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We found you in the woods

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Taeyeon had barely closed the door behind her when she spoke.

“Ok, spill.”

“Huh? Spill what?” Kibum turned to face her.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe just the fact that you’re suddenly acting all demure and cute because of the newbies? What happened between you and them before you got here?”

“Nothing! Honestly, I barely even spoke to them apart from learning their names and that they were looking for a village to build a home for their kid,” Kibum defended. “And hey! I’m always cute.”

“But you’re never this quiet,” Taeyeon pointed out. “You’re nervous, aren’t you? You think it’s them?”

Kibum wanted to retort, but instead he sighed.

“I’m just being delusional. I know it’s nothing.”

“It’s not nothing, Kibum,” Taeyeon smiled. “At dinner they asked if it was possible to have a third soulmate, and not just out of curiosity. It actually could be them!”

Kibum’s expression seemed hopeful, but something held him back from believing.

“It’s just, what are the chances?”

“I don’t know, but I want you to promise me you won’t avoid them, ok? This could be it,” Taeyeon urged.

“I don’t avoid things,” Kibum grumbled.

“Whatever you say,” Taeyeon ruffled his hair as she passed. “Good night, Ki.”

“Good night,” he replied as he watched Taeyeon retreat to her bedroom for the night.

What if… What if it really was them?

~~~

The next day, Kibum rose shortly after the sun. He normally woke early, but today he felt particularly restless and alert. In an effort to distract himself, he began preparing a larger-than-usual breakfast for himself and Taeyeon. There were not many fresh ingredients left to work with, as the village’s small group of hunters and explorers had yet to return with this week’s haul, but he made do with what he could find. As the broth boiled, he finished chopping the vegetables he still had left before adding them to the clay pot on the fire. The smell of food drew Taeyeon out of her room and she joined Kibum in the kitchen to help finish the various side dishes.

“So, any particular reason for the extravagant breakfast? Do we perhaps have a certain pair of guests visiting this morning?” Taeyeon wiggled her eyebrows.

Kibum gave her a light shove before deflecting, “No, I just felt like it this morning. But if you’re going to be annoying, I’ll just eat it all by myself.”

“Sure you will,” she chuckled and began setting the table for the two of them.

They chatted about the things they had to do that day while they ate. It didn’t take long for them to finish eating and cleaning up. Soon they were off to start their days.

~

Kibum arrived at the village’s makeshift “school building” (some tables with benches and a covering to protect against rain) early and took his time setting up all the materials he would need for his lessons that day. While spinning and weaving were an art in their own right, they also held a more practical purpose towards the village. As such, everyone was taught at least the basics before deciding if they wanted to continue or not.

It didn’t take long for his first student to arrive, escorted by one of her older sisters. Yerim was a sweet girl, the same as both her older sisters, Wendy and Joohyun. He saw Joohyun particularly often as she shadowed Taeyeon in preparation for being either a future head Alpha or advisor. She was kind and caring, and not nearly as loud as the middle child. Wendy was a refreshing ball of energy with a passion for music and a habit of singing all the time.

Kibum struck up a friendly conversation with the two girls while they waited for the remaining students to arrive. Ten was the next to arrive. The kid had a real passion for the craft and Kibum had taken him under his wing as a sort of apprentice. While the rest of the kids learned the basics, Kibum would teach Ten more advanced techniques on the side.

Next to arrive was Jongin, a shy, quiet boy, and his older brother, Jongdae, another ball of sunshine with a penchant for randomly bursting into song, followed shortly by Donghyuck, who… God, there really was no end to the number of energetic and loud singers in this village, Kibum thought. Thankfully, his last student was Jisung, the youngest and quietest of the lot. Once everyone had arrived, Wendy waived her sister goodbye and the lessons began.

Kibum had only got a few minutes into his lesson when Yunho appeared, escorting Jinki, Minho, and Taemin.

“Hello,” he welcomed them.

“Good morning, Kibum. I hope I didn’t interrupt your lesson,” Yunho replied.

“No worries, is there anything I can help you with?” Kibum asked, eyes wandering to the guests Yunho had brought with him.

“We thought it might be nice for Taemin here to start meeting some kids his age, would you mind taking on another student?”

“Of course not, you’re welcome anytime, Taemin,” Kibum smiled at the little boy. He seemed nervous, but not as distraught as when he had first met him. “There are some seats near the back by Jongin. Jongin, could you raise your hand, please?”

Jongin raised his hand quietly, looking just about as nervous as Taemin did. He wasn’t used to strangers in such a small, tight-knit community.

Minho crouched next to Taemin, “Don’t worry, we’ll be right here with you,” he looked up at Kibum, “Do you mind if we join your class too?”

“Feel free,” Kibum invited, and so Taemin, led by Jinki and Minho, settled near the back next to Jongin.

“Thanks, Bum,” Yunho said after turning back to him. “I should probably get going, but I’ll see you later.”

Yunho had only taken a few steps before abruptly turning back again, “Oh, and our supply group just got back. Thought I’d give you a heads up.” He smiled before leaving again.

Kibum thanked him for the warning and began his lesson once more. It wasn't a long lesson, most of the time was for the kids to practise the things they had learned. Once the kids had all gotten started on their individual projects, Kibum brought Taemin up his own workstation to begin filling in the basics he had missed.

He began explaining to Taemin how he would normally have to clean the fibres before spinning them, but because Kibum had already done so, they could skip that step, when he smelt a familiar alpha approaching. Almost immediately after he noticed, he felt a pair of strong arms wrap around his middle and his feet leave the ground.

“My sweet, Bummie!” Jonghyun cried in the most exaggerated voice he could muster. “Oh, how I missed you during the long, cold nights on the road!”

“Yah! Jjong, put me down! You were barely gone a week!”

Kibum felt Jonghyun smirk into the back of his neck before putting him down.

“Yes, but I still missed you,” he pouted and turned Kibum to face him.

“Aish, so needy,” Kibum huffed and scratched the underside of Jonghyun’s chin.

Suddenly, he remembered where he was and he turned to see that Minho and Jinki had come to stand with Taemin. He couldn’t tell what the expressions on their faces were, but they certainly seemed uncomfortable. He didn’t know if they were actually his soulmates or not, but if they were, he doubted they wanted to have much to do with him after that. Sure, he and Jonghyun weren’t together, but he didn’t know how to explain that to them without betraying what he was really feeling.

Thankfully, Jonghyun seemed to pick up on the awkward air fairly quickly and stepped forward.

“Hello, are you guys new? I’m Jonghyun, one of Kibum’s friends,” he introduced with a small bow and a smile. Minho and Jinki looked a little more relaxed, but still a little hesitant.

“Nice to meet you, Jonghyun. Yes, we just arrived yesterday. I’m Jinki, this is Taemin, and this is Minho, my partner,” Jinki replied with his own small bow.

“Nice to meet you, as well. How are you liking the village so far?”

“It’s amazing. We can’t thank everyone enough for their kindness, we feel so welcomed,” Jinki said, truly grateful to all the people of the village.

Kibum felt touched by his sincerity, they were both such kind people and it made Kibum feel even more drawn to them. Given the look on Jonghyun’s face, he didn’t hide affectionate expression very well. Jonghyun smirked.

“I’m glad you’re settling in so well! I’ll get out of your hair now so you can spend some time with just Kibum,” Jonghyun winked at the pair before grabbing Kibum’s shoulders and laying an overdramatic, wet kiss on Kibum’s cheek and walking away.

“YAH!” Kibum called after him, rubbing his cheek clean with his sleeve. Minho and Jinki chuckled behind him and he turned back around to face them.

“He seems awfully friendly,” Minho smiled, and Kibum sighed fondly.

“He joined the village not long after we settled into this area so we’ve known each other a long time, he’s probably my closest friend,” Kibum said with a smile.

“I’m glad you’re friends,” Minho said.

Kibum didn’t know exactly what Minho meant by that, but Taeyeon’s words came to mind. It was possible, and he wasn’t going to ignore it.

“Oh?” Kibum asked suggestively with a raised brow.

Minho flustered for a moment before regaining his confidence.

“Yeah, I’m glad you’re friends,” he said, and Kibum smiled.