaky. His knee feels like it’s going to buckle under his trembling legs, because he knows. He knows his grandmother will be mad, and he knows the river is watching him, and he knows that he doesn’t know what lies down the path across the bridge. But he wants to know, so badly. Every time the leaves turn towards him and the rocks roll off logs and he passes them- he knows they’re watching him. He knows everything here is watching him. It’s all been watching him since the day he came to live at his grandmother’s house, because he’s the only one other than her that ever comes out this way.


When he crosses the bridge and sets foot on the other side of the river, nothing happens. There is no burst of light, nor blood of vein, nor loss of sight. He does not stop breathing. His bones do not dissolve, like his grandmother once told him they might.


“You never know,” she’d said, and closed his bedroom door, probably hoping that it would scare him enough to keep him obedient.


There is not a sound but the wind and the river, and so Kim Seokjin keeps walking down the path that he was not supposed to ever set foot on. He walks, and he walks, and after an hour he tries to check his phone, but he doesn’t get service out here, so he puts it back in his backpack. The shadows aren’t any darker, over here. The eyes don’t follow him more, or less. It’s another fifteen minutes before he finally makes it to a clearing, where the path seems to end, and he sees a house.


“This was just another neighborhood,” he says to himself, because honestly, were all those stories just to keep him from trespassing on their neighbor’s land? The house is pretty big, for being out so far. It’s painted very neatly white, with slat boards on the outside, and a little porch. Two pairs of shoes, the same size, sit on the mat outside, and everything around the house is a different color than the rest of the forest. It seems dried, and the ground barren. Grey vines, cracking in the sunlight, like they’ve been drying out for months, climb up towards the shuttered windows. The flowers stop about two feet from the house, and there are only piles of pebbles and river rocks surrounding the foundation.


“How did you get here?” comes a low voice from behind him, and Jin jumps, spinning around on his heel and grabbing the straps of his backpack. There’s a man- probably. Maybe? He seems like he’s close enough to Jin in age. A little shorter. His silver hair is nearly white in the sun, like a pearl, and his mouth is set in an unamused line.


“I walked?” Jin says, unsure, and the man just huffs and walks past him to the front porch of the house.


“You crossed the river,” he says, and gestures over his shoulder at Jin as if to wave him away. “You should go back. This place is not for you.”


“I think you’re my neighbor,” Jin follows him, not paying attention to the man’s grumpy expression. “I live in the little house back that way, with my grandmother.”


“I’m no one’s neighbor,” the man opens the front door, toeing off his shoes. “And the sun will go down before you get home if you’re not careful.”


“I have a flashlight,” he says, but before Jin can finish, the man has closed the door and locked it very loudly and pointedly. Well, he sort of has a flashlight. His phone has a flashlight on it. He waits for a while, maybe even half an hour, but he can’t see or hear anything happening behind the door. So he sets the single nasturtium seed down before the stairs, and the sprig of rosemary, and turns around. The man isn’t wrong. It will get dark before he hits home if he doesn’t start back soon, and his grandmother will be unhappy with him. Jin is never supposed to be home after dark, not even now that he’s sort of an adult.


On the way home, he counts his steps, singing along out loud in to the trees. If he remembers how he got here, chances are pretty good the house will be in the same place when he tries to return tomorrow after work. The man didn’t seem- different, really. Just odd, in a human sort of way. Curiosity burns at Jin’s chest as he crosses the bridge back home and says goodnight to the river. He wants to know what the man does. Why he lives so far out in the trees. How does he get groceries? Who else lives there? He barely makes it home before dinner, and his grandmother is waiting at the door when he opens it.


“Almost late,” she says, but she still reaches up and pats his cheek fondly.


“I fell asleep,” Jin replies, because he’s not going to tell her what he really did, and she believes him. They eat dinner, and he falls to dreams so quickly, after all the walking he did.


He does not dream.


Out in the forest, the river is singing into the dark, and the trees are listening. Oh, he met him, he met him, he crossed the river. Her teeth are sharp and white and big underneath the moon, and half a mile away, Jin sleeps on.


--


In the morning, the children are restless and full of energy when he’s trying to corral them for math and music time. Jin works with the children too young to be in regular school yet, and usually they behave well for him. He’s the morning teacher, and they drag him around the classroom from activity to activity until it’s noon, and the afternoon teacher comes in.


“Have fun,” he shoots over his shoulder at his grimacing colleague, and he’s in his car as fast as possible, little handprints of paint all over his work jeans. It was almost unbearable waiting to go out into the forest again. He could have waited longer if the kids had been patient too, but it was like their insatiable energy filled him with electricity, and every minute of his way home seems like a minute too long. His grandmother isn’t home when he gets there, so it’s not hard for him to just grab a bowl of soup and be on his way. Everything is bright, sunny, drawing him through to the bridge. He drops a blossom snagged from a nearby tree down for the river as he crosses her, and then he’s counting his steps, following the same old path. It feels a little different than it did yesterday, but probably he just wasn’t paying good enough attention. Anyway, there aren’t any trees blocking his path, or circles growing in the dirt that he shouldn’t cross.


The house is just as solid as it was before. White and neat and with nothing growing around the foundation.
“Man, this guy must put weed-killer everywhere,” he says to himself, before he climbs up onto the porch and knocks, three times. Three is a polite number.


No one answers the door.


He knocks three more times.


And then he sits down on the front porch, because there are only two pairs of shoes again, so maybe the man is out in the forest. Today, Jin had put a couple of little tea cakes in his backpack to offer the man, if he saw him. He wants to know more about him- why he lives so far, and what he does, and what’s his name, and does he want a friend? Jin would be lonely if he lived this far out into the trees. He settles down to wait, since the sun is still high and he’s so comfortable sitting there with the afternoon light on his face. It’s comfortable enough, even, that he falls asleep, even though he doesn’t mean to.


“You are a fool,” the man says, his hand on Jin’s shoulder, shaking him awake. The sun is low in the sky now, and the crickets are chirping, and the man is glaring down at him with a furrowed brow. “Why did you come back? I told you, this is too far out for something like you.”


“Something- what?” Jin rubs his bleary eyes, and looks up at him. “Oh, hi! I was waiting for you.”


“I can tell,” he says drily, and ushers Jin up, not very gently pushing him back towards the path. “Don’t. There are things with teeth out here that won’t wake you up first.”


When Jin turns around to ask the man his name, he’s already up on the porch, opening his front door again.


“Wait- what’s your name?” he asks, and the man on the porch huffs.


“I don’t have one,” he says, toeing his shoes off and making to close the door in Jin’s face.


“I’m-” and his grandmother is almost physically there, shoving his mouth shut and glaring at him. You don’t give anyone your name you don’t give anyone your name you don’t give anything your name no matter how wide they smile when they ask you- “Jin.” He settles on. The man at the door just raises an eyebrow.


“I hope you aren’t,” he says, simply, and then shuts the door and locks it.
Jin hums the whole way home, because the house was still there, and the man woke him up, so he must not be all bad, right? He’ll bring the cakes again tomorrow.


--


He doesn’t get to go the next day, though, because his grandmother has friends over for tea and he has to stay and chat with them. They are a panel of overbearing aunties, asking him again and again whether he has anyone special in his life.


“We’re old,” they say, pinching his cheeks and feeding him more food than he can bear to eat. “We don’t have to be polite any more. Find yourself a girl who will feed you well, or at least a boy who can keep your house safe at night.”


The day after that, he has to stay late for a conference at work, so he doesn’t get to go then either.


But the third day, a weekend day, he gets up early in the morning and puts more cakes in his backpack, and another pear, and a single stalk of thyme. Everything sings at him. The river reaches out to splash his foot when he crosses her, and he blows her a kiss. This time, when he gets to the house, he sits on the porch without knocking. There are three pairs of shoes, but it’s only ten in the morning, and maybe the man is busy. The day is so nice that he can’t help but smile at everything around him. It’s not hard. After an hour or so, the door behind him creaks open, and the man stands there with ruffled hair and a rumpled t shirt and pants.


“I hoped you’d given up, but I see you’re not that smart,” he says, sleepy and grumpy, and Jin just smiles, because his stomach hurts with butterflies. It must be the anticipation of finally knowing the man’s name. Or becoming friends with him, maybe.


“I brought you tea cakes,” Jin says, opening up his backpack and offering them towards the man. He doesn’t seem completely mollified, but he does disappear inside and come back with a cup of tea. He sits beside Jin on the porch and eats a cake with his tea, silently watching the edge of the clearing where the path starts back up towards the bridge.


“The path didn’t used to be there,” he says, ten minutes later, when he’s finished the cake. “It appeared the day you showed up.”


“The forest must have led me here, then,” Jin says, voice low in awe, because he’s heard of things like that before. The forest leading people to the person they need in that moment of their life.


“Well, it should take you back,” the man says, and he gets up and turns back towards his house.


“Wait, I don’t even get to know your name yet? You ate my cake!” Jin protests, but all he gets is a sigh, so he stands up to walk back towards the bridge and home. Maybe he can help his grandmother with gardening, today, or work on a lesson plan. He’s going to wear down this man eventually. He gets to the edge of the clearing before he hears a window opening on the house, and from inside, the man’s gruff voice.


“Call me Yoongi,” he says. “Except don’t, because you shouldn’t cross that river again.” And then he slams the window shut, and Jin is left with a wide smile and silence in the clearing.


He grins the whole way home.


--


He keeps coming back, and Yoongi knew he would deep down in his bones, but he hoped that he wouldn’t. It’s been two weeks, and Jin has come to see him almost every day, bringing something else for Yoongi to eat or look at or share. Someone must have taught this boy the rules of the forest at some point- he wears an iron necklace, a single iron sun pendant upon a chain of the same metal. He carries salt mixed with sage and juniper and cloves in his pockets- Yoongi can smell it. There is more sage in his backpack, and he can’t help but notice that a flower has sprouted, a single vine, from where Jin had left the seed on his first visit. It’s clogging up Yoongi’s space, but when he tries to pull it out of the ground, it won’t budge.


“You are meddling,” he tells the trees one morning, opening up all his windows so that he can burn charcoal for his latest commission. A dryad had come to him wishing for a sigil so that she could get better water flow for her roots. She’ll pay him three branches for it, which is a good price considering what it will cost her to take them off her main trunk. “You keep leading him back here, and I know damn well that path didn’t exist before two weeks ago.”


The trees are silent but he swears he can hear them mocking him.


Jin always knocks three times, and Yoongi mostly answers him, these days. He’s weak for a good cake, and three days ago, Jin had brought him a bottle of nice alcohol, which Yoongi is also weak for. Today, Yoongi hears him coming, because he’s singing. A good way to attract hungry things with sharp claws. His voice is warm, and gentle and sweet, and it makes Yoongi almost want to open the door before Jin might knock. But he doesn’t, because he won’t be accused of encouraging this soft and human thing to come out into the trees for him.


“Good morning, Yoongi,” Jin sings, as he steps onto the porch. It makes something clench deep in Yoongi’s chest that he steadfastly ignores. He would like to drink, honestly, right about now. But instead he opens the door, and Jin breezes past him into the house. “It’s a weekend, and I couldn’t be happier, because the children have spring fever and they are driving me up the wall,” he says, dropping his backpack on Yoongi’s table. “I brought you cakes from my grandmother, I told her I have a new friend who really likes sesame.”


“I’m not your friend,” he tries to say, but Jin just waves him off.


“Anyway, you eat my cake, so.” He pulls the package out, twelve cakes in a glass container that he plunks right down on Yoongi’s sorely underused kitchen counter. “What are you doing today?”


“I was sleeping,” he lies. “Until your caterwauling woke me up.”


“I know you weren’t,” Jin says right back, reaching out and tapping the bags under Yoongi’s eyes. His fingers feel like they’re burning Yoongi’s skin. “Because these are practically designer, they’re so big and flashy now. You should really drink more chamomile.” Chamomile isn’t going to do shit. He’s been dream-walking, because something covered the moon three days ago, and the birds have been quiet ever since. The river told him he should look into it. Everything in the forest is a little unsettled, but as far as he can tell, it’s because the season had changed too early this year.


“Anyway,” Yoongi says, not dignifying Jin with a response. He shakes Jin off of him and opens up his cabinet, grabbing the teapot and putting it on the stove. “If you’re going to insult me, you can leave the cakes and go.”


“I’m just saying it because I care about you,” Jin sniffs at him, but he still sits down at the table and pulls out a deck of cards. “We should play some games.”


Yoongi caves, because of course he does, and they play games and eat cakes and tea until he’s wasted his whole day and Jin is hurrying his shoes back on and both of them are probably going to be late for dinner. Even if Yoongi isn’t technically, because he makes his own.
He curses the forest a little before he goes to bed, but he gets nothing but smug silence in return.


--


After some months of bothering Yoongi in his little house in the woods, Jin starts to notice something. His walk has been getting a little shorter. At first, it took him an hour or so past the bridge to reach Yoongi. But last week it took maybe… five minutes less. Barely enough to notice. And then this week, it seemed like only forty minutes until he hit Yoongi’s. Maybe he’s getting faster. Maybe all this walking is turning him into an Olympic meanderer, and he’s going to be so fast at walking that soon he will just step across the bridge, and Yoongi will be there. That would be nice, he thinks, as he enters the clearing, making his way towards the front porch.
It’s a brilliantly warm day, just after 1 in the afternoon, and he’s very close to knocking on Yoongi’s front door when an unfamiliar voice startles him.


“Are you lost?” a man asks, and when he whirls around, there’s a grinning man with stunningly red dyed hair and a beautiful sunny face standing at the bottom of the steps.


“No,” Jin says, grabbing the straps of his backpack self consciously. “Are you? I’m here to visit Yoongi.” The man grins even wider, bounding up the steps with unnatural grace. He claps a hand on Jin’s shoulder companionably, and knocks on the door seven times in quick succession.


“I’m here to visit Yoongi also,” the man says. Up close, his teeth are awfully white and shiny and strangely pointy. His skin seems kind of pale and cold for the day, but Yoongi opens the door before Jin can ask what the man is doing out here, anyway. After all, he knows well what he is, and he has a suspicion about what Yoongi is. But the other guy can’t be human.


“Hobi,” Yoongi greets him, with a wrinkled eye expression and a twitch of his head. “You brought me what I asked for, yes?” Hobi nods, and slips past Yoongi into the house as the smaller man turns towards Jin. “You’ll have to wait a minute, if you want to play a card game, or something. Hobi and I have some business.”


“I can wait on the porch?” Jin asks uncertainly, but Yoongi just scoffs and shakes his head, grabbing Jin’s wrist and pulling him inside.


“You’ll get cold,” he says, leaving Jin on an armchair in the living room. Which can’t be true, because it’s so bright and warm and sunny outside, but Jin lets him have his excuses and settles in to read a book in the light of the sun coming through the front windows. Yoongi’s house is decorated like an old man- it’s comfortable and cozy, but it’s also filled with furniture that Jin might call… antique. There aren’t very many pictures on the wall, but there is an old piano, and a nice fireplace. In the corner of the living room, there’s a record player. If it was dusty, Jin might have wondered if Yoongi inherited it. Clearly, though, he plays records on it all the time. There’s a laptop on the coffee table, a cell phone charging on the bookcase, and a little flat screen TV right next to the couch. They don’t look like they quite fit in with all the houseplants Yoongi keeps. From his spot on the couch, Jin can’t see where Hobi and Yoongi are talking, but he can hear them.


“So you found this at the edge of your yard?” Yoongi is asking, and Hobi hums in affirmation.


“They were just growing there, but I know none of us planted it. We’ve never had nettle growing in the garden.”


“It could have just been carried there. But you said there were more plants on your way here?” Jin cranes his head a little, but he still can’t see them. Gardening advice… Did Hobi really come here to ask Yoongi for gardening advice?
“Nettle’s growing everywhere around here right now. I told Namjoon to look out for it, because his pack might run through it if they’re not careful. We might ask Jiminie about it? He could have heard something. Or Tae, when he gets back from the court.”


Okay, nope. Now Jin is lost again. Hobi keeps talking, but lower and lower until the two of them are just whispering in the kitchen for a good fifteen minutes that Jin can’t hear at all. Finally, a chair scrapes, and Hobi appears in the doorway, grabbing his shoes and making his way outside.


“It’s trying to repel something,” Yoongi tells him, following him out of the kitchen, and Hobi just laughs.


“If you can’t repel me, the trees can’t repel me,” he says, winking at Yoongi. Yoongi just huffs back at him, but he’s smiling there a little bit. “Anyway, I’ll talk to Jimin and see what he has to say too.” He turns to Jin and smiles at him again, with those spooky sharp teeth. “And I’m sure I’ll see you in the trees some time soon too.” Before Jin can reply at all, he’s gone.


It seems his slowed speed earlier was a courtesy for Jin.


“He seems nice,” Jin says after a minute, completely unsure of what just happened, and Yoongi laughs.


“Come drink some tea,” he says, waving Jin into the kitchen. “And look a little closer, next time. You trust too easily, Jin.”


“You haven’t killed me yet,” Jin replies. Yoongi ignores him. He probably deserves it.


“Hobi is remarkably friendly for a vampire,” Yoongi curls up in a chair with his own cup of tea and shuffles some papers out of Jin’s sight on the table. “But his teeth are still sharp, and his throat is still hungry. You would do well to stay back if you see him out in the woods.” Jin is wholly unconvinced, because Yoongi has said the same sorts of things about himself. But as far as Jin can tell, he just lives in his little white house and does magic for the forest, and Jin still doesn’t know where he goes to get his groceries but he keeps his cupboards like an old woman with a sweet tooth and an iron liver.


“Yeah, okay,” he says, leaning over to pat Yoongi’s knee. “You’re just afraid I’ll find another friend and you’ll have to share me.”


“We’re not friends,” Yoongi snaps, looking the other directly huffily, but it holds no heat. His hand finds Jin’s on his knee and keeps it there for a minute too long, until Jin’s cheeks are peachy pink. “But I did pick up a word jumble in the grocery store, so. We could do that while you drink your tea, if you want.” He doesn’t look back at Jin until the other man has his eyes down on the newspaper, trying to solve the first puzzle. Jin can feel his gaze, though, and the peach blush on his face doesn’t go away until he gets home to his grandmother.


“What, were you on a date?” She asks him, swatting his hand with a wooden spoon when he tries to grab a piece of meat before dinner is done. “You look flushed- you’ve been flirting, I know it! This is just like when that boy from down the street kept coming around for tea-“


“I got sunburned, I was hanging out with a friend,” Jin protests, but she sees right through him.


“Well, when this friend gets up the nerve and kisses you, you better bring them for dinner, Seokjin. I want to meet them before you go elope out of shyness.”


“Yes, yes, yes,” he says, ducking her again to snatch another scrap before retreating hastily to his room. He thinks she and Yoongi might get along well. They both like to drink tea and nag him and pretend they’re grumpy when they’re really soft as marshmallows in the summer.


—-


When Jin goes home, Hoseok comes back. He doesn’t bother knocking this time. He’s had an open invitation to Yoongi’s hearth for years. He just appears by Yoongi’s side while he’s sitting at the fireplace, going through one of his aunt’s grimoires.


“The House has been changing since he came through the trees, Yoongi-ah.” Hoseok says, without a greeting. He curls up beside Yoongi on the couch, wrapping his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders and resting his head against Yoongi’s shoulder.


“Like the way a curse changes a face, Hobi,” Yoongi replies, as though an empty threat might stop Hoseok’s prying nature. He turns the page of his book, to a full size diagram of a stinging nettle. “I think this may have some answers for me, but I’ll have to do some talking tonight on the Other Side.”


“Don’t change the subject,” Hoseok threads his fingers through Yoongi’s hair gently, pushing his bangs back and turning his cheek so that he can look Yoongi in the eye. “This house has been still for sixty years, Yoongi. Since before you were born. It didn’t change when you moved in, nor when your aunt left. It didn’t change when Taehyung’s court annexed this part of the forest. It didn’t change when the nettle started growing, nor when the river expanded her reach through the trees. I saw it built, back when I was young, and I know it’s only changing now because he’s here.”


“Well, what do you want me to do?” Yoongi asks, frustration evident. “I tried to send him away, but the trees keep letting him back!”


“Oh, Yoongi,” Hoseok laughs, and presses a kiss to the top of his forehead, getting up and grabbing the book from his hands. “You’ve kept this place the same way it always was, but maybe it’s changing now because it’s trying to tell you that you can just be yourself- not the shadow of the witches before you.”


“You speak like a poet, but your words are that of a meddling matchmaker, Hobi,” Yoongi says. It holds no bitterness- it’s not like he hasn’t thought of this before. The flowers are growing closer to the stones around the foundation every day, and it seems like the river and the trees are shortening the distance between the woods and Jin’s house each time he comes to visit Yoongi. He’s not blind to the signs- just stubborn. It’s easier to remain unchanged. It’s easier to do things the way his aunt taught him to when he was young. A witch does this. A witch does that. A witch lives alone and works alone, and when they fall in love, they forget why the earth put them there in the first place. It’s why his aunt left to go home and live with the village again- to marry the man of her dreams. A man that the forest had brought over the river and through the trees too, fifteen years ago.


Sometimes it seems like yesterday- witches don't age like humans do. That his aunt decided to go home. To be with her love. To do village medicine, and left the trees in Yoongi’s care. He told the moon that night that he would never leave her, and he meant it. So it scares him, when he looks at Jin and his heart flutters and his stomach drops and he can feel his cheeks get hot like the summer sun.


“I’ll leave you alone about it,” Hoseok says. “For now, at least. But I can’t promise for any of the others. Jimin is coming to visit you tomorrow, and he’s bringing Jungkook and Taehyung, come back early from the court. They've noticed your visitor too.”


“You’re all gossips,” Yoongi mutters. “Like old women.”


“We are old, dear one,” Hoseok says, rattling through Yoongi’s bookcase, next to the fireplace. “We are all old, and we need excitement in our advanced age.”


“Fuck off,” Yoongi swats at his leg, but Hoseok does not fuck off, because he never does, and so they finish out the night reading books in quiet warmth next to each other.


When Hoseok goes to hunt with his family, Yoongi rubs nettle ash on his forehead and grasps howlite tight in his hand. He breathes the smell of lemongrass and opens his shutters so the moon can lay across his face in his bed.
When he closes his eyes, he is on the Other Side. The forest is eerie like this, when he’s dream walking. As though everything is black and white, with only breathing, colorful wisps at their centers where their spirits rest. He walks through the trees, brushing them gently with his hands, and they flutter towards him with sweet welcomes, sounds like chimes in a calm breeze.


Hello, hello, he greets them. How are you, lovely trees? How are your leaves, your roots?


Hello, hello, they whisper back. We felt the sun, today. We feel the moon. The river waters our roots and she holds us tight. We saw him wandering through the forest, and we led him home for you, brother.


He does not know what to say- there is nothing for him, except the thanks he can communicate with a forehead against their branches. There is no unrest in the forest, and he can’t find anything wrong, even when he ventures around the nettles themselves, or by the river.


Why do you grow? Why do you set your roots here, little vine? He asks of the nettles. They wind around his hand for a moment, but then release him without a sting.


We are here for you, Yoongi, they whisper into his fingerprints, up his arms, through his veins.


They are silent after that, no matter how he tries to tease an answer from them. When he opens his eyes again to the light of the moon, the room around him rings with emptiness, with his self imposed solitude. He does not sleep easily, but the sun comes up with vengeance nonetheless.


—-


“Yoongi! Yoongi! Yoongi-ah, my favorite pearl-“ Taehyung bangs on his door, like the lock wouldn’t spring open the moment he touched the handle.


“I should have known it was you, when I heard what sounded like elephants crashing through underbrush,” Yoongi says, as he opens the door, and Taehyung breezes right past him, throwing himself down on the couch without waiting for the other two to enter. “Disrespectful little boy.”


“Yoongi,” Jimin greets him fondly, with a soft smile. “Sorry for bringing the hurricane to your doorstep so early in the day.” He kisses Yoongi’s cheek as he crosses the lintel and follows Taehyung’s footsteps to sit on the couch. Jungkook is behind him, acting like he could possibly hide behind Jimin’s considerably smaller bulk.


“Jungkookie,” Yoongi says, reaching up to brush Jungkook’s hair from his eyes. “You’re well, even with these nightmares around?” Jungkook has always been Yoongi’s soft spot. He must be older than Yoongi- Jimin certainly is, and so his familiar can’t be far behind in age. But he’s young for what he is, and his face is so sweet, and he tries so very hard and so earnestly. It’s hard not to baby him. Every time he sees Jungkook following Jimin dutifully and protecting him with quiet strength and less quiet humor, Yoongi gets the most grandmotherly urge to feed him and make sure he’s full up on affection.


“As well as one can be, following in the path of a natural disaster. Thank you, Yoongi.” He smiles, and leans to kiss Yoongi’s cheek as well when he passes him for the living room.


“So why have you called us?” Taehyung asks, buffing his nails casually on Jimin’s thigh and flinging his arm around the back of the couch. “Another spell gone wrong? Hobi said you’ve got an admirer- did you feed the wrong man a love potion?” Jimin slaps Taehyung’s stomach reproachfully.


“Be nice,” he says. “Yoongi didn’t call us here, Hobi did.”


“Because Yoongi doesn’t ask for help-“ and Jimin slaps Taehyung again.


“I said nice-“


“Another lover’s spat,” Yoongi says to Jungkook, and the man just laughs at him. The three of them have always been intertwined- knitted together like three bright cords of yarn. But unless the older two are ganging up on Jungkook, Yoongi knows he prefers to stay out of it. It’s less messy when they go home to their shared bed if they aren’t all fighting. “You want some tea?”


By the time Yoongi and Jungkook bring the tea back to the front room, Taehyung and Jimin have untangled, and they’re sitting apart and looking serious for the first time today.


“I asked Hobi to ask you about the nettles, is all,” Yoongi says as he hands them their cups. He gave Jungkook the smallest one, because it’s both endearing to see Jimin try and drink from a normal sized mug, and hilarious to see Jungkook try and drink from a small one.


“Ah,” Taehyung scoffs. “You can’t ask them yourself? I thought you walked the Other Side, Yoongi!”


“I did,” he sets his own cup down. “But all I got was cryptic nothings. They said they were here for me, but nothing in this forest grows for me alone.”


“That boy does,” Jimin says softly. “The human one, who the trees bring to you. Maybe they’re connected.”


“It can’t be,” Jungkook jumps in. “Nettles? For protection? Against a human man?”


“You’re too powerful for that,” Taehyung agrees. “There must be something else they’re protecting from.”


“But they could be to protect the man,” Jimin’s eyes are no longer soft, looking at Yoongi. They feel sharpened bamboo, piercing through him towards the sun. “Maybe he’s meant to be here, to visit Yoongi, and the forest fears for him.”


“As well it should,” Taehyung says. “But if that’s all you’re wondering, I could have told you that much by text, Yoongi. Everything here is dangerous for a man. Especially one dim enough to idle on the porch of your home.” He points to the door, and as if on cue, there are three short knocks. Jin. Jimin looks delighted at the prospect of meeting him- Hoseok has clearly been gossiping.


“Hello?” Jin’s voice fairly echoes through Yoongi’s chest as he gets up to get the door. On the other side, Jin smiles at him, bright in the sunshine, black hair gleaming.


“Good morning, Yoongi,” he says when Yoongi opens the door. “I brought some mango rice for you today, from my grandmother- oh.” He stops short when he sees the company sitting on Yoongi’s couch. “Ah, I’m sorry- I can come back tomorrow? If you have more business, I should leave you to it.”


“Oh no,” Taehyung says, sitting up straighter with a grin spreading across his face. “Please come in, we’re just visiting with our dear Yoongi. He was just telling us so much about you-“


“I was not-“


“-and it would be a shame if we didn’t get the chance to verify his frankly outrageous claims about how cute you are-“


“I never said anything of the sort-“


“-come in, please sit down, I love mango rice.”


Jin comes in, uncertainty clear in his eyes, but he sits down at the chair next to Yoongi’s and sets his backpack on the floor, pulling out a container of sticky rice with mango.


“I’m sorry, I don’t know any of your names-“


“I’m Tae,” Taehyung says, careful as always with his name. He reaches across the table to press his fingers to Jin’s knuckles. “Of the Summer Court. We’re of the land this forest grows on.”


“And I’m Jimin,” the smaller man smiles like a spring sun shining through April rain clouds, tilting his head and beaming at Jin. “I come from the trees here. This is Jungkook, my familiar.” Jungkook does a little wave, his eyes a bit wide and his hand instinctively reaching for Jimin’s knee. He rarely sees humans, so Yoongi isn’t surprised. Jungkook has always liked to look at them, for they so infrequently trespass the deeper woods where he and Jimin and Taehyung have their estate, inherited from Tae’s grandmother.


“Oh,” Jin says, relaxing in the warmth of Jimin’s smile. He leans a little towards Yoongi, and Yoongi swallows the urge to place his hand on Jin’s thigh like Jungkook does to Jimin so casually. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. I was beginning to think Yoongi had no friends.” He grins, shaking his head in mock sadness. “I’ve been keeping him company so he doesn’t become too bitter and lonely in his solitude, you know?”


“Hey-“ Yoongi protests, but Jin ignores him, as they all do now, apparently.
“I mean, I met Hobi yesterday, but it seemed like Yoongi was trying his best to scare him off so I thought I’d come again today in case Yoongi had been successful.”


“Someone has to soften him,” Jimin laughs. “He freezes like a pond in winter, Jin, and then we must thaw him when we want our potions and our dream salves.”


“So that’s what he does,” Jin turns to look at him. “I’ve been wondering for months- but he doesn’t tell me anything. Only what type of tea cakes to bring him.”


“You should keep him around,” Jungkook leans in and says to Yoongi, as Jin keeps talking with Jimin and Taehyung, slowly relaxing into the chair and smiling wider. “He gives you the right amount of shit about your old man ways, Yoongi.”


“Not you too,” Yoongi grumps. But he can’t help smiling.


It feels warm in a way that he’s not entirely comfortable with. Watching Jin speak to his friends. Well. He laughs so comfortably, and he tells terrible jokes like someone’s sixty five year old father would at Sunday dinner. The sun through the window glints off his cheekbones in such a way that it might blind Yoongi, and his sweater is so soft he just wants to reach out and touch it. He might live a thousand days like this and want for more, more hours of Jin in his living room bantering with his people. Yoongi stands abruptly, the butterflies in his gut sending a sharp stab of panic through his veins.


“Does anyone need more tea?” He asks, but then he walks to the kitchen without even waiting for an answer. The kettle boils slow, and the steam feels cleansing on his face. He could use more tea. Maybe he’ll need more than one cup. Three cups. Eight. He’ll just boil a gallon of water, that’ll take up some time.


“Yoongi?” Jin asks hesitantly from the doorway. Taehyung and Jungkook are laughing hard enough that their noise covers the sound of his socked feet crossing the kitchen to stand next to Yoongi at the stovetop. “Are you alright? You seem flushed- you left in a hurry.” Jin sets down the empty teacups he brought with him on the counter.


“I’m fine,” Yoongi avoids his eyes. “Just thirsty.” Yeah, he thinks to himself. Thirsty for this human man who grows flowers on your stones uninvited and shows up at your door every day and brings you rice and tea cakes. Hopeless fool, wanting for a man that gives you his company out of pity.


“Okay,” Jin says, his voice so soft Yoongi could die. His throat hurts, standing here, inches away from him and drowning in the realization that he actually wants someone to stay. Someone. Not anyone, just- Jin. It feels like surfacing the water after years of lying dormant underneath it. Breathing sharp winter air and floating next to the ice on the lake surface and realizing he hadn’t been keeping himself lonely since his aunt left- he’d just been waiting for someone that fit into his little white house like Jin does. Jin turns to go back to the others, and before Yoongi can stop himself, he grasps Jin’s hand.


“Wait-“ he stutters over his own unexpected bravery for a moment. “Thank you. For the rice, I mean.” Jin’s smile feels like a balloon expanding in his chest.


“Of course,” he says, squeezing Yoongi’s hand and raising it to his cheek. He presses Yoongi’s knuckles to his face for a brief moment, and then kisses them, so lightly Yoongi can hardly believe it happened. “I like to bring you things that make you smile.”


And then he is gone, turning away and setting Yoongi free, adrift on his own sea, as Jin returns to the front room to keep talking to Yoongi’s meddling friends. The kettle boils next to him, shrieking steam as he pours the tea into the pot and sets a timer to let it steep.


I like-
I like-
I like to make you smile-
I like you-


Somewhere in the woods, the river is laughing at him. He brings the teacups back, full again, and sits beside Jungkook so that Taehyung and Jimin can’t see his face.


It hasn’t been this pink since his older brother stained him with their mother’s beet juice dye for her yarn.


I like you, Min Yoongi.


—-


Jin comes home too late for dinner, and his grandmother is waiting to scold him at the door, but she looks at the smile on his face and lets him go, just this once.


“Your friends are good for you, little mischief maker,” she tells him, kissing his forehead as she heads off to her bedroom for the night. “Be young, for once, like you deserve to be.”


He feels young, tonight, getting ready for bed with the memory of Yoongi’s shocked face and pink cheeks imprinted on the back of his eyelids. Like a middle schooler with a crush.


God, Yoongi is so beautiful- moon face and sweet mouth, dark eyes and smooth jaw. He has the loveliest eyelashes, and Jin wants to brush his hair back from his eyes all the time. He was so comfortable in his living room today, with his friends that seem Jin’s age but must be years older. They’re of the forest in different ways than Yoongi is, but they still seem full of life, like humans, like Jin’s friends at work, or his old classmates. And they teased him so effortlessly, he felt like he’d known them for years. Tae must be a fae, for his eyes glowed golden in the light and his hair was silver gray. And Jimin said he was of the trees, but his hair is light pink like the blossoms of the cherry trees in springtime. Maybe a Druid, a person of the trees but not from the blood of trees. Jungkook, he knew. A familiar, strong enough to protect Jimin.
All these people, these creatures Jin’s grandmother used to tell him about but pray he’d never meet. He doesn’t know why she was so worried, to be honest.
When he lies down for sleep, the stars are kind and twinkling through the gap in his bedroom shade. He wonders if Yoongi will get enough sleep tonight- today, his eyes looked tired. He wonders if Yoongi would ever let him stay the night.


He wonders if one day he might- perhaps. Well. Yoongi didn’t swat him for kissing his knuckles, or joking about him.
Jin wonders if Yoongi would ever let him kiss him for real.


As if he could be brave enough to do it.
He falls asleep with a smile on his face, and the stars can see it through the shades like a crack of sun on the horizon, and they whisper that to Yoongi while he sleeps.


He dreams of you, little witch boy.


You dream of him too.


—-


Sometimes, now, Jin runs into Yoongi’s friends out in the woods. They greet him so casually, and with friendly hugs. It’s nice. A few weeks after he’d met Tae and Jimin and Jungkook, the youngest one appears at his side on his walk to Yoongi’s house on a cloudy Saturday morning.


“The sun isn’t out,” Jungkook says, somewhat stiffly, offering his arm to Jin as though he’s trying to escort a Victorian lady. “I’m going the same way as you, let me walk along?”


“Maybe I’m not going to Yoongi’s,” Jin says, grinning at the familiar’s flustered look, but he takes his arm and keeps walking at his leisurely pace. “Oh, you’re fine, I’m just joking, Jungkookie. What brings you out into the forest today?”


“The trees,” Jungkook clears his throat awkwardly. “They, ah. Told me you were coming, and. It’s not quite safe for things like you when the sun can’t see you.”


“Things like me,” Jin laughs. “As though I’m the odd one, here. But I’m glad for your company.” He pats Jungkook’s arm, and the man relaxes minutely. “Yoongi never walks with me, and sometimes it gets too silent out here.”


“He never walks with you?” Jungkook asks, his brow raised up far enough to disappear into his dark hair. “When you walk all this way for him all the time?”


“I don’t mind,” Jin shrugs. “I don’t come to see him because I expect anything. I just like- seeing him. You know. His company.” He coughs. “He feeds me, sometimes.”


“I get the feeling you feed him more than he feeds you,” Jungkook laughs. “But really- even if it rains, he just lets you go?”


“It hasn’t rained on a day I’ve been to see him,” Jin stops for a moment and reaches down to grab a single clover from beside the path, and tucks it behind his own ear. He smiles up at Jungkook, and suddenly the man can understand why Yoongi is so smitten. Jin has a captivating smile, and though Jungkook is nearly the same height as him, Jin’s shoulders are broader and his waist smaller. He looks abruptly more portable- like Jungkook could pick him up and meet his own fingertips around Jin’s waist. And Yoongi doesn’t bother to keep him protected in the forest? Jungkook understands why Jimin sent him for more information today. The trees were right about Jin being left unprotected, and so was Jungkook’s husband.


“The forecast doesn’t look good for today,” Jungkook grabs his own clover, matching Jin. “It might rain heavily later.”


“Well, we’ll see. Crossing bridges as we come to them, you know? Besides,” Jin adds as they enter the clearing where Yoongi’s house sits. “I brought my own umbrella in my backpack.”


Jungkook leaves Jin at the porch, and waits in the trees until he sees Yoongi open the door. He swears Yoongi can see him- and. Well. He must be able to, because he flips the tree line off briefly as he turns to close the door behind Jin. Jungkook pulls out his phone and opens up the group chat between him and his husbands.


“You were right, he doesn’t walk Jin anywhere, but perhaps in the rain. Jin said it hasn’t rained since he met Yoongi.”


It barely takes a minute for Taehyung to respond.


“Then perhaps it will rain today.”


Jimin follows quickly after.


“It can be arranged.”


Sometimes Jungkook feels bad for all the meddling his husbands do, especially when it comes to people like Yoongi or Hobi or Namjoon. He just hopes it works better than Jimin’s current plot to get Hobi and Namjoon together. It’s been literally years, and they’re still dragging their claws in the dirt.


But Jungkook has hope. Yoongi is changing, ever so slightly, in the face of Jin’s unstoppable presence. He has hope that the trees chose the right human.


—-


Yoongi can tell the clouds are gathering water above them as the day grows slowly darker around his house. Jin isn’t paying much attention- he’s finally persuaded Yoongi to let him cook at his house, and he’s busy being a perfectionist over some fried chicken for their lunch. It’s going to rain- he feels the crackle on his fingertips when he touches the door, and his stones are fairly vibrating in the cabinets. With a piece of old chalk, he draws a sigil on the porch, and then traces it in lemon oil. Hopefully, that’ll repel any water from soaking his entire shoe rack out by the door.


When he comes back in, Jin has served them lunch, and pulled out another book from Yoongi’s book case. He likes to go through Yoongi’s books, even though he can’t read hardly any of them. The languages are not for his eyes, usually. But he frequently asks Yoongi to read to him from the tomes, and Yoongi agrees despite the fact that he’d never read aloud for anyone else.


“I just like your voice,” Jin told him, weeks ago when he first asked for a reading. “It’s so soft and full, like the way still water over the deep ocean looks.”


Yoongi had immediately agreed to read that first time, and he hasn’t stopped.
“I want something from this one,” Jin says as Yoongi sits down at the table. He laughs before he can help it, and Jin narrows his eyes. “What is it? Did I pick a weird one?”


“No,” Yoongi grabs a piece of chicken with his chopsticks. “It’s just- this isn’t like the other books, really. It’s an old collection of fairytales my aunt left behind when she went back to the village. She used to read them to me.”


“Well, I’ve always liked fairytales,” Jin says, resting his chin in his palm and looking at Yoongi with those warm, calm-water eyes. You are a fairytale, Yoongi wants to reply. He sighs, flipping it open to a random page.


“I’ll read you one, then.” Yoongi pages forward until he gets to the beginning of the next tale. “Alright. Well-“


In the beginning of the woods, there was a silent boy who lived in a silent cottage. He did not speak to the trees, or the river, or the birds, or the fish, but they loved him anyway, and they cared for him like family. He lived in the silent cottage for years- tending a garden that never grew flowers, and patiently tilling the soil. He watered it morning, and sang to it night, in a voice like the wind, without any sound. The woods loved him like a son, and they named him Moon.


“We love you, Moon, ” the trees told him, and he pressed his hands to their bark in thanks.


“We love you, Moon,” the water murmured, and he swam in her arms like a child returning to his mother.


“We love you, Moon,” the birds sang, and he blew kisses to them as they flew above his head while he walked through the forest.


“We love you, Moon, ” the fish bubbled up from the deeps, and he dove down to wave hello at them every day.


He lived with his silent cottage and his barren garden for years, happily spending his time and eating the foods the forest gave him. But he was lonely, and the trees knew it. So they spoke to the river, who spoke to the fish, who spoke to the birds, and they agreed- they had to find someone to keep the boy company.


They had to find someone to love him as much as they did.


So the birds flew off in search of someone, and the fish swam upstream, and the river called the raindrops to look, and the trees asked the wind to tell them all the secrets of the land.


One day, after another season had passed where the boy’s garden was as silent as he was, the birds cane flying home and the fish came swimming back and the winds whispered furiously and the rain shouted down to the river.


“We see him! We see him! A boy who could love our son!”


At the edge of the woods, there was a prince- a boy to the trees, but a man like their Moon who lived alone in their company for so long he had grown up while they weren’t looking. The prince was tall, with broad shoulders and a handsome face, and his heart was right on his sleeve- kind and warm and loving. He walked along the edge of the forest, and the trees whispered among themselves to make him a path.


Come closer, come closer, they said, and he heard them. He walked into the forest, and the trees made him a path. He pressed kisses to their bark with his hands as he went. When he came to the river, the fish built him a bridge from pebbles on the riverbed, and as he walked across he pulled bread from his pockets to thank them. The birds sang him further into the forest, and he waved to them with a gentle smile on his face.
Soon, the prince came to the clearing where Moon lived, and saw his empty garden and his silent little cottage.
Knock on the door, knock on the door, the wind whispered in his ears, and so he did.


“Hello,” he said, quite friendly, when Moon opened the door. “My name is Sun. The forest brought me here, and I was wondering if I might rest on your porch for a minute before I find my way back home.” Moon stared at him for a moment, struck by the beauty of his face, before he cleared his throat and- for the first time since the woods had known him, he spoke.


“Come in,” he said, reaching a hand out to the prince. “You may rest in my home until you go.”


His voice! The trees shook, and the birds cried out. Our son- he has a voice! A beautiful voice!


The prince followed their boy into the cottage, and Moon brought him to the back of his house to sit by the empty garden and drink a glass of water while he rested.


“You don’t grow anything?” Sun asked him, and Moon shook his head.


“I till the land,” he said quietly. “I sow the seeds, and I water them with care. But the land does not give me anything, and so I keep pouring love into it, hoping one day it will give me something back.”


“Perhaps there is a curse,” the prince said, turning to look at the empty soil.


“I don’t think so,” Moon replied. “I think I just don’t know how to love the seeds enough to sprout them.” At that, the prince grew sad, and he looked down at the ground.


“Well, you have no one to help,” Sun said, reaching his hand to grasp Moon’s. “Perhaps tomorrow I will come back, and I can help you. Maybe two of us will be enough to make the ground give back.”


“I do not need your help,” said Moon, but Sun didn’t heed him. He stood, setting his water glass down.


“I will come back tomorrow when the daylight breaks, and together, we will grow your garden.”


“It won’t work,” Moon protested. Sun did not listen.


So the prince went home, and the next day he arrived with an arm full of seeds, and a bag with lunch for both of them.


“We will plant these,” he told Moon, carefully opening the packages and pouring seeds into his cupped hand. “And we will love them until they grow.”


They did not grow the first day, nor the second, nor the seventh. But Sun kept returning, and he kept watering the garden with Moon, and all the while he would spend more time with the other man, making him laugh and smile. Soon, the cottage was not so silent, and the forest was beside itself with joy.


One day, months later, Sun came to see Moon, and he couldn’t find him in the house. Out back, he was sitting on the ground, looking at something between his careful hands in the soil of the garden.


“It grew,” Moon said, with wonder in his eyes. “My garden grew a sprout.” All around him, there were little green leaves, shooting up through the soil. He stood carefully and grasped Sun’s cheeks, and kissed him with joy in his heart. “You showed me how to love them enough to let them grow.”


“Moon,” the prince said gently, holding him close with soft arms. “I loved you enough to show you the path to love yourself, and so the flowers knew you were ready for them to grow.”


“You are a fool,” Moon said, but he kissed him again anyway, and the forest sang loud around them as they sat on the back porch and watched the garden grow up into the light.


“Are you crying?” Yoongi asks, as he looks up from the end of the story and sees Jin wiping suspicious wetness from the corner of his eyes. “Jin, it’s only a children’s tale.”


“But it’s so beautiful,” Jin’s voice is shaky, and he laughs a watery laugh as he brushes the last tear off his cheek. “All of my grandmother’s fairy tales were scary things about staying away from the forest.” He gets up to grab another piece of chicken, and through the window behind him, Yoongi can see the wind blowing the trees every which way. The storm is coming-


Thunder rumbles in the distance, and Jin jumps slightly.


“I didn’t know it would rain so soon,” he says. “Maybe I should head home before it starts.” Yoongi thinks. He thinks about the story and about how Jin made him lunch, and of the things Hobi and Jimin say to him about taking chances.


“You can stay-“ and right on cue, the raindrops start to hit his windows. “Wait out the storm here. It’s not safe to walk home now.” Jin hesitates for a moment, before nodding.


“I need to call my grandmother, then,” he grabs his phone from his pocket. “Give me a moment.”


Jin walks to the front room, dialing his grandmother, and Yoongi sits back in his chair. It’s fine. Nothing at all. The storm will pass, like this afternoon will pass, and Jin will go home as he always does.
So why does he feel so nervous? Like this is something new? True, Jin has never had to stay at his house before. What if the storm doesn’t pass? Yoongi only has one bed. He’ll have to take the couch, or something. He’ll have to make dinner. He’ll have to- see Jin, in his pajamas. By his fireplace. In his home.


He feels nervous, because seeing Jin like that might confirm Yoongi’s fears.
That Jin looks like he belongs here, in a place where no one but Yoongi has ever belonged.


Jin walks back into the kitchen, putting his phone back in his pocket. “Is something wrong, Yoongi?” He asks, so soft, his hand resting on Yoongi’s shoulder.


“No,” Yoongi lies, getting up to clear their plates and bowls. “Just wondering what I’m going to feed you and your hollow leg for dinner.”


Jin laughs, and for a moment Yoongi wants to kiss him so bad it feels like his bones are melting and his skin is burning and his fingertips might catch fire because even Yoongi’s magic is straining towards the other man.


He is so incredibly fucked.

Chapter Text

The rain is an ocean beating upon Yoongi’s door- and inside, the unfortunately mesmerizing presence of Jin is an avalanche knocking on his cold rib cage, requesting access to his heart. He’s sitting with Jin by the fireplace, paging through his book on herbs. He can hardly focus, but. There has to be a reason for the nettle choking the underbrush of the forest, and he’s determined to find it, because after the rain it will surely grow insufferably faster. There have been… suggestions, from the others. But Yoongi doesn’t want to admit they may be right. Namjoon had come by the other day to ask him about it, too.

“Are you certain it’s not because of you?” He’d asked, sprawled out on Yoongi’s rug, long clumsy limbs thrown everywhere. “I don’t know, Yoongi, it doesn’t seem like regular nettle. I fell the other day through it, from a tree, and it didn’t even scratch me.”

“Why were you in a tree?” Yoongi asked, before shaking his head. “I don’t want to know. Never mind. Anyway. I don’t know why it’s here, but I’m going to find out.”

“Nettle under the pillow brings sweet dreams. It repels old curses and new, and it brings safe passage to your loved ones.” Namjoon had stood up, and pressed his wolf-warm palm to Yoongi’s forehead briefly. “There’s only one dream walker in this forest, Yoongi-ah, and only one witch. Perhaps you need to think about who the nettle grows for, since we already know the why.”

“Tch,” Yoongi knocked his hand away, but he still stood and let Namjoon hug him on his way out the door. “Go home, clumsy wolf. Ask your garden why it’s growing outside its walls. And tell Hoseok hi for me.” Namjoon just rolls his eyes at Yoongi as he hops down the steps of the porch. He’s forever hoping the two of them might acknowledge how deeply and catastrophically in love they are, but old habits die hard, and their old habit is a mix of repression and denial.

But maybe Namjoon was right- Hoseok had suggested it too. And then Taehyung, in his own particularly disrespectful way, and Jimin. The nettles said they grew for him, though Yoongi hadn’t told Namjoon that. The trees had no answers, nor the river, nor the stones. And there were poppies growing at his foundation now, even though long ago Yoongi had cursed it to remain barren so he wouldn’t have to rip any plants out from the stone. Something was changing.

Yoongi didn’t like change.

When he looks up from his book, Jin is gone. For a moment, he panics. Acacia in the fire for better reach, vetiver and star anise- but. He hears a clang in the kitchen, and. That’s probably where Jin is, truthfully. This nettle thing is making him jumpy. Or maybe it was having a human around, someone much more squishy and breakable than any of his friends. Hell, even with as clumsy as Namjoon is, at least he had healing abilities. Jin is just a glass figure, shining on the mantle, waiting to be knocked off by a particularly contrary cat. He can’t smell anything burning, as he probably would if Hoseok was trying to cook again, but he goes to check on Jin anyway. Just to make sure he’s not ruining the kitchen, of course.

He really was getting bad at lying to himself.

“Where,” He asks, as he enters the kitchen to find Jin cooking far more food than Yoongi thought he had, “did you find all of this?” There are sweet potatoes in the oven, and it looks like Jin has noodles going on the stove, and Yoongi wasn’t aware that he owned any tongs like the pair Jin was holding.

“I just looked in the cupboards, it was all there,” Jin says cheerfully, holding up a piece of carrot for Yoongi to taste. He gingerly takes it with thumb and forefinger, turning around to glare at his cabinetry. He doesn’t own tongs. He doesn’t own the pan Jin is cooking in either. He never bought sweet potatoes.

You are being unhelpful,” he hisses at the cupboard, but it just rattles a little and then goes still in triumphant, insolent silence. Jin doesn’t appear to notice that Yoongi’s kitchen is literally conjuring vegetables and cooking utensils for him. He’s oblivious, measuring out sesame seed oil (which Yoongi also did not buy) for the noodles. The fridge hums slightly louder. When Yoongi opens it, it’s full of vegetables and and fresh meats. “ Where did you get all of this?” He isn’t going to get an answer, but honest to god the kitchen hasn’t done this since he moved in. He doesn’t recall it ever doing this for his aunt either.

“Do you need anything else?” He asks Jin.

“Yeah, some vinegar, please,” Jin says. Yoongi flings open the cabinet before Jin even finishes the sentence, but. There it is. Vinegar that Yoongi has never seen before in his godforsaken life.

What in the hell?” He mutters.

“Is everything okay?” Jin asks him from the stove.

“Fine! Just fine! Here’s the vinegar!” Yoongi says, half crazed, practically flinging it at the other man. “I just remembered, I need to call Hoseok for something. I’ll be right back.” He doesn’t wait for Jin to reply, just leaves the room and shuts himself in his bedroom, in his closet.

“Hello?” Hoseok says sleepily from the other end of the line. “Yoongi, it’s Saturday, I was going to sleep in.”

“Yes, well,” he says, looking at the closet door suspiciously, like Jin will bust in and catch Yoongi talking about him. “My house is spontaneously generating food so that Jin can cook me dinner and I don’t know what to do, Hobi.”

“Oh, Jin’s staying for dinner , is he,” Hoseok says, suddenly much more awake now that he has something to tease Yoongi about. “How interesting.”

“Jung Hoseok, you absolute pain in the ass,” Yoongi growls over the line, “my house conjured rice vinegar without my permission and that is a problem.”

“It sounds to me like it just likes Jin more than you,” Hoseok sniffs. “I see why it would.”

“Please,” Yoongi nearly begs, “what am I supposed to do? Next thing I know, he’s going to ask it for something it can’t conjure and it will spontaneously teleport both of us to a grocery store.”

“Well, stop him, then,” Hoseok says. “With your dick in his mouth, or something.”

Hoseok ,” Yoongi starts, his tone dangerous and low, but the line clicks and the dial tone hums before he has a chance to continue. That jackass. What is he supposed to think? His house is rebelling against him, the forest is rebelling against him, his heart is rebelling against him.  He’s beginning to think this rainstorm is some kind of divine retribution for all the years he’s spent isolating himself from everyone but the very few persistent supernaturals who have managed to get into his house.

I am going to come kill you with a single silver bullet after I burn this house to the ground, he texts Hoseok from his place on the floor of the closet.

I’m sure your tune will change in the morning , Hobi sends back, with a little winking face. After Jin * relaxes* you, and you grow a set of balls and ask him to be yours.

Just like Namjoonie is going to relax you, huh? Oh wait, except you literally spend hours a week with him, alone, in the woods, and after ten years you still haven’t sucked his dick. So which one of us has a problem with missing balls? Yoongi replies vengefully, shoving his phone back in his sweatshirt and flinging the closet open.

When he comes back out to the kitchen, Jin is plating up dinner. There are two bowls of noodles, and two little plates of vegetables, and somewhere, Jin had found wine. Yoongi doesn’t even bother to wonder. Probably in his coat closet. Maybe it just appeared out of thin air on his kitchen counter, or his coffee table.

“Thank you for making dinner,” he says, rather faintly, and Jin just beams like a fucking ray of sunshine. Maybe Hoseok is correct, just like Namjoon is correct, and Jin has been cosmically sent to make Yoongi less of a grumpy asshole. “It looks delicious.”

“You’re welcome,” Jin sits down next to him, nudging him with his knee. “You don’t eat enough, most of this stuff was almost expired!” Great, so the house was also making him look bad. Like he’d just been waiting for something to come be his housewife. Not that he would mind Jin being his housewife- or whatever. Househusband. Friend. Friend who comes and cooks for him. Whatever. The food is, unfortunately, completely delicious. He’s dying a little bit inside, because Jin keeps making these little noises while he eats, and his hair is kind of falling over his eyes because of the rain. Jin keeps pushing it back from his line of vision, and then his eyes just sort of sparkle in the light over Yoongi’s kitchen table. Yoongi doesn’t eat dinner with other people, unless one of his few friends barges in on him with takeout they nabbed from town, or something. Sometimes Jungkook comes by and Yoongi will feed him tteokbokki, because Jungkook likes spice. Or maybe Namjoon will bring him pizza, and they’ll spend the night fucking around on Yoongi’s piano.

But not like this. Jin’s voice is so sweet, echoing in his dimly lit kitchen, and he eats food like he will literally never stop being hungry. It shouldn’t be endearing- it is, though. Really endearing. Yoongi wants to feed him anything that will make him smile like that at the table and make such cute, pleased noises. Christ, he’s going to be soft as a hand-knit afghan by the end of this rainstorm.

“Do you want some tea, after dinner?” Jin asks him, and he startles out of his probably obsessive reverie.

“That would be- nice,” Yoongi says, grabbing his plate and taking it to the sink. He’s not done, but he is. He is done, he can’t watch Jin eat any more or he’s going to sit in his lap and kiss him until he makes a few new, different pleased noises. “I’ll go check on the fire, I think.”

The flames are just as he left them, sparking cheerfully, so at least the charm he keeps on the chimney is holding up and no rain is getting in. When he peeks through the window, the downpour only appears to get harder. Sighing, he throws a handful of marigold into the fire and curls back up on the couch with his book. Perhaps the marigold will bring some stability to this rebellious little house.

---

Jin isn’t entirely sure what’s going on. He doesn’t think Yoongi had a bunch of new groceries today. In fact, he’d checked the cupboards earlier and found nothing, so when Yoongi had flung one open to find the very vinegar Jin was thinking of, he was entirely sure that something was up. He knows that Yoongi is magic- so it follows that his house must be, too. But Yoongi had seemed startled by it, like this didn’t happen very often, and all through dinner he seemed distant. Perhaps he’s upset with Jin- maybe he’d messed with some charm Yoongi uses, and now he’d accidentally ordered a bunch of groceries he didn’t mean to, and Yoongi had to pay for all of them. Maybe the house had, like, the magical version of Amazon Prime.

Either way, he’s probably got to fix this, or Yoongi is never going to let him come back, and he’s going to have to sleep on the floor. He creeps out into the living room like he does when his grandmother goes to bed at seven pm, and he has to be very very quiet. Yoongi is curled up on the couch like he was earlier, but this time he’s covered himself in an adorable soft blanket. The fire seems oranger than it did earlier, and it’s red in some places. It smells sweet and sunny, the exact opposite of the rain that’s currently flooding the trees. He sits on the carpet next to Yoongi, ginger and careful, before leaning his head back onto the couch cushion.

In his grandmother’s house, he feels so at home, so comfortable. He’s lived with her for years, now. The forest outside was his home, and he’d visited his grandmother every summer before he even lived there full time. The river is his friend- the paths she’s brought him over the past few months have also brought him happiness like he hasn’t known before. It’s fulfilled him, in a way, to find other creatures of the forest that are like him. That long to trust the river, and the trees. That long for someone else who loves her like he does. It’s not that he doesn’t like his friends at work. It’s just that- they don’t understand why he likes to go out into the forest so much. They don’t like to come with his very often. Here, sitting next to Yoongi as the fire burns on, a singular sun in the room, it feels like another one springs up between them.

So slowly, ever so slowly, he leans his head towards Yoongi’s knee. There are oceans of tension between them, what with the house acting up, and the weather acting up, and whatever all of Yoongi’s friends kept coming by for. But also, maybe, Jin hopes, because of the way that Yoongi looks at him sometimes. He’s so much smaller than Jin realizes, because his presence fills up an entire room, so when Jin finally peels back the shell, it’s almost shocking the way his delicate legs can curl up underneath him. The soft moon of his cheeks, the pearl of his hair, turned golden in the firelight. His mouth becomes sweet when he’s not grimacing at Hoseok, or pretending not to smile at one of Jin’s terrible jokes. His eyes hooded, and his hands belong to the piano, long and careful, turning the pages of his book. He looks for answers, and Jin knows, somehow, that they won’t be in Yoongi’s book.

He’s felt something different in the forest too, but that same difference does not come from the parchment on those dusty tomes. It’s something Yoongi will have to figure out for himself, probably, if the forest truly works the way Jin’s grandmother had always told him it did.

With a soft bump, Jin rests his temple against Yoongi’s knee, and the plush blanket there. He could probably fall asleep like this- it would be better than the inevitable awkwardness of Jin trying to explain why he didn’t think he could share a bed with Yoongi.

Sorry, Yoongi, it’s just that- well. Uh, I’m probably going to get an embarrassing boner if we sleep in the same bed, and then I’ll have to confront the fact that I have an incredibly huge crush on you, and I’ll be in trouble because I know that we’re both kind of shy, and I’ll probably run, or you’ll reject me, and then this sanctuary, this little place we have out here in the trees will be gone from me.

He’s so caught up in his own worries that he doesn’t even realize Yoongi is reaching towards him until the other man’s fingers thread through his hair, gently brushing it away from his forehead. For a minute, he cannot breathe. It’s impossible. Jin swears he can feel every line, every ridge of Yoongi’s fingerprints, brushing so softly, running through his hair. And then, he can breathe again, and he just closes his eyes and melts further against the couch, the comfortable carpet, the soothing push and pull of Yoongi running his hands through his hair, petting him so carefully. The moment is fragile, like it could break if Jin said anything, if he moved away, if he tried to get up on the couch and kiss Yoongi. There are waves of rain against the house, and Jin is so sleepy, so warm, so safe. He dozes for a while underneath the care that Yoongi is silently, tacitly bestowing upon him.

When the clock is almost at eleven, Yoongi finally stirs, and the way the scrape of parchment pages turning abruptly ends wakes Jin out of his shallow sleep.

“You should sleep on the bed,” Yoongi murmurs, brushing Jin’s hair back one last time before he moves his leg and stands. He hesitates, then offers Jin his hand, and Jin uses it to pull himself up. For a brief moment, they are so close that Jin would barely have to tilt forward and down before he could finally grab Yoongi in his arms, but he doesn’t. He can’t drop the porcelain thing between them. He can’t ruin it.

It’s been months now, but Jin can’t work up the courage to do anything other than look at Yoongi when he’s not looking back, and think about him late at night in his bed at home, when the moon isn’t peeking through his curtains anymore. Yoongi watches him with quiet eyes, the faintest hint of pink on his cheekbones, until he steps away and starts walking back towards the bedroom.

“Okay,” Jin says belatedly, following after, and he doesn’t argue when Yoongi pulls an armful of extra blankets out of his linen closet on the way to his room. The whole room smells like Yoongi, too. Like pearl white tea, and a little sparkly, a kind of electricity on his tongue, in his nose. Yoongi arranges the blankets on the bed, fussing and pointedly not looking at Jin, until they’re ready to bundle him as much as he can possibly be bundled.

“Here,” he says, clearing his throat and gesturing at the bed, as though Jin couldn’t figure out where he’s supposed to be sleeping after watching Yoongi put on blanket after blanket for five minutes straight. “I wake up. Late. So. If you get hungry, just. Poke me, I guess.”

“Maybe I’ll use this as an excuse to sleep in,” Jin says. “Where are you going to sleep?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Yoongi says, brushing past him and out into the hallway. He pauses at the doorway for a bit, looking at the ground, and Jin wants to reach out. He wants to just- “Sleep well.”

And then he’s gone.

---

Out on the couch, curled up in his blanket and watching his fire, Yoongi wonders a little more about the nettle in the forest. It’s growing for him- for you, for you, brother , it told him. But he doesn’t need it. He’s never needed it less. Yoongi hasn’t been someone who wanted for protection since he was a small child, and his magic first manifested, when he’d turned his mother’s loaf of bread green just by thinking about it, and she had sighed fondly and picked up the phone to call his aunt.

“We have another one,” she’d said, glancing at him where he sat poking her green bread with a single curious finger.

Back then, he’d been out of control- dangerous to himself, perhaps, and maybe to others. But that had quickly changed, and since then, though he’s had several close calls with the various sharp toothed things of the forest, Yoongi has never needed a- a magical bodyguard of sorts. So it cannot be growing for him. Or at least, not him directly. Last time Taehyung had come to visit him, they sat on the front porch drinking peach soju together and watching the fireflies out over his lawn. After a while, he’d laid a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder, and he’d leant in, more serious than ever.

“Yoongi-ah,” he said, “I am older than this forest, even though I know I don’t act like it. I was here before green was, and I saw the river come from her spring. I know you don’t like what I’ve told you before about the nettles, but maybe you should think about the fact that there is more than one way to protect someone.”

“What do you mean?” Yoongi asked, tired and tipsy, leaning his head back against the porch swing. Taehyung wasn’t opposed to being serious with him- he was rarely more serious than he was with Yoongi. But he didn’t like to remind them all that he was by far the oldest one here, even though for his kind he was still barely an adult. Perhaps it was time Yoongi took his advice seriously.

“I don’t need protection,” Taehyung murmured, sipping the dregs of his drink and setting the empty cup on Yoongi’s windowsill. “But the forest protects Jungkook, and Jungkook protects Jimin, you see? So, by extension, the forest is protecting me.”

“You’re insinuating that Jin is to me as Jimin and Jungkook are to you,” Yoongi turned to look at him, eyebrows raised up into his bangs.

“I’m not,” Taehyung replied, rubbing a gentle thumb across Yoongi’s cheek. “But the forest is.”

Maybe Taehyung was right.

He couldn’t have let Jin go out into the trees like that- when it was pouring, earlier. The rain seems to be settling, now that Jin is asleep in his bed. He couldn’t have let the other man go out into the dark and the wet, where Yoongi knows sharp and hungry things go hunting, looking for waterlogged rabbits to snatch up and lost humans to drain. Back when he’d first come visiting, maybe. Maybe Yoongi would have sent Jin home back then, and barely worried at all for his safety. But not now, and not since- probably, the third time Jin had come to see him. Like a snake through grass, Jin had snuck through Yoongi’s defenses, and by the time he tried to put them up at full force, Jin was already behind the furthest walls.

So if Taehyung was correct, and Namjoon- and Hoseok, and Jimin, and Jungkook too, then that begged the question: What were the nettles protecting Jin from?

That question haunted Yoongi even more deeply than the idea that the nettles could be growing for him- because he knew, he knew damn well what grew in the dirt of the woods. He knew what lurked, and he knew what thirsted, and he knew what hungered. Most of those things, Jin avoided by coming here and going home only when it was light out. But some of those things, the more powerful ones, were not deterred by the sunshine. Yoongi had only come face to face with them a few times- he had barely made it out unscathed. The idea that they were- watching, maybe. Stalking, probably, while Jin walked, unaware, from his house and back, made Yoongi’s bones cold, and his heart race. He fumbled for his phone in his pocket, before grabbing the pillow from the other end of the couch, and finding himself a comfortable spot to sleep.

Come for breakfast , he wrote, and sent it out to all five recipients. He never invited all of them at once- they just had a habit of coming together, whether he asked them to or not. So they would know that this was serious, and that he needed something from them. And he did.

Yoongi wasn’t going to let Jin go home until this was solved.

---

In the morning, Jin wakes, and for a second it’s hard to remember where he is. This is not his room, all the yellows and blues his grandmother picked out for him. His clothes, his pine scented candles, his overflowing laundry basket. The ceiling above him is a pale eggshell white, that kind of off-white color that his grandmother’s friends would tsk over while they watch their shows about wedding dresses. Flattering for brides with difficult color palettes. He lays there for a few minutes, just letting that useless fact spin around in his brain before he tries to get up. The house is so quiet he feels like he has to creep through it. Yoongi is nowhere to be found, so he checks the bathroom, the kitchen, the front room. As he gets closer to the front door, he can hear the faint sounds of conversation, but it sounds like it’s more than just Yoongi talking to his plants (which he does sometimes, though he probably thinks Jin doesn’t notice.)

Jin opens the door slowly, and all six of the men on the front porch jump and look absolutely guilty, like a group of cats with their paws in the cookie jar.

“Good morning, Jin-ahhhh,” Taehyung sings, the first of them to recover. “We came to, ah, have brunch with you! Yoongi told us you were here!”

“I did not ,” Yoongi says huffily, and Hoseok laughs against his shoulder.

“He did, and he wanted us all to come eat breakfast with us, and he said-”

“You will shut your mouth , Hoseok,” Yoongi hisses. Jimin waves cheerfully at Jin from where he’s sprawled across Jungkook and Taehyung’s laps, looking like a tiny pampered dog.

“Really we just all barged in, and Yoongi made us go outside so that we wouldn’t wake you,” he says, struggling to his feet from his comfortable position. “We brought food, though, and he made us wait for you, so we should go inside and eat!” He grabs Jin’s arm in his and pulls him inside, surprisingly strong and solid for one so small.  The rest of them follow behind, and whisper behind him as Jimin leads him to the table. It’s covered in food, more food than Jin has ever seen in Yoongi’s house. There are pastries, and fruits, and sausages, and what appears to be seven different types of cheese. He reaches for a muffin, before Yoongi slaps it out of his hand, coming out of nowhere, and glares at Taehyung.

“You didn’t bring this from the mound, did you?” he asks, and Taehyung frowns at him, looking offended.

“I wouldn’t do that to you, Yoongi,” he says, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes. “I know better than to try and feed fae breakfast to your human man.”

“Sometimes you forget- you’re never around humans, anymore,” but Yoongi picks up the muffin and hands it back to Jin, and pats Taehyung on the shoulder as he passes him, an apology.

“I was around humans this morning,” Jimin says proudly. “Jungkookie brought me with him to the bakery in town. I don’t think they even noticed- I fixed the plants in their front window.”

“That’s great,” Jin says, patting Jimin on the head, but he can’t shake the feeling that something else is going on here. Every time Jimin tries to distract him, the others are whispering, shooting looks at each other. They had all looked so furtive when he caught them on the porch; and what had he caught them doing, really? There’s something wrong. He eats his breakfast, and thanks Jungkook for going in to town to get food for everyone, and all the while Yoongi won’t even look his way. Namjoon is mooning over Hoseok, and Hoseok is whispering to Taehyung, and Taehyung is passing little notes from his sleeves to Jimin, and Jimin is patting them into Jungkook’s hands, and no one seems to think he’ll notice a thing. It takes barely an hour for him to break.

“All right,” Jin finally says, setting his glass of juice down with a definitive thump. “What’s really going on, here? I know you didn’t all come to have breakfast with me. So what is it, really? Am I getting kicked out of the club here because I’m causing the forest to grow all that nettle?”

“Why on earth,” Hoseok says, but Namjoon, looking uncharacteristically serious, puts a hand on his arm and shushes him.

“Perhaps we could do this the easy way,” he says, looking Yoongi straight in the eyes, and the smaller one bristles like a hedgehog that’s been poked with a stick.

“Oh, like you do things the easy way, Namjoon,” he mutters, shoving his chair back and standing with his place, clanking it into the sink with petulant little hands. “You sure do things the easy way, pining over a vampire for a decade and never saying anything-”

“Jesus Christ,” Namjoon sighs. “You’re so dramatic, Yoongi. You have to throw me out into the fire just because I think you’re making this harder than it has to be?”

“What’s this about a vampire?” Hoseok butts in, eyes sparkling, but Jungkook stands up and shushes them all at once.

“You’re not doing anyone any favors by keeping secrets about their wellbeing,” he says, with the tired voice of someone whose older lovers have probably done that to him a thousand times. “Jin, Yoongi called us here because last night, he figured out why the nettle has been growing, and it had nothing to do with him in the way we all thought it did.”

“There’s something out there following you from the river,” Taehyung chimes in. “I recognized its footprints when Yoongi showed me this morning.”

“And the nettle is growing because-” Jin starts, but Yoongi finishes his sentence.

“It’s growing along your path so that the bean fionn can’t get to you,” he says, refusing to look Jin’s way. “It wouldn’t have found you if I’d told you to go back and you’d listened, that first day. But it comes from the river, and it’s been waiting for you to come home some night when it can drag you into the water.”

Bean fionn are drowning fae,” Jimin explains. “Nasty souls of murdered fae who haunt a river or a lake, and wait to drag someone in so they can use their body for revenge. It probably noticed you when you crossed the bridge, because humans never do, and everything else here is too strong to be caught or too weak to be of use.”

“You should have gone home when I told you to,” Yoongi repeats, his arms crossed and his voice gone cold.

“But he didn’t , and it’s fine , because we like to have him here, and we’d like to keep him coming here instead of letting him drown in the river ,” Hoseok says pointedly, glaring in Yoongi’s direction. Namjoon looks like hearts are sprouting in his eyes at the way Hoseok takes charge, clearing up the plates and shoo-ing Yoongi out of his way. “So we’re going to fix this, and then Jin-ah will be safe coming to visit us, because he is going to continue to visit us, because we enjoy his company , Yoongi!

“I’m not saying I don’t , Hoseok,” Yoongi says, practically shouts, throwing his arms down. His eyes have gone a little gold with sparks of magic, and his fingers are shooting tiny tendrils. “But humans are fragile, and the woods have teeth! Am I so fucking wrong to not want anyone to die because of me? I’m not worth that !”

Everyone goes silent, and Jungkook actually drops the silverware he’s holding directly into the sink with a clatter. The edges of Yoongi’s eyes are wet and glistening and his face is slowly growing redder as the silence stretches on, until he shoves the chair in front of him aside, and marches off into the back of the house, the sound of his bedroom door shutting and locking like a gunshot in the stillness of the kitchen.

“I shouldn’t have pushed him,” Hoseok looks miserable, and Namjoon instinctively reaches out towards him, laying a clumsy hand at his elbow. “Now he won’t let us help him at all.”

“He’s being stubborn,” Namjoon says, low and reasonable. “As he always is. But he’ll see that you’re trying to help- that we’re all just trying to help, because we know that he’s happier with Jin around.” He looks directly at Jin, who’s standing, paralyzed, at his spot at the table. “We all are. It’s nice to have a reminder that the earth goes on around us, because we forget to be a part of it, when we live so long and so far from the human world.”

“Go talk to him,” Jimin says softly, curling into Taehyung, who also looks like he feels miserable about Yoongi’s outburst. “He’ll listen to you.” No one talks as Jin shoves his chair back in, scraping across the kitchen floor. His footsteps echo through the hallway.

“Yoongi?” he calls through the door, knocking three times, just the way he always does when he arrives at the little white house. No answer. He tries again, and a third time, and this time he tries the door. It’s locked. But the house had listened to him before, so maybe- “Can I please come in?” he whispers, and the door swings open in front of him like magic. Well. Actually magic. The inside of the room is so cold, so much colder than the rest of the house, and darker than when he woke up here, in the overly large bed covered in way too many blankets and pillows for one person. Yoongi is standing by the window, at the desk covered in jars of herbs and stones.

“I should have just given you a poppy and took you back to the bridge, then you wouldn’t have remembered how to get here.” he says, not turning to look at Jin. Jin closes the door behind him quietly, taking a tentative step forward.

“I would have crossed the bridge again,” Jin says, walking slowly towards the other man. “I’ve always wanted to cross the bridge, since I was small, Yoongi.” He stops within arms reach of Yoongi, but he can’t get his hand up, can’t get his courage up to reach across the gap and touch him. “I didn’t start crossing the bridge because of you- I kept crossing it, because I found out there was something worth coming back for.” Yoongi is silent, hunched over his work, for another long minute that stretches between them, before he finally turns.

“What do you see that I don’t, when I look in the mirror?” he looks pained, his jaw clenched and his brow furrowed so deeply Jin feels like it might be permanently wrinkled there. “What do any of you see? Why is this worth your life, Jin? These things kill people, and they would have killed you too, if we hadn’t noticed it first.”

“This is about more than just you,” Jin says, and Yoongi laughs, a little, sad and soft and low, like he can’t even hear what Jin’s saying. “You’re not the reason, and you’re not the solution, and you’re not the omnipotent witch you want to be, here in your little tower where no one can touch you, and no one can know anything you don’t. So you worried about me- and that’s supposed to scare me away? You called all of them here to throw a fit about something in the forest that you can’t control? I’m a grown man, and I know I’m not as old as any of you, but I make my own choices, and I chose to keep coming back because I wanted to know the witch in the white house who lived alone out here, in a forest full of monsters, and managed to keep from becoming one himself.” Yoongi just breathes, just breathes and looks at him with unfathomable eyes, and Jin- yeah, it’s true, he forgets sometimes that Yoongi isn’t something quite human, but he cannot forget it when between one breath and the next, Yoongi is right up in his personal space. He pulls on the back of Jin’s neck with one cold hand, until their foreheads touch, and he looks Jin in the eye with those golden sparks flitting through his pupils.

“We’ll go out there, and we’ll stop the bean fionn , because that’s what needs to happen next. But when we finish, you and I are going to talk, Kim Seokjin.” He says, harsh and gravelly, sending shivers right down Jin’s spine.

“How the fuck did you know my name?” Jin asks, gaping like a fish probably right in the face of the most attractive man he’s ever been touched by, because out of all of that, his brain can only process the fact that somehow Yoongi knows his name, and- oh. Talk. Him and Yoongi. Talking, when they get back? Oh .

“I know lot of things, Jin,” Yoongi smirks, but then he shrugs his shoulder and his grin softens, and he presses his forehead to Jin’s one last time before he moves them towards the door. “But also, your backpack has a name tag from your work. You should probably be more careful with things like that.”

The five waiting in the kitchen for them look like a pin dropping could scare them out of their skins when Yoongi comes back with Jin in tow, and Hoseok is the first to stand and sweep Yoongi up in his arms with a dramatic groan.

“I know you’re not trying to scare us all away forever, Yoongi-ah,” he says, kissing Yoongi’s forehead like he’s doing his best impression of Jin’s grandmother. Yoongi bears it for a few moments, before shoving Hoseok away and wiping his forehead off grumpily.

“I know,” Yoongi grumbles, sitting down at his seat at the table, and patting Jimin’s leg with one hand. “But this- matters. To me. So if you would still lend me your- help. I would. Appreciate it, and we can get this… problem. Out of the way.”

“Of course,” Hoseok beams, folding himself back into his chair next to Namjoon.

“You’re honestly quite stupid sometimes, Yoongi,” Taehyung says, but he reaches across the table to squeeze Yoongi’s hand anyway.

“So then what will our plan be?” Namjoon asks, always the one to try and focus them.

“I think,” Jin says, fiddling with the iron ring he keeps in his pocket, “we should set a trap.”

---

Yoongi and Jungkook protest quite fiercely against the idea of using Jin as bait, of course. Hoseok tries to explain to Jin why that’s a terrible idea, and Taehyung tries to elaborate on exactly how nasty the bean fionn can be, and Jimin worries his lip and bites his nails. But Namjoon hushes them all, eventually.

“Jin trusts us. And should he not?” Namjoon looks around at the rest of them.

“I wouldn’t,” Taehyung mutters, but he’s silenced by Namjoon’s quelling gaze.

“We’ll be right there. Hoseok is fast, and Tae is faster, and Jungkook could literally take another form to stay with Jin while Jin waits for the bean fionn if he wants.”

“I’m going to stay with Jin,” Jungkook says firmly, pressing his arm against Jin’s and scooting a minute amount closer.

“I truly can move faster than it can see,” Hoseok adds, and Tae nods in affirmation.

“I’m outvoted, I suppose,” Yoongi concedes, after watching them all watch him back expectantly. “So, then, what will we need?”

Jin thinks back to the lessons his grandmother gave him as a child, the first time he was old enough to go flower picking with her in the forest on a summer visit.

“You’ll carry the iron, and you’ll carry the salt,” she said, laying an iron chain around his neck with a small glass jar of salt and juniper berries hanging off it. “Don’t step in any mushroom circles, or speak to anything that asks your name. If something appears in the basket that you didn’t put there, set the whole thing down and run back to me- it’s not worth taking a gift from something you cannot see.”

The iron was easy, and the salt was pure. The juniper was strong, and a fire would be stronger. But for things of water, fire didn’t always work. There was a book that he’d pulled off the shelf in his grandfather’s study, when he moved in with his grandmother after getting his credential to teach at the preschool. The Exchange , it was called.

You could exchange one life for another.

You could exchange sugar and milk for the blood of a baby.

You could exchange an eye for an eye, and a love for a love, and a heart for the one who took your lover from you.

Allspice could heal, bay leaves gave visions, rosemary purified, and fennel could protect you on the midsummer solstice, when the fae were powerful and powerfully hungry.

And if you had the target of a fae on you- whether you had incurred their wrath, or simply been unlucky, like Jin, and stumbled into their sights when they were looking for something to take home with them, then. You put iron on your wrists and silver on your throat, and a stake of birch in your hand, and you hoped that you might be quicker than them.

“I have some of the things,” Jin says, rummaging through his pocket and pulling out his little bag of salt and juniper, and his iron ring. “But I’m going to need some silver, and some birch, if you can find it.”

“I can find it,” Jimin volunteers, perking up at the thought that he can help.

“And I have silver,” Hoseok adds, laughing when they all turn to look at him in surprise. “What, you thought those human stories were real? I look good in silver. I’m a cool tone.”

“And he likes garlic bread,” Namjoon says, an afterthought.

“Yeah, I’m sure he does ,” Taehyung leers at him, and Namjoon turns a ruddy red.

“What does that even mean ?” he asks, plaintive. “How is that even meant to insinuate anything, Tae?”

“Can we focus?” Jungkook asks. He looks antsy, squirming a bit in his seat. “I can feel it creeping around the edges of the woods, and I don’t like it one bit, now that I know what it is. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to lure it back to the river without it noticing Jin’s entourage.”

So Jin slides his ring on, and Yoongi pulls out a chest of iron that Jungkook had once left at his doorstep, the remnants of a simpler time, when all Taehyung had been worried about was making sure Yoongi wasn’t going to end up spirited away by another court. He tugs Jin down far enough to put the necklace over his head, the delicate iron chain cool against his skin. For a moment, his tongue tastes like blood, and Yoongi laughs softly.

“It’s enchanted,” he says, in explanation, as Jin’s vision blurs and then rights itself.

Hoseok comes back quicker than Jin thought possible, with a bag full of ostentatious silver jewelry. Some of it looks like it came out a museum, tarnished and probably centuries old. But some of it… He can’t help it- he picks out one really ridiculous one, a big silver chain with “HOPE” in cursive letters hanging from it.

“Where did you get all of these?” he asks, but Hoseok just shakes his head and points at Namjoon.

“Namjoonie comes back with a lot of strange things from visiting his cousins at human college.”

Jungkook stuffs Jin’s pockets with salt packets, leftover from takeout nights at Yoongi’s house, and Jin squirms as someone holds open the back of his shirt and pours what feels like sand down it.

“What the actual-” he spins around, and Jimin looks guilty, holding a can of Morton’s in one hand, with Tae’s hand up, pointing to him being the one holding Jin’s shirt.

“It’s salt,” Jimin says, and Taehyung nods, like pouring salt down Jin’s shirt is a reasonable idea.

“I think I’ll be okay,” he reassures them.

It’s Namjoon who goes to get the birch, coming back with a whole branch of a tree, to a lot of jokes about playing ‘fetch’ for Hoseok from the rest of them. Yoongi whittles it down to a sharp point with a magically sharpened blade of silver, and Taehyung carves a sigil into the bottom with his fingernail, magic sparking and black, burnt lines following his motions. They hand it to Hoseok after they’re finished with it.

“You’re the fastest one, and Taehyung can’t hold it now that he’s cursed it like that,” Yoongi says, pressing the piece of wood into Hoseok’s hands. Hoseok nods, solemn faced for once, and he reaches out to touch Jin’s jaw with a careful finger.

“I’ll be swift as the wind for you, Jin-ah,” he says.

So now all that’s left is for Jin to leave the house with Jungkook, the rest of them following behind.

When he steps out onto the porch, even he can feel the bad energy that’s blowing through Yoongi’s usually-still little clearing. It feels like the voice of a thousand dried up autumn leaves scraping across city pavement; when an alleyway is too dark and too deep and you know something is watching you, but every time you turn, it’s only emptiness. Like seeing the cliff before your feet, or swimming in the middle of a lake and realizing that you can’t see the bottom, nor any hungry thing that lives on it. Yoongi’s hand slips into his, briefly, and when he moves away, there is a small spring of dried yarrow left in his palm. He looks at the other man, but Yoongi is looking away, handing a small bag of something to Jimin, and talking with Namjoon in quiet tones.

Yarrow, yarrow, yarrow , for everlasting love.

“I’ll be right beside you,” Jungkook grabs his shoulder, and Jin’s attention is splintered away from the witch, the taller man looking at him with serious eyes. “I’m going to be something unassuming. Something really small, and easy.”

“Jungkookie makes a really cute bunny,” Taehyung coos, throwing his arms over Jungkook’s shoulders, and pressing a kiss to his neck, the tallest part of him that the smaller man can reach. Jungkook rolls his eyes, but his cheeks are a little pink.

“Yeah, sure,” he says, cracking his fingers and rolling his neck a little. “A bunny it is, for you, Tae.” Jin’s never seen the other man turn into something before, but it’s a little less… magical girl than he would expect. It’s a cloud of smoke, or something, and some sparks, and a smell like someone had condensed an entire Hollister store into one small puff of air, and then there’s an abnormally large, honestly quite pink shaded bunny on the porch, blinking up at him with what are unmistakably Jungkook’s eyes. He can’t help it, he laughs.

“I told you it was cute,” Taehyung says proudly, scooping his husband up and pressing a kiss between Jungkook’s long, droopy, velveteen soft ears. Jin agrees, reaching out to scritch behind Jungkook’s ears gently, and the bunny-kook leans into his touch with pleased eyes.

“Are we ready?” Namjoon asks, taking a step down the stairs of the porch. Jin takes a deep breath, and looks at this rather remarkable collection of beings that he’s found himself friends with, and nods.

“I will never be ready,” Yoongi announces melodramatically, but he too follows Namjoon off the porch, and the five of them stand there watching as Jin and Jungkook walk off into the forest, down the path to the river. The plan is that they’ll wait for a hundred yards, or just enough for Yoongi’s thinnest cloaking spell to give them the surprise factor they need for the ambush. It takes all Yoongi has not to follow Jin into the trees- he can feel the bean fionn stalking them. Glimpses of it, rotting moss and the sound of river stones falling into deep pools. An ugly, terrible thing that lurks, its spindly fingers waiting to wrap around the throat of an unsuspecting vessel for its long awaited vengeance. His throat feels tight, as Hoseok wraps his hand around Yoongi’s wrist, and Namjoon leans in on his other side.

“You trust me, don’t you, Yoongi-ah?” he murmurs, pressing his forehead to Yoongi’s temple, the softest way he used to when they were younger, and Yoongi would come visit his aunt as an apprentice. “He is important, and not just to you.”

“I have always trusted you,” Yoongi says, after a moment, when his throat doesn’t feel so much like he’d swallowed a rock. “Since the moment you greeted me with your real name, Jung Hoseok.”

“Then let us go, and we’ll rid him of the shadows so that we can all see you grow happy, together,” Taehyung says, from behind them, pushing them forward with gentle hands.

---

Jin can sense it stalking behind him, in the spaces between the trees, on the path where he has just stepped. Its breath smells like stagnant water where old things rot, and the ghost of its teeth feel like a cutting December wind off the sea. Jungkook is still hopping along beside him, as though nothing’s wrong. Jin resolves to think of him as the large man he usually is, because that will probably make him feel a little safer than imagining that he’s being protected by only one pale pink magical rabbit. He doesn’t look back, even though all of him is burning to catch just a glimpse of Yoongi, or Hoseok, or Namjoon, or even Jimin. He doesn’t look back, lest he turn to a pillar of salt, and lose everything that he’s been gaining these past months. The forest has become his home, and the strange things within it his friends, and he’s not going to let the spectre of something old and unruly take that.

You follow the path, and you follow the trees-

He can hear his grandmother’s voice.

You follow the path, and you follow the trees. You take what you brought, and you bring what you need. You don’t cross the river, and you don’t give your name. You don’t take their fruit, and you don’t earn their blame. You never look back, and you never turn ‘round. You come running home when the sun goes down.

He really hopes Hoseok is as fast as he says he is, because Jin would like to see his grandmother, and apologize for crossing the river and falling in love with a pearl-haired witch boy, and befriending a werewolf and a vampire and a fae and a familiar and a druid, and honestly? Jin has broken a lot of his grandmother’s common sense rules this year. But- it’s been worth it. It’s been worth it. It’s worth the dread crawling down his spine, and it’s worth the sound of the river up ahead. It’s worth it even if the birch and the iron and the silver and the salt don’t work.

“Will you stay with me, Jungkook, if it all goes wrong?” he whispers, as he stops just short of the river and takes a deep breath. The rabbit at his feet nudges his ankle, and slowly, slowly, Kim Seokjin turns around.

The thing before him has eyes gone red, like salt pools just before they dry out forever, and choke the life within them. It is lumbering, huge, towering above Jin with fangs dripping river water, and when it breathes out, Jin can smell the death of a thousand fish on bloodthirsty tides.

“What is your name?” it asks him, the voice like tectonic plates crumbling beneath the oceans. “What is your name, little man?”

“I have no name,” Jin says, standing up straighter, even though his knees feel significantly weaker than when he didn’t know what the bean fionn looked like.

“All humans have a name,” it bends down, sniffing at him. It has a ribcage rotting open, with last autumn’s leaves waterlogged and spilling from its sternum. When Jin glances down, he can see something sickly blue beating in its chest. The blue of a drowned man’s lips. Its claws are the antlers of a downed buck, caught under the ice of a January pond, and its tongue looks bloated as week old kill sent down the stream.

“And all bean fionn have a name,” Jin replies, willing himself not to flinch, not to blink, not to look away from it. “But I have no name, not for you. Will you not go back to the bridge under which you drowned? Will you not leave me in peace before you lose your chance to walk away?”

“Ah, well,” it rumbles, reaching for Jin’s neck with a grasping, hungry hand. “You need no name to be my food, and I need not your name to own your blood.” But it’s fingers touch Jin’s necklace, that awful HOPE one that Hoseok lent him, and suddenly its flesh is searing, burning with the most horrible odor. The bean fionn recoils from him with hiss and a snarl, before coming back at him with unsheathed claws, and Jin squeezes his eyes shut. He squeezes his eyes shut, and thinks of Yoongi, and hopes hopes hopes that Hoseok will keep his promise- The bean fionn shrieks, a horrible terrible bloody shriek. Jin’s eyes snap open: Hoseok is there, the stake gone right through the nasty thing’s hand, and Yoongi is beside him. Jungkook is himself again, with Jimin right behind him, and Taehyung’s eyes are the iciest shade of blue that Jin has ever seen.

“You’re okay?” Yoongi asks him, never taking his eyes off the shambling horror before them. Jin nods, presses against Yoongi as Namjoon joins the fight.

“You will go back Tír Na Nóg,” Taehyung says, his voice strong as lightning striking a barren tree into flames. “Back to the plains of the Otherworld, where you may prey not, and your sentence is served.” It shrieks, and shrieks, and Jin’s ears are ringing as Hoseok pulls the birch stake out of the thing’s hand, raising it up to strike again. But the bean fionn catches him off guard (so much for swiftness, when it comes to his own safety, Jin thinks as he watches in horror) and the claws of the bean fionn slash Hoseok’s arm, sending him to the ground with a shout of pain. And then Namjoon, clumsy Namjoon, who Jin had once watched trip over thin air- who Yoongi described as the most unfortunately uncoordinated werewolf the moon had ever had the misfortune to birth- takes the birch and slips away from the claws and the fangs of the bean fionn . He slips with the grace of a single leaf falling to the ground at the advent of summer, like a dandelion umbrella seed on the wind, and then he is driving the birch stake into the back of the bean fionn and its falling to its knees before them all.

Taehyung steps forward, fair crackling with his magic, the smell of fennel and pink peppercorn surrounding them.

“I am Kim Taehyung of the Summer Court, heir apparent to the throne of Seelie Lands, and you have made your stand against one of my own here, in the trees I call home. I gave you the hand of mercy, but you turned it against me, and so from here I send you back to Tír Na Nóg, for the Summer Queens to find.” He raises his hand, and Jin is blinded for a moment by the light that comes from him. When he blinks, and blinks once more, the bean fionn is gone. He is shaking, shuddering, his breath coming fast, and he doesn’t even realize it until Yoongi is in front of him, cupping his face in soft hands.

“Well,” Yoongi says, after a moment of looking at him with gentle eyes. “You certainly are brave, for a human. Bold thing to say to a fairy, Kim “I have no name” Seokjin.” All Jin can do is laugh, and fall forward, so that Yoongi can catch him and hold him tightly. He would really like it, right now, if Yoongi could just- never let go. But the moment is spoiled, because Taehyung is whooping and hollering, back to his puckish self, and Jimin is laughing like chimes. When Jin looks up, Hoseok has pulled Namjoon down to the ground with him, and is currently kissing him in what Jin might call a direct reenactment of the famous painting “vampire sucks the soul out of an innocent maiden.” Which isn’t a painting, but Hoseok’s red hair is so striking in the afternoon light, and Namjoon looks like he’s pretty much vibrating out of his skin right there, and it really could be, if Jin had his polaroid with him to snap a reference shot.

“God, fucking finally,” Yoongi says, turning around to witness what all the fuss is about for himself.

“I could say the same about you, Yoongi-ah,” Namjoon says breathlessly, when he finally escapes Hoseok’s mouth. Yoongi just shrugs, a smile tugging the corner of his mouth.

At the edge of the river, the nettle that had choked the underbrush recedes.

--

Jungkook hugs him for what seems like a million years, hoisting him up high and burying his face in Jin’s neck for a good long while. Jimin also hugs him, though he is capable of much less force. Taehyung actually just grabs his face and kisses him outright. Hoseok and Namjoon both kiss his cheek, one on each side, and the five of them take off back into the forest, making much more noise than when they’d left Yoongi’s house earlier. Yoongi just stands beside him for a long moment, looking at the ground, suddenly shy now that the rest of them have left.

Jin takes another deep breath, his third of the day, and reaches out towards him.

“Yarrow,” Jin says, uncertainly, holding the dried flower like an olive branch. “My grandmother’s book always said it was for- for. Love.” Yoongi looks away, down the river.

“It could be,” he says quietly, reaching up to scratch the back of his head. “If you wanted it to. Or a good luck charm. Just a good luck charm, for a friend.”

“I think,” Jin says, stepping forward and tucking the sprig of yarrow into Yoongi’s shirt pocket, “that I would rather it be for love, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t, I don’t mind,” Yoongi replies, looking relieved as he finally makes eye contact with Jin. And then, just when Jin thinks- this is it. Finally. After months. Months and months of wearing down this beautiful man’s walls, and sticking around when he tried so hard to be prickly, and softening him until Jin could see what was underneath- his phone rings.

It is, of course, his grandmother, wondering where he is now that the rain has stopped, and she needs help with grocery shopping, and dinner will be soon, and when is he going to be home?

“I have to go,” Jin tucks the phone back into his pocket, after he’s finally stopped his grandmother’s chattering and promised her to be home as soon as he can. “But I- I would really like it if you might. Consider, ah. Coming over the river, tonight, and joining me for dinner? There’s someone who’s been dying to meet you for months, ever since I started coming home with that dumb look on my face that being around you always gives me.”

“I’ll be there,” Yoongi reaches up, hesitates, and then slowly rubs his thumb under Jin’s eye, across the curve of his cheekbone. “When the sun goes down, I’ll be there.”

And Jin crosses the bridge, and walks back into the side of the forest he could have stayed on all along, all this time, and never met the person who’d lived on the other side of it for as long as Jin had wandered these trees.

---

When Yoongi gets home without Jin, Jimin is, unsurprisingly, the first one to cross his arms and pout.

“You messed it up,” he accuses, and Yoongi throws his arms up.

“I didn’t!” he protests. Hoseok leans in, sniffs him, and looks at Namjoon for confirmation. Namjoon nods, frowning at Yoongi in mock disapproval.

“You didn’t even kiss him!” Hoseok huffs. “We left you the perfect moment, and you wasted it! Squandered it! Spoiled it!”

“I’m going to dinner at his house tonight,” Yoongi says, pushing past them to unlock his front door and let them all into the house.

“So we can help you choose your clothes,” Jimin says sweetly, but his eyes are steely, and Yoongi knows there is absolutely no way he’s getting out of it.

“I suppose,” he sighs.

He’ll be lucky if he gets there on time.

--

Jin jitters through shopping with his grandmother, and chopping vegetables for her.

“I’ll make you naengmyun,” she told him, patting his face gently while they were looking for produce at the grocery store. “Your favorite.”

“Grandmother,” he finally says, handing her the pile of chopped vegetables in a bowl, and wiping his hands on his apron. “I thought about what you said, and- I invited them- the person. My friend. To dinner.” She looks up at him, searching his face, and smiles.

“Didn’t I tell you that it would be okay to be young?” she says, and doubles the amount of noodles for the pot.

When sundown comes, he’s even more nervous, and he doesn’t know why. It’s a Saturday night, just like any other Saturday night. Seeing Yoongi after the sun goes down isn’t going to be any different than it is when he’s groggily opening the front door for Jin at eight in the morning, or sharing a sandwich with him on the porch after Jin’s shift at the preschool. He hasn’t changed, and Jin’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have changed his mind in the few hours they’ve been apart. Yoongi has let him visit through two seasons, almost three- closer to a year than not. He’s shown Jin his magic in quiet ways, and let him into his life, and even though sometimes Jin had to fight for it, what he found behind the brambles and the briars Yoongi grew around himself was always worth it.

The doorbell rings.

Jin takes his fourth deep breath of the day, and opens the door. Yoongi is tugging at his collar uncomfortably, his pearly hair swept across his forehead in a way that screams, “Jimin has been here.” There’s a chrysanthemum in the pocket of his navy blue shirt, and he’s actually wearing slim, dark colored pants that aren’t jeans or sweats for the first time Jin’s ever seen. With the sun setting behind him, he looks ethereal, waiting on Jin’s porch with a single pink peony in his hand.

“I, ah. Found the right address,” Yoongi says, and Jin just can’t help it any more. He grabs Yoongi by the shoulders, and pulls him in, and completely ungracefully plants a kiss directly on his sweet strawberry mouth that Jin has been fixating on for weeks. Yoongi laughs, huffs out a soft breath across his cheeks, and blinks a few times at Jin. “Ok, ok, I really found the right address.”

“So this is him!” Jin’s grandmother crows from behind them, the two men jumping apart guiltily as she bustles down the hallway. “The friend! The friend who I knew you were kissing!”

“Grandmother,” Jin hisses, but she just pushes past him and grabs Yoongi’s cheeks and leans up to kiss both of them.

“Come in, come in, I’ve been waiting for so long,” she says, turning and not even bothering to wait for either of them as she hurries back towards the kitchen, a kettle screaming somewhere. For a minute, they just stand there, a little shell-shocked by the grandmother and the kiss and the fact that yes, yes, they’re really doing this.

“Well,” Jin asks, smiling sheepishly down at him, as the last bits of sunshine disappear into the horizon. “Are you going to stay for dinner? She’s kind of a lot, I know.”

Yoongi doesn’t reply. He takes a deep breath, steels his nerve, reaches out to take Jin’s hand, and steps into the house.

Nothing bursts into flame. Nothing crashes down around him. Jin just kisses him again, and leads him down the hall towards the kitchen, where his grandmother’s old records are playing, traditional music spilling out into the rest of the house.

It turns out Min Yoongi is capable of being happy after all.