When Jimin was younger, a common story his nursemaids would tell him was about the man in the moon.
If you looked up at him when the moon was full enough, you would be able to see his face, and his expression was meant to mirror the way you were feeling inside.
For his entire life, Jimin always looked up and saw a crying man.
Even when he had a good day, the man in the moon never smiled back at him.
It frustrated the prince, and when Jimin was old enough he asked his nursemaids to stop telling the story, claiming that it wasn’t true.
Despite that, whenever he was outside at night Jimin always looked up towards the sky, harboring a secret hope that one day he would be able to catch a glimpse of a smile.
Jimin walked as fast as he could without running, clenching his jaw tight.
“Prince Jimin, is something the matter?” a servant that he ran past called out to him. Unable to answer her, Jimin just gritted his teeth and walked past her. Sweat was lining the back of his neck, and he felt his shirt sticking to his hot skin.
With his left hand clenched into a tight fist, held tight against his abdomen, Jimin used his right hand to shove his door open. He entered and slammed it shut behind him, quickly locking it, ignoring the servant’s concerned calls.
Immediately collapsing to his knees, Jimin let out a long, low scream that ended in a sob.
Ripping the leather glove off his left hand, he hurled it across the room. Pain was making him dizzy, and he hunched over, cradling his left hand in his right.
The claw in place of his ring finger burned, so deeply that Jimin couldn’t catch his breath. It pulsed in time with his frantic heartbeat, and Jimin keened again, unable to quiet his pain any longer now that he was in the safety of his room.
Jimin looked down at the claw, lined with black, hard little scales, ending with a sharp and slightly pointed nail. Since Jimin was little, he had worn the leather glove almost all of the time, save for when he bathed. He wore it so often, in fact, that there were times in which he forgot certain details of his curse.
Now, kneeling in his room, the sunlight spilling in from the windows, Jimin stared past the specks of illuminated dust floating peacefully in his vision and focused on his cursed limb.
Stared as his onyx claw met the sun and cast tiny rainbows, not unlike the colors that appeared on the surface of oil slicks.
Jimin hated how beautiful his curse looked in the sunlight.
The prince wore his gloves so as to not frighten the people around him, and to stop the people from staring.
But more importantly, he wore his gloves because when he stared at it for long enough, Jimin had to admit to himself that there was a part of him that found his curse beautiful.
It was a strange way to live, growing up and knowing that your life did not belong to you.
Jimin was never truly happy, not really. His parents did not invest any time into him, knowing that he was going to be taken away sooner or later. He was no longer an asset they could use to strengthen the kingdom when he was promised to a murderous beast that would soon snatch him away.
The kingdoms were always at war, and peace seemed like a faraway dream. Every day in the kingdom was full of politics and war strategies and stress. Jimin distanced himself from it, attempting to find happiness in little things.
He was almost always alone, having no siblings or playmates, and growing up he became extremely good at entertaining himself.
There were days in which Jimin wanted to live life to the fullest while he could—opening his body up wide and inhaling every song and book and poem and painting, wanting to see the world and learn to sketch and make flowers grow and sing to the moon. His fingers became itchy with the need to do, to live and learn everything he could before that freedom was taken away from him. He was often seen running into town, a harried guard running after him, buying paint brushes and old foreign books and flower seedlings.
Other times, however, the fact that the next day could be his last day of freedom filled Jimin with sadness. His body became a tank and his dark thoughts filled it with murky water, making him heavy and forlorn. His limbs would be weighed down by fear and desperation and questions unanswered, and he would lay in bed and watch the sun rise outside of his window, imagining the silhouette of a dragon coming from the horizon and crashing into his room and swallowing him whole.
Anytime he let himself really think about it, the fact that he belonged to a creature that knew no such thing as gentility, or compassion, and that his only future was to die by its hands or live out the rest of his life imprisoned, the unbearable fear would tear Jimin apart.
Today was one of those days, in which Jimin made a world for himself underneath his blankets, one where the stars sang him lullabies and there was nothing for him to be afraid of.
Because it was soon.
The dragon was coming for him soon, and he knew that because even then, underneath the sheets protected from the cold weather outside, his claw ached. It was emanating more heat than it should and pulsed in time with his heart, and Jimin had to hold his hand out extended, careful not to brush it on anything, the leather glove he typically wore thrown to the other side of the room.
These bouts of sudden pain in his claw have been happening for this entire life, but recently they’ve been occurring more and more frequently.
What used to be only a couple times a year became once, maybe even twice a week.
And now, not even a full 24 hours since the last time it hurt like this, his claw was aching again. It felt as if it were calling out, reaching for something, pulling the weight of an entire dragon towards himself, dragging along with it days full of hopelessness and captivity.
When the dragon came for Jimin, strangely, Jimin’s heart did not leap in his chest in fear like he thought it would. His claw had been aching the entire day, and Jimin had refused to leave his room, knowing that it was soon. He would be leaving soon.
Cries echoed through the courtyard outside, and when Jimin heard a mighty rumbling roar he knew that it was time. He’s been preparing for this moment for his entire life, and he walked down the grand staircase just in time to see a massive onyx dragon the exact same color as Jimin’s claw land in the courtyard outside.
He walked towards the open doors, felt the breeze from outside fluttering through his hair, then stopped in stunned silence when the air around the dragon seemed to almost simmer, morphing and twisting in a way the prince has never seen. A few moments later, a man stood in place of the giant beast.
The moment Jimin locked eyes with the dragon, whose eyes were still golden and glowing and staring at the prince as if he’s known him his entire life, Jimin felt inexplicably drawn to him.
The two closed the distance between themselves, matching each other step by step with movements so synchronized that it looked almost like a dance.
When they were only a foot apart from each other, Jimin’s claw twitched against his own palm, drawing the dragon’s attention towards it.
He looked down with his golden eyes, expression showing something akin to awe, and reached out to take Jimin’s left hand. A burst of warmth spread up Jimin’s arm the moment their skin touched, and Jimin shivered.
Stepping closer, the dragon ran a gentle, reverent finger against Jimin’s claw.
“Beautiful,” he breathed out, voice low and gravelly and rough, almost exactly how Jimin would imagine a dragon’s voice to be.
“What is your name?”
“Jimin,” he breathed out, almost in a trance. “My name is Jimin.”
The dragon lifted his eyes to Jimin’s face again, tracing over his features. “Beautiful,” he said again.
There was a sudden commotion behind Jimin, and when he turned, his hand still clasped in the dragon’s, he made eye contact with his parents.
The two of them wore blank expressions, the queen not crying or screaming for the dragon to spare her son, the king not calling his guards to even attempt to slay the dragon.
They were letting him go.
Finally, Jimin was going.
It was what everyone knew was going to happen sooner or later, and finally, that day had come.
“It is time to go, my blessing,” the dragon said, his voice never leaving that of a low, gentle rumble. “Go say goodbye.”
Blinking in shock at the soft tone the beast was using with him and the fact that the dragon was considerate enough to let him say farewell, Jimin turned once more to look at his parents.
Hoping for a smile, a nod of assurance, a single tear for their lost son.
But perhaps he has been lost to them since he came out of his mother with such a curse on his own hand.
Perhaps he’d never been a son in their eyes at all.
Turning back, Jimin looked towards the ground. “Let’s just go.”
The dragon hesitated, hand squeezing Jimin’s once lightly. “Don’t you want to bid your parents farewell? I will wait for you.”
“Please,” Jimin said. “It will make things harder. Just—wherever we’re going to go, let’s go.”
With that, the dragon released Jimin’s hand and stepped back a few feet, shifting back into his dragon form. Closer up, the oil slick rainbows cast off of the dragon’s scales were breathtaking, little bursts of light and color coming from something so dark. The dragon moved towards Jimin, lowering a wing right in front of the prince’s feet.
Catching on, Jimin took a deep, shaky breath, then took a step forward, leaving behind what had been his home for the past twenty three years. Though his life wasn’t the most eventful, or warm, or adventurous, at least he knew he would be safe within those castle walls. At least he knew he would have enough to eat, would be able to survive.
Now, clambering clumsily onto the dragon’s strong back, hands beginning to shake, Jimin was overwhelmed with the uncertainty of his tomorrows.
Closing his eyes and gripping on tight to the dragon, Jimin kept his head pressed against the smooth, warm scales the entire flight, uncaring of the scenery passing below them, unfazed by the wind whipping wildly against his body.
Though he was riding a dragon, something akin to awe building in his chest at the memory of the dragon’s vivid scales and the smooth sound of its wings beating up and down, Jimin didn’t want to let himself be impressed by the creature. He held onto the bitterness he’s had his entire life towards this dragon, and let it eat at his stomach as he was taken away from everything he’s ever known.
What seemed like an hour or two later, Jimin finally felt the dragon descend. When they were on the ground, Jimin slid towards the forest floor, limbs wobbly from holding on for such a long flight.
The dragon immediately shifted back, and watched Jimin intently as he took in his new surroundings.
The forest could only be described as magical. The trees were tall and thick, and an energy that emanated from their wrinkled bark had Jimin knowing they’ve seen lifetimes of love and heartbreak and wisdom. Butterflies flitted around in gentle loops, going from one bush to another, silent in their beauty. The grass underneath Jimin’s feet was soft and the soil damp, the air cleaner than it was back in the kingdom.
“Come,” the dragon said. He turned and began walking, and for a moment Jimin had half a mind to stand his ground, just because the dragon’s expectance of Jimin’s obedience annoyed him.
But Jimin followed anyway, and soon they were entering a large cave. It was massive, big enough for the dragon’s shifted form to fit inside, and it was lined with furs and some clothing and what seemed to be preserved foods and a large pile of branches and twigs and dry leaves, presumably for a fire.
“This is…it,” the dragon said gruffly. “I can try to get you anything else you need, but…obviously your castle had many more material things than me.”
“It’s…warm,” Jimin supplied.
The dragon walked over to the furs and pulled out the thickest, largest one, dusting it out with a flick of his arms and laying it near what Jimin assumed to be a makeshift fire pit.
“This is yours,” the dragon explained. “You can take more if you become cold at night. My body temperature runs higher than a human’s, so I am unfamiliar with how warm you need it to be comfortable.”
“I’m going to go hunt. For dinner.”
“Wait!” Jimin said, watching as the dragon paused in his hurry to get away. “I didn’t get your…I mean, what’s your name?”
The dragon looked back at him, eyes golden.
“Yoongi. My name is Yoongi.”
The interactions between Yoongi and Jimin were awkward at best.
The dragon seemed to be almost afraid of letting Jimin close to him, always keeping a distance from him and avoiding eye contact.
It seemed as if the moment they met was just a moment of weakness in the dragon’s cold façade, because now he would barely spare Jimin three words before he was leaving the cave, out to do one thing or another that required his immediate attention.
So Jimin was frustrated, and confused, and entirely homesick.
Though he was grateful that the dragon didn’t seem violent, he was questioning the reason of his being there every second of every day.
Was the dragon waiting to gain his trust before he ultimately betrayed Jimin and killed him?
Was he being used as bait for something the dragon wanted?
Was he going to trade Jimin away like a piece of fine jewelry once he believed Jimin was no longer valuable?
These questions had Jimin unable to sleep most nights, fear and uncertainty pumping like blood through his veins as he stared at Yoongi’s back slumbering next to him in the darkness.
Even in sleep Yoongi was guarded, back always turned towards Jimin and furs set up a few feet away, never within Jimin’s space.
When Jimin did sleep, it was fitful, and he dreamed of his old home, of the marble castle staircases and the smell of his nursemaid and the sound of the kitchens in the morning.
On the seventh day, Jimin decided he had enough.
After eating breakfast in silence, Jimin stood and caught Yoongi’s arm before the dragon could leave the cave.
Turning back to Jimin with wide eyes, the prince noticed then how pale Yoongi was. His hand around Yoongi’s arm was significantly tanner, and that small delicate detail had Jimin momentarily forgetting what he wanted to say.
“What?” Yoongi said.
“I—” Jimin cut himself off. Took a deep breath, collected his thoughts. “I want to know what you expect from me here.”
A long, tense silence settled between them.
“What I…expect from you?” Yoongi’s face was guarded.
“You took me for a reason, didn’t you?” Jimin asked, frustration making his voice loud and echo throughout the cave. “So what am I doing here? What do you want from me?”
Yoongi clenched his jaw and wrenched his arm from Jimin’s grip.
“Nothing,” he spat out.
But anger made Jimin persistent, and he caught Yoongi again before he could flee, this time the back of his shirt.
“What do you mean, nothing? If there’s no reason for me to be here, then take me back home.”
“I can’t do that,” Yoongi said immediately. “You can’t go home.”
“Why?” Jimin felt angry tears building up and getting caught in his bottom lashes. “Why can’t I?”
Yoongi shook his head. “You just can’t, okay? I’m sorry, but…you can’t.”
Jimin let out a wet scoff. “You’re sorry. If you were so sorry you never would have taken me to rot here in the first place.”
With that, he shoved past Yoongi and ran from the cave, slapping his way past the thick, interwoven leaves and vines that Yoongi used as a covering to protect his home from the elements and running deep into the forest.
He was surprised his back hadn’t been burnt to a crisp yet, or that no huge dragon claw had snatched him up and tossed him back into the cave, but he didn’t think too deeply on it as he focused on getting as far away from the dragon as possible.
Jimin could feel tiny sharp twigs and stones cut into the bottom of his feet, but he ignored it until he stumbled and fell forward and the ground dug into his face as well.
“Are you okay?” a soft voice came from the trees to Jimin’s right.
Starting in surprise, he supported himself up on his hands and knees and looked over.
There was a figure sitting on one of the larger stones, and at first glance he looked like a normal man. But the longer Jimin stared, the more he noticed tiny otherworldly details about the creature. His skin was golden and smooth, and Jimin realized with a gasp that he had tiny, barely-visible flowers about the size of needle-heads growing out of his skin. The majority of them were scattered across his arms and the back of his hands, but there was one on his left cheekbone and some on the top of his feet as well.
“Did you hurt yourself? I can smell blood,” the man took a step closer, coming into a patch of sunlight that found its way through the heavy maze of foliage above them. His eyes were a grey so light they were almost colorless — his hair, in contrast, a deep fuchsia.
Jimin pushed himself to his feet and took two steps back.
He had heard of the creatures that roamed the woods, and as beautiful as this one was, Jimin did not trust it.
“Stop,” he commanded. “Stay where you are.”
To his surprise, the creature did as he was told. Pale eyes flickering down to Jimin’s left hand, he let out a low hum.
“Ah,” he said. “You belong to the dragon.”
Jimin bristled, clenching his hands into fists and hiding his claw behind his back. “I belong to no one.”
“But you have the blessing,” the creature nodded towards Jimin’s hidden hand.
Bringing his hand back towards the front of his body, Jimin ran a hand down the coarse skin of his claw. “This?”
Looking up with angry tears in his eyes, Jimin could see the creature’s bewildered expression at his sudden angry tone.
“This is a curse,” Jimin spat out. “It has caused me so much pain, and loneliness, and—”
His voice catching in his throat, Jimin stopped talking.
The creature looked sympathetic now, something soft in his eyes.
“You will understand soon,” was all he said. “Everything happens for a reason.”
“Bullshit,” Jimin muttered under his breath, braver now that this strange flowery creature seemed more inclined towards gentility than violence.
Tilting his head to the side, the creature stepped forward until he was face to face with the prince. This close, Jimin could smell the scent of roses coming from his skin, and a pinprick flower suddenly bloomed in Jimin’s line of sight, right above the creature’s lips.
“Don’t be afraid,” it whispered. “The dragon has done more for you than you know. He wouldn’t hurt you.”
“What do you mean?” Jimin whispered back.
It smiled, and suddenly reached a hand up to run over the side of Jimin’s neck.
Shivering slightly, Jimin missed the mischievous look that crossed the creature’s pale eyes for a split second before he pulled back. “Everything will make sense in time. We’ll meet again.”
The next time Jimin blinked, the creature was gone, leaving him with the darkening forest and a tiny flower laying in the palm of his hands.
Despite the fact that Jimin could have sworn he had no idea where he was going, stubbornly wandering aimlessly through unknown trails, he somehow ended up back at the mouth of the dragon’s cave.
Annoyed at the fact that the dragon had probably placed some sort of charm on him that always lead him back here, Jimin huffed. He couldn’t even get lost without Yoongi interfering.
As soon as he was at the entrance, however, Yoongi was there, eyes ablaze.
Startled, Jimin took a step back, but Yoongi immediately followed.
“Who did you meet?” Yoongi growled out, eyes trained towards Jimin’s neck.
“What?” Jimin’s mind was spinning, completely confused with the dragon’s strange attitude. Yoongi exhaled though his nose and suddenly Jimin could smell smoke, the dragon’s eyes suddenly turning gold, the pupils elongating.
“Someone touched you,” Yoongi said, voice deepening to an inhuman pitch, gravelly and dark.
Still confused and more than a little afraid at the way Yoongi seemed to be losing control of his human form, Jimin just shook his head.
“I can smell him on you,” Yoongi reached a hand out, quick and sudden, and placed it on the side of Jimin’s neck, palm down, right over where the pale-eyed creature had touched.
Yoongi’s body temperature ran higher than Jimin’s, and the heat his hand emanated was startling, burning against the thin skin of Jimin’s neck.
Stepping closer, Yoongi swallowed once, twice, eyes trained on his own hand. Jimin reached a hand up, to grab Yoongi’s wrist, to do something to take control of the situation, but before he could Yoongi’s other hand shot up and held it back.
“Don’t,” the dragon rasped out. “I need to…”
Yoongi’s golden eyes flickered towards Jimin’s, seeming as if he were debating something. When Jimin swallowed thickly, his throat moving underneath Yoongi’s large hand, the elder seemed to give in, completely closing the distance between them and brushing his lips against Jimin’s neck.
Completely frozen, Jimin held his breath as Yoongi nuzzled into his throat once, twice, then the dragon was stepping back and retreating towards the back of the cave, leaving Jimin’s throat tingling and his cheeks burning.
“You didn’t smell like me,” Yoongi said hours later, once they had finished dinner, eyes trained on the ground. “Needed—need you to smell like me.”
Jimin squinted in surprise.
“What did I smell like?”
“Like Taehyung,” Yoongi said. “The nymph that wanders this forest. You smelled like…like you were his.”
The pale-eyed creature. He was a forest nymph, then.
“He just…touched my neck for a second. In farewell.”
Yoongi’s piercing gaze fell on him now, the beginnings of a snarl curling at his lips.
“It was deliberate. The neck is a…private area for most creatures. Especially dragons. We don’t…he shouldn’t have touched you there.”
“But you did,” Jimin said.
Yoongi looked away then. “It’s different.”
“Why? Because I bear your mark?” Jimin waved his claw in Yoongi’s face. “Because you think I belong to you?”
Yoongi’s jaw visibly clenched, and he didn’t respond.
Jimin turned away, annoyed.
Neither of them spoke for the rest of the night, and when Jimin woke up in the morning, the furs next to him were empty.
The next day, Jimin followed a trail of what seemed to be Taehyung’s flowers and found the nymph talking to the lake. He was tired of being alone and stuck inside the cave with nothing to do with Yoongi being gone for most of the day, and figured that the nymph seemed nice enough to seek out for company.
Jimin stood and watched for a bit as Taehyung laughed with the water, having a full blown one-sided conversation.
“Who are you talking to?” he called out after a while.
Taehyung turned back, and his eyes lit up at the sight of Jimin.
“Oh, you’re here! Hoseok, this is who I was telling you about! Yoongi’s blessing.”
For a moment, nothing responded, and Jimin threw Taehyung a confused look. Was the nymph okay? Was he hearing things? Was that a normal occurrence in these woods?
Suddenly, there was the sound of water moving and Jimin turned his head to see a man emerging from the lake, walking through it like it was nothing, drops of water floating around his body like tiny butterflies.
“Jimin,” the creature called Hoseok said, smile as bright and warm as the sky his lake reflected. “Taehyungie’s told me so much about you already.”
Jimin looked at the creature in awe, mind glossing over the fact that he had never given either of the creatures his name, and he blamed that shock for what came out of his mouth next: “What are you?”
To Jimin’s relief, both Taehyung and Hoseok laughed.
“I’m a water spirit,” he explained. “More precisely, I’m the guardian of this lake. A lot of this forest relies on me, and I make sure to keep it and everything within it happy and well, including your dragon.”
“He’s not my anything,” Jimin quipped, ignoring the slight surprise that ran across the water spirit’s lake.
“Well,” the spirit continued. “Yoongi is a very crucial part of this forest. And now you are, too. So I hope we can be friends.”
He held out a hand, and after a moment’s hesitation Jimin reached out and shook it.
When Hoseok grinned and it seemed as if for a moment the entire lake beamed at him as well, Jimin smiled back and felt a tiny moment of relief.
Jimin had taken to wandering out into the forest by himself most afternoons.
Though he often missed his luxurious rooms in the castle, he couldn’t help but admit that there was something enchanting about this forest.
He often met up with Taehyung and Hoseok, the three of them making up games or chatting by the lake, Hoseok occasionally putting on water shows for them in which he shaped water into things like flying dragons or meandering koi fish in the air, which both the prince and the nymph absolutely adored. Jimin found himself utterly and completely fond of the two creatures, and seeing them was always the highlight of his day.
There was something in the air of this forest that felt so peaceful it was like constant relief, like soaking in a hot bath after a long day or meeting a friend after years of separation.
It was so peaceful, however, that it had all of Jimin’s walls completely down. As he hummed to himself, picking his way through the forest trail, hoping that he would find Taehyung and Hoseok by the water spirit’s lake, he was unaware of the danger until it was literally right on top of him.
The scent was what hit him first — a smokiness that was similar to Yoongi’s scent yet at the same time different.
Then he was knocked harshly onto his back as a large red dragon circled him, loud noises escaping its scaled lips. Jimin’s heart went into overdrive, and he had to hold back a scream as the dragon’s belly and swinging tail came in and out of his line of vision as it walked around him, its wings opening and closing rapidly as it screeched again.
Suddenly, the dragon’s face was pressed up right against his, the unbearably hot air it exhaled ruffling Jimin’s hair.
Its eyes seemed to be searching Jimin’s, and suddenly it bumped its head against Jimin’s roughly.
Pain stabbed through Jimin’s skull at the impact of the sharp scales and horns lining the creature’s head, and he cried out, a hand immediately coming up to shove the dragon’s head away.
Up close, he could see its eyes were a deep purple, and its scales were made up of a combination of both oranges and reds, a few golden ones scattered here and there that reminded Jimin of Yoongi’s shifted eyes.
The dragon made a noise at being pushed away and pushed back, insistent.
I’m going to get eaten, Jimin thought to himself. I’m going to get eaten by a dragon and it isn’t even by the dragon I’ve been tied to my entire life, what the fuck.
Just as the dragon’s face was about to knock into Jimin’s again, the prince closing his eyes and throwing his hands up to brace for the impact, there was a deafening, angry roar. A more familiar smokiness washed over Jimin, a bit heavier and muskier than the one belonging to the red dragon.
The new dragon stopped in its tracks, freezing at the sight of Yoongi, who in his shifted form was noticeably larger than it. Yoongi roared again, stalking closer and physically knocking the new dragon’s head away from Jimin, somehow moving so that he was standing over the human, effectively pushing the newcomer away from him. Right next to the heat of one of Yoongi’s legs, Jimin could feel that the dragon was trembling with anger, and without thinking he reached up and placed his left hand on Yoongi’s soft underside, stroking once in a soothing manner.
Yoongi made a small, rumbling noise that Jimin couldn’t decipher, and crouched in further over Jimin, tail swinging violently behind him.
To Jimin’s surprise, the new dragon who he thought was about to rip his head off looked chastised, holding its head towards the ground in an obvious act of submission and avoiding eye contact with Yoongi, who had been staring at him the entire time, golden eyes narrowed.
Unsure of what to do now that the two dragons were in a standstill, Jimin moved to get to his feet. Feeling him shifting underneath him, Yoongi made another noise in his throat, one that Jimin would have to learn how to decipher.
But for now, he ignored it and stood, the length of him about the length of one of Yoongi’s legs.
“Can you shift back?” Jimin whispered.
Yoongi let out a low rumbling noise that started deep in his belly, and Jimin could feel the vibrations against the top of his head.
“Please,” Jimin said.
Yoongi moved forward, catching the red dragon’s eyes, and Jimin watched as its massive form shifted and changed into a boy with wide, guilty eyes and tan skin. It was only then that Yoongi changed back, and suddenly the immense body heat surrounding Jimin became the sight of Yoongi’s pale neck and strong back standing right in front of him.
With the two of them in their human forms, Jimin noted that the boy was a few inches taller than both he and Yoongi, but there was something in the way unsure way he carried himself and the subtle puffiness of his cheeks that revealed his younger age.
Despite the apparent rage Yoongi harbored towards the other boy in their shifted forms, Yoongi’s voice was calm when he spoke.
“Look at me, hatchling,” he commanded, voice gruff.
The boy peeked up at them from behind his bangs, front teeth gnawing on his bottom lip.
“What do you think you were doing?” Yoongi asked.
Looking down again, the boy shuffled his feet in a way that had Jimin softening towards him.
“I…I just…” the boy sighed. “I could hear the blessing. Calling me to him. Calling me to you. I—I was just excited, I wasn’t going to hurt him, I swear! I was just playing.”
Yoongi crossed his arms across his chest, and his smokey scent got stronger.
“You were hurting him. He was scared, and you should’ve been able to smell that,” Yoongi said.
Head spinning, Jimin had so many questions he barely knew where to start.
“I wasn’t saying anything, though,” he spoke up. “I wasn’t…calling to you at all.”
The boy made eye contact with him then, cocking his head to the side in confusion. His eyes glanced down towards Jimin’s left hand, staring at it until Yoongi shifted until he was almost completely in front of Jimin, hiding him from the younger dragon’s sight.
“Your blessing was, though,” he said. “It was calling me stronger than anything I’ve ever heard, or felt. I knew the second I saw you that I’d found my horde.”
“What is he talking about?” Jimin moved so that he could see Yoongi’s expression, but the dragon’s face was blank.
“What’s your name?” Yoongi asked, ignoring Jimin’s question. Strangely, the onyx dragon’s voice was warmer now, even welcoming.
The boy looked between the two of them, seeming to be internally debating between something, then his face lit up with a slow, bashful grin.
“Jeon Jeongguk,” he said, dropping into a respectful bow. “Please take care of me.”
Jimin was waiting for a moment alone with Yoongi to unleash the dozens of questions he had for him. However, Yoongi has been seemingly avoiding him, which was nothing new. The older dragon often pulled Jeongguk away during the day for ‘training’ and then left the hatchling with Jimin while he hunted their dinner in the evenings. Though Jeongguk was a sweet boy, his mannerisms were confusing to Jimin, often doing things that confused and mildly alarmed him. Anytime he and Yoongi left the cave together, he bounded over to Jimin, slightly crouching to rub his cheek against Jimin’s, content smile on his face as he waved goodbye, Yoongi watching them from the cave entrance.
At night when it was cold, Jimin would sleep in-between the two living furnaces, Yoongi with his back to him as usual, as if he weren’t even there, but Jeongguk would lay on his side facing Jimin and chatter away until he drifted off, often mid-sentence, occasionally slinging an arm or a leg on top of Jimin, always wanting to press himself that much closer.
Other times during dinner Jeongguk would place choice pieces of meat right into Jimin’s mouth, squirming with happiness when Jimin got past his shock and began chewing.
Jimin always watched Yoongi from the corner of his eye when Jeongguk did things like this, surprised when the older man’s lips would occasionally twitch up into a fond smile.
Though Jimin often didn’t understand Jeongguk’s actions, as he treated Yoongi differently — almost with a strange reverence and an air of respect that he didn’t have with Jimin — the boy’s warmth and affection shattered all of Jimin’s barriers, and after two weeks he could hardly believe that the first time they met he believed that the red dragon was going to harm him.
Early one morning, after untangling himself from Jeongguk’s octopus hold, Jimin found Yoongi outside, checking the strength of the thick woven branches and leaves that acted as a covering for the mouth of the cave.
Jimin shifted from foot to foot, still unsure about how to act or feel around Yoongi.
Since he’s been here, he’s never felt threatened or unsafe around the onyx dragon, but there was still a large barrier separating them that made Jimin uncomfortable.
“What exactly does my blessing do?” Jimin asked, straight to the point.
Yoongi stopped mid-tug on a weakening branch, frozen at Jimin’s words. Slowly, methodically, Yoongi turned to look at Jimin.
The sun was just beginning to rise, and the golden threads beaming through the trees pointed directly towards Yoongi in a way that reminded Jimin of light through stained glass windows. There was something otherworldly about the way Yoongi’s eyes melted underneath the sun’s caress, and Jimin couldn’t help but stare.
“What do you think it does?” Yoongi responded.
Annoyed that he answered a question with a question, Jimin huffed.
“I don’t know. It ties me to you. It has since I was born. There was never a moment in which I…was without you.”
Strangely, the way Jimin worded it had something shift between the both of them.
Yoongi blinked, the sun rising higher and playing with his hair now. For a moment Jimin could see the light reflecting rainbows off the black strands, just like how Yoongi’s scales colorized underneath light.
Just like how Jimin’s blessing did, too.
“It got harder when you became older,” Yoongi said in a soft voice. “To be there for you.”
Jimin shivered, stepping closer.
“What do you mean?” he whispered.
“I think you know,” Yoongi whispered back. “I wanted you to be happy. Before you had to come here…I wanted you to be happy, for as long as you could be.”
Jimin didn’t say anything, mind reeling.
Reaching out, Yoongi gently took Jimin’s left hand in his right, stroking the claw with a strange look on his face.
“You were right, Jimin,” Yoongi continued. “This isn’t a blessing. Because of me, you’ve lived a tainted life because of my curse. I—”
“The raspberries,” Jimin cut him off. “That was you. Every year?”
Yoongi looked into Jimin’s eyes then, and until that moment Jimin never knew that someone could wear sunlight like a heartache. But the warmth that shrouded Yoongi’s body somehow made the dragon look small and cold in contrast, and Jimin didn’t know what to do. What to think.
When Jeongguk called their names from inside the cave, they both moved — Yoongi back towards the cave and Jimin towards the forest, neither of them looking back towards the other as they abruptly separated.
Hours later, Jimin felt a familiar, silent presence sit itself down next to him as he stared out at the lake. It was a calm day, and the sky was reflected so perfectly onto the water it felt like Jimin was staring at two different universes mixing together.
Taehyung settled and immediately handed Jimin a little flower.
Breathing out air from his nose in a silent, quick laugh, Jimin accepted it, twirling it in-between his fingers gently.
“I never made the connection,” Jimin said, staring at the purple petals spinning wildly in his hands. “Never thought that…that Yoongi’s known me longer than I’ve known him.”
Though Taehyung didn’t say anything, Jimin knew the nymph was listening to him.
“Every summer, the ripest raspberries always showed up at my windowsill,” Jimin continued. “My small kingdom didn’t have a market for raspberries…they’re too expensive, too hard to get, not very practical…but my father brought them home as a treat once when I was young, and I loved them. Asked for them every time he went on trips. Sometimes I would go into the gardens and hope that somehow raspberries would be growing on our apple trees…but one day when I was around seven, a huge basket of them was sitting on my windowsill. I always thought it was one of my parents, doing something nice for me, but…”
“It was Yoongi,” Taehyung concluded.
“And the day I got lost in town when I was twelve,” Jimin said. “I couldn’t call for help because I didn’t want people to know I was the prince. Didn’t wanna get in trouble. I think I eventually fell asleep underneath a tree, but I woke up again in my bed.”
Taehyung chuckled under his breath. “Did you think you were dreaming?”
Jimin shook his head. “I don’t know what I thought. I just thought that I was very lucky. That the universe was favoring me because they knew I didn’t have many years of freedom left.”
“Do you feel like you’ve lost your freedom? In these woods, away from your kingdom…do you feel trapped?”
Jimin stayed silent, mulling the question over in his mind.
“I don’t understand a lot of things here,” he said. “But I don’t…hate it.”
Looking to the side, Jimin found Taehyung already peering at him with his wise, pale eyes. Jimin stared at the flowers decorating Taehyung’s skin like freckles, and couldn’t help but smile.
“You’re beautiful,” Jimin said.
Taehyung laughed then, and a flower bloomed in the space in-between their legs. “You are the onyx dragon’s blessing, my love,” he said. “It is you who is beautiful.”
“Yoongi says that it is a curse,” Jimin said. “He doesn’t think it’s a blessing.”
Surprisingly, Taehyung rolled his eyes.
It seemed so out of place on the nymph’s typically serene and gentle face that Jimin giggled.
“Yoongi is a stubborn dragon who does not know how to let himself have things.”
“Aren’t dragons meant to be greedy? Hoard treasures and not want to share with anybody?”
Taehyung smiled a small, secret smile. “In a way, yes, they do fit that stereotype. The things, or people, they consider treasures…dragons will fight ’til their last breath to keep them safe. But a dragon’s heart is just as tough to crack as their scales, and unfortunately for you, the onyx dragon seems to have a more guarded heart than most.”
Jimin shook his head. “I don’t think it’s possible for Yoongi to open his heart to me. He just—I’m just a burden that he has to take care of, now.”
“Did you know,” Taehyung plucked the flower that bloomed from his laughter and stuck it behind Jimin’s ear. “That in this forest, everything is connected?”
Jimin tilted his head, confused.
“There are few that can truly feel the connection, the magic that runs beneath every tree and within every stone and living creature. But it’s there — this forest and everything within it is tied together, for the good and for the bad. The larger and more powerful the creature, the more power its energy and moods have over the health of the forest.”
Taehyung picked up a stone then, and with a twist of his wrist it skipped across the surface of the lake seven times, breaking the still reflection of the sky into a myriad of ripples.
“Did you know, Jimin,” Taehyung continued. “That since you came, the forest has flourished? The trees are standing taller, the nymphs are growing more flowers, the magic that is embedded in every root and rock is amplified.”
Smiling, Taehyung turned to meet Jimin’s eyes.
“The onyx dragon is happier. Healthier. In a forest that was beginning to lose hope, you brought back a little bit of light.”
Jimin’s brows were furrowed now. “The state of the forest depends that much on Yoongi?”
“Yoongi is the largest creature that resides in this forest. In a way, this forest is his. He’s made it his home, and it’s willingly accepted him for years and years. He takes care of it and it takes care of him, and now you, too.”
“Are you one of the ways that the forest is taking care of me?” Jimin asked.
Taehyung chuckled again. “You can look at it like that. I don’t want you to run, Jimin. I don’t want you to think this is something that it’s not. I know Yoongi is difficult, but you’ll understand everything soon. I promise you. You’re meant to be here, and not as a prisoner.”
Jimin hummed, heart feeling a bit lighter now.
“I know you touched my neck on purpose the first time we met to make Yoongi angry, you bastard.”
Taehyung threw his head back and laughed.
A dozen flowers bloomed.
The next time it happened, Jimin was a tiny bit more prepared.
Despite that, the shock of two fully grown dragons flying straight for him still had his heart leaping into his throat.
Standing very still, he was relieved when the two large creatures didn’t immediately bowl him over like Jeongguk had. They settled calmly in front of him, the scent of smoke catching on Jimin’s hair and clothing. He could tell that these dragons were not hatchlings, the air surrounding them more mature and poised, more similar to Yoongi’s grace rather than Jeongguk’s hyperactivity.
The one on the left was broad and emerald, with deep black eyes, a bit larger than the one next to it, who was leaner with scales that were a purple so dark they looked almost black, peering at Jimin with ice blue irises.
Attempting to move past the innate fear that ate at his bones whenever he saw the unfamiliar massive dragons, trying to avoid looking at their claws and sharp horns, Jimin stepped forward a bit.
“Hi,” his voice came out wavering, unsure. “Um. Are you looking for Yoongi?”
He saw the two look down towards his left hand, and he subconsciously ran his thumb over his blessing.
“Jiminie!” suddenly, Jeongguk was there, but instead of the usual joy that laced his words whenever he spoke to Jimin, he sounded angry.
The hatchling ran until he was in front of Jimin, and he completely pressed his back against Jimin’s front, backing the both of them up a few steps.
“Get away from him,” Jeongguk hissed at the newcomers, his arms coming up and back to wind around Jimin’s body. Suddenly, he was no longer the hatchling that Yoongi and Jimin typically saw — for the first time, Jimin noticed the frame of Jeongguk’s body, sure to bulk up within the near future, and his voice was low and throaty and aggressive.
When the emerald one shifted, huffing, Jeongguk let out a roar. Jimin jumped, feeling the inhuman vibrations rattle through Jeongguk’s body pressed up against his own, the noise loud in his ears. “I said stay back!”
Jeongguk was still rumbling deep in his throat, and out of instinct Jimin took one of Jeongguk’s hands in his.
Suddenly, the two dragons moved a bit, making small noises in acknowledgment, looking at a spot behind Jimin’s head a split second before a warm hand gently squeezed the back of his neck.
Breathing out a sigh of relief, Jimin watched as Yoongi moved to stand in front of Jeongguk, the younger one relaxing slightly now that the older dragon was here.
“Will you shift back? You’re scaring my hatchling.”
Heart strangely melting at the possessive way Yoongi called Jeongguk, like a father calls his son, Jimin watched as the two dragons shifted into their human form, still unable to keep the awe out of his face as he watched the transformation.
The two were just as beautiful in their human forms as in their dragon forms, and as they came closer Jimin could see that they were taller than all three of them.
“I apologize,” the one with green hair reminiscent of his emerald scales bowed slightly. “We didn’t mean to startle your hatchling or your blessing.”
“Well then you shouldn’t have come so close to him in your shifted form,” Jeongguk said, an underlying petulance replacing his aggressive tone now that Yoongi was here.
Jimin laughed and brought his arms up, squeezing Jeongguk in a quick hug.
“You’re the one who basically tackled me in your shifted form the first time we met,” Jimin teased.
Jeongguk looked at him and glowered. “’S not the same.”
“The blessing’s call is so strong,” the other one spoke up. “The strongest one we’ve ever felt.”
After some hesitation, Yoongi nodded. “If you prove yourselves trustworthy, then you are welcome to stay.”
“Is it just the three of you?”
“I’d rather it stay that way,” Jeongguk muttered under his breath.
Jimin could’ve sworn he saw Yoongi roll his eyes playfully at his hatchling before the older man took the hatchling’s arm and separated him from Jimin.
“Show them the den, Guk,” Yoongi said. “And don’t be a brat about it.”
Huffing, Jeongguk threw the newcomers a tiny glare and marched towards the cave, kicking away the stones and branches in his trail.
They followed with a bemused smile shared between the two of them, and once they were out of sight Yoongi took Jimin’s hand in his and lead him towards the lake.
Dumbfounded, Jimin stared at his hand in Yoongi’s large fingers, blushing down to the roots of his hair, but if he had looked up he would have seen that the tips of Yoongi’s ears were red too.
Where was this familiarity coming from?
This was the first time Yoongi’s voluntarily touched him since the very first day when he scented Jimin’s neck after Taehyung touched it.
They walked in silence, the rustling of the leaves overhead sounding something like a soft song that only the two of them could understand, and when Yoongi slowly began rubbing his thumb back and forth against Jimin’s blessing, Jimin finally let himself smile, albeit hesitantly.
When they made it to the lake, they sat side by side right at the edge of the water. Yoongi ran his hand over a patch of little flowers almost fondly.
“Taehyung’s been here recently,” he noted.
Jimin settled in, hummed in agreement, eyes closed and head tipped back to feel the slight breeze.
“Jimin,” Yoongi whispers.
Jimin blinked his eyes open to find Yoongi staring at him intently.
Yoongi opened his mouth, seemed to want to say something but thought better of it, and what came out was, “Did those two frighten you?”
Shaking his head, Jimin bit the inside of his cheek. “Not really. I was a bit startled at first, but…they have a calmer air about them than Jeongguk did. And since they didn’t pin me to the ground, I was definitely more at ease.”
Yoongi chuckled. “I don’t know for sure, but they might be older than I am. Though Jeonggukie is an adult in human years, he’s still not fully grown in dragon years. He still has too much energy.”
“It’s cute,” Jimin said.
They sat in silence for a while, Yoongi still running his hand delicately over Taehyung’s signature flowers.
“Taehyung sought me out the other day,” Yoongi said. “Said that if I didn’t explain everything to you soon, that he’d deck me across my ‘fire-breathing snout’ and then explain it to you himself.”
A laugh burst out of Jimin’s chest, startling them both. “That…sounds like Taehyung.”
Yoongi let out a tiny smile. “He’s annoying.”
“You sound fond of him.”
Jimin leaned back on his palms, the feel of the dewey grass underneath them familiar and calming.
“Explain, then. Tell me everything.”
So Yoongi did.
As he spoke, the forest went still, as if everything within it were listening with Jimin as well. The air felt like the minute before your birthday, or the anticipation before seeing someone you’ve been aching over for a long time, like the entire world was holding its breath with you.
“There are others like you, you know,” Yoongi started. “We call you blessings because you are what essentially keeps us alive. Dragons are social creatures, deep down. Not in a very typical way — we don’t need constant affection, or even constant company. But a deeper bond, a feeling of belonging in a horde is one that we all need to survive.”
“But you were all alone,” Jimin whispered. “When you found me. You were alone.”
Yoongi nodded. “That’s where your blessing comes in. When a dragon is born, it’s either born with or without a blessing. And though the hatchling might not understand it at first, as the dragon grows up, those with a blessing somewhere out there in the world will always feel half-empty, like it’s missing a part of itself until it finds its blessing.”
“You were born before I was, though,” Jimin countered. “You could still feel me even when I wasn’t alive yet?”
Yoongi smiled. “Fate, or magic, or destiny, or whatever it is that creates dragons and their blessings, always just knows. Even when you were unborn, I still felt you, I still missed you, despite not knowing you and despite not being able to understand what you were to me. A part of my soul was still aching for you, even when you were nothing but an idea, an unborn star.”
Stopping himself, Yoongi bit his lip and looked at Jimin. “I know it’s hard to understand.”
Jimin scooted an inch closer to the dragon, heart racing.
Because he wanted to understand. He wanted to understand this blessing that he had thought of as a curse until he met Yoongi and this forest, he wanted to understand this thing that he’s hated for his entire life but was still a part of him.
“So as a dragon born with a blessing grows up, there’s just something inside of us that lead us to you.”
“How long have you known me? How old was I when you found me?” Jimin whispered.
“You were six,” Yoongi said.
Jimin blinked. “And how old were you?”
Yoongi let out a little huff of air. “A dragon’s lifespan and a human’s lifespan are…different. I might look the same age as you, but I’ve been part of this earth for a while. Though now that we are together, your lifespan will expand and match that of a dragon’s, as well, hatchling.”
Taken aback at the sudden teasing endearment, Jimin fidgeted. “So you were the one. Leaving me raspberries.”
“And the one bringing you back to your room every time you recklessly fell asleep outside, yes. You were a handful when you were younger.”
And that wasn’t even the half of it — Yoongi kept certain things secret still, in the way he would often slowly trail Jimin through the town’s market as the young prince ran around in a frenzy, buying little bits and bobs for his next great idea and endeavor, his small frame and youthful face and rich robes often attracting men with dark eyes and bad intentions, and before they ever had time to even come within reaching distance of Jimin, Yoongi would have taken care of them, silently making sure Jimin was safe.
There were times when Yoongi would check up on Jimin and find the younger sneaking out of the castle as a guard was about to turn the corner, and Yoongi would make noise on the other side of the manor to distract them in order to allow his blessing a little bit of freedom, a little bit of joy.
Thinking back on all of his memories, it was a bit strange to realize that Yoongi had been there for a lot of them, making sure he wasn’t getting hurt, making sure that he was alright.
For a lot of his life, Jimin was scared of how unknown Yoongi was, of all the uncertainties that laid within his future.
But Yoongi had been there almost the entire time.
“Those born with a blessing are the dragons that are meant to lead their own horde,” Yoongi rubbed the back of his neck, suddenly looking unsure. “We’re meant to be stronger, more capable dragons, but…”
Yoongi blew out a breath, cutting off his own train of thought.
“Anyway, the true gift that a blessing brings to a dragon is the fact that you attract dragons that will be compatible with me. With us. You’re quite literally the center of our horde, calling out to those that were born without a blessing and need a home, and the louder they hear your call the more likely they’ll fit in to our horde.”
Jimin felt like he was drowning in a sea of new information, and he slowly nodded, combing his fingers through the grass rhythmically.
“That’s what the two dagons today meant. When they said that I was calling out to them.”
Yoongi nodded. “It was your blessing. It was you, but you didn’t know it.”
“Jimin,” Yoongi was looking at him with his brows pressed together now. “I’m—not good at articulating my feelings very well. But I—I want you to be happy. Here. With me. With us. I want you to feel safe, and I want you to know that I’ve been trying to make up for having to steal you away like a coveted treasure for the rest of your life…this entire thing is unfair to you. And I’m sorry. But I was—I am—too selfish to let you go. Without you, I would have never found a horde, and without a horde, I…”
“You would have died,” Jimin concluded. “I get it. I understand now.”
During this entire conversation, the two of them had shifted closer and closer to each other, and Yoongi finally moved his thigh so that it was pressed up against Jimin’s, his body heat seeping into Jimin’s skin like ink bleeding into paper.
“Do you? Do you understand?”
And the way Yoongi was looking at him, as if Jimin had personally grown this forest that Yoongi called home, as if Jimin had stars engraved into his flesh, as if Jimin hadn’t spent his entire life cursing Yoongi’s existence, had Jimin thinking maybe he didn’t understand.
Not the heat underlying Yoongi’s words and not the sudden onslaught of subtle warm touches that felt like an invitation towards a future dipped in honey.
Not the way Yoongi searched Jimin’s eyes as if he were looking for an answer to a question that has been asked for a thousand lifetimes, a question that was born with the stars and would die with the sun.
Not the way Yoongi slept with his back to Jimin but still woke early to keep the fire alive so he wouldn’t be so cold in the mornings, not the way Yoongi rarely let Jimin see him in his shifted form, not the way Yoongi seemed to be a thousand contradictions and fleeting moments of bravery and too many hesitant, indecisive gestures.
Not the way Yoongi held himself back for a reason Jimin was just starting to unravel.
Despite all of this, there was a hopeful warmth coming to life in Jimin’s chest, and when his eyes landed on Taehyung’s patch of flowers, Jimin was filled with the yearning for something new and beautiful to bloom inside of him, as well.
“I think I’m beginning to.”
The two new dragons were called Namjoon and Seokjin.
They fit into the original three-person group so easily Jimin could hardly remember a time without the sound of Seokjin’s laugh curling around his heart and the warmth of Namjoon’s hand pressing against his cheek.
Namjoon was younger than Yoongi, but Seokjin turned out to be older. In the beginning, Jimin had thought that might be a cause of a problem between the two, but the eldest was gentle and almost childish in his way of life, enjoying things such as sunbathing in his shifted form and playfully wrestling with Jeongguk after dinner.
Jeongguk had warmed up to them quickly, almost at an alarming rate. He hung on to every single word Namjoon said with stars in his eyes, and he cuddled up to Jin almost as often as he did with Jimin.
During a warm afternoon, Namjoon and Yoongi were out for a flight around the forest together, which Seokjin had earlier explained to Jimin was a natural instinct most dragons had to make sure that the home their horde lived in was safe and well.
Seokjin was in his dragon form bathing in a large patch of sunlight, Jimin a tiny figure beside one of his folded wings. Jeongguk came bounding out of their cave and plopped right onto Jimin, nuzzling their cheeks together.
“Let’s play,” Jeongguk said.
“Sure,” Jimin answered easily, lazily. He had been relaxed and sated in the warmth from both the sun and Seokjin’s massive body, but Jeongguk was vibrating with an enthusiasm that Jimin couldn’t deny.
“In my shifted form?” Jeongguk asked hopefully.
Seokjin let out a low grumble that sounded suspiciously like a warning.
“Don’t worry,” Jeongguk said. “Yoongi’s been teaching me to control my movements and strength almost every afternoon!”
“So that’s what you two always sneak away for,” Jimin murmured.
Jeongguk bit his lip. “I was scared that I’d hurt you again, like the first day. But I’m much better now! I’ll prove it, okay? Please?”
Jimin laughed. “Go ahead and shift, then.”
So he did, and immediately the fire colored dragon let out a happy roar that had both Jimin and Seokjin smiling. Jeongguk came over and touched his large head to Jin’s, then, much more gently and slowly, bent his neck and hovered his head right above Jimin’s, his smokey breath ruffling Jimin’s hair before his snout pressed against the prince’s scalp, a makeshift peck that both Seokjin and Namjoon began doing to him whenever they shifted.
Suddenly, Jeongguk gently grabbed the back of Jimin’s shirt and lifted him two feet into the air, then lightly tossed him into a patch of flowers.
“Hey!” Jimin shrieked, surprised laughter bursting through their meadow. He got up and smacked at Jeongguk’s scales, and he could hear a low rumbling deep in the hatchling’s chest that sounded like laughter.
Jin eventually got up to join the fun, Jimin sprinting around as fast as he could only to have an infuriating tail swipe him around the stomach and fling him back into the soft grass, or for one of them to beat their wing up and down once to create a draft so strong it knocked Jimin over.
When Namjoon and Yoongi returned, they found Jimin clambering across one of Seokjin’s leathery wings in a challenge to get on the amethyst dragon’s back, the eldest dragon laughing through his nose and occasionally tilting his wing from side to side so that Jimin would stumble and slide and curse.
For a strange blind, panicked second, Yoongi was overwhelmed with the fear that Jimin was going to fall and hurt himself, despite knowing that Seokjin, or any of the other dragons in the horde, would never let that happen.
But still, he came over and gently swept his wing on top of Seokjin’s, effectively lifting Jimin onto the flattened surface and slid him towards the ground where he’d be safe and stable on his own two feet.
“Yoongi! We were playing. Jeonggukie can be gentle now.”
When Jimin looked up at him, tears of laughter still clinging to his bottom lashes like diamonds, lips pulled into a grin so large there were lines around his sun kissed cheeks and happy eyes, Yoongi couldn’t resist bending down, a rumbling sound soft and low that resembled a cat’s purr building in his throat, and gently nuzzling Jimin’s neck.
For almost two weeks now, Yoongi scenting Jimin has become more natural.
Before they departed in the morning, Yoongi would run a casual hand across Jimin’s neck, or on especially fond days, he would dip down and press his cheek, nose, or lips to the exposed skin, never failing to make Jimin shiver.
Yoongi was the only one who scented Jimin on the neck, and the implications of that were not lost to Jimin.
It had something heavy and overwhelming in the best way settle in his gut, and whenever Jimin remembered it he’d squirm and bring a hand up to his neck, rubbing.
Another new development was the appearance of little gifts that were laid on Jimin’s folded furs every afternoon, ranging from bright bouquets of flowers that couldn’t be found in their forest to leather-bound journals to a new pair of shoes.
Jimin knew that Yoongi was leaving them for him, but he was perplexed when he saw that nobody else in the horde was getting gifts.
“What is it today?” Namjoon smiled at Jimin when he emerged from the cave. Namjoon and Seokjin were mending clothes together on the grass — or more, Namjoon was handing Jin the supplies he needed while Jin sewed on patches and fixed tears.
Jimin held up a beautiful pair of earrings. He’d been wearing tiny gold studs since he came, but these were longer and heavier, adorned with jewels the color of Yoongi’s eyes.
“They’re gorgeous,” Jin gushed. “Put them on now!”
Jimin obliged, sitting down in the grass and switching out his earrings. The weight of them was foreign on his earlobes, but he liked the way they caught the sun and swung against his jawbone.
“What has he been getting you two?” Jimin asked.
Namjoon and Seokjin froze, confusion making its way onto both their faces.
“What do you mean?”
“Yoongi,” Jimin said. “Hasn’t he been getting everybody gifts?”
Namjoon let out a startled bark of laughter.
“Oh, no. Oh, Jimin.”
“What?” it was Jimin’s turned to be confused now, as smiles slid over the two dragons’ faces.
“Jimin, he’s not giving anybody anything except you,” Seokjin explained.
Jimin frowned. “But why? Isn’t that a bit unfair? I don’t need all these things, surely he could take time to get Jeongguk some warmer clothes, or something.”
“Jiminie, these are courting gifts,” Namjoon finally said with a light laugh. “Yoongi is courting you.”
Mouth falling open in shock, Jimin sputtered. “I—I didn’t know! Are you…are you sure?”
“No doubt about it,” Seokjin said drily. “Even if I weren’t a dragon and was unable to smell his scent all over you, I’d be able to tell.”
“Courting isn’t…really a thing with humans,” Jimin huffed. “Not like this, at least.”
Namjoon smiled gently. “It’s okay, Jimin, we understand. But now you know.”
Suddenly the feeling of the earrings was much more pronounced, and every time he moved his head the feeling of them swinging back and forth filled Jimin with a strange sense of belonging and pride.
Pride that Yoongi had picked these out with just him in mind, pride that he got to wear them on such a visible part of his body.
When Yoongi returned that night before supper, Jimin caught him alone and bit his lip shyly.
“Thank you for the gifts,” was all he said.
Yoongi didn’t say anything, but he reached a hand up and fiddled with one of Jimin’s swinging earrings, and the look in his eyes said enough.
It was a strangely lonely day for Jimin.
The rest of the horde had been strangely jumpy and secretive that entire week, but whenever Jimin questioned them about it they would completely avoid the topic.
Even Yoongi, whom Jimin pulled aside with both his hands clasped around one of the dragon’s, looking up at him with genuine concern, Yoongi had just shook his head and told Jimin not to worry about it, brushing an absentminded hand against Jimin’s neck.
Though they probably thought they were protecting him, it annoyed Jimin to no end. He felt left out, and for the first time in a long time he was unhappy with the horde and the forest and with Yoongi.
Yoongi, who he thought was beginning to open up and trust him.
Yoongi, who, somehow along the way, Jimin began to want to share everything with.
Yoongi, who was so confusing and mysterious but beautiful and gentle and capable of so much love.
Jimin supposed that the majority of his hurt stemmed from the fact that he thought he had cracked through to Yoongi’s heart, yet when the first conflict arose it seemed as if they had made no progress at all.
Huffing, Jimin left the empty cave, annoyed that they had all flown off in their shifted forms without telling him why. He went down the now-familiar path towards the lake, hoping that Taehyung and Hoseok would be able to sense his distress and seek him out. He missed the nymph and the spirit, and knew that Hoseok’s easy laughter and and Taehyung’s lilac soul would help ease the lonely ache growing inside of him.
There was a low noise in the distance that had Jimin pausing.
Another unidentifiable noise, and Jimin was frozen now.
Jimin understood the energy of the forest now.
It was hard to explain, but it felt — off.
Maybe because of the fact that it was so deeply linked to Yoongi, Jimin’s felt completely safe within it, in an intrinsic way that he’s never felt before, not even in the castle of his childhood.
He was never afraid of getting lost, or being attacked by a wild creature, or of swimming too far out in the lake and drowning, because deep down all of these things were linked to Yoongi, and even when Jimin had first come here, there was a tiny part of him that knew the dragon would never let anything happen to him.
Now, however, Jimin was afraid.
He was afraid because something felt different and different was bad, at least in this context, because what if it meant that Yoongi or someone else from the horde was hurt and maybe this was connected to why they had all been acting so strangely.
His thoughts were cut off when a large shadow suddenly cast him into darkness, and before he could blink an unfamiliar dragon landed before him.
This time, though, Jimin knew that it didn’t have good intentions.
He knew deep in his bones that he was in danger, could practically see it in the way the trees held themselves stiller, in the way the wind picked up in an ominous whistle.
Even the sky itself seemed to darken, the previous soft sunlight fading and hiding away.
Backing up, Jimin swallowed thickly when the dragon directed its gaze right on him.
Without any hesitation, the dragon swiped its tail underneath Jimin’s legs and sent him sprawling to the floor.
Adrenaline kicked in and suddenly Jimin found himself rolling, wanting to keep his face off the ground and his eyes on the beast. As he lifted his gaze, he saw the dragon’s claws coming straight for him in an attempt to pick him up.
Heart racing even further at the thought of being taken away from this forest, from his horde, from Yoongi, Jimin screamed out, “No!”
He rolled away again, knowing that there was no way he would be able to escape from this dragon using his inferior strength.
Finding his feet, Jimin didn’t hesitate to sprint towards the lake.
He heard the dragon let out a roar behind him, shaking the very earth beneath his feet.
Jimin zigzagged through the trees, knowing that the only asset he had on his side was his speed and agility.
When he made it to the shoreline, however, he was knocked to the side again, harder this time, and he fell harshly.
The dragon had pushed him with its tail, and though it was painful and disorienting, Jimin could tell it was trying not to kill him.
Dizzy now with exertion and fear and strain, Jimin got up again, determined.
He didn’t know where he was going to run — he didn’t want to lead the dragon to their den, but where else could he go?
This question did not matter, however, because he was knocked over again.
The final time, he was crying and screaming and when he hit his head against a rock with one rough shove from the foreign dragon, the last thing that left his lips was Yoongi’s name.
There was something wrong with the forest when the horde came back to the cave near evening, and they could all feel it.
When they shifted into their human forms and found the cave empty of Jimin’s presence, they knew.
Knew that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
Focusing, and drawing energy from the forest, Yoongi burst into a sprint towards the lake, the others following blindly.
They had been gone the entire day patrolling — flying over their forest and the places around it because lately, Yoongi had been feeling the presence of something dark and looming and foreign, something that he knew came with the intent to harm his horde.
Not wanting to scare Jimin, Yoongi had told them all to keep it a secret, at least until they knew exactly what was going on.
Now, though, Yoongi regretted it.
Now, as he raced towards where he hoped Jimin would be, he prayed to the stars that his blessing was okay.
Now, he realized he should have kept Jimin informed.
Better for him to protect himself, to be on guard, to just know.
Remembering all the times in the past week Yoongi had looked over and caught glimpses of loneliness and sadness on Jimin’s face had him running even faster, desperate to get to him, desperate to take the prince’s heart in his hands and make sure it never felt anything but sunkissed joy for the rest of their lives.
Yoongi was confused as he drew closer to the lake, the soil becoming so damp that soon he was slipping in mud.
When they heard the unmistakable roar of a foreign dragon not far off, Namjoon and Jeongguk immediately shifted, and within seconds they were gone, flying towards the intruder.
Seokjin and Yoongi skidded towards the lake, chests heaving.
“There,” Seokjin panted, pointing off towards the other side of the lake, where Yoongi could see the unfamiliar dragon just before Namjoon and Jeongguk barreled into it as one, the usually-peaceful forest filling with long, violent roars.
Yoongi and Jin ran towards them, the entire time Yoongi’s eyes trained on a familiar figure hunched over something on the ground.
When they were close enough, Hoseok lifted his pale blue eyes and met Yoongi’s.
Yoongi slid the remaining feet to Hoseok on his knees, the mud making it easy, fear traveling up his spine like a poisonous vine now that he saw the water spirit was hunched protectively over Jimin.
Jimin, his Jimin, whom he had sworn up and down to protect with his life.
Hands immediately flying out to hover over Jimin’s body, Yoongi did a quick scan.
“It was trying to take him away,” Hoseok said, leftover panic still laced in his normally happy voice. “When I emerged from the lake because I heard screams, it was knocking Jimin down over and over again with its tail. He—he was screaming and trying to get back up but it just kept fucking knocking him down, and I got so angry I drenched everything, Yoongi, I made sure to cover Jimin but the trees and the animals — I just didn’t know what else to do.”
Trying to piece together the story from Hoseok’s stilted explanation, Yoongi shook his head. The guardian of the lake had probably been so overwhelmed with the violence and the fear that had been bouncing around the forest like evil spirits that he had lost some control, causing the energy in the lake to rise and expand, spraying water over everything. There were a few trees that had been knocked over, and with the force of Hoseok’s power Yoongi’s sure that the water had most likely knocked over and subdued the dragon as well.
“You’re fine, Hobi, you did well,” Yoongi said. “It’s okay.”
He could see now that Jimin’s head was bleeding a little bit, and already bruises were blooming across his blessing’s skin.
Seokjin had grabbed one of Jimin’s cold, limp hands, brows furrowed in concern.
All three of their heads whipped towards the dragons as the offender let out one last ugly, drawn out screech before stumbling away from Namjoon and Jeongguk and flying away.
Jeongguk looked like he was ready to go after him, but Namjoon laid one of his wings across the hatchling’s back, in both comfort and restraint.
Looking at the two of them side by side like this, Yoongi was struck with the fact that Jeongguk had grown since they had met.
Though still smaller than Namjoon, he no longer looked dwarfed as they stood side by side in their shifted forms.
Jeongguk was growing and changing before their very eyes, and something about that had Yoongi’s heart seizing in his chest.
His horde was complete and full and everything he could have ever asked for and he was overwhelmed with the need to keep them safe. To keep them together, and happy, and healthy, no matter what it would cost him.
“He was screaming for you,” Hoseok ’s voice broke Yoongi’s train of thought. Meeting the water spirit’s eyes, Yoongi saw that Hoseok was crying. “I don’t know if he even knew it himself, but the entire time, he was screaming your name.”
When Yoongi broke, Seokjin caught him.
Rain began to fall, drenching a forest that had almost fallen apart.
Yoongi carried Jimin back to their cave, hunching over his body to shield him from the rain. Halfway there, Taehyung had emerged, frightened from all of the commotion, and ran up to them, an arm outstretched towards Jimin.
Before he could process what was happening, Yoongi cradled Jimin closer to his chest and hissed at the nymph, not trusting anyone or anything else around his blessing right then, his instincts on full alert now that the fear and adrenaline had left his limbs weaker and shakier.
Taehyung scowled right back, never faltering in his steps to get to his friend.
“What happened, Yoongi?” he demanded. “What happened?”
“Another dragon,” Namjoon croaked out. “We were all out patrolling, yet somehow he came and…”
“He wanted to take Jimin away,” Seokjin explained. “He wanted to take our blessing for himself.”
Taehyung shook his head, calmer now that he saw Jimin wasn’t mortally injured. He fell into step beside Yoongi’s horde, the rain soaking all of their hair and dripping water down their cheeks like tears.
“But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Isn’t he only Yoongi’s? Even if they took him, he wouldn’t attract dragons that are fit for anyone but Yoongi, right?”
Yoongi nodded. “He would be able to feel Jimin’s blessing, but also feel that it wasn’t calling out for him since he wouldn’t fit into our horde. Maybe it angered him, or…maybe he was just so desperate for his own horde that he tricked himself into believing Jimin would become his blessing after he took him away from us.”
When Taehyung had first saw them, he had looked ready to bite Yoongi’s head off.
But from the way Yoongi was clutching Jimin to his chest, guilt and fear and regret stitched across every line of his body like a homemade doll that looked just a little bit off, Taehyung could see that the dragon felt bad enough.
Saw it in the way Yoongi set Jimin down close to the fire, running a hand through Jimin’s wet hair to shove it off his forehead so the boy wouldn’t get sick.
Saw it in the way Yoongi’s hands shook when he dressed Jimin in warm clothes and bundled him in a pile of furs.
Saw it in the way Yoongi’s eyes kept shifting back and forth from gold to brown, as if he were physically fighting his dragon’s instincts to go after the one who had hurt Jimin.
But most importantly, Taehyung saw a new light in Yoongi’s eyes.
The beginning of something unexplainable, indescribable — the flicker of something like a realization, maybe, or a promise.
And in that light, Taehyung knew Jimin would be okay.
When Jimin woke, it was dark and warm in the cave.
Momentarily confused, he grounded himself with the sound of his horde’s breathing, recognizing the tiny snores that left Namjoon’s throat and the little huffs Jeongguk occasionally let out.
When he wriggled, he recognized that there was a heavy arm around his waist and a chest pressed against his back, which explained how he was so warm.
Letting out a small noise of confusion, he moved around some more, head swimming with sleep and dizziness.
“Hush,” Yoongi’s voice was right by his ear, and the arm moved, a tiny burst of cold air coming into the fur they were sharing as the dragon helped him roll over. “You’re okay.”
Drawn towards the immense body heat Yoongi was giving off and feeling safe in the darkness of the cave, Jimin scooched forward and pressed his face into Yoongi’s neck, snuffling a bit, cheek cold against the heat of the dragon’s skin.
Yoongi stiffened, arm rewrapping around Jimin’s waist, and he both heard and felt the dragon suck in a breath.
“Thirsty,” Jimin drawled out.
Yoongi immediately moved to sit up, and Jimin’s hands flew to his arms.
“No!” Jimin said.
He didn’t want Yoongi to leave.
He never wanted to be apart from Yoongi and his warmth ever again.
“I need to get you water, lovely,” Yoongi whispered.
“Nevermind,” Jimin said. “I can wait.”
Yoongi let out a light laugh at that, and inched the both of them to the left a bit, reaching over Jimin and grabbing a canteen.
He uncapped it and held the cold metal to Jimin’s lips, the water cold and making Jimin shiver and cough a bit as it ran down his throat.
“Does your head hurt?”
In the pitch black of the cave, Yoongi’s warm voice seemed like a physical being, wrapping itself around Jimin and warming him almost as well as the dragon’s body heat.
Jimin let out a noncommittal noise, swallowing the water in small gulps.
When Yoongi pulled the water away, Jimin made a sound of protest, but Yoongi capped the canteen and placed it to the side.
“You’ll make yourself sick,” the dragon explained.
“Is Jimin awake?” Jeongguk’s voice broke through the haze of Jimin’s mind, and he turned his head to look at the younger. “Is he okay?”
“Go back to sleep, hatchling,” was all Yoongi said. Belatedly, Jimin realized that a low rumbling was coming from the back of Yoongi’s throat, and strangely it had Jimin’s heart relaxing and slowing, and his eyelids drooping.
“Are you purring?” Jimin asked, pressing a hand to Yoongi’s Adam’s apple. It was vibrating, and when Jimin moved closer he realized that Yoongi’s chest was rumbling as well.
For some reason, Jimin found this so overwhelmingly endearing that he let out a little weak laugh. “You’re purring.”
“It’s not purring,” Yoongi groused. “It just comes out sometimes.”
They fell into silence again, the sound of the horde’s breathing syncing into rhythmic ups and downs, and Jimin was so close to sleep again when Yoongi spoke.
“Jimin,” the dragon whispered. “I’m sorry.”
Jimin wanted to shake his head, tell him that there was nothing for him to be sorry about, but the warmth and the rumbling of Yoongi’s chest and the weight of his body pressed tightly against Jimin’s pulled him underneath the surface of sleep and held him there, calm and safe in the ocean of Yoongi’s arms.
Since the encounter with the violent dragon, the horde have all been around the cave a lot more often.
They realized that the patrols were useless if they all went at once, and the loneliness that had been creeping up on Jimin disappeared.
Now, also, Hoseok and Taehyung came and visited much more often, and though at first the dragons were wary of the strangers, the water spirit and the nymph seemed to fit into their group with ease.
In the beginning they had been coming to check up on Jimin, who had been fussed over for about a week before he got sick of his horde’s constant questions and demands for him to sleep and shoving food into his mouth when he claimed that he was done with his meal. Hoseok and Taehyung hadn’t helped the situation either, Hoseok constantly talking about the way he was startled from his afternoon snooze in his lake to the sound of Jimin’s bloodcurdling screams and Taehyung bringing up how the trees and flowers could still sense Jimin’s spilled blood, blooming more hesitantly than they had before.
Their comments would always come at a time when Jimin thought the dragons were done fussing, then his horde would clam up all over again, physically scooting closer to him and glaring at the sky, as if the offending dragon would come and try to take him away again.
Now, though, it seemed as if the two were coming up with any excuse to stop by.
Jimin had drawn the line when the two of them returned one day under the pretense that they were returning a flower that Jimin had supposedly dropped, when Jimin knew full well that they had probably plucked it from Taehyung’s skin thirty seconds before.
“You two are aware that you’re welcome to come by anytime, right?” Yoongi had finally sighed out, closing his eyes from where he laid in the sun by Jimin’s lounging form while Hoseok and Taehyung let out large, unrestrained grins.
Namjoon had let out a loud laugh from the other side of Yoongi, head resting on the smaller dragon’s stomach. “Welcome to the horde.”
Jimin watched as Hoseok chased Jeongguk and Taehyung around. The two were screaming as balls of water were chasing them around, Hoseok sitting on the ground and laughing as his hands moved, controlling the water.
One splashed right on top of Jeongguk’s head and he let out a wail of defeat, standing there completely soaked. He looked to the right, where Taehyung was doubled over laughing at him, and shoved the nymph to the right, making him collide into one of Hoseok’s orbs as well, his entire torso getting wet.
“They’re like kids when they’re together,” Yoongi mused from where he sat next to Jimin.
Their sides were pressed together, and Jimin couldn’t bring himself to hate what had happened with the foreign dragon.
It seemed to bring their entire horde closer together — the constant presence of Taehyung and Hoseok livened up all of their days, they were opening up to each other more, sharing stories of their past and whispering about their dreams and hopes and fears at night when the trees were quiet enough to listen.
Yoongi was spending more and more time with Jimin, inviting him out on long walks through the forest and sitting next to him during dinner.
“Jeongguk still is a kid,” Jimin laughed.
“In dragon years, yea, he is,” Yoongi chuckled. “You and Taehyung would be too, if you were dragons.”
The two of them sat side by side as they watched the three play, and soon enough Namjoon and Seokjin emerged from the cave and joined them. It was a hot day, one in which they could afford to get a little wet and fool around, and Jimin found himself immediately smiling when the sounds of his horde’s shrieks and laughter echoed throughout the forest. Jimin could imagine the happy sounds seeping into the bark of the trees, to be saved for later during their rainy days, when fear and uncertainty and sadness crept up on them like a shadow.
Jimin always wanted to remember this. This feeling of belonging, of being carefree, of living so simply and happily.
“Do you think we’ll be like this forever?” Jimin suddenly asked. “Do you think…this will change? That we’ll change?”
Yoongi turned his full attention towards his blessing. “I don’t know, lovely. We’re still figuring things out as we go, aren’t we? But I think…change is inevitable. For good or for bad, things will never stay as they once were.”
“You think life can get happier than this?” Jimin asked.
He looked around them, at the bright sun and the full leaves and thick flowers growing behind Taehyung’s every playful step, at Jin wrestling Hoseok into a headlock, both of their hair dripping water down their faces, Namjoon and Jeongguk dancing circles around them as they cheered on the impromptu wrestling match.
Yoongi looked at him then, really looked at him. The way the gold began to bleed into his brown irises made Jimin shift.
Slowly, Yoongi’s face bloomed into a large, warm smile. “I know it can, lovely. I promise you.”
And it did.
The next morning, right before sunrise, Yoongi woke Jimin up, hushing his questions with a finger to the lips, and the two of them crept out of the cave before the others woke up.
Jimin turned to Yoongi once they were in the meadow to find the dragon rubbing the back of his neck, eyes trailed towards the ground.
“Is everything okay? Yoongi?”
“I’ve never thanked you,” Yoongi blurted out. “For…for being so…okay about all of this. Being taken from your home. For having to live a life that you felt wasn’t yours to live.”
Yoongi bit his lip, looking up, fists clenched on either side of his body. “You saved my life, Jimin. I don’t think you know how much everything has changed since you came, but…it’s different now.”
“Different how?” Jimin whispered.
“Better, different,” Yoongi said softly. “Warmer. Happier. You brought me a home.”
Jimin blushed, looked away.
“Hey,” Yoongi called. “I mean it, you know? I’m happy. I only hope…that I could bring you half the amount of happiness that you’ve brought to me.”
“You could,” Jimin said, his words an unspoken invitation. “I would let you.”
Yoongi paused, the underlying meaning in Jimin’s words clicking in his head. Something in his eyes darkened, warmed, focused.
He stepped closer, their breaths visible in the cold morning air. “I want to.”
“Okay,” Jimin said so softly it was almost as if he mouthed it.
Yoongi brought a hand up and ran his knuckles down Jimin’s flushed cheek. “I want to show you the sunrise.”
Jimin blinked. “Okay,” he said again.
Yoongi grinned, a smug look on his face. “Properly.”
Stepping back a few feet, he shifted, and Jimin let out a laugh when he realized what Yoongi meant. Yoongi’s golden eyes were sparkling as he lowered a wing for Jimin to climb onto his back.
Jimin slid into the curve between Yoongi’s long neck and spine comfortably, and he took a moment to stare at his hands resting on Yoongi’s warm scales. Suddenly found himself choked with emotion when he realized he liked how the ring finger of his left hand was a little piece of Yoongi now, liked the way his blessing looked pressed up against Yoongi’s scales.
Yoongi shifted beneath him, large and strong. In his dragon form, his scent was most potent, and Jimin felt surrounded by the smokey scent in the best way, like sitting by a bonfire at the beach late at night or going outside when everybody had smoke coming out from their chimneys.
Then and there, in the quiet moments before sunrise, before the rest of the world woke up and it was just Jimin and Yoongi and the unlabeled fizzle of attraction and devotion between them, Jimin felt like he was where he was meant to be.
Yoongi stretched out his wings, flexing them a bit as if stretching. Jimin barely had time to hold on before Yoongi ran a few steps and then took off, and suddenly they were in the air and the canopy of their forest was becoming smaller and smaller below them.
This time, unlike the first time Jimin rode Yoongi, he let himself look.
He let all of the awe and excitement and elation fill him up like a balloon, and when Yoongi flew them in a playful circle that made Jimin’s hair fly in his face and his stomach jump to his throat, he let himself throw his head back and laugh.
Yoongi flew them in lazy, meandering circles as the sky lightened, and Jimin had slumped forward to rest his upper body fully against the curve of Yoongi’s neck, arms hugged around the broad warmth and cheek pressed against the onyx scales.
The sun finally made its appearance, tiny rays peeking hesitantly over the horizon, pinks and oranges and yellows forming out of nowhere in the previously dark sky, and Jimin was breathless as he watched the day create itself.
He was silent throughout the entire thing, marveling at the way the sunlight greeted him like an old lover, kissing his skin and running its fingers through his hair and making his cheeks flush. There was a tight feeling in Jimin’s chest, the way it got when he was overwhelmingly happy, a feeling that he associated with finding raspberries on his windowsill.
The rising sun was reminiscent of the honey in Yoongi’s eyes, and Jimin wanted to drown in that thick sweetness.
By the time they came back to the forest ground, the sun was high in the sky, and Jimin’s cheeks were flushed with cold air and exhilaration. Before he slid off of Yoongi’s back, he gave the dragon a tight hug around the neck, digging his face into the hard scales and breathing in deep, inhaling Yoongi’s scent.
Jimin’s feet were a bit wobbly from clenching his legs so tightly around Yoongi’s back, but Yoongi held a careful, steady wing by Jimin’s side until he could stand properly.
Then Yoongi was back in his human form and glancing at Jimin with an almost shy smile and all Jimin could feel was the glow from the sun and the rainbows cast all around him as he sat surrounded by Yoongi’s scales and the way he felt as if he could see the entire world up there in the sky but all he had cared about was Yoongi.
So Jimin closed the distance between them and pressed his lips to Yoongi’s, then pulled back just as quickly, looking into Yoongi’s eyes to see if it was alright.
When Yoongi brought his large hands up to cup Jimin’s cheeks and kissed him again, deeper this time, Jimin wound his arms around Yoongi’s neck and opened his mouth into the kiss, letting the dragon have a taste of his soul and getting a taste in return.
Yoongi knew his horde well.
Knew that Jeongguk was the deepest sleeper and that Seokjin liked his meat cooked a little more than everyone else and that Namjoon could take one look at a tree and tell you its scientific name and how long it’s been alive. He even knew the differences between Taehyung and Hoseok’s footsteps, and the way the air smelled the way it did before a storm whenever Hoseok was around, and the way Taehyung always became sleepy the moment the sun set.
So when Jin sidled up to him one afternoon with a sly little grin, Yoongi braced himself for what was coming.
“So,” Jin sang out, bumping his shoulder against Yoongi’s. “You and Jiminie.”
Yoongi glanced over at the rest of the horde, who were caught up in playing some complicated game that involved sticks and yelling and laughter.
When Yoongi didn’t respond, Seokjin huffed. “So, you and Jiminie,” he repeated.
Yoongi sighed. “I don’t know what to say to that.”
“Yes? No? Can you confirm? I mean, you don’t have to, because it’s a bit obvious now with the way you curl around him when you two are sleeping and the way his neck always carries your scent, more than it did before, but…I mean…it’s good, right? You’re both happy?”
Underneath Jin’s teasing, Yoongi could tell that the oldest dragon really did want the best for the both of them. Softening a bit, Yoongi lifted a hand and scented Seokjin’s cheek.
“I’m happier than I’ve ever been, Jinnie. I hope Jimin’s happy, as well. I’m doing everything I can…to make this a home for him. For you all.”
“I know,” Jin’s voice was gentle now, too. “Don’t think I don’t notice you sneaking out to patrol in the dead of night, and always giving the younger ones half your portion of meat at dinner. You’re a good man, Yoongi. You’re a good dragon.”
Yoongi blinked back a sudden rush of emotion.
“Namjoon and I never fit in anywhere, did you know?” Seokjin looked fondly at Namjoon, eyes softening even further. “Not really. We were content, sometimes, but none of the hordes ever felt right. But when Jimin’s blessing called out to us…we just knew. We flew here with no hesitation, and I haven’t regretted it for a second since coming here. This is where we belong, I think.”
Yoongi let Seokjin take his hand. “You do belong here,” Yoongi said. “We all do.”
Jimin woke up on his birthday to Jeongguk blinking down at him, a toothy grin and a dimple on display.
“Happy birthday, Jiminie!” Jeongguk exclaimed, watching as Jimin sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“Thanks, Guk,” he said softly, reaching out to rub a hand down Jeongguk’s cheek. Though Jimin’s sense of smell was inferior to the dragons’, scenting them and allowing them to scent him was second nature now, the physical affection comfortable and loving and needed.
Jeongguk scented him back with a happy little noise and then took his hand. “Come on, up! We have a big day planned.”
And they did.
Jeongguk had led Jimin through the empty cave and they followed a trail of flowers left in Taehyung’s recent footsteps to the lake, where everybody was waiting.
When they caught sight of Jimin and Jeongguk, they immediately burst into song, and their voices echoed throughout the trees and across the surface of the lake and filled Jimin with so much affection he wanted to burst apart at the seams.
“Happy birthday to you,” by the time the song was finished, Jimin was standing right in the circle they had formed, and a cake one of the dragons had definitely flown into town to retrieve was held in Yoongi’s arms, even topped off with a few lit candles.
“Make a wish, lovely,” Yoongi said, smiling at Jimin from behind the cake.
Jimin grinned back, happy down to his bones, and closed his eyes.
A year back, before Yoongi and before the forest and before the horde, Jimin would have celebrated his birthday alone. But if he had had a cake to wish on, he would have wished for everything to stay the same. He had been so afraid of his future that he only thought of the bad things that could arise, and never the good things.
So this year, surrounded by beings that loved him and a home that was full of moonlight and dewdrop leaves and crystal clear lakes, Jimin wished for change. He wished for everything that life would throw at him, the good and the bad, the inevitable heartbreaks that would tear him apart, the promised celebrations and moments that would hang stars in-between his ribs. He wished for every single up and down of life, but most of all he wished that the people staring at him with warmth in their eyes and music on their tongues and his scent in their skin would stay with him throughout it all.
That night, after they had spent the entire day getting wine-drunk (Seokjin and Namjoon had gone to town the day before with a list Yoongi had written them full of everything Jimin liked — sparkling wine, creamy cake, a plethora of raspberries, popping candies) and swimming in the lake, Yoongi and Jimin snuck away as the others were going for another round of games.
Their time together was common now, the two of them often going for walks throughout the forest or watching the sunrise together up in the air, but when Yoongi reached out to entwine their fingers Jimin still felt a flutter of excitement.
“Had a good day?” the dragon asked, the sun beginning to dip below the tree line and casting what looked like purple-gold thread throughout the strands of his hair.
“The best,” Jimin grinned, squeezing their hands together.
“Do you wanna know something?” Yoongi crooned.
Yoongi stopped and held Jimin’s face between his hands, reminiscent of their kiss in the meadow. They’ve shared many since then, but each time they did Jimin’s heart never failed to beat so hard it seemed like it was trying to leap into Yoongi’s own chest for safekeeping.
“I’ve loved you for my entire life, knowing you as my blessing,” Yoongi confessed. “It’s a strange thing, to love something that you don’t know anything about. But then I grew up a little and when I saw you for the first time I loved you even more. When I saw how desperate you were to be happy, though, to have your own life…that love also became guilt. I didn’t want to take you away and make you unhappy.”
Jimin shook his head, bringing his hands up to wrap around Yoongi’s wrists. “I’m not. I’m not unhappy.”
Yoongi smiled softly, pressing their foreheads together. “You were in the beginning. And that terrified me. And I was so cold to you. When you had given me everything, I gave you nothing.”
“You’ve given me more than I ever thought I’d receive,” Jimin responded. “Yoongi. Yoongi, I’m here. I want to be here. Don’t make me leave.”
Yoongi stepped closer, tightened his hands around Jimin’s face, dipped down to kiss his lips.
“I would never. God, the thought of not having you here, with me…you’re staying. Don’t leave.”
“I won’t. Yoongi, I want to stay here. With you, and everyone else, forever.”
Yoongi kissed him again. “I loved you when I didn’t know you, and I loved you even when guilt was eating every inch of me from the inside out. I loved you then, but I love you even more now, knowing you. I love you, Jimin.”
It was Jimin’s turn to surge up and take Yoongi’s kiss now, moving his hands from Yoongi’s wrists to the side of his neck, scenting the dragon as their tongues met.
“And I love you,” Jimin pulled back and said. “For everything you are and for everything you will be, I’m in love with you.”
Five years later, the dragon and his blessing stood in that exact same spot.
The moon illuminated their silhouettes as they pressed against each other, whispers of love and devotion making the trees around them sigh in contentment.
Their breaths smelled like birthday cake and raspberries and wine, and when Jimin closed his eyes and rested it on Yoongi’s shoulder, the two of them wrapped around each other and slow danced to a song only they could hear.
Everything was shining.
And that forest was the home of a fantastical, simple, unbreakable love.
Jimin, with his cheek pressed against Yoongi’s jaw, looked up at the man in the moon.
He beamed back.