The further they got into the district, the darker the clouds got above them. The rain, when it came, started all at once, in big, cold drops. It’s been raining for a long time, now, and the ground is soggy under their feet. Water is beginning to seep into Jimin’s left boot. He’s still better off than Taehyung, whose thin cloth slippers have been soaked through for miles, but when Jimin points that out, Taehyung smiles and says, “It’s kind of nice, actually.”
Jimin raises his eyebrows.
“The water warms up inside my shoe,” Taehyung explains. “And then it’s nice. And then I’ll step in a puddle and new cold water comes in, and it’s refreshing. That’s nice, too.”
Jimin finds himself swallowing down a lump in his throat. “I’m going to miss you so much,” he says.
Taehyung moves closer, so that their arms brush as they walk. “We’ll miss you, too,” he says. “But we can visit, and so can you, once the district settles down.”
“Yes, I know,” says Jimin. He doesn’t say, “It won’t be the same,” or, “Who knows when that will be,” or “What if I’m not the right fit and it never gets any better and I’m stuck here forever, or it’s so bad I die? What if I never love my husbands as much as I love you and yours?” He thinks Taehyung knows a little of what he’s feeling, though. And if he’s just slipped his hand into Jimin’s to comfort him, that’s okay, too.
They’re close now, only a mile or two from the center of the district. Jimin is having trouble concentrating on his surroundings, but it doesn’t matter. Tonight he’ll know this road and everything within view as well as he knows his own name. Better, even. People have forgotten their names, but no witch has ever forgotten their district once they’re bound to it. He’s going to love it, probably. He’s supposed to. But there’s no point in trying to like it now, if it’s going to happen anyway.
Taehyung keeps talking. He’s moved on from the weather to the soil enrichment spell he and Hoseok have been planning. Jimin was supposed to help with that. He tunes Taehyung out, just a little, letting the sense of what he’s saying pass through him, but hanging onto the sound of it. It makes it easier not to think about the rumble of thunder approaching.
“You’re late,” is the first thing Jimin’s future husband Yoongi ever says to him. He’s about Jimin’s height, with messy dark hair and a small, pale face. His gaze is sharp and uncomfortable as he looks back and forth between Jimin and Taehyung. It’s hard to tell, but Jimin thinks his eyes linger longest on Taehyung.
He steps forward. “I’m Park Jimin,” he says. “It--the journey took longer than we expected. Because of all the rain.” He hopes Yoongi takes it as a dig, because that’s how Jimin meant it.
Yoongi squints at Jimin. “You walked? If you’d flown, you would have been on time.”
Jimin breathes in slow, breathes out slower. It would be bad if he started crying now. “Seokjin-hyung told me not to deplete my magic before the ceremony,” he says. “Didn’t you--you’ve done this before, right?”
“Oh,” says Yoongi. “Joon and I did a two-day vigil. Maybe that’s why.” His voice is a little softer when he says, “It’s different when it’s an emergency, I guess.”
Taehyung squeezes Jimin’s hand. Maybe he’d done a vigil, too. Jimin hadn’t been there. Taehyung and Hoseok’s marriage was planned far in advance, and Taehyung had stayed with him for months before the ceremony.
“Well, I’m here now,” says Jimin. “Where do you want me?”
Yoongi looks back at him for a long moment, and then turns away, back towards the house. “Joon-ah,” he calls. “Where are you? He’s here.”
Three people file out of the front door, but it’s easy to identify Namjoon. He’s wearing a white robe for the ceremony, like Yoongi is. He’s taller than Yoongi, with a rounder, broader face, but his eyes are just as sharp. They get closer, and the people behind him turn out to be Seokjin and Jeon Jungkook.
“Kookie!” says Jimin. “You finished your training?”
Jungkook grins and nods and comes over for a hug. “I’m apprenticed to Jin-hyung now,” he says, and turns to Taehyung to hug him, too.
“For now,” says Seokjin. He hadn’t been the head of the council last time Jimin saw him. He looks a lot more serious now. Jimin hadn’t been able to imagine him as council head, when he heard, but Hoseok said he’d wear it well. Looking at him now, Jimin can see it.
“Do you want to change inside?” Seokjin asks. “We should start soon.”
The door opens into the kitchen. He’s the only one in the house, so Jimin decides he might as well change there. It doesn’t seem like a good time to explore.
He puts his pack down and starts pulling things out. His ceremonial robe is all the way at the bottom, crumpled and a little damp. He tries to shake out the wrinkles, but it doesn’t do much good.
Taehyung made this robe. Taehyung makes most of their clothes, except for when they need something special. Jimin wonders who does that here, and who cooks, and cleans, and takes care of the garden. The kitchen looks clean, but they have company right now, so that doesn’t mean anything.
The wrinkles in his robe don’t matter at all, because Jimin hasn’t been outside for more than five minutes before it’s soaked through. Everyone else is equally wet, except for Seokjin. Jimin can see the rain hitting him, but it’s gone before it soaks into his clothes. Jimin doesn’t know that spell, but it seems like it would be a complicated one. It’s a lot to casually have working when you don’t really need it. There’s a reason Seokjin was elected head of the council, but back when Jimin was training, he didn’t flaunt his power like this. He smiles at Jimin and gestures for him to join Yoongi and Namjoon. They’re ready to start. Jimin isn’t, but he doesn’t think he’ll ever be, so they might as well go.
They walk single file down a wooded path. Yoongi, Namjoon and Jimin are in front, barefoot and shivering in thin, sodden white robes. They’re followed by Seokjin, who will be performing the ceremony. Taehyung and Jungkook, here for moral support and education, respectively, bring up the rear. Jimin’s feet hurt from stepping on twigs and pebbles, and he misses being able to hold hands with Taehyung. He misses--He wishes, suddenly, that they had stopped for a last moment together before they’d gotten to the house, or that he’d brought Taehyung inside with him when he’d changed. But saying goodbye doesn’t mean the same thing to Taehyung as it does to Jimin, so maybe it’s better that they didn’t get the chance.
Ceremonies like this always happen in the heart of the district. In some districts, it’s a cave, or a hill. Hoseok comes from a district where the heart is at the center of a huge lake. Here it’s a spring, about twenty minutes’ walk into the forest. Jimin, Namjoon and Yoongi stand side by side at the edge. The earth under Jimin’s feet is waterlogged and cold, and it’s hard to keep as still as he’s supposed to. Seokjin, behind them, recites the spell that will bind Jimin to the other two, and all three of them to the land.
Jimin has imagined this ceremony. Too many times, considering he was imagining a version of it that was never going to happen. He could have gone years and years as an unattached witch, and the council still wouldn’t have let him marry Taehyung and Hoseok, who didn’t need him. Even in his fantasies, he had to have something go wrong in their district before it would make sense for him to be permanently bound to them.
The pond at the heart of Taehyung and Hoseok’s district is just big enough to be good for swimming, and surrounded by tall grass. There’s a boulder at the edge of it, big enough to lie on and sunbathe. Jimin and Hoseok could climb to the top without help, but Taehyung, even though he’s the tallest of them, always needed a hand up. Jimin would have loved to get married there, but now he might not even get to see it again.
It’s dark here, under the trees. The rain falls noisily on the leaves above them, and Jimin’s feet sink into the mud. His skin is clammy and his robe is stuck to him with a combination of rainwater and nervous sweat. He understands now what Taehyung meant about the water in his shoes, because he can’t wait to get into the spring.
Jin’s voice stops, and there’s an expectant silence. Jimin’s body goes cold--colder--with fear for about three seconds before Yoongi, on Namjoon’s far side, says, “Min Yoongi.”
“Kim Namjoon,” says Namjoon, too quickly.
Namjoon’s nerves make it easier for Jimin to keep his voice level when he says, “Park Jimin.” Then he steps off the bank and slips into the water and under.
Jimin shivers violently, even as he enjoys the way the cold water feels on his skin. As he rises to the surface, he feels someone come up behind him and wrap warm arms around him, but when he opens his eyes, Yoongi and Namjoon are both in front of him. He twists to look behind him, but there’s no one there, and the feeling of being held moves with him. When he turns back, Namjoon gives him a knowing smile. Jimin feels cooler water running through his fingers, and when he looks down, Namjoon’s hand is in his. Namjoon and Yoongi are already holding hands, so Jimin reaches out for Yoongi on the other side and closes the circle.
Something happens, then.
When Jimin asked, Hoseok told him not to worry about the wedding ceremony. “Just let it happen,” he’d said. He’d smiled and looked at Jimin through half-closed eyes. “I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s good. Enjoy it.” Hoseok might be the only witch alive who’s been married twice, and he didn’t like his first spouse the way he likes Taehyung. When he said the ceremony was good in and of itself, Jimin should have believed him.
Hoseok was right. Jimin has never felt connected to anything like this before. He can feel the shape of the water around him and the shape of Namjoon and Yoongi in it. The topography of the district stretches out in every direction like an extension of Jimin’s body. Seokjin is still speaking, or speaking again, but Jimin’s mind is too full to notice him until he stops.
“I do,” says Yoongi, like it’s nothing.
“I do,” says Namjoon, like it’s a real answer to a real question.
“I do,” Jimin says, not entirely sure what he’s agreeing to, and the map fills in.
They don’t have to walk back to the house in any particular order, so Seokjin and Yoongi end up at the front, talking in low voices, Jungkook trailing a few steps behind them. Jimin thinks Taehyung and Namjoon are making polite conversation, but he’s not paying that much attention. They’re all leaving him alone, and he’s grateful for that.
The rain has let up, barely more than a drizzle now. They’d heard a change in the patter of water on leaves as soon as the ritual ended, and Seokjin’s hunched shoulders had relaxed as he tried and failed to hold back a smile. Jimin doesn’t care. Even if the signs were wrong and he wasn’t the right witch for the district, there’s nothing anyone can do about it now. He’s as much a part of the district as the stones under his feet--and he knows the stones under his feet as well as he knows himself.
It’s difficult to walk when you can feel every worm and pebble and molecule of dirt down to the bedrock every time your feet touch the ground. It’s difficult to keep your balance when you keep getting caught in currents in the air. It’s difficult to listen to a conversation when, every time one of the people in it speaks, you feel the vibrations in their voice box as if it were your own. Jimin is having a hard time.
Jimin’s heartbeat synced to Namjoon and Yoongi’s in the seconds after the wedding ritual was complete. He can only tell when he focuses that it’s three beats now, instead of one. But it occurs to him, as he’s tripping over a root three feet below the surface, that he’s still alone. Namjoon and Yoongi did this five years ago. Jimin is five years behind them--more, if you count the time they were engaged--and he always will be. And he’s stuck here, and with them, for the rest of his life.
At the house, Seokjin heats up food that he prepared before Jimin and Taehyung arrived. Jimin eats what’s put in front of him, concentrating hard enough that he only sometimes feels nauseous when Yoongi or Namjoon swallows. After a few minutes, Yoongi reaches over and puts his hand on Jimin’s knee, and that helps. Jimin smiles his thanks at Yoongi before he moves his chair sideways, out of Yoongi’s reach.
He stays close to Taehyung and Jungkook, and tries to enjoy the food. He’s missed Seokjin’s cooking, and he doesn’t know when he’s going to have it again, or whether Yoongi and Namjoon are any good in the kitchen.
“Are you okay?” Namjoon asks, bending over to whisper in Jimin’s ear as he passes behind is chair. Jimin doesn’t know why he’s asking. He must know. Namjoon must be able to feel the nausea and the dread as well as Jimin can feel his nerves and Yoongi’s impatience. Jimin nods and smiles and shifts closer to Taehyung.
Soon--too soon--it’s time for the guests to leave. It’s dusk, and they all have a long way to fly tonight. Jimin hugs Taehyung hard, and doesn’t let go until Yoongi puts a hand on his shoulder.
“I’ll write,” says Taehyung. “And I’ll send Hoseokie to visit, soon.”
Jimin nods and squeezes Taehyung’s hand and doesn’t quite meet his eyes. Taehyung has been his best friend since he was a teenager, and something more than that for almost as long, but this doesn’t mean the same thing for Taehyung as it does for Jimin. He has to keep reminding himself. “I love you,” he says.
“I love you, too,” says Taehyung, and hugs him once more, and joins Jungkook on the path.
Seokjin lingers, looking between Jimin, Namjoon and Yoongi. “You know you have two days to consummate the marriage,” he says. “But sooner is better.”
Jimin doesn’t know whether the flush he feels on his face belongs to him or all three of them.
“Thanks,” says Yoongi. “I don’t think we--” he looks at Namjoon.
“It wasn’t really an issue, last time,” says Namjoon.
Jimin looks at Seokjin so that he doesn’t have to look at his husbands.
“Jimin-ah…” says Seokjin.
Jimin tries to look receptive. Seokjin sighs. He steps closer and puts his hands on Jimin’s shoulders, tilts his head forwards. “Listen to me,” he says quietly, for Jimin’s ears only. “I did this. It didn’t have to be you, but I made sure it was, so if you have to hate someone, hate me.”
Jimin closes his eyes and swallows.
“But maybe don’t hate anyone,” Seokjin continues. “You need this. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but this is going to be good for you. You’re happy when you make the people around you happy. Give them that. Give yourself that. Let it be good.”
Then he’s gone, and Jungkook is gone, and Taehyung is gone, and Jimin is alone with his new husbands.
Yoongi looks abruptly freer and lighter. Namjoon smiles and rubs his eyes with the heels of his hands.
“You alright?” Yoongi asks Jimin. He makes a face. “Why am I asking? Of course you’re not.” He and Namjoon exchange a glance, a wordless conversation.
“Sit down, and we’ll clean up,” Yoongi says, pulling out a chair. “And then--we’ll talk, okay?”
Jimin nods. What he really wants is to fly away and catch up to Taehyung, to follow him home and never leave. A brief reprieve from talking to Namjoon and Yoongi sounds nice, too, though.
The kitchen is big, but Namjoon and Yoongi move around it like it’s bigger. Jimin doesn’t know if the way they move around each other is the ease of having known each other for a long time or a byproduct of their bond as spouses, but they communicate so easily that they don’t look like they’re doing it at all. Jimin’s not stupid, though. He sees Yoongi slow down halfway through wiping out the bowls, and he notices when Namjoon sweeps parts of the room he’s already swept. They don’t want to talk to him any more than he wants to talk to them.
When they finally sit down, Namjoon reaches across the table to take one of Jimin’s hands in both of his. “It helps,” he says, when Jimin tenses. He’s right. When they’re touching, it’s easier to know what’s Namjoon’s body and what’s Jimin’s. Yoongi rests his hand on top of theirs and it’s like they’re in the spring again: three hearts, six lungs, one system.
“It gets easier,” says Yoongi. “You learn to only be aware of the parts you need.”
“Touching makes it go faster,” adds Namjoon. “We think, anyway. We adjusted to each other a lot faster than…” he gestures at their surroundings with his free hand.
“You’d been together for a long time already,” says Jimin.
“A few years,” says Namjoon, with a glance at Yoongi. “We’ve lived together for eight years now.”
A tiny smile tugs at the corner of Yoongi’s mouth. “We met when we were training,” he says. “We didn’t get along at first, but then…” his eyes are soft when he shrugs. “By the time we were ready for a district, we’d been together long enough that we were sure we wanted to stay with each other.”
“You were wrong, though, weren’t you?” Jimin says, eyes on their hands. “It didn’t work.” He doesn’t look up, even as the silence stretches out.
“The district needed more,” says Yoongi. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other, or that our relationship doesn’t work. We’re happy together.” He’s silent again, but when Jimin doesn’t respond, he adds, “We didn’t ask for you. We didn’t want you. Stop, Joon, I’m not going to lie to him.”
Jimin looks up to see Namjoon’s hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. More wordless communication, and he hopes that doesn’t keep hurting him like this, if he’s going to be seeing so much of it.
“Anyway,” Yoongi continues. “It doesn’t matter now. We need you, it turns out. And you’re here, so. We want this to work.”
“Me, too,” says Jimin, and hates how small his voice sounds. He’s stuck here; what else is he supposed to want? That doesn’t mean he has to like it.
“Good,” says Namjoon. His smile shows deep, deep dimples, but Jimin doesn’t itch to touch them the way he does when he sees Hoseok’s. “Can we, um. Do you want to tell us about yourself? Or is there anything you want to know about us?”
You and us, Jimin thinks. Us and you. “Maybe tomorrow?” he says. “It’s been a long day.”
“Oh, of course,” says Namjoon. He looks at Yoongi and then back at Jimin. “Do you want to--we can consummate it tomorrow?”
“The sooner the better, hyung said,” Yoongi reminds him.
“We might as well get it over with,” says Jimin.
They show him around first. The privy, behind the house. The garden, the greenhouse. Namjoon and Yoongi exchange glances about the greenhouse, and Yoongi says, “We’ll talk about that tomorrow.” The rain has stopped altogether, but there’s a new chill in the air.
The kitchen is the largest room on the ground floor, but there’s also a workroom and a storeroom. Upstairs, there's just a study and the bedroom.
“I’m usually up here, or in the greenhouse, and Yoongi spends most of his time in the workroom,” says Namjoon. Jimin bites back a comment about making himself at home in the storeroom, maybe in the potato bin. Their stores are clearly low, and Jimin wonders for the first time where they’re getting their food from. The seasons haven’t cycled correctly here in more than a year, and they’d been out of alignment for a few years longer than that, from what Seokjin said when he wrote.
The bedroom is bigger than Jimin expected, and so is the bed. “We made it bigger,” says Namjoon. “When--when we heard you were coming.”
“Thank you,” says Jimin. There are new hooks on the wall, too, and he hangs up his clothes. He only brought his nicest, newest things, but Yoongi wrinkles his nose and says, “I can lend you some things, if you like. And I’ll take your measurements tomorrow.”
“I don’t need anything,” says Jimin.
“Whatever you want,” says Yoongi, so relaxed about it that Jimin doesn’t think he meant to follow through on the offer anyway. He yawns. “Well,” he says. “Shall we?”
Namjoon snickers and then says, “Sorry. Sorry. This is just...really awkward.”
“How do you think I feel?” Jimin asks, so quietly that he’s not sure whether or not he wanted them to hear him.
“We don’t know,” says Yoongi. “You haven’t told us.” ‘Us’ again.
“Can’t you--feel it?” Jimin asks.
It’s dark outside now, and there’s just one the candle in Namjoon’s hand, for light. Jimin can see Yoongi’s mouth move, but he can’t identify his expression.
“I guess you’re feeling everything now,” says Namjoon.
Jimin says, “I don’t really know what I’m feeling.”
“It fades,” says Namjoon. “Or, you learn to set it aside and reach for it when you need it. We’ve had a long time to get used to it. We’re--I know I’m trying not to--I’m trying to give you as much privacy as I can.”
“Me too,” says Yoongi.
Jimin closes his eyes. “I can’t do that for either of you right now.” He can’t not know that Yoongi’s back hurts and that he’s a little hungry again, or that when Namjoon gets nervous he feels it all over his skin.
“That’s okay,” says Namjoon. He pauses. “We know this is harder for you,” he says. “We’re sorry about that.”
“Okay,” says Jimin.
“The good news, under, the, um, circumstances,” says Yoongi.
“Hyung,” says Namjoon.
“I know,” says Yoongi. “But it’s, you know, good for sex, feeling what your partner feels. Partners.”
For the last three nights, Jimin has slept curled against Taehyung in a small tent on cold mud. They huddled for warmth, and for comfort. For the three nights before that, Jimin slept in Taehyung and Hoseok’s bed, where he’s slept for the last year, far enough from them that they wouldn’t accidentally touch. The night before that, they’d touched, and done more than touch, but Jimin hadn’t known it would be the last time. He doesn’t like the idea of overlaying that experience with anything else. He doesn’t like that he doesn’t have a choice about it.
Jimin loosens the ties on his white robe and pulls it over his head. It’s dry, now, but it was soaked through for most of the afternoon, and it can’t have hidden much. Nothing about his body is hidden from Yoongi and Namjoon now, anyway.
It’s too dark for Jimin to see their faces well, but he knows they’re looking, and he likes that. “You’re still not feeling what I’m feeling, right?”
Yoongi shakes his head. “Not until--unless you say it’s okay.”
“Good,” says Jimin. He pauses. “Well?”
Yoongi takes his robe off and picks Jimin’s up off the floor. He takes Namjoon’s from him, too, and folds them all neatly and puts them by the door.
“We can’t wear those again,” Jimin says.
“I know,” says Yoongi. “But we can always use rags.” He comes back to stand in front of Jimin.
He’s broader than Jimin in the shoulders, but thinner everywhere else. Skinny, not lean like Hoseok. Namjoon, standing a little off the the side, is also on the thin side, and tall but unimpressive. Jimin’s eyes move down his body impassively. His dick isn’t as big as Taehyung’s. They’re fine, both of them. Not unattractive. But--Jimin doesn’t want them.
“So,” says Jimin. “How do you want to do this? Are there...rules? I didn’t have time to study the ceremony.”
“No rules,” says Namjoon. “We--”
“Yeah,” says Yoongi. “We found that out, last time.” He sounds like he’s smiling. Everything they say is an inside joke. Jimin hates it.
“Can we just--do this?” he asks. He wants it to be over.
“We can do whatever you want,” says Namjoon.
Jimin doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t want, is the thing.
Namjoon, looking at him, must see some of that. “Actually,” he says. “Since you’re…” He moves behind Yoongi and slides his hand around Yoongi’s waist to stroke his soft stomach. Jimin feels the touch, or the ghost of it. He’s not feeling things as strongly as he was a few hours ago, before they all held hands at the table downstairs. It feels good, though, and he understands what Namjoon is saying.
“Okay,” Jimin says. “Yes, that’s a good idea.”
Namjoon and Yoongi sit down at the end of the bed, and after a moment Jimin follows, sitting behind Yoongi so that neither of them can get a good look at him.
Namjoon is just touching Yoongi still, his hand moving slowly up Yoongi’s thigh to his ass, over his hip to his belly, up to his chest. Jimin can feel Yoongi trying to breathe slow, and he wonder if they would usually move faster than this.
Jimin likes it slow. Namjoon’s hands on Yoongi feel good to Yoongi, and that feels good to Jimin. Namjoon rubs his thumb over Yoongi’s nipple and Jimin sighs, and isn’t sure whether it’s because he likes that, or because Yoongi does.
Namjoon leans forward a little and kisses Yoongi, and Jimin thinks, finally, and doesn’t know why. Yoongi and Namjoon kiss like people who have been kissing for a long time, and know each other down to the bone.
He’s getting sensations from both sides now, more than just gentle arousal coming from Namjoon for the first time as Yoongi kisses him and pulls him closer, fingers gently scratching through the hair at the nape of Namjoon’s neck. Jimin likes the progression of it: Yoongi nipping at Namjoon’s lip, to Namjoon’s soft noise in response, to both of Namjoon’s hands moving to Yoongi’s jaw to hold him in place as he deepens the kiss. Jimin’s hand moves to his dick without him thinking about it, and it feels better than he expected. He’s more turned on than he thought.
It’s gotten a little lighter in the room, moonbeams making their way through the clouds.
“It’s clearing up,” says Yoongi. He twists to look at Jimin. “That’s you.”
“Oh,” says Jimin.
Namjoon leans in--to kiss Yoongi again, Jimin assumes, but he comes further, his cheek brushing against Yoongi’s nose, and kisses Jimin instead.
Namjoon’s lips on Jimin’s feel better to him than they did on Yoongi’s. He’s getting all the warmth and pressure now, all the texture of Namjoon’s skin instead of about two thirds of it. Jimin sighs and lets his lips part, and doesn’t pull away when Namjoon’s tongue slides against his, or when Yoongi slides his arm around Jimin’s waist and kisses his neck.
“We need you here,” Namjoon says, in barely more than a whisper. “You’re already making it better.”
“We need you,” Yoongi repeats, moving one big, warm hand to Jimin’s hip. “Let us make you feel good, okay?” He kisses the corner of Jimin’s mouth. “Since we’re here.”
Yoongi is right. They’re here, and this is something they have to do, and--when Namjoon kissed Jimin, when he felt Namjoon and what Namjoon was feeling at the same time, he’d wanted more of that. So he nods and says, “Just this once,” because he doesn’t want them getting any ideas about him.
“Just this once,” Yoongi agrees, and pulls Jimin with him as he falls back against the bed.
Yoongi kisses him and wraps his hand around Jimin’s dick like he’s been wanting to, like all he wanted was permission. Jimin pushes into his grip and moves his hand up and down Yoongi’s back, scratching lightly when he feels the echo of the touch. Yoongi hums against his mouth.
Namjoon has come around the bed to lie behind Jimin, pressing up close so that Jimin can feel Namjoon’s dick against his ass. He rocks back against Namjoon and barely holds back a moan, the feedback loop is so good. The wave of pleasure Namjoon feels when he grinds against Jimin’s ass goes straight to Jimin, gasping as he fucks into Yoongi’s hand, and to Yoongi, whining into Jimin’s mouth. Jimin reaches for Yoongi’s dick and then it’s even more intense, all three of them moving together but out of sync, and all the better for it.
“Hyung,” says Namjoon, and then they’re kissing over Jimin’s shoulder. Jimin gets more than half of what Yoongi is feeling, and more than half of what Namjoon is feeling, and not being kissed by them is more than being kissed by any other person. Jimin’s been trying to keep quiet, but now he moans into empty air.
The sound calls them back to him. Yoongi kisses him again, stops, spits on his hand, and comes back to it--to kissing Jimin, and to jerking him off, slow and steady and smoother now. Namjoon is moving harder and faster against Jimin’s ass, and when he moves his mouth to Jimin’s neck, sucking at the soft skin under his ear, Jimin loses track of the individual sensations. Each thing happening to any of the three of them is just one good part of a larger good thing, a wave of pleasure that should crest when he comes, but doesn’t. Jimin presses his face against Yoongi’s chest as first Namjoon and then Yoongi’s orgasms build, crash, and wash through him.
They lie there in silence for long enough that Jimin wonders if they’re waiting for him to speak first. This isn’t new for them. They knew what to expect. Jimin is the one still trying to piece the world together around him.
“I’m going to get a clean blanket,” Yoongi says, shifting under Jimin.
Jimin moves off him first, and thinks second. “I can get it,” he says, even as Yoongi is getting out of them bed. He holds his hand flat over his body, an arms-length up, and calls the dirt to him--not just their drying come, but the accumulated dirt in the weave. No one’s blankets are as clean as Hoseok’s.
He gets up and pads over to their folded wedding robes to wipe his hand, while Yoongi stands and watches. “That was very neat,” Namjoon says, sleepily, as he gets under the covers
“It’s nothing,” says Jimin. “Barely a spell. Do you not--”
“We’ve been conserving our magic,” says Yoongi. He pauses. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow. Come back to bed.”
Jimin gestures, You first. Yoongi climbs in next to Namjoon, Namjoon’s arm coming around him right away. Jimin walks to the window and looks out. The clouds haven’t just thinned; they’re gone. The stars are bright over a landscape that’s different from the one Jimin’s been living in, woods and hills instead of Hoseok and Taehyung’s wide prairies. Home, Jimin thinks, trying it out. It feels wrong. He joins his new husbands in bed, and there’s not as much room as he’d like, but he can get a good six inches between his body and Namjoon’s without feeling like he’s going to fall off the edge in the night.
When Jimin wakes from his first sleep, Yoongi and Namjoon are still six inches away. He gets out of bed slowly, not wanting to disturb them.
He has a routine, one he’s shared with Hoseok since he went to live with Hoseok and Taehyung: meditate, stretch, dance. He’s worried about making noise if he goes downstairs, or worrying Namjoon and Yoongi if they wake up to find him gone, so he pulls on a pair of trousers and sits on the bedroom floor and closes his eyes.
Jimin has been meditating to a count of 1000 every night for more than a year. It wasn’t easy at first, but it’s not difficult now. Tonight, it is. There’s so much to think about, and Jimin hasn’t got a cushion to sit on, and it gets cold here at night.
Eventually he gives in and lets himself think about all the different things he’s feeling--the hard floor under him, and Namjoon’s arm, cold where the blanket has slipped down, and the wind outside blowing the last few wisps of cloud away. He breathes in and out in time with a frog in a pond two miles north-west.
Something is different than it was. Jimin can still feel everything, but he can feel himself, too, separate from the rest of it. There’s a point where Jimin ends and Yoongi and Namjoon and their district begin. He tries to pinpoint when that happened, and feels stupid when he realizes that this is why they had to consummate the marriage. This is how that works. He wonders if Namjoon and Yoongi would have told him that, if he’d asked, or if they were so busy fucking the first time they got married that they don’t know.
He’s lost his count, so he gets up and starts going through his stretches. He should warm up first, because it’s gotten chilly and he wasn’t doing this while he and Taehyung were on the road, but he’s still trying to stay quiet, so he just makes sure not to push himself too hard.
When he hears movement from the bed--Namjoon, stretching his legs and pointing his toes, the bond supplies--Jimin stops moving and looks over. Namjoon’s hand moves to Yoongi’s face and Yoongi tilts his head forwards and they kiss, slow and comfortable. He can feel the heat between them, building slowly. The love, too, he guesses, a steadier burn. He watches them for a couple of minutes before Namjoon says “Wait,” and reaches behind him.
“I’m here,” says Jimin, even though they’re already turning to look at him, their awareness of him obviously not as completely shut off as they had implied. “I’m stretching.”
“Oh,” says Yoongi.
“I dance,” Jimin says. “So I have to stay flexible.”
“Seokjin-hyung mentioned that you dance,” says Namjoon.
Yoongi blinks. “This is what you do between sleeps?” he asks. He seems half asleep still.
Jimin nods. “I can go downstairs,” he says. I wasn’t sure when you were going to wake up, or--”
“It’s fine,” says Yoongi. After a pause, he adds, “Use the kitchen. There are some rough spots on the workroom floor.”
“Thank you,” says Jimin. He’s at the door when he stops and says, “You two, between sleeps…”
“Sometimes we work on projects,” says Yoongi.
Namjoon giggles into Yoongi’s shoulder, but Jimin didn’t need that to know. He didn’t even really need to ask. If they’re still like this after they’ve been together for eight years, married for five, Jimin can’t really blame them for having thought that the two of them would marry well to a district together.
He can feel them go back to kissing as he walks down the stairs. He’s not sure if they can’t remember that he feels that, or if they don’t care. Either way, he’s going to have to do something--get used to it, or figure out how to shut out what they’re feeling. Especially if they’re going to be having sex while he’s trying to dance every night.
He examines his sense of the bond as he finishes stretching. He tries squeezing it, twisting it, hitting it, walling it off, but it gets harder and harder to concentrate as things get more heated upstairs. It’s only after Namjoon and Yoongi both come that Jimin figures out where to put his mental effort to push them away. He’s tired, by then, so he practices one of his shortest dance spells, one to encourage green things to grow, that Hoseok choreographed just after Jimin moved in with him and Taehyung. It’s just practice; he’s not really dancing the spell. He lets a little bit of magic slip in as he dances, though. It can’t hurt.
When he goes back upstairs, Yoongi and Namjoon are still awake, barely. They’re even closer together now than they were before, so Jimin has more room to himself. He’s grateful, but at the same time he hates it. He wishes it were Taehyung and Hoseok there in bed with him, so that he could roll closer and be held, and warm, and loved. That’s not the love Jimin is supposed to want, he knows, but he decided a long time ago that whatever love he could get from them was better than anything from anyone else.
Taehyung won’t be home yet, but he’ll be out of their district and into his own. Hoseok probably set out to meet him as soon as he crossed the border.
Jimin wakes up to Namjoon and Yoongi moving around the room as they get dressed.
“Good morning,” says Namjoon.
“Good morning,” says Jimin. He sits up, rubbing his eyes.
“You don’t have to get up right away, if you don’t want to,” says Yoongi.
Jimin shrugs. “There’s work to do, isn’t there?” He walks past them to get to his clothes. At the last minute before he follows them downstairs, he grabs his jacket. There’s still a chill in the air.
“What are you good at?” Yoongi asks when they get outside.
“What are my choices?” asks Jimin.
Yoongi looks to Namjoon, who says, “Growth. Getting rid of mold and mildew. Drying. Sunlight. Drain--”
Jimin interrupts. “Sunlight. I can do that.”
They both look at him.
“Can you, really?” Namjoon asks.
“I wouldn’t have said I could if I couldn’t,” says Jimin. “Why did you ask, if you didn’t think I could do it?”
“I was just listing things we needed,” says Namjoon.
“Well, you’ve got one of them,” says Jimin. “Growth, too, sort of. I haven’t tried the other things. Where do you need it?”
“The raised beds over there,” says Yoongi, pointing past the greenhouse. “We’ve got them draining so they don’t drown, but the plants need more sun than they’re getting.”
“Inside the greenhouse, too,” says Namjoon.
“Later,” says Yoongi. “If--they’re not as bad.” He obviously doesn’t believe Jimin is going to do anything.
Jimin’s mad now, which isn’t the right frame of mind for sunlight, but--had they expected him to be useless? Hoseok taught him sunlight. It doesn’t come quite as easily to Jimin as it does to Hoseok, but Hoseok is a good teacher, too. Hoseok has taught Jimin most of the things he knows that are worth knowing. He’s a different witch now than he was before he went to live with Hoseok and Taehyung. Maybe that’s why Yoongi and Namjoon don’t expect much of him. Maybe Seokjin told them too much about the Jimin of a year and a half ago.
Jimin walks over to the raised beds and looks back at Yoongi and Namjoon. They’re watching him, still, and it makes him want to prove himself, but this isn’t a spell that feeling will fuel. The beds are deep, and the leaves look pale and unhealthy, but vaguely familiar. Some kind of vegetable, maybe.
He crouches next to the closest bed and closes his eyes, breathing in the scent of wet, wet earth, and green things, and rot. He doesn’t know if his sense of Namjoon and Yoongi’s eyes on him is because of their bond, or if he can just feel it on his skin. He breathes in and out for a few moments. You can’t make sunshine when you’re feeling like shadows.
Hoseok taught him to do the kind of magic that runs on the brightest, shiniest feelings. When Jimin first went to live with them, and when Hoseok first started teaching him, Hoseok would give him suggestions whenever they occurred to him: “Well, actual sunlight, of course,” he’d say, in the middle of cleaning up after dinner. “And starlight, sometimes, but never moonlight.” Or, “Baby rabbits, Jiminie. Think about baby rabbits. That feeling.” Or, wrapped around Taehyung and looking at Jimin over his shoulder, “This feeling, right now.”
When Jimin has to do this kind of magic, he usually just thinks about Hoseok.
There’s a bare strip of ground in front of the raised beds, narrow and mud-puddly, but good enough for Jimin’s purpose. He takes off his boots and rolls up the legs of his loose trousers. He very carefully doesn’t think about whether Namjoon and Yoongi are still watching. He begins to dance.
For Jimin, the hardest part of this spell has always been resisting air currents. When the air around him starts to heat up, it wants to move. Heat goes up, cool air rushes in, and gusts of wind, if Jimin isn’t careful, knock his feet off-course. Hoseok always got frustrated with him, and didn’t understand why he had so much trouble with such simple steps. Jimin didn’t understand then why it was so much easier for Hoseok, but he does now, because the air here is his air, and it knows what he’s doing, and wants to help.
He stumbles a couple of times when he leans into a wind that isn’t there, but he knows how not to compensate for wind. He does it with everything else. So he makes the mental adjustment, doesn’t think about Yoongi and Namjoon standing at the end of the path, and starts again.
This time, everything works. Jimin goes through the steps slowly to start, and gathers speed on each repetition, splashing through puddles and sending bits of earth flying. He closes his eyes when he feels the heat coming off his skin start changing to light, the red glow coming through his eyelids competing with the glow of the image of Hoseok’s smile in his head.
There’s a balance to this. Too much sunlight is worse than not enough, and Jimin doesn’t want to dry out the plants, or burn his own skin. This has always been tricky, knowing the right moment to stop accelerating. Heat is so subjective. But Jimin doesn’t have to wonder here, or second-guess himself. The plants tell him when it’s right.
The plants love him. Maybe they did already, because he belongs to them now, but the more sunlight he gives them, the louder they get about it. Their joy gives him an extra kick of energy, and he dances until he can feel the plants getting a little drunk on light--not just the celeriac in the raised beds, but all the plants within range of the spell, from the herbs by the kitchen door to the rows and rows of radishes and taro, happy in the wet, wet soil on the other side of the greenhouse.
Jimin slowly dances to a stop, a little dizzy, his chest heaving. His face hurts from smiling, and he has to use his sleeve to wipe the tears from his eyes. He crouches on the ground, still breathing hard, and rests his face in his hands.
Namjoon and Yoongi walk over quickly, as if they think something is wrong. Namjoon squats next to him and says, “Are you okay? That was incredible.”
Jimin looks up, wiping away more of the tears that keep coming. “I’m fine,” he says.
Namjoon is leaning in close, his eyes wide, his lips parted. “Are you sure? I have--” he digs into the pocket of his vest and pulls out a kerchief. Jimin wipes his eyes and smiles and wipes his eyes again. “I’m really okay,” he says. “It just--it wants different things from you than most spells.”
Yoongi is standing just behind Namjoon, looking down at Jimin with an unreadable expression.
Jimin bites back what he wants to say, and then says it anyway. “Good enough for you?”
Yoongi’s brows draw together for a second as he looks at Jimin, and he says, “You don’t know how much that just changed things for us.”
“Oh,” says Jimin.
“Yeah,” says Yoongi, and then his face breaks into a smile much too big for him. It’s--Jimin resents Yoongi, doesn’t really like anything about him. But when he sees Yoongi smile, his first thought is Hoseok saying, “That feeling.”
Jimin is exhausted, but he pretends he’s not, and Yoongi and Namjoon can only see about halfway through him, so instead of making him sit down and drink something restorative, they bring him into the greenhouse and show him though it.
“You said you could do growth?” Yoongi asks, hopefully.
Jimin shakes his head. “I can, but--it’s a dance, like you saw. I’d have to wait a little while.”
“Ah, no, save your energy for the sunlight,” says Yoongi, and smiles at Jimin. Jimin smiles back, mostly because he thinks he should.
“You’ve been forcing growth without that, though?” says Jimin, looking around. The plants in here are well-grown and healthy, as far as he can tell.
“Namjoon has,” says Yoongi. “I’m not good at that. More effort, worse results. But--something’s always missing. They get vitality from the sun that they can’t get anywhere else. Except you, apparently.”
“What do you do?” Jimin asks.
“Odds and ends,” says Yoongi. “Fix things that are broken. Heal things that are sick.” He gives Jimin an assessing look. “You’re still a little out of it, aren’t you? You should sit down. Take it easy for a little while.”
He points Jimin at a bench and goes off the the other end of the greenhouse, where there are a number of plants in pots sitting next to a workbench.
Jimin watches Yoongi for a little while, more to see how he works than to figure out what he’s doing. After the second time Yoongi glances back at him, visibly uncomfortable, Jimin gets up and wanders over to Namjoon.
Namjoon has his hands resting above a table of plants, and at first Jimin thinks he’s doing a spoken spell, but when he gets closer he can here that he’s murmuring encouragement: “There you go; that’s right,” and “Come on, just a little higher,” and, “Wow, your pods are getting so big.”
Jimin smiles, his first real smile since he got here. “Hi,” he says. “Is it okay if I watch?”
“Of course,” says Namjoon, but he doesn’t start talking to the plants again.
“Does it help, talking to them?” Jimin asks.
“What?” says Namjoon. “Oh. No. I don’t know?”
Jimin smiles at him again and waits.
“They like it,” says Namjoon. “I don’t know if it helps them grow, but--they like it.” He gives Jimin an unsure little smile, and when he turns back to the plants, he starts talking to them again.
“Why aren’t you using a spell?” Jimin asks. It took him a while to be sure, because he doesn’t know much yet about how much of his spouses’ magic use he can feel, but Namjoon isn’t doing anything--just pushing power into the plants.
Namjoon makes a face. “No time,” he says. “I don’t have the right spell and I can’t take a week off and build one, so it has to be this.”
That makes sense. You can do anything with magic, more or less, as long as you have enough of it. Some things take a little; some things take a lot. Some things take more for some witches that for others. Spells make magic go farther by giving it structure. Jimin can’t even conceive of the amount of magic it would take for him to just push sunlight out of his body, but with the structure of the danced spell, it doesn’t even take that much out of him, magically. It’s the emotional energy that makes it so draining. Jimin could probably even dance the growth spell now that he’s got his breath back, but he’s not sure he wants Namjoon and Yoongi to know that yet.
Jimin follows Namjoon around the greenhouse as he works, getting to know the plants a little better, getting to know Namjoon through them. The plants love him, something like the way the plants in Taehyung and Hoseok’s district love Taehyung. Maybe the same way, only Jimin couldn’t hear it directly from the plants there. When he talks to them they’re happy; they want to grow for him. Jimin feels that, and warms to Namjoon a little bit more.
Yoongi leaves the greenhouse for a little while sometime in the third hour and when he comes back, he says, “Food?” and heads for the house without waiting for an answer.
Their meal is leftovers from their wedding supper yesterday--Just yesterday, Jimin thinks, and shivers, overwhelmed by the idea of years and years of days that feel as long as this one has.
“Oh, eggplant,” says Namjoon, oddly reverent.
Yoongi smiles. “I kept some back for you,” he says.
“Thanks,” says Namjoon, his smile primarily composed of dimples.
Jimin takes a little of everything, and Yoongi watches disapprovingly. “We don’t eat like this all the time,” he says. “Side dishes, and pork belly, and all.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. “Should I not--”
“No, eat,” says Yoongi. “Just don’t expect to get anything like this again. Jin-hyung brought it all.”
“And extra,” says Namjoon. “I saw those sacks of flour.”
“That’s going down to the village later,” says Yoongi.
Namjoon puts his chopsticks down. “Yoongi-hyung.”
“What?” says Yoongi. He spoons some stew into his bowl.
“That was for us.”
“Hyung didn’t say that,” says Yoongi.
“So?” says Namjoon. “You know how he meant it.”
“Well, if it’s ours, we can do what we want with it,” says Yoongi. “We don’t want to keep it to ourselves when people in the village are going hungry, do we?”
“No, but…” Namjoon deflates. “Was it just flour, or--”
“Flour, beans, doenjang, some squash. Walnuts. A jar of kimchi.”
“Walnuts,” Namjoon says dreamily. “We could make hotteok. And use the flour for noodles, too. Hyung, please.”
“No pleas for the beans?” Yoongi asks, smiling a little.
“Shut up,” says Namjoon, but he’s smiling, too. Another private joke.
Suddenly, Namjoon says, “What about Jimin? Doesn’t he get a vote?”
They both turn to look at him, and Jimin realizes that they’d entirely forgotten his existence for a few minutes. “People in the village are going hungry?” he says. He hasn’t even seen the village yet.
“People all over the district are going hungry,” Namjoon says, in a tone of voice he might use to talk to a small child. “But the villagers have to buy from the farmers, and the farmers are holding on to what they have for their own families.”
Jimin picks a piece of pork out of the stew and puts it in his mouth. He chews slowly. He swallows.
“I didn’t know that anyone was going hungry,” he says. “You haven’t told me anything.”
They both have the grace to look a little ashamed of themselves. “Ah,” says Yoongi. “I guess we...Seokjin-hyung didn’t tell you anything?”
“His first letter said that you needed me to marry you, and I had until yesterday to get here,” says Jimin. It had arrived in the late morning, and he, Taehyung and Hoseok had been practicing spells. They had all three been shocked, and worried about Namjoon and Yoongi’s district, and then Taehyung and Hoseok had been happy for Jimin, and Jimin had felt sick at heart.
Seokjin’s letter had been couched in terms that made it impossible to refuse. Jimin had started packing his things right away, and pretending as well as he could that he was, if not excited, okay with having his life torn away from him. At first he’d pretended for Hoseok and Taehyung’s sakes. Then he realized they were only sad because he was, and pretended even harder.
The second letter arrived the day before he and Taehyung left for his new district. “The second letter said you’d let the problems here build for a long time,” Jimin says. “He said the seasons went wrong a few years ago, and that they’d stopped altogether, and that there had been some flooding.”
“Two valleys,” says Yoongi, nodding. “We were able to use some of the flooded fields for rice.”
“That’s good,” says Jimin, wishing he sounded more positive. “He didn’t tell me that. He didn’t tell me anything else, except--things that weren’t about the district at all.” Seokjin, as a council witch, can never have his own district. He gets a little bit funny about it sometimes.
“Then Hobi-hyung told me a little about you,” Jimin continues. “You used to be friends, he said? But that’s all. I really don’t know anything.”
“Yes,” Namjoon says, drawing it out. “We were friends.” He and Yoongi exchange a look. “I’m sorry. We didn’t--we should have explained more. But--it’s pretty obvious, that we would have a food shortage.”
“I did wonder where your food was coming from,” Jimin says.
“We’re growing a lot of it ourselves,” says Namjoon. “Hyung, do you want to--”
“No,” says Yoongi. His eyes are on his food.
Namjoon makes a wry face. “Fine.” He leans back in his chair. He’s already wolfed down most of what was in his bowl. “We’re lucky, in a way, because the seasons stopped changing at a time when things could still be growing. But plants need the change in the seasons. And it’s been so wet, and this isn’t a wet district. It’s too hilly. We’ve got a lot of small farms, but the people here don’t grow much more than they need.”
“And their regular crops don’t do well with so much rain,” says Jimin.
“Exactly,” says Namjoon. “So we’ve got them growing rice in some of the flooded areas, and vegetables that grow well in wet soil, but it’s not enough, so we’re forcing things here as quickly as we can. It’s been hard, but...well, things aren’t good, but they could be a lot worse.”
“That’s sort of the problem,” says Yoongi, looking up from his bowl. “We let this go on for much too long because we were managing things. But it was only going to keep getting worse.”
Jimin drinks the last drops of broth from his bowl and puts it down. He could eat more, but, given the subject of their conversation, he feels uncomfortable about taking a second helping. “So you got me,” he says, finally.
Yoongi frowns. “So when Jin-hyung asked if things were really okay, we--”
“Told the truth,” says Namjoon.
“For the first time in a while,” agrees Yoongi. “And then we got you.”
“And the rain stopped,” says Jimin.
Namjoon smiles at him, “Yes, and that made me feel really hopeful. Things might finally be moving forwards again.”
Jimin nods. “And things will get--easier?”
Namjoon has his mouth open to speak for several seconds before he says, “Eventually.”
“It’s going to get harder before it gets easier,” says Yoongi.
“But…” says Jimin. “It will be spring soon, won’t it? And things will grow more easily, and the warmer weather will dry things out?”
Yoongi blinks at him. “Well, no,” he says. “Not yet. We have to get through the winter first.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. “I don’t know why I thought--”
“It’s spring in Hoseok’s district, isn’t it?” says Namjoon.
Jimin nods. “Maybe that’s why.”
Yoongi leans forward. “It’s going to be hard,” he says. “Now that you’re here--it’s already colder. We’re going to have to work fast to stockpile food before everything freezes.”
Jimin nods again, but doesn’t trust himself to speak. It’s not his fault, exactly, that the seasons seem to be moving forward again, but it feels like it is.
“This is why we deserve to have some hotteok while we can,” says Namjoon. “Hyung, can’t we keep just a little of everything?”
Yoongi looks to Jimin, who says, quietly, “You know how badly the villagers need it. I don’t.”
Yoongi nods, like Jimin has given him new information, and says, “We can keep a little of everything. Enough for your noodles, Joon-ah, and some hotteok. And I’m keeping the kimchi.”
“All of it?” says Jimin. “Why?”
“Jin-hyung made it for us,” says Yoongi.
“Ah, hyung,” says Namjoon.
Yoongi frowns at him, and picks up his spoon. “It wouldn’t be right, giving it away.”
Yoongi sets out for the village with the supplies after lunch. Jimin hopes to be invited along, but he’s not, so he goes back to the greenhouse with Namjoon and dances his growth spell for the plants there.
“If I do this every day, can you take some time to write a growth spell?” Jimin asks.
“I was just thinking about that,” says Namjoon. “I don’t think so. You can cover so many plants at once, but using straight magic is so much faster. And it’s still not fast enough. This dance is good, but it won’t substitute for straight magic, or a real spell.”
It is a real spell, and it does what it sets out to do. Jimin is annoyed that Namjoon would say something like that after the sunlight spell, which is some of the most powerful magic Jimin knows, but he’s not surprised. People who don’t dance spells never take danced spells seriously.
When Yoongi gets back, they make their evening meal from the last of Seokjin’s leftovers. Namjoon and Yoongi both have projects they’re working on, Yoongi downstairs and Namjoon upstairs. Jimin is going to have to figure out what to do with these evening hours soon, but not tonight. He’d thought his wedding day was long, and tiring, but today he’s as exhausted as he’s ever been. He goes straight to bed, staying all the way to the side closest to the window, like he did last night.
He doesn’t know when Yoongi and Namjoon join him, but they’re there when he wakes from his first sleep, Namjoon’s face pressed against Yoongi’s neck, Yoongi’s hand in Namjoon’s hair. Jimin keeps finding himself thinking about the marriage bond when he looks at them. He’s always wondered about Taehyung and Hoseok, how much of it was the bond, and how much of it was just them. Namjoon and Yoongi make Jimin think it must be just them, because Taehyung and Hoseok weren’t like this. Taehyung and Hoseok had room for him.
Jimin goes downstairs for his nightly routine right away this time. He’s already working on changing the steps of the growth spell to make it more powerful when he feels Yoongi and Namjoon wake up and reach for each other. It’s a little easier to push away what he’s feeling from them than it was last night, but they’re still distracting. Every time he gets his mind firmly on what he’s doing, a noise from upstairs will draw Jimin’s attention back to his husbands.
Part of Jimin just wants to let himself feel it. He could make it a part of his routine, since it’s a part of theirs. He could interrupt what he’s doing to jerk off while they have sex, and go back to stretching or dancing afterwards. But if they thought to check on him, they would know what he was doing, and he doesn’t want that. They might think it meant something.
He’ll get better at blocking them out, anyway. He’ll have to. But, as he climbs the stairs to go back to a bedroom that doesn’t feel like it belongs to him, the prospect looks dreary.
He’s put off writing to Taehyung and Hoseok, not wanting them to know how much he misses them. He’d wanted to be less unhappy when he wrote.
Thank you to...everyone I thanked last time, still, and for the same reasons. And to people who have started reading along on twitter since i posted the first chapter, and to everyone who said nice things about the first chapter. It means a lot.
Over the next week or so, Jimin improves his growth spell to the point where Namjoon is willing to take time away from the greenhouse to write his own more concentrated spell. He takes a few walks in the countryside surrounding Namjoon and Yoongi’s house. He gets used to their regular diet: rice, taro, goat cheese, a lot of fish. Yoongi is a good cook, and Namjoon doesn’t like fish any more than Jimin does. At the end of his second week with them, Jimin’s sleep schedule is aligned with Yoongi and Namjoon’s, and he can tune them out when they’re having sex, although he still knows it’s happening. He reads the wedding ceremony out of the council spellbook in Namjoon’s study, and learns nothing helpful. He learns to walk around the rough spots on Yoongi’s workroom floor.
Jimin has been living with Yoongi and Namjoon for three weeks before he leaves the area surrounding the house. Yoongi takes him to visit one of the local farms, leaving Namjoon at the house to keep experimenting with his spoken growth spell. Yoongi tries to visit most of the farms in the district every couple of weeks, he says. Most of them are within an hour’s flight, but in a few days he’ll take an overnight trip to visit a few far-flung farms.
Yoongi fixes things, like he told Jimin, but a wider range of things than Jimin expected. He’ll mend plows and cracked pots, re-tile roofs and sharpen knives, but he’s also learned, over the past couple of years, to take mildew off plants and mold out of soil. Ordinary people usually distrust witches, even as they grudgingly accept their help, but Yoongi is in high demand.
Jimin meets the farmer and her husband and daughters, and sits with her in the kitchen while Yoongi checks the soil and mends their fishing weir. She’s making rice cakes, and after watching and struggling to keep the conversation going for a while, he offers to help. It’s fun. He only knows a little about cooking, but the farmer’s instructions are clear, and she seems to warm up to him after he accidentally sticks his elbow in the rice dough he’s kneading.
“Yoongi would be better at this than I am,” Jimin says, as he helps roll out the rice cakes. He doesn’t know that for sure, but it feels like a safe assumption.
“Ah, that Yoongi,” says the farmer. “He’s really the perfect man. If he wasn’t a witch, I wouldn’t mind having him as a son-in-law.”
“If he wasn’t a witch,” Jimin says.
“Well, I want grandchildren, you know?” she says. “If it weren’t for that, there would be no objections on my side, for any of my grown daughters. They’ve shown us what good providers they are, your Yoongi and Namjoon.”
“Not mine,” says Jimin, before he thinks about it. She’s the first person he’s been able to relax around since--since Seokjin’s first letter, but that’s no excuse.
“Aren’t they?” she asks. “Well, of course, I don’t really know how it works.”
On this point, Jimin may not know either.
Yoongi comes back with the farmer’s husband soon after that.
“Oh, rice cakes,” says Yoongi, when he sees what they’re doing. “I miss rice cakes.”
“Can’t you magic some up?” the farmer’s husband asks.
“Maybe I could,” says Yoongi. “But magic food doesn’t fill you up, and we need our magic for other things.”
“I’ve told him that before,” the farmer tells them. “But he never remembers. Would you like some to take home?”
“Oh, no,” says Yoongi. “I couldn’t--you have so little.” ‘I,’ and not ‘we,’ Jimin notes.
“We have more than we would have without you,” the farmer says. “And your husband’s been a real help today. He has strong hands.”
Jimin glances down at his hands and looks up to see Yoongi doing the same. “Small, but strong,” Yoongi says.
“Thank you,” says Jimin, to both of them.
Jimin doesn’t know Yoongi well enough to tell whether he really doesn’t want the rice cakes or is just being polite, but when they leave, they take a small packet of them, tied in a kerchief.
“Bring this one again soon,” the farmer tells Yoongi. “I like him. You and Namjoon must be happy to have him here.”
“We are,” Yoongi says, but Jimin doesn’t think he’s imagining the slight rise of Yoongi’s eyebrows.
He definitely isn’t imagining the sidelong glances Yoongi gives him as they walk back to their brooms.
“She liked you a lot,” Yoongi says, finally, as he ties the package of rice cakes to his broom handle.
“She was nice,” says Jimin, and wishes he sounded less defensive.
“She is,” says Yoongi, and then he’s whispering the words of the spell that will lift his broom into the air. Jimin follows him up.
They stop in the village on their way back to the house. Jimin isn’t sure why. They don’t need anything that he knows of. They leave their brooms outside the village--good manners--and walk along the road. The few people they meet all know Yoongi, and Yoongi introduces Jimin to each of them as “our new husband.” Jimin does a lot of smiling and bowing, but it’s uncomfortable with Yoongi’s eyes on him all the time. He’d enjoy meeting the villagers more if he was by himself, or if he was with someone like Taehyung, someone whose judgment he doesn’t fear.
Their destination turns out to be the home of the village headwoman, a thin woman with some gray in her hair and a baby on her lap, and Jimin realizes they’re there so he can be presented to her. He wonders if this was Yoongi’s plan all along, or if something about the visit to the farm changed his mind. The headwoman’s daughter serves them a dark, earthy-tasting tea, and no food. That could be the custom here, but more likely it’s due to the food shortage.
The headwoman asks Jimin where he’s from, and he tells her about his fishing village, about four districts south of where they are now. He hasn’t been back since he left to complete his training. Witches don’t have families. The headwoman doesn’t ask, so she probably knows that. She does ask where he’s come from more recently, and he names Taehyung and Hoseok’s district, the next one to the east.
“Ah,” she says. “I have a cousin there. They have good witches, she tells me, but they’re not like ours.”
“You flatter us too much, noona,” says Yoongi.
“He calls me ‘noona’ and says I’m the flatterer,” the headwoman complains to Jimin. “But I don’t let him sweet-talk me. A pair of sweet-talkers, your husbands, Jimin-ssi. I hope you don’t let them get away with too much.”
Jimin smiles and says the appropriate things, and jokes and flirts because she obviously enjoys that. Yoongi’s gone quieter since they came in, so Jimin ends up having to carry the conversation. By the time they leave, she’s calling him a sweet-talker, too--a small success.
Yoongi seems softer with the headwoman than he was with the farmers, and he lets her warn him about the new chill in the air, even as she’s obviously excited about it. The farmers were, too, and Jimin understands and doesn’t. It’s easy to look forward to spring, but he can’t imagine spending years looking forward to winter.
Once she’s told Yoongi to take care of himself, the headwoman turns to Jimin and tells him to take good care of Yoongi and Namjoon. “They do so much here,” she says. “But they don’t take care of themselves.”
“Jimin is younger than us, noona,” Yoongi protests. “And he’s new here. It’s our job to take care of him.”
“He’s your job because you married him,” she tells him. “But it works the other way, too. A good marriage has to work both ways.”
Jimin spends the flight back to the house thinking about that. Marriage is work for everyone, but when you’re a married witch, it’s your job. He knows he has to work at being a good husband, and he’s trying, but it’s hard to know if he’s trying hard enough when Namjoon and Yoongi are the way they are with each other. They don’t look at each other like you look at a job.
He doesn’t even know how to think of himself as Yoongi’s job, or Namjoon’s. They have taken care of him. He’s housed, clothed, as well fed as anyone in the district. He doesn’t need them to do more. The things he wants and doesn’t have, he doesn’t want from them.
“Namjoon will be happy about the rice cakes,” Yoongi says, before they go in. “He loves them.”
“I love them, too,” says Jimin.
“I’ll see if there are rabbits in my snares,” says Yoongi. “If there are, I’ll make tteokguk.” He pauses just before they go inside to say, “She wouldn’t have given us the rice cakes if it was just me.”
A few days later, Yoongi decides he’s put off visiting the further farms long enough. “I’ll stay overnight at Three Hill Farm,” he tells Namjoon. “That way I won’t have to bring a tent, or bedding, and I can travel lighter.”
Namjoon says, “It’s getting cold,” and Yoongi rolls his eyes and promises to keep warm, and not to fly at night. He walks out behind the house, and when Jimin asks a few minutes later when Yoongi is leaving, Namjoon says, “Oh, he’s already gone.”
“Without a broom?” says Jimin.
“Didn’t we talk about this?” Namjoon says.
“Talk about what?”
“Yoongi likes to travel as a bat, sometimes,” says Namjoon. “That’s what he meant when he said he was traveling light. I thought he’d mentioned it.”
“He didn’t,” says Jimin.
“Oh, well,” says Namjoon, not seeming particularly bothered. “There are so many things.”
Jimin feels for Yoongi and finds him, a tiny creature winging its way north. It’s the first time he’s actively had to reach out to know where one of his husbands is, and that feels good, and eases his annoyance with Namjoon a little bit.
For dinner, Jimin heats up food that Yoongi left behind, a vegetable stew made with some of Seokjin’s doenjang. Namjoon seems less interested in the meal without Yoongi there; he brings a notebook to the table with him, and jots things down between bites of stew and rice. He barely talks to Jimin at all.
That night, Jimin goes to bed as close to the edge of the mattress as feels safe. He’s facing the window, but even with his back to it he can feel how empty the bed is with only two of them. Namjoon spreads himself out over more than the space he and Yoongi usually take up together, but he still feels far enough from Jimin. It’s a big bed, but it doesn’t feel that way when there are three people in it.
When Jimin wakes up much too warm, he knows why right away, and is only upset with himself for not realizing this was going to happen. Namjoon and Yoongi hold onto each other when they sleep. It’s one of the things about them that makes Jimin uncomfortable. But now Yoongi isn’t here, and Namjoon is holding onto Jimin.
Being held is nice, in the abstract. Jimin likes it when Taehyung or Hoseok does it. He likes being hugged by Jungkook or Sungwoon or Taemin. He likes the warmth of Namjoon’s body against his back, and the security of his arm around Jimin’s waist. He doesn’t like that it’s Namjoon, or that he’s doing it because Yoongi isn’t here.
Jimin doesn’t know if he’d normally be waking up from his first sleep around this time, or if Namjoon woke him up. But, just to be safe--
Jimin knows what happens when Namjoon wakes up. He’s seen it often enough. Namjoon reaches for Yoongi, squeezes him tighter if he’s already holding him. He gets in close and kisses whatever part of Yoongi is nearest.
--Jimin gets out of bed, and Namjoon turns over, mumbling something. As Jimin reaches the door, Namjoon says, “Jimin?”
“I think I woke up early,” says Jimin. “I’m going downstairs.”
He wonders what Namjoon does between sleeps when Yoongi isn’t here, half expects Namjoon to jerk off just because that’s what his body is used to. Instead, Namjoon gets up a few minutes after Jimin does, and goes into the study. He’s still there when Jimin goes back to bed for his second sleep.
A note arrives by pigeon in the late morning, from Yoongi. The water levels in some of the rice fields are getting too low, and the farmers trying to harvest one more rice crop before the winter need his help. It won’t take long, but he’ll be gone another night.
Jimin tries to locate him, expecting it to be harder when he’s so much farther away, but it’s not. Yoongi is part of a group of men and women digging a trench to guide the remaining floodwaters to where they’re needed most. It seems straightforward to Jimin, and he doesn’t understand why they need Yoongi there, until he realizes that it’s only obvious to him because he knows the shape of the land and the weight of the water. Jimin wouldn’t have known, before being married to the district. Even the farmers there on the far side of the district can’t know their own land as well as Yoongi does.
After the letter, and their morning meal, and some work in the backyard, Jimin asks Namjoon to teach him the spoken growth spell. They’ve harvested what they can from most of the plants in the greenhouse, and many of the tables need to be replanted. Jimin’s danced spell won’t help with that.
Namjoon’s spoken spell is musical and clever, composed of words rather than sounds, unlike most of the spoken spells Jimin knows. Namjoon uses words like the ingredients in a potion, precise, drawing on both their meaning and their form. Jimin thinks he catches a couple of lines punning on plant language, so he asks, and Namjoon is pleased with Jimin for noticing the puns, and even more pleased with himself for having written them.
When Jimin tries the spell--just the speaking, no magic--he stumbles over words and phrases, and he has to slow it down to practice. He’s not used to speaking so fast. His voice is so much higher than Namjoon’s, too. When he asks if that makes a difference, Namjoon lights up.
“I was just thinking about that,” he says. “Because--you can sing, can’t you?”
“A little,” says Jimin. His voice, when he sings, is delicate and high, young-sounding. He doesn’t like it much.
“Maybe this would work better for you if I set it to music and slowed it down,” says Namjoon.
Jimin snorts. “You say that like it’s easy.”
“Well,” says Namjoon. “It’s not hard.”
“I’m not even good with spoken spells,” says Jimin. “It’s not worth it.”
“Everything is worth trying,” Namjoon says.
Jimin has a hard time sleeping that night, and he knows why. He’s scared of waking up in Namjoon’s arms again. He lies awake for what shouldn’t be as many hours as it feels like, but is. Eventually Namjoon wakes from his first sleep and sits up and swings his legs over the side of the bed. He sounds surprised when he says Jimin’s name. This is the first time Jimin hasn’t woken from the first sleep before Namjoon and Yoongi.
Jimin rolls over and looks blearily up at Namjoon. “I can’t sleep.”
“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says. “Is it--was I snoring? Yoongi has mostly spelled me not to, but it comes back sometimes.”
“No, it’s not you,” says Jimin.
“I don’t sleep as well when Yoongi isn’t here,” Namjoon offers.
“I don’t think it’s that, either,” says Jimin.
“No, it wouldn’t be.” Namjoon stands up. “Can I get you anything?”
“No, thank you,” says Jimin.
With Namjoon safely in the study, Jimin finally dozes off, and when he wakes up again Namjoon is in bed beside him and Yoongi is a bat in the air a mile or two away. Jimin follows his progress through the sky to the back of the house, back into human shape and through the door, and up the stairs.
“Didn’t you tell Namjoon you wouldn’t fly at night?” Jimin asks softly when Yoongi comes through the bedroom door.
“He just wants me to be safe,” says Yoongi, equally quiet, coming to stand by the side of the bed. “But I was fine. I’m not going to let myself get eaten by an owl.”
Yoongi looks down at Namjoon for a moment, and Jimin can’t really see his face, but he knows how Yoongi looks at Namjoon.
“I might sleep late in the morning,” Jimin tells him. “But wake me if you need anything.”
“Okay,” says Yoongi, and Jimin turns over and goes back to sleep.
Two days later, a letter arrives. The carrier, a stripy goshawk, lands on the kitchen windowsill and Yoongi, cleaning up after the first meal of the day, coaxes it inside.
“It’s from Jung Hoseok,” he says, unrolling the little scroll.
“Oh!” says Jimin. He holds out his hand.
“Wait your turn,” says Yoongi.
Namjoon gets up and stands behind Yoongi. “Just read it aloud.”
“It’s my letter,” Jimin protests.
“It’s not,” says Yoongi. “It’s addressed to all of us.”
Jimin goes still. “Really?”
“Of course,” says Yoongi. “Just because Namjoon and I haven’t seen him in a while, that doesn’t mean we’re not still friends.” He holds up the scroll, unrolled but not unfolded. It’s just marked with the name of their district.
Jimin flushes. “Sorry,” he says. “I assumed--he’s a close friend and I know you haven’t written in a long time.”
Yoongi pauses in the middle of unfolding the scroll. “What did he say about us, exactly?”
Jimin shrugs. “Just that you all trained together. That you were good friends. He said he didn’t hear from you often after your marriage, and then you stopped writing altogether.”
Yoongi turns the paper over in his hands. “We were dealing with a lot here.”
Namjoon puts his hands on Yoongi’s shoulders and says, “Hyung loved Hoseok before he loved me,” with a teasing edge to his voice.
“That’s not true,” says Yoongi, but he’s a little flushed. “Not the way you mean it, anyway.”
Jimin feels cold. But--Hoseok is easy to love.
The letter, when Namjoon finally reads it aloud, doesn’t say much. It feels more like Hoseok is picking up an existing chain of correspondence than starting a new one. It’s all district news, and Taehyung’s new spell, and a promise to visit soon that makes Jimin’s heart clench.
“That would be nice,” says Yoongi. “But we’ll have to tell him to put it off until spring. He won’t want to leave home just now, and he won’t want to come here during the winter.”
“Why not?” asks Jimin.
“Winters get pretty rough here,” says Yoongi. “And--well, I don’t know when we’re going to be able to provide for a guest.”
“It could be a mild winter,” says Namjoon. “We’ve had those.”
“Do you think it will be?” Yoongi asks, furrowing his brow.
“Well...no,” Namjoon admits. “I don’t. It’s more likely to be an extra long one, isn’t it?”
“That’s what I think,” says Yoongi. “We should write to our western neighbors, though.”
“Oh, that’s a good idea,” says Namjoon.
“Who’s west of here?” Jimin asks.
“Friends,” says Yoongi.
“One of the witches there is good at forecasting,” Namjoon says. “All kinds of things, but especially weather. We spoke to her before we sent to Seokjin for help.”
“I’ll write,” says Yoongi. “See if she knows anything, or maybe we can get her to visit before it gets too cold.”
“Yes,” says Namjoon. “And...I’ll write to Hoseok?”
Yoongi nods. “Please. Tell him--oh, you know what to tell him.”
They go off for paper and ink, and leave Jimin sitting at the table. For once, he doesn’t think about whether Namjoon and Yoongi will know, and rests his forehead on his folded arms on the table, and allows himself to get as close to crying as he can without actually letting the tears come.
He’s put off writing to Taehyung and Hoseok, not wanting them to know how much he misses them. He’d wanted to be less unhappy when he wrote. He’d hoped they would write first, and they have--Hoseok has--but not to him. He hadn’t realized how much he’d been counting on a letter. He hadn’t realized how much he needed someone to see him as more than Yoongi and Namjoon’s new husband, but there’s no one. Yoongi and Namjoon obviously see a letter addressed to the district as a letter to the two of them, and there was nothing in Hoseok’s letter to say he doesn’t see it the same way.
“Jimin?” says Yoongi, behind him. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” says Jimin, and leaves the house, his head ducked low; the tears came after all. He sits in the greenhouse and pulls himself together. The plants like him, at least. Some of the younger ones even like him better than Yoongi. He’ll never really be alone while he’s married to the district.
A few weeks later, the temperature drops sharply, and they realize that winter--real winter--is coming soon. The witches will keep growing what food they can in their house on its hill, but the farmers of the district have to get all their crops in before the freeze, and the days are getting colder. Namjoon and Jimin pause their growing work to go out to the farms, going wherever help is needed and doing what they can, like Yoongi has been doing all along.
Jimin likes going to the farms, and meeting the people of the district. They’re not his in the same way the earth and the water and the growing things are, but they love the same land that owns him, and that feels important. They like him, and that feels important, too.
He dances last spurts of growth for the harvests, and warm breezes to stave off frost. He dances vegetables out of the fields and fruit off the trees, into waiting sacks and barrels. The farmers, the farmhands, and their families keep stopping their own work to watch him, and Jimin knows that’s not good, that everyone needs to keep working as hard as they can for as long as this takes, but their stares make him glow inside. When he leaves, they send him home with packets of food and small handicrafts--not a lot, but enough to show their appreciation. When Jimin gets back to the house, he puts each new trinket on the sill of the window outside the bedroom, and feels like he’s carving out a little space of his own.
On nights when he finishes too late to fly home, or when the work keeps him at one farm for two or three days, Jimin sleeps soundly, with one arm outstretched so he can feel that he’s securely alone. He’s worn out enough, those nights, that he wakes from his first sleep, considers getting up to meditate, and closes his eyes again. But he finds that he can’t fall back asleep until he’s located Yoongi and Namjoon at other farms in different parts of the district. Most nights all three of them are scattered across the district, but sometimes Jimin will find Yoongi or Namjoon alone in the big bed at the house, curled in on themselves and looking very small. One night--Jimin’s third one away from the house on this trip--he finds them both there, together and alone, like they were before Jimin married them.
Half asleep still, and physically exhausted, it’s easy to let himself observe them--easier than it’s been, anyway. Miles away from them and in the dark, his sense of the shapes of their bodies is better than vision. Yoongi won’t know how tightly Namjoon is clutching the pillow above his head as they kiss, but Jimin does.
He knows what they’re like together, even though he doesn’t watch. It’s all in his head, all familiar. Jimin knows they start this way often, Yoongi half pinned by Namjoon’s body, hands tangled in his hair or moving restlessly up and down the back of his thigh, mouth open to make noises Jimin has overheard more than once. When Yoongi pushes at Namjoon’s shoulder, rolls him over, and swings a leg across his thighs, Jimin recognizes that, too. He’s recognizing a lot more than he thought he would.
He’s mostly watching, only letting through the dimmest echo of what Yoongi and Namjoon are feeling, but he remembers what Yoongi’s clever mouth felt like on his, and the softness of Namjoon’s lips.
Namjoon pulls Yoongi’s nightshirt up and over his head, and that doesn’t show Jimin anything he couldn’t see before, but now Namjoon can get his hands all over Yoongi’s skin, sliding up his thighs to his ass, and then up and down his back. Yoongi gasps and pushes back into Namjoon’s hands, like it feels good to him. Jimin lets a little more of what Yoongi’s feeling seep through, and then it feels good to him, too.
Jimin can’t hear them, but when Yoongi’s mouth moves, and Namjoon laughs and reaches for Yoongi’s dick, he doesn’t have to. And he’s not going to get off from this--he distances himself from the feeling a little more, just to make sure--but Namjoon’s hand feels good, and the way Yoongi’s hips rock forward suggests a lot of what Jimin isn’t letting himself feel.
Jimin closes his eyes, but the image of them is still there in his head, and he turns over and over on his flat straw mattress, and touches his stomach through his shirt, and tries not to let his hand inch lower. Namjoon’s hand curls around the back of Yoongi’s neck to pull him closer, and Yoongi braces his hand against the mattress and Jimin feels like the temperature is rising in every part of his body. Then Namjoon’s hand moves slowly down to Yoongi’s ass, and one finger rubs over his hole, and--Jimin shuts the bond down hard and rolls onto his back, breathing fast.
He wants Hoseok, so badly. He wants Taehyung. He wants Yoongi and Namjoon and he wishes that he didn’t, but they’re all there is for him now.
He wants someone. He’s married, and he lives with his two husbands in a nice house. This is what he’s supposed to want, and he has wanted it. But he’s never felt this lonely before.
After everything that can be harvested has been, Jimin, Namjoon and Yoongi quickly settle back into a routine. Jimin and Namjoon work in the greenhouse, producing food as quickly as they can. Yoongi hunts, and makes his rounds of the local farms, bringing them food and fixing whatever’s broken.
It’s already as cold as anywhere Jimin has ever been when the witches from one district west of them come to visit, but Yoongi and Namjoon say it will get much colder. Yoongi has given Jimin an old sheepskin coat and says he’ll make him a newer, warmer one before the snow starts.
There are two of them, the witches from one district over. Three when they’re at home, but of course one has to stay there. The seer is Park Jeonghwa. Jimin knows her, a little. Her time in training overlapped with his. He’s surprised to recognize her--Yoongi and Namjoon never mentioned a name--but she’s expecting to see him. It rankles, that his husbands told her about him and told him nothing, and Jimin worries that his greeting isn’t as enthusiastic as hers, or as he wants it to be. Her wife is named Heeyeon, and Jimin’s first impression is that she’s so beautiful as to be intimidating. Then she hugs Yoongi and throws her head back to laugh when Yoongi makes a face at her. Jimin could like her, he thinks.
Yoongi makes tea, and he and Namjoon and Heeyeon sit around the kitchen table and talk while Jeonghwa changes into ceremonial robes.
“Do you need help getting there?”Namjoon asks her.
“Not if it’s still where it was last time,” Jeonghwa says. She puts on her boots and a big coat and sets off down the path that leads into the forest, and to the heart of the district.
Jimin watches her until she disappears into the trees, and a little longer, tracing her presence as it moves down the path. She feels to his mind like the other people of the district, seen by the way his air shapes itself around her, and the weight of her feet on his ground.
Inside, Heeyeon, Namjoon and Yoongi talk about local news and mutual friends. Jimin pours himself a cup of tea and sits down at the table, but they make no attempt to include him in the conversation, so he gets his coat and goes outside again, wrapping both hands around his teacup to keep them warm.
Jimin tried forecasting once. It’s something all witches try in the late stages of their training, just in case they have a talent for it. Taehyung had a little bit of success with it, but Jimin had sat in the cave at the heart of the district where they were training and cried tears of frustration because he didn’t understand what the district wanted from him.
It would be different here, probably. This is Jimin’s district now, even if it doesn’t feel like home. Districts notoriously don’t share their intentions with their own witches, but maybe it would have something else to say to him. He knows Namjoon has been to the heart of the district twice since their wedding, and not for any particular purpose. Jimin has thought about going, but if his district didn’t have any more to say to him that his husbands do, he doesn’t think he could bear it.
Jeonghwa comes back after an hour or so, her ceremonial robe frozen at the hem where it hangs below her coat. Heeyeon wraps her up in blankets and pulls Jeonghwa’s feet into her lap. Jimin wonder what it’s been like for Jeonghwa. She came into an established marriage, just like he did, but she and Heeyeon look comfortable together. It’s only been a year or so for them. Jimin can’t imagine ever being like that with Yoongi and Namjoon. It’s not unreasonable to be jealous.
Jimin pours Jeonghwa a cup of tea before he sits down. Yoongi, impatient, taps his foot against the leg of his chair. “You were gone a long time,” he says.
“Why are you in such a hurry?” Heeyeon asks. “Give her a few minutes. It’s colder here than it is at home.”
“The spring is warm,” Yoongi says, low and grumbly.
“But the air on the way back isn’t, and this isn’t her district. Relax.” Heeyeon puts her arm around Jeonghwa.
Jeonghwa smiles into Heeyeon’s shoulder. “It’s fine,” she says. “It did take a while. There were things I didn’t understand.”
“Oh,” says Namjoon. “Well, thanks for trying, anyway.”
“Anything you can tell us…” adds Yoongi.
Jimin doesn’t say anything, and he catches Heeyeon glancing his way.
“It’s going to be a long winter,” says Jeonghwa. “But I don’t know how long. Part of it is just--you know it’s the beginning of summer for us, at home?”
Namjoon nods. “All of the districts around us.”
“Well, the district knows it has to get back to where the other districts are,” says Jeonghwa. “But it needs winter. It hasn’t had winter in…”
“Three years,” says Yoongi.
“Right,” says Jeonghwa. “So, it needs a lot of winter. But there’s also...your marriage helped, but it didn’t fix everything.”
Jimin feels Namjoon and Yoongi turn to look at him, but he stares straight ahead at Jeonghwa. He doesn’t want to see their expressions. “What does that mean?” he asks.
She reaches across the table and wraps her hand loosely around his wrist. “It likes you,” she says. “It doesn’t want anyone else. I made sure.”
“Oh,” says Jimin, and blinks. “Thank you.” Hearing that means more than he thought it would.
“What does it want, then?” asks Namjoon, frowning.
“I don’t know,” says Jeonghwa, audibly frustrated. “But I got the feeling that it’s something you’re working on. Something that’s in progress.”
“I don’t understand,” says Yoongi. “If it’s something we’re already fixing, why is it going to make the winter last longer?”
“That’s what I was confused about,” says Jeonghwa. “It didn’t seem like something that was going to get better on its own, but I think it’s also a problem you know about. Is that--can you think of anything?” She looks back and forth between the three of them. Namjoon and Yoongi look at each other. Jimin looks down at the table.
“I can’t think of anything,” Yoongi says, finally. “Namjoon?”
Namjoon shakes his head. “Our only problem is...this. The weather, the seasons. Food.”
“Jimin?” asks Heeyeon.
“I don’t know,” says Jimin. “I’ve only been here for--not quite three months? I don’t know what’s changed.”
“But it’s your district,” says Jeonghwa. “Anything you don’t know about it isn’t important.”
Jimin shrugs. “I don’t know what the problem is,” he says. “I’m sorry.” She’s right, though. He can’t think of anything he needs to know about the district, and doesn’t. It’s Yoongi and Namjoon who remain mostly opaque to him.
Jimin helps Yoongi prepare dinner, grilled beef wrapped in lettuce. Heeyeon handed over both when she arrived, so tactfully that no one had to comment on it. Namjoon does, anyway, if only obliquely.
“If our spring comes earlier than yours, you’ll have to visit again,” he says.
“We’ll visit any time you’ll have us,” says Heeyeon. “We miss seeing more of you.”
They don’t want to stay overnight, so they can’t stay much longer, but Heeyeon does make time to go to the greenhouse with Namjoon and trade some cuttings. Jimin walks around the backyard with Jeonghwa to keep her company.
When he’s sure they’re far enough away from the house that Yoongi won’t hear, Jimin says, “What was it like for you? Getting married to two witches who were together already, I mean.”
“Ah,” says Jeonghwa, like she’s been expecting the question. “I was really lucky.”
“Because you liked them?” Jimin asks.
Jeonghwa shakes her head. “I did like them, right away, but no.” She tilts her head to the side. “It was different from here. Yoongi and Namjoon were in love before they came here, weren’t they?”
Jimin nods. Everyone knows Yoongi and Namjoon are in love, and that it has nothing to do with their marriage. It makes him tired.
“It wasn’t like that in my district,” says Jeonghwa. “It was just Hyojin, at first, and then she needed someone else and they sent Heeyeon. And they liked each other, and things were good in the district but there was still--they needed someone else. Me.” She smiles, her eyes soft. “They wanted me, and they already knew how it felt to--to marry a stranger. I got to spend time with them before our wedding, but it took longer than that.”
None of that really feels helpful, but Jimin smiles and thanks her.
“It hasn’t been very long,” she says. “And they’re good people. Kind, and thoughtful. It will work out.”
“They have to want it to, though,” says Jimin.
“Of course they want it to,” says Jeonghwa.
“Of course,” agrees Jimin, because he suddenly doesn’t want to have this conversation anymore. Their experiences are too different. “How are you getting home? Brooms?”
“No,” says Jeonghwa, smiling again. “We’re going as ducks. I just learned how this winter.”
“Yoongi transforms to fly, too,” says Jimin.
“I know,” says Jeonghwa. “It’s useful. You should learn an animal. Heeyeon can do a cat, too, but the duck is my first. You could come visit.”
Jimin nods. “That would be nice.” He likes Jeonghwa a lot, but he’s beginning to be impatient to have her gone. He’s wished for other people to talk to, but now that they’re here it’s just frustrating to have to keep up a facade. He has to do it with Namjoon and Yoongi, but it’s a different one. And he’s used to it.
Jimin writes to Taehyung the day of the first snow. It’s not a reply to Hoseok’s letter, because Namjoon’s done that. He won’t even address it to their district. It’s just for Taehyung, because Taehyung loves snow and he’s Jimin’s best friend, and Jimin misses him.
It doesn’t snow in Taehyung’s district. Maybe it has, sometime, but not in the time Taehyung has been living there. It used to snow in Jimin’s home district sometimes, a patchy, white cover over the sand on the beach, but it’s always warm where Taehyung comes from. It snowed once in the district where Taehyung and Jimin trained together, just for a few hours, leaving a thin, fuzzy coat of white on roofs and fences, but melting when it touched the ground. Taehyung had insisted on staying outside the whole time, catching snowflakes on his tongue, and his sleeve, and watching them melt in the palm of his hand.
“Taehyungie, it’s snowing here,” Jimin writes. “It’s not like any snow I’ve seen before. The flakes stick to each other on the way down and fall in big clumps that feel soft when they brush your face. You would love it.
“There’s so much snow, and it’s falling so fast. It started this morning, but the ground is all white already. Just today there’s been as much snow as I used to see in a whole winter when I was a child. When I came back from the greenhouse for the morning meal, my feet sunk into it.”
It had made Jimin feel buoyant, and he’d wanted to share that with someone. And he’d been waiting to write to Taehyung until he had something good to say.
“Park Jeonghwa came to forecast the seasons, and she said it was going to be a long winter, but if it’s this pretty I won’t mind. It’s been a difficult autumn. It’s been hard to grow enough food. But things will be quieter now that the snow has started, Namjoon says. He said I should find a project to work on this winter, because we’ll be stuck inside a lot.”
Jimin taps the end of his brush against Namjoon’s desk. He could say a lot more if Taehyung were here, but writing isn’t the same. He dips the brush again.
“Tell Hoseok that I’ve used the danced growth spell almost every day since I came here. I’ve changed it for more focused growth. I could try to write the changes but it will be easier to show him when he visits.
“I hope you’re both well. I miss you! I love you.”
Jimin signs his name, blots and folds the page, and cleans the brush with a touch of his finger. He rarely needs to write anything--certainly not often enough to need a desk of his own--but when he does, he tries to leave Namjoon’s desk as neat as he found it. Usually he leaves it neater. Hoseok used to get annoyed at Jimin for leaving things all over the place, but he’s been neater since he came here.
He stops in Yoongi’s workroom to attach a bit of string to his letter, and goes outside to call a bird to him. He hears Namjoon and Yoongi before he sees them, both of their voices and then Namjoon laughing. When he rounds the corner of the house, Yoongi is laughing, too, doubled over and almost silent. There’s snow all over both of them, and Namjoon is bending down to pick up more in his mittened hands.
“What are you doing?” Jimin asks. The bird he called to him lands on his shoulder as Yoongi and Namjoon turn to look at him, the smiles falling off their faces.
“We’re, um, having a snowball fight,” says Yoongi.
“A snowball fight,” says Jimin.
“It’s fun,” says Namjoon. He looks annoyed.
“What’s a snowball fight?” Jimin asks.
“Oh,” they say, together.
“You’ve never--Really?” Namjoon adds.
“It’s warmer where I’m from,” says Jimin. He has questions, but he doesn’t want to ask them without knowing how foolish they’re going to make him look.
“It’s, uh…” Yoongi bends down and picks up a clump of snow. His hands look so cold. “You take some snow and you make it into a ball,” he says. “Not too hard, or it’ll hurt. And then…”
The snowball hits Namjoon square in the center of his chest. “Hey,” says Namjoon.
Yoongi giggles through an enormous grin.
Jimin smiles. “I have to send this letter,” he says, holding up the scroll. “But then--can I play?”
“Of course,” says Yoongi.
“You’re on my team,” says Namjoon.
It turns out Jimin is good at snowball fights, which is a good thing, because Namjoon isn’t.
“What usually happens?” Jimin asks, crouched at the corner of the house waiting for Yoongi to appear.
“Yoongi-hyung throws snowballs at me until it stops being funny and starts being sad,” says Namjoon. He adds another snowball to the little pile next to Jimin. “This is good; it feels more even now. But he’s sneaky.”
On cue, a snowball hits Jimin in the back of the head. He scrambles to but the corner of the house between him and Yoongi, taking as many snowballs as he can scoop up in his arms in one go, but there’s no point: Namjoon has fallen back onto the snowy ground, and he’s too easy of a target for Yoongi to bother with Jimin.
By the time Jimin is ready to attack, Yoongi is standing over Namjoon, laughing so hard he’s having a hard time breathing. He crouches down, using a hand on Namjoon’s knee to keep his balance, and looks at Jimin, smiling. When Jimin goes to smile back, he realizes he already is.
Jimin likes snow.
“We used to have hot cider on days like this,” Yoongi says, as he hangs the kettle over the fire. “But the big orchard in the south of the district--drowned.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. “Well. Tea is nice.”
“We’ll help them plant new trees in the spring,” says Namjoon. “The water’s gone down so much.”
“I have to clean out the rot there first,” says Yoongi. “I left it because we weren’t doing anything else on that land, but…”
“So you’ll clean it out before we plant,” says Namjoon. “And we’ll give the trees some extra growth. In a couple of years, we’ll have cider again.”
“How long do you think it will take for the floods to go down all the way?” Jimin asks. “What happens if the water freezes?”
“Ice skating,” says Namjoon. “Oh!” He turns to Yoongi. “Is the sled still in the shed?”
“Should be,” says Yoongi. “It might need some work, but…”
“A sled for carrying things?” Jimin asks.
“No, for--” Yoongi pauses. “It’s little. You sit on it and you slide down hills on the snow.”
“It’s fun,” says Namjoon.
“Is this what happens in the winter? You two turn into children?” Jimin means it as a joke, but even he can hear that it doesn’t sound that way. “I mean, it’s nice,” he says. “Just--different.”
“We know we still have a lot of work to do,” says Yoongi. “But a lot of it can’t be done in winter, so it’s always been a good time to relax a little.”
“And it’s been a long time since we had a winter,” Namjoon adds.
“I understand,” says Jimin. “I wasn’t trying to say you shouldn’t.”
“It’s alright,” says Namjoon, but some part of the warmth Jimin felt after the snowball fight is gone.
The snow keeps coming, until there’s almost a foot of it on the ground. Then it stops, but every few days there’s more. Jimin loves it when it’s in the air, and likes it clean and white on the ground and the roof and the trees. He likes it less when it gets on his clothes and melts into his boots. It’s cold. Everything is cold.
Jimin and Namjoon still go to the greenhouse every morning to grow the plants there and harvest whatever fruits and vegetables are ready. They had to clear a path from the house the first day it snowed, but then Jimin danced sunlight inside the greenhouse and everything within a twenty-foot radius melted. But expending most of their magic there only takes a few hours, and after that there’s very little to do.
Yoongi spends his mornings in his workroom, switching between projects, as far as Jimin can tell. Sometimes he arrives to prepare the first meal of the day with bits of sawdust or wood shavings clinging to his clothes. Sometimes it’s bits of thread, or smears of clay. One morning Jimin pulls the clay from Yoongi’s clothes with a quick, small spell and rolls it into a smooth, round ball in his palm.
“A marble,” says Yoongi. He takes it out of Jimin’s hand and places it on the hearth to bake. “If that’s not too much of a kids’ game for you.”
“I don’t remember how to play,” Jimin says. He’d preferred games he was good at.
“I can teach you,” says Yoongi.
Yoongi’s clothes are marked with clay for more than a week, as he adds to their stock of dishes and cups, and each day Jimin makes another marble. By the time Yoongi has moved on to the next project--socks--there's a row of marbles on the mantel, and it’s habit for Jimin to clean Yoongi up before they sit down to eat, and throw a little ball of wool or wood shavings into the fire.
Namjoon studies, spending long hours at his desk poring over spell books and writing his own spells. Jimin is impressed at first, but when he goes into the study to tidy up he finds that all of Namjoon’s notes have little drawings up and down the margins.
Namjoon also insists on going out for walks in the afternoons when the weather isn’t too bad. He says he wants to breathe the fresh air and listen to the forest, but he always comes back red-cheeked, runny-nosed and shivering, complaining to Yoongi about the cold.
Jimin is at loose ends, mostly. He’s taken it upon himself to keep the house clean, just to have something to do. He dances, a little. He’d like to practice more, but the bedroom is too cold during the day, and usually there’s someone in the kitchen, the warmest room in the house.
He finds a stash of storybooks in the study, but he finishes with them quickly, and then there are just spell books and books of magical theory and reference works on birds and plants and farming. Jimin tries the theory first, and he’s interested, but it’s dense material, and each book seems to expect him to have read a host of others. He helps more in the kitchen, and offers to work on whatever Yoongi and Namjoon need help with, but they’re too used to doing things on their own. Yoongi tells him he needs to come up with a project or a hobby of his own, and it feels like a rebuke.
The sheepskin coat Yoongi made for him is warm and sturdy, with a thick collar that buttons up over Jimin’s face. It’s so cold out now that Jimin doesn’t think he’d survive the trip to the greenhouse and back without it and the fur hood that ties around his neck. Jimin’s other clothes are the ones he brought with him from Taehyung and Hoseok’s home: built for warmer weather, and a little worn now. He needs new things, but when Yoongi offered to make some, the night of Jimin’s arrival, Jimin had shut him down so quickly that he doesn’t feel like he can ask, now.
Yoongi brings it up again. He says, “I’m making new clothes for you, Jimin, whether you want them or not.”
“That will be nice,” Jimin says, politely. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” says Yoongi. Then he smiles and wrinkles his forehead. “I thought you were going to put up a fight.” He gets this look in his eyes, sometimes, when he smiles at Jimin, that makes Jimin feel like Yoongi is laughing at him.
“No, I know I need clothes.” says Jimin. “The old ones weren’t going to last forever.”
“The old ones weren’t good when you got here,” says Yoongi.
Jimin feels a little defensive. Taehyung made those. Everything Yoongi makes looks good. There’s that saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” but sometimes it seems like Yoongi is master of all of them. But the things Taehyung made for Jimin were made with love.
“What were you going to do if I did put up a fight?”
“Make you some new trousers, at least,” says Yoongi. “They wouldn’t fit very well if you didn’t let me take your measurements, but they wouldn’t be threadbare at the knees, either.”
“Trousers don’t have to fit,” Jimin says. “You just tie them tighter and roll them up if you need to, and it’s fine.”
“That was definitely what the person who made the clothes you’re wearing now thought,” says Yoongi. He pauses. “Did you make them? If it--”
“It was Taehyung,” says Jimin.
“Hoseok’s husband,” says Yoongi.
“My best friend,” says Jimin. “I like my clothes because he made them.”
“Oh,” says Yoongi. “Well, you should keep them, then. But you should also have warmer things to wear.”
So Jimin spends parts of a few afternoons over the next couple of weeks being fitted. Taehyung never did this, but it doesn’t take long for Jimin to see that trousers that fit are a nice thing. They’re loose around his legs, still, but he doesn’t feel like there’s excess fabric anywhere. They don’t bunch up along the drawstring, and the ankles don’t need to be cuffed. Yoongi makes him other, closer-fitting trousers, too, in a thinner fabric.
“For dancing,” he says. “Hoseok used to have some like these.”
Jimin laughs. “Hoseok dances in big, loose things.”
“I guess he changed his mind,” says Yoongi.
Jimin likes the dancing trousers, when he tries them out. He likes the fittings, too. He gets to stand still without feeling like he should be doing something else. He gets to try on more clothes than he’s ever owned at one time. He gets Yoongi’s hands on him. And in the end, he likes his new clothes. They’re warmer and they fit better and they’re nice--beautiful and well made. Jimin hopes, sometime, to find something that Yoongi is bad at.
Jimin gets itchy and restless, cooped up in the house for most of every day, Namjoon and Yoongi always present. He’s never had a hard time being around people before. He likes people. But he’s never been in a situation like this one before, and being around his spouses is a constant strain. He wants to be around people, but--different people. He wants to forget that he’s tied for the rest of his life to people he didn’t choose, or want, just for a little while. He wants to dance, throw himself into something that will make him feel good. And more than that, he wants to create, choreograph brand new spells. His success in revising Hoseok’s growth spell has been a secret satisfaction since he did it, and he wants more of that.
When he was younger, Jimin only knew a few danced spells, but they were the spells he was best at. In training, he learned more, but they were all passed down by witches who didn’t know what to do with them. Jimin wanted more, but there was no place to get it.
When Jimin went to visit Taehyung--the visit that turned into living with him, the beginning of the best year and a half of his life--he met Hoseok. Some of the witches Jimin trained with had mentioned Hoseok, when Jimin expressed his interest in danced spells, and Jimin had been a little afraid of him: a real dancing witch who would know if Jimin had been doing it wrong all along. But then Taehyung wrote and told him Hoseok wanted to meet him, that they had space for him. That maybe he could do an informal apprenticeship. “You’ll love him,” Taehyung had written, and Jimin did.
Hoseok might be the first witch in generations who is building on the choreography of the old spells to build new ones. No one taught him how, because there was no one who knew. He just learned all the existing spells and extrapolated to create new ones. And then he taught them to Jimin.
Soaking up everything Hoseok could teach him was good enough for Jimin for a long time, but he’s not with Hoseok anymore, and now he wants more. He didn’t know he could improve on the danced growth spell until he did it, and he wants to know what else he can do. And Namjoon keeps talking about writing spells like that’s a normal thing witches do.
Namjoon finds Jimin sitting on the floor in the study, next to the bookshelves. Jimin had pulled out one of the least intimidating of the magical theory books and flipped past the introduction to some pages of diagrams. He doesn’t fully understand them, but something about the criss-crossing lines matches something Jimin knows about how magic feels. He'd sat down without thinking about it, so that he would have a free hand to bookmark some of the earlier diagrams with his fingers.
“Is that Elements of Spell-Casting?” Namjoon asks, sitting down on the floor next to Jimin. “I didn’t think you were interested in theory.”
“I’m interested,” says Jimin. “But it’s--I don’t know. Does the author ever say what he means?”
Namjoon smiles. “Not often,” he says. “I actually like that one a lot, but it’s a little dry. Don’t you think A Grammar of Spoken Spells is better?”
“I haven’t read that one,” says Jimin.
“How about Arcane Structures?”
Jimin shakes his head. “I haven’t read anything. I just--I wanted to figure some things out.”
“You shouldn’t have started with that one, then,” says Namjoon.
“I didn’t know what to start with,” says Jimin. “None of them start at the beginning. At least this one has these diagrams.”
“Oh, do you like those?” Namjoon asks. “I mostly skipped those bits.”
“It’s good to have something to reference,” says Jimin slowly. “Most of the other books just kept referring me to more books.”
“I like that,” says Namjoon.
Jimin smiles. Namjoon smiles back.
“I’ve read a lot of the other books they’re referencing,” says Namjoon. “What are you trying to figure out? Maybe I can help.”
“Maybe you can,” says Jimin. “You write a lot of spells, don’t you?”
“Not all of them are successful,” Namjoon says. “I mean, I try.” He pauses. “Yes. I do write a lot of spells.”
“I was really just expecting a yes there,” says Jimin.
“Sometimes it takes me awhile to get there,” says Namjoon. “Are you trying to write a spell?”
“Kind of,” says Jimin. He watches Namjoon carefully when he says, “I want to choreograph one.”
Namjoon’s head tilts a little to the side, but his eyes don’t leave Jimin’s. Jimin doesn’t think Namjoon has ever focused on him like this--except maybe his first night here. Jimin lets his gaze drop to the floor.
“Is that something you can do?” Namjoon asks. “I know you adapted that growth spell, but I didn’t think there could be new danced spells.”
“Why not?” asks Jimin.
Namjoon takes a moment to answer. “I don’t know,” he says. “Because I’ve never heard of anyone doing it, I guess, but that’s not a good reason. I’m sorry, that was thoughtless.”
“Hoseok does it,” says Jimin. “He’s done a lot. I guess he started that after you stopped writing. But he just...figures things out with his body. There’s no theory, just trial and error. Not a lot of error, because Hoseok is…” Jimin trails off. Because Hoseok is brilliant, and special. Because there’s no one like him and no one can do the things he does.
Jimin glances up at Namjoon. Namjoon is looking back, gently curious.
“I can’t do it like that,” says Jimin. “But there has to be something--everything else has rules, in magic. This must have rules, too, right? And if I could figure out just a little of that…”
“You can,” says Namjoon. “You already have, haven’t you?”
Jimin shakes his head. “I have some ideas,” he says. “But that’s all.”
“You couldn’t have adapted that growth spell without more than ideas,” says Namjoon.
“That’s not really--” Jimin begins, and stops. “I can tell what part of the spell is doing what, mostly,” he says. “It’s not much to go on.”
“It’s a great place to start,” says Namjoon. He’s leaning forward, his eyes bright and interested. His knee nudges Jimin’s thigh, and Jimin doesn’t call his attention to it. “I guess I can see why this is the book you went for, but--is it okay if I recommend some others?”
“Please,” says Jimin. “I don’t even really know what I’m looking for.”
“Well, you should really be starting with the basics,” Namjoon says. He leans across Jimin to run his finger along the spines of the shelved books. His head is inches from Jimin’s face, and he smells of sweat and pine trees and snow. Jimin only realizes he’s leaning in when Namjoon’s hair brushes his nose.
“I looked for basics,” says Jimin. “But nothing seemed basic enough.”
“I don’t see the Grammar or Fundamentals of Spell-crafting…” Namjoon’s voice is quiet even before he trails off, as if he’s speaking to himself. He stands and starts scanning the shelves higher up, looking increasingly annoyed. “Well, no wonder you couldn’t find it. It’s not here.”
He extends a hand to Jimin, who takes it and lets Namjoon pull him upright. “What happened to it?” Jimin asks.
“Hyung must have it,” says Namjoon. “I hope he does, anyway. If not, I’ve lent it to someone, and since I can’t remember who, I’m never going to get it back.”
Yoongi isn’t in his workroom, but Namjoon seems comfortable rummaging through his things. “Ah,” he says, finally. There’s a small pile of books gathering dust on the shelf above Yoongi’s big table. It’s high up, though--just too high for Namjoon to reach.
“How does Yoongi get up there?” he asks.
To Jimin, the answer is obvious. “Here, let me,” he says, and jumps up onto the table. “Grammar of Spoken Spells, Architecture of Magic, Fundamentals of Spell-crafting, Embroidery Techniques.”
“I forgot about The Architecture of Magic,” says Namjoon. “You can leave the embroidery one up there.”
Jimin hands the books to Namjoon before he jumps down. “Does Yoongi embroider?”
“He hasn’t had much time to do it in the last couple of years,” says Namjoon. “But he still puts a few sewn spells in my clothes. Yours too, probably.”
That doesn’t necessarily follow, but Jimin looks when he gets undressed that night, and finds one small, cross-hatched pattern sewn into the sleeve of his shirt. He doesn’t know anything about sewn spells, and he doesn’t want to ask what it means, but he likes it.
Namjoon puts another chair in his study so that Jimin can share his desk. Jimin offered to do his reading elsewhere, but the light is best in the study, and it’s nice, reading side by side. Even the most basic book uses terms Jimin doesn’t know, and expects him to be familiar with a huge variety of concepts he’s never considered. He wonders if there’s any book he could have started with, or if you have to be qualified to write one in order to read one.
So it helps, having Namjoon there to talk things through with him, or tell him what the author is talking around. Jimin doesn’t yet have a theory about how to translate what he’s learning into dance, but he can feel one beginning to take on vague shape in his mind. And it’s nice to have something to do.
Jimin starts feeling more relaxed around Namjoon, too. He thinks they might even be friends. Jimin still doesn’t feel about him the way you’re supposed to feel about someone you’re married to, and he’s still fairly sure Yoongi doesn’t like him, but things are a little better than they were.
One morning, Namjoon says, “Did you ever get the sled out?”
“One of the runners was broken,” says Yoongi. “I had to have a new one made.”
“Something you couldn’t repair yourself?” says Jimin. It comes out sharper than it should; it probably shouldn’t come out at all. It just stings, still, when they talk to each other like he’s not there.
Yoongi doesn’t take offense. “I didn’t have the equipment here,” he says. He turns back to Namjoon. “I have it now, but I have to put it on. We can go sledding tomorrow, if you’d like.”
“I would like,” says Namjoon. He looks excited, smiling slightly, his eyes bright. Jimin smiles at him. Jimin glances at Yoongi, knowing he’s not going to like the expression on Yoongi’s face, but wanting to see it anyway. Instead, he finds Yoongi looking at him. Yoongi smiles quizzically. Jimin flushes and looks away.
“Should we let Jimin go first?” Namjoon asks. “Or show him?”
“You don’t think we can all fit at once?” Yoongi asks.
“You can go first if you like,” Jimin says. “I don’t mind.” He’d like to see how fast the sled goes before he gets on it.
“No, let’s all go down together,” says Namjoon. “Come on.”
Yoongi looks at Jimin for a moment. “Okay,” he says. “But I’m sitting in the front.”
“Yes,” says Namjoon.
The house is built at the top of the hill, so they don’t have far to walk. Yoongi puts the sled down at the top of the slope and climbs onto it, folding his legs up in front of him. Jimin looks at Namjoon, who gestures at the sled with his chin. “Your turn,” he says.
Jimin sits down with his legs in front of him, like Yoongi did, careful not to touch Yoongi. “Are you sure we’re all going to fit?” he asks.
“Not if you sit that far back,” says Namjoon.
Yoongi twists to look. “You’re going to fall off like that,” he says. “Put your feet at the sides.”
Jimin spreads his legs so that his feet are planted at the edges of the sled. “Won’t they--get caught?” He doesn’t think he’ll be able to keep them there once the sled is moving.
“No,” says Yoongi. He reaches back, grabs Jimin’s ankles, and pulls them forward. Jimin falls back against the sled, and when he’s upright again he finds himself with his chest pressed against Yoongi’s back.
“Now there’s room for me,” says Namjoon, with satisfaction. He sits down behind Jimin, with his legs bracketing Jimin’s thighs. His legs reach a lot further along Jimin’s than Jimin’s reach along Yoongi’s.
“Hold on,” says Yoongi, and Jimin feels Namjoon’s hands grip his waist. He puts his hands on Yoongi’s waist, tentatively.
“Tighter than that,” says Yoongi. “Or you’re going to fall off. Ready?”
“Ready,” says Namjoon.
Jimin swallows. He can feel his heart beating, hard, and doesn’t know if it’s fear or the proximity to Namjoon and Yoongi. “Ready,” he says.
Yoongi pats Jimin’s leg, and says, his voice pitched low, “It’ll be fine. Fun, even. Hold on tight.”
Jimin doesn’t need to be told to hold on; as soon as the sled starts moving, he does it reflexively. He’s worried that he’s holding on too tightly, but Namjoon is holding on just as hard. And then they’re moving faster, and Jimin thinks about the swooping in his stomach and the wind in his hair and how it’s fast, faster than flying.
They crash into some obstacle under the snow as they’re coasting along the flat area at the bottom of the hill, and the sled tips over sideways. Jimin sprawls out at full length on the snow and grins up at the sky.
“Fun, right?” says Yoongi, as he helps Jimin up. He’s grinning, too.
“Fun,” Jimin agrees.
Taehyung’s letters are full of digressions and free-floating comments, and they‘re almost as good as talking to Taehyung. Jimin felt like he’d lost him, a little, after he first moved here. Now he almost has him back. Jimin wishes Hoseok would write to him, too, but his letters, when they come, are addressed to all three of them, and feel like they’re meant more for Yoongi and Namjoon than for Jimin. He could write to Hoseok himself, but he assumes Hoseok sees his letters to Taehyung, and Jimin doesn’t know what to say to him, anyway.
“It’s so cold here,” he writes. “We spend a lot of time indoors, and on the first floor of the house, because it’s easier to heat. We still go out to the greenhouse every day, because we won’t have enough food to get us through the winter otherwise. I thought when I first saw this house that it was huge, but it’s cramped when I’m inside it all the time.”
“Are you done with Arcane Structures?” Namjoon asks, from the doorway.
“No, but it’s here, if you need it,” says Jimin. Now that he’s got some theory vocabulary under his belt, Arcane Structures is his favorite of Namjoon’s books. He’s read it through once already, but now he’s reading it again, more slowly, trying to make sure he’s digested everything it has to say.
“Thanks,” says Namjoon. “I just wanted to check something.” He takes the book, but doesn’t move away. “What are you doing?”
“Writing to Taehyung.”
“Tell him I said hello,” says Namjoon.
Jimin looks up in surprise. “You’ve barely met him,” he says.
“We talked on the way back from the wedding ceremony,” says Namjoon. “I liked him.”
“Everyone likes Taehyung,” says Jimin.
“He said something like that about you, too,” says Namjoon.
Jimin smiles. It’s different, because for Taehyung it’s effortless, and Jimin has to work at it. But he knows that when Taehyung says it, that’s not what he means.
“You’ve been friends for a long time?” Namjoon asks.
“We trained at the same time, in the same district,” says Jimin. “For five years.”
“And then when he got married you went to live with him?”
“I stayed with Seokjin for a while,” says Jimin. “And I traveled a little. And then Taehyung invited me to visit, and I just ended up staying.”
“That’s a long visit,” says Namjoon.
Jimin looks at him. He’s not sure if he’s imagining the disapproving tone in Namjoon’s voice. “A year and a half,” he says. “It ended up being a sort of informal apprenticeship, for dance. They asked me to stay.” They’d wanted him more than Namjoon and Yoongi do, at least. But the details are none of Namjoon’s business.
“That was nice of them,” says Namjoon.
“Taehyung is my best friend,” says Jimin. “And Hoseok--well, you know Hoseok.”
“Things change, though,” says Namjoon. “When you get married, you know?”
Jimin looks at him blankly. Things haven’t changed, for him.
“No one is going to understand you like your spouse,” Namjoon explains. “A witch isn’t supposed to need anyone else.”
“Well, sometimes a witch wants to be with someone they’re not married to,” says Jimin. “Just like sometimes a witch ends up married to someone they don’t want to be with.”
There’s a brief, uncomfortable silence. Jimin feels like he’s at his worst around Yoongi and Namjoon. He says things to them that he’d never dream of saying to anyone else. “Hoseok and Taehyung aren’t like you and Yoongi. Maybe it’s different when you choose each other.”
“That relationship will grow, if it doesn’t exist already,” says Namjoon. “If you let it.”
Jimin wonders if Namjoon is thinking at all about who he’s talking to right now, and if he really still thinks of himself as only being married to Yoongi. That’s what it sounds like. “Will it?” he says. “Well, we’ll see.”
With his new, warmer clothes, Jimin has been spending more time outside. He takes walks, mostly, but after some trial and error he also understands how to use the snowshoes Yoongi brought out shortly after the first snow. It’s good exercise, and it’s nice to get out of the house and away from Yoongi and Namjoon. A couple of times he’s gone for walks with Namjoon, when they’ve been deep in conversation about spells, and haven’t wanted to stop talking. The melted space around the greenhouse is big enough to be a nice place to walk, and flat enough that Jimin can stop to demonstrate a dance step when he needs to.
Today, Jimin doesn’t put on his new, warmer clothes. He wakes up early and goes downstairs while Yoongi and Namjoon are still sleeping. Yoongi has a stack of ceremonial robes on a shelf in his workroom, just in case, and Jimin takes one of those down and puts it on. He adds his coat and his boots, but he’s still much too cold when he steps outside.
He walks fast, and that helps, but the snow is deep and gets into his boots. Once he’s in the forest, walking is easier, but then he’s close to the spring, and he has to leave his boots outside the edge of the clearing, and hang his coat on a branch.
There’s only a little bit of snow on the ground, in patches where the branches are thinner overhead. Jimin avoids them, but it’s so, so cold. His teeth chatter over the words of the spell he looked up last night, and he has to start over a few times before he says it right and feels the district inviting him in.
The water feels warm right away, but it’s only in contrast to the air. It warms slowly, at a pace his body can adjust to. There’s a question in the water. The district wants to know why he’s here.
“I don’t know,” he whispers. His mouth is just barely above the surface of the water. He ducks down under the water when the air feels too cold on his wet skin and hair.
It’s nice. This is the first time his feet have felt warm all the way through for at least a month. He falls into something like meditation, surfacing to breathe when he has to and letting everything else pass through him. Being in the heart of his district feels good, like being safe, or being cared about. The district doesn’t hate him, and maybe that’s what he was here to find out, because he starts crying when he realizes it. He puts his head above water again, so that he can feel the warmth of the tears on his face.
It’s all in his head, probably, but he feels like he’s breathing a little bit easier, now that he has one thing he knows he doesn’t have to be anxious about. When he ducks under the surface again, the water pushes him gently up and to the edge of the pool. He’s being told, firmly but very gently, that it’s time to go back.
“Thank you,” he says out loud. The bare, icy branches click together above him.
It’s so cold, and there’s no easy way to dry off, so Jimin shakes the water off his feet before he puts them into his boots, and wraps his coat around his soaked robe. He huddles on the ground for a moment, hood pulled tight around his face, but it doesn’t really help, so he gets up and starts walking back to the house.
He checks for Namjoon and Yoongi, and finds them sitting at the table in the kitchen. He’d hoped to be back before they woke up, but he’d stayed in the spring longer than he meant to. He doesn’t know how long, exactly. He lost track of time.
It’s not a long walk, and Jimin takes it even faster than he took the walk to the spring. He shivers uncontrollably. His hair is full of ice. His toes are numb. His robe is frozen below the knee. When he gets into the house, he goes directly to the big kitchen fire and crouches down in front of it, holding his hands up as close as he can without burning them.
It takes him a moment to realize that Namjoon and Yoongi are in the kitchen with him, still sitting at the table. He turns to look and finds them both staring at him.
“What?” Jimin asks.
“We didn’t know where you were,” says Namjoon.
“You always know where I am,” says Jimin.
“Not when you’re at the heart of the district,” says Namjoon. “As soon as you walk into that clearing--”
“I know,” says Jimin. “But that’s the only place, so if you couldn’t see me, you should have known I’d be there.” He’d looked forward to that, actually: being somewhere where Yoongi and Namjoon couldn’t feel his heartbeat if they happened to want to.
“We thought that was probably where you were,” says Yoongi. “But there was a chance something else had happened.”
Jimin’s hands feel warm enough now, and the ice in his hair is mostly melted. He starts to pull his boots off. “The district doesn’t want to kill me,” he says. He’s pretty sure that’s what Yoongi means, but neither he nor Namjoon says anything. His feet look blotchy, red and white. He puts them right up against the hearthstone to warm.
“Don’t do that,” says Yoongi. He gets up from his chair and comes over to Jimin. “You’re going to heat them up too fast.”
“I want to heat them up,” says Jimin. “I’m cold.”
Yoongi sits down next to him and unceremoniously pulls Jimin’s feet into his lap. “It’s dangerous if you warm them too fast.” He wraps his hands around Jimin’s feet for a moment. “Joon-ah, give me that towel.”
Namjoon throws it, so it lands on Yoongi’s knee. Yoongi releases Jimin’s feet and wraps the towel around them instead. “There, lets try that,” he says. He holds onto Jimin’s ankles, just tightly enough that Jimin knows to keep his feet where they are. “We’ll look in a little while to see how your feet are doing.”
“Thank you,” says Jimin.
“You should have known better than to go to the spring when it’s cold like this,” says Yoongi.
There’s a silence, because Jimin doesn’t want to apologize. He doesn’t see why he should. Then Namjoon clears his throat and says, “Why would the district want to kill you?”
Jimin looks at Yoongi, but Yoongi is still looking down at Jimin’s feet. His hands on Jimin’s ankles are the warmest thing about Jimin right now.
“You know what happens when a marriage doesn’t work out,” says Jimin. He thinks that’s what happened to Hoseok’s first husband, so it isn’t always the newcomer, but he can’t imagine the district would choose him over Namjoon and Yoongi.
“You don’t think this is working out?” says Namjoon.
Jimin turns to Yoongi, who meets his eyes with a glint of understanding. “Why don’t you go upstairs and get into bed?” he says. “Make sure you put on those new socks. And I’ll bring you something warm to drink. We don’t want you getting sick.”
Jimin nods and pulls his feet out of Yoongi’s grasp. They already feel a little better, and look less blotchy. He looks at Namjoon, but Namjoon is looking at Yoongi.
The new socks are on the shelf where Jimin keeps his underthings. He looks carefully at them before he puts them on. There’s a little pattern of circles at the top of each one, white thread on white cloth. He knows it’s another sewn spell, but he doesn’t know what it is. Then he puts the socks on and he does know, because he can feel warmth seeping in through his skin in a way that reminds him of the water in the spring.
He crawls into the bed, huge without Yoongi and Namjoon in it. It’s still well before noon, but as soon as he gets under the covers he feels overwhelmingly sleepy. Intense cold can do that, Namjoon’s told him. So can intense feelings.
Jimin dozes off and wakes to the sound of Yoongi stepping into the room. He takes the cup Yoongi hands him and inhales the steam, then wrinkles his nose. “This isn’t tea.”
“It’s a brewed spell,” says Yoongi.
Jimin takes a small sip. It doesn’t taste too bad. “What does it do?”
Yoongi gives him an odd look.
“What?” says Jimin.
“You tasted it first,” says Yoongi. “Before you knew what it was.”
“Oh,” says Jimin,
“It’s a restorative,” Yoongi continues. “It builds up your strength, and wards off illness.”
“I never get sick,” says Jimin.
“There was ice in your hair,” says Yoongi.
“Fine,” says Jimin. “Thank you.” He drinks the whole thing, as Yoongi watches, and hands the cup back to him. “Brewed spells, sewn spells,” he says.
“Cooked spells, carved spells,” says Yoongi. “And--some spells I don’t have a name for.”
“What’s the difference between a cooked spell and a brewed spell?” Jimin asks. Brewed spells are fairly traditional, but he’s never heard of a cooked spell.
“What’s the difference between food and drink?” says Yoongi. “But--no, it’s not entirely that. A brewed spell is more about the ingredients. A cooked spell is about form and process.”
“Oh,” says Jimin, as fragments of ideas begin to come together. “Like spoken spells and sung spells.”
“Exactly,” says Yoongi, looking pleased. He watches Jimin for a moment, and then says, “Danced spells.”
“And sung ones, sometimes,” says Jimin. The line between spoken and sung spells is blurred, but Jimin knows it’s there because he’s bad at one, and okay at the other.
Yoongi nods approvingly. “Should we call Namjoon in now?” he asks.
“Sure,” says Jimin. They need to talk. He doesn’t like it, but he knows it’s true.
A moment later, Jimin hears Namjoon’s step on the stair. “Did you just call him?” he asks. “How?”
“Mind to mind,” says Yoongi. “It’s not easy to learn, but…”
“It took us a long time,” says Namjoon, as he comes in. “We can’t read each other’s minds, but we can get each other’s attention. But we’re always paying a little bit of attention to each other anyway.” He sits down next to Yoongi on the bed. “So, uh. You don’t think this is working out? I thought it was getting better.”
“It is,” says Jimin.
“It’s not good enough,” says Jimin. He can think of Namjoon as a friend, sometimes. Yoongi seems like he’s warming up to him a little. He still feels like he’s going to be on the outside of their marriage forever.
“What you said about things not working out,” Yoongi says, slowly, feeling his way into the sentence. “That happens sometimes. We’ve probably heard the same stories you have. But that only happens when a witch is really bad, right? When they’re not fulfilling their responsibility to the land, or their spouses. When they’re--cruel. It’s not for...when the witches in a district…”
Jimin waits and watches Yoongi. He’s not sure he’s ever seen him look this uncomfortable. Jimin isn’t going to come up with an end to that sentence for him. He looks at Namjoon, and Namjoon looks away fast.
“When the witches aren’t friends,” Yoongi finishes. Jimin is still watching Namjoon, so he catches the face Namjoon makes.
“I thought we were getting to be friends,” says Namjoon.
Jimin’s torn. “We are, I think,” he says. “I hope so, anyway.” And that’s not what this is about, but he feels compelled to apologize. “I know I wasn’t very nice when I first got here. I’m trying to be better now.”
“You were very polite,” says Yoongi, with that look he gets, like a laugh Jimin isn’t included in.
“I was trying to be,” says Jimin.
“So what’s the problem?” Namjoon asks.”I know we got off to a slow start, but it’s going to keep getting better.”
“It’s nice that we’re all getting along better,” Jimin says slowly.
“What else do you need from us?” Yoongi asks.
Jimin needs them to stop being an “us” that doesn’t include him.
“You’re...nice to me,” he tries again.
“This...doesn’t feel like home,” Jimin says slowly.
“That takes time,” says Namjoon. “You’re still settling in.” He’s so kind. Jimin wants to like him a lot. But Namjoon is kind to him in the same way he’s kind to the plants in the greenhouse, and Jimin is more than that.
“I’m trying to,” Jimin says. “But--” he looks between them.
Yoongi frowns. “Just spit it out,” he says. “We can’t have a conversation if you’re just going to dance around everything.”
“He does dance about everything, though,” says Namjoon, smiling a little.
Jimin closes his eyes. “I can’t settle in when you treat me the way you do. You never--this is my house as much as yours.”
“What difference does that make?” Yoongi asks. “You live here just as much as we do.”
“I know,” says Jimin. “But you don’t treat me like I do. You treat me like a permanent guest. You give me food and clothes and shelter, but why do you get to give them to me, when they’re supposed to be mine anyway?” He’s speaking louder now, finally letting some of the irritation he’s feeling come through in his voice. “When I work in the greenhouse, or clean the house, you act like I’m doing you a favor, but it’s my job as much as yours.” He doesn’t look at Yoongi and Namjoon, doesn’t think he’d be able to keep talking if he did.
“I know there are things between the two of you that I’m not going to be part of,” he continues, more quietly. “And that’s fine. But things about the district are supposed to be mine just as much as yours, and whenever I ask you anything you look at me like you don’t even understand why I want to know.” His eyes flick to Namjoon’s, because he’s the worst about that, and Jimin wants him to know.
“I’m here forever,” he says. “For the rest of my life. And I really am trying to settle in. But I can’t do it if you’re not making space for me.” Then he looks up. Namjoon has drawn back a little, like he’s avoiding an attack. Yoongi is leaning forward, chin resting on his hands. They’re so different from each other, and also exactly the same.
“I keep trying to involve you in things,” says Namjoon. “It’s getting better, but until recently you were really standoffish.”
“I know,” says Jimin. “I don’t know how to explain--you keep inviting me into things, but it just feels bad, because they’re supposed to be my things, too.” He doesn’t feel like he’s doing a very good job of explaining himself, and when Yoongi opens his mouth to speak, Jimin holds up a hand to stop him. “You can’t just try to involve me in things sometimes,” he says, finally. “It has to be all the time. I’m already involved.”
“It’s difficult to involve you when you’ve made it clear that you don’t like us,” says Yoongi.
“I don’t dislike you,” says Jimin.
Yoongi snorts. “We can see the difference between the way you are with us and the way you are with other people. I thought this was just how you were until I took you out into the district, but no, you’re incredibly sweet with everyone--except us.”
“I’m not married to everyone,” says Jimin. “Just you.”
“I don’t know what that means,” says Yoongi. They’ve both been getting louder, bit by bit. “I don’t know what you want from us. We’re trying.”
“Well you’re trying to do the wrong thing,” says Jimin.
“What, trying to be nice?” Yoongi’s got the kind of face it’s easy to picture angry, but Jimin hasn’t actually seen him angry before. He’s sneering.
“Enough.” Namjoon doesn’t raise his voice, but he makes everything else sound quieter. Jimin and Yoongi look away from each other.
After a moment, Yoongi says, “What do you want to say, Namjoon-ah?” and Namjoon says, “Nothing, I just wanted you to be quiet.”
Jimin smiles, hard as he tries not to. When he looks up, Namjoon and Yoongi are smiling back at him, Namjoon smug, Yoongi rueful.
“I want you to like me,” says Jimin. “But more than that, I want you to respect me.”
“We do respect you,” Namjoon says immediately. “Well. I do.”
“Thanks, Joon-ah,” says Yoongi, smacking him lightly on the arm. He turns to Jimin. “We do.”
Jimin shakes his head. “You don’t.”
Jimin is pretty sure he’s not being fair. He’s articulating things that he’d only dimly felt before, and he wouldn’t be able to do that if it wasn’t for the shot of confidence he got from knowing that the district wants him, loves him, has his back. But he has to push his advantage when he’s got it. He never thought he’d want respect more than he wanted to be liked, but it turns out he doesn’t care if he’s being unfair, as long as they keep looking at him the way they’re looking at him now--like he’s worthy of their consideration.
“You don’t act like you do,” he says. “So it doesn’t matter.”
“What do you want us to do?” Yoongi asks. It’s quiet, a genuine question. It doesn’t sound like a complaint.
That’s something Jimin hasn’t thought through yet. “Just think about me,” he says. “When you’re planning, or figuring things out. When you’re talking to each other and I’m right there in the room. Think about me.”
Namjoon and Yoongi exchange a quick glance, and Yoongi ducks his head and smiles.
“We do think about you,” says Namjoon. He’s smiling a little, too. “But I think I know what you mean. We’ll--I’ll try harder.”
“Me too,” says Yoongi.
They do, and so does Jimin. It’s easier for him, because being more open comes naturally now that he feels more secure in his relationship to their district. For Yoongi and Namjoon, it’s more of a process. They only realize when they start talking to him more about issues in the district how much they haven’t been telling him. Jimin finds himself trying to comfort them.
“I think...certain things get mixed up,” he says. “Because you’re married, and you also--love each other. And you never had to separate your relationship as lovers from your relationship as spouses before, but now I’m here and I’m only part of one of those.”
“And whose fault is that?” asks Yoongi. Jimin smiles when Yoongi and Namjoon do, but he feels...uncomfortable.
One afternoon Jimin comes into the kitchen to find Yoongi sitting at the table. Yoongi looks up and brightens. “Oh, there you are,” he says.
“I was snowshoeing,” Jimin says, sitting down to take off his shoes.
“I know,” says Yoongi. “I just didn’t know when you were coming in.”
“Did you need something?” Jimin puts on his slippers and takes a padded jacket from a hook by the door. It’s gotten even colder, and even inside the house he’s rarely warm enough.
“I wanted to show you something,” says Yoongi. “Come here.”
Jimin follows him into the workroom and looks around. It does seem a little different--cleaner, maybe, although Yoongi’s tools and projects are still scattered over every surface. There’s a strong smell of sawdust, but that’s not unusual. “What am I looking at?”
Yoongi taps his foot against the floor a few times before Jimin realizes that he’s trying to tell Jimin to look at it, and not just showing impatience. Last time he saw it, the wood was rough and unfinished. Now it’s been planed and sanded smooth.
“You said you couldn’t dance on it because of the splinters,” says Yoongi. “Everyone’s always in and out of the kitchen, and it’s too cold upstairs, but I thought if the floor was better in here...I can move some of the boxes into the storeroom, too, if you need more room.”
“No, this is nice,” says Jimin. “This is really, really nice. Thank you, Yoongi-hyung.”
“You don’t need to thank me,” says Yoongi. “You were right; it’s your house, too. We should have done more than make the bed a little bigger.”
“This was a lot of work, though,” Jimin says. “And I want to thank you for it.”
“Well, you’re welcome,” says Yoongi. “I want to do more, too. This is your home, and it should--it should give you everything you need.”
Home is a tricky concept. Jimin never understood why the district where he trained felt like home at some times, and not at others, or why Hoseok and Taehyung’s house felt like home almost right away. This house is just the house where he lives. Jimin doesn’t have any place he thinks of as home now.
“What you said, the other day,” Jimin says. “I don’t dislike you. I really don’t. I like you.”
“Oh,” says Yoongi, and smiles, slow and big--the smile that Jimin measures all of Yoongi’s other smiles against. “Thank you. I like you, too.”
Jimin focuses, and feels for the weight of the figure, their shadow on the ground. “It’s Hoseok,” he says, but he’s not certain, and his voice shows it.
“I don’t think so,” says Yoongi.
“Maybe…” says Namjoon.
“No, it’s him,” says Jimin. He’s sure now. The air shifts, pushing up against the spell that surrounds Hoseok’s body, but the spell shifts, too, and the the shape of the body underneath doesn’t change.
as usual, thanks to everyone who's been reading along and extra thanks to ras and munki.
It gets warmer for a week or two, and sunny. The ice melts on the trees, and it’s comfortable inside the house again. “I guess the winter isn’t going to last as long as you thought,” says Jimin, but Yoongi shakes his head and Namjoon looks dubious.
They’re right. A week later, a storm blows in, waking Jimin, Namjoon and Yoongi from their first sleep early.
“What’s happening?” Jimin asks, getting out of bed and going to the window. “What’s that noise?”
“It’s the wind,” says Namjoon. He and Yoongi are huddled together under the blankets. “Come back to bed; you’ll catch your death.”
The wind sounds like something in pain--something almost, but not quite, human. Jimin steps back from the window when a particularly strong gust of wind rattles it in its frame. He shivers, and crawls back into bed.
Since it got colder and Yoongi pulled out the house’s entire stock of blankets to add to the bed, Jimin has been using separate ones from Yoongi and Namjoon. He sleeps easier knowing that even if one of them rolls over--something that hasn’t happened since that first night Jimin and Namjoon were here without Yoongi--he’s protected by layers of wool and linen. But even all the blankets around him aren’t enough to make him stop shivering tonight. He might be able to sleep if he was warmer, or if the storm wasn’t so noisy, but he isn’t, and it is, and he’s so tired he wants to cry.
“Jimin-ah, I can hear your teeth chattering,” says Yoongi.
“Sorry,” says Jimin, and clamps his jaws shut, curling into a tighter ball.
“‘Snot what I meant,” Yoongi mutters. “Joon…”
“Yeah,” says Namjoon, and his hand lands heavily on Jimin’s shoulder. “Come, share our blankets.”
“I have enough,” says Jimin. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not,” says Namjoon. “Come on, it’s not--we just want to make sure you’re warm enough, it’s not about being close to us.”
Jimin hesitates, but when he thinks about it, he’s not sure what he’s afraid of. He’s been avoiding touching Yoongi and Namjoon for long enough that it’s habit now, and it’s not a bad habit, exactly, but it’s not serving him right now.
“You’re right,” he says. “Sorry.” And he begins the process of unwrapping himself, shivering even more. Namjoon and Yoongi sit up to help, and eventually all three of them are underneath one huge pile of blankets.
“Can I--” says Namjoon, his hand on Jimin’s arm.
“Yes,” says Jimin. “Please.”
Namjoon’s arm comes around him and pulls him close, and Jimin is abruptly warmer. He twists around to face Namjoon, so that his front is being warmed instead of his back, and Namjoon tangles their legs together. Yoongi lifts his hand from Namjoon’s hip to pat Jimin. It’s not like that other time, when having Namjoon’s arms around him made Jimin feel claustrophobic and frightened. This is the three of them doing what they have to do to keep each other safe and well, exactly like they’re supposed to. It takes a little while for Jimin to warm up enough to sleep, and longer to adjust to the noise of the wind, but eventually he dozes off.
In the morning, the wind has mostly died down, but the snow is still coming down hard.
“The sledding will be great,” Yoongi says, but he looks worried.
None of them wants to leave to warm cocoon of their bed except to put more logs on the fire, so they stay there as they divide up the district and go over it in their minds. Everyone seems to be safe in their homes, except for one family that’s taken refuge in their barn after part of their roof blew off. Jimin finds some frozen sheep on one of the outlying farms, but there’s nothing they can do about that. There’s nothing they can do about anything.
“Hopefully someone will find them before they thaw,” says Yoongi.
Checking on the district takes the whole morning, and by the time they’re done, they’re hungry.
“It will be warmer downstairs, too, once we get the fire going,” Jimin points out. The big kitchen fireplace gives off a lot more heat than the one in the bedroom.
Yoongi blinks sleepily at him, as if he hasn’t been awake for hours now, and Namjoon pulls the covers over his head.
“Fine,” says Jimin. He gets up and stuffs his feet into slippers, drawing one of the blankets from the bed around him like a cloak. Outside the window, everything is white. It takes Jimin’s eyes a moment to adjust, but when they do, the scene looks wrong. The outlines are blurred, the greenhouse and outhouse too low to the ground, the garden bare of stakes.
“How high has the snow come before?” Jimin asks.
Namjoon’s face peeks out over a blanket. “Four or five feet, I think. The last winter, when things were beginning to be...not right.”
“I think there’s more than that now,” says Jimin, and goes downstairs.
It’s darker in the kitchen than it should be. The snow comes up higher than the windows. Jimin shivers. How long is it going to keep snowing? How long are they going to be stuck inside?
When Namjoon and Yoongi come downstairs, Jimin has revived the embers of yesterday’s fire and started to prepare a meal. Yoongi whistles softly at the snow covered windows and goes straight for the door.
“Don’t--” says Jimin, picturing snow spilling in and filling up the kitchen, but when Yoongi pulls the door open, the snow stays in place, a flat, white wall. It’s lighter at the top, sunlight seeping through the snow closer to the surface.
Namjoon takes a poker from the fireplace and pokes it through the snow near the top of the doorway. “It only goes up another few inches,” he says.
“It’s still snowing,” says Jimin.
“Yes.” Namjoon looks at Yoongi. “Good thing we didn’t move any of the food outside.”
“Mmm,” says Yoongi, and turns away.
“Why would you move the food outside?” Jimin asks. There’s still room in the storeroom. It doesn’t make sense to keep things anywhere else.
“It was just something we talked about,” says Namjoon. He doesn’t specify when.
It keeps snowing--seven feet, ten feet, twelve. Jimin, Namjoon and Yoongi camp out in the kitchen, only leaving to get supplies from the storeroom. Yoongi wants to fly down to the village, and maybe further, to check on people in a way they can’t do via their bond with the district, but Namjoon objects and Jimin sides with him. It’s just too cold, whether he goes by broom, or as a bat.
“People might need our help,” says Yoongi, and Jimin sympathizes, but he knows better than to agree with him. Yoongi is an immensely practical person, with one big blind spot. When he’s decided he ought to do something, he never thinks about the cost to himself, and that means Jimin and Namjoon have to watch out for him.
“We have helped,” Jimin says. “We did everything we could, and now they have to be able to get by on their own.
“Just like we do,” Namjoon adds. “Let’s wait until the snow stops. Then we’ll see what we can do.”
The snow doesn’t stop, and less and less light makes it through to them. They have enough food, but fuel is a problem. The woodpile is only a couple of yards from the door, but it takes the three of them a couple of hours and too much magic to melt the snow separating them from it, and then the wood is damp, and won’t burn, and they have to use magic on that, too. The wind comes and goes, and the snow gets heavier sometimes, and lighter sometimes, and doesn’t stop.
“How long can it keep going?” Jimin asks. “Why is this happening? Is there something we’re supposed to be doing?”
Namjoon says, “I don’t know any more than you do,” and Yoongi just shakes his head. It feels strange. They’re supposed to know all the answers to Jimin’s questions. It’s nice, in a way, that they’re all on even footing. Jimin feels like they’re in this together in a way he hasn’t before. He still wishes there was someone to tell him everything is going to be okay.
On the sixth day, Jimin goes upstairs to check on the snow level, and to get a few minutes of sunlight, and finds that the snow has stopped. The snow on the trees and the greenhouse is still piled high, but the outlines are crisp now, without the falling snow in the way. The snow comes up almost to the sill of the window, and Jimin wants to step out onto the flat, unblemished surface, but he knows he would sink straight down, even in snowshoes.
No more snow doesn’t mean they’re not still trapped in the house. Namjoon wants to melt a path to the greenhouse, but Yoongi points out that they still need to conserve heat, and that the any plants that were going to die already have. He wants to fly out, but Namjoon says it’s still too cold.
“Bats hibernate in the winter,” he says.
“Because there aren’t any bugs to eat,” says Yoongi.
“And also because it’s too cold,” says Namjoon.
Jimin feels stiff with cold, but he dances a few minutes of weak sunlight, making shallow, scooped out shapes empty of snow by the door and windows. They make a small fire by the back door to clear a path to the woodpile again.
People have frozen to death on some of the farms. They all know. They haven’t talked about it.
They’re curled up on their makeshift bed in front of the fire. Jimin think it must be mid-afternoon, but it’s hard to tell. There’s enough light that, when he looks over, he can see tears shining in Namjoon’s eyes. “Namjoon-hyung,” he says. “What’s wrong?”
Namjoon wipes his eyes as Yoongi, between them, turns to look. “This is our fault,” he says. “Not you, Jimin. Me and Yoongi. We thought we could--it doesn’t even make sense now.”
“You did your best,” Jimin says, even though he knows they didn’t.
Namjoon shakes his head. “We should have asked for help earlier, and we knew we should have. People are dead because of us. And this isn’t even the first time--The floods…”
“I know,” whispers Yoongi, shifting closer to Namjoon and taking his face in his hands. “Joon, I know, but it’s over now, we can’t change it.”
Namjoon tips forward into Yoongi’s chest and holds onto him, but Jimin doesn’t feel separate the way he has when he’s watched them hold each other in the past. He rubs Yoongi’s back, squeezes Namjoon’s hand. He doesn’t have anything he can say, but that’s okay.
“If we’d asked for help earlier, maybe they would have sent us someone else,” says Yoongi. “Maybe it wouldn’t have been Jimin.” He turns his head to look at Jimin.
“Is that good or bad?” Jimin asks.
“Bad,” says Namjoon, looking at Jimin over Yoongi’s shoulder. “We’re glad it’s you.”
“Oh,” says Jimin.
“We’ve always been glad it’s you,” Namjoon continues, and that ruins it a little, because that’s obviously not true.
Jimin moves closer to Yoongi, and presses his face against Yoongi’s back. He doesn’t feel like he fits with them, all the way. They’re always going to be the ones holding each other, and he’s always going to be the one on the outside. But since they talked, he feels, at least, like they’re all working towards the same goal. They’re not what spouses ought to be, but they might be friends. They are a team, even if teamwork is hard for them. But that’s something they can practice.
Three days after the snow stops, they’ve melted their way to the greenhouse, but no further. It’s still too cold to sleep anywhere but the kitchen. Namjoon still won’t let Yoongi fly as a bat or on a broom. “Think how much colder flying is at normal temperatures,” he says.
“What could you do, anyway?” Jimin asks.
“I know there’s nothing I can do,” says Yoongi. “Don’t rub it in.” They’re all a little on edge.
Someone is flying, though.
The three of them look east all at once, even though none of them expects to see anything there. “It’s a witch,” Namjoon says, unnecessarily.
They stand there, all three of them focused on the figure that’s just crossed over their border. The witch is in the air, on a broom, their form blurred by magic.
“What’s that spell?” Jimin asks, and Yoongi shakes his head.
Jimin focuses, and feels for the weight of the figure, their shadow on the ground. “It’s Hoseok,” he says, but he’s not certain, and his voice shows it.
“I don’t think so,” says Yoongi.
“Maybe…” says Namjoon.
“No, it’s him,” says Jimin. He’s sure now. The air shifts, pushing up against the spell that surrounds Hoseok’s body, but the spell shifts, too, and the the shape of the body underneath doesn’t change.
“Maybe,” Yoongi concedes.
Even flying, they’re a long way from the eastern edge of the district. They sit and wait, not talking. Jimin assumes that Yoongi and Namjoon are focusing all their attention on the flying witch, like he is. He assumes that, having had a little more time to look, they know it’s Hoseok.
Jimin looks at the others as Hoseok approaches the house. Neither of them get up. “What’s he doing here?” Yoongi asks, and it’s a question meant just for Namjoon. Namjoon shrugs.
There’s a loud hissing noise as Hoseok lands in front of the house. Jimin gets up and opens the door, and there’s Hoseok, standing in the middle of a round, bare patch of land, the air around him shimmering with heat. Steam rises from the ground.
“Hyung,” says Jimin. He steps forward, and stops. Being near Hoseok feels like sitting in front of a fire, leaning in so close that you can the heat drying out your skin.
“Oh,” says Hoseok. He murmurs something under his breath and the heat recedes, but doesn’t disappear altogether. When Jimin throws himself into Hoseok’s arms he feels warmer than he has in months.
“Jiminie,” Hoseok murmurs. “Is everything okay? We didn’t hear from you, and then the snow…”
“We’re okay,” says Jimin. “Not everyone is--not in the district. But I’m happy to see you.” That’s an understatement. Jimin feels like he does at the end of a hard day, when he only realizes how tired he is when he stops working. He feels like there’s nothing else to wait for, like spring is here already. Like just the fact of Hoseok’s presence makes everything okay.
“I’m happy to see you, too,” says Hoseok. “We were worried.”
Jimin doesn’t want to stop hugging Hoseok, but when Hoseok lets him go he knows that’s his cue to step back. Namjoon and Yoongi are standing behind him, in the doorway, and when Jimin moves out of the way they bow formally to Hoseok and he bows back.
“We weren’t expecting you until the spring,” says Yoongi.
Hoseok looks down and wets his lips, uncharacteristically uncertain. “Taehyung and I were both expecting letters,” he says. “And--I’d never seen anything like the snow that was blowing over our border. We know you don’t like people to interfere with the business of your district, but we wanted to make sure you were safe.”
Yoongi nods stiffly. Namjoon puts a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder and says, “Hoseok, it’s good to see you.”
Hoseok smiles. “It’s good to see you, too.” He steps forward, hesitates, and then hugs them both at once. It’s not as long as his hug with Jimin, but Jimin sees Namjoon smiling over Hoseok’s shoulder, and Yoongi’s fist knotted in Hoseok’s coat. Everyone loves Hoseok, he reminds himself.
“Come in,” says Namjoon. “Tell me about this heat spell.”
Jimin feels shy with Hoseok here, not just with Hoseok, but with Yoongi and Namjoon. It’s been such a long time since he’s seen Hoseok, but instead of feeling distant from him, Jimin feels like he’s gone back to who he was before he came here, and his relationship with Yoongi and Namjoon has been wiped away. And he wants to talk to Hoseok, but he’s reluctant to do that in front of his husbands. He’s two separate versions of himself, the one that Hoseok knows and the one Namjoon and Yoongi know, and he doesn’t know how to behave, so he sits and listens, and looks at Hoseok, while Yoongi prepares some of the food Hoseok brought with him, and Namjoon asks questions about the heat spell.
He can’t listen for long without getting caught up in their discussion, which sits in a middle ground between the practicality he expects from Hoseok and the theory he’s been learning from Namjoon.
“Have you tried it as a danced spell?” he asks Hoseok. Dance steps are more adaptable than spoken words, in some ways, and it seems like the things Namjoon wants to use this spell for would be difficult to speak.
Hoseok shakes his head. “It’s a sustained effect, Jiminie. You would have to keep dancing the spell for too long for it to be useful.”
“Oh, of course,” says Jimin, embarrassed. And then he thinks about it. “Why, though? You’re not speaking it as a sustained effect spell. You’re speaking it as an activation spell. And if you can do both with words, why can’t you do both with dance?”
Hoseok doesn’t answer for a moment. Namjoon smiles at Jimin, and Jimin quickly looks back at Hoseok.
“I don’t know,” Hoseok says, slowly. “Maybe it’s possible, but I don’t think anyone knows how. I haven’t seen it done, and you know I mostly make things up as I go along. Nobody really knows anything about danced spells, after all.”
“You could try it,” says Jimin. “You’ve done a lot, making things up as you go along.”
“I don’t think so, Jiminie,” Hoseok says. “This one is beyond me.”
Namjoon nudges Jimin. “You could try, too,” he says.
Jimin shakes his head. “If Hoseok-hyung can’t do it, I’m not going to be able to do anything,” he says.
The heat lingers for hours after Hoseok ends the spell, and even when it’s gone, and the four of them are huddled under blankets by the fire together, Hoseok’s presence makes Jimin feel warmer. And it gets easier, being in the same space as Hoseok and Namjoon and Yoongi at the same time. Jimin is his best self around Hoseok; he doesn’t need to be anything else. But, as Jimin relaxes, he notices that no one else does.
He’s starting to wonder if something happened between Namjoon, Yoongi and Hoseok, more than just falling out of touch. Namjoon and Yoongi are tentative, and Hoseok--it’s always hard to tell, but Jimin think he’s holding himself back. That can wait, though. He’ll ask Namjoon and Yoongi about it after Hoseok goes home, maybe. For now, he just wants to enjoy the fact that Hoseok is here.
Jimin is on the outside of the huddle, behind Hoseok. He presses closer, hooking his chin over Hoseok’s shoulder to look at Yoongi and Namjoon, and rests his hand on Hoseok’s waist. Hoseok covers Jimin’s hand with his own and moves it to rest on his stomach. “We’ve missed you, Jiminie,” he says, quietly.
Jimin turns to rest his face against Hoseok’s neck. “I missed you, too,” he says. “I missed you a lot.” He looks up and sees Yoongi watching him, looking serious. He’s tired, Jimin thinks. They’re all tired. He closes his eyes and breathes in. Hoseok smells so nice.
Yoongi is telling Hoseok what’s been happening here, in the months since Jimin arrived and further back. Yoongi is always interesting to listen to, even when he’s not saying much. Jimin likes his voice, and how sometimes it’s more like something felt than something heard. But he doesn’t talk much when he doesn’t have to, so Jimin never gets to hear him speak at length. He’s good at it, thoughtful and clear, well-spoken in a way that doesn’t demand attention.
Jimin is paying attention to all of it--the sound and the form and the substance. He knows all the history now, so he can hear what Yoongi is dwelling on, or skipping over, or editing to spare Namjoon or blame himself for things that weren’t really his fault. Jimin wants to push back and ask questions, but that’s not something he’ll do in front of Hoseok. He’ll talk to Yoongi about it after Hoseok goes home.
“Shhh,” Hoseok whispers. “Jimin is sleeping.”
He’s not, but he’s content to lie there and listen to them and not move.
“Good,” says Yoongi, lowering his voice. “He needs it.”
“So do you, hyung,” says Namjoon.
“It looks like you all do,” says Hoseok. He’s right. None of them have been sleeping much, or sleeping well. Jimin feels like he could sleep more easily than he has in a long time, though, with Hoseok here. It’s like no time has passed at all, like Hoseok is the one he shares a bed with, and Yoongi and Namjoon are strangers.
“He looks happy.” That’s Namjoon’s voice, soft, and it takes Jimin a moment to realize Namjoon is talking about him. Namjoon is right; he is happy.
“He’s a happy kid,” Hoseok says.
There’s a long pause before Namjoon says, “We’ve had a hard few months.”
“Well…” says Hoseok. “As long as you’re not freezing him out.”
Yoongi snorts softly. “It’s the other way around.”
Namjoon says, “He’s barely stopped touching you since you got here.”
It’s funny that they think he’s sleeping.
“Jealous?” says Hoseok. If Namjoon answers, he doesn’t do it in words.
It’s funny that they think he’s sleeping, and it’s funnier that he’s still lying awake as he feels them drift off--Yoongi and Namjoon through the bond, Hoseok relaxing against him. Namjoon has a right to feel jealous--they both do. But neither Namjoon nor Yoongi has ever struck Jimin as possessive in that particular way.
It would be nice, he thinks, to be wanted like that by someone. It’s something he and Taehyung used to argue about, although they haven’t for a long time--not since Jimin found that Taehyung’s lack of possessiveness was something he liked a lot. Jimin has felt possessive about a few people, in different ways, but he doesn’t think anyone has ever wanted to keep him to themselves. Not like Yoongi and Namjoon might want to--as something that belongs to them--but as himself, for himself.
Between the heat spell and the flying, Hoseok needs a few days’ rest before he can go home, and Namjoon wants to be taught the heat spell, which could take longer. Jimin wants to learn it, too, even though he’s not good at spoken spells. It has features that might make it a good one to experiment with as a danced spell, whatever Hoseok says, and obviously they can use all the heat they can get here. It’s not something he wants to talk to anyone about, though. Not until he has a better idea of whether it’s going to work.
It’s not hard to insert himself into the process. They’re all together all of the time, and there’s nothing to do but talk. About news of their districts, about spells, about witches they all know. Yoongi and Namjoon and Hoseok talk about their time training together, and Jimin fights back with reminiscences of living with Hoseok and Taehyung. And when Namjoon practices the heat spell, Jimin memorizes it alongside him.
Yoongi gives it a try a few times, too, and Hoseok looks at him admiringly. “You were always the best at speaking spells,” he says.
Yoongi smiles and looks down and says, “That’s not true, Seok-ah.”
“It is,” Hoseok insists, and turns to Namjoon for support. “Isn’t he the best?”
“Oh, at speaking spells, yes,” says Namjoon, without enthusiasm. The opening for someone to tell him he’s best at writing them is obvious, and Jimin suddenly feels very fond of him.
“Hyung is great at writing spells, too,” says Hoseok, and Namjoon gets visibly antsy.
Yoongi rests a hand on Namjoon’s shoulder. “Namjoon is probably a lot better than me at writing and speaking spells now,” he says. “I don’t spend a lot of time with spoken spells, these days.”
“Oh?” says Hoseok. “What kind of magic are you doing?”
Yoongi tilts his head to the side. “Brewed spells, sewn spells,” he says. “Cooked spells, carved spells.” He smiles at Jimin over Namjoon’s shoulder. “I’ve been experimenting with knots in string, too.”
“Oh, hand magic,” says Hoseok.
“There’s nothing wrong with hand magic,” Yoongi says, mildly. “It doesn’t take less skill.”
“Okay, hyung,” says Hoseok. Jimin thinks, listening to him, that he’s saying it more because he doesn’t want to fight than because he agrees with Yoongi. And Jimin’s heard that about hand magic, too--that it’s easier to learn, that it’s the domain of less educated witches. But he thinks about Yoongi’s small, even stitches, and the patterns carved into the mantle, and he’s a lot more impressed by them than by any spoken spell he’s ever heard.
“I like it,” says Jimin. “People say the same kinds of things about danced spells as they do about hand ones, but I like them all better than spoken spells.”
“Danced spells are a lot more demanding,” says Hoseok.
“You should look at some of Yoongi-hyung’s hand work,” says Jimin.
“Okay,” Hoseok says easily. “I will. But what I really want to look at is your dancing.” He nudges Jimin. “Taehyung says you’re adapting my spells, and I want to see.”
“It’s been too cold to practice much,” says Jimin. “But--yes, I want you to see.”
Namjoon has learned the words of the heat spell and moved on to practicing it for real in Yoongi’s workroom, away from the kitchen fire. When he’s finished, the chill is gone from the room, and Jimin can put on his dance clothes and show Hoseok what he’s been working on. Some of it, at least. There are things he’s not ready to show anyone yet.
Jimin runs through his version of the growth spell once, without magic. Knowing Hoseok is watching makes him a little nervous at first, even though he’s danced in front of him a thousand times, but once Jimin gets through the complicated footwork at the beginning of the spell, he revels in the feeling of having of Hoseok’s eyes on him. Jimin always likes attention, as long as it’s positive, but nothing is as good as Hoseok’s intense, knowledgeable focus. No one else has ever understood as well what Jimin is trying to do.
“Again,” Hoseok says, when Jimin is done, and Jimin dances it again, throwing in a few more repetitions of the main part of the spell. When he comes to a stop, Hoseok nods approvingly and Jimin feels warm inside and out.
“With magic now?” he asks.
Hoseok looks around the room and shrugs. “Not much use, dancing a growth spell here, is it? There’s nothing to grow inside, and everything outside is dead.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. “That’s true.” More than that, it’s a good point, but it leaves him feeling a little bit like he’s been scolded.
“Dance something else for me, Jiminie,” says Hoseok. His voice is softer now. “I want to see you dance a spell.”
Jimin swallows, and relaxes, and smiles. “Of course,” he says. “Anything you like.’
“Anything?” asks Hoseok. He’s smiling a little now, too. He knows Jimin would do anything for him. It’s not limited to dancing spells. “Alright, Chim,” he says. “Sunlight, then. Make the sun shine for me.”
He smiles wider, and Jimin feels lit up inside. It’s always like that. It’s easy to dance sunshine for Hoseok.
As he’s going through the steps, Jimin catches glimpses of Hoseok sitting on the floor, his eyes shielded from the sunlight that Jimin is generating. He’s beautiful in sunlight. He’s beautiful all the time, but he looks at home in the sun. He looks like the light is coming from inside of him. Jimin wants to keep dancing, just so that Hoseok keeps looking like that. Keeps looking at him like that.
When Jimin is done, he drops smoothly into a cross-legged seat in front of Hoseok, breathing just a little heavily, and waits for his verdict.
“That’s my favorite spell,” says Hoseok. “And you dance it so beautifully.”
Jimin feels himself flush. “And--the growth spell?”
Hoseok leans forward and puts his hands on Jimin’s knees and smiles. “Jiminie,” he says. “My little Jimin.”
“It’s so good,” says Hoseok, his eyes wide and shining. “It’s--I’m impressed. It’s not that I didn’t believe it, when Taehyung told me you were changing my spells, but I didn’t see how it would work.” He smiles “I still don’t know how it works, but it’s very cool that it does.”
“You could’ve--” says Jimin. “If it was you here. If you needed to.”
“Oh, no, I definitely couldn’t have,” says Hoseok. Then he pauses. “If it was me here. Thank goodness it’s not.”
“I wish--” Jimin starts to say. “No, I don’t. I wish I was back in your district, with you and Taehyung.”
Hoseok sighs. “Are they that bad?”
“Are what that bad?”
“Yoongi-hyung and Namjoon,” says Hoseok.
Jimin shifts uncomfortably. “They’re all right,” he says. “It’s just--it’s been hard.”
“Ah, I’m sure,” says Hoseok. “I know what they’re like. I don’t mean that they’re not good people, but--”
“What do you mean?” Jimin interrupts.
“Just that I know what it must be like, living here with Namjoon and Yoongi-hyung,” says Hoseok. “It’s not very fair to you, is it? But you have the district. That helps, doesn’t it?”
“The district is good,” says Jimin. He feels it more all the time, even buried in snow in a bitterer cold than he could have imagined. The district could kill him if it wanted, and that would be okay, because he belongs to it. But he trusts it to keep him alive, instead, and to keep Yoongi and Namjoon alive alongside him. He’s never had a sense of security like that before, the knowledge that his fate is in the hands of someone who cares. So he knows what Hoseok means about the district. He doesn’t know what Hoseok means about Yoongi and Namjoon.
“What happened?” Jimin asks. “You used to be friends with them. At least, you said they used to be your friends, and they said you were still theirs.”
Hoseok shrugs. “There are different kinds of friends,” he says. “I still like them, and they still like me, so we’re still their kind of friends. But I used to think we were more than that, and--”
“What happened?” Jimin asks again.
“You must know by now,” Hoseok says. “No one else really exists for them. They only care about each other.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. “Yes.” He’s known that since the beginning, so he’s not sure why he can feel a lump rising in his throat, or why it hurts more as time goes on, instead of less. Maybe it’s just hearing someone else confirm it.
“It’s been hard,” he says again, because anything more than that feels disloyal. It doesn’t matter that Namjoon and Yoongi don’t care about him. He’s still got to be on their team. “Did they--with you, did they do something?”
“No, says Hoseok. “They didn’t do anything. If they were real friends, they would have.” He’s still leaning towards Jimin, still resting his hands on Jimin’s knees, and he’s speaking lightly, as if none of what he’s saying is important, but he’s not meeting Jimin’s eyes anymore.
“Was that--the first time you were married?” Jimin asks. He doesn’t know much about that, but he knows it wasn’t good. Taehyung hadn’t known much either. They used to talk about it, just the two of them, and hope that there would come a time when Hoseok was ready to open up.
Jimin hopes that’s what’s happening here, but Hoseok just smiles and says easily, “Around that time,” as if it doesn’t really matter. “I was fine, of course,” he adds. “But it--meant something, that they didn’t write. It taught me something about them.” He shrugs again, and squeezes Jimin’s knees lightly.
“This isn’t about me,” he says. “I just wanted you to know, I know what it must be like.”
It’s not bad, Jimin wants to tell him, not because it’s true--he’s not sure if it is--but because he thinks Hoseok would be pleased to hear it. Namjoon and Yoongi may not care about him, but Hoseok still does. Hoseok wants Jimin to be happy, and knowing that makes Jimin happier all by itself. “I’m glad you’re here,” he says, instead.
“So am I,” says Hoseok.
Jimin leans in slowly, because he wants Hoseok to see it coming. He brushes his lips softly over Hoseok’s, and then he kisses him in earnest, pressing in to feel the wetness of Hoseok’s mouth on his lips, the dryness of Hoseok’s lips on his tongue. Hoseok’s hands tighten on Jimin’s knees, and then Hoseok is kissing him back. The shape of his mouth feels like a smile. His tongue tastes like sunlight.
It feels so good to be touched again. It’s been so long since anyone kissed Jimin, and longer since it was Hoseok. It’s not as good with anyone else. Jimin slips his hands under Hoseok’s shirt and slides them over his stomach to his ribs, and down again to his waist. He feels the same, narrow and strong, warm and alive and powerful. Jimin lets their mouths part for a moment so he can rest his forehead against Hoseok’s and breathe him in.
Hoseok's hands move from Jimin's knees to his shoulders, and he pushes Jimin away from him until he's holding him at arm's length.
"Jiminie," he says. He's not smiling anymore.
"What?" says Jimin.
“Let’s not do this,” says Hoseok.
"Why?" asks Jimin. He doesn't like the hint of a whine in his voice, but he didn't put it there on purpose.
"Because you're married," says Hoseok.
Jimin swallows, and leans in to feel Hoseok’s hands pushing harder on his shoulders. “You’ve been married the whole time I’ve known you.”
Hoseok hesitates. “That was different,” he says. “Now--”
Hoseok frowns at him, and yes, Jimin knows that’s a stupid question. He knows this isn’t the kind of argument anyone wins. If Hoseok doesn’t want Jimin, Jimin isn’t going to gain anything by trying to change his mind.
“What’s different, Hobi-hyung?” he asks, because he needs something from Hoseok, something to put in the place he’s been keeping empty in his heart. “You wanted me before. You know Taehyung wouldn’t care. You know Yoongi and Namjoon don’t care.”
The corners of Hoseok’s mouth turn down. He looks sad. The only time Jimin can ever remember seeing him look sad is when he realized how much Jimin didn’t want to come here. “Taehyung might care now.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. It’s disconcerting to hear that something’s changed between Taehyung and Hoseok. Jimin is conscious that he’s changed during the months he’s been here, but he’d thought of Taehyung and Hoseok as static, just as much his as when he’d left them. “I don’t want to hurt Taehyung,” he says.
Hoseok winces. “That’s not why,” he says.
“What, then?” Jimin asks. He rests his hand on one of Hoseok’s. “I thought--I was waiting for this, and I thought you were, too.”
“I wanted to see you,” says Hoseok. “But it wasn’t…” He frowns. “It was one thing at home, when--when you and Taehyung both wanted--It was nice, but that’s over now.”
Jimin’s insides sink straight down, like a stone through water. “I thought you loved me,” he says. “I thought--” He’d thought there was something special between them, something different than the friendship between Taehyung and Jimin, and the marriage bond between Hoseok and Taehyung. Something a little bit star-crossed.
“I do,” says Hoseok. “Just--”
“Just not like that,” says Jimin, and Hoseok nods.
“Jiminie,” he says. He tugs Jimin back towards him, as if he wants to hug him, but Jimin pulls away and stands up, a little unsteadily. Being comforted by Hoseok right now would be adding insult to injury.
“I’ll--be back in a while,” he says, just to say something, as he reaches for the door.
Outside, he leans against the wall for a moment and takes a deep breath, and then another. Namjoon and Yoongi are in the kitchen, still. Jimin goes upstairs.
The bedroom has been barely habitable, even with a fire going. With the grate cold and swept clean, it’s worse. The blankets from the bed are all downstairs, and the shirt and thin, close-fitting trousers Jimin changed into to dance for Hoseok are damp with sweat. He wedges himself into a corner, shivering, and rubs his arms. There’s no way to get warm without facing at least one of the other people in the house, and right now Jimin would rather die.
He clenches his teeth to keep them from chattering and thinks about the heat spell. He hadn’t practiced speaking it when Hoseok was teaching Namjoon, but he does know the words. It’s exactly the kind of spoken spell that Jimin has the most trouble with, fast and complicated, with shifting emphases. He keeps stumbling over repeated syllables and anyway, his teeth are chattering too hard to talk normally, much less speak a spell.
Jimin looks up and finds Namjoon standing in the doorway.
“It’s freezing in here,” says Namjoon. “Come down to the kitchen where it’s warm.”
Jimin shakes his head and watches Namjoon’s feet as Namjoon walks over to him. “Jimin-ah--did something happen? What’s wrong?”
Jimin just shakes his head again. The only thing more humiliating than his conversation with Hoseok would be Namjoon or Yoongi knowing about it.
“Well, you can’t stay here,” says Namjoon. “Come on.” He crouches in front of Jimin and takes both of his hands. “Wow, you’re freezing.”
Jimin pulls his hands away and tucks them into his armpits.
Namjoon sits in front of him for a moment or two, uncomfortably similar to the way Hoseok sat in front of him downstairs a little while ago. Finally, he says “I guess this is what it’s for,” under his breath, and starts speaking the familiar words of the heat spell.
He gets most of the way through it before the spell starts to take effect, and then it takes a few minutes more for Jimin to really feel it. The temperature change makes him shiver violently, shoulder blades knocking against the wall behind him.
Namjoon makes a noise and gets to his knees, wrapping his arms around Jimin’s shoulders and leaning into him. In contact with Namjoon, Jimin feels the full effect of the spell, and all the muscles that tensed up in the cold start to relax.
Namjoon takes that to mean something it doesn’t, and sits back on his heels, pulling Jimin almost into his lap. “Let me--” he says, and Jimin says, “Yeah,” and leans forward, resting his head against Namjoon’s chest. He thinks about how he moved forward to kiss Hoseok before, how Hoseok didn’t lean in to meet him. Tears well up in his eyes, and fall, and soak into Namjoon’s shirt. And once he starts crying, he can’t stop--first just tears, and then big, racking sobs that make Namjoon’s arms tighten around him. He’s lost something, something big, and it hurts all the way through.
“I don’t know what to say,” says Namjoon. “But if there’s anything I can do to help, I want to do it.”
Jimin thinks Hoseok is right--Namjoon and Yoongi don’t really care about him, not as an individual--but Namjoon does care, because he cares about everything. It’s not as good as being cared about for himself, specifically, but it’s a lot better than nothing, and it helps. Jimin doesn’t know what’s going to happen when he stops crying, but for now he’s warm, and he doesn’t have to talk, and Namjoon has him.
“This helps,” Jimin says.
Jimin is mostly back to just tears when he hears a knocking noise and Yoongi shuffles over to them. Jimin doesn’t have to look at Yoongi to know what he’s doing, so he doesn’t.
Yoongi crouches next to Namjoon and asks, his voice quiet, “What’s wrong?”
“He hasn’t said,” says Namjoon. He relaxes his grip and Jimin sits back and wipes the tears off his face as well as he can.
Yoongi sits down next to them and puts his hand on Jimin’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?” he says. He pauses. “Did--Is it something to do with Hoseok?”
Jimin shakes his head, not a “no,” but an “I don’t want to talk about it.” He won’t mind if they misinterpret it, though. “Where is he?” he asks. He could check himself, but he doesn’t want to see Hoseok right now, not even in his mind’s eye.
“In the kitchen,” says Yoongi.
“I thought--” says Jimin, and stops.
“What?” says Yoongi.
Jimin shakes his head again. They don’t need to know. He takes a few deep breaths and wipes his eyes again. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“It’s okay,” says Namjoon. He looks like he wants to say something else, but doesn’t know how. “If anything is wrong, we want to help,” he says, finally. He turns to Yoongi. “Right?”
“Of course,” says Yoongi. He looks at Jimin for a moment and says, “We also want to know what’s wrong.”
“We don’t need to--” Namjoon begins, but Yoongi cuts him off. “No, we do,” he says.
“It’s nothing,” Jimin says.
“Is it Hoseok?” Yoongi asks. Jimin doesn’t answer. “Did he do something?” says Yoongi. “Or say something?”
“It’s not his fault,” says Jimin.
“So, he did do something,” says Yoongi.
“No,” says Jimin. “It was me.”
“What happened?” asks Yoongi. His voice has gotten very, very soft.
Jimin weighs his options. Yoongi seems like he’s going to keep pushing. And now that Jimin has admitted that something happened with Hoseok, if Jimin doesn’t say anything they might say something to Hoseok, or, worse, ask him what happened. Jimin would rather humiliate himself than let Hoseok do it, or watch Hoseok try not to. And--Jimin finds that he wants to tell them. Whether or not they care about him, he thinks they’ll be on his side, and he needs someone to be on his side.
“I met Taehyung when I was fourteen,” he says, because what’s the point of saying anything, if he’s not going to explain?
“What does that have to do with--” says Namjoon.
“Shut up, Joon,” says Yoongi. Namjoon grumbles and Jimin smiles.
“We were the only witches our age in the district where we were training, and we became friends,” Jimin says. “We’re...very different, and Taehyung is--everyone likes him, but he liked me best. We got really close.”
Namjoon shifts, and settles, crossing his legs underneath him. Jimin brings his knees up in front of him and hugs them.
“Later--when we were a little older--our relationship...changed.” Jimin looks quickly at Namjoon and Yoongi to make sure they understand, and he doesn’t have to spell it out. “But it was just--kids figuring things out, you know? It was nice, but we were still friends, not--anything else. And then we finished our training and Taehyung was sent to Hoseok’s district right away.”
“It was like that for us, too,” says Namjoon. “A district waiting for us as soon as we were ready. But I always thought it would have been nice to travel around a little before we settled down.”
Jimin nods. “That’s what I did. I spent a few months in different districts, but Taehyung kept writing and telling me how much he missed me, and how much he liked his husband, and how much he thought I’d like him, too. And he knew I wanted to meet someone else who danced spells, so he invited me to stay with them.”
“How long had they been married?” Yoongi asks. He shifts a little closer, like he does downstairs when they’re trying to share body heat, but Jimin’s warm enough now.
“Five or six months?” says Jimin. “So I went, and Hoseok was so nice, and he dances like--like nothing I’d ever seen. And--” this is the hard part, and he ducks his head while he says it. “Taehyung thought--since he and I used to--we might as well all share a bed. And I--I wanted Hoseok-hyung, so…”
Neither of them says anything. Jimin looks at them to find Yoongi watching him without any particular expression and Namjoon looking at the floor, a little flushed. It’s taboo, what he’s talking about. Witches are faithful to their bonds. There’s no rule that says two married witches can’t have a relationship with someone outside the bond, but it isn’t a thing people do. Jimin had known all along that it wasn’t a good idea.
“I just wanted him,” he says. “He was teaching me things no one ever told me I could do, and he looked at me like no one ever looked at me, and…” He shrugs helplessly.
“It’s okay,” says Yoongi.
“It’s not,” says Jimin.
“It’s not, but it is.” Yoongi pats Jimin’s shoulder, a little awkwardly. “I mean--we understand. Right?” He looks at Namjoon, and Namjoon nods.
“Okay,” says Jimin. He clears his throat. There’s not much more to tell. “I thought he loved me,” he says. “But he told me today that he doesn’t. Not--not like I love him.” It doesn’t sound like much. But all the work Jimin has done on himself for the past two years has been built on Hoseok, and now he’s without a foundation.
He looks back at Namjoon and Yoongi. He’s not expecting them to be upset, exactly, but he couldn’t fault them if they were. “Thank you for telling us,” says Namjoon.
“I should have told you before,” says Jimin.
Namjoon opens his mouth and closes it. He agrees but doesn’t want to say it.
“It’s alright,” says Yoongi. He pauses. “Are you feeling a little better now? Let’s go downstairs. I’ll make you something to drink.” He gets to his feet slowly, like an old man with creaky joints, and offers Jimin a hand.
Jimin lets Yoongi pull him up, and then they pull Namjoon to his feet together. They stand there for a moment, close together. Namjoon looks like he wants to say something, but he just opens his arms, and Jimin walks into them without any conscious thought. This gets easier all the time.
They stand there for what feels like a long time, Namjoon holding Jimin tightly and rocking slightly from side to side. After a moment Yoongi steps in close and puts his arms around both of them. They’ve both been touching him a lot more, since it got really cold. Yoongi is quick to touch Jimin’s hand, or his back, or ruffle his hair. Namjoon is more hesitant, but quicker to offer his whole body for warmth--or comfort, now. They’re his friends, Jimin decides. He wasn’t sure before, but he is now.
“Do you want us to send Hoseok home?” Yoongi asks. “He doesn’t really need to stay any longer. We could.”
Jimin takes a moment to think about it, because his first reaction is to say, yes, tell Hoseok to go. Jimin never wants to see him again. “No,” he says. “It’s alright. I don’t want him to--I want to try to be normal with him.” He’ll have to figure out what that is, though. He’s never been normal with Hoseok. He’d fallen for him the first time he saw him dance, and everything since then has been about that, for Jimin.
Namjoon ends the heat spell and wipes the tears from Jimin’s face. The rush of cold air when they leave the bedroom cools his flushed face, and Yoongi and Namjoon assure him, before they go downstairs, that it doesn’t look like he’s been crying. Jimin isn’t sure he believes them, but he likes how Yoongi and Namjoon flank him as they go downstairs and into the kitchen. It feels protective. He likes it a lot. He suddenly likes them a lot, and wishes he had said he wanted Hoseok to go, so it could be just the three of them again.
Hoseok is in the kitchen, curled up in the bed, watching the fire. He smiles up at them as they come in, but he looks a little uncomfortable when he meets Jimin’s eyes. Jimin summons a smile up from somewhere, but he waits for Namjoon to sit down next to Hoseok, so Jimin can sit on his other side. He leans into Namjoon, and, after a moment, tucks himself under Namjoon’s arm. They exchange a smile, and Jimin isn’t sure if this will last, or if it’s just the aftereffects of their conversation upstairs, but he feels optimistic. If he can make this a step forward, he will.
Yoongi goes straight to the fire to boil water. Hoseok and Namjoon start a conversation--something to do with the witch council, but Jimin isn’t really listening. Instead, he watches Yoongi pull out tea and tea set, and carefully measure out the tea. It’s a pleasure to watch Yoongi do almost anything, but the comfortable, deliberate way he moves around their kitchen is Jimin’s favorite. He warms the pot and the cups, and rinses the tea leaves, and steeps the tea. He pours tea from the decanting bowl into two small tea cups, and brings them to Namjoon and Hoseok.
Jimin pouts at Yoongi, but Yoongi gives him a tiny, conspiratorial smile, and Jimin doesn’t say anything. He watches Yoongi go back to the table and pour tea into the two remaining cups. He takes one of the cups and dips a chopstick into it, and swishes it back and forth and around, moving his hand from the wrist. A cooked spell, Jimin remembers. Process, not ingredients.
The liquid in the cup is still steaming when Yoongi brings it over, more than it should be. Jimin opens his mouth to ask what Yoongi did, but when their eyes meet he remembers another part of their conversation after Jimin went to the spring by himself, and accepts it without questions.
It’s hot, but not too hot to drink, and it doesn’t smell like tea. When Jimin takes a sip, warmth spreads through him in a way that doesn’t feel entirely physical. He smiles at Yoongi, sitting across from him with his own cup of tea and Yoongi smiles back. Something bubbles up inside of Jimin--joy, rising from his belly to his chest, until he turns his face against Namjoon’s side to hide his smile. He’s not sure if it’s part of the spell.
Hoseok stays three more days, helping Namjoon perfect the heat spell. Jimin avoids him for the first day, and then seeks him out in the same place as before.
“I haven’t seen you dance in months,” he says. “Will you, for me? It doesn’t have to be a spell.”
It’s a peace offering, and he thinks Hoseok understands that, because he smiles at Jimin as he starts to stretch, and it feels real. “Any requests?” he asks, raising his eyebrows.
Jimin shakes his head. “Whatever you want. I’ve just missed watching you. I have no one to dance with, here.”
Hoseok cocks his head to the side. “Yoongi-hyung used to be...not bad,” he says.
“Oh?” says Jimin. That’s an intriguing thought.
“He could dance a spell,” says Hoseok. “I don’t think he ever...loved it.” Like you and I goes unsaid. “Then he hurt himself, and he stopped.”
“His shoulder,” says Jimin, and Hoseok nods. He stands and says, “This is new. It’s...I made it for Taehyung.”
He doesn’t tell Jimin what the spell does, and he doesn’t put any magic into it. Jimin likes that. It lets him focus on the dance, instead of trying to understand the spell. Jimin knows there’s a kind of fluidity to the way he moves, too, but he’s honey to Hoseok’s water, and he’ll never stop being a little bit jealous of the way Hoseok’s body works, and how easy he makes it look.
It’s a small spell, simple, like all of the spells Hoseok has choreographed. Like the growth spell was, before Jimin adapted it for faster growth, a wider range, a tighter focus. Jimin is beginning to develop a theory that all of Hoseok’s spells could be stretched and remade the same way, redesigned to be just as intricate as a spoken spell. But Hoseok choreographs on feeling, and what Jimin has in mind will take more than that.
The new spell seems looser than the ones Hoseok has created before. Hoseok always makes things look less choreographed than they are, but Jimin finds himself trying to decode it in exactly the way he didn’t want to; the looseness invites interpretation.
It’s sunny enough today that the snow is melting a little. There’s a constant drip of water from the roof. The sun streams through the window, too, and Hoseok passes in and out of it as he dances. Nothing about Hoseok’s feelings, or Jimin’s, is going to change the fact that he’s very beautiful, or make Jimin take less pleasure in watching him. The sun might mean the weather is getting warmer, and it might not, but Jimin thinks he’s thawing out a little on the inside.
“Keep going,” he says, when Hoseok dances to a stop, and Hoseok shrugs and starts moving again. Jimin is still embarrassed, and still angry at Hoseok, who must have known how Jimin felt, and never said anything, but he can still enjoy this. The fact is, Jimin’s feelings right now don’t matter very much. He wants to hang onto Hoseok’s friendship, and he knew that even yesterday when he never wanted to see Hoseok again.
Hoseok hasn’t been improvising for long when he stops. Jimin is about to apologize for asking him to keep dancing if he’s tired, but Hoseok holds out his hands and says, “Dance with me.”
They mirror each other as they dance, the way they used to when Hoseok first started teaching Jimin and they didn’t have a vocabulary to explain to each other what they were doing. Jimin is out of practice at matching his steps to someone else’s, but it feels good to try, like stretching tight muscles.
“I wish there was a way we could do this without days of travel,” Jimin says, breathless and smiling, when they stop.
“If we both fly to the border, it wouldn’t be so bad,” says Hoseok.
Jimin isn’t sure why he never thought of that. Maybe because when witches visit each other they usually have business at the heart of their districts. “Oh, would you?” he asks. It’s not a question about the hassle of flying.
“Of course,” says Hoseok. “Jiminie--I love dancing with you. I think we were meant to work together, you know. And meant to be friends.”
“When it gets warmer, then,” says Jimin, sidestepping the question of what they were or weren’t meant to be.
“When it gets warmer,” Hoseok agrees. “And maybe I could bring Taehyung with me.”
“Would that work?” Jimin asks, doubtfully. They can’t both leave their district at once.
“If you crossed over to our side of the border--” says Hoseok.
“Oh, of course,” says Jimin. “I would--I would love that so much. Taehyung is…” He doesn’t know how to describe what Taehyung is to him, any more that he could describe it to Namjoon and Yoongi. Hoseok ought to know, but Jimin isn’t sure if he does.
“Tell me about Taehyung,” he says instead, sitting on the floor and patting the spot next to him.
“But you know all about Taehyung,” says Hoseok. He sits down and looks at Jimin quizzically.
“It’s a different all about Taehyung than you know,” says Jimin, and Hoseok says, “Ah, maybe.”
He looks thoughtfully at his hands, folded in his lap, and smiles to himself and says, “Taehyung is the nicest thing that’s happened to me.”
The look he gives Jimin next is sharper, and Jimin meets it bravely. It hurts, but he doesn’t think the hurt shows, and after a moment Hoseok nods and releases Jimin from his gaze.
“My first marriage shouldn’t have been a marriage,” Hoseok says. “It should have been an apprenticeship. But my husband insisted, and--everyone knew the district would come to me in the end, so it didn’t seem like it mattered very much. But he--wasn’t nice.”
Jimin knew all of that already, and not much more. He wants to touch Hoseok--to put a comforting hand on his knee, or his arm--but he doesn’t think he should do things like that again yet. Instead, he says, “The district killed him.”
Hoseok doesn’t answer for long enough that Jimin thinks he isn’t going to, but finally he says, “Not soon enough.” His voice is low and angry.
Jimin abruptly remembers how much he wanted Hoseok to open up to him, and winces. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“So is the district,” says Hoseok. “But then--it gave me Taehyung.”
Jimin remember thinking, when he first arrived in Hoseok and Taehyung’s district, that they didn’t seem much like spouses, much less lovers. They clearly liked each other, but it was easy to see them as friends, or mentor and mentee. That was how Jimin wanted to see them, maybe. It made his presence seem like less of an intrusion. But Hoseok’s voice, when he says that the district gave him Taehyung, isn’t the voice of a friend or a mentor.
“You love him,” Jimin says.
“Of course,” says Hoseok.
“No, I mean…” Jimin tries.
Hoseok looks at him blankly, and then his eyes widen. “Oh,” he says. “Yes? I love him.”
“I’m glad,” says Jimin, because Hoseok deserves Taehyung. But he’s sad, too, so he doesn’t stay long. He thinks he understands a little better now how Hoseok feels about Yoongi and Namjoon.
Yoongi is in the kitchen, watching soup simmering in the bigger pot they’ve been using since Hoseok came to stay. They’ve been eating a lot of soup this winter; it stretches their limited supplies furthest. Hoseok brought some things with him, but those are gone now, and Jimin knows Yoongi is worried about how long their food will last.
He looks up when Jimin comes in, and raises his eyebrows, but Jimin just shakes his head and sits down next to Yoongi in front of the fire.
“Taste?” says Yoongi.
“Yes, please,” says Jimin.
Yoongi lifts the spoon out of the pot, half full, and offers it to Jimin.
“It’s good,” says Jimin.
“I know,” says Yoongi.
“Why did you need me to taste it, then?”
“I didn’t,” says Yoongi. “I just thought you might want to.”
Jimin giggles. “Then--thank you. It was really good. Dinner soon?”
“Mmm,” says Yoongi. “Get Joon? As soon as it warms up a little he goes straight back to the study.”
Jimin hesitates. “In a little while,” he says.
Yoongi is suddenly attentive. “Anything wrong?” he asks, his eyes sharp.
Jimin shakes his head. “I was just thinking.”
“Want to talk about it?” asks Yoongi. He’s stopped looking at Jimin, but Jimin thinks he can still feel Yoongi’s attention on him.
“How much do you know about Hoseok’s first husband?” Jimin asks.
Yoongi shrugs. “Not much,” he says. “Even less than I know about his second one. Why?”
“Hoseok-hyung says he--wasn’t nice,” Jimin says, half-consciously mimicking Hoseok’s phrasing and cadence.
The spoon Yoongi has been using to stir the soup stills. “It would take a lot, I would think, for Hoseok to say that someone wasn’t nice,” he says, slowly. “A lot more than it would take for him to feel it.”
“That’s what I think, too,” says Jimin.
Yoongi goes back to stirring the soup. “I didn’t know that,” he says, after a while.
“He said you and Namjoon-hyung didn’t write,” says Jimin.
“We were busy,” says Yoongi. He sounds defensive. “We were new here, and then once we got settled down...it was around when Hobi got married that things started--that we started to realize things weren’t right in the district. We had a lot on our minds.”
A series of memories runs through Jimin’s head--how welcoming Taehyung and Hoseok were when he first went to them, and the affection between Yoongi and the headwoman in the village, and the way Namjoon and Yoongi used to only speak to him if they wanted something from him. “I think he would have liked it if you’d written,” says Jimin, and goes upstairs to find Namjoon.
It’s warm enough, the night before Hoseok leaves, that they could move back into the bedroom, but they don’t, and Jimin is relieved. Nothing should change, but the idea of sharing the big bed again feels different, somehow, now that they’re friends. Jimin wants to be alone with Namjoon and Yoongi again, but he’s not sure he’s ready, and he doesn’t know why.
They’ve been spending the time between sleeps differently since they moved downstairs. No dancing. No sex. They don’t even always wake together. Life, during the coldest, darkest days, was merely a series of naps. After Hoseok came, and sunlight began to govern their schedule again, they woke to sit and talk and drink, and read to each other in the ruddy glow of the fire.
Hoseok’s last night, Jimin awakes to find Namjoon and Hoseok and Yoongi already talking quietly.
“It’s warm,” he says, and all three of them smile down at him in a way that makes him feel young and cared-for.
“Almost too warm, isn’t it?” says Namjoon.
Jimin shakes his head. “It’s nice,” he says. It’s going to be a long time before he doesn’t want to be a little too warm, anyway. He touches Hoseok’s arm. “Dance with me?”
Hoseok glances at the others before he nods and follows Jimin into the workroom. This is how they used to do it, when Jimin lived with Hoseok and Taehyung. They would wake up, meditate, stretch, and silently run through whatever they were working on, two or three times--just enough to be ready to sleep again. Taehyung would join them sometimes, but more often he’d watch from the bed. He was always quick to pick up the steps, but he didn’t have the academic interest in danced spells that kept Jimin and Hoseok practicing.
Jimin and Hoseok dance the sunlight spell together, without magic. When Jimin looks away from Hoseok at the end of it, Yoongi and Namjoon are standing in the doorway, watching. Jimin wonders if they’re checking up on him, not because they don’t trust him, but because they’re worried about him. But Namjoon says, “We wanted to watch,” and Yoongi asks, “Is this alright?”
“Of course,” says Jimin, too quickly, and then glances at Hoseok to confirm it. “But you’ve seen me do this spell fifty times, at least.”
“It’s different, when you’re just dancing,” says Yoongi.
“You should let us watch more often,” says Namjoon.
Jimin shrugs. “I haven’t stopped you,” he says. But he likes it, knowing they’re there, and watching him. He lets his movements get bigger, and more dramatic. Usually when he dances he’s just trying to funnel magic through his body as efficiently as he can. With Yoongi and Namjoon watching, he wants to perform.
When he finishes, he turns to look at them, smiling, but they’re not smiling back. Jimin feels the smile drop off his face. “Not good?” he says.
“Really good,” says Yoongi.
“Then…” says Jimin. He flushes, and looks back and forth between them. Oh, he thinks. This is why he’s been worrying about moving back upstairs.
“Another time?” says Hoseok. Jimin startles. He’d forgotten Hoseok was behind him.
“No,” he says. “I’m ready to sleep again.”
In a way, the best part of Hoseok’s visit is the goodbyes. The undercurrents of tension have finally started to settle, so Jimin, Namjoon and Yoongi can say things about how good it’s been to see him and mean them, but they’re still glad to see him go.
“Did you talk to him, you and Hoseok-hyung?” Jimin asks Namjoon, as they watch Yoongi and Hoseok make their farewells. They haven’t talked about what Jimin told Yoongi, but Jimin assumes Namjoon knows, by now.
“A little, last night,” says Namjoon. “It was good.” He pauses. “What about you?”
“Sort of,” says Jimin. “Not about--I think it was better that we didn’t.”
Jimin does have a moment where hugging Hoseok goodbye overwhelms him, and he wants to hold on and never let go, or beg Hoseok to take Jimin home with him. But then he thinks about Hoseok knowing how Jimin feels, and not feeling the same way, and the moment passes.
“We’ll meet at the border when the weather is better?” Jimin ask. “You’ll bring Taehyung?”
“Yes, I promise,” says Hoseok. “Or--I could even just send Taehyung.”
“No, I want you both,” says Jimin.
It’s warm enough now that Hoseok doesn’t need the heat spell to fly, so he only needs to speak the standard broom spell before launching himself into the air. They stand there watching him until only their bond with the district tells them where he is.
Yoongi stays watching the longest, and when he turns back to the house, he says. “Can we spare any of our stores? If I have something to carry, I’ll have to take the broom, but I’d rather go as a bat if I can. Either way, I think I’ll leave for the farms this afternoon.”
Jimin and Namjoon look at each other, dismayed. “Don’t go yet,” says Jimin.
“No?” says Yoongi. “Why not?” He looks at them both, and his expression softens. “Okay,” he says. “In a couple of days, then.”
“Thank you,” says Namjoon.
Jimin holds up his hand. “I can’t fall in love with someone who doesn’t love me again,” he says.
thanks to: ras. munki. raquella.
There’s work to do, now that it’s warm enough to move around again. They still have to bundle up and wear extra layers, even inside. The wind still makes Jimin’s cheeks go numb. But the cold is bearable, and it doesn’t feel dangerous anymore. Jimin can’t feel tears freezing at the corners of his eyes.
After a belated meal, they split up by silent agreement, Yoongi to clean up after their morning meal and move the bedding upstairs, Namjoon and Jimin to the greenhouse. One of the big panes of witch-glass is broken--”Only one,” says Namjoon. “That’s not so bad.”--and all the plants are dead.
“What will we do?” asks Jimin.
“We have seeds,” says Namjoon, but his expression is troubled. “And--friends. People will bring us what we need, if we ask.”
That doesn’t sound like enough. “Like you asked when things started to go wrong in the district?” Jimin says.
Namjoon’s head comes back a little, as if he’s avoiding a blow. “We’ve learned our lesson,” he says.
“Have you?” asks Jimin.
Namjoon just looks at him for a long time, his gaze steady. “What’s wrong, Jimin?”
Jimin shakes his head, looks down, glances up at Namjoon through his eyelashes. “Isn’t everything?” he says. Namjoon doesn’t answer.
Jimin says, “It’s--it’s all on us,” he says. “If we don’t take care of the district, everything will die. Everyone will die.”
“I know,” says Namjoon.
“Well,” says Jimin. “I didn’t.” He picks a withered vine out of one of the plant pots and pulls it apart between his fingers.
“It’s hard, being responsible,” says Namjoon. “It took hyung and me a long time to learn that, and to figure out how to do it. But even when it’s hardest, it’s a good thing.”
“What’s good about it?” asks Jimin, because he’s just scared.
“A lot of things,” says Namjoon. “Knowing what you’re for. Knowing that you’re helping. Feeling...accomplished. Like the first time you get a difficult spell right, and you feel like no one’s been where you are before, even when you know they have.” He looks up at the sky through the streaked, dirty glass. “Trusting yourself. That’s a big one.”
Accomplishment, Jimin understands. The sense of purpose, too. Now that he has that, he wouldn’t give it up. “I don’t know if I do trust myself,” he admits. He looks carefully at Namjoon, searching his face for anything other than kindness.
“It’s hard,” says Namjoon. “It’s really hard. You have to work at it.”
Namjoon takes his time before he answers. “You just keep doing your best,” he says, finally. “Until you know what your best is, and you know you’re going to keep doing it.”
Jimin doesn’t even know if he’s been doing his best.
“It takes a long time,” says Namjoon. “If you can’t yet, for now…” He hesitates.
“For now?” Jimin asks.
Namjoon smiles, a little bit tentative. “For now, maybe you can trust me--us--to trust you,” says Namjoon. “Because we both do.”
He steps forward, and Jimin doesn’t step back, even though he knows a long time before it happens that Namjoon is going to put two fingers underneath Jimin’s chin, tilt his face up, and stoop to kiss him.
Jimin lets himself be kissed, passively. Namjoon’s lips feel almost too hot on his, and Namjoon’s fingertips are cold against his flushed face, and Jimin wants a lot more than he’s going to take. He doesn’t want Namjoon to know yet, if ever, how much Jimin likes it when Namjoon touches him. He can’t settle for what Hoseok gave him, with Namjoon.
Namjoon stops kissing Jimin, but he keeps his face close; Jimin can feel Namjoon’s breath on his lips when Namjoon says, “No?”
Jimin steps back. “I want to make a danced version of Hoseok’s heat spell,” he says. He stops. He’d meant to keep that to himself for a while longer.
Namjoon takes a couple of slow, deep breaths. “Didn’t Hoseok say that wouldn’t work?”
“I think it will,” says Jimin. “Or--I think it can. I don’t know if I can do it. Hoseok-hyung’s created danced spells from scratch before, and I haven’t.”
“What?” says Jimin.
“You’ll do it,” says Namjoon.
“How do you know?” asks Jimin. He knows he sounds shy, suddenly, and hates that.
“I just do,” says Namjoon. His smile widens and his dimples deepen. “You’ll have to trust me to trust you.” He brushes his fingers over Jimin’s cheek and lets his hand drop.
“Oh,” breathes Jimin. He tilts his face up, in case Namjoon is going to kiss him again, but Namjoon doesn’t.
“I’ll help if I can,” says Namjoon.
“You’ve been helping--studying with me,” says Jimin. “I didn’t know where to start.”
“Then let’s keep studying,” says Namjoon. “I only wish--Oh!”
“Have you talked to Yoongi about this? Writing danced spells?”
Jimin shakes his head.
“Maybe you should,” says Namjoon. “I think--he might be able to help more than I can. Some of the things you’ve said about dancing spells sound a lot like what he’s said about hand magic. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.”
“It’s because he’s either thinking too much, or he’s not thinking at all,” says Yoongi, upstairs, when Jimin finds him. “He’s…” he shakes his head. “It can be irritating.”
“But you love him,” says Jimin.
“Of course I love him,” says Yoongi, easily shifting to the new subject. “He’s very lovable.” He looks at Jimin. “Why?”
“I just--” says Jimin. He shrugs. “You don’t find him that annoying.”
“I don’t find him that annoying,” Yoongi agrees. He tilts his head to the side. “You don’t think Joon is lovable?”
“I don’t know,” says Jimin.
“You’ve lived with him for months,” Yoongi says.
He’d found Namjoon annoying at the start, for sure. And then things had gotten better, slowly. Jimin had trusted him a little first, and liked him a little second. “Lovable in the abstract?” Jimin asks.
“Yes,” says Yoongi. “Wait, no. Not in the abstract. As your husband, who just kissed you.”
Jimin lowers his eyes. He should have known Yoongi would know about that. He could admit that Namjoon is lovable in a general way. It wouldn’t mean anything. They both already know that Yoongi loves him. But Yoongi is asking if Jimin could love him.
He could. He’s so sure that he could that it barely feels like a question. But he doesn’t want to tell Yoongi that.
“Hyung,” he says.
Yoongi looks at him, and waits. When Jimin doesn’t continue, he narrows his eyes and opens his mouth to speak.
Jimin holds up his hand. “I can’t fall in love with someone who doesn’t love me again,” he says.
“You don’t think Namjoon loves you?” says Yoongi.
“I don’t,” says Jimin. He knows Namjoon likes him, thinks he probably cares about him. It’s not what he wants.
“The circumstances are different,” says Yoongi. Jimin knows what he means. They’re going to be here together, no matter how anyone feels. It doesn’t make a difference to Jimin.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I just can’t.” What about you? he wants to ask, but that’s not in the spirit of the conversation.
“Okay,” says Yoongi, but he keeps looking at Jimin, as if Jimin is going to tell him something else.
“Do you think he’s right, then?” Jimin asks, instead of saying If you loved me, I think I would love you back. “Are danced spells like hand spells?”
“He’s right and wrong,” says Yoongi, sitting down and settling in for a long wrangle. “They are, but only because all spells are the same.”
Namjoon was right: he ought to have told Jimin to talk to Yoongi before. Yoongi has a firm grasp of all the things Jimin has been trying to learn from dry books by academic witches who don’t really know anything at all. Yoongi thinks about magic in shapes, not words. Yoongi thinks you can do any kind of magic you want with the medium that comes most naturally to you.
“I sort of thought you knew this,” Yoongi says, looking up from the diagram he’s sketching. “You dance like you know it.”
Jimin blushes. “I’m just figuring it out as I go,” he says.
“You’ve figured out a lot,” says Yoongi.
“These shapes…” says Jimin. “I recognize them. I’ve felt them.”
“Yeah,” says Yoongi. He smiles, and his eyes glow with enthusiasm. “That’s because you’re open to it--dancing spells, and not speaking very many--spoken spells are easy to translate, and teach, but they’re too easy. They dull your sense of the underlying magic.” He leans forward. “You know what I think?”
Jimin shakes his head, smiling a little, too. It’s not that he didn’t know Yoongi was like this. It’s that he didn’t know what it was like, when he was.
“People who don’t like spoken spells, like you,” says Yoongi--and Jimin appreciates that he says it that way, “don’t like them” instead of “aren’t good at them”--“open themselves up to being better at hand magic, but people who don’t do hand magic--who only do spoken or sung spells--don’t see that. They only see that you’re not speaking spells as well as they do. And that’s why hand magic gets looked down on.”
“That makes sense,” says Jimin, because once Yoongi’s said it, it seems like too obvious a thing to be said. “But--didn’t Hoseok-hyung say you were good at speaking spells?”
“I used to be,” says Yoongi. “But then I got interested in other kinds of spells, and when I realized that too many spoken spells made the other stuff harder, I mostly stopped bothering with spoken spells. I use little ones, here and there. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you know? I’m not going to use a brewed spell to make a broom fly. But I’d rather sew or build or carve something, if I don’t have an easy spoken spell at hand.”
Jimin watches him, wide-eyed, and tries to commit everything Yoongi is saying to memory.
Yoongi wrinkles his nose at Jimin. “What?”
Jimin shakes his head slightly. “I didn’t say anything.”
“No, I know,” says Yoongi. “You just looked…”
“Oh,” says Jimin. He looks away. “You’re really smart, hyung.”
“I just like to think about this kind of thing,” says Yoongi.
Jimin and Yoongi sketch out the shape a danced heat spell could take until Namjoon knocks on the door to tell them that it’s past dinnertime and he’s hungry. Instead of following him into the kitchen, they pull him into their conversation with a question about spell structure. The three of them eat a cold dinner, very late and very tired, and trudge up the stairs to the bedroom together, bumping into each other as they climb.
Jimin hesitates before he goes to his side of the bed and climbs in, for no reason; there’s nothing else for him to do. There’s no question to be answered now, the way he thought there would be. Namjoon already asked, in the greenhouse, and Jimin told him no.
It still feels different. Their goodnights are friendlier than they were before the storm. Jimin isn’t careful to keep to the very edge of the bed. But as he falls asleep and wakes up and goes downstairs to meditate and dance and resist the pull of Yoongi and Namjoon upstairs in bed together, he feels like the question is still open, like something is waiting for him to change his mind.
He checks on them before he goes back upstairs, like always. They must know he does that, if they’ve ever thought about it, because he’s never walked in on them. Usually he finds them drifting back to sleep, sweat cooling on warm bodies. Tonight, they’re still--Jimin forces his attention away. It makes sense, that they’d want more time alone together, after weeks of not having any.
He sits on the stairs, on the bottom step, and waits for them to finish. If the question is still open, he could go upstairs and join them, and they’d let him--and the question must still be open, because he knows that they would. They’d let him in, to a point, and it would be good, as far as it went. Jimin doesn’t know why he feels like being let partway in is worse than nothing. Taehyung and Hoseok never gave him everything, and he never expected them to.
He’s going to give in, someday. He wants affection, and he wants to be touched, and he’s never going to be anywhere but here. At some point, he’s going to decide that something is better than nothing, after all. He’s just not there yet.
A few inches of heavy, wet snow fall during the night, and the next night the temperature drops again.
“I really thought it was going to get warmer,” says Namjoon.
“Maybe this is a stupid question,” says Jimin. “But how long is winter supposed to last? I mean, the snowy part.” Everywhere Jimin has lived, it gets colder during the winter, but not this much colder.
“About two months?” says Namjoon, looking at Yoongi for confirmation.
“We know it’s going to be a long winter, though,” says Yoongi. “Unless--I don’t know how we fix things if we don’t know what’s wrong, but if we did…”
“Fixing things is your specialty, hyung,” says Namjoon. “Just tell us what to do.”
“I don’t know,” says Yoongi. “I know I’m supposed to know what to do, but I’ve thought and I’ve thought and I don’t.”
“Okay,” says Namjoon, “We’ll figure it out together, then.”
“Nobody tells you how to do this job, do they?” says Jimin. “I thought when I got there that you knew, but no one does; you’ve just been doing it longer.”
“That’s true,” says Yoongi, and his smile is tired, but it’s real, and it’s for Jimin.
What they’re really worried about is food. There won’t be enough, and they’ve known that since the winter started. For a winter of normal length, they might have been able to scrape by, but none of them had ever really expected a winter of normal length. “I’ll find out exactly what everyone has,” says Yoongi. “And then--we’ll know how much help we need to ask for.”
Yoongi lets Jimin fuss over him a little as he prepares for his trip. Jimin packs more clothes than Yoongi will need, and puts together a lunch that Yoongi would have made better himself. Namjoon watches, looking so mournful that it’s almost funny, but Jimin understands. He doesn’t want to see Yoongi go either.
“It’s the same trip I always take,” Yoongi reminds them. “The outer circle of farms, and then the inner ones, and then the village, and back home again.”
“What if there’s another storm?” Namjoon asks.
“There won’t be,” says Yoongi.
Namjoon and Jimin look at him suspiciously.
“There could be,” he concedes. “But I don’t think there will. I’ll write, okay?”
Jimin gives Yoongi a brief, hard hug goodbye. Yoongi is right; there’s no special reason to fear that anything bad will happen to him. But they’re all fearing it anyway. Jimin lets go of him and brings Yoongi’s pack over from the table.
"Thanks," says Yoongi. He looks at Namjoon. "Joon, don't look at me like that."
"I'm not," says Namjoon. He steps forward and puts his arms around Yoongi and buries his face in Yoongi's shoulder.
"I'm going to be fine," says Yoongi. "You stay safe for me too, okay?" His voice sounds rough, and Jimin turns around to give them illusion of privacy. It’s only an illusion, though. His eyes are on the table, following the grain of the wood from one end to the other, but all of his attention is focused on Yoongi and Namjoon through the marriage bond.
He’s not watching; it’s better than watching. If he was just watching, he wouldn’t know about the tears prickling at the corners of Namjoon’s eyes, or his warm, damp breath against Yoongi’s neck. He wouldn’t know how hard Yoongi’s fingers are digging into Namjoon’s back. He would see when they loosen their hold on each other, and when they come apart and back together, but he wouldn’t feel the slickness of their lips and their tongues, or the little gusts of air that make the sounds he can just barely hear. It’s better to observe them like this, he tells himself, than it would be to hear the noises their mouths make and imagine what’s happening, but it’s not. It’s worse.
“Jimin-ah, you can turn around now,” says Yoongi. His voice sounds amused, and when Jimin does turn, he’s smiling. They’re both pink and bright-eyed, and happier than they were before they kissed. Jimin looks down at his feet. He can’t look at them. He doesn’t know what he wants.
Jimin hands Yoongi his pack, and looks him over. “You’re going to be cold,” he says.
“It is cold,” Yoongi agrees.
Jimin goes over to the coat hooks by the door and pulls down his scarf. Yoongi is already wearing one, but Jimin loops his around Yoongi’s neck anyway, and ties it securely, tucking the ends into Yoongi’s coat.
“Jimin-ah…” says Yoongi. His eyes are saying something else, and Jimin, silently, tries to answer back without knowing what he wants to say, or what he is saying.
“Stay warm,” says Jimin, and Yoongi says, “I will.” Then he swings his pack onto his back, picks up a broom, exchanges one more long look with Namjoon, and goes.
“Sorry about that,” says Namjoon, after Yoongi leaves.
“About--?” says Jimin.
“Hyung and me, before.”
“Oh,” says Jimin, uneasily. “It’s alright.” He watched them, and they didn’t know. He’s the one that should be apologizing. “He’ll be alright,” he says, instead.
“Of course he will,” says Namjoon.
That night, they get into bed and lie next to each other, and Namjoon says, “Would it be alright if we--”
“Yes,” says Jimin, and turns towards Namjoon, and pulls him close. Namjoon’s hand skates over Jimin’s ribs and settles at his waist. His face against Jimin’s shoulder reminds Jimin of how Namjoon held Yoongi this morning.
“Thank you,” says Namjoon, as if Jimin is doing him a favor.
“It’s alright,” says Jimin.
Jimin studies, a little, and he helps Namjoon put together a list of what they’ll need to restock the greenhouse, but mostly he works on his spell. It’s been different, since he talked to Yoongi about it. He believes he can do it, now, even if he doesn’t have all the pieces yet. It’s easier to feel out the answers to his questions now that he knows what the answers ought to look like.
Jimin feels the outflow of magic when he’s performing a spell, like any witch does, but he’s always been more aware of it when the spell is a danced one, and now he’s training that awareness, the way Yoongi must have trained his. Jimin wonders, dancing between sleeps on Yoongi’s second night away, whether there’s an end to that potential awareness. Could it get more and more sensitive, to the point where a witch wouldn’t need a spell at all? Could they shape magic to do what they wanted with just their body, or their voice, or a hand armed with needle and thread, and no forethought? Jimin will ask Yoongi when he gets home.
He returns to bed to find Namjoon reading by candlelight. Jimin watches him from the doorway until Namjoon looks up at him and smiles.
“Do you get lonely when Yoongi-hyung is away?” Jimin asks.
“I used to,” says Namjoon.
“Oh,” says Jimin.
It’s almost completely comfortable, now, to lie in bed with his arms wrapped around Namjoon. He did it downstairs, when they were all huddling for warmth, and it’s only been a couple of nights since then. Jimin will be glad when Yoongi is home again, but he’ll miss this. He looks for Yoongi and finds him sleeping on a pallet in a farmhouse kitchen, southwest of the village. It’s one of the inner ring of farms. One more night and he’ll be home.
“Do you think that feels like home to him, now?” Jimin asks. “Sleeping on kitchen floors?”
“No,” says Namjoon. “Oh, I know it’s a joke,” he reassures Jimin. “But--No. He’s said. Traveling around the district makes coming home better.”
“He doesn’t like traveling?” asks Jimin. “I thought he did. He does so much of it.”
“He does,” says Namjoon. “But that’s one of the reasons why.”
“That and being bat,” says Jimin, and Namjoon smiles.
“He’s away a lot,” says Jimin. “Not so much now, because of the weather, but…”
“He’s never away for very long, though,” says Namjoon. “And it’s nice when he comes back.”
“Does having him away make you love him more?” Jimin asks.
Namjoon takes a long time to answer. “I think I love him too much for anything small like that to make a difference,” he says.
“Small?” says Jimin. He’s hesitant, almost afraid to ask.
“Whether he’s with me or not,” says Namjoon. “He’s still...Min Yoongi. But I do miss him. I’m glad you’re here.”
Jimin isn’t sure what Namjoon means by that, but he’s glad Namjoon is here, too. “Tell me about you and Yoongi-hyung,” he says.
“What about us?”
“Anything,” says Jimin. “I don’t know--where you’re from, or how you met, or--or what the good parts have been like, since you came here. Tell me how you fell in love, hyung.”
“Ah,” says Namjoon. “Well, we didn’t like each other right away.”
“Really?” Jimin can’t picture a Yoongi and Namjoon who don’t like each other.
“Well, he was so smart,” says Namjoon. “And I wanted to be the smart one.”
Jimin smiles. “That doesn’t even make sense, hyung,” he says.
“I know that now,” says Namjoon. “But before I met Yoongi I never knew that being smart is more fun when you have other people to be smart with. And when I figured that out--he couldn’t have gotten rid of me if he’d wanted to, then.”
“And did he?” asks Jimin. “What did he think about you?”
Namjoon shifts to look at Jimin, putting a little bit of distance between them, if not what Jimin would have considered sufficient distance a few months ago. “Oh, I was annoying and talked too much,” says Namjoon. But then--even when I was being a bratty know-it-all, I listened to him. I--engaged with him. He was missing that. So we argued a lot at first, but we liked arguing with each other.”
“And then you liked each other,” says Jimin.
Namjoon smiles. “Yes. It was quick, that part. Before we were even friends, really, I told Hoseok that I was going to marry Min Yoongi. And then I was just waiting for him to catch up.”
“And he did,” says Jimin. He likes this story, likes the happy ending he can see coming.
“Mmm,” says Namjoon. “Not exactly. We got to be friends, and we kept talking about--books, and ideas, and ideals. And arguing, and enjoying each other. And I thought I was waiting for him to catch up with my feelings, but one night we went for a walk, and he held my hand, and he told me that he liked me--that he’d liked me for a while. And he was going to let me get there on my own, but he got tired of waiting.”
Jimin giggles and curls forward, muffling his laughter in Namjoon’s hair. “That sounds exactly like him, and exactly like you,” he says. “I’m glad.”
“We are who we are,” Namjoon says, but he’s smiling, too.
“It’s good,” says Jimin. “I’m glad you found each other.”
“Are you?” asks Namjoon. He doesn’t sound skeptical, just curious. “Even though that’s what brought you here?”
That’s a complicated question, and Jimin doesn’t know how to answer it, even to himself. “I wouldn’t leave now, if I could,” he says slowly. “Unless you wanted me to.”
“We don’t,” says Namjoon.
“It wouldn’t matter, anyway,” says Jimin. “I’d have nowhere else to go. So, maybe that doesn’t mean anything.”
“It does,” says Namjoon. “It means something to me, that you wouldn’t want to leave.”
Jimin looks down.
“You wouldn’t go back to Hoseok and Taehyung, though?” asks Namjoon.
Jimin shakes his head emphatically. “I couldn’t. Not after…” he trails off. “I was humiliated, you know? I still--want what I wanted, but I couldn’t take anything they’d offer me, now.”
“You’re proud,” says Namjoon.
“It’s not pride,” Jimin protests. It’s more like humility, he thinks. He’s trying not to see himself as more than he really is to other people, now.
“No, I meant it in a good way,” says Namjoon. “You know your value. You’re not going to settle for less than you deserve.”
Jimin takes a moment to mull that over, because it’s not what he was thinking, but it’s true, he hopes. “Yes,” he says. “That’s--that’s part of it, at least.”
“Good,” says Namjoon.
Namjoon shrugs with one shoulder. “Hoseok does love you,” he says. He looks a little uncomfortable saying it. “We could see it, hyung and I. But he doesn’t love you enough.”
“Not as much as I want,” Jimin agrees.
“Not as much as you’re worth,” says Namjoon.
“Oh,” says Jimin. “Thank you, I think.” He rolls onto his stomach and hides his face in the pillow. “Thank you for telling me about you and hyung.” he says, his voice muffled. “It’s fun to think about you two being young and--and angry.”
“I guess we were angry,” says Namjoon, as if the idea hadn’t occurred to him before. “But--it felt good, being angry together. Neither of us was looking for something to make us less angry. We just wanted to do something with our anger.”
“You fit together,” says Jimin. He likes that, now. He didn’t when he came here. “The more I know you, the more I don’t understand why you two weren’t enough for the district by yourselves. You’re enough for each other. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?”
It’s not quite as simple as a functional relationship making a functional district, but a strong bond between witches is good for their district. And Jimin can’t imagine what could be better for a district than Namjoon and Yoongi.
Namjoon looks thoughtful. “We are enough for each other, I think,” he says, and it’s funny, when Jimin just said that himself, that it stings a little. “But--enough isn’t everything. We’re...better for having you here.”
“Really?” ask Jimin.
“Really,” says Namjoon. “Enough for each other isn’t necessarily…We have to be enough for more than just each other, don’t we? We needed you.”
“That’s good,” says Jimin. “Since you have me.”
Namjoon smiles and pats his arm. “It is good,” he says. His face is so warm when he smiles. Jimin likes the shape of it, and the way his eyes narrow. “We’re staying up too late, though, aren’t we? We should have gone back to sleep a long time ago.”
Jimin closes his eyes obediently. but he doesn’t feel sleepy. He’s happier than he’s been in a long time, but sadder, too. It’s nice to be needed, but Jimin thinks being wanted would feel even better.
Yoongi sends them a note the next morning to confirm that he’ll be back the next day--early, he hopes. Jimin sits down and diagrams the choreography of the first part of the heat spell, and writes down what he’s trying to do with each part of it. He’s doing it for Yoongi to look at when he gets back, but putting it on paper like that sends Jimin’s thoughts spinning in half a dozen different directions. He alternates taking frantic notes with jumping up to try out a new step or two until Namjoon comes to beg him to cook something. That’s something Jimin has been able to do for them--Yoongi doesn’t have to prepare a supply of food for Namjoon when he goes away. Namjoon can’t be trusted in the kitchen, but Jimin can.
The wind picks up while they’re eating, and Jimin knows he and Namjoon are doing the same quick check on Yoongi. They smile at each other when they find him safe in the village headwoman’s house, sitting up late with her family. It feels good at first, that they had the same thought, that they both care. That Namjoon knew Jimin would care the same way he does. But the more Jimin thinks about it, the more unsettled he feels.
It starts snowing again as they’re getting ready for bed, like glitter sweeping past their window, reflecting the candlelight. Jimin stands there watching it for a while, the candlestick in his hand. He’d been about to blow it out when he got distracted. The best thing about snow--well, the best thing about snow is snowball fights. The best thing about snow is winning snowball fights. But another nice thing about it is the way it feels to be inside, and warm enough, at night, with a fire in the fireplace and snow falling outside. Yoongi is lying awake in the headwoman’s spare room. Their house would feel cosier if he was here.
“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon calls. “What are you doing? Come to bed.”
“I will,” says Jimin. Namjoon waiting for him in bed is another part of the picture behind him, another part of what makes the room warm and inviting, and Jimin isn’t sure how he feels about that. “You don’t have to wait for me, hyung,” he says. “I’ll come to bed in a little while. I’m just not ready yet.”
He blows out the candle, but stays at the window. The snow seems to be letting up a little already, and Yoongi will be flying back tomorrow, anyway. Unless the temperature drops again, he shouldn’t have any trouble.
There’s only faint light from the fire, but Jimin’s eyes have adjusted to the dark when he finally turns away from the window. Namjoon is asleep, right in the middle of the bed, or maybe a little closer to Yoongi’s side. He’s turned towards Jimin’s side, though, his hand resting where Jimin’s body should be, and in the dim light his face is all contours. Jimin wishes he knew what Namjoon wanted, so he would know what he could want.
When he climbs into bed, he leaves some space between himself and Namjoon, but when he wakes from his first sleep, his back is against Namjoon’s front, and Namjoon’s arm is tight around his waist.
“Hyung…” he says, twisting to face Namjoon.
“Sorry,” says Namjoon. His grip loosens immediately. He was awake. He’s been awake, and holding onto Jimin. Jimin looks at him. Namjoon looks back, and then lowers his eyes and bites his lip. Jimin closes his eyes. He doesn’t know how to deal with this. He needs Namjoon to have boundaries, because he doesn’t know where his are anymore.
“Are you going downstairs?” Namjoon asks, after a while.
“Not tonight,” says Jimin, and keeps his eyes closed, and doesn’t go back to sleep. Namjoon lays a tentative hand on Jimin’s arm. Jimin lets him.
They both jerk awake at once. “Where--?” says Namjoon. The wind is howling again. Everything outside the window is gray--the gray of snow and early dawn. Jimin gets out of bed and runs downstairs, and Namjoon follows.
“What are we going to do?” says Namjoon as Jimin shoves his feet into his boots. “He’s still--we won’t get there fast enough.”
“I don’t know,” says Jimin. He pulls down his coat and tosses Namjoon his. “But don’t we have to do something?”
Namjoon is already at the door. “Shoes!” says Jimin, and dashes outside while Namjoon goes back to collect them.
It’s not as cold as it was during the days they were snowed in, but it’s colder than it’s been since Hoseok left, and windy, and the thickly falling snow makes the house a dim gray shape by the time Jimin is a few yards away.
“Wait!” shouts Namjoon, a darker gray shape. Jimin stops where he is and waits for Namjoon to grab onto him. Namjoon says something that the wind sweeps away.
“I can’t hear you!” Jimin shouts.
“We can’t fly!” Namjoon shouts back.
“Of course we can’t fly,” says Jimin, hoping his expression will convey whatever Namjoon can’t hear. No one could fly in this wind.
“What are we doing then?” asks Namjoon, leaning in close so Jimin can hear. His warm breath feels good against Jimin’s face, but the dampness of it leaves Jimin even colder when Namjoon moves away.
“Finding him!” says Jimin. He grabs Namjoon’s hand and sets out in the direction of the village. The wind bites at his exposed skin, and holding hands with Namjoon just exposes more of it, but he has no plans to let go.
Namjoon could do the heat spell now, and the snow would melt before it hit them. The path would clear in front of them as they walked, and they wouldn’t have to trudge through the accumulated inches of snow. But they don’t know what Yoongi will need when they find him. Namjoon hasn’t suggested the heat spell, or any other magic, which probably means he’s doing the same calculations in his head as Jimin is.
They ought to have stopped and worked out a plan before they left. They ought to have brought things with them, and changed into warmer clothes. They make a pathetic rescue mission, in coats and boots over nightshirts. Jimin has an uneasy sense that he’s the one who ought to have slowed them down. He’s supposed to be the check on Yoongi and Namjoon’s big romance, the one who has enough emotional distance to be rational in situations like this. But he’d only thought about Yoongi.
It’s not very far--a half hour’s walk, in good weather. It takes them a lot longer like this. Neither Jimin nor Namjoon tries to speak; it’s too much effort, and they both know where they’re going. The wind pushes them forward some of the time, but more often it pulls them off-course, or makes it hard for them to hang onto each other. Jimin has a sudden, chilling thought that the district could make it easier for them, and it isn’t. He doesn’t know if it really works that way, and it makes no sense--he can’t imagine that the district would want to kill Yoongi--but it’s hard not to think about.
When they get within a few yards of Yoongi, Namjoon breaks into a run and trips, bringing Jimin down with him. Jimin can’t see Yoongi--but of course, he’s under the snow. Jimin moves toward Yoongi, crawling until he can get his feet under him. Namjoon takes longer to get up, but once he is up, he moves faster.
Jimin can see the dark shape of Yoongi through the top layer of snow even before Namjoon gets there. Namjoon brushes it away from Yoongi’s face with hands that are blotchy with cold. Yoongi is lying on his side, bent forward a little. Jimin grabs his hands, and they’re frighteningly cold. Namjoon pulls Yoongi halfway into his lap, and curls forward over him, his head bowed.
“Hyung--” says Jimin. “His head…” There’s a red stain in the snow, small but terrifying.
Namjoon brushes gentle fingers through Yoongi’s hair until he finds the wound on the side of Yoongi’s head. He jerks his hand back, and his fingers come away red. He looks at Jimin. “How--what do we--” he swallows, and starts crying, tears dripping down his face without his expression changing at all. Jimin has never seen anyone cry like that before.
Jimin feels like crying, too. “The heat spell,” he says. “But--slow. We can’t warm him up too fast.”
“I remember,” says Namjoon. He starts speaking the heat spell, fast and loud in the still, snowy, early morning. Jimin waits until he feels the air warming up around him and takes off his coat to drape over Yoongi. Yoongi shifts, and his forehead wrinkles in a grimace.
“Hyung,” Namjoon breathes. He bends to bring his face closer to Yoongi’s. “Hyung, can you hear me? Are you awake?”
Yoongi’s eyes flutter open, and then closed. “Cold,” he croaks.
“We’re going to get you warmed up,” Namjoon promises. He wipes the tears from his face with the sleeve of his coat and looks at Jimin. “We have to carry him,” says Namjoon. “Right? There’s no--it’s still too windy.”
Jimin nods and glances around for the broom Yoongi had been using, and doesn’t see it. He could look for it through his bond with the district, but there’s no point; they can’t use it.
The wind is still blowing hard, and Yoongi has lapsed back into unconsciousness, which doesn’t make it any easier to get him onto Namjoon’s back. They manage it eventually, Jimin lifting Yoongi and pushing his arms over Namjoon’s shoulders for Namjoon to grab on to, but then Namjoon has trouble getting to his feet.
“This is a lot easier when he holds on,” says Namjoon, and Jimin lets out a hysterical little half-giggle at the thought of Namjoon giving Yoongi a piggyback ride.
Namjoon’s progress is slow, with Yoongi hanging down his back, but they move more easily with the heat spell melting the snow in front of them as they go. Jimin feels useless, following along behind Namjoon just in case Yoongi falls. He’s not likely to. Namjoon won’t let him go. Jimin had wanted to be the one carrying Yoongi--they both know he’s stronger--but he’d been forced to admit that he’s not tall enough. Yoongi is as far up on Namjoon’s shoulders as they could get him, and his toes still bump against the ground every so often.
“His bag,” Namjoon says suddenly. “Did you see it? I didn’t even look.” His voice is worryingly breathless, considering how far they are from home still.
“No,” says Jimin. “It’s not important, is it?”
“But--” says Namjoon. “The inventory of supplies.”
“Oh. Right. Hold on, then,” says Jimin, although he doesn’t expect Namjoon to stop moving, and Namjoon doesn’t. Jimin runs back to where they found Yoongi and finds the pack a couple of yards away, a lump under the wind-blown snow. And Namjoon was right; they need Yoongi’s notes. But Jimin feels a little better for impractical reasons, too. Running back to Namjoon and Yoongi helps him work off a little of his nervous energy. Carrying Yoongi’s pack the rest of the way home lets him feel like he’s doing something.
When they get home, they lay Yoongi out on the table in the kitchen. He makes a couple of faint, pained noises as they clean his wound and bandage his head, and he swallows when Namjoon puts a cup to his lips, but he doesn’t open his eyes.
“What are we going to do?” Namjoon whispers.
Jimin shakes his head. He doesn’t know.
They carry him upstairs together and put him in bed, right in the middle, where Namjoon usually sleeps. Namjoon builds up the fire and ends the heat spell and then makes a beeline for the bed and climbs in next to Yoongi. His body curves around Yoongi’s, and his nose brushes Yoongi’s hair, and his eyes close. “Write to Seokjin-hyung,” he says.
Jimin stands at the foot of the bed and watches them for a long time. Watches Yoongi, mostly, his pale, still, small face and the thin reassurance of his chest slowly rising and falling. Namjoon must know that Jimin hasn’t left the room--he won’t have fallen asleep so quickly--but he doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t open his eyes, and eventually Jimin pulls himself together and leaves the room.
In the study, Jimin rests his head on the desk and closes his eyes. They don’t know how bad it is, he reminds himself. Maybe Yoongi will wake up and be fine. But--it feels bad. Jimin feels bad. And he can’t imagine life without Yoongi anymore.
He goes downstairs for Yoongi’s bag, and looks at his notes before he writes to Seokjin. “Any help you can give us will be appreciated,” he writes, after listing out what he thinks they need. “But what we need most urgently is a healer for Yoongi-hyung. He hit his head flying home from the village, and was out in the snow and wind for some time before we could reach him. At the time of this writing, he is not fully conscious.” He doesn’t know what else to say, and he doesn’t know what else Seokjin might be able to do, so he signs the letter and seals it, and opens the window. It’s harder to find a bird to carry a letter in this weather, and it takes a long time, but Jimin’s call was imperative, and finally a goose dives through the open window, honking softly in disappointment when Jimin steps out of its path. Geese will do what you ask them to, but they’re happier if they can injure you in the process. The goose ruffles its feathers resentfully as Jimin ties the letter to its ankle, and he only just pulls his hand away in time to avoid getting pecked, but when it leaves, it flies straight south, fast. The letter will be with Seokjin by nightfall.
He tries to pull himself together before he goes back into the bedroom. He feels shaky and scared, and he doesn’t know if it shows, but he doesn’t want Namjoon and Yoongi to see him like this. If it does show--if it shows, it’s real, and Jimin doesn’t want to feels like this.
When Jimin comes into the room, Namjoon opens his eyes.
“Nothing?” says Jimin.
“Nothing yet,” Namjoon confirms. Jimin expected that. If something had happened, Namjoon would have told him, he thinks. He hopes.
Yoongi opens his eyes an hour or so later. Namjoon has dozed off, and Jimin is sitting on the bed with his notes on the heat spell, pretending to read them. Jimin meets Yoongi’s eyes for a long few seconds, and then reaches over him to grab Namjoon’s ankle and shake him awake.
“What?” says Namjoon. “Hyung!” he sits up and bends over Yoongi. “Are you--how do you feel?”
“Uh,” Yoongi croaks. “Bad? I feel bad.” He blinks, and struggles to sit up, and winces. “What’s--” He squints and looks around the room. “What happened? I came home, and…?”
“You came part of the way home,” says Jimin.
“You crashed into a tree,” says Namjoon.
“Oh,” says Yoongi. “I don’t remember that.” He frowns. “It was windy.”
“Lie down,” says Namjoon. “I mean--will you lie down? Please?”
Yoongi lies down and makes a face. “My head hurts,” he says.
“I’m not surprised,” says Jimin. “You hit a tree with it.” He shouldn’t be angry at Yoongi--Namjoon’s sideways look is telling him that, and so is his own brain--but there’s no one else to be angry at.
“I don’t fly into trees,” Yoongi says, sounding disgusted by the very idea of it.
“We both felt it,” says Jimin.
Yoongi looks at him, eyes widened. “You--you were watching?”
“No,” says Jimin. “But we woke up. Both of us, when it happened.”
Yoongi turns to look at Namjoon, who looks like he’s about to cry again. “Oh,” he says.
“What were you doing?” Jimin asks, because he still doesn’t understand why Yoongi was flying home before dawn, in the wind and snow.
“The snow was getting heavier,” says Yoongi, avoiding Jimin’s eyes.
“That sounds like a good reason to stay in the village,” says Jimin. He tries to keep his voice level, and mostly succeeds.
“That’s exactly what I didn’t want to do,” says Yoongi. “If it was going to get so bad that I couldn’t fly--If I was going to be stuck somewhere, I wanted it to be here.”
Jimin puts his hands on his hips and ignores Namjoon’s warning look. “So you left the village in the middle of the night to fly home in a blizzard,” he says.
“It was technically morning,” says Yoongi.
“That was really stupid, hyung,” says Jimin.
“Shut up,” says Namjoon. “Leave him alone.”
“I’m just--” Jimin starts, but Namjoon interrupts him. “It’s not important right now,” he says.
“Fine,” says Jimin, and gets up. “I’ve sent to Seokjin for a healer and the supplies you said we needed,” he tells Yoongi. “I’ll go, um. Get something to eat.”
By the time Jimin has a tray ready to bring upstairs, he’s cooled down a little. He knocks softly on the doorframe before he brings the tray into the bedroom.
“I’m sorry about before,” he says. “I was just--scared. We were both really scared.” Namjoon looks like he wants to say something to that, but whatever it is, he keeps it to himself.
Yoongi shrugs uncomfortably. “Sorry,” he says. “I knew it was stupid, but...most of the time things that are stupid don’t go as badly as you think they might. Like when you know you shouldn’t carry a lot of things at once, but then they don’t fall down, after all, so it’s fine.”
“But you didn’t try to carry three bowls of soup at once, hyung,” says Jimin. “You put yourself in danger. And we need you.” He thinks about his own feelings about being needed and adds, “I’d miss you. If something happened.”
“Okay,” says Yoongi. “I get it.” His tone is softer than his words, and he smiles at Jimin as he takes his bowl of rice, a small, soft curve of his lips.
Namjoon seems content to sit and watch Yoongi eat, but Jimin feels antsy. He eats industriously, with his head down, and waits impatiently for Yoongi and Namjoon to finish. Once they’re done, he can take their empty dishes downstairs and then--Namjoon gets to be close to Yoongi. He gets to rest a hand on his thigh while they eat, and smile when Yoongi sees that Namjoon is watching him, and wrap his arms around Yoongi as soon as he puts his chopsticks down. Jimin doesn’t, so he has to do something else.
“Can you tell me how to brew the spell you made for me after I went to the spring?” Jimin asks, as he stacks the dishes on their tray. “I might not--I’ve never tried brewing a spell before, but I can try.”
“Oh,” says Yoongi. “I was just thinking about that spell, actually.”
“Is it written down somewhere?” Jimin asks. “Is it hard?”
Yoongi purses his lips. “It’s in one of my notebooks,” he says. “On the lowest shelf by my workbench downstairs. The one from the year before last. If you bring it up, I’ll show you.”
When Jimin gets back upstairs with the notebook, Yoongi and Namjoon are lying down again, Namjoon curled protectively around Yoongi. Jimin gets exactly one glimpse of Yoongi’s brow furrowed in pain before Yoongi opens his eyes. Jimin relaxes his mental barriers for a moment to feel what Yoongi feels, and wishes he hadn’t.
“Maybe I should be brewing a spell for your head, instead,” he says, quietly, as he sits down on the bed.
“It will be fine,” says Yoongi. “I hit my head; of course it hurts.”
“We’ll see what the healer says,” says Jimin.
Yoongi finds the spell for him and talks him through it, and it doesn’t seem too complicated. Namjoon stays curled up at Yoongi’s side. Jimin is worried about him; he’s been very quiet since they brought Yoongi back. He’d ask Namjoon if something’s wrong, but he doesn’t want to worry Yoongi right now.
“I think I can do that,” says Jimin. “I’ll try anything that will help.”
“I--yeah,” says Yoongi. “Just to be safe. It’s not that hard. It’s just like any other spell.”
“Well, I’ll try,” says Jimin, doubtfully. He never thinks of himself as being good at spells--he’s a little too accustomed to hearing that danced spells don’t count. But Yoongi says his hand spells are more like danced spells than spoken ones, and...Jimin wants to help.
It goes okay, he thinks. Yoongi’s instructions are simple, and there aren’t many ingredients. A couple of them aren’t with their regular herbs and spices, but Jimin finds them eventually, on a shelf behind the nice tea set Yoongi likes to use when they have guests. Then it’s almost easy, and Jimin can’t be sure the spell is doing what it’s supposed to, but he can feel it pulling magic out of him exactly as it should.
When he takes the cup of hot liquid upstairs, Yoongi stares into it as if he’ll be able to tell something about it from the color. Then he raises the cup to his nose and sniffs delicately. “It smells alright,” he says.
“You don’t have to drink it if it doesn’t look right,” says Jimin. He wants it to be right, but he doesn’t want to poison Yoongi.
“Maybe you shouldn’t, hyung,” says Namjoon. “Since Jimin hasn’t ever brewed a spell before.”
Jimin doesn’t look at Namjoon, but he frowns, and wonders what happened to Namjoon trusting Jimin to do the things Jimin isn’t sure about. “It should be right,” he says. “I followed your instructions, and--it felt right, I thought.”
“Mmm,” says Yoongi, noncommittal but not disapproving. He takes a sip, savors it, and takes another. “We should brew some spells together so you can really get the hang of it,” he says. “But this should work.”
“It’s good, then?” says Jimin. “I did okay?”
Yoongi looks up at him for a moment that stretches longer than it should, and reaches over to take his hand. “You’re a good husband, Jimin-ah,” he says. “It’s good.” He presses his lips together, and then he says, “I’m glad you’re here. I know you didn’t want to be, and I wish you could have been married to someone you wanted, but I can’t help being glad it’s us.”
Jimin looks down. “Thank you,” he says. He glances at Namjoon, but Namjoon is still looking at Yoongi like he’s afraid to take his eyes off him. He doesn’t know what else to say. He does want Yoongi. He wants Namjoon. He wants them. It’s not because they’re there, and he’s there, and he’s got nothing else. He told Yoongi he wasn’t going to fall in love with anyone who didn’t love him back, and he won’t. He can’t. But--he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to stop it.
Yoongi’s headache doesn’t go away, and he sleeps fitfully and wakes Namjoon and Jimin with his tossing and turning. None of them are at their best in the morning, and they move slowly as Jimin prepares food and Namjoon readies the house for visitors. Yoongi makes noises about getting up, but Jimin and Namjoon both tell him he’s not allowed to get out of bed, and avoid looking at each other while they say it.
It’s still early when Jimin feels two witches crossing over their border--familiar ones. He recognizes Seokjin and Jungkook without much trouble, and--it’s not that he doesn’t like them, or want to see them, but he’d asked for a healer. He’s worried about Yoongi.
So is Namjoon. “Hyung, you didn’t bring a healer?” he calls, before they’ve even landed. They’re weighed down with packs, at least, and Seokjin doesn’t answer until he and Jungkook have detached them from the brooms and brought them inside.
“Jungkook has been focusing on healing for a while, now,” Seokjin says. “He’s good. Don’t worry, Namjoonie, I wouldn’t have brought him if I thought someone else could do better for Yoongi.”
Jimin stands back and watches Namjoon try to stare Seokjin down. It doesn’t work. Namjoon says, “Fine. Jungkook-ah, come upstairs.” As they leave the room, Jimin can hear Namjoon say, “It’s not that I don’t think you’re a good healer…”
“He never thinks anyone can do a thing as well as he could, even when he doesn’t know anything about it,” says Seokjin.
Jimin smiles faintly. “I know,” he says. “But--he’s been odd, since yesterday. He’s--I understand he’s worried about Yoongi-hyung. I am, too. But I feel like he’s upset with me and I don’t understand why.”
“How bad is Yoongi?” asks Seokjin. “Your letter didn’t say much.”
“He’s stayed conscious, aside from sleeping a lot,” says Jimin. “But his head hurts, and he feels worse than he’s saying.” He hesitates. “Jungkook is really good?”
Seokjin smiles. “You and Namjoon both,” he says. “Trust me. I wouldn’t give Yoongi anything but the best.”
“It’s not--I do trust you,” says Jimin. “I just want Yoongi-hyung to be okay.”
“I understand,” says Seokjin. He lifts one of his bags. “Help me put these away?”
“Of course,” says Jimin. It’s mostly grain, and dried fruit and meat, and he shows Seokjin where everything goes. Aside from that, they don’t talk much. Most of Jimin’s mind is occupied with the scene upstairs--Jungkook talking to Yoongi and Namjoon, and then sitting down on the bed and putting his hands on Yoongi’s head, and keeping them there for--
“Jimin-ah,” says Seokjin.
Jimin looks up at him.
“We don’t have to do this now,” says Seokjin. “We can go upstairs.”
“Okay, yes, I--I think we should,” says Jimin. He puts down the box he’s holding and walks to the door. “We don’t have to--”
“It’s alright, Jimin,” says Seokjin, his eyes narrowed in amusement. “Go, I’ll follow.”
Jimin runs up the stairs lightly, trying to seem casual about it. There’s magic moving from Jungkook’s hands to Yoongi’s head, now--straight magic, not a spell--but nothing is visible when Jimin steps into the room--just Jungkook’s hands on Yoongi’s head. The little furrow is still present at the center of Yoongi’s forehead. Namjoon. standing a little to the side, gestures at Jimin not to approach them, so he comes just far enough into the room to leave space for Seokjin behind him, and waits.
Jungkook says something to Yoongi, very quietly, and Yoongi nods. Then the air around them goes thick with magic, and the tension bleeds out of Yoongi’s face, and he smiles and opens his eyes.
Jimin swallows hard and opens his eyes wide to stop his sudden tears from spilling out.
Namjoon moves towards Yoongi and Jungkook right away, but Jimin just stands and watches, vaguely aware of Seokjin at his back.
“He’ll be alright?” Namjoon asks, sitting down just behind Yoongi and putting his hands on Yoongi’s shoulders. Yoongi leans back against Namjoon and closes his eyes again. Jimin hadn’t realized, until he saw the color coming back into Yoongi’s face, how gray he’d looked before.
“Yes, he’s fine now,” says Jungkook. “Maybe a little tired. Will you stay in bed for another couple of days, hyung?” he asks Yoongi.
“Why are you asking?” says Yoongi.
“Because if I try to tell you to, you’ll ignore me,” says Jungkook. Jimin hears a tiny huff of laughter from Seokjin.
Yoongi makes a face and says, “Okay, kid, sure. If you think it’s necessary,” and Jungkook smiles brightly at him.
“I didn’t know they knew each other that well,” says Jimin, quietly.
“I’ve brought Jungkook with me to visit before,” says Seokjin.
Jungkook gets up and comes over to them. “Hyung,” he says, grinning at Jimin. “Hello! I’m sorry I didn’t say it properly before.”
Jimin brushes the apology aside. “What did you do?” he asks. “What was wrong?”
“Oh,” says Jungkook. “There was some bleeding in his head. I stopped it.” He sounds unconcerned, but Jimin’s whole chest has gone tight.
“Bleeding in his head?” Jimin repeats. “That sounds--”
“Bad?” Seokjin offers.
“It is bad,” says Jungkook. “He would have died. But it’s fine now.”
If he’s stopped the bleeding, maybe Jungkook is right to sound so cheerful and casual about it. But Jimin is reeling, a little. Yoongi isn’t dead, and he won’t be dead, but he could have been, if Jungkook hadn’t gotten here so quickly, and that’s a hard thought to face. He looks over Jungkook’s shoulder at Yoongi and Namjoon, and sees the expression on Namjoon’s face. At least Jimin isn’t the only one feeling like this.
Jimin smiles at Jungkook. “That’s wonderful,” he says. “Thank you.” He turns to include Seokjin and says, “Come downstairs; I’ll make tea.”
He takes down the nice tea set, like he knows Yoongi would want him to, but hesitates over the number of cups. In the end, he sets out only three. He’ll let Yoongi and Namjoon have some time together uninterrupted. He’d rather be there with them, too, but he’s sure Yoongi would rather just have Namjoon right now, and Namjoon--now isn’t the right time to figure out what’s going on with him.
It’s been a long time since Jimin served tea. He hasn’t had a home of his own since he was a child. He has one now, but he comes third in questions of precedence. Yoongi has always played host when they’ve had guests before. The process is straightforward, but the timing is harder.
Yoongi and Namjoon come down right after Jimin rinses the tea leaves. Yoongi looks askance at the cups on the table, and goes to the shelf for two more. Jimin offers him the teapot, but Yoongi shakes his head and sits down. “You do it,” he says. He looks better now than he did upstairs, his eyes brighter, a healthy flush on his cheeks.
So Jimin pours water into the pot, steeps the tea, and pours it out, feeling, oddly, more confident knowing that Yoongi is watching.
“This doesn’t look like staying in bed,” says Jungkook.
“You said yourself I’m perfectly well,” says Yoongi.
“You were outside in the cold for a long time, and you lost a lot of blood,” says Jungkook, leaning forward. He looks serious, and it’s hard to reconcile him with the wide-eyed kid who used to follow Jimin and Taehyung around.
“I’ll take it easy, Jungkookie, I promise,” says Yoongi.
“I’ll make sure he does,” adds Namjoon. Jimin wants to melt through his chair. He feels like it’s back a few months ago, before he went to the spring, and none of the things that Namjoon and Yoongi have together include him.
“It was a good idea to do that restorative spell yesterday, though,” Jungkook adds. “You would have been in much worse shape without that.”
“That was Jimin’s idea,” says Yoongi. “He brewed the spell, too. His first time doing that.”
“Ah, wow,” says Jungkook. “It came out well; I could feel the aftereffects.”
“Yes, didn’t it?” says Yoongi, which isn’t quite what he’d said yesterday, but Jimin smiles back at him.
Seokjin catches Jimin’s eye and raises his eyebrows, and Jimin smiles at him to reassure him that everything is fine. Seokjin turns back to the others and starts talking about the supplies--what he brought and what he couldn’t bring, and how they’re going to distribute them. Jimin can’t tell whether it’s because he bought Jimin’s smile, or because he didn’t. Jimin lets Namjoon and Yoongi handle the conversation. A few days ago, he would have had the confidence to join in and help make decisions, but all of a sudden he’s on shaky ground again.
It’s two things. One is Namjoon, making him feel like he doesn’t belong again. The other is Yoongi--or, the threat of losing Yoongi. He knew, and he would have said it, if anyone had asked him, that he didn’t want Yoongi to die. But it turns out that it’s more than just that. He cares more than he meant to let himself care.
It feels unsafe, being this open to being hurt by things that happen to another person. And Jimin knows that that’s what marriage is supposed to be like, but he didn’t think it would be like that for him. That shouldn’t be a problem, but he thinks it might be. He’s pretty sure Yoongi and Namjoon don’t feel the same way about him. He’s going to have to think it through.
Namjoon also shouldn’t be a problem. Jimin thought, even before Yoongi went on his trip, that he and Namjoon were closer than he and Yoongi. By the time of Yoongi’s accident, he’d been sure of it. Namjoon made him feel trusted, and included. Now Namjoon is making him feel shut out and unwanted, and Jimin doesn’t know what he did to make Namjoon change towards him.
It wasn’t when they’d gone out to find Yoongi. They’d worked comfortably together, then--as comfortably as they could when they were both frantic and terrified. But after they’d gotten Yoongi home, Namjoon had told Jimin what to do like he did at the beginning--like Jimin was just someone there to help, someone who didn’t matter on his own account. Someone who didn’t care about Yoongi the way Namjoon does. And that’s--it’s true, strictly speaking, but--
“Jimin-ah, what do you think?” Yoongi asks.
Jimin looks up. “I’m sorry, I--what?”
“The plan?” Yoongi prompts. “Namjoon taking Seokjin and Jungkook to the farms to distribute supplies?”
“Oh,” says Jimin. “Why not me? Wouldn’t Namjoon-hyung rather stay home?”
“You really weren’t listening, were you?” says Namjoon.
“Sorry,” says Jimin. “I was just thinking.”
Namjoon pointedly turns away. Jimin looks at Yoongi, and Yoongi looks troubled.
“Yoongi suggested that you should be the one who stays home with him,” says Seokjin.
“You’re more helpful around the house,” says Yoongi. “And Namjoon knows the farmers better. Just because he likes to stay at home--”
“It’s not that,” Namjoon cuts in.
“It’s a little bit that,” says Yoongi, but he rests his hand on Namjoon’s wrist in apology.
Jimin doesn’t ask any more questions after that, but he gathers from the subsequent conversation that Namjoon, Seokjin, and Jungkook will only be visiting a couple of farms at a time, and they’ll be coming back to the house in between. So Jimin will be at home alone with Yoongi, but never for more than one night at a time. There’s no point in carrying everything the whole way.
They would start the first leg of their trip today, but Namjoon doesn’t want to leave Yoongi yet, so it will be tomorrow morning. Jimin, Namjoon, Seokjin and Jungkook spend the rest of the day packing and portioning out supplies, while Yoongi sits on a box and gives them directions that they only occasionally follow. Jimin suspects that Namjoon wouldn’t have minded leaving him to do the work by himself, but they both know Yoongi well enough to know that he would insist on helping.
It’s odd, working with Jungkook and Seokjin. Jimin has worked side by side with farmers in the district, but he’s not used to working with witches--with equals--other than Namjoon and Yoongi. It’s not difficult, but their ways aren’t his ways, and Namjoon and Yoongi’s are. They work quietly, so Jimin has plenty of time to think about whether he’s always been more methodical than Seokjin, and if he’s more organized now than he was when he came here, and if Yoongi and Namjoon have learned anything from him. He might have enjoyed thinking about that last week, because he knows he has changed. He’s less comfortable with it now.
After their evening meal, Jungkook helps Jimin set up a pallet in the kitchen.
“We slept down here when it was too cold to be upstairs,” says Jimin. “I could separate the things out into two places to sleep, but it’s still cold. You’ll be warmer if you share.”
“That’s fine,” says Jungkook. “It’s good actually.” He pauses. “Don’t tell hyung you offered separate pallets, will you?”
Jimin puts down the blanket he’s unfolding. “Jeon Jungkook,” he says.
“What?” says Jungkook.
“Is there something going on between you and Seokjin-hyung?”
“Yes,” Jungkook says. “But he’s pretending there’s not, so…” he gestures at the bedding.
Jimin looks at him for a moment and then sits down on the pallet, patting the space next to him. “Come tell your favorite hyung all about it.”
“You’re not my favorite hyung,” says Jungkook, sitting down. “Jin-hyung is. And Yoongi-hyung, maybe.”
He sounds like a kid, still, and it’s hard to remember that he’s a fully-trained witch, and an accomplished healer, much less enough of an adult to have something going on with Seokjin. “Yoongi-hyung’s my favorite, too,” Jimin says absently, and freezes, because he doesn’t think he meant that, and he definitely didn’t want to say it.
“Well, tell me about you and Jin-hyung anyway,” he says. “What’s going on?”
“There’s not really anything to tell,” says Jungkook.
“But...you want there to be?” says Jimin.
Jungkook nods. Jimin waits for more, but it doesn’t come.
“He’s a good person,” says Jimin. “And a powerful witch. Also very beautiful.”
Jungkook smiles vaguely. “Yes.”
“And he’s been..good to you,” Jimin says.
“He’s been a lot more than that,” says Jungkook. “He’s always been...whatever I needed him to be. When I first started training and I was homesick, and when I needed help with spells, and when other trainees finished and left and he let me stay. And now he’s holding back, and I don’t understand why.”
“Are you sure he is holding back?” Jimin asks carefully. “He doesn’t have to want what you want, and--” He breathes in and out, and relaxes his shoulders. “Isn’t it better--wouldn’t you rather have him hold back than--than not hold back and only tell you later that he doesn’t feel the way you feel?”
“He does, though,” says Jungkook. “He doesn’t think anyone knows him, inside, but I do and he loves me.” He says it so earnestly, as if love is a fact that renders all other facts irrelevant. That hasn’t been Jimin’s experience.
“Why is he holding back, then?” Jimin asks.
“I don’t know,” says Jungkook. “He says it’s because he wants me to have a district of my own someday, but that’s not a real reason. I don’t want that, if it means not having him.”
“Ah,” says Jimin. “Yes. That.”
Jungkook looks at him curiously.
“You know why he wants you to be bound to a district, don’t you?” says Jimin.
Jungkook shakes his head. “He says it’s the best thing for every witch,” he says slowly.
“It’s because he can’t have one,” says Jimin. “He doesn’t even know what it’s like, but just because he’ll never have a district of his own he’s convinced himself that it’s the best thing. The only thing,” he corrects himself.
Jungkook’s mouth twists in concentration. “He think I’d be happier if I was bound to a district because he thinks he’d be happier if he was bound to a district?” he says.
Jimin holds his hands up. “That’s why I’m here,” he says. “I never asked for a district, but Seokjin decided it was what was best for me.”
“But--the signs pointed to you, didn’t they?” asks Jungkook. “He couldn’t just choose any witch he wanted.”
“He said it didn’t have to be me,” says Jimin. “There must have been someone else who fit the signs just as well. He put me here, and it’s just because he doesn’t want anyone to miss the things he misses.”
“That’s a good reason, though, isn’t it?” asks Jungkook. “A nice reason.”
“Not if it’s not what you want,” says Jimin. “And it’s not what you want, is it?”
“It’s not,” says Jungkook. “But…” He pauses for a long moment. “I like that he wants me to be happy.”
“But he can’t just--” Jimin stops and sighs. “The same things don’t make everyone happy. Marriage and a district aren’t the only thing there is.” It comes out more emphatic than he meant it to, and he stops to collect his thoughts--to figure out what he wants to say to Jungkook and what he wants to say to himself.
“Are you unhappy?” Jungkook asks, his eyes round and concerned. “Don’t you like it here?”
Jimin doesn’t have an answer to that. “That’s not the point,” he says. “Jin-hyung just decided he knew what was best. I didn’t have a choice.”
They sit in silence for a few moments and then Jungkook says, “Okay. But--is it really bad? Is having a district not good?”
“It’s--” says Jimin. “Well. It’s different, now that I’m here.”
“So Jin-hyung was right?” says Jungkook.
“I don’t know,” says Jimin. “Maybe he was, for me. I don’t know yet. But he didn’t know, either. So--if you know what you want, don’t let him push you into something else.”
Jimin looks into the kitchen on his way to the workroom that night. Seokjin and Jungkook have both woken from their first sleep already. Seokjin is lying on his back, hands clasped behind his head. Jungkook is sitting cross-legged, and looking down at Seokjin. They’re talking quietly. Jimin passes on to the workroom and pulls the cushion Yoongi made him out from its place under the desk.
He’s just sitting down to meditate when he hears a soft knock at the door.
“What are you doing?” asks Jungkook.
“Meditating,” says Jimin. Jungkook makes a face. “What do you usually do between sleeps?” Jimin asks.
“Eat, usually,” says Jungkook. He catches Jimin’s expression and quickly adds, “But I’m not hungry now.”
“If you meditate with me, we can dance afterwards,” Jimin offers. It’s been a while, but he remembers Jungkook being fairly good.
Jungkook considers. “Do I have to meditate first?” he asks.
Jimin nods. “And stretch.”
“Well--alright,” Jungkook says, and sits down opposite Jimin.
He fidgets a lot, but Jimin doesn’t really mind. It’s just another set of noises to note and let pass through him, like the wolves he hears hunting some nights, or Yoongi and Namjoon upstairs. They’re not making any noise tonight, and instead there’s Jungkook, shifting and yawning and loudly sighing. At first he’s just getting comfortable, and then he’s trying, not as subtly as he thinks, to get Jimin’s attention. Finally he quiets down, and when Jimin hits his count of one thousand and opens his eyes, Jungkook is lying on the floor, looking up at the ceiling.
“I did try,” he says.
Jimin doesn’t argue with him, just gets up and starts leading Jungkook through his usual series of stretches. Seokjin comes in most of the way through and stands in the doorway, watching them.
“If you want to dance with us, you have to stretch with us, too,” says Jimin, knowing Seokjin won’t.
“Are you trying to make fun of me?” Seokjin asks. “It won’t work; I know my limitations.”
“You have limitations, hyung?” says Jungkook.
“Very few,” says Seokjin.
“You’re not that bad,” says Jimin.
“My limbs don’t always do what I tell them,” says Seokjin. “But that’s fine. I have other talents.”
“What are your other talents?” Jimin asks. He’s enjoying the back and forth, and the lightness of it. Being around Namjoon and Yoongi always feels so heavy. “Do they include being quiet? Because if they don’t, you’re going to have to take your talents elsewhere. Hyung,” he adds, after a disrespectfully long pause.
“Yah,” says Seokjin. “You don’t talk like that to the head of the council.”
“Sorry,” says Jimin, fully aware that he doesn’t sound sorry at all.
“Do you talk to Yoongi and Namjoon like that?” Seokjin presses.
The smile falls off of Jimin’s face. “No, I don’t,” he says.
He and Jungkook dance their way slowly through an old spell for rain--the standard danced spell, the first one anyone learns. They’re both rusty, Jungkook because he hasn’t danced regularly in a long time, Jimin because he hasn’t used this particular spell since he came here. There hasn’t been much call for a rain spell here. The choreography feels clumsy and clunky in comparison to the spells Jimin has been dancing--Hoseok’s spells and the work he’s been doing on his own both feel cleaner, more elegant.
“Stop,” says Jimin. “What if we changed the footwork here?” He demonstrates a string of steps, a little slower and more intricate than what they were doing before.
Jungkook tries it slowly, and then a little faster. “I like the way that looks,” he says. “But you can’t just change a spell like that.” He looks to Seokjin for confirmation, but Seokjin just cocks his head to the side and waits for Jimin to answer.
“Sometimes you can,” says Jimin. “Try it this way the next time you dance that spell. Write to me if it doesn’t work just as well--or better. Write to me either way.”
“I will,” promises Jungkook, but he looks doubtful.
They run through the sequence again, and then the whole spell. Jimin has a couple of other modifications he wants to make, now that he’s thinking about it, but he doesn’t want to make them all at once. He’s not positive all of them are going to work.
They finish, and Jimin follows Seokjin and Jungkook back to the kitchen, pausing in the doorway. Seokjin stops there with him. “So, you’re modifying spells now,” he says.
“A little,” says Jimin. Seokjin gives Jungkook a look, and Jungkook leaves them to go back to the pallet by the fire.
“You wouldn’t have done that a year ago,” Seokjin says, quietly. “It’s been good for you, coming here. You’re learning new things. Growing.”
“Maybe,” says Jimin.
Seokjin raises his eyebrows. “Only maybe?”
Jimin shrugs. “Only maybe,” he repeats. “Does it matter? You’re only trying to get me to say that sending me here was the right thing to do.”
“You still don’t think it was?” Seokjin’s expression is unreadable. He used to be easier to figure out, before he became the head of the council. “Seeing you with Yoongi and Namjoon, on this visit--”
Jimin cuts him off. “Maybe it is better,” he says. “I know I’ve learned a lot. But you said you wanted me to be happy, hyung.”
“I do,” says Seokjin.
“Well, I don’t think sending me here was the right way to make that happen,” says Jimin. “Goodnight, hyung. Goodnight, Kookie,” he adds, raising his voice a little.
He heads to the study on the way back to bed, to note down the other changes he wants to make to the rain spell. Yoongi has given him one of the blank books he orders from a craftsman in the district where he was born, and Jimin has been surprised by how easy it is to fill the pages. There’s already a light burning inside, and when he opens the door Jimin finds Namjoon there, sitting at the desk with a pamphlet, tracing the lines of text with his finger as he reads.
Jimin stands there for a moment, watching the candlelight flicker over Namjoon’s skin, and thinks about his small revelation yesterday. He wants Namjoon. He cares about Namjoon. He remembers not being attracted to Namjoon when he came here, and can’t remember what that felt like, or when it changed. These feel like thoughts he’s not supposed to have.
Namjoon looks up when Jimin steps into the room. “Did you need something?” he asks.
“No,” says Jimin. “I just came for my notebook.” He stands by the bookcase and jots down the things he wants to remember with a stick of charcoal. “Are you alright?” he asks, keeping his voice light and not looking at Namjoon. “You’ve been…”
“I’ve been what?” Namjoon says. “I’m fine.” His expression is truculent and his voice is louder than it needs to be. He puts down his pamphlet and goes back to the bedroom. Jimin is done with his notes, but he waits a few more minutes before he goes back to bed, so he’s not following Namjoon.
Namjoon is angry with him. There’s no other explanation now, but Jimin doesn’t know what he did, or what happened to change Namjoon’s mind about him. Yoongi might know, but Jimin suspects that asking Yoongi would make Namjoon angrier.
In bed, they don’t touch, and Jimin feels like crying. He thought things were getting better, but maybe all he’s done is open himself up to being hurt again.
“Wait,” says Yoongi. He holds up his cup.
“A toast?” says Jimin.
“Will you say something?” says Yoongi.
Jimin thinks hard, not to come up with something, but to come up with the right thing. “To the district?” he suggests. It’s obvious enough that it feels neutral.
Yoongi probably knows exactly what Jimin is thinking. “To the district and our marriage,” he says. “To many happy years for both. Geonbae.”
thanks to ras and munki and then ras again for helping to solve the hardest problem of this fic: what to name the cat.
Seokjin, Jungkook and Namjoon leave for the first group of farms early the next morning, after Namjoon asks Yoongi how he’s feeling half a dozen times, and ignores Jimin. Jimin and Yoongi help tie sacks of provisions to their brooms and then go back inside. Jimin puts away the bedding Seokjin and Jungkook used, and Yoongi goes into his workroom and comes back with a particularly battered notebook and a mischievous glimmer in his eye.
“Would you like to cook a spell for me?” Yoongi asks.
Jimin looks at him, startled. “If you like,” he says. “But--I thought you were feeling better.”
“I am,” Yoongi says, sitting down at the table. “I could do it myself, but I want you to do it.”
“Okay,” says Jimin. “What spell is it?”
“I’ll tell you when it’s done,” says Yoongi. “Unless you figure it out yourself first.”
He has Jimin gather a short list of tools and ingredients: a big, shallow pot, a wooden spoon, a small awl, salt.
“That’s all?” Jimin asks.
“A cooked spell is about process,” Yoongi reminds him.
What that means, Jimin discovers, is that there are a lot of steps. Yoongi reads them out, one or two at a time, and Jimin follows his directions carefully, toasting a couple of spoonfuls of salt over the fire before adding water.
“Is this the right size of spoon to measure with?” Jimin asks.
“It’s not the quantity that’s important, it’s the measuring,” says Yoongi.
So Jimin adds the salt, and the water. He stirs in different directions when Yoongi tells him to, and draws patterns on the surface of the water with the awl.
“It’s too hot,” he says. The awl’s handle is short, and it brings his hand closer than he’d like to the simmering water.
“Then be quicker,” says Yoongi.
“This is why you wanted me to cook the spell, isn’t it, hyung?” says Jimin. “You wanted me to be the one burning myself.”
“That’s just a nice extra,” says Yoongi. He pauses, and says, in a different tone, “I’m trying to teach you, Jimin.”
“Oh,” says Jimin.
“Do you know what the spell is doing, yet?”
Jimin doesn’t. He’s been concentrating on getting the steps right, like he does when he’s learning new choreography. He’s only been peripherally aware of the spell drawing magic out of him. He focuses on that now, as he puts down the awl and picks up the spoon, swishing it slowly back and forth according to Yoongi’s instructions, and sprinkles a pinch of salt into the northwest quadrant of the pot. He can feel shapes, shapes like the ones he’s been learning the meanings of, but they’re vague. It’s like trying to read unfamiliar characters on a page blurred by rain.
“It’s--something to eat? Drink?” He wrinkles his forehead a little. He’ll drink magic salt water if Yoongi asks him to, but he doesn’t look forward to it.
Yoongi just smiles and leaves the kitchen. He comes back with three empty bottles and a funnel. “Toss a pinch of salt on the fire now,” he says.
Jimin does, and the fire goes pale pink and flickers out. The liquid in the pot darkens and rises until it fills the pot to the brim. A sweet, floral, alcoholic steam rises from the pot.
“Wine?” Jimin asks.
Yoongi grins. “Something like that.”
“What does ‘something like that’ mean?” Jimin asks, but he can feel himself starting to smile.
Yoongi puts a tile down on the table and says, “Bring that over here and relight the fire.”
Jimin has to put rags over his hands to carry the pot from the hearth to the table, but when he goes to stir the ashes of the fire, they’re dead and cold. Jimin frowns at Yoongi, who is beginning to funnel the wine, or whatever it is, into the first bottle, and goes upstairs to see what live embers he can find in the bedroom fire. He doesn’t want to start a fire from scratch if he doesn’t have to.
By the time he gets the kitchen fire relit, Yoongi has corked the first bottle and moved on to the second. Jimin sits down opposite him to watch. The wine is a clear, dark straw color, like barley tea, but it smells sweet. Jimin’s barely seen alcohol since he came here, much less had any. It’s been several years since the people of the district had extra grain or fruit to set aside to ferment.
“This is a spell that the witch we inherited the district from taught me.” Yoongi says. “She thought the witch who came up with it was trying to make wine, and this was the closest they could get. But the spell has been handed down in our district for so many generations that no one really knows anything about it for sure.”
Jimin leans forward to sniff the contents of the pot. “Why now?” he asks. “I’ve been here almost seven months. I’ve only seen you drink when we’re visiting in the district, and only a little bit then.”
“Well, people don’t have much,” Yoongi says, unnecessarily. “But--yes, this is easy. I could do it more often. But I can only share this liquor with witches, and Namjoon doesn’t like it much. And to be honest, I forgot about it. I don’t know if you like to drink,” he adds. “But I thought it might be fun.”
“I do,” says Jimin. “I like it a lot.”
Yoongi smiles at him. “Later, then.”
The third bottle ends up not quite full, and that’s the one Yoongi leaves out on the table when he takes the others to the storeroom.
Jimin doesn’t have any pressing chores, so he runs upstairs for his notebook and brings it back down. He can hear Yoongi moving around in the workroom, so he goes into the kitchen and pushes the chairs aside to make more room to dance. He has almost the whole spell outlined now, he thinks, and he starts trying to string the different parts of it together. It’s absorbing work--removing a step in one place, adapting part of a different spell in another, devising new steps when he doesn’t know how else to do what he wants to do.
He doesn’t notice Yoongi come in until he stops to record a new step and Yoongi says, “You have nearly a whole spell.”
Jimin looks up, startled. “How long have you been watching?”
“Only a little while,” says Yoongi. “Is that okay?”
“Of course,” says Jimin. “Actually, I wanted you to see it. I’ve never written a spell from scratch before, and the things you said really helped a lot, before. Would you mind going through it with me?”
Yoongi nods. “I’d like to. But tell me a little bit about it first--this is the thing you’ve been talking to Joon about, right? The heat spell?”
“Yes.” Jimin pauses. “You know Namjoon-hyung spoke the heat spell when we found you?”
“We didn’t really talk about it,” says Yoongi. “But that makes sense.”
“It’s a useful spell,” says Jimin. “I want to be able to use it.”
“You don’t have to give me reasons,” says Yoongi. “You want to write the spell. That’s enough.”
“Okay,” says Jimin. “I want to write the spell.”
Yoongi smiles. “And you’re trying to get it close to the original spoken spell?”
“Yes,” says Jimin. “An activation spell, like that. with control over the temperature. But I want to use it over a wider field.”
Yoongi’s eyes narrow.
“It would be useful,” says Jimin.
“It would,” Yoongi agrees. “Alright. Show me.”
Jimin does, slower than he thinks he’s eventually going to want to dance it, and with pauses and short walks where he still needs to fill things in. He imagines what it’s going to feel like when the spell is done and he’s channeling magic through it--heat on his skin like when he dances the sunlight spell, but a different kind, lava bubbling up from a volcano instead of heat and light seeping into the ground. Will it need emotion from him, like the sunlight spell does? And if so, what kind? Not joy, like the sunlight spell. Not anger, even though the idea of heat suggests it. Jimin hasn’t felt anything like anger from Hoseok or Namjoon when they’ve spoken the heat spell. He thinks of Namjoon holding him in the cold bedroom, and the feeling he had then: warm, safe, not alone. Home. That’s the feeling--not heat, but warmth--that he’ll try first, if he needs something.
“What are you thinking about?” Yoongi asks. His voice is quiet, but startling in the silence.
“What the spell will feel like when it’s done,” says Jimin.
“Ah, yes,” says Yoongi. “Every spell is different, isn’t it? I think of it like flavors.”
“Flavors?” Jimin asks, thinking hard, and coming up with nothing.
“Spells taste different,” he says. “Well, hand spells. Spoken spells all taste the same.”
“I don’t taste anything when I do magic,” says Jimin.
Yoongi shrugs. “Every witch is different, too.”
“But we use the same shapes and patterns when we do magic,” says Jimin. “That’s not different.”
“No,” says Yoongi. “But we’re all putting magic out into the same world, so that makes sense, doesn’t it?”
“It does,” says Jimin. “I never thought about it before.” He remembers what Namjoon said about being smart--about him and Yoongi being smart together. They’re both so smart. He hopes they don’t care that he’s not.
“Hyung,” he says. “I have a question. About magic.”
Yoongi just raises his eyebrows and waits.
“You talked about getting a finer sense of how a spell shapes magic,” Jimin says. “And we use straight magic for simple things. But do you think a witch could ever...shape magic like you would with a spell, but without a spell?”
Yoongi’s eyelids droop as he thinks. “You mean...speaking or sewing or--or dancing like you’re doing a spell, but making it up as you go along?”
“Yes,” says Jimin. “Shaping the magic with--by instinct. Do you think it’s possible?”
“Yes,” says Yoongi. “I do.”
“Mmm,” says Yoongi. “I think it can be done, and--I’m fairly sure it has been done. It might even be easier than you think. You’d have to be careful, though, without the parameters that a spell gives you.” He looks at Jimin for a moment, and finally says, “If you experiment--be careful. Ask for help if you need it.”
“I wasn’t going to experiment,” says Jimin, even though he’s already wondering if starting in a spell and moving out of it would work.
“Alright,” Yoongi says, easily. “Promise me you’ll be careful anyway.”
Jimin tries to read Yoongi’s expression, but he can’t. “I promise,” he says.
“Thank you.” Yoongi sits down at the table and reaches for Jimin’s notebook. “Now, show me how your spell works.”
Going over the spell with Yoongi is very different from going over it with Namjoon. Namjoon always has an answer to everything, but he needs Jimin to explain the context, or figure out how the answer applies. Yoongi sometimes knows things that will help, and more often doesn’t, but he always understands why Jimin is asking.
“Why doesn’t Namjoon ever do hand spells?” Jimin asks.
“He’s not as good at them as he is at spoken spells,” says Yoongi. “You’ve seen him in the kitchen. It’s like that.”
“He doesn’t even try, though,” says Jimin. “You’re so interested in hand magic, and it doesn’t seem like he cares about it.”
“I know,” says Yoongi. “He just--likes things that he’s good at. And he likes big ideas, and theory. But it works out well. We decided a long time ago that it made sense for one of us to focus on more academic magic, and one of us to do smaller, more practical things.”
“Two of us, now,” says Jimin.
“I don’t know if I’d say that,” says Yoongi. “You’re somewhere in between, aren’t you? You use danced spells the way most people use spoken spells. This is a big, powerful spell you’re writing. Not the kind of thing I’d ever use hand magic for.” He smiles, warm and confiding, and Jimin suddenly feels too big for his skin.
“I’m really excited to see what you’re going to make, Jimin,” says Yoongi.
The feeling stays with him through the afternoon and through dinner, like one big bubble filling up his chest, making his stomach flip whenever Yoongi looks at him or smiles. And Jimin knows what it is. He knows he wants Yoongi. He’s been admitting it to himself for a whole two days now. But Namjoon’s absence, and the bottle of wine on the table, make it feel different, and a little bit dangerous.
Yoongi doesn’t uncork the bottle until after they’ve cleared away their dinner things. He holds it up first, and raises his eyebrows at Jimin. He looks like he’s in the mood for something fun. After the emotional ups and downs of the last few days, so is Jimin.
“Yes,” Jimin says.
Yoongi grins and gets out two cups, small ones that Jimin hasn’t seen before, glazed a dark blue.
The smell of the wine had been overwhelming when Jimin finished cooking the spell. The faint whiff of it Jimin catches when Yoongi uncorks the bottle is much nicer. Yoongi pours a little into each cup, and Jimin leans forward to sniff, and to look.
“Is it a different color than it was before?” he asks.
Yoongi smiles. “It turns a little bit pink when it comes out of the bottle,” he says. “Pretty, right?”
“Pretty,” Jimin agrees. He holds his cup to his nose. Now that the smell isn’t so strong, it’s easier to take in. It smells like locust flowers, and grapes. He brings the cup to his mouth.
“Wait,” says Yoongi. He holds up his cup.
“A toast?” says Jimin.
“Will you say something?” says Yoongi.
Jimin thinks hard, not to come up with something, but to come up with the right thing. “To the district?” he suggests. It’s obvious enough that it feels neutral.
Yoongi probably knows exactly what Jimin is thinking. “To the district and our marriage,” he says. “To many happy years for both. Geonbae.”
Jimin meets Yoongi’s eyes as their cups click together, and tries to understand what he sees there. He looks like he means it, and Jimin is sure he does, but there’s a lot that doesn’t tell him about how Yoongi feels.
“Many happy years,” says Jimin, and takes a drink.
The wine is as sweet as it smells, fruity and floral. The sweetness masks the alcohol, but Jimin can feel how strong it is, warmth spreading through his chest almost right away.
Yoongi has his eyes closed as he savors his first sip of wine. When they’re open, his eyes always draw Jimin’s attention. Closed, Jimin can examine Yoongi’s face in a way he rarely gets to do. He’s pretty, Yoongi. Delicate. There’s something fascinating about the way his mouth turns down, and then up again at the corners. His eyelashes look longer against his pale skin.
Yoongi’s eyes open and Jimin looks away fast, before he’s had a chance to decide whether that’s what he actually wants to do.
“It’s sweeter when you cook the spell,” says Yoongi.
“The wine?” Jimin asks, startled into looking back at Yoongi.
Yoongi nods. “The flavor is similar when I make it, but it’s much drier.”
“Is it better or worse like this?” Jimin asks, taking another sip.
“This goes down very easy,” says Yoongi, and drains his cup.
Jimin picks up the bottle and lifts his eyebrows. When Yoongi nods, Jimin refills his cup and tops up his own.
“It’s nice,” Jimin says. “It tastes good. But I’d like to know what it’s like when you make it, too.”
“Next time,” Yoongi agrees.
Jimin almost forgot what drinking feels like. Taehyung and Hoseok don’t like alcohol much, so it’s been a long time. And when Jimin thinks about it, he thinks about being drunk, dizzy, giggly, feeling like the world is spinning and he’s the axis. He never remembers the way it feels when his body relaxes like the first sip of wine is a signal. If he could, he might be able to get the tense thing in his chest to loosen on its own sometimes.
“When was the last time you cooked this spell?” Jimin asks.
Yoongi looks thoughtful. “More than a year ago, I think," he says. “Usually I’ll open a bottle for visiting witches, or give a bottle as a gift, but things in the district were--we stopped having visitors, mostly. And then we ran out. Namjoon and Jin-hyung and I drank the last bottle the night before our wedding. We stayed up late, drinking and talking. I think we were all a little hungover that day.”
Jimin isn’t entirely sure how that makes him feel except that he doesn’t like it. “Not Jungkook?” he asks, keeping his voice light.
Yoongi wrinkles his forehead. “I think hyung sent him to bed? And he wasn’t happy about it.”
“I can imagine,” says Jimin. He traces a finger around the rim of his cup. “What did you talk about? Were you...sad? Scared? Did you talk about me?”
“We talked about you,” says Yoongi. “Or, hyung did. Namjoon asked the questions. I just listened, and tried to pretend I didn’t care.” He smiles at Jimin, as if he’s inviting him to share the joke. “I don’t know why I bothered. They can both see through me.”
“You pretended because you didn’t want me here,” says Jimin.
“Because I didn’t like that we needed you,” Yoongi corrects him.
“But you did care?”
“Of course I cared,” says Yoongi. “The district--you know what it’s like. How could I not care?”
Jimin doesn’t answer, but he knows what Yoongi means. He knows what being bound to the district is like. It means more to him than he ever thought it could, and his feelings for it are still growing.
He doesn’t notice he’s emptied his cup, but Yoongi is there refilling it right away. “You haven’t asked what Jin-hyung said about you.”
Jimin shrugs. He wants to know, but he doesn’t want to ask. “I don’t need to know,” he says.
Yoongi just looks at him, and eventually Jimin sighs and puts down his cup. “What did he say about me?”
“You don’t have to ask if you don’t want to know,” says Yoongi. He’s enjoying himself.
“I want to know,” says Jimin. “You know I do.”
“I do know,” Yoongi says, easily. “But--can we talk seriously for a moment?”
Jimin nods warily.
Yoongi says, “I know a lot of things that you don’t say, but--it would be nice if you said them, sometimes. There are times when I can read you and times when I can’t, but even when I know already, I like to hear you say how you’re feeling.”
“You don’t tell me how you feel, either,” says Jimin.
“I would if you asked,” says Yoongi. He looks at Jimin expectantly.
Jimin says, cautiously, “How do you feel?”
Yoongi smiles. “I feel good,” he says. “I’m happy to be here, drinking with you.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. “And--your head?”
“If feels like it’s perfectly fine, because it is.”
“I was worried about you,” says Jimin.
“I know,” says Yoongi. “But it’s nice to hear you say it.”
Jimin looks at him and opens his mouth to ask something else, but--it’s difficult. He refills both of their cups and downs the contents of his all at once. “How does Namjoon feel?” he asks. “About me.”
Yoongi stands up, recorks the bottle, and sets it on the windowsill. “We’ll finish that another night,” he says.
“I shouldn’t have asked,” says Jimin.
“Namjoon--Namjoon thinks you’re incredible,” says Yoongi. “Sometimes he can’t believe you’re real.” He looks down at the table and smiles a tiny smile and says, “Namjoon thinks you’re the best thing that ever happened to us.”
Jimin stares at him. “He doesn’t.”
“He does,” says Yoongi. “Ask him.”
“I can’t,” says Jimin. “He’s--he’s really angry at me.”
“Yeah,” says Yoongi. “Why is that?”
“Don’t you know?” Jimin assumed that whatever it was, Namjoon would have told Yoongi all about it. It worries him that he hasn’t.
Yoongi shakes his head. “We haven’t--we don’t talk about you like we used to.”
Jimin has dozens of questions he could ask, but the one that comes out is, “Why not?”
Yoongi’s mouth turns up at one corner. “I think we both felt...disloyal. But what happened with you two?”
“I don’t know,” says Jimin. Disloyalty. The idea that something they owe to him could come between Yoongi and Namjoon. He wonders how long Yoongi has felt that way. It can’t be long.
“You don’t know,” Yoongi repeats.
Jimin opens his eyes wide and shakes his head. He has nothing else to say.
“I thought something must have happened while I--after I hit my head.”
“That’s when--I don’t think I did anything, but that when it started,” says Jimin. “We went and found you and brought you back, and everything was fine--except you; you weren’t fine--and then he--” Jimin swallows. It hurts. “I did think he liked me,” he says. “But he doesn’t anymore.”
He looks at Yoongi, who’s watching him with something that looks like sympathy.
“There’s some mistake somewhere,” says Yoongi. “He does like you. I promise he does. When he gets home tomorrow I’ll talk to him about it and--”
“Don’t,” says Jimin. “He’ll just be angry that we talked about it.” When Yoongi doesn’t answer, he adds, “Disloyalty, right?”
“Only if--” Yoongi sighs. “We can’t not talk about each other. That’s ridiculous. Talking about each other isn’t the problem. We need to be able to talk to each other about anything. We don’t talk enough.”
Jimin doesn’t say anything. He wants that, too, but he’s scared of it.
“We need to talk to each other,” says Yoongi. “When Namjoon--no, let’s make it when Jin-hyung and Jungkook go. We’ll talk then, the three of us.”
“Okay,” says Jimin, but he knows he doesn’t exactly sound enthusiastic.
“Don’t you think it’s time?” Yoongi asks. “This is for life, you know? And I don’t think any of us really knows where we stand right now.”
Jimin isn’t drunk, but he’s close enough that he can lean into it--set his glass down a little too hard, make his chair scrape loudly across the floor when he gets up from the table, stumble against Yoongi at the foot of the stairs. Yoongi catches him, his hands tight on Jimin’s upper arms, and doesn’t let go.
It takes Jimin a moment to make himself raise his eyes to Yoongi’s. When he does, they’re wide open. Yoongi’s mouth is open, too, just barely. His lower lip is shiny, as if he’s just licked it. When Jimin sways closer, it’s not the alcohol.
Yoongi lets go of him and steps back. Jimin takes a few deep breaths and follows him upstairs.
In the bedroom, they both go to their usual sides of the bed and look at each other across the space that Namjoon usually occupies. Jimin doesn’t expect to be able to sleep with Yoongi’s eyes on him like this, and he can’t look away, either. Not until Yoongi does.
Yoongi doesn’t. He watches Jimin, and blinks slowly like a cat, and yawns once, setting off a bigger yawn from Jimin. Jimin’s blinks aren’t blinks. They’re shutting his eyes for as long as he thinks he can get away with, and dragging them open again. When his eyes drift closed and stay closed, it’s because he can’t keep them open anymore.
That’s when Yoongi says, “Jin-hyung told us that you were a dancer, and beautiful, and kind. He said that you were still far from the witch he thought you could become. He said he thought you’d like having a home. That you deserved to have one.”
There are times when Jimin is meditating, counting his breaths, and suddenly there isn’t a pace that feels natural, and he only knows how to breathe too slow or too fast. That’s how he feels now.
“Jimin-ah?” Yoongi says softly. “Are you asleep?”
“If I open my eyes, I’m going to cry,” says Jimin.
“Oh,” says Yoongi.
Jimin can hear him shifting closer, so it’s not much of a surprise when Yoongi’s arms come around him, but Yoongi hugs him tighter than Jimin expects. He presses his face hard into the curve of Jimin’s neck, and Jimin never knew to want that.
It’s the alcohol in his system that makes Yoongi’s touch feel like so much more, Jimin hopes. Yoongi brushes his thumb over the neckline of Jimin’s nightshirt and Jimin’s skin prickles. He pulls away, just far enough that he can see Yoongi’s face. It’s very close, and he finds himself looking at Yoongi’s mouth again, and struggling to remember what he was planning to say.
“He was trying to make you like me,” Jimin says. “Of course he said nice things.”
“Maybe,” says Yoongi. He blinks slowly. “But everything he said was true.”
Jimin opens his mouth to say something--a “Thank you,” or a self-deprecating, “I’m glad you think so”--but all that comes out is, “Hyung.”
Yoongi bites his lip. If Jimin kissed him, would Yoongi stop him? Jimin thinks he would, and he wants to try it. If Yoongi lets Jimin kiss him--Jimin remembers what Yoongi’s lips feel like less from the time they kissed than from all the times Namjoon has kissed Yoongi since--Jimin wants that. And if Yoongi stops him and says, “Not before we talk to Namjoon,” that’s even better. Jimin likes Yoongi’s loyalty when it’s for both of them.
But he can see from Yoongi’s eyes that he wants Jimin to kiss him, too, and really, that’s enough. So Jimin snakes his arm around Yoongi’s waist, and just wishes he could do more.
Namjoon, Seokjin and Jungkook get back in the early afternoon, much less encumbered than when they left, their faces numbed and reddened by the windy broom trip. Yoongi shoos Seokjin and Jungkook inside, but Namjoon lingers, trying to catch Jimin’s eye.
“Do you need help, hyung?” Jimin asks, going over to Namjoon. He reaches to take the three brooms from Namjoon, who’s holding them awkwardly in front of him.
Namjoon shakes his head no, and then says, “Well--yes. Thank you.” He gives Jimin the brooms and puts his hands protectively over a bundle stuffed into the front of his coat.
“What’s that, hyung?” Jimin asks.
“It’s--” says Namjoon. “I wanted to apologize.”
“Ah,” says Jimin. He glances behind him. Yoongi is still in the doorway, watching them. That’s alright.
“I don’t even know what I did,” says Jimin.
“You didn’t do anything,” says Namjoon. “It was all me. You were good, and I was--jealous, and then I got angry at you for not feeling the way I wanted you to feel, and I just...”
“The way you--” Jimin says.
“So I got you a present to apologize,” Namjoon cuts in, quickly. “They had these at the last farm we stopped at.”
“Pine Wood Farm?” asks Yoongi. Namjoon nods, and pulls the bundle out of his coat.
It looks like a bundle of rags at first, but then it moves, and after a moment a kitten pokes its head out of the top.
“Hyung,” Jimin breathes. Its face is tiny and triangular, white with an orange patch on one side and black ears.
“Do you like her?” Namjoon asks anxiously.
Jimin reaches out to take the kitten. She’s small enough that he can cup her in his hands. She opens her mouth and squeaks. “Is she big enough to leave her mother?” he asks.
“Only just,” says Namjoon.
Jimin brings the kitten up to his face and rubs his nose against her soft fur. “I love her,” he says, and beams at Namjoon. “Thank you, hyung.”
Namjoon smiles back. “You’re welcome.”
It’s nice to see Namjoon smiling again. It’s been a long few days.
“Come inside, you two,” says Yoongi. “It’s cold.”
“We three,” Jimin corrects him, indicating the kitten.
“You three,” Yoongi agrees, smiling.
Jimin pauses just outside the door and says, “I’m forgiving you because you apologized, not because you brought me a kitten. But--don’t do that again, okay?”
“I won’t,” Namjoon promises.
“I’m serious,” says Jimin. “Ask hyung. I was--scared.”
“I’m sorry,” says Namjoon. “I really am. I felt bad the whole time. Small, and mean.”
Jimin keeps looking at him, his eyes narrowed.
“He understands,” Yoongi tells Jimin. To Namjoon, he says, “We’re all going to talk, after hyung and Jungkook leave.”
“We are?” Namjoon says.
“We have to,” says Yoongi.
Namjoon looks at Jimin, who presses his face into his kitten’s fur again. “Okay,” he says.
The family at Pine Wood Farm sent some goat’s milk home with them, along with the kitten. It’s a small kindness, but it looks much bigger when Jimin thinks about how little each family has right now. He thinks it might be a gift to all three of them, the kitten and the milk, a thank you for all the help the district’s witches have given the farmers throughout this long fall and winter. He knows Yoongi and Namjoon have complicated feelings about that. They caused the imbalances in the district, and they have a hard time accepting gratitude for helping people weather them. It was probably easier for Namjoon to accept the gift because it was for Jimin.
Jimin doesn’t have any of that guilt to shoulder, and he gets to be grateful, without complications, to be in a district where witches and non-witches share resources and responsibilities and a strong bond. It wasn’t like that in the district where he was born. Their witch lived in a little tower on a cliff overlooking the sea and Jimin’s village, and when people needed her help, they worked up their courage for weeks before they asked for it. When Jimin was sent to her for his first lessons in magic, the other children started avoiding him. There are no witch-children in their district now, but Jimin can imagine what having one would be like. Namjoon would be a little diffident, but excited to teach. Yoongi and the witch-child would be shy with each other, but Yoongi would be the first one the witch-child would trust.
He doesn’t think it’s like this in Hoseok and Taehyung’s district, either. They were friendly with the people of their district, when they saw them, but they didn’t see them often. Jimin doesn’t know what the relationship between a district and its witches is supposed to be like, but he feels good about the one he’s becoming a part of.
Jimin listens with half an ear to Namjoon talking about the trip as he sits on the floor with the kitten, letting her lick milk from his fingers. It’s so like Namjoon to, thinking Jimin doesn’t care about him, bring him something else to care about. His impulses are often selfish, but his second thoughts are always generous.
“What are you going to call her?” Jungkook asks quietly, sitting down on the floor next to Jimin. He strokes the kitten’s head with one finger until she’s had enough and turns and burrows into the crook of Jimin’s elbow.
“I don’t know,” says Jimin. “I’ve only just met her.”
“She likes you already,” says Jungkook.
Jimin fights not to let his smile get too big. “Do you think so?” he asks. He thinks so, too, but he wants to hear Jungkook say it again.
“Look at her,” Jungkook says. The kitten’s chin is hooked over Jimin’s elbow, her eyes almost closed. “But everyone likes you,” Jungkook adds.
“That’s not true,” says Jimin.
“It is,” Jungkook insists. “This trip…”
“This trip?” Jimin repeats, careful not to look in Namjoon’s direction.
“All the farmers we talked to asked after you,” says Jungkook. “Yoongi, too, and of course they were all worried about him, but...they really like you a lot.”
“Oh,” says Jimin, pleased and disappointed at the same time. “I like them, too. There are good people here. It’s a good district.”
“It made me think about...what having a district would be like,” Jungkook says hesitantly.
“Not every district is like this one,” Jimin says. He glances around to make sure their hyungs are still talking to each other, and not listening. “You know what you want. Don’t get hung up on...what other people have.”
Jungkook looks around, then, probably for the same reason Jimin did. “Don’t worry,” he says, pitching his voice lower. “I’m not jealous, I just--” he smiles, a little sheepish. “I kept thinking--it wasn’t about me having a district. Not really. It was about--I kept thinking about Jin-hyung having a district, or, you know, us having one together.” He smiles and, Jimin thinks, blushes. “Because the people would like him so much, you know? And--he’d take good care of them, don’t you think?”
Jimin smiles and puts his free arm around Jungkook’s shoulders. “He would,” he says. “That’s so cute, Kookie.” It is cute, and Jungkook is right--Seokjin would watch over the people of his district the same way he takes young witches under his wing--but it’s a very young sentiment, too. Marrying a district with the witch he had a crush on was Jimin’s dream at fifteen or sixteen. But that doesn’t happen for many. Namjoon and Yoongi are an exception, and look how that turned out.
He looks up again and finds Yoongi watching them this time. They hold each others’ gazes for a moment, and then Jimin smiles and Yoongi smiles back.
“Is it sleeping with us?” Yoongi asks, when Jimin brings the kitten into the bedroom and sets her down on the edge of the bed.
“She, not it,” says Jimin. “Do you not like our kitten, hyung?” He makes his eyes wide and sad.
“Don’t look at me like that,” says Yoongi. “I like her, I just don’t know if I like her in my bed.” He extends a cautious finger for the kitten to sniff, and then bends to make eye contact with her.
“Look at them,” Namjoon whispers loudly. “Twins!”
Yoongi turns to him with a scrunched-up face. “I’m just trying to make friends,” he says.
The kitten has curled up at the foot of the bed, on Yoongi’s side. Yoongi puts out his hand again, but she just blinks at him and then closes her eyes.
Namjoon comes around behind Yoongi, and, when the kitten doesn’t react to his offered hand, starts to pet her. She immediately gets up and walks to the other side of the bed, and lays down again. Yoongi snickers, but Jimin likes it. It’s so Namjoon, and so Yoongi: Namjoon too pushy, Yoongi over-cautious. Was that how they were with him, too? Jimin can’t quite make it fit, in his head, but there’s something there.
“What should I call her?” Jimin asks. He pulls his shirt over his head and reaches for his nightshirt, and feels two sets of eyes focus on his bare back.
“Goyoongi,” says Namjoon, quickly enough that it’s clear he’s been waiting for an opportunity to say it. He lies down and clasps his hands behind his head.
Yoongi gets into bed next to him. “Don’t call her that.”
Jimin does see where Namjoon is coming from. There is something cat-like about Yoongi. “I’m not going to,” he says.
“Thank you,” says Yoongi.
“It would get confusing,” Jimin clarifies.
“Aish,” says Yoongi. “Don’t take Namjoon’s side, he’ll only get more annoying.”
Namjoon smiles a beatific, close-mouthed smile. “You like it when I call you a cat,” he says.
“It got old a long time ago,” says Yoongi.
When Jimin gets into bed, he pulls the kitten into his lap and says, “Anyway, I can’t call her after you. Namjoon-hyung gave her to me. If I name her after anyone, it should be him.”
“You don’t need to do that,” says Namjoon.
Jimin looks sideways at him. Namjoon looks embarrassed, but pleased, too.
“Namjoon-cat,” he says. “Little Namjoon.”
“Eolin Namu,” says Yoongi. “He’s a tree, but she’s just a little sapling.”
Jimin smiles. “I like that,” he says. He looks down at the kitten. “Do you like that? Little Namu?”
She stands up, not quite steady on the uneven surface of Jimin’s lap, walks delicately to Jimin’s pillow, and curls up in the middle of it.
“Doesn’t she like it?” says Namjoon.
Jimin smiles at him. “Of course she does,” he says, and Namjoon smiles back at him a little sheepishly.
“I’ve never had a familiar before,” Jimin says. “I always wanted one. Thank you.”
Namjoon smiles. “I’m glad I could give you something you wanted,” he says softly.
Jimin turns back towards the kitten so that he doesn’t have to decide how to respond to that. Lying down without disturbing her takes work, but eventually Jimin finds a spot for his head where Namu will be cuddled into the crook of his neck, instead of giving him a faceful of fur. He turns his face into her fur anyway, just for a moment, because she’s soft and warm, and here, finally, is something he can love without being scared of what it will do to him.
“Did I make a mistake?” Namjoon whispers.
Jimin raises his head to look at him. Namjoon is lying on his side facing Jimin, Yoongi’s hand resting at his waist.
“A mistake?” says Jimin.
“If the kitten--if Eolin Namu is going to get in the way of...me getting what I want,” says Namjoon.
Jimin swallows. “What do you want?”
“You know,” says Namjoon. He leans in closer, until their foreheads nearly touch.
Jimin looks at him. He can’t look anywhere else. He knows, without knowing how he knows, that Yoongi is watching and listening. He does know what Namjoon wants, but he didn’t know it before. He’s suddenly a little bit afraid. If Namjoon asks him for anything, he’s not sure he’ll say no.
“We’ll talk, after Seokjin-hyung and Jungkook go,” he says. He wonders if Namjoon is feeling the way his face is heating up, the way he’s holding himself back from reaching out to touch.
Namjoon sighs and doesn’t move away. Jimin can feel his breath on his face.
“I do know,” says Jimin. “And...you didn’t make a mistake. It’s alright.”
“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon breathes.
Jimin closes his eyes. Namjoon moves closer, and his chin bumps Namu’s head. She bats at his face with a paw.
“Ow,” says Namjoon, and rolls onto his back.
Yoongi giggles. Jimin rolls over to bury his smile against the mattress. Namu stretches out on his pillow and begins to purr.
Seokjin, Jungkook and Namjoon leave with more supplies the next morning. Namjoon kisses Yoongi goodbye and gives Jimin a shy smile that isn’t shy enough.
Jimin blushes, and finds himself tracking Namjoon’s broom for as long as he can see it, and longer. He thinks about what it was like when Namjoon kissed him in the greenhouse, and what it would have been like if he had kissed Namjoon back.
Yoongi touches Jimin’s shoulder. “Come inside,” he says.
Jimin feels like he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t. “Hyung, I--”
“I know,” says Yoongi. “It’s fine.”
“Why do I feel like this?” he asks, plaintively, as he follows Yoongi through the kitchen.
“Namjoon is kind of a brat,” says Yoongi. “He can be hard to be around when he’s not getting what he wants. And when he is, or--” he looks at Jimin meaningfully, “when he thinks he is, he gets a little smug about it, and that’s...really compelling.”
“Compelling,” Jimin repeats.
Yoongi smiles at his own feet.
“I don’t know what this is,” says Jimin.
“You like him,” says Yoongi.
“I do,” says Jimin. “But--”
“Don’t overthink it,” says Yoongi. “You like him. He likes you.”
“And you?” Jimin asks.
“I think it’s good,” says Yoongi, which isn’t an answer at all.
“You almost kissed me the other night,” Jimin wants to say, but suddenly he’s not sure. Had Yoongi almost kissed him, or had he almost kissed Yoongi?
“I’m going to go change into my dancing clothes,” says Jimin, and runs up the stairs. He’s a little afraid of a thought he’s just had, which is that he doesn’t want Namjoon if he can’t have Yoongi, too.
The danced spell is coming together. Jimin ends up teaching Yoongi the last few steps he’s having trouble with, so he can look at them from the outside, and that’s useful and fun. Yoongi is hard to teach, but that just means Jimin gets to touch him, shaping the precise bend of Yoongi’s arm, or moving his foot to where it should be, or putting both hands on Yoongi’s hips and showing him how to move them. And once Yoongi has the steps down, he executes them well. Jimin likes watching him dance, in a different way than he likes to watch Hoseok. Hoseok always moves so beautifully. Yoongi moves like Yoongi. Jimin draws out the process longer than he needs to.
He spends a lot of time thinking about what love is, and whether he’s in it, and whether that matters, trying to prepare himself for the conversation they’re going to have after Seokjin and Jungkook leave. It feels like something he needs to arm himself for. He ought to, at least, know what he wants going in.
He knows he wants Yoongi and Namjoon. He knows that Namjoon, at least, wants him. He knows that it’s more than just wanting, for him, and if that’s all it is for them, it will hurt. Jimin wants to be in love, but only if his husbands are, too.
He wants to talk to Namjoon about it, and sound him out, but lately he can’t look at Namjoon without wanting to touch him. And he wants to talk to Yoongi about it, but that feels unfair, when Namjoon is away. So he avoids being alone with Namjoon when he’s home, and he throws himself into finishing his spell.
“I think it’s done,” he tells Yoongi one night--the night of Namjoon, Jungkook and Seokjin’s fourth and last planned trip.
Yoongi’s eyes widen and his lips curve into a smile. “Show me,” he says.
Jimin hesitates. “With magic?” he asks.
“Without,” says Yoongi, decisively.
That’s what Jimin wanted to hear, but it’s harder that way, too. Now that the spell is a complete thing, with a structure and a purpose, his magic wants to flow through it, and he has to keep a tight hold on it if he’s going to stop it.
The more he widens the footprint of his spell, the larger an area it will cover, but here in Yoongi’s workroom he keeps to as small a space as possible, taking tiny steps and spinning in tight circles. When he does this for real, if he dances it like this, he’ll only heat up the area immediately surrounding his own body. As it is, even without magic he’s warm when he finishes, his skin damp with sweat.
He looks at Yoongi, and he doesn’t know what he’s looking for. It should be praise, but it’s not.
“It’s going to work,” says Yoongi.
Jimin feels tears prickling at the corners of his eyes, and he smiles through them. “You think so?” he asks.
“Don’t you?” says Yoongi.
“It feels right,” says Jimin.
“See?” says Yoongi. “You know.”
Jimin sits down in front of Yoongi with his legs crossed underneath him. “Namjoon-hyung told me I should trust myself, but I don’t always.”
“Well, I trust you,” says Yoongi.
“He said that, too,” says Jimin. “I mean, that he did. He said he’d trust me until Icould trust myself.”
“Kim Namjoon is a smart man,” says Yoongi.
“So are you, hyung,” says Jimin. “You know what I need even when I don’t.”
“Do I?” asks Yoongi.
“It seems like it,” says Jimin. “And--I don’t know. What I need.”
Yoongi looks at him for a moment and then says, “Wait here,” and gets to his feet. When he comes back, he’s carrying the half-empty bottle of wine from the other night.
Jimin raises his eyebrows. “Is that what I need, hyung?” he asks.
“It’s to celebrate,” says Yoongi. “You finished writing your first spell from scratch.”
He hasn’t brought cups with him, so when he hands Jimin the bottle, Jimin takes a long drink straight from it--long enough that Yoongi raises his eyebrows at him when he finally puts it down.
“Did you leave any for me?” Yoongi asks, reaching for the bottle. It’s a rhetorical question. The bottle is still more than a third of the way full. He takes a drink, and then another, and offers the bottle to Jimin again. Jimin crawls over to sit next to Yoongi, his back against the wall, before he takes it.
“What was the first spell you wrote, hyung?” he asks.
Yoongi tilts his head back slightly. “It was a sewn spell,” he says. “Just after we came here. The old witch here taught me some sewn spells, to prevent wear and tear in clothing, and to clean things, but--”
“You have a sewn spell to keep things clean?” says Jimin.
“I know what you’re going to say,” says Yoongi. “But you can’t keep it sewn into things. I got tired of cutting the threads out every time I needed to use something.”
“Then rewrite it so you can keep it sewn into things,” says Jimin. “I want self-cleaning sheets.”
Yoongi laughs. “I’ll try,” he says. “Anyway, my first spell--I’d learned all those sewn spells, and I thought I was beginning to understand them a little. And then all the work I was doing here…” he laughs a little, self-conscious. “I started outgrowing some of my clothes, and they were all new, so I didn’t want to replace them. I thought I could just make them stretch a little around the chest and shoulders.”
Jimin recognizes his tone. “What happened?” he asks. He can imagine Yoongi coming here, younger and skinnier, and filling out--his shoulders broadening, muscles growing in his arms and chest. He traces his finger over the strong curve of Yoongi’s shoulder without really thinking about it, and snatches his hand back. Their eyes meet, and Jimin looks away first, to take another sip from the bottle.
Yoongi clears his throat. “So, my clothes got very big,” he says. “And then very small. Technically, my first spell was a sewn resizing spell. But I learned to stretch things next.”
Jimin hums thoughtfully. “You’ve written a lot of spells, haven’t you, hyung?”
Yoongi pauses for a moment before he says, “Yes.” Not, Jimin thinks, because he has to think about the answer, but because he’s a little shy about saying it. “I can teach you some of them, if you like. You cooked the wine spell well.”
“Thank you,” says Jimin. He passes the bottle back to Yoongi. “Danced spells are the only ones I’ve ever been really good at,” he says.
“Well, there’s no harm in trying other kinds,” says Yoongi. He takes a drink of wine. “But if you don’t want to--if you only want to dance, that’s enough. More than enough.”
“What do you mean?” asks Jimin.
“You’re doing amazing things,” says Yoongi. “When do you think was the last time someone created a brand new danced spell on this scale? Before all of us were born, probably. You don’t have anything to prove.” He takes another drink and passes the bottle over again.
“Oh,” says Jimin.
“But also…” Yoongi’s smile is a neutral expression, a brief movement of his mouth.
“What?” asks Jimin.
Namu comes into the room, then, poking the door open with her nose. “Hi, baby,” he says. He puts down the wine bottle and holds out his hand. She pads over to him and climbs into his lap, and he hugs her to his chest for as long as he thinks she’ll stand it without running away. When he looks up, Yoongi is watching him, his eyes soft.
“You’re beautiful when you dance,” Yoongi says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Jimin wants to look away, but doesn’t. “You’ve seen Hoseok-hyung dance,” he says.
“He’s very good,” says Yoongi. “And--you’re you.”
“Hyung,” says Jimin. “What is it like to be in love?”
Yoongi’s eyes open wide. “You know,” he says, after a pause. “You’ve been in love.”
“I have,” says Jimin. “But it’s...not always the same, is it?” What he feels for Yoongi, and for Namjoon, isn’t like what he feels for Hoseok. Felt, maybe. It’s not the same as it was.
“No,” Yoongi says slowly, his eyes still on Jimin. “It’s not.”
“What is it like?” Jimin asks again.
Yoongi reaches over him to take the wine bottle again, and holds it up to see how much is left before he takes a long drink. “It’s--love by itself isn’t a lot. Love by itself is just...joy sometimes, and pain sometimes, and putting another person before yourself. Yes?”
Jimin nods silently, and reaches for the bottle. His fingers brush against Yoongi’s as he takes it, not on purpose. “Sorry,” says Yoongi.
“For what?” Jimin asks.
“Well, you don’t like to be touched, do you?” says Yoongi.
Jimin stares at him. “That’s--No. I do. I do like to be touched.”
“Then…?” says Yoongi.
Jimin pauses. It’s hard to explain. “I’m so scared of you sometimes,” he says, finally.
Yoongi tilts his head to the side. “We were a little scared of you when you first came, Namjoon and I.”
“You seemed so angry,” Yoongi explains.
“I was,” says Jimin. “Angry and--everything hurt.”
Yoongi looks at him for a moment, and then holds his hand out. It takes Jimin a few seconds to understand, but then he puts his hand in Yoongi’s.
“Okay?” says Yoongi.
Jimin swallows, and nods. Yoongi’s hand is warm, and big enough to envelop most of Jimin’s. Jimin loves being touched. There’s not a lot he likes more. But he’s been careful here. He’s tried to protect himself.
“What else is there?” he asks. “When love isn’t by itself.”
“Oh...trust,” says Yoongi. “And warmth, and loyalty, and respect. Home. Someone who knows you all the way through. Love isn’t good, without the rest of it.”
“So...me and Hoseok-hyung…” says Jimin.
“I wasn’t thinking about you and Hoseok,” says Yoongi. He turns Jimin’s hand over to rest in his, palm up. With the forefinger of his other hand, he traces the lines of Jimin’s fingers, the lines in his palm.
Jimin holds very still, and stands it for as long as he can. He can’t breathe, but he’s breathing. When he can’t take anymore, he whispers, “Yoongi-hyung…”
Their eyes meet.
“I trust you,” says Jimin. “I respect you. This--feels like home.”
Yoongi leans in for the barest hint of a kiss. Their lips are so close to not touching that they break contact when Jimin breathes. Jimin keeps his eyes closed, and moves back a little, but not so far that he can’t still feel the heat radiating off of Yoongi’s skin. His mind reaches out for Namjoon, and finds him on the floor of the kitchen at the Lee farm, wrapped in blankets, Seokjin and Jungkook on one side of him. They’re asleep, but he’s awake.
“Namjoon?” Jimin whispers.
“I called him,” says Yoongi. “He’s watching.”
“Good,” says Jimin, and leans over for another kiss, the kiss he’s been wanting for a while now. Yoongi’s hand squeezes tight around his, and Namu jumps up and runs out of the room. Jimin wonders if Yoongi is letting himself feel what Jimin feels, if he knows that Jimin’s heart is hammering against his chest so hard it feels like it’s going to break out at any second. Namjoon must be feeling it. He’s probably opened himself up to everything Jimin and Yoongi are feeling, with their tacit permission, but he can’t hear Jimin’s harsh, fast breathing, or the low noise Yoongi made when Jimin’s fingers dug into the nape of his neck. Jimin wonders what Namjoon is feeling from Yoongi--what Yoongi is feeling--and he could find out. It would be as easy as it is to lick Yoongi’s lower lip and swallow his sigh, but he doesn’t do it. He wants to feel everything he can feel with his own senses in this moment, and nothing else.
There comes a point where they have to either slow down or speed up. They slow down, one long kiss separating into a string of smaller ones, and the smaller ones growing further apart. Namjoon isn’t there, and that makes a difference. Jimin lets his forehead rest against Yoongi’s cheek, and Yoongi strokes his back. They’re still holding hands.
“Time for bed?” says Yoongi.
“Yes,” says Jimin. Namjoon is still watching them. His hand is on his chest, his thumb and forefinger crossed to make a heart.
“We’ll talk when Joon gets back,” says Yoongi.
Namjoon gets back in the late morning, when a light snow shower has given way to sunshine. Jungkook and Seokjin are there, too, but Jimin isn’t looking at them.
Namjoon isn’t smiling, but his eyes are bright and his cheeks are flushed, and he looks happy, luminous. It’s hard to believe that’s for Jimin, or because of Jimin, but he thinks it is. He puts down his things and holds out a hand to Jimin, and Jimin steps forward to hug him.
He doesn’t hold on as tight as he wants to, or for as long, but when he lets go, he keeps his hand at Namjoon’s waist. He sits in the chair next to Namjoon’s, close enough that their thighs press together, and when Seokjin talks about the trip, Jimin rests his cheek against Namjoon’s sleeve as he listens. It feels comfortable, even though he’s never done it before. Seokjin keeps trying to catch Jimin’s eye, but Jimin won’t let him.
They have one more night with Jungkook and Seokjin here, and Yoongi, Namjoon and Jimin silently agree to postpone their talk until their guests are gone. They postpone everything, and quietly change for bed without even touching. Jimin and Yoongi haven’t touched since last night, when they traded quiet kisses until they started yawning into each other’s mouths, and then rolled to their separate sides of the bed to sleep.
Jimin is already on the verge of sleep when Namjoon reaches over and takes his hand. Jimin can feel that he’s holding Yoongi’s on the other side. He falls asleep like that, and doesn’t let go until he wakes from his first sleep.
Downstairs, Jimin and Jungkook meditate, and stretch, and dance together, as they’ve been doing every night that Seokjin and Jungkook are at the house. Jungkook is already better at meditation, but he still gets fidgety long before Jimin is done. Jimin has been teaching him the growth spell, but tonight he says, “Wait, Kookie. Just sit there. I want to show you something.”
It’s the first time he’s dancing the full heat spell with magic, and somehow Jungkook is the audience he wants for that. Seokjin is reading in the kitchen. Yoongi and Namjoon are upstairs, talking.
He dances it slowly, in a small circle, but not so small that Jungkook can’t feel it when the air in the room starts to heat up. Jimin feels it first, and then he sees Jungkook feel it, his eyes opening wide and his mouth dropping open a little.
Jimin ends the spell quickly. All he’d wanted to do was confirm that it works, and it does. He’s done it. He presses his hands to his warm cheeks and tries to stop smiling, but he can’t.
“I’ve never seen that spell before,” says Jungkook. “Where is it from?”
“It’s new,” says Jimin. “I made it.”
Jungkook is silent for a moment. “You can do that?” he asks.
“I can do anything,” says Jimin, because at that moment he believes it.
Seokjin comes out of the kitchen just as Jimin is about to climb the stairs. “Sit with me,” he says.
They sit together on the second stair from the bottom. The staircase isn’t very wide, and Seokjin’s shoulder keeps bumping against Jimin’s.
“I felt your spell,” says Seokjin.
Jimin looks down and smiles softly.
“Yes, you should smile,” says Seokjin.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” says Jimin.
“It’s very good,” says Seokjin. He pauses. “You wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t come here.”
Jimin sighs. “Stop,” he says.
“Stop what?” asks Seokjin.
“You know what,” says Jimin. “You want me to tell you that sending me here was the right thing to do.”
“Don’t you think it was?” says Seokjin.
“It’s none of your business whether it was,” says Jimin. “You don’t--you don’t get to have...absolution. Not from me.”
Jimin has known Seokjin for as long as Seokjin has been on the council, and Jimin has always treated him with teasing disrespect, but he’s not sure he’s ever really stood up to Seokjin before. “You made a decision about my life,” he says. “And--you get to do that. I understand. But I don’t have to make you feel good about it.”
Seokjin draws his knees up and hunches forward to rest his chin on them. Jimin fights back the impulse to apologize. He meant what he said. He’s glad Seokjin sent him here, now, but he’s still mad at him for doing it.
Jimin hears a faint squeak, and looks up to see his kitten standing at the top of the stairs. “Namu, come here,” he calls softly, and she does. He picks her up, looks at her for a moment, and then offers her to Seokjin. Seokjin sits up straight and takes her, cradling her like a baby.
“Is that what you’re calling her?” he asks.
“Well,” says Jimin. “Namjoon gave her to me, so.” He shrugs. “Her name is Eolin Namu, but just Namu is shorter.”
“It’s cute,” says Seokjin. “I like it.” He pauses. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“For what?” asks Jimin.
“For...arranging for you to marry Yoongi and Namjoon?” says Seokjin. “I don’t know. What do you want me to apologize for?”
“You’re supposed to know,” says Jimin. “You can’t apologize if you don’t know what you did wrong.”
“I’m sorry,” Seokjin says again, but in an entirely different tone. “Tell me what I did.”
Jimin sighs. “You just--made a decision for me because you thought you knew better,” he says. “I know you just want to take care of everyone. And--maybe sometimes you do know better. But you can’t just assume you know what’s best for everyone.”
Namu squirms in Seokjin’s arms until she’s fully upright. He smiles down at her and strokes her head with one finger. Then he gives Jimin a sharp look. “This isn’t just about you, is it?” he asks.
Jimin makes his eyes round and innocent.
“That doesn’t work on me anymore,” says Seokjin. He glances at the kitchen door and sighs. “What about what’s best for me?” he asks.
Jimin bumps their shoulders together. “If you don’t even know what’s best for you, how are you going to know what’s best for anyone else?”
“I’m not saying I don’t know,” Seokjin says, his voice a little whinier, a little louder. He realizes that, and glances at the kitchen door again. “Stop putting words in my mouth,” he hisses.
“You’re not saying it, but you don’t know,” says Jimin. He reaches over to stroke Namu. Seokjin sighs loudly and doesn’t say anything. Jimin rests his head on Seokjin’s shoulder.
It’s long past time to be back upstairs, and Jimin’s eyelids are drooping, but he sits with Seokjin long after Namu climbs out of his lap and goes back upstairs. Finally Seokjin says, “It’s late, and we wanted to start early tomorrow.”
Jimin nods and stands up, and gives Seokjin a hand. Seokjin groans quietly as Jimin pulls him up. “I’m getting old,” he says.
Impulsively, Jimin hugs Seokjin. Seokjin makes a noise of protest at having his arms pinned to his sides, but after a moment he relaxes.
“It’s not just about me being right,” says Seokjin. “I want to know that you’re happy.”
“I know,” says Jimin. And--he’s not unhappy, now. But that’s not for Seokjin--not yet. It’s for Namjoon and Yoongi first. “I’m okay,” he says.
“That’s good,” says Seokjin.
As Jimin is climbing the stairs, he turns back to look at Seokjin. He’s standing by the kitchen door, but he hasn’t opened it, and his head is bowed.
“Don’t make him wait too long,” Jimin calls down to him.
Seokjin smiles. “I won’t. Goodnight, Jiminie.”
“Goodnight,” says Jimin.
Yoongi and Namjoon are asleep, Yoongi’s head pillowed on Namjoon’s chest. Jimin stands and watches them for a moment. It doesn’t hurt anymore, seeing them like this. He never wanted them not to love each other. He just wanted them to have room for him, too.
He walks over to the bed and looks down at them, and thinks about the things Yoongi said about love. Caring about them more than himself--yes. Respect was the first thing he felt for them, and then loyalty. Trust came later, and home came last.
Jimin has been waiting for them at every step--waiting for them to take every step first. But that’s not fair, and that’s not who he wants to be for them, now. And he trusts them. The fact that he’s willing to move forward now, before they’ve talked like they keep saying they will, is proof of that.
He feels very fond, looking down at them. He brushes Yoongi’s hair back from his forehead with careful fingers, and bends down to kiss Namjoon’s cheek. Then he goes to his own side of the bed and gets in. There’s a space between Jimin and Namjoon, but it’s not like it used to be. He’s not afraid of Namjoon touching him; it’s just not something he needs right now. They have time.
It took Jimin a long time to find himself here. He wasn’t in his body enough at first, spread thin across the whole district, feeling what the district felt. Then he’d had a hard time keeping himself separate from Yoongi and Namjoon, not letting his sense of their bodies seep into his own. And there were times when all his consciousness of the district was focused on that eastern border, the closest he could get to Taehyung and Hoseok--to just Hoseok, if he’s being honest with himself. He’s felt solidly planted in his own body when he dances. He feels solidly planted in his own body now.
It's done. Wow. I never believed I could write something this long, or be as happy with it as I am. Everyone's always saying writing is a bad hobby, but I think it's nice.
Thanks to everyone who's read this far and everyone who's commented and everyone who wanted Jimin to be loved. More special thanks to the folks who read along on twitter for the first five chapters. Thanks to Ras for reading when I told her to and...I don't know, lots of things. Thanks to Munki for being relentlessly encouraging. I would not have finished this without you.
Yoongi wakes Jimin just in time to say goodbye to Seokjin and Jungkook the next morning. There’s a damp chill in the air, a change from the still cold and light snows of the past week or so, but not a nice one. Jimin yawns and blinks and tries to convey with nods and smiles that he’s just as grateful to Jungkook and Seokjin as Yoongi and Namjoon are saying they are. Namu rubs herself against his ankles until he picks her up. She’s been learning to sit on his shoulder.
Jimin hugs Jungkook and promises to write, and makes Jungkook promise, too. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed Jungkook. It was easiest to remember him as the youngest witch in their cohort, the annoying one who followed Jimin and Taehyung around. But he’s also someone who’s always made Jimin want to be better. Someone who made him feel older, and responsible, and made him like that feeling.
The closer Jimin gets to feeling really settled here, in his district, the more he feels like he can open himself up to things outside of it, and widen a life that had narrowed down to himself and Taehyung and Hoseok, and then just himself and Hoseok, and then just himself. He wants to reverse that process now, and expand his scope to Namjoon and Yoongi, and beyond them.
Seokjin, just as bleary-eyed as Jimin, holds him tight and says, “I’m sorry and I’m not,” pitched too low for the others to hear.
“That’s okay,” says Jimin. “I’m angry and I’m not.”
Seokjin smiles at him, quick and unexpected and just a little more real than most of his smiles. “That’s the spirit,” he says. He hugs Jimin again and says, “We’ll visit again soon. When things are better.”
“Will things be better?” asks Jimin. The idea of anything but winter and worry and always being a little bit hungry feels distant.
“Can’t you feel the change in the wind?” says Seokjin. Jimin doesn’t know if he means that literally, or if he’s trying to say something about Yoongi and Namjoon.
“It feels like it could rain,” Jimin says, carefully.
“It does, doesn’t it?” says Seokjin. He smiles at Jimin again, and goes to pick up his bags. He pauses by the door for a last few whispered words with Yoongi, and then he and Jungkook are gone, and Jimin is alone with his husbands again.
It’s a relief, and it’s funny to think how recently they were the people he put up a facade for, and not the people who he can drop the facade around, sometimes. He thinks it started to change when Hoseok was here.
“Well,” Jimin says, after a few minutes. “It’s just us, now.” The three of them look at each other, and Yoongi and Namjoon look as uncertain as Jimin feels.
“Us and Eolin Namu,” says Namjoon. He picks her up and holds her against his chest. “She’s so docile,” he says. “The farm cats never let me cuddle them.”
“It’s her link with my magic,” says Jimin, not unhappy to talk about something impersonal. “Witches’ cats are calmer, and--well, not obedient, but less contrary that most cats.”
“I didn’t know that,” says Namjoon, looking at Jimin with interest.
“Me neither,” says Yoongi.
“I told you I always wanted a familiar,” says Jimin. “I used to ask my district’s witch about them all the time.”
He comes over to Namjoon to pet Namu. She butts her head against his and and he smiles down at her.
“Is there a link you can feel?” Namjoon asks.
“Sort of,” he says. He looks up at Namjoon, and then away. “She’s linked to me, but I’m not linked to her.”
“So it’s not like...us,” says Namjoon. He’s very close, and Jimin can almost feel the weight of his gaze, can feel the heat coming off his body.
“No,” says Jimin. “Not like us.” Jimin didn’t feel like this with Yoongi. He wants Yoongi just as much, but there’s something solid and safe about him. Namjoon makes Jimin feel like Yoongi’s spell-cooked wine. He takes a step back.
“We were going to talk,” says Namjoon.
Jimin nods. “I know,” he says.
Yoongi looks back and forth between Jimin and Namjoon. No one speaks.
“Well,” Yoongi says, finally. “We’re going to have to inventory the storeroom again, from scratch, and clean up here.” He gestures at the corner Seokjin and Jungkook have been using as a makeshift bedroom. “And--Namjoon-ah, isn’t there a pile of letters upstairs that you ought to answer?”
“I’ve been busy,” says Namjoon.
“You have,” agrees Yoongi. “And now you’re not.”
“You’re right,” Namjoon says. “I wish you weren’t, but you’re right.”
“You love writing to people,” says Jimin.
“Well, yes,” says Namjoon. “Just--not now.”
“Joon,” says Yoongi.
Namjoon looks at him, and when Yoongi opens his arms he walks straight into them, to be held tightly and to press his face into Yoongi’s hair. Yoongi whispers something, and Jimin can’t really hear it, but he thinks it’s “I love you.” Namjoon doesn’t say anything back, but he doesn’t always. Yoongi knows. Jimin wonders how long that takes, to be so sure of each other that you don’t feel the need to say, “I love you, too.”
Jimin watches them, feeling not so much like an outsider as someone who isn’t there at all. There’s a place for him here, but he has to step into it, and he hasn’t yet.
Namjoon raises his head and looks at Jimin, a question in his eyes.
“Later,” says Jimin. “Is that alright?”
“Of course,” says Namjoon.
Yoongi looks up, and half turns, so he and Namjoon are facing Jimin together, arms around each other’s waists. “How are you?” he asks.
”I’m fine,” says Jimin. “I just…” He shrugs and smiles a little. He hopes he doesn’t need to put it into words, but Namjoon and Yoongi keep looking at him, waiting for the end of a sentence that was never meant to have one.
“I don’t know how to do this,” he says, eventually. “I need a little more time.”
“You can have as much time as you want,” says Yoongi, and Namjoon nods.
“I don’t want a lot,” says Jimin. “Just--today, I think.”
“Today,” Yoongi agrees. “Then--will you help me with the inventory?”
“Of course,” says Jimin.
Namjoon sighs. “And I guess I have some letters to write,” he says. He turns to go upstairs.
“Wait,” says Jimin.
“What?” Namjoon turns back, but doesn’t move at all when Jimin comes up to him.
Jimin stands on his toes to kiss Namjoon, hands resting on Namjoon’s chest. It’s brief, and very sweet, and when Jimin lets go he finds himself blushing. “Later,” he says.
“Later,” Namjoon echoes. His eyes are wide, his mouth a little open. He touches his lower lip, still looking at Jimin, and leaves the room.
Yoongi raises his eyebrows at Jimin.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Jimin says, defensive.
Yoongi’s face relaxes. “You’re doing fine,” he says.
It’s a busy day.
Inventorying the storeroom goes quickly. Jimin and Yoongi are used to working together now, and they do it with efficiency and a minimum of talk. They try to clean as they go, but the storeroom is a mess after more than a week of repeated packing and unpacking of bags and boxes, and the cleaning takes a long time. When Namjoon comes downstairs with a pile of letters, he joins them, and mops the floor while Jimin and Yoongi prepare a meal.
Jimin is tired again--tired still, after staying up too late talking to Seokjin. His eyes keep tearing up when he yawns. He knows he must look awful.
“You don’t have to stay up,” says Namjoon. “Go back to bed. I’ll wake you up before you sleep for too long.”
Jimin eyes Yoongi doubtfully.
Yoongi says, “If you need to sleep, I’m not going to stop you.” When Jimin doesn’t move, he adds, “None of this really has to be done today. Go get some rest.”
Jimin nods and gets to his feet, slowly. He’s so sleepy he has to think out each movement.
“Why do you only do what hyung tells you?” says Namjoon.
Jimin blinks at him. “I don’t know,” he says. “Why do you?”
Namjoon opens his mouth to retort, and then suddenly breaks into a smile instead. “I do, don’t I?”
“You’re making it sound like I order you around,” Yoongi grumbles.
“It’s not that,” says Namjoon. He looks at Jimin, and Jimin nods.
“I know,” says Jimin.
Yoongi rolls his eyes at them, but he’s making a visible effort not to smile, too. Jimin--Jimin loves them both.
He’s already on his way upstairs when he senses someone coming up the hill to the house. It’s a familiar someone--one of the hands from the closest farm--but the district people don’t come here very often, preferring to pass a message through neighbors, and wait for one of the witches to visit, unless there’s an emergency. Jimin turns and goes back into the kitchen.
One sick goat is bad, but two sick goats, and a third sick the next day, could mean disease. Yoongi hears the man's story and goes straight to his workroom for the bag he uses when he doctors animals.
“If I find I can’t be back by nightfall, I’ll write,” he promises. He kisses Namjoon and hesitates in front of Jimin, then tilts Jimin’s head down and kisses his forehead. He picks up a broom and goes out, leaving the farmhand to follow more slowly on foot.
Namjoon offers the man tea, but he prefers to start back right away. Namjoon and Jimin follow him outside and watch him trudge down the hill. Jimin shivers, and looks uneasily at the sky. “Is there going to be another storm, do you think?” he asks. “Seokjin-hyung said something about a change in the wind.” He thinks Seokjin meant something else, but the cold still has that damp edge to it, and the morning’s clouds haven’t cleared.
Namjoon rests his hand on Jimin’s shoulder. “Not snow,” he says.
“Is it warm enough for rain?” Jimin asks.
“I don’t know,” says Namjoon. “But isn’t that what those clouds look like? And it feels like rain.”
“It does,” says Jimin. It hasn’t rained here since the day they were married. The idea of rain feels strange, like it belongs to a different version of the district, a different Yoongi and Namjoon and Jimin. Jimin doesn’t want to go back.
“Remember when Jeonghwa said the district wanted something else?” Jimin asks. “That there was a problem we needed to solve?”
“I think about it all the time,” Namjoon says.
“It’s been getting warmer,” says Jimin.
“Yes,” says Namjoon, his voice quiet. “It has.”
Jimin takes his nap, and wakes up on his own. He looks out the window to gauge how long he’s slept, but it’s too cloudy to see the angle of the sun. Downstairs, the house is quiet.
He finds Namjoon in the greenhouse. It’s a different place than it was when Jimin first came here. Then, it was busy, and warm, and full of the smells of green things and wet earth. Now it’s dry, and the beds and pots only hold dead plants. It’s as cold as it is outside; three of the big panes of witch-glass are broken. Dry leaves are strewn across the floor, and there are patches of snow under the broken windows. Namjoon is making a big pile of trash in one corner--dead plants and broken pots and shards of glass. Jimin goes back into the house for a broom and returns to help.
“Did you or Yoongi-hyung make the glass, or did you bring a witch in to do it?” Jimin asks. He’s never seen witch-glass being made.
“What do you think?” Namjoon asks.
“Yoongi-hyung,” says Jimin.
“Of course,” says Namjoon, and smiles. “He didn’t make much of it, though. The greenhouse has been here a long time, and most of the windows are old. Hyung learned the spell the first time one broke, not long after the first time we were married.” He frowns. “He’s never had to do more than one pane at once before. It might take a while.”
“You think it’s a good time to start, now, though?” Jimin says. They have seeds waiting, and friends will send plants when they’re ready for them.
“It’s been warmer,” says Namjoon.
“The last storm was less than two weeks ago,” Jimin reminds him.
“I know when the last storm was,” says Namjoon. He pauses. “We don’t know how to solve the district’s problem,” he says. “We don’t know how long winter will last. We need the greenhouse. We need to try.”
“Okay,” says Jimin. He goes to the other end of the greenhouse and starts clearing out the plant beds. He hums a little as he works, and he hears Namjoon speaking softly to himself, under his breath, every once in a while. He and Namjoon work together as easily as he and Yoongi do.
It’s been a long time since Jimin did this kind of work. Dancing has kept him in good condition, but after a few hours in the greenhouse, his back hurts and his arms feel like noodles boiled too soft. He looks at Namjoon, who’s red-faced and sweaty.
“Should we stop?” says Namjoon.
“Yes,” says Jimin.
They fasten old sheets over the broken panes of witch-glass and hope it will be enough to stop the wind from undoing their hard work. It’s evening now, the cloudy sky darkening in the east, but no word has come from Yoongi yet. That’s good, in theory--it means he expects to be back before night. But Namjoon and Jimin are both a little on edge, neither of them really trusting that he’s on his way back until they feel him leave the farm and begin his flight home.
Jimin puts supper on the table just as Yoongi comes up the hill. He helps with meals, most days, but Yoongi is still the main cook, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to make and serve him something without him taking on any of the task himself. It’s a nice dinner, too, Jimin thinks. Nice for winter, and after months of food shortages, at least. There’s fish cake soup, sweet potatoes, seasoned dried fish, Seokjin’s radish kimchi, and even a little bit of rice. Their supply of rice is dwindling rapidly, but they’d made it for Seokjin and Jungkook, and there’s some left over.
“This looks good,” says Yoongi.
“Don’t sound so surprised,” says Jimin.
“I’m not,” says Yoongi. He pauses. “It’s nice. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” says Jimin.
Jimin is hungry, but he doesn’t eat much. He watches Yoongi and Namjoon, instead, waiting for one of them to start the conversation--the big one, the one Yoongi said they needed to have. Instead they talk about the sick goats--Yoongi found what they were eating and burned it; they’ll be fine--and preparations for the witch-glass spell. It feels normal, but a better normal than they’ve had.
A few months ago, Namjoon and Yoongi would have had a conversation just like this one, and Jimin would have listened without speaking, but it would have felt different. Now Jimin knows what they’re talking about, and if he has questions, he feels comfortable asking. He doesn’t feel like they’ve forgotten that he’s there. And on another night, he’d enjoy that feeling more, but tonight--he wishes one of them would start the conversation, because he’s not enjoying the anticipation.
But the meal winds down, and Yoongi gets up to clear the dishes away, and they’ve still only talked about ordinary, everyday things.
“Jimin-ah, aren’t you going to eat any more?” Yoongi asks.
“Yes,” says Jimin, and belatedly gulps down the rest of his soup, gone cool but still tasty.
“We don’t want you going hungry,” says Yoongi, and rests his hand briefly on Jimin’s shoulder.
And even when Jimin is done, and everything has been cleaned up, Namjoon and Yoongi keep talking about fixing damages to the farms, and what they can do if weather prevents them from repairing the greenhouse, and not about their marriage, or Jimin, at all.
“Are you waiting for me to say something?” Jimin asks, finally, when they get upstairs. He picks Namu up and puts her on the bed. She’s not big enough to jump up by herself yet.
Yoongi and Namjoon exchange glances. “You said, ‘Later,’” Yoongi says.
“I don’t know what to say,” says Jimin. He looks at Yoongi, whose gaze offers him nothing, then at Namjoon, who’s more susceptible to pleading.
“I wasn’t here when you two decided we needed to talk,” says Namjoon.
“Do you think we don’t?” says Yoongi.
“Well,” says Namjoon. He looks at Jimin. “Things are better now, aren’t they?”
“I think so,” says Jimin, cautiously.
Namjoon sits down on the bed, and doesn’t say anything for a while. He’s nice to look at when he’s lost in thought, eyes downcast but face lifted high enough that Jimin can still see him. Sometimes Namjoon is self-conscious--not about his appearance, as far as Jimin knows, because why would he be? But sometimes he shrinks under scrutiny, like Jimin sometimes expands under it, and right now there’s none of that.
When he looks up, Jimin’s instinct is to look away, but he holds Namjoon’s gaze instead. “You know we love you, right?” Namjoon says.
Jimin swallows. “Yes. I do.”
“You didn’t want to come here,” says Namjoon. “You were unhappy. Are you still?”
“You didn’t want me here,” says Jimin. “It wasn’t just me.”
Namjoon hesitates, and glances at Yoongi.
“Don’t pretend you liked me when I got here,” says Jimin. “Don’t pretend--just don’t pretend at all.”
“If I’m honest--” says Namjoon, and Jimin and Yoongi say, “Be honest” at the same time. Yoongi is smiling slightly.
“We didn’t know you,” says Namjoon. “I got to like you as I got to know you. That’s true.”
“But…” Yoongi prompts.
Namjoon glances at him, and then at Jimin, and then at his own slippered feet. “When I saw you,” he says, and looks up at Jimin again. “When you got here, I thought--you’re...stunning, you know? I thought--we get to have him?”
“Not have him,” Yoongi protests.
“I’m just saying what I thought,” says Namjoon. “I thought, ‘Maybe the consummation won’t be so bad.’ I wanted you.”
He looks to Jimin for a reaction, but Jimin is still trying to formulate one. He likes thinking about Namjoon wanting him, if it’s him and Namjoon now. He likes it less thinking about a time when they didn’t even like each other. He doesn’t like thinking about Namjoon looking forward to the consummation, a thing he didn’t want and only did because he didn’t have a choice.
The consummation is a bad memory, but it’s only a memory, and things have changed a lot since then. Jimin isn’t sure if he’s allowed to be upset about it anymore. “The consummation,” he begins, hesitantly.
Namjoon makes a face and Yoongi steps closer to him, and rests a hand on his shoulder. “I know,” Namjoon says. “It wasn’t good.”
Jimin sighs with relief. He doesn’t want that to be a good memory for Namjoon or Yoongi. “It wasn’t bad, exactly,” he says. It had felt good, in parts, and he’d felt more kindly towards Yoongi and Namjoon than he had before or for many days after--in parts.
“It wasn’t good,” says Yoongi.
“It wasn’t good,” Jimin agrees.
Namjoon looks at Yoongi again, and then back at Jimin. “We could see that you didn’t want to be there,” he says. “Even without the marriage bond. I think we both would have liked--”
“Yeah,” says Yoongi. “We both thought it could have been--fun, maybe. But we could see that you were unhappy, so--it wasn’t. I don’t think any of us wanted to be doing what we were doing.”
“It’s different for witches who have time to get to know each other before they’re married,” says Namjoon. “But for us--it felt...cruel, didn’t it? The marriage spell.”
“I didn’t know you felt that way,” says Jimin. “I thought it was just me.”
“We should have said,” says Yoongi. “We should have told you--If we could, we would have waited as long as you wanted us to wait. Even if you never wanted to consummate our marriage. It was forced on all of us, but especially you, and that wasn’t--it’s not fair.” He’s not looking at Jimin anymore. His eyes aren’t focused on anything, and his brows are drawn together. He blinks. “I would have spared you that, if I could.”
“Even though you didn’t like me?” asks Jimin. “Even though you didn’t know me?”
“Of course,” says Namjoon. “We would never--we were all there together, you know? We were all somewhere we didn’t want to be.”
“We didn’t dislike you,” says Yoongi.
“It felt like you did,” says Jimin, because he’s not ready to respond to the rest of it yet.
“I’m sorry,” says Yoongi.
“It’s alright now,” says Jimin. These aren’t new hurts, and they’re already fading.
“Is it?” asks Yoongi.
Jimin shrugs. “Well, it’s done now,” he says.
“I’d like to go back,” says Namjoon. “I wish I could. We could have shown you--I wish we could do it over, and show you how we felt.”
Jimin takes a step closer. He can’t even imagine that. Namjoon from now, Namjoon who loves him. What could he say to the Jimin who first came here? Nothing that that Jimin would be able to hear. He should tell this Jimin instead. “Why don’t you?” he says. Another step brings him right to Namjoon, so Namjoon has to tilt his face up to keep looking at him. “Do it over now,” he says. “Tell me. Show me.”
Namjoon’s eyes widen. “How do you mean?” he asks.
Jimin shakes his head. “Just--show me how it could have been. If this was the first time.” He looks to the side, to Yoongi. He knows Yoongi wants to talk, and maybe this should wait until things are clearer, but Jimin doesn’t want to wait. Maybe they’re not where they need to be, but surely they’re far enough along for this.
Yoongi doesn’t answer in words, but he steps a little closer to Jimin, and leans in to brush his lips against Jimin’s neck. Jimin shivers.
“As if we’d waited until now?” Yoongi asks, very quietly.
Jimin nods, and swallows. “I don’t want to wait any longer,” he says.
Namjoon reaches for Jimin’s hand. “This will be the first time, then,” he says. “That other time--we won’t count it.”
“Okay,” says Jimin. He takes Namjoon’s other hand, and pulls him to his feet. “Hello,” he says.
“Hello,” says Namjoon, and smiles, just enough that his dimples start to show.
Yoongi moves in closer, and rises on his toes to kiss Namjoon’s cheek. Then he kisses Jimin.
Yoongi and Jimin know how to kiss each other now. They learned the other night, when Namjoon was away. They only covered a little bit of ground, but they took their time with each other and covered it thoroughly. It’s easy to fall right back into that space. Jimin squeezes Namjoon’s hands and lets Yoongi take control, and keep their kisses shallow and their pace slow.
Jimin wants to get used to this feeling. He’s already partway there with Yoongi. He feels like he could keep doing what they’re doing forever, even though he also wants more. He gets more when Namjoon nudges Yoongi aside and takes his place. This feels like a first kiss, and it should be. They’re not counting the night they were married, and Jimin doesn’t want to count that kiss in the greenhouse, either. The one from earlier today--well, Jimin won’t forget that one. But it wasn’t like this.
“I’m glad you’re ready now,” says Namjoon.
Jimin just kisses him again. Namjoon is the tallest person he’s ever kissed, and he doesn’t usually like feeling small, but he likes Namjoon stooping, likes pulling him down to Jimin’s level. He’s stronger than Namjoon, he knows. And he could do anything with him. Namjoon would let him. It makes him want to let Namjoon do what he likes with him.
Jimin feels Yoongi pull his jacket off his shoulders, and lets go of Namjoon’s hands so Yoongi can pull it all the way off. Yoongi takes it away and hangs it on its hook, and comes back to slide his hands under Jimin’s shirt and rest them at his waist.
Jimin wishes he could kiss both of them at once and his breath catches when he realizes he can, if they kiss each other. He wants that, but he doesn’t want it yet. For now, he needs to know that the lips moving against Namjoon’s are his, and the skin shivering under Yoongi’s fingers is his.
He turns to kiss Yoongi again, and Namjoon’s mouth moves to his neck, and up to his ear. Jimin reaches for Namjoon’s shoulder, to steady himself. Their hands meet, moving over his torso, and Jimin could use the marriage bond to tell whose hands are whose, but it’s nice not to need that--to be able to feel that Namjoon’s hands are broader and Yoongi’s more calloused, and that both pairs are gentle and reverent on Jimin’s body.
Yoongi pulls Jimin’s shirt up and off. Jimin is okay with that in theory, but he has to stop kissing Yoongi to pull the shirt over his head, and then he’s chilly.
“The fire,” he says, and moves towards the fireplace, but Yoongi holds him where he is and says, “I’ll get it.”
Jimin’s eyes follow him to the fireplace and come back to Namjoon. “How do you want me?” he asks.
Namjoon’s gaze straddles the line between warm and hot. “However you want to be,” he says. “This is about you, tonight. For you.”
Jimin shakes his head. “It’s not,” he says. “It’s for all three of us.”
Namjoon’s mouth goes a little mulish. “Well, I want to do what you want,” he says.
“I want you to decide,” says Jimin. “You and Yoongi-hyung.” They look at each other for a moment. Yoongi is still poking at the fire.
“I want you to show me,” says Jimin, in a softer voice. “Like you said.” He wants them to take care of him. He wants to let them do it. They’ve been doing better at it, lately, and he wants more.
“Oh,” says Namjoon. “Alright. Well.” His eyes go soft, and then provocative again. Jimin wants to touch him, so he does, pulling Namjoon down to kiss him again, deep and slow.
“Get on the bed,” says Namjoon. It doesn’t really sound like a command, but Jimin goes. Namu stands up and gives him an offended look before jumping off the bed.
Yoongi has the fire burning hot now--too hot, and he closes the flue a little before he comes back to the bed, and leans against Namjoon, and looks down at Jimin. “You should take off your pants,” says Yoongi.
“Okay,” says Jimin. He takes his socks off first, and then his trousers, folding each item neatly at the foot of the bed. Then his sokbaji, and then he’s in nothing but his skin, prickling with the consciousness of Namjoon and Yoongi’s eyes on him. He could make a show of it, but he doesn’t have to. He’s in a vulnerable position, kneeling naked on the bed with Yoongi and Namjoon standing over him, but when he sees the way they look at him, he feels powerful. Jimin watches Yoongi rub the back of his neck, and Namjoon lick his lips, and thinks, Hoseok did want me, but he didn’t want me like this.
“Kiss me,” Jimin says. He’s not asking either of them specifically. He wants them both.
It’s Yoongi that sits down at the edge of the bed and reaches for him, cupping Jimin’s jaw with one hand and trailing the other down his spine before he kisses him.
Namjoon pulls his shirt off and comes to the other side of the bed. His hands are warm on Jimin’s back, and he leans over Jimin’s shoulder to kiss the corner of Yoongi’s mouth. His lips brush Jimin’s cheek as he pulls away, and the next place Jimin feels them is at the base of his neck. He twists to look at Namjoon, to kiss him, and Namjoon meets him halfway. Jimin thinks about how they wanted to get this over with, last time, and how quickly it went. Tonight, there’s no reason not to take it slow. Jimin feels like he could kiss and be kissed forever. He’s been starving for this for months and he’s ready to glut himself on touch.
“Lie down,” whispers Yoongi. He doesn’t have to whisper, but Jimin understands. Even a whisper feels loud, when the only sounds have been their breath, and the tiny noises their mouths make in meeting and parting. He lies back against the pillows. He’s warm now, and his lips are tingling.
“Good?” asks Yoongi.
Jimin nods. “Good.”
“Do you want--”’
“More,” says Jimin.
It’s easier, lying down, to kiss them both. To open himself up to Yoongi, to feel Yoongi smiling against his mouth, and then, when Namjoon crowds in, to turn his head a fraction of an inch and let Namjoon take over. They both stay close, their hands clasped over Jimin’s belly, and that’s the way Jimin wants it.
“Is this really how it would have been?” he asks. “Is this what you would have wanted?”
Yoongi looks puzzled, and Namjoon says, “This is what we want now,” as if that’s all that matters. And maybe it is.
Jimin is hard by the time he thinks about it. And there are things he wants, things he’s been wanting, but he doesn’t know how to think about them right now. He doesn’t know how to think anything but this and more. More of his teeth clicking against Yoongi’s, more of his tongue sliding against Namjoon’s. More skin.
“Clothes,” he mumbles.
“Take this off,” says Jimin, plucking at Yoongi’s shirt. “And you--” he nudges Namjoon’s thigh with his bare knee. “Everything off.”
They both get to their knees to undress, leaving Jimin lying down by himself. He doesn’t like that. “Wait,” he says.
He grabs Namjoon’s wrist and pulls him back down. “Take turns,” he says.
“Oh, yes,” says Namjoon, and pulls Jimin against him, Jimin’s bare back to his bare chest.
Yoongi gives them both a flat stare. “Oh good,” he says. “An audience.”
Namjoon smiles up at him. “He doesn’t really mind,” he tells Jimin.
“I know,” says Jimin.
Together they watch Yoongi take off his clothes. He’s self-conscious, his shoulders hunched forward a little, but Jimin likes what he sees. Yoongi looks, sometimes, like a collection of unrelated parts--a delicate face, a broad, wiry torso, skinny legs--but they come together to make Yoongi look exactly like who he is: a practical thinker, a person who is good at doing things.
“He’s pretty,” says Namjoon.
“I know,” says Jimin.
He can feel Namjoon’s dick pressing against the back of his thigh, nudging his ass. It’s big, and it feels big, and Jimin wants to know what it will feel like inside him. He’ll ask for that soon, but not tonight. Not yet.
He shifts and reaches behind him to touch Namjoon’s dick through his trousers. Namjoon draws in a sharp breath and Jimin says, “Is this okay?” His eyes are still on Yoongi, who is putting Jimin’s clothes away along with his own. His ass isn’t big, but it’s a nice shape.
“Yes,” says Namjoon.
Jimin unties the drawstring of Namjoon’s trousers and slips his hand inside.
“Here,” says Namjoon, and pushes his clothes off his hips. Jimin looks up at Yoongi, coming back to the bed, and wraps his hand around Namjoon’s cock. He runs his fingers up and down the length of it, getting to know it by touch--the soft skin, the little bit of wetness at the tip.
“Come here,” he says, but Yoongi shakes his head. “I want to look at you,” he says.
“Do we look good?” Jimin asks. He means for it to sound like a real question, but he can’t help smiling a little.
Yoongi sits down on the bed, a little bit apart from them still, and smiles back. “You know you look good,” he says.
Jimin tightens his hand around Namjoon’s dick and listens to the sound he makes. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” says Yoongi. “But--I don’t think you know how good you look together.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. He lets go of Namjoon’s dick and turns to look at him. He looks good, cheeks flushed, eyes bright, mouth red and wet.
“Namjoon,” says Jimin.
Namjoon kisses him, and Jimin pulls Namjoon down on top of him. He’s heavy--too heavy, but it feels good, just for a moment.
“Let me see,” says Yoongi.
“Mmm,” says Jimin. “Hyung, can you…” He pulls and pushes at Namjoon until he’s on his side, facing Yoongi with Jimin between them.
“Like this?” asks Namjoon. His fingers skate over Jimin’s flat stomach.
“Perfect,” says Jimin, and they kiss. Every kiss seems sweeter than the one before, like Jimin’s brain can’t hang on to the memory of how good it really is.
“You called him Namjoon, before,” says Yoongi.
“Did I?” says Jimin. “Sorry, hyung.”
“It’s alright,” says Namjoon, comfortably.
“Is it?” says Jimin. Yoongi grins. “Shut up,” Jimin tells him.
“Shut up, hyung,” Yoongi corrects him, still looking inexplicably gleeful.
“Oh, are you calling me hyung, now?” Jimin says, quick, without really thinking about it.
“Maybe,” says Yoongi. ”If that’s something you like.” He sounds sincere, which isn’t what Jimin expected. Their eyes meet, and hold.
“You’re not just going to watch, are you?” Jimin asks. He wants Yoongi to touch him.
“Not unless that’s what you want,” says Yoongi, but the look on his face says he knows that it’s not.
“Come here, then, please?” says Jimin.
Yoongi bends down to kiss him once, lightly. Then he straightens up. “I want to see you and Namjoonie,” he says.
“Namjoonie wants a kiss, too,” says Namjoon. His tone is at odds with his words, and Jimin and Yoongi both smile.
Yoongi bends to kiss him, and stays down longer than he did with Jimin. They’re so comfortable together. Jimin wants to know what it’s like, to be that comfortable and still feel a thrill.
“You love each other a lot,” he says, quietly. A few months ago it would have come out accusatory, but he knows they won’t hear it that way now. Yoongi lets go of Namjoon and sits up again.
Namjoon rests his hand on Jimin’s chest. “There’s no limit on love,” he says. “There can always be more.” His hand feels heavier than it should. Jimin pulls him down for another kiss, deeper and longer and consuming. But he keeps thinking about Yoongi. He doesn’t have to use the marriage bond to be aware of him, or to remember that Yoongi wants to see them. When Namjoon kicks his clothes the rest of the way off and Jimin wraps his fingers around his dick again, he’s still thinking about Yoongi, and he remembers to keep Namjoon where he is, to keep his own body angled so that Yoongi can see.
“We were going to take care of you,” Namjoon mumbles, a pretense of protest.
“You are,” says Jimin. “I want this.” It’s not what he thought he wanted, but it’s true. Maybe he hasn’t had anyone to take care of him in a long time, but he hasn’t had a chance to take care of anyone else in longer. He didn’t know how much he wanted that.
Namjoon looks good like this, and sounds better, letting out gasps and short, cut-off whines almost constantly.
“What does he like?” Jimin asks Yoongi, without turning to look at him.
“You’re doing good,” says Yoongi.
“Tell me,” insists Jimin. “Tell me what he likes best.”
Yoongi lies down, stretching out next to Jimin. His hand lands on Jimin’s shoulder, his mouth near his ear. “You know,” he says. “Didn’t you watch us, at the beginning? When you didn’t know how to turn it off?”
“I didn’t mean to,” says Jimin, and he hadn’t, then. The times since he’s learned control--that was something else.
“It’s fine,” says Yoongi. “Learning control takes a while. We know.” He hesitates, and Jimin’s hand stops moving, and Namjoon whines.
“Sorry,” says Jimin. “I just--”
“We talked about you,” says Namjoon. “That’s what you were going to say, isn’t it, hyung?”
Yoongi nods. “We talked about--how you were probably still feeling what we were, a little.”
“We wondered whether you liked it. What you liked,” says Namjoon. He kisses Jimin’s shoulder.
Jimin is a little flattered, and a little disquieted. But them talking about him like that--he’s done worse than that, watching them without their knowledge.
“I like everything,” he says. “And I want to hear about you. Tell me,” he says again, to Yoongi. “Not because I need you to. I just want it.”
“Me too,” says Namjoon. “Your voice, hyung…”
“No,” says Jimin. “He’s just going to tell me. Right?”
Yoongi chuckles. Namjoon says, “Jimin-ah…”
“You like it,” says Jimin.
“See?” says Yoongi, pitched low, just for Jimin. “You know what he likes.”
Jimin does, and this isn’t something he knows from watching them, or from feeling them though the bond. He knows because he knows Namjoon. But needing instruction isn’t what this is about.
“What else?” Jimin asks.
“He likes what you’re doing now,” says Yoongi. His lips brush Jimin’s ear when he speaks. “Slow, like that. Or even slower.”
Jimin slows down the movement of his hand obediently, and Namjoon moans.
“He likes it drawn out,” says Yoongi. “Longer than he thinks he can stand, until he’s begging.”
Jimin knows that. He’s heard Namjoon beg. He wants to hear Namjoon beg him.
“You always give in,” says Namjoon, breathless.
“Ah, but Jimin won’t,” says Yoongi.
Jimin smiles. “He’s right,” he says.
Namjoon swears under his breath. “Please,” he says, a little more distinctly.
“He likes to be taken care of,” says Yoongi, just for Jimin’s ears again.
“So do I,” says Jimin. He’s only half listening now, more focused on watching Namjoon’s dark, flushed dick emerging from the lighter skin of Jimin’s fist, and then disappearing again, over and over.
“Jimin--” says Namjoon. “I need--I--please.”
“I’ve got you,” says Jimin. Namjoon is biting his lip, hard. Jimin is entranced.
“So do I,” says Yoongi. “So does everyone.”
He reaches across Jimin to curl his hand around the back of Namjoon’s neck and pull him closer for a kiss. Namjoon says something, but Jimin can’t hear him clearly until Yoongi moves his mouth to Namjoon’s neck and does something that makes him whine. Jimin could find out what Yoongi was doing, if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. He likes it like this, only knowing what he can experience directly. It feels real.
Jimin snakes his hand around Namjoon’s back, pulling them both closer. Yoongi’s head and shoulders are sandwiched between Namjoon and Jimin. This is different from any closeness they’ve ever had before, and it’s overwhelming. And they’re not even touching him, really. They’re just all pressed together, and when the head of Jimin’s dick rubs against Yoongi’s ribs, he feels heat flush all the way up to his face. “Hyung--” he says, but he doesn’t know what to ask for.
“You take care of Namjoon,” says Yoongi. “I’ll take care of you.”
He shifts and kisses Jimin’s throat, and then his sternum, and rolls away, leaving room for Namjoon to press even closer. His cock and Jimin’s hand are pressed tight between their bellies, not leaving Jimin much room to do anything. Namjoon’s hips, thrusting up into Jimin’s hand, are doing most of the work.
“I’m so close,” Namjoon gasps. “Jimin-ah--please--just need more.”
And Yoongi was wrong about Jimin, because he doesn’t want to hold out on Namjoon, or make it last. He just wants to give Namjoon exactly what he wants.
Yoongi’s lips on Jimin’s waist, just above his hip, come as a surprise. He wasn’t thinking about where Yoongi was. He trusts him enough that he doesn’t need to know. He squirms, but Yoongi throws his arm across Jimin’s thighs and holds him still.
They’re both half on top of him now, Yoongi’s mouth dragging over his hip and stomach, Namjoon grinding into his hand, breathing heavy and hot on Jimin’s face. It took Jimin a long time to find himself here. He wasn’t in his body enough at first, spread thin across the whole district, feeling what the district felt. Then he’d had a hard time keeping himself separate from Yoongi and Namjoon, not letting his sense of their bodies seep into his own. And there were times when all his consciousness of the district was focused on that eastern border, the closest he could get to Taehyung and Hoseok--to just Hoseok, if he’s being honest with himself. He’s felt solidly planted in his own body when he dances. He feels solidly planted in his own body now. He pulls Namjoon’s head down to his, Namjoon’s mouth down to his, so the sounds they’re both making mix together at the source.
Yoongi’s teeth scrape over Jimin’s skin, and he groans. “Hyung--” he gasps, and angles his hips toward Yoongi, trying to get Yoongi’s mouth closer to his dick.
Yoongi pushes his hips flat again. “Make him come, first,” he says.
“Hyung,” Jimin whines.
Namjoon laughs into the crook of Jimin’s neck. “Make me come,” he says.
“I will,” says Jimin. He pulls himself upright, pushes Namjoon to lie flat on his back, and swings one leg over Namjoon’s thighs. Yoongi crowds behind him, hooking his chin over Jimin’s shoulder and watching as he starts jerking Namjoon off again.
“Wait,” says Yoongi. He takes Jimin’s hand and spits into it. “Okay, now.”
The slide is easier this way, and Namjoon is noisier. “Have you been keeping quiet for me?” Jimin asks. “So I wouldn’t hear?” He’s heard them--he’s heard Namjoon, especially--but not like this.
“I tried,” says Namjoon. “Oh--that’s good, that’s…”
“I never wanted to hear you,” says Jimin. “But sometimes--sometimes I liked it.”
“Yeah?” Namjoon is so hard, and Jimin can feel his thighs tensing underneath him.
Jimin bends down to kiss him, and it’s sloppy, almost as uncoordinated on his side as it is on Namjoon’s. “I didn’t at first,” he whispers. “But then--you sounded so good. You always sound so good.”
“Tried to be quiet,” gasps Namjoon. “But--hoped you’d hear.” He comes all over both of their stomachs, and keeps thrusting against Jimin’s belly for a little longer before he shudders and subsides.
Jimin flops down next to him and kisses Namjoon’s neck, and his jawline, and his ear. “Thank you,” he whispers, and he’s grateful when Namjoon doesn’t ask what he’s thanking him for.
Yoongi moves in behind Jimin. He swipes his hand through the mess on Namjoon’s stomach and slicks it over Jimin’s dick. Jimin moans, louder than he thought he was going to. He’s been worked up for a long time. He’s a little dizzy with it.
“I’m--I won’t last long,” he says. He’s a little embarrassed. He wants to show them how good he can be, but he’s better than this.
“Guess I’d better not waste time, then,” says Yoongi. He sits up and crouches down again, and closes his mouth over the head of Jimin’s dick before Jimin’s really processed what’s happening. Jimin whines and arches up and feels his cock bump against the back of Yoongi’s throat.
“Sorry,” he says, forcing himself still again. Then he realizes that Yoongi is licking Namjoon’s come off his dick, and he does it again. He bites his lip instead of apologizing again, but Yoongi just grins at him and changes position, moving to sit between Jimin’s legs and using his hands to hold Jimin’s hips still. This is better in a lot of ways. Jimin can see Yoongi’s mouth now, the way its sharp corners stretch around his cock. He moans again, overwhelmed, and Namjoon takes his hand and squeezes it. There’s a crack of thunder overhead, and a patter of rain, and that must mean something, something important, but Namjoon is steady at his side and Yoongi’s lips are tight around Jimin’s cock, and he can’t think about anything that’s not this.
Yoongi’s mouth is hot and slick, and he keeps doing things with his tongue that leave Jimin gasping for air. “I’m--I’m almost--I can’t--” he says, and hopes Yoongi gets something coherent out of it.
“He doesn’t care if you come,” says Namjoon. “He wants you to.” He rubs his nose against Jimin’s cheek, and Yoongi makes an approving noise, and Jimin turns and presses his face against Namjoon’s neck and lets go. He knows it’s going to be good, knows it’s going to be a lot, but he still isn’t prepared for how quickly the feeling crests, or the way pleasure ripples through his entire body.
Yoongi keeps his mouth on Jimin’s dick until Jimin is whining into Namjoon’s neck. Then he climbs on top of them both and squeezes himself in between them. Jimin is still a little overwhelmed, his skin buzzing, and he lies there and lets his face be kissed while Namjoon snakes his hand around Yoongi’s waist to start stroking his dick.
When Jimin comes back to himself enough to start kissing Yoongi back, Yoongi says, “Do you want to feel this?” His voice is pitched extra low, and conspiratorial.
Jimin opens his eyes. “What?”
“Joon’s hand feels so good,” says Yoongi. “Want you to feel it too.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. He closes his eyes. He’s been so determined not to feel anything that wasn’t his that it takes him a moment to figure out how to open himself up to it again. “Oh,” he says again. Namjoon’s hand does feel good, and so does his chest pressed to Yoongi’s back.
“Me too,” says Namjoon, quietly. “Jimin-ah, I want you to feel what I feel.” So he opens himself up to Namjoon, too, and gets soft, sleepy satiety and Yoongi’s hair brushing his face. It’s strange to go from the intense pleasure Yoongi is experiencing to that, and stranger still to feel them both at the same time, but it’s good. They’re both good, and so is Jimin, kissing Yoongi again and reaching over him to pull Namjoon closer.
“You can feel what I’m feeling, too, if you want,” he says, a little hesitant. It doesn’t feel like much to offer, when he’s just lying there being kissed. Even if the feeling of being kissed by Yoongi is too good not to share.
“Only if you want us to,” says Namjoon, but Jimin can hear an undercurrent of something in his voice. Excitement, or nerves. He wants this, and Jimin realizes that it’s the sharing that’s important, more than what’s being shared.
“Please,” he says.
So the three of them ride out Yoongi’s orgasm together, and it’s as good as what Jimin felt by himself before, if not better. They all make different noises when Yoongi comes--short, cut-off moans from Yoongi, a long one from Namjoon, and a breathy whine from Jimin--but they’re all feeling the same thing, and just knowing that makes it feel like more.
Afterwards, Jimin can feel their three hearts thumping in sync, and he thinks about their first night together, and how there was no way it could have been like this. Circumstances were against them, but maybe things have worked themselves out anyway. That night, Jimin couldn’t separate himself from his husbands fast enough. Tonight, he knows at least one of them will have to get up, and clean up. They’re sticky, and dirty, and it doesn’t feel too bad now, but it will. And he doesn’t want to move.
“We should clean up,” he says, finally, when it’s clear that Namjoon and Yoongi have no plans to move.
“It’s fine,” says Namjoon. Yoongi, his head pillowed on Jimin’s shoulder, just says, “Mmm.”
They both make sleepy noises of protest when Jimin pulls away, but he gets up, and cleans them up, just like he did that first night. He takes the mess of sweat and come and dirt to the fire, and then stands there, thinking, until a flash of lightning and a rumble of thunder recall him to himself, and he realizes he’s shivering.
He doesn’t know if Yoongi is still feeling what he’s feeling, or if he’s just watching out for Jimin, but Yoongi calls him from the bed. “Jimin-ah,” he says. “It’s chilly. Is everything alright?”
“Yes,” says Jimin. “I’m coming back.” But he goes to the window first, and looks out. There’s not much to see. The clouds are too thick for any moonlight to come through, even though the moon is three quarters full. The rain is steady and heavy, but not hard, just like when Jimin and Taehyung first crossed over the border. He was so scared, then, and he thinks he was right to be, but he’s not scared now. They’ll fix the district somehow. They’ll bring Jeonghwa back, maybe, or they’ll write spells. Whatever it takes.
Jimin had ended up on Yoongi’s side of the bed, but he goes back to his own side, now, and slides under the covers behind Namjoon. Namjoon shifts to accommodate him, but he’s already mostly asleep.
“Are you alright?” Yoongi asks, again.
“I am,” says Jimin, but that doesn’t seem like enough, so he adds, “I’m happy,” and reaches for Yoongi’s hand.
Yoongi takes his hand, and squeezes it, and doesn't quite let go, their fingers still loosely linked together. This is love, Jimin thinks. The good kind. The kind Yoongi talked about. It's more like what Jimin has with Taehyung than what he had with Hoseok. He doesn’t say it, because he wants Namjoon to hear it too, but he squeezes Yoongi’s hand back, and smiles, and falls asleep to the steady thrum of the rain.
When Jimin wakes, the noise of the rain is louder than he’s ever heard it. He opens his eyes and sees Yoongi sitting up in the dark.
“What’s happening?” he asks. The rain feels wrong.
“Hail,” says Yoongi.
Jimin reaches out more carefully. It’s all across the district. “It’s...frozen rain?” he asks.
“Little balls of ice,” says Yoongi.
“I’ve never heard of that,” says Jimin.
“It doesn’t happen often,” says Yoongi.
They sit there, listening together, for another few minutes, and then Namjoon wakes up and they have the whole conversation again.
“Hmm,” says Namjoon. “Hail.”
“Is the district getting worse, do you think?” says Yoongi.
They’re all silent for a moment. “It’s warmer,” says Jimin. “It was warm enough to rain, earlier.”
“Do you think we--did something?” asks Namjoon.
“You mean…” Jimin begins, but he doesn’t really want to say it.
“No,” says Yoongi. He takes Namjoon’s hand. “Us, together--that’s good. The district couldn’t not like that.” He looks at Jimin. “It is good, right?”
Jimin leans over Namjoon and kisses Yoongi until they’re both breathless. “It’s good,” he says.
“My turn?” says Namjoon, so Jimin bends down to kiss him, too. That turns into something else, Namjoon’s hands all over Jimin, and Yoongi’s, and then Namjoon’s mouth, and a spell Jimin hasn’t used since he came here, and Jimin is sure that the district can’t be upset about this. It feels too good to be bad.
He ends up between Namjoon and Yoongi, this time.
He’d known, almost every night, that Yoongi and Namjoon were having sex upstairs while he took himself out of the way. And he’d thought about what it would be like, if he was there with them. He’d wondered if it would feel like being in on something, or if he’d still be on the outside, somehow. Now that he’s here, he knows that there isn’t an inside or an outside anymore. It’s just them.
“I love you,” he says. “Both of you. I wasn’t sure for a long time, but now I am.”
When neither of them speaks, he swallows and says, “You love me, too, right?” Because he knows they do, and Namjoon’s even said it, but he wants to hear it. He’s going to want to hear it a lot, now that he’s sure. He doesn’t know how to quantify that yet.
Yoongi curves his hand around the back of Jimin’s head and says, “Yes,” at the same time as Namjoon tightens his arm around Jimin’s waist and says, “Of course.” Namjoon’s tone is indignant; Yoongi’s is decisive.
“No, it’s not ‘of course,’ is it?” says Yoongi.
Jimin shakes his head.
“Because we didn’t, at first,” says Yoongi. “And you didn’t.”
“I hated you,” says Jimin, without hesitating.
“Not hate,” Namjoon protests.
Jimin shrugs. “I don’t know,” he says. “I--disliked you, a lot. I didn’t want to like you.” He’s a little surprised to find himself saying it so openly, but he’s not worried about them taking it badly. That’s trust, he thinks. He trusts them.
“I watched you,” he says. “I--felt things. I used the bond when you didn’t know I was doing it.”
“When you couldn’t control it,” says Namjoon.
Jimin shakes his head. “No. Until--even in the past week or two.” He never made a decision to stop. Maybe he’s making that decision now.
“Oh,” says Namjoon.
“That’s not okay,” says Yoongi.
“I know,” says Jimin. “I know, I just…”
“You had each other,” Jimin says, slowly, thinking it out as he speaks. “I had nothing. I needed--something. An advantage. Power.”
“Ahh,” says Yoongi. His mouth twists slightly.
Namjoon looks down. “You’ll stop now,” he says.
“I have stopped,” says Jimin.
“Then--that’s okay,” says Namjoon.
“It’s not,” says Jimin.
“It’s not, but it is,” says Yoongi. That sounds familiar, but Jimin doesn’t remember when he’s said it before.
“I won’t do it again,” says Jimin.
“Not without asking,” says Namjoon.
Yoongi nods. “Yes. We--you can have anything from us. But you do have to ask.”
“I know,” says Jimin. “I know that now. I know that’s true now,” he corrects himself. “It wasn’t always.”
“No,” Yoongi agrees. “We didn’t like you much either, at the beginning.”
They lie there quietly for a moment. Jimin assumes that Yoongi and Namjoon are thinking along the same lines he is, about how things have changed, and who they are to each other.
“I liked you early on,” says Namjoon. “But I didn’t think you liked me--us. And later...I thought you might, but I didn’t think you cared about me the way I cared about you, by then.”
Jimin twists to face Namjoon. “When Yoongi-hyung got hurt?” he says.
“You were so good, then,” says Namjoon. Jimin knows from the look on his face, from the sound of his voice, that Namjoon is having a hard time getting the words out, that his throat feels like it’s closing up. He could feel it, though their bond, but he won’t. “Better than I was, and I didn’t think you cared, and I--”
“Joon-ah.” Yoongi’s voice is soft. “It’s alright.”
“No,” says Jimin. “Tell me. I want to hear.”
"You acted like you didn't care," says Namjoon. "Like you were doing what you thought you ought to do, and doing it well, because it was easy for you, and you could do that because Yoongi-hyung didn't really mean anything to you." He pauses. “I was so scared, and you were fine.”
“I wasn’t fine,” says Jimin. “I was scared, too, and--I didn’t want to care, but I cared so much.”
“It didn’t show,” says Namjoon.
“It never shows,” says Yoongi.
“What do you mean?” Jimin asks. He lies flat on his back again, so he can look at them both.
“It took a long time for you to let us get to know you,” says Yoongi. “You didn’t...show us much of yourself.”
“I wasn’t hiding,” Jimin protests.
“No,” says Yoongi. “But…” he presses his lips together. “You’re so...charming. And you chose not to be, when you got here. You never try for us, the way I’ve seen you try for other people.”
Jimin thinks that through for a moment. “That’s true, I guess,” he says. “I didn’t want to make an effort for you. I didn’t have...anything to gain.” He looks at them--Yoongi first and then Namjoon. “I thought I didn’t have anything to gain,” he corrects himself.
“We never knew what you were thinking,” says Namjoon. “I still don’t, a lot of the time. So it was easy to think that you didn’t care.”
“Oh,” says Jimin. He rests a hand on Namjoon’s wrist. “What changed your mind?”
“I was never sure,” says Namjoon. “But I decided--I remembered I trust you.”
Jimin props himself up on one elbow to kiss Namjoon on the cheek. “Thank you,” he says, and lies down again. “I was just trying to protect myself,” he explains. “I was scared to--to open up to you before you opened up to me.” He pauses. “Especially after I really started to care.”
“Well, so were we,” says Yoongi. “We didn’t want to care more than you, any more than you wanted to care more than us. And how could we know how you felt, if you didn’t show us?”
“I don’t know,” says Jimin. “I never thought of it like that.” He sighs, and stretches, pointing his legs and extending them until his feet poke out from under the blanket. The hard patter of hail on the roof softens into rain.
“Well, I care now,” he says, finally. “I--love you”--and it’s hard not to smile when he says that, so he lets it happen--”and...I’ll do better now.”
“We all will,” says Namjoon. His arms are long enough to go around both of them, and Jimin falls asleep again tightly sandwiched between Namjoon and Yoongi.
Jimin isn’t used to sleeping so close to anyone, and he wakes early, too warm, but content. They had talked for a long time last night--talked, and done other things, and Jimin had expected to sleep late, but he’s wide awake and full of energy. He extricates himself from between his husbands slowly, and chooses to climb over Yoongi rather than Namjoon, knowing that he’s the heavier sleeper. Something about the room feels different, and the rain has stopped. If it was colder, Jimin would expect to see snow when he goes to the window--the clean, shining surfaces he’s seen when a fresh snowfall is followed by sun. There’s that kind of feeling in the air.
When he does walk to the window, he doesn’t see anything strange. The rain has washed all the snow away, and there’s no sign of last night’s hail. The ground is wet and brown and bare. But the feeling doesn’t go away. Instead, it gets stronger, an undercurrent of excitement in the air, or inside of Jimin, spreading through his chest and growing too big to be contained by it.
It’s almost fully light, but not quite. Jimin dresses silently, compelled by something he can’t identify, and fills the fire pot with embers. Namu slept in front of the fire, and she’s in the way. Jimin wakes her up and nudges her to the side, and she yawns and gets up like it’s something she’s decided to do on her own. Before he leaves the room, he looks back at the bed. Namjoon’s arm is slung over Yoongi’s waist, but there’s still a space in between them. Space for Jimin. He closes the door behind him as quietly as he can, and goes downstairs. Namu follows, more slowly. The steps are a little bit too big for her.
In the kitchen, the rising, expectant feeling is even more pronounced. Jimin resists its pull, and instead of going to the door, he takes the fire pot to the hearth, and starts the fire. There’s a chill in the air--it’s been a long time since there wasn’t one--but this chill feels different, familiar and unfamiliar at once. He puts on his coat, picks up the kettle, and opens the door.
He stands in the doorway for a moment, forcing himself to take deep, slow breaths. Then he turns around and goes back inside. He puts his coat on its hook, and the kettle on the table, and he steps outside again.
He walks to a spot a few yards from the front door, just before the ground starts to slope down. He kicks off his shoes, and shivers. It’s still chilly, but it’s a morning chill, the kind that fades as the sun warms the air. It’s not cold anymore. Jimin crouches down and breathes into his hands. He recognizes the smell in the air, now. It’s spring.
He wanders around the side of the house to the garden, leaving his shoes behind. The earth is damp under his feet. Earth smells different in the spring. Worms are wriggling through the ground underneath him. Thin roots are stretching down, and tiny shoots are pushing their way up. Jimin remembers his first day here, and how huge and overwhelming the district felt around him and under him, too big to hold in his mind, or even to exist side by side with. Now the roots feel like the veins and nerves running through his own body. He doesn’t think he could function if they were taken away.
The feeling in Jimin’s chest hasn’t gone away, or gotten bigger. It’s just spread, like it’s not only in him anymore, but something he’s sharing with the district. Like the hill and the streams and the trees and Yoongi and Namjoon all feel it, too.
Namu has followed him outside. She’s sitting on the back doorstep, delicately cleaning her paw. Jimin picks her up and perches her on his shoulder, and walks into the garden. He crouches down by one of the plant beds and brushes away the top layer of leaf mould. Everything is wet from the melted snow, and when he leans forward, his hands sink a little way into the earth. He tries to remember what was growing here before--radishes, he thinks. He seeks down for the roots, and finds them overgrown and woody and just barely alive. They’ll have to dig up the beds and sift out all the dead things before they plant again. But there’s new life here, too: grass, and weeds greedily snatching their first opportunity to take up space, and--something else.
Jimin pushes aside a little lump of earth to reveal the crocus shoot he knows is there. Namjoon and Yoongi must have had flowers here, before they had to devote all their resources to food production. There will be flowers again, soon. Jimin is already imagining listening to Namjoon talk to them.
Namu jumps down from Jimin’s back, and sniffs the crocus shoot. It’s slender and delicate, and a sharp, bright green. It makes everything around it look less real. Jimin touches it with an extended forefinger, and then with magic, and he and Namu watch as it grows another centimeter or so all at once, two more tiny shoots pushing up next to the first one. Jimin can feel the growth happening, as if it was happening to him, and he can’t keep his excitement in check any longer.
He hasn’t used it in months, but the growth spell is still the one he knows best. His feet find the beginnings of it all by themselves. He can feel it working--life spreading through the ground, poking up in blades of grass and budding on trees--and he changes the spell as he dances, to reach as far as he can across the district, and down into the soil. Anything that’s still alive is going to get a little bit of a hand up.
The spell feels different than it has before. Stronger. Less of a balancing act. It takes Jimin a few minutes to realize that the difference is coming from outside of him, and a few more to realize that his familiar is helping him with a spell for the first time. Jimin can feel Namu’s presence where she’s jumped up to the edge of one of the raised beds to keep her feet dry, and he can feel her steadying the spell for him, like a boat in a current. His steps change as he leans into her support, spreading the spell to the very edges of the district.
And then, because his mind has been full of the heat spell, some of its shapes start finding their way into the spell he’s already dancing, warming the air around Jimin and banishing the last traces of cold from his bones. He’s never combined spells like that before; he didn’t know he could, but it’s happening. It’s working. He’s elated, and a little dizzy with the sense of achievement. If he stops dancing, he’ll fall.
He keeps dancing.
He thinks of Hoseok saying, “that feeling,” and matches it to his excitement, to Yoongi’s smile, to the warmth in Namjoon’s eyes, and he adds sunshine to his spell--his spring spell, he’ll call it, although he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to dance it quite like this again. He’s moving too fast to look at the things around him, but there’s a haze of green that wasn’t there before, and--and then there’s Namjoon, and Yoongi, standing in the open doorway together.
Having them there is like having another Namu, only where she’s steering his magic along the best, most efficient course, they have the same effect on his feelings. All the joy and excitement and love that he feels tangle together and twist into one strong cord that tugs his spells tighter and higher and stronger--growth and heat and sunlight, but especially sunlight. It’s so bright that Yoongi and Namjoon have to shield their eyes. Jimin closes his, and gets dizzier, but the spell and Namu keep him on track. The light would be even brighter if it really represented all that he’s feeling, he thinks. If he really let go.
Jimin slows down, ending the spell, because he’s scared of letting the plants grow too fast, because they’re all drunk on sunlight, and because he can’t look at Namjoon and Yoongi’s smiles properly when he’s moving. He’s smiling, too, and crying a little. He stumbles, like he knew he would, and sits on the ground. “It’s--” he says and shakes his head. He’s drained; he put too much into the spell. The crocus is blooming, and the radishes are leafy and green. Everything is green, everywhere he looks. There’s grass under him where there was only bare earth when he started dancing. He looks up at his husbands, and wonders if they know how much he needs them.
They both come over to him--still in their nightshirts--and squat next to him. Namjoon’s arms go around him first, and then Yoongi’s. “You brought the spring,” says Namjoon.
Jimin shakes his head. “I didn’t,” he says. “It was--I don’t know. It must have happened last night. I came down, and--it was spring.”
“No,” says Yoongi. “You brought it.”