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fractalled magic beneath the moonlight

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༻ ☽ ༺

 

the sky is a creamy, brilliant blue. like the finest of icings made in the palace kitchens, soft with color and wispy with strokes of white: clouds. the color bodes well for the weather today, warm with the sun’s pretty rays illuminating the grounds, but cool too. cool with a breeze that dances through the gardens and whispers through the translucent leaves that hang from the willow tree that taehyung has tangled himself in. 

 

he sits uncomfortably where the branches spread out from the trunk of it, legs propped up by a particularly unsteady outstretch of leaves that sways with his every movement. taehyung is leaning back against one that’s just a little bit stronger, one that doesn’t curve downward: one that, instead, stands the slightest bit taller so that it can also sprout forth more branches and more leaves and more places for the birds to rest upon. 

 

taehyung can smell the flowers from his spot in the tree, almost all of them. 

 

there’s the tenderness of the teardrop flower patch, the closest to the willow tree and almost encircling its base. they’re a pretty white and are scattered delicately in bushes of the darkest green, an offset that’s attractive to the enlightened eye. a curled petal hangs from a thin green stalk that extends from the floral axis of the flower outward: hanging low past the fan of petals encircling the richness of its center’s pollen. 

 

the hanging petal looks like a tear; thus, the name teardrop. 

 

most importantly, they’re taehyung’s favorite, and this is the only place in the entire elven kingdom of tanaera that they grow. the teardrops smell alluring, fresh, kind of like the smell of newly washed clothing and a spring breeze and a drizzle of rain. 

 

there’s also the gloryroses, dark purple and heady with the scent they expel. they’re the bees favorites - besides the golden honeylips of course. the maridawns, that have a lighter floral scent, have petals that exist in gradients of soft peaches to faded canaries, and they’re planted closest to the pond in the center of the balcony gardens. 

 

(of course, starblooms and their starpads float in the still water, colored lavenders and periwinkles.)

 

again, the teardrops are taehyung’s favorite. 

 

his gaze, though, does not rest on the flower that flits through the surface of his thoughts - the flower that’s scent curls gently around him and hugs him like he imagines his mother would. no, taehyung’s gaze rests on a boy in the distance, in the northern region of the tanaera village. the height of the9 gardens’ balcony doesn’t allow for a clear view to the point where the village stretches to the edge of the surrounding forest, but it lets taehyung see him still. 

 

this boy is someone he’s seen for a lot of his life. he’s the most active of the healing region, and he takes the most care of what medicinal herbs he does grow: from what taehyung can see anyway. 

 

taehyung thinks that they’re around the same age. they’ve both grown up throughout the years. taehyung's been admiring the boy’s hard work in the summers and his weeding in the autumn evenings, and sometimes the boy has also glanced up toward the balcony that taehyung reveres him from. if taehyung didn’t know better, he’d think that sometimes, the boy actually smiled up at him, waved at him once in a while. 

 

(if he didn’t know better, taehyung would think that they have some sort of connection, having grown up in the same kingdom while looking at each other with similar wonderings.)

 

taehyung is a prince. the only prince of this kingdom, given life by a mother who gave up her own - for his. 

 

the boy is a villager, a healer apprentice that exists on the very outskirts of what the elven court deems as something taehyung should barely think about. 

 

and yet, he does. 

 

(sometimes he dreams about possible futures with this boy he doesn’t know and hasn’t met. sometimes he dreams about being free, like the boy. who naps in the spring mornings and shovels snow from his garden on long winter nights.)

 

a presence approaching him lifts him gently from his thoughts, the tender scent of a teardrop flower growing stronger. 

 

it’s yoongi: the pixie in mention flitting up towards his entangled frame in the drooping tree, holding one of the blossoms in his hands. about the size of taehyung’s hand, yoongi’s wings push him up to taehyung’s eyesight, and he settles gently on the prince’s shoulder, tucking the stem of the teardrop flower behind his ear. 

 

“so,” yoongi drawls, his voice almost apathetic, but tinged with curiosity, “you met your betrothed last night.”

 

taehyung hums and shrugs in a nonchalant manner. he holds out a hand in front of him and watches yoongi flit from his shoulder to sit on his palm. 

 

it was his nineteenth birthday last night. the moon was full and the stars were scattered across the sky in dipping patterns: faint enough that he had trouble making them out. taehyung spent more time out watching the sky on the ballroom balcony than he did in the ballroom itself. he had no interest in dancing with anyone, nor did he feel like acknowledging the fact that the day he turned nineteen was also the day he was presented with his betrothed. 

 

“taehyung…”

 

with a sigh, taehyung says, “his name is namjoon, a prince from the naodai kingdom. he’s twenty-one and both my father and his king agreed that the marriage would strengthen the elven forces and allow tanaera to ascend to the higher elven court.”

 

“so you’re being used for political purposes as well as combatant ones.”

 

“wow,” taehyung smirks, “big words coming from a tiny pixie. but yes.”

 

“careful,” yoongi points a finger at him in the most menacing way he can, “i can summon whatever creature i want, and you don’t want to get on my bad side.”

 

taehyung scoffs, “as if,” and leaves it at that. 

 

yoongi looks at him almost inquisitively, hearing the solemnity that settles over his voice. the pixie turns to face the village. his hair is black and wavy, with a fringe that hangs low over the honey color of his eyes. his wings are thinner than paper, and they take up the expanse of his back. they’re delicate, translucent, and they have pretty blue veins running through them in gently weaving designs. shaped like narrow leaves, yoongi’s forewings hold the most power and are about twice the size of his hindwings. 

 

pixies aren’t treated as well as they should be. they’re not allowed outside of the castle gardens. they have magic too. and though it’s not a strong magic, the kingdom of tanaera still takes it as a threat. 

 

taehyung can’t remember the last time he was able to petition for better clothing for the pixies. he thinks it’s been a while, since the rough green viscose of yoongi’s shirt is tattered at the hem. it’s big on the pixie too, only secured around his waist by a tied vine - likely from a weavewreath flower - that keeps the fabric from billowing about his form. his shorts are in better condition than his shirt, still of the rough viscose texture though. 

 

guilt settling along the lines of taehyung’s thoughts, he looks back out at the village. at the boy who now crouches in the bed of his garden and tends to a plant that taehyung cannot see and cannot name. 

 

“your mother wouldn’t have wanted this for you,” yoongi murmurs.

 

taehyung offers the pixie a soft smile, “i know.” 

 

(taehyung doesn’t know much about his mother. she died giving birth to him, died from a curse that had been cast upon her. if anything, yoongi knew her better than taehyung ever could have. he’s one hundred and seven, which is young for a pixie, and the gardens were taehyung’s mother’s favorite place.

 

yoongi says that time doesn’t really feel real to him, though: says that his past one hundred and seven years have felt more like twenty-two or twenty-three, perhaps. 

 

it’s not something that’s respectful to ask about, though.)

 

sighing, taehyung lets the scent of the flowers wash over him. there are thirteen full moon cycles until the wedding. which means that taehyung has about a year to live what life he can live before being trapped in a marriage he doesn’t want. 

 

he grounds himself: feels yoongi’s weight in his palm, smells the teardrop bushes’ fresh blooms on the wind, looks out at the boy, haloed by the slowly setting sun. 

 

“you’re staring at him again, taehyung.”

 

taehyung watches the boy walk over to another section of his garden, “i know,” he says, heart aching. 

 

and if he didn’t know any better, he’d think that when the boy’s face turns up toward the sky, in the direction of the gardens’ balcony, he’s actually looking at taehyung. 

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

namjoon is a very kind person, taehyung notices. he’s confident and tall and has dimples that pop out when he smiles. some part of taehyung expected the prince of naodai to be more spoiled, to be - if anything - a bit stuck up. 

 

but, no. 

 

namjoon looks at the aspects of taehyung’s kingdom with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face. the pointed tips of his ears flush red when taehyung first tours the palace with him: specifically when they pass the forbidden library. taehyung pretends not to notice. 

 

he keeps his distance as best he can. finding things to occupy him keeps him busy enough. he goes to the gardens every day, practices as much archery on the training grounds as he can until he begins to attract a crowd, and most of all, refrains from seeing his father, the king. he wants to avoid getting to know namjoon as much as he can, too: feels like he’ll feel more compelled to try and love the prince. which he has no eagerness towards. 

 

taehyung doesn’t want forced love. and that’s what this relationship might bring. 

 

he fears it. 

 

one day, about one moon after his birthday and the betrothal announcement, taehyung’s sequestered himself in his room, robes loose about his frame as he lets a cool breeze flutter through his open window. it ruffles the curtains and kisses taehyung’s skin: gentle in its touch. so gentle that sometimes, taehyung imagines the wind to be a person - curling against him, running fingers through his hair, wiping his tears away.

 

there’s a knock at his door, and upon hoping it to be a servant - they usually assume he’s sleeping - he waits for the presence to leave. this time, though, it doesn’t, and with another knock, a voice calls out, “taehyung? it’s namjoon. may i ask you something?”

 

with a huff of breath, taehyung replies, “one moment.”

 

reluctantly, he gets to his feet and properly reties the royal robes around his waist. they’re silver and satin, smooth against his skin: a luxury not many others in the kingdom can afford. he refuses to admit out loud that he’s awfully fond of his robes, especially the silver ones. this one especially fits him well. it’s sequined at the neckline with the smallest of starstones - twinkling with a crystalline white color - and the tiny glimmers accent the dip of the line, revealing his chest in a way that could be considered royally improper, but not enough to be reprimanded for. 

 

the robes’ hem sways gently at his ankles, brushing his legs ever so smoothly when he steps forward to fetch the matching silver flats and slip them on. his hair is unruly this afternoon, curls of dark brown hanging in his gaze, so he sweeps his fringe to the side as best he can and lets go of the reluctance to answer the door. 

 

beyond it, namjoon is revealed in all of his confident aura. he wears silk robes of lavender, the royal color of his kingdom: a symbol of naodai’s existence within the inner circle of the elven court. 

 

“yes?” taehyung questions, raising an eyebrow. 

 

it also occurs to him that namjoon is a bit awkward with confrontation. even now, he watches as the older prince squirms under taehyung’s gaze. 

 

namjoon clears his throat, twines his hands in front of him, “your kingdom has solis berry trees, right?”

 

“yeah, in the western region of the village.”

 

“could we… could we go there and pick some?” and with the way namjoon asks this, taehyung finds himself melting a bit. perhaps he’s been a bit too harsh in his ignorance toward the prince. they’ve both been forced into this marriage, after all.

 

finally, after some thought, taehyung relents, “sure. why not?”

 

he steps out of his room and closes the door behind him. the palace hallways are quiet, and taehyung leads the way swiftly, namjoon trailing close behind him. 

 

he has to alert his personal guard he’s going out first, so before they depart, they stop by the guard post. 

 

his personal guard, kim seokjin, steps out with a few others following behind him, and he nudges taehyung’s shoulder, “yah, the nerve of you, prince. i was enjoying lunch.” 

 

seokjin is a little taller than taehyung, wears thin plated armor that fits his chest and arms quite nicely. a cape of silver is thrown around his shoulders, broad, the ridges of his armor melted over it to steady its placement. he’s the only guard that taehyung’s convinced to not call him prince in a serious manner. and seokjin is more than a guard, anyway. he’s a friend. 

 

(they’ve known each other for years now.)

 

the journey to the western region is short after the palace gates open for them, and taehyung and namjoon walk in uncomfortable silence while seokjin and the other guards trail loosely behind. 

 

the grove of solis berry trees is encased by the region of the village, at the heart of it, truly. it’s well known that elves naturally place things they hold dear in the center of their existence. it’s why tanaera surrounds the palace on all sides, why the western part of the village surrounds the solis berry grove on all sides too. it’s beautiful, really: the concept of it all. 

 

when they finally approach the grove, two younger elven girls greet them with pride, eyes twinkling at the sight of not one, but two princes in their midst. they provide both namjoon and taehyung with a woven straw basket and permit them to pick as many berries as they like. 

 

taehyung drops to a knee and kisses each of their knuckles as a gesture of appreciation, “thank you, fair ladies,” and he smiles when they giggle and allow him to pass. 

 

he catches the look on namjoon’s face as he steps forward: this almost endeared expression lifting the corners of his lips. 

 

despite that namjoon was the one to suggest solis-berry picking and that taehyung agreed, he keeps his distance. the trees are barely taller than taehyung, and their branches are stiff in the air, proud of the fruit they bear. the berries nestled in the leaves are a dark red, an almost maroon color, and at night they turn darker than the navy of blueberries. solis berries are well sought out in the tanaera kindgom, as this is the only place in the whole realm of which they grow.

 

(it's well known that solis berries have certain healing and energizing properties, of which are especially useful to the realm's armies.

 

any elf that visits tanaera usually leaves with at least a handful of them in their bags.)

 

the underside of the trees' leaves bear minuscule thorns, a safeguard to the fruit that hangs from their branches, although they don't do much harm. 

 

taehyung is careful as he picks from a tree to his right, plucking the berries - which are only a bit bigger than the size of his thumbnail - one by one and gently setting them in the basket that hangs on his arm. 

 

he pays no attention to namjoon, and a part of him feels guilty for doing so.

 

he doesn't get away with it for long, though. 

 

when he moves on to another tree, whose berries look a bit fresher in the gleaming rays of sun, namjoon joins him and quietly says, "i know our marriage is arranged, but i do want to get to know you better, taehyung. that's what this time is for, after all."

 

taehyung hums, lips thin. he begins to wonder why he agreed to come here in the first place.

 

"even if we don't grow to love one another, we still have to learn to rule together."

 

scoffing, taehyung scratches the tip of his forefinger on a leave upon plucking more berries more harshly, and he subconsciously apologizes to the tree for his annoyed behavior. 

 

"there was a boy back in my kingdom..."

 

taehyung stops, gives namjoon a glance. his face looks sad all of a sudden. something sorrowful seems to have fallen over him, something that curls him inward a bit, lays heavy on his drooping shoulders, and makes the line of his mouth tight. 

 

he continues, "there was a boy back in my kingdom who i loved very much... he was executed seven moon cycles ago for courting me. two moons later, i was told there was an agreement of marriage between naodai and tanaera, to show me i was a captive to my duty, that i should never have accepted the courting of a commoner, and to bring tanaera into the higher elven court," softly, namjoon sighs, and he rolls a solis berry in his fingers, expression having gone indifferent, "i'm here because it's my duty as prince, because this arrangement will also benefit my kingdom. that is all."

 

looking at him like this, something heavy settles over taehyung too. it never occurred to him that namjoon, even though forced into it, also does not want this marriage: that namjoon had a life before coming here, that namjoon is giving up everything for his kingdom. and unwillingly, at that. 

 

taehyung turns to him, robes swishing at his ankles. namjoon is illuminated by the daylight, the lavender of his robes softly shining with this pearly glow. the story he told still seems to hang on him, and taehyung somehow manages not to let too much emotion swell in his words as he replies, "when you were first introduced to me in the ballroom, i hated you."

 

namjoon's eyes widen, and his face falls even further. 

 

"i'm sorry for hating you," taehyung says, and he means it, "i didn't remember that i wasn't the only one this was forced on... and i'm sorry that you lost a courtship," he frowns, can't bear to imagine it, "you seem nice. and you're right... if we're going to end up ruling together, we should get to know each other more."

 

watching him with relief in his eyes, namjoon offers him a small smile, "i forgive you. i would've hated me too."

 

a more comfortable silence gently washes over them, the breeze picking up as it sifts through the swaying trees, rattling their leaves, and brushing namjoon's chestnut colored fringe to the side. 

 

"shall we meet again?" 

 

at the offer, namjoon nods, and he looks a bit more collected now, so taehyung grins and steps forward, sticking out his hand. 

 

he introduces himself kindly, in the way namjoon deserved to have been first greeted, "i'm kim taehyung, prince of tanaera. it's an honor to meet you."

 

namjoon's hand is warm and soft when it shakes his, "kim namjoon, prince of naodai. the honor is mine," and when he smiles back fully, his dimples pop out again, small creases in his cheeks that speak of just a smidgen of happiness.

 

taehyung doesn't know how he manages to smile when he's already lost so much: his love, the respect of his kingdom, his free will. it takes a certain kind of strength for that, a strength that taehyung doesn't think that he, himself, has. 

 

they go back to berry-picking, and taehyung finds that namjoon is a very philosophical person. together, they lowly discuss the ethics of duty, putting perspective on a multitude of complex situations that taehyung never would have thought about before today. they even discuss namjoon's previous situation, and although taehyung doesn't understand how namjoon manages to distance himself from his own past, he listens as the elf discusses fate: if his king interrupted fate or if his king declaring the death of his previous love was fate. 

 

taehyung only asks if, perhaps, fate is indifferent to the overall construct of their world and is instead something that they make, that they control: that perhaps, fate is as simple as namjoon asking to go berry picking, and the choice from there on drives the conversations and events that follow: that perhaps, fate is what they make of it, something that relies solely on them. 

 

(he even - briefly - considers that maybe... he can choose his own fate.)

 

it's a wonderful conversation, and taehyung finds himself vastly enjoying its nature. he spends a lot of time with yoongi and jungkook, but developing another companionship is something that he can say he hasn't had the pleasure of doing in a long time. 

 

after a while, though, he gets quite parched, so he gently requests for namjoon to watch over his half-filled basket and excuses himself. 

 

seokjin tries to follow, but taehyung insists for him not to. the nearest market is on the other side of the grove, and taehyung has no need for armed protection to go somewhere that's barely a one minute walk away. reluctantly, seokjin lowers the hand on the hilt of his sword, and nods, allowing taehyung the momentary freedom. 

 

even though he hadn't quite realized it, taehyung's chest is a lot looser than it was before, and he feels like he can breathe a little deeper, the air more crisp as it flows into his lungs.

 

he takes his time, thinking about duty, thinking about namjoon, thinking about fate, and his steps are slow and measured: something that's been trained into him thanks to his endless public etiquette classes. 

 

(taehyung hated those classes with a burning passion.)

 

despite this, taehyung has a poor habit of getting lost in thought, so it doesn't surprise him when his foot catches on a particularly uneven cobblestone section of the street as he nears the market, and he inwardly groans when he feels himself begin to fall, nothing around to catch himself on. perhaps, he should've let seokjin join him. somehow, the man always manages to keep him from slamming to the ground facefirst and breaking his nose - even if its usually by quite gruffly grabbing him by the back of his robes and pulling. 

 

before he has a chance to yell, someone is catching him by the arm, gasping his title, and letting him stumble head first into their chest.

 

there's a hand bracing his elbow, and another coming to steady his waist, stabilizing him as he properly regains his footing. 

 

appreciative, taehyung sighs and says, "thank you," pulling away and recovering his composure. when he looks up to meet his helper's gaze, he's taken aback almost immediately, and he wracks his mind as he tries to remember where he's seen this boy before, why he looks so familiar. 

 

"not at all, prince," and the boy's smile is blinding. the ends of his hair are dyed blue, and taehyung can only imagine the work it took to grind the blueberries and indigo to make it such a pretty shade. the slope of his face is gentle, and the slight puff of his cheeks flush a soft pink. endearment crawls up taehyung's spine. his voice is tender, quiet, full of formality and respect, "i'm sorry for touching you like that.”

 

(taehyung briefly remembers that no one except royalty is allowed to touch upon royalty unless previously permitted.)

 

"it's fine," taehyung says, and he feels his lips pull downward a bit, still trying to place where he's seen him. 

 

"i'm jimin, park jimin."

 

oh, it hits him then.

 

this is the boy. 

 

the boy taehyung sees from the gardens' balcony, the boy he's imagined being and being with. both of which are so impossible that he's not sure why he indulged in such daydreaming to begin with. 

 

jimin is even more beautiful up close. 

 

there's something about him that feels so alive and warm, even from only a few footsteps away. his eyes crease and disappear when he smiles, and - 

 

oh.

 

the tip of his right ear is shorter than most elves, which is not what brews sorrow in taehyung's stomach. the tip of his left ear, well, there isn't one. it's difficult to view, but taehyung thinks he can see scar tissue there: faint. likely from where someone or something cut the tip of it off. in that moment, taehyung mourns for it, knows that their ears are their pride, knows how painful it must've been to cope with the loss. 

 

"prince?"

 

taehyung snaps out of his thoughts, "uh, taehyung. you caught me, so just - just taehyung is fine," and he can feel the blush creeping up his skin. 

 

jimin seems taken aback, and his pretty gaze drops: eyes the prettiest of cocoa browns, ringed on the outside with a thin pearly color that shines in the afternoon sun. they look as if they glow. his clothes are tawny-colored, likely made of thin, cheap cotton, but his shirt fits him well, outlining the pretty lithe of his form. his pants are a little long, swell over his boots, but they fit him well too. 

 

"i see you from the palace gardens," says taehyung softly, "it's very admirable to see someone so dedicated to their herbs.

 

when the pink on jimin's cheeks brightens, taehyung finds himself giddy, smiling bigger than he has all day. "thank you," jimin mumbles. he wrings his hands out in front of him, suddenly shy, "i work very hard to grow them, even though i could just buy them here."

 

taehyung's heart flutters wildly, "it shows character, jimin. it shows devotion... and such devotion to something even that simple is hard to find now." then, he does the unbelievable, does it without really thinking.

 

he bows. 

 

not fully. he simply splays his hands on his stomach and bends slightly, head tilting downward in admiration. when asked why he does this, he'll say he doesn't know, but truly... something about jimin is so earnest and gentle, even though taehyung has only spoken with him this once. something in jimin rumbles with a pleasant kindness and truth that taehyung feels echo through him. it's something... almost magical. something tangible. something real. 

 

hands hover in front of him, "no! no, prince, don't, please! it's not - i just..."

 

"call me taehyung," and taehyung straightens. 

 

he relishes in the flustered expression that jimin bears, his eyes twinkling like a refraction of sunlight through glass. he also knows that other elves are watching, but this interaction distracts him in the best, most wonderful way, so he finds himself not minding.

 

working to compose himself, jimin straightens too, and his shorter height makes the effort endearing to watch. "thank you... taehyung. and i can see you too, i think. not very clearly, since you're so far away, but i can see you too..."

 

taehyung is so, so captivated. 

 

"i'm glad we could finally meet, jimin."

 

"me too..." the flush dusted across jimin's cheeks fades a bit, and he smiles again, showing his cute crooked teeth, and it's a miracle that taehyung doesn't swoon right there. "i have to go now, highness - "

 

taehyung pouts. 

 

" - but i hope to speak with you again someday."

 

taehyung returns his grin, "and i as well."

 

turning from him reluctantly, jimin steps back, then stops and says, "taehyung?"

 

"hmm?"

 

"please be careful, and watch where you're walking."

 

"i will, jimin."

 

then, jimin departs with a little wave of his hand and a gentle flash of his eyes, and taehyung watches him with longing in his heart until he turns a street corner and disappears. elven eyes linger on him, so taehyung quickly requests water from a providing cart, thanks the givers for it, and quickly returns to the solis berry grove, where namjoon in his guards are waiting. 

 

but even as he and namjoon continue filling their baskets, and the other prince continues their discussion, taehyung's breathtaking happening upon jimin does not leave his mind. 

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

three nights later, it still lingers with him, hangs on his thoughts and from his heart and in his soul. 

 

the temptation to go out to the gardens is strong, but taehyung doesn't know if he trusts himself enough to do so without wanting to see jimin up close again: without wanting to talk more with him. he can still feel the elf's touch on his elbow and when he steadied him, can still feel the warm readiness of his hands. 

 

(if taehyung didn't know any better, he'd think that jimin's hands had fit perfectly where they touched him, had settled in the most destined of ways upon the curve of his hip and bend of his arm. 

 

if taehyung did know any better, he wouldn't even consider this.)

 

though he doesn't talk with yoongi for these past days - which isn't too unusual considering some of his princely duties - taehyung does manage to slip in moments here and there with jungkook, a palace servant. jungkook is sweet, only a year younger than taehyung, and his voice when he sings is the loveliest in all the realm - taehyung insists. since jungkook lives in the servant houses just outside the kitchens, and just inside the palace gates, he often ventures out into the village, especially the western and northern region for certain crops and remedies for the cooks to use. this means that he's seen jimin. this means that taehyung can ask about him. 

 

it's pleasing, how fondly jungkook speaks of jimin, although not often getting the chance to spend time with him. he praises the boy with blonde hair dyed blue at the ends, with eyes ringed of pearl, and with a heart so big that it shouldn't fit inside his chest cavity. he tells taehyung that jimin is the best healer's apprentice around, and that he doesn't often charge for his services. 

 

that alone is telling of jimin's character. 

 

taehyung listens and listens and listens, eager and aching and jungkook speaks of the way jimin buckles when he laughs, the way his face lights up when watching the sunrise, the way he dances when the village musicians play as if he knows just how much he enraptures those who watch, the way his eyes disappear when he smiles, the way he's gentle and affectionate and shameless in almost every action, and so, so much more. 

 

the night has swelled sweetly, the moon high in the sky, a crescent, and taehyung thinks of all these things and desperately tells himself not to want or wish or wonder. 

 

his window is open again, and the air is cool despite the lack of wind, as it always is during tanaera springtime. once more, taehyung is laying on his bed, the posts of his footboard towering in his peripheral as he gazes up at the roof. it's too extravagant for his tastes, his room, but he considers it to be a home and a safety for him despite this. 

 

he imagines that he can smell the teardrops from here, and he suddenly longs for companionship, someone to talk to. he suddenly wants to tell yoongi about jimin, about the boy the pixie has seen him gaze at longingly for so long. 

 

(most of all, he wants yoongi to remind him that this is something he should not indulge in. or maybe he wants yoongi to tease him. say, "fuck arranged marriages." 

 

on second thought, he doesn't know if he wants yoongi to urge him to follow his kingdom's wishes or the lulling call of his heart.)

 

breathing out a sigh, taehyung tightens his robes - he's wearing navy satin ones this time - and he leaves his room, footsteps echoing in the archways of the palace hallways as he walks. 

 

the gardens balcony is a floor above his, so he makes his way to the nearest staircase, lifts his robes so they don't catch on the steps, and climbs. thankfully, no guards see him. or join him, for that matter. although he doesn't technically need protection within the palace, whenever seokjin's soldiers spot him particularly, they join him in his journeys, courtesy of seokjin's brotherly concern, after all. 

 

taehyung is happy to have managed to avoid them. 

 

when he reaches the gardens and carefully opens the glass doors, all is quiet. the pixies are likely curled up in their flowerbeds, fast asleep. 

 

so taehyung is silent when he walks the stone path to the teardrop patch, admiring the centered pond's pretty reflection of the moon as he passes it. when he reaches the usual spot of yoongi's rest, he crouches and whispers the pixie's name quietly. only... when he parts the teardrop brush with his hands, the flowers curled in on themselves for the night, yoongi isn't in the soft bed of petals that he normally is. the dip in the petals where he normally lays is still evident, but yoongi is nowhere to be found. 

 

it's worrying. 

 

standing up, some sort of telling dread wavering through him, taehyung softly asks aloud, "i'm so sorry to disturb your rest, dear pixies, but i'm looking for yoongi. have you seen him?"

 

when he doesn't get any answers, he realizes that something is terribly, terribly wrong. usually, the silence is just that, silence. but it's commonly filled with the soft sounds of little breaths and quiet snores. the flowers usually sway with the weight of those that sleep upon their leaves. tonight, there's none of that. tonight, the silence is completely and utterly empty. 

 

he walks around a bit more, past the dreamblossoms and maridawns and twilights, and taehyung searches. 

 

after no luck, he desperately calls out again, "please?"

 

hearing a faint shuffle of leaves, he turns to the willow tree and is stunned to see dozens of worry-twisted pixies faces peering at him from behind the multiple twined leaves and branches in his view. 

 

panic, then. 

 

taehyungs feels panic settle over him. 

 

because yoongi is not among them.

 

silent, almost fearful, one of the pixies vaguely points toward the edge of the honeylip patch of flowers, and taehyung races over, robes fluttering with every rushed step. the honeylips aren't their golden shade in the moonlight, and are instead a sickly pale yellow, restricted due to the sun's lacking light. heart in his throat, taehyung follows the angle of the pixie's finger and kneels down on the grass when he reaches the spot. he carefully pushes aside the thick togetherness of the honey lips, searching their blooms, their leaves, and their bases.

 

and - 

 

and there he is, nestled in a particularly dense cluster of flowers, curled around the based of the stems and tucked in the middle of where they sprout from the earth. 

 

"yoongi," taehyung's voice is weak. 

 

yoongi barely moves. he opens his eyes, though, acknowledgement flashing through his gaze. 

 

taehyung dips down a bit more, leaning over the pixie with his hands hovering cautiously over him, unknowing of what. yoongi's bleeding. his nose it, at least, but like this, taehyung can't tell if he's bleeding anywhere else. the pixie is lying on his left side, his right wing easy to view, and taehyung sees that his forewing is torn, drooping downward limply, the tip of it hanging of by bare veins and shimmers of intricate, delicate threads.

 

"what - yoongi, what happened?!" and taehyung's voice is high, scared. he doesn't understand how this happened, why it happened, what happened. 

 

heavy breaths huff from him, and he looks blearily up at taehyung, out of it, "your betrothed's guards are assholes. never seen pixies before," yoongi coughs, chest heaving, "decided to try and mess around with us."

 

taehyung grimaces, says in a false teasing tone, "and lemme guess, you decided to take it upon yourself to distract them from the others." the properness of his voice before is gone. 

 

"fuck you," yoongi bites, but there's no real bitterness behind it, only pain, "and yeah. didn't want the others getting hurt."

 

after a moment of taehyung's silence, the pixie says, "don't worry, i showed them."

 

"i bet you did," taehyung murmurs.

 

he carefully scoops yoongi up in his palms, and tries to ignored the pained moan that leaves his tiny figure. he makes sure not to touch yoongi's broken wing, makes sure not to jostle him as yoongi curls into the warmth of taehyung's hands, sweat shining on his face. 

 

just as taehyung questions what he should do, the glass doors to the gardens open, and he looks up to see namjoon and seokjin rushing in, concern evident on their faces. 

 

taehyung takes a step backward, cradles yoongi to his chest, "what are you doing here?" he bites at namjoon. the elf in question flinches at taehyung's outburst and slows his approach. his face is pale, eyes wide, and the look on his face is almost a devastating one. 

 

"taehyung-ah, it's not his fault," seokjin says softly, and he confidently strides towards the prince, bending over a bit so he can peer at yoongi's curled form in his hands, "i overheard his guards discussing what happened. they were on their way to the palace healer for honeywasp stings..."

 

looking down at yoongi, taehyung lets out the softest croon, almost smiling when yoongi gives him an annoyed glare in response. it's good that yoongi was able to defend himself, but taehyung knows that even that bare minimum of summoning magic could get him in trouble with the kingdom, and knows even further that he could've done much more damage to the guards than he did. 

 

seokjin takes another step forward, hand raising to cup taehyung's. but taehyung takes a step back, protective, forgetting that seokjin cares for yoongi too, even if they don't know one another as well. 

 

gaze earnest, seokjin, rests his hand on the hilt of his sword, "taehyung, the appropriate measures are being taken to discipline prince namjoon's guards... we discussed this on the way here. right now, we need to get yoongi help, and i doubt you want to meet his assailants in the healer's rooms, so we have to think of something else."

 

taehyung glances at namjoon, bitterness melting a little at the honest worry shaping his expression, "i don't - i don't know... i know he needs help, jin, but pixies aren't even allowed to leave the palace gardens."

 

finally, namjoon speaks up, "does that matter now though?"

 

"no, it doesn't," and then it hits taehyung, "i do know someone who may be willing to help," he looks down at yoongi, fretting over the fading gleam of his torn wing, "but he's down in the village. on the northern side."

 

the wind picks up, then, as if approving the thought spinning through his mind. 

 

he's thinking of jimin. 

 

jimin can help. 

 

seokjin looks skeptical at the idea of leaving the palace grounds with an injured pixie, more than knowledgeable of the consequences if they're caught. but with a particularly haggard wheeze on yoongi's part, he relents, nodding, "okay. but we're coming with."

 

reluctantly, taehyung agrees. 

 

he knows this isn't namjoon's fault, and he tries not to blame his betrothed for it, but anger simmers in his gut, anger not fit for a prince to express, of course. 

 

thanking the pixies softly, taehyung assures them that this will not happen again, and they slowly flutter down from the willow tree, the fear on their faces eased somewhat. namjoon even steps forward and bows low, apologizing profusely for the actions of his guards, taking it upon himself to do so. it shows that he cares. that means something, so taehyung finds himself blaming the elf a little less.

 

they leave the gardens. seokjin quietly escorts them to the kitchens, exiting the palace gates from that venture, as its guards are most often asleep at their posts. taehyung can tell that the older is itching to scold them, but he's thankful that the elf doesn't stop to do so. in his palms, yoongi is paling, and the blood from his nose is slowly filling up some of the lines of taehyung's hands. he's not talking anymore, not moving anymore, not even acknowledging the prince when he makes a joke about how clingy the pixie's being: all bad signs. his condition is worsening, and taehyung fears that his injuries may be worse than what he thought. 

 

he doesn't know exactly what that guards did, after all. 

 

once having exited the gates, seokjin motions for taehyung to take the lead and sticks close to his side. namjoon lags behind, and as they walk - quickly - taehyung works to overcome the malice that sits uneasily in the pit of his stomach, reminding himself that namjoon didn't know anything of this, not until seokjin retrieved him. 

 

jimin's house is farther than he thought, and although taehyung knows it's on the outskirts of the northern region of the village, near the edge of the forest, it's difficult to find. he's not merely gazing out at it from the gardens' balcony. he's in the midst of the village, searching for it on the ground. 

 

he talks to yoongi lowly, whispers his apologies for not coming, tells him to hang on just a little longer. 

 

again, no acknowledgement. it's as if yoongi doesn't hear him speaking. 

 

he ignores the burn behind his eyes. 

 

after a long while of looking, taehyung spots the backyard herb garden that jimin so frequently tends to, and he wordlessly rushes toward it, namjoon and seokjin joining him. by the time he reaches jimin's house, lungs heaving for breath, he's almost frantic in his worry. if he had time to observe the garden and the pretty potted flowers that sit in a welcoming manner on jimin's front step, he would, but he doesn't. 

 

instead, taehyung unceremoniously kicks the closed door with the slightest bit of force, not willing to knock with a hand and risk dropping yoongi: confident that if he were to drop yoongi, the pixie would not be able to spread his wings and fly. 

 

when there's no answer, he kicks the door again, a little louder this time, and it only then occurs to him that his breaths are on the edge of being panicked, too fast and too worried. seokjin rests a hand on his shoulder, but taehyung shrugs it off, not wanting to be touched, not wanting the panic to be acknowledged right now, for fear he may succumb to it. 

 

finally, he sees a faint light shine through the curtained window of the front of the home, and something in him settles just the slightest. 

 

then, the door swings open from the inside, and a bleary-eyed jimin is looking at him, free hand scratching the back of his neck. 

 

taehyung can only manage one word, "help," and he thrusts yoongi toward jimin so the elf can see his curled up form. 

 

taking in the situation quickly, the sight of two princes and a menacing palace guard - who, yes, has both hands prepared to unsheathe his sword - on his front step, jimin fully opens the door and motions them inside. the three of them stumble inside, jimin closes the door, and he leads them further into the house, ushering them into what taehyung assumes to be a treatment room. 

 

there's a tall bed there, standing sturdy at about taehyung's abdomen, and it's in the center of the room. there are shelves on all four surrounding walls, jarred herbs on one, books of anatomy and elf illnesses on another, potted blooms on the third, and finally, spare clothes on the last. 

 

"what happened?" jimin asks, and the firm of his voice startles taehyung as he gently sets yoongi on the bed: of which size is meant for an elf, and the pixie looks pitifully small in the middle of it, not even taking up an eighth of it. 

 

(if he knows that pixies aren't supposed to leave the palace, he doesn't mention it.)

 

namjoon is the one to respond, "my guards, they..." he trails off, guilty. 

 

jimin moves into taehyung's space, urging him to back away, and upon a closer look at yoongi's form, he turns to taehyung, softens, "stay here," and then to seokjin and namjoon, hardens, "both of you, out."

 

seokjin attempts to protest, but jimin doesn't let him. 

 

"feel free to have some tea while you wait, but you're taking up space here, and i can't have that, so go."

 

with a nod on taehyung's part, they listen and leave. jimin draws a curtain that taehyung hadn't seen before over the entrance, and they're thrown into privacy. meanwhile, taehyung has circled to the other side of the bed, and yoongi has curled his tiny hand around taehyung's thumb, holding it. 

 

"i'm sorry to have woken you like this, jimin."

 

"it's fine, highness. i'd much rather be awake anyway."

 

taehyung wonders what he means, but doesn't comment. 

 

it's almost refreshing to watch jimin work. he moves in a confident way, skilled, and he observes yoongi carefully, absentmindedly grabbing some herbs from the wall and setting them on the bedside table. 

 

"what's his name?" jimin asks taehyung quietly, and there's a glimmer of worry in his eyes that taehyung doesn't like. 

 

"yoongi."

 

jimin offers up a soft and not very reassuring smile, and he looks down at the pixie, "yoongi?"

 

the pixie in questions cracks his eyes open.

 

"yoongi, i need you to shift for me. you're too small for me to truly treat you. c'mon, huh? can you shift for me?"

 

yoongi only huffs out a breath, makes a pained noise, and closes his eyes again, gripping taehyung's finger tighter. and taehyung doesn't know if this is yoongi being stubborn or if this is yoongi saying that he's unable to. wait, shift? what does jimin mean by shift? 

 

at this point, jimin looks close to desperate, and his voice is too soft when he says, "if he can't shift, i can't help him. he's too small, taehyung."

 

"what do you mean?" taehyung's eyes pool with tears, unwilling. he knew there was a chance that jimin couldn't help but he didn't expect for the elf to give up so quickly, "please, jimin. please, isn't there anything you can do?"

 

jimin sways, unsure. his face is twisted with an emotion taehyung can't recognize, and his blue tipped fringe falls into his eyes. it occurs to him that jimin is wearing his night clothes, a simple white cotton shirt and soft seeming shorts that's length stops just above his knees. the feeling he exudes is a tentative one, an almost scared one, and he's curled inward just the slightest bit, eyes flitting between yoongi's now shaking body and the floor. he must make some sort of decision because he glances up at taehyung, and acceptance washes over his pretty features. 

 

stepping toward yoongi, jimin tilts his head to the side, nonverbally asking for taehyung to slip away. after taehyung does so, hovering at the corner of the bed instead, jimin looks at him once with a pleading gaze and whispers, "please." ignoring the confused look on taehyung's face, he turns back to yoongi, rests a trembling finger on the pixie's abdomen and closes his eyes. 

 

at first, nothing happens, and taehyung can't help but notice that jimin looks sort of majestic like this, devoted to whatever task is at hand. 

 

then, taehyung feels something. something powerful and resounding. something that echoes in his very bones. the next thing taehyung knows is that the air is abuzz and his veins fill with this bubbly energy that calls to him so sweetly. and jimin seems to be - what’s the word - more vibrant? there's something invigorating and moon-kissed that pours out from his form in gentle waves. 

 

taehyung blinks. he just blinks. 

 

and suddenly, yoongi isn't small anymore. he's elf sized and takes up the length of the bed like a normal elf would. it's startling, and taehyung feels his jaw drop in surprise. this is what jimin meant by shift, something taehyung didn't even know pixies could do. 

 

oh

 

it takes magic to shift. 

 

jimin brushes yoongi's fringe out of his eyes, palm splayed over his abdomen carefully, "i gave your magic a kick." this is the first time taehyung's seen yoongi measure jimin's gaze, seen allowance in the lines of his face. somehow, someway, they're engaging in a way that makes it seem as if they share something that taehyung doesn't have. "i need to know if your wing will heal on its own," jimin continues, and he lifts yoongi's shirt, revealing dark bruising over the expanse of his stomach.

 

faltering, taehyung braces himself against the wall, eyes catching upon yoongi's wings. the details of them are intricate and extravagant, and taehyung determines that he's so awed by them because he's truly, truly seeing them. they have a pearly sheen, like the ring around jimin's irises and the veins patterned through them pulse with quiet life. it's only now that taehyung sees that the torn part of yoongi's right forewing is dulled, hanging downward in a dark lilting fashion. 

 

he looks at jimin, the sudden steadiness of his hands as he reaches back for a jar on the wall's shelf, this one taller and more crystalline than the others, and lets his hand leave yoongi's stomach to unscrew the lid. 

 

"yoongi. i need you to tell me if your wing can heal on its own. i know you're in pain but can you do that for me?"

 

finally, yoongi offers a faint verbal response, "needs to be wrapped..."

 

"ah," jimin nods, "to steady it, to make it easier for your magic to work, right?"

 

"yeah."

 

with a hum, jimin dips his fingers into the jar, and when he pulls them out, they're coated in a thick salve. he puts the jar down, gently murmurs to yoongi what he's doing, and he spreads the salve over the bruising.

 

"taehyung?"

 

taehyung jumps, meets jimin's gaze, "yeah?"

 

"i'm magic."

 

"you're magic," repeats taehyung softly, knowing it to be true but having trouble truly believing it. 

 

supposedly, the elven war - which ended a couple days after taehyung was born - wiped out all mages and spell casters. with the exception of pixies, all elves of magical descent were killed or locked away. the kingdom of tanaera was a determined push factor for the war, and the southern region of the village surrounding the palace, which had housed most of the kingdom's magic users, was destroyed. 

 

taehyung still hears stories about the war. it lasted for about ten years, beginning when his mother was cursed by a dark elf and ending when the kingdom's guards fully laid siege to the southern part of the village. the streets ran with blood and elf children cried out for their parents ,and one particular battle made the night sky tint a pale yellow as the souls of over hundreds of elves - hundreds of mages - left their physical form, and joined the array of stars scattered across the night.

 

before the war, taehyung's kingdom was called the kingdom of viribia: elvish for the kingdom of strength. after the war ended, it was renamed as the kingdom of tanaera: the kingdom of peace, symbolic in saying that thanks to the death of magic's power and beauty, peace could finally be achieved. 

 

despite the stories that twisted history and biased against magic, taehyung believes that the very thing their kingdom now stands for is a lie. 

 

killing people, wiping out their essence, and uprooting their way of life - well, that does not define peace. although many other elves would disagree.

 

jimin is magic.

 

he shouldn't be magic. he shouldn't be alive.

 

but what taehyung believes most is that jimin is a miracle.

 

"okay," he whispers, processing, but jimin has already gone back to tending to yoongi, wiping the blood that's dried over his face with a damp rag. yoongi is still laying on his side, and his wings twitch whenever jimin gets too close to them, but he lets jimin work, lets the elf run his hands over the pixie's sides, chest, and abdomen, asking quietly where it hurts, where he's tender.

 

taehyung watches, mulling.

 

jimin grabs another thing of the shelf, a roll of thin white fabric. it stretches when he pulls it and about a step away, he observes the tear in yoongi's wing, "this is moonwrap. to brace it, okay? i'll be careful, okay?"

 

merely giving him a warning side-eye, yoongi then looks to taehyung and he lifts a hand, beckoning him over. taehyung goes willingly, and as yoongi softly requests, holds his hand. yoongi's fingers are long and spindly, and they slot together with taehyung's easily, squeezing. it's nice being able to hold yoongi's hand. it's nice not having to worry about how much pressure to handle his friend with now that he's no longer the size of a flower bloom and taehyung's palm.

 

"it's forbidden to be this size in the gardens?" taehyung questions.

 

nodding, yoongi hisses when jimin's fingers brush against the thin gossamer of his wing.

 

thankfully, jimin works deftly, carefully, and if yoongi starts crying from the pain, neither of them acknowledge it. taehyung holds his hand, jimin wraps the tear, allowing the injured and dulling portion to be held straight and sturdy where it should fully be threaded, and yoongi lays there willingly.

 

when jimin finishes, tension melts from yoongi's form, and he's still pale and weak, but he looks much better than he did, doesn't quite look on the verge of death as he did before. 

 

"better?" jimin asks, and he rests a palm on yoongi's shoulder.

 

yoongi nods.

 

with a satisfied hum, jimin says, “you should be fine, but i wanna keep you here for at least another hour to be sure, and then you can go back to the palace.” after another nod from yoongi, jimin departs from the room for a moment, and taehyung and yoongi are left alone.

 

"so you finally met him?"

 

"yeah..." taehyung answers, trying to ignore the frailness of yoongi's voice, "yeah i did."

 

"are you gonna turn him in?"

 

"no."

 

"good."

 

yoongi lets out a heavy breath at that, and he seems to relax a bit more, substantially relieved. what he doesn’t know is that taehyung would never dream of turning jimin in. never. feels like it would be a crime against… well, something, if he did. 

 

when jimin returns he has two mugs in one hand and a chair in the other. he looks like he’s struggling, so taehyung rushes over to help, taking the chair from him and asking, “where do you want me to put this?”

 

kindly, jimin smiles, “it’s for you to sit in while you wait, so wherever is fine.”

 

taehyung tells himself that he is not blushing at the sight of jimin’s cutely crooked teeth and the way his eyes disappear when he smiles this big. he sets the chair by yoongi’s side and takes a seat, curling his feet up into it too, so it’s more like he’s sitting on his knees. 

 

jimin also hands him a mug, which is warm and filled with steaming tea. the silence is soft as he helps yoongi sit up, and gives the pixie a mug too. it must be imbued with some sort of calming herb because after a sip of the slight bitterness, taehyung feels marginally more relaxed, no longer anxious or panicked for yoongi’s condition. but it also droops his eyelids and his shoulders and gods, he’s tired. 

 

“you can sleep, taehyung,” jimin assures him, pearl-ringed eyes earnest, “i’ll take care of your friend… and in an hour, i’ll wake you up, okay?”

 

with jimin’s soft certainty, taehyung allows himself to doze, not even realizing it when his mug begins to tip out of his hands but is caught and set aside swiftly. it’s a dreamless sleep, one that’s on the verge of being aware and far away from sleeping deeply, but it’s restful, and the tender lilts of jimin’s voice everso breach through the comforting darkness of it. just as the magical elf said, in an hour he wakes taehyung up, and he finds yoongi to be small again, the size he normally is. 

 

it’s almost sad that he’s tiny again, sad because it was nice to hold his hand and talk with him and be with him while they were both elf-sized. sad because yoongi is a friend, but this reminds taehyung that yoongi will have to return to being stuck in the palace gardens, to being his friend only within the palace and not within the realm as a whole. 

 

as taehyung allows yoongi to step on to his palms and make himself comfortable, jimin rests a cautious hand on his shoulder and says, “don’t let him fly for at least two nights. the moonwrap should fall off on its own once his wing is fully healed.”

 

dutifully, taehyung nods, and he follows the elf out of the room. 

 

they’re on their way out, seokjin and namjoon at their side, when taehyung turns back with longing in his gaze. the moonlight illuminates jimin prettily as he stands in the doorway of his home, watching them leave. “thank you,” he tells jimin.

 

“you’re welcome,” and there’s that smile again.

 

taehyung turns around before his heart beats out of his chest. 

 

they return to the palace the exact way they left, the journey silent thanks to exhaustion and quelled fear. namjoon apologizes to taehyung - who nods in acceptance - before heading to his quarters, and seokjin attends the prince as he returns to the palace gardens. 

 

he hears the pixies snoring this time, and the sound brings a sense of normalcy back to the whole situation, which taehyung continuously runs through in his head. 

 

resolving to stay the night in the gardens, he carefully lets yoongi crawl out of the cup of his palms and into his bed of petals in the teardrop patch. 

 

yoongi offers no complaints when taehyung lays down where he is, propping his head on his elbow, a bed of grass beneath him. seokjin ends up staying too, sitting down against the nearby willow and keeping a tired, watchful eye on the both of them. he says it’s because he feels better if taehyung were guarded tonight, but really there’s an underlying fond concern for yoongi tittering about in his thoughts. 

 

under the moon and the stars and the sky, taehyung breathes in the scent of flowers, remembering the taste of tea on his tongue and the crinkle of jimin’s eyes and the warmth of his magic. 

 

he’ll have to find a way to thank him again, show his appreciation. 

 

but for now, taehyung closes his eyes, sticks out his forefinger for yoongi to hold, and sleeps. 

 

(it’s not nearly as restful as falling asleep with jimin’s warm words washing over him.)

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

only two days later, taehyung having spent most of his time monitoring yoongi, he works up the courage to pay jimin another visit: one of appreciation instead of fear for a friend. he dons a night-colored cloak from his quarters, and he fetches a handful of teardrop, starbloom, and twilight seeds from the gardens. first putting them safely into a small, periwinkle, velvet bag - with the strings drawing it tightly closed - taehyung tucks the seeds into the overlap of his robe across his chest. 

 

he’s wearing one of his nicer robes today, a deep amaranthine, almost maroon and almost dark violet, but not quite either color, really. the hems are lined with silver, as most of his robes are, but the lines of fabric are more subtle, pleasantly so. 

 

with his cloak drawn tightly around him, jungkook escorts him out the palace gates from the kitchens’ venture, the same exit he took the night of yoongi’s injury. the guards don’t pay him a second glance, not with jungkook guiding him and not with the night colored hood concealing his face. 

 

taehyung parts ways with jungkook after hugging him tightly, thanking him for his help, and then sets forth toward jimin’s home. 

 

the walk takes less time now that taehyung knows where to go and doesn’t have to frantically search, and he uses some of the outer pathways of the village to avoid being seen by the other elves’ eyes. 

 

spring has fully enveloped the realm now, and it’s about that time where the flowers will start to fade and the weather will further warm and the sun will shine down with a lesser gentle touch than before. at nineteen, taehyung has never been happier that his birthday falls on this time of year. it’s breathtaking, really, when he truly thinks about it, how each season births different forms of life and ways of living and the cycle ever continues its growth. with so much time on his hands - now that there are no more ballroom, etiquette, history, and ruling classes to take, of which were eradicated from his schedule halfway through his eighteenth year - taehyung is left to appreciate the things around him that he didn’t have much of a chance to before. 

 

the seasons are only one of them. 

 

when jimin’s house comes into view, taehyung’s heart kickstarts in his chest, rhythm a little more erratic, a little quicker. he doesn’t blame it, even if the feeling makes him a bit more nervous than he probably should be. jimin is almost celestial, after all, a being like no one taehyung’s ever met. 

 

there’s no answer when he knocks on the door. granted, taehyung does knock quietly, shyly. he knocks again, and once more, there’s no answer. his heart drops, expectation and nervousness simultaneously snuffing out, and taehyung thinks for a moment that he’ll have to come back later. 

 

it’s not the end of the world, but still. 

 

it occurs to him then, that perhaps jimin is working in his garden - as he often is when taehyung sees him from the palace. 

 

when he circles the home, he’s met with the image of jimin facing away from him and kneeling in his garden, tending to the base of a certain crowd of herbs in the corner. there’s a short, not very well made wooden fence surrounding three sides of the garden, leaving room for entrance from the back of the house and the path from the front. 

 

a soft breeze blows through then, and the scene brings a smile to taehyung’s lips, fond. 

 

he raps his knuckles against the wood of the fence and tries not to smile wider when jimin whips around to look at him, startled, a blank, confused look drawn over his face. 

 

thoroughly surprised, jimin gets to his feet, and before taehyung has a chance to greet him, bows deeply. he’s no longer the elf whose guard was let down upon helping a friend of taehyung’s the other night, but is a commoner bowing to a prince, and taehyung hates it. 

 

“prince,” jimin says softly, arms at his sides as he bends over, bowing his head in respect. 

 

“please don’t,” taehyung tells him, voice pleading, “please don’t bow for me.” all pleasantries are well in the wind now, and whatever royal properness that’s supposed to line his words is not employed. 

 

hesitantly, jimin straightens and he meets taehyung’s gaze. 

 

“please,” says taehyung again, and finally, jimin seems to accept this, fully, and he smiles. 

 

dirt stains his hands and knees, a smudge of it on his cheek, too, and taehyung takes a moment to just admire the elf, so oblivious to it. jimin notices when he looks down though, and a pink flush spreads over his cheeks, a nervous laugh escaping his chest: a laugh that makes taehyung’s legs want to give out and his heart jump out of his chest. 

 

jimin is unbearably pretty, taehyung realizes. 

 

and taehyung is unbearably trying not to fall for him. 

 

“i wanted to talk to you,” taehyung steps forward, amaranthine robes fluttering about his ankles, the lightness of the fabric comfortable. 

 

“alright. come inside and have a seat then? while i clean up a little?”

 

nodding his approval, taehyung follows jimin into the house through the backdoor, trying not to let his eyes linger on the fading blue tufts at the end of his hair or the porcelain shade of his skin or the buzz in his chest when, yeah, his eyes do linger too long. 

 

how could they not?

 

jimin leads him into the living room and motions for him to sit down on the light brown couch. before he leaves to clean up, he catches himself almost bowing and with another flush of pink across his cheeks, he disappears. 

 

taehyung didn’t get much of a chance to admire jimin’s home before, too concerned about yoongi and caught up in the throes of his own panic. now though, he’s in awe. it’s beautiful, but delicate in its beauty. the walls are darkly finished wood, antique cracks running through them from wear of the weather. for an inherently dark-seeming place, light filters in through all the windows, and bright pastel colors are scattered about the home to brighten it. 

 

on almost every sill, there’s a plant growing, different assortments of potted sprouts springing up in their light translucent green as they keen toward the sun, soaking in its warmth. 

 

despite the dull color of the couch, light blue throw pillows don it and the carpet beneath it is a lilac color, which makes it seem a bit less gloomy, more welcoming. none of the furniture is in the best condition, but the village of tanaera has never been inherently wealthy, so taehyung isn’t surprised, sadly. there’s a rocking chair across from him, a rough-looking quilt thrown over its arms, sewn with patches of varying fabrics of dark blues and pale yellows. it vaguely seems to be some sort of pattern, but with the way it lays, taehyung can’t quite tell. 

 

in the middle of the living room, there’s a small, rickety table, a lantern sat on its surface. and for warmth during winters, there’s a fireplace on the far wall, stained by leftover ash from its usage. 

 

taehyung finds himself quite liking jimin’s home. he can see the kitchen from where he sits too - the house isn’t that big, after all - and it looks to be in good working condition too, porcelain plates sat atop the wooden counters, as well as silverware and glasses for drinking. jimin doesn’t have much kitchen storage space, taehyung realizes, and he finds himself admiring the way the elf’s organized things albeit this. 

 

sunlight streams in through almost every window, and taehyung can only imagine how serene the place must be with moonlight peeking through the thin glass frames instead. 

 

he’s so enraptured by the home, by the undertones of warmth it gives off, that he doesn’t notice when jimin reenters the room. “how’s yoongi?” he asks, startling taehyung as the elf walks in and makes himself comfortable on the other end of the couch.

 

taehyung recovers from the surprise fairly quickly, and he tries not to dwell on the fact that jimin is only about another body’s width away from him now, “good. he’s doing well.”

 

“that’s good,” and a grin lights up jimin’s expression, cheek no longer smudged with dirt and hands and feet washed off too. folding his hands in his lap, jimin’s gaze drifts to his thumbs as he continues, “to be honest, taehyung, i’m surprised i’m not in the palace dungeons right now… so, thank you… for not reporting me to your kingdom.”

 

your kingdom.

 

 even though his magic is a secret, jimin’s felt unwelcome here his whole life hasn’t he? 

 

“of course…” warmth curls fondly in taehyung’s chest. his nerves abate further, “i don’t agree with the kingdom’s take on the elven war, nor do i think it should’ve happened to begin with…” taehyung finds himself frowning, “i’ve read books, seen shutters of what the world was like before and after magic was wiped out. the realm was so much more alive with magic. flourishing. we were a more open people then, kind and trusting.”

 

jimin’s stare is heavy upon him, but taehyung doesn’t yet have the courage to look up and meet it. 

 

so, he continues to talk, “things aren’t bad now, but all kingdoms have slipped in advancements and the ability to satisfy and listen to their people. including tanaera. magic was a great loss, and even still… the few that may be left who can use it are being actively searched for.” finally, he looks up, pools of relief swirling in his stomach, “i’m glad that you, at least, are safe and have remained as such.”

 

is it just him or is that emotion welling up in jimin’s eyes?

 

“the elven war began under the impression that magic was evil, and the kingdoms convinced their people of this… i just… from my understanding, magic isn’t evil. it never was. it can be used for evil, yeah, but magic is… a gift. elves wouldn’t have it if we weren’t meant to, so the elven war should never have happened, and i sincerely apologize if it’s caused you any grief or mourning since its end, jimin.”

 

the next thing he knows is that tears are streaming down jimin’s cheeks, and he’s curled in on himself a bit, and his upper frame is shaking slightly. the tears fall down his skin like pearldrops that wash up from the xynthae sea, translucent and shimmering breathtakingly as the sun hits jimin’s face. 

 

oh gods.

 

oh gods, taehyung made this sweet, pretty elf cry. “i’m sorry,” he stresses, voice gone higher in shock, worried. taehyung finds himself grasping jimin’s hands and squeezing, the softness of the boy’s skin against his wonderful, “i’m sorry, jimin. i didn’t mean to make you upset. i shouldn’t have shared my opinions like that, i - “

 

jimin cuts him off, the corners of his lips lifting up, wavering, “no, no, no, taehyung… it’s okay, i - i just haven’t ever…” he clears his throat, takes a deep breath, and looks down at their twined hands, “i haven’t ever showed anyone… and though it was my choice to do so with you, it was still hard… but i didn’t want your friend to die, even though his injuries weren’t as grave as they looked…”

 

humming gently, taehyung swipes a thumb over jimin’s knuckles and listens.

 

“and it means a lot, that you know magic isn’t evil, that you protected me. nobody’s ever…” jimin pauses, sighs, pretty pearl eyes glimmering with sunlight’s warmth, “anyway,” he sniffs, “thank you. for all that you said.”

 

protecting; taehyung hadn’t thought of it like that before. now though, it’s all he wants to do: protect jimin. 

 

“i’m sorry, highness… for getting so emotional.”

 

this time, it’s taehyung’s turn to tear up, eyes muddling up with sentiments and want and the things he aches to have but never can. 

 

before him is the boy that taehyung has seen grow for years. before him is the boy whose name is jimin, who tends to his herb garden with love, who cares with such compassion, who hides his magic as it’s a threat to himself, who falls apart before taehyung without shame, who has the brightest smile with the cutest crooked teeth, who looks at taehyung with an emotion in his eyes that taehyung may only imagine to be there, and who is one of the most elegant, ethereal, and endearing person that taehyung has ever met. 

 

before him is jimin, someone taehyung merely wants to be taehyung with. solely himself and nothing more. 

 

he doesn’t know what this relationship is, what this budding friendship is, but he wants it to be different: different in this way. 

 

“i don’t want to be prince taehyung with you,” he murmurs gently, noticing the stark, pretty dip of jimin’s collarbone and the v of the hollow of his throat, “i just want to be taehyung… i feel like with you, i have a chance at that.”

 

it’s almost sad, the way jimin squeezes his hand, dipping his head to catch taehyung’s gaze as he smiles oh so softly and says, “and i want to be able to acknowledge all of who i am, to acknowledge my magic. with you… with you i feel like i have a chance at that too.”

 

“it’s settled, then.”

 

a hum, “no more highness, highness .”

 

taehyung lets out a laugh, “and i'd be honored to witness more of your magic, jimin.”

 

after a moment of quiet appreciation, of letting the moment sink in, the newfound freedoms of their friendship, their hands ungrasp, and jimin wipes away his tears. only now does taehyung remember that he hasn’t given jimin what he came here to give him in the first place, so he pulls the little velvet bag from where it’s tucked between the layers of his robe and holds it out to jimin. 

 

“these are a variety of flower seeds from the palace gardens. i don’t know if any of them have medicinal properties, but i thought you might like them.”

 

jimin looks taken aback for a moment, confused. 

 

has taehyung done something wrong?

 

jimin seems to find his voice, and he gently says, “thanks taehyung-ah - “ taehyung preens at the casualness, the familiarity “ - but you’re arranged to be married in twelve moons…”

 

oh...

 

“this isn’t, uh… this isn’t a courting gift,” taehyung clarifies, and no matter how much he wishes it was, he pushes through the wanting in his chest. 

 

“it’s not?”

 

trying his best at a this-totally-isn’t-awkward smile, taehyung nods, and he holds the velvet bag out more insistently, “it’s more of a thank you. for helping yoongi.”

 

(is that disappointment concealed in the undertones of jimin’s expression or is taehyung once more imagining things?)

with an embarrassed giggle that melts taehyung like butter under the summer sun, jimin accepts the gift, “in that case, i’m sorry, and thank you taehyung. i’m glad i could help, really…” he clears his throat, “so the elf in the lavender robes? who accompanied your guard? that was your fiancé?” 

 

dropping his head into his hands, taehyung sighs, collects himself, and looks back up, nodding, “i don’t want to marry him,” he admits, and he says it as if its a secret, to never be uttered again, to merely float away in the air and be forgotten about like dying leaves in the wind, “he’s sweet, really, but i don’t want to… i don’t want to marry anybody. not yet.”

 

“i’m sorry, taehyung…” and jimin’s genuine concern and the empathy glimmering in the elf’s pearl ringed irises is absolutely refreshing, “know that you can come here whenever you want an escape. i’m usually always here.” 

 

with that, jimin offers out his hand, palm up. as if agreeing on the statement, taehyung eagerly grasps it, a warm shiver tingling up his spine at the firm squeeze jimin gives him. gods above, taehyung could write poems about how perfectly jimin’s hands seem to fit in his, but then again, taehyung is most definitely not a poet. 

 

“and i’m in the palace gardens quite a bit too, so if you ever need someone to talk to, or to let your magic out a bit, however that works, wave me down, and i’ll come see you,” taehyung measures his offer, his whole body feeling just a tad bit lighter, happier, at peace. 

 

they chat until dusk, both having settled further into the couch with mugs of tea in their hands and scones from the marker on a single plate on the living room table. it’s... wonderful. 

 

when taehyung leaves, night-colored cloak tight around him, he faces the sunset and it’s myriad of orange bleeding yellows bleeding pinks bleeding navy into the sky, and wishes upon the many clouds that wisp and dissolve into night’s slowly encasing embrace. he thinks of jimin’s warmth and the ache of his own smile. he thinks of jimin’s voice, how it’s sweet and thick like honey, in comparison to taehyung’s, which is a little deeper and robust like molasses. 

 

honey and molasses: jimin and taehyung. 

 

(and taehyung swears on the stars that he doesn’t dream of jimin that night. 

 

even though he does.)

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

in the blink of an eye, five moons pass, and over the course of those moons, taehyung and jimin grow close: closer than taehyung ever thought they might. 

 

with what time taehyung has between wedding preparations - that he tries his best to get out of - and princely duties and the moments he spends with namjoon, yoongi, seokjin, or jungkook, he gets to know jimin. as the days pass, it gets easier and easier for taehyung to slip past though the kitchen and out the palace gates, and it becomes routine to do so whenever he’s free. 

 

there’s a myriad of things he learns about jimin, and even more that jimin learns about him, but taehyung never fails to melt at the way jimin’s voice lilts into this honey timbre when he recalls fond memories of his past, when he talks about his passions and his dreams. jimin is an elf of many facets, taehyung learns. 

 

he’s seen jimin filled with joy, seen him on days of quiet anger, seen him on days of simple calm. he knows that when jimin is angry, his face goes blank and his eyes simmer with a fire that chills taehyung to his very core. he knows that when jimin is focused, his lips pout and his brows crease. he knows that jimin only feels safe, truly emotionally and physically safe in a few places: his home, the forest at the edge of the village, and a place he calls the moonlit meadow. taehyung doesn’t know where that is, but from the way jimin describes it, it sounds beautiful. not only that, but jimin says that one day, perhaps he can take taehyung there. 

 

that sounds lovely. 

 

when together, they spend most of their time in jimin’s home, talking or reading or cooking things in the elf’s tiny kitchen. after all, taehyung has never made food a day in his life, and it’s refreshing to be taught how. 

 

butter scones are his favorite things to make so far. 

 

sometimes, on particularly dreary days, jimin will sit on the couch with taehyung’s head on his lap, fingers absentmindedly combing through the soft, curly brown strands of taehyung’s hair as the prince reads from one of the many books jimin has scattered around his house. most of them are about healing techniques and different usages for the herbs jimin grows, but a few of them tell of magic and a time when things were quite different than they are now. 

 

and oh… jimin’s magic. 

 

taehyung gets to see more of that, too. 

 

it’s mostly in the forest, concealing them with thick patches of trees and overgrown paths, where jimin exudes any sort of magical energy. he does little things, really. like touching his finger to a dying flower and watching as it blooms from the contact. or simply summoning a cool breeze throughout the summer months. and even willing the journey of sunset colored leaves to be a bit more bright and last a bit longer as the heat of summer bleeds into the growing chill of autumn. 

 

many elves, especially elves of tanaera, dislike autumn. the solis berries don’t grow and the blacksmiths in the eastern region of the village hate the sharpness of the weather.

 

taehyung, though, thinks the fall is beautiful. just as he does spring. 

 

something he notices is that whenever jimin uses his magic, taehyung can feel it. can feel it thrum warmly by his heart and echo through his bones and set his awareness abuzz with fractal clarity. jimin’s magic makes him feel alive in a way he hasn’t experienced before. 

 

today, the weather is fairly nice, and something sweet-smelling hovers in the forest air as jimin and taehyung walk the overgrown paths and taehyung makes an effort to not let the dark emerald of his robes catch on anything. 

 

they often do this, jimin searching for fresh herbs to harvest and use. the magic-user insists that there’s more energy in them when they grow naturally among other plants and trees and blooms, insists that they make more of an impact when it comes to healing and helping along the recovery process. taehyung believes him, only has to see the firm, impassioned look in his pearl ringed irises to have faith in his reasonings. 

 

though the autumn chill of the afternoon is only moderate, not requiring of heavier clothing to keep warm, taehyung finds himself not enjoying it as much as he should. 

 

it’s rare for him to have low days, days in which the vitality he houses in his frame expends itself completely, but today is one of those days. not even jimin’s bright smile or the chirping of the birds cheer him up. exhaustion has made a home of itself beneath his eyes, and it whispers soothing things to him, urging him to sleep, to lay down and rest. 

 

taehyung refuses. 

 

the morning he had was terrible enough, and he needs a bit of jimin, needs a bit of his comforting presence to even out his mood somewhat. 

 

jimin hums as he makes his way through the forest, and taehyung follows dutifully, although he tends to lag behind a bit. seeming to notice, jimin walks slower, carefully watching his footfalls and avoiding crushing any of the dampened looking plants of the green forest floor. 

 

it’s absurd, really: how tired taehyung is. 

 

he didn’t sleep much the night before, and when he did sleep, it was restless. when dawn painted the sky, he awoke to his presence being demanded in the throne room, a lesson to learn for ruling as he observed his father, the king, meet with the various scouts he sent out - beyond the tanaera kingdom and into the silvrust mountains - to look for magic that had taken refuge following the war. even nineteen years later, with most of it wiped out, magic still lived, although in hiding. he also had to sit through an upheaval of political atrocities in the war room when the king’s main communications advisor suggested he put his foot down the next time a kingdom demands aid in accordance to troll attacks. 

 

before today, taehyung hadn’t remembered that this was around the time of year in which the more northern kingdoms of the realm fell prey to the burly, tall creatures that had been written about in myths for centuries. 

 

as a test, taehyung had been asked what his next move would be, and when he responded in favor of helping the threatened kingdoms, he was scolded. 

 

it was his fault, overall. taehyung should’ve picked up on the cutthroat cruelty of the situation, that more kingdoms weakening leaves tanaera to only grow stronger, which is what the king wants, as well as the entirety of the advisors in the war room. not only was he subjected to the grave disappointment of his father, but also a scolding when the king was informed of taehyung’s withdrawn attitude toward helping prepare for the wedding in seven moons, as well as his recent lack of interactions with his betrothed. 

 

“you’ll be married, taehyung. and by the gods, you’ll eventually end up ruling.” the king had said, voice hard and bitter, “ignoring your betrothed for his purpose as your partner is an atrocious way to develop a relationship.”

 

purpose: to bring into union - tanaera and the higher elven court. relationship: something taehyung does not want in any more than a platonic manner with the naodai prince. 

 

the whole morning, taehyung had to be prince taehyung, had to be the nineteen year old, sole royal heir that listened and heeded, obeyed and complied, and did not disagree nor express himself. 

 

the whole morning, taehyung had to push down who he was more than he ever had in a long time. 

 

at some point, jimin takes his hand, short fingers interlocking with his, the elf seeming to have stopped searching for herbs in favor of quietly walking at taehyung’s side. their pace gets slower and slower and slower, and the longer they walk the more taehyung feels as if he’s dragging himself along. his body is heavy and his mind is worn, and even though jimin’s presence eases that, it doesn’t erase it completely.  

 

he can tell they’re headed back to jimin’s house, albeit slowly, and taehyung tries to focus on the vivid golds, reds, and orange twilights of the changing leaves on the trees. 

 

with much difficulty thanks to his increasingly weary concentration, he manages. 

 

manages. and feels a bit calmer. 

 

“tae?”

 

taehyung hums, voice rumbling in his throat. 

 

“you okay there, baby?”

 

baby

 

taehyung begins to cry, stopping in his tracks.

 

he knows jimin means it as a term of endearment, but it’s usage reminds taehyung of just how much more he wants. freedom to love whomever. freedom to rule however he sees fit. freedom to not yet get married. freedom to allow magic to once again roam the realm. freedom to walk the streets of the village like this with jimin. freedom to let the rapidness of his heartbeat around jimin mean something. freedom to cup jimin’s face in his hands and tell him everything he’s afraid to say. 

 

freedom to hear baby from jimin’s lips and understand it to be a term of romantic affection instead of platonic fondness. 

 

freedom to be kim taehyung: watcher of the seasons and protector of magic: himself. 

 

freedom to be the molasses to jimin’s honey. 

 

freedom

 

he wants that more than anything. 

 

it registers faintly that jimin is apologizing profusely, facing him with twisted concern on his face and sadness in his eyes, “oh, tae. i’m sorry. so, so sorry… i shouldn’t have - “

 

“no,” taehyung cuts the elf off with a sob, a thick and pathetic noise making it’s way past his lips, “no, min, i didn’t mind it. i didn’t. i just… i don’t, i can’t…” words leave him quickly, brain no longer cooperating with his wish to explain himself and his tears and the shake of his frame. he sniffles, looking down at the ground and squeezing his eyes tightly shut, trying to stop himself from crying. 

 

jimin’s hand is still in his, and taehyung holds it tightly, not wanting to let go, not wanting jimin to walk away from him, leave him like this: a bumbling, crying mess. 

 

the sudden tenderness of jimin’s voice is almost surprising, but even more so are his words, “then… baby? baby, tell me what’s wrong, huh?”

 

oh gods. 

 

taehyung deems it appropriate to break then, shatter completely like he’s been wanting to do all day. he steps forward and buries his nose in jimin’s neck, hiding his face in the pale expanse of warm skin there. he melds into jimin like snow melts under the winter sun: slowly, tenderly, cold nipping at his bones. taehyung makes himself small, because he can do that with jimin, even if he’s never done it quite like this before. 

 

he winds his arms around jimin’s waist and presses himself against the elf as close as he can, wanting nothing more than to dissolve right where he stands, to let the security of the person he’s come to know over the course of the past five moons coax him into letting go. 

 

pretending like nothing can hurt him. 

 

feigning his role as prince and adopting a life where he’s simply him

 

when jimin’s arms encircle him, one rubbing up and down his spine, the other resting upon the back of his head, fingers tangling in his hair, he feels - 

 

he feels a semblance of safety wash over him. 

 

“okay,” soothes jimin as taehyung’s chest is wracked with sobs, “okay, tae… it’ll be okay. let it out, baby.” he pets taehyung’s hair and supports his ever relying weight, holding him almost lovingly while taehyung continues to cry, overwhelmed. 

 

when his tears run out and all that’s left of him are sniffles and tired withdrawing movements, taehyung asks, “can i… can i just stay with you tonight? i can sleep on the couch or the floor or wherever, really... i don’t think,” taehyung clears his throat, trying not to dissolve into tears again, “i don’t think i can go back to the palace. i don’t know if i can take that today.”

 

humming in understanding, jimin wipes a stray tear off taehyung’s cheek with the back of his hand, gaze unbearably fond, “yeah… of course you can stay with me, taehyung… will anyone notice you’re gone, though?”

 

taehyung shakes his head, sniffling, “i doubt it... no one ever catches me leaving anyway.”

 

“alright, tae. let’s go back to my place.”

 

“please.”

 

so, they go, jimin’s hand curled around taehyung’s the entire way back. 

 

the sky is darkening by the time they make it to jimin’s place, and jimin is more pulling taehyung along than he is walking alongside him now, seeming to realize that taehyung is… well, he’s done with the day, needs sleep and comfort and a guide. the color of dusk goes unnoticed by taehyung, who would usually take a moment to admire it, the purple tint of the sky as the sun sets beyond the landscape. what doesn’t go unnoticed is the overbearing shadow of the palace, its outline foreboding, instilling a dread in taehyung’s heart that he tries not to focus on as jimin gently coaxes him inside his home. 

 

“you don’t have to do this, you know…”

 

“do what?”

 

“let me stay. take care of me,” taehyung tries not to let his voice shake. 

 

the way jimin turns to look at him is a little devastating, makes something in taehyung unfurl in relief when he smiles softly, telling him, “tae… i want to.”

 

silently, appreciatively, taehyung accepts this. 

 

the home is dark, but jimin snaps his fingers - the warmth of magic shudders through taehyung - and the lanterns scattered around the area flare up with a gentle light. taehyung is led into the bedroom, and he’s been in jimin’s room before, but not like this, not during such a raw moment of vulnerability. 

 

“you can sleep here tonight, tae. with me.”

 

“thank you…”

 

jimin grasps the fold of taehyung’s robe over his chest, a question in his eyes. when taehyung nods tiredly, allowing jimin to take care of him - just like he wanted to - jimin silently brushes his hands down to the secured and loose tie of emerald around taehyung’s waist and pulls it undone. he helps taehyung slip the heavy robe from around his shoulders, the shiny smooth glimmer of dark green shimmering in the travelling light that hits it from beyond the cracked door of jimin’s room. 

 

a comparison could be made of the weight of taehyung’s robe to the weight of the kingdom’s expectations on his shoulders. 

 

with a flutter of fabric and the ruffling sound of them hitting the floor, taehyung sighs. 

 

he would be nervous about jimin seeing almost the entire expanse of his bare skin, but he’s wearing undergarments and he feels oddly comfortable, oddly safe with jimin. maybe he should feel vulnerable since the only elves who have seen him like this are the servants that occasionally help him dress, but he doesn’t. with jimin, he doesn’t feel bodily vulnerable. 

 

again, he only feels safe. 

 

and alive, happy, cared for, understood: himself. 

 

taehyung

 

departing from him to rummage through the old antique dresser in the corner of the room, jimin presents taehyung with the comfiest-looking, cotton, well-worn shirt, grey in color. accepting it, taehyung slips it over his head, and he denies the linen pants he’s offered, content just like this. the shirt is soft against his skin, and it smells of lavender spice and the scent of the earth after it rains: petrichor. it's jimin’s scent, and taehyung feels like he’s being embraced in it, relishes in it. 

 

taehyung loves it. 

 

jimin changes too, and the nighttime shirt he changes into is long sleeved, made of the same fabric as the one he lent taehyung, though it’s brown instead of grey. if he notices taehyung’s gaze captured by his actions, he doesn’t say anything, and he tells taehyung tenderly that he can lay down. 

 

he also slips on the linens taehyung denied and leaves the room momentarily, returning with a warm, damp cloth in his hand. taehyung has settled himself on jimin’s bed, laying over the white cotton sheets and not-as-good-quality mattress, sleepiness staggering through his veins. in addition to the cloth, jimin comes back with the quilt from the living room rocking chair slung over his arm. ungracefully, he sets it on the end of the bed, the weight of it dipping the mattress by taehyung’s feet. 

 

jimin sits down near taehyung’s hips, feet gracing the floor, and he silently beckons for taehyung’s hand. willingly, taehyung gives it to him. 

 

when the damp cloth touches upon the skin of his wrist, taehyung gives a pleased hum and lets his eyes slip closed. jimin is tender in his actions, careful as he drags the warmth up taehyung’s arm, then the other. it’s almost like being given a sponge bath, but better. 

 

taehyung still feels emotionally vulnerable, all raw with trepidation on the inside, but he thinks that perhaps the kind of vulnerability he allows for jimin now is an okay kind. perhaps just this once, it’s okay for him to feel vulnerable rather than anything else. 

 

dragging warmth across his bare skin, jimin has to twist his upper body a bit, lean forward as he softly rubs the cloth against taehyung’s collarbones, part of his chest, the sides of his neck. he leaves warmth and comfort wherever he goes, serving to the idea that jimin might be the personification of comfort himself, providing it in the most tender ways, generous as he gives it, but also careful.

 

it’s when the cloth touches his forehead, running beneath his messy fringe, that taehyung opens his eyes. the mattress is dipping by his left ear, where jimin has rested a hand to support himself as he curls over taehyung’s form, attentive. delicately down his cheeks, teasingly over the curve of his nose, kindly against the slopes of his jaw. 

 

after a moment, jimin withdraws the warmth, but he stays hovering over taehyung, gaze softer than the finest touch of satin. 

 

taehyung realizes how so, so tired he is. of all of it, of being prince, of having such duties, of watching his father rule like a tyrant, of shackling namjoon in a marriage that neither of them want, of drawing boundaries for himself regarding jimin because - 

 

because jimin is a rare soul. is fractalled magic beneath the moonlight, is the taste of the most expensive honey in the spring, is the care that undertones the existence of all living things, is the tender to the weak no matter how injured or sick they might be. a rare soul, jimin is, and taehyung is tired of pretending he doesn’t want him. 

 

jimin looking down at him like this is so affectionate, so ethereal, and now that taehyung permits himself to see it, so longing. his eyes shimmer, pearly and cocoa and more pretty than the reflection of the galaxy on the rippling surface of the palace gardens’ pond. 

 

taehyung... taehyung might be in love with him. 

 

might have fallen without realizing it. might have become smitten over the five moons he’s shared with jimin. 

 

might be in love. 

 

taehyung raises a hand and cups jimin’s cheek, and jimin matches the gesture, the cloth forgotten on the floor somewhere when jimin drops it. he soothes a thumb over the hill of jimin’s cheekbone and sighs, wanting, “jimin…” 

 

“taehyung.” 

 

(those eyes. gods, those eyes.)

 

and then taehyung is pulling him down, their lips crashing together. taehyung’s resisted from kissing him too long for this to be anything but desperate and wanting and impassioned. jimin tastes sweet, like something taehyung can’t quite place but still aches for more of, mayhaps like sugarrose tea or the frostberries from the forest. and jimin’s mouth is hot, the kiss deep as jimin breathes his breaths and captures the soft sounds taehyung makes. 

 

his lips seem to fit perfectly against taehyung’s, plump and pink and gently nipped at, because taehyung simply cannot help himself. he lets out a thankful noise, a whimper against jimin’s lips as his hand raises to tangle in the elf’s blue-tipped hair. he allows jimin to kiss him stupid, kiss him until his head is abuzz with in love in love in love , kiss him until his lips are tingling and the slightest bit swollen, and kiss him until taehyung is relaxed on the sheets, on jimin’s bed, underneath jimin’s body. it feels like he’s melting, having finally kissed the boy after all the long afternoons and dreamy evenings he’s wanted to. 

 

it feels like a loss when jimin pulls away, smiling so softly, so sadly down at taehyung, the wanting in his gaze appeased somewhat. taehyung tucks jimin’s hair behind his ear, and tries not to flinch when he sees that it’s the one with the missing tip. 

 

(whatever happened, well, jimin hasn’t yet told him that story, and because jimin’s hair usually hides it, taehyung sometimes forgets about it.)

 

the kissing seems to have stolen what little energy he had left, and taehyung blinks slowly, languidly, words slurring together with exhaustion, “we should talk about this.” and they should, but tiredness is weighing down almost every aspect of himself, and when his eyes blink closed for a little too long, he hears a soft laugh from jimin. 

 

“tomorrow, baby. you’re tired. falling asleep right here, just like this.”

 

taehyung acquiesces without much complaint and he hums happily when jimin circles the bed and lays down beside him, tugging the quilt up over their frames and pulling taehyung close. he snaps his fingers once, and the light from the lanterns snuffs out beyond the bedroom. “is this okay?” he asks as his arms wrap around the prince, taehyung’s head tucked under his chin, nose against his shirt. 

 

as a response, he gathers the excessive fabric of jimin’s shirt in his hands and fists it reliantly, breathing in lavender spice and petrichor and jimin. 

 

they fall asleep just like that. 

 

only once do they awaken during the night, and it’s because jimin is suddenly sitting up and gasping for air, a strangled sound leaving his throat: one of seemingly haunting terror. 

 

taehyung feels his fear, even in his half-asleep stupor, “jimin. jimin, are you okay?”

 

shaky, uncertain, “yeah.”

 

they’ve separated in their sleep, so taehyung weakly tugs jimin back down until he's flat on his back. taehyung rests his ear on jimin's chest, listening to the quick b-bump of his heartbeat and slinging his arm over the elf’s stomach. “s’okay, min angel. just a dream. m’here, s’okay.” taehyung holds him tight, feels him slowly begin to relax. he waits until jimin tumbles back into sleep before allowing himself to follow. from then on, their cuddled rest is undisturbed. 

 

(what taehyung doesn’t know is that jimin’s dreams aren’t really dreams at all. 

 

they’re more like memories.)

 

in the morning, they have breakfast. 

 

(they don’t really talk about it. nonetheless, an eager acceptance seems to have encased them both, and taehyung thinks he’s never seen as much adoration in jimin’s eyes as he does when they awaken.)

 

taehyung is more focused on stealing daylight kisses from jimin than he is on jimin’s instructions for how to fry eggs and make rice. it’s nice. the morning is peaceful, sun streaming in through the windows and jimin’s warmth at his side. calm has unfurled within taehyung, and by the time he’s ready to go back to the palace, nightshade cloak donned, he’s not dreading it. he’s certainly not looking forward to it, but he’s not outright dreading it. 

 

before he leaves, jimin wraps his arms around taehyung’s neck and kisses him softly, chastely. his lips are sticky from the rice, but taehyung has never loved them more. 

 

“let me court you?” jimin asks into taehyung’s mouth, happy. 

 

taehyung smiles, looks at him, smiles some more, “court me.”

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

two moons later and they still haven’t really talked about it, but it’s okay, because as long as they ignore the fact that taehyung is set to be married in only five more moons, they exist in loving contentment. they kiss and hold one another and fall asleep tangled together. the forest daylight and the housed moonlight protect them from view, keep them safe and tranquil in their existence: innocent, wary, and enamored. their courtship flourishes under these things, and its become more of an exchange of kisses and soft words than objects or tokens of keenness. 

 

they fall more and more for each other. 

 

taehyung now knows how to bring jimin down from the horror of his nightmares. and although he doesn’t know what jimin has nightmares about, he does know that if they’re really bad, it’s best to hold the elf as he shudders, stay quiet and let him process. afterward, jimin often encourages taehyung to go back to sleep while he lays awake and stares of at the roof. for the ones that merely jolt him awake, taehyung can kiss his cheek and whisper assurances until his breathing deepens, he mumbles a response, and falls back asleep. 

 

he also comes to realize that the nightmares are the reason for the reply i’d much rather be awake during their second meeting, which seems like years ago now. 

 

in reflection, jimin now knows how to recognize taehyung’s bad days, days when the weight of everything is too much and he needs to drop all pretense of being able to carry the burden of who he is. jimin knows how to take care of him, and all of the ways involve helping taehyung slip out of his robes and into something more comfortable, less heavy, scented of jimin. those are the days where they curl up on the couch or picnic in the forest as the birds chirp around them. those are the days where taehyung always ends up feeling a little more free, a little less burdened. 

 

the robes he wears remind him of his status, of his purpose, and as much as he adores their color and fabric, they burden him, still. 

 

jimin knows this. 

 

it’s been two days since taehyung’s been able to sneak past the palace gates and see jimin. even one day felt like forever, so two days feels kind of like a lifetime. the third day passes slowly, the morning dragging by, and there’s an anxious buzzing under his skin that won’t leave him be, so taehyung can only hope that there will be time to see jimin later, even if its when evening comes.  

 

as busy as he’s been with his duties, taehyung has noticed some changes around the palace. when he briefly goes up to visit yoongi, he finds seokjin to be there, the pixie perched on his shoulder as they stare up the sky. when he passes the forbidden library on the east hall, he notices that the lock looks dented, the dust on it having disappeared. taehyung can only assume that it’s namjoon that’s been visiting. after all, namjoon had looked at it with such fond curiosity in his gaze when taehyung first walked him by. 

 

one especially interesting thing taehyung has seen is jungkook leaving namjoon’s quarters one day, this giddy smile overtaking his face, cheeks flushed. 

 

taehyung suspects that in the time he’s been absent visiting jimin, that namjoon may be just as secretly devoted to engaging in a relationship beyond their impending marriage too. although he cannot imagine that it was easy for the prince to do, not after what he’s been through. 

 

(then again, jungkook has a way about him that’s quite lovely and charming and innocently attractive, so maybe… maybe it was a little bit more simple for namjoon to indulge in his budding feelings than he thought it would be.)

 

seeing it happen - the love surrounding him, the love that’s been devoted to beyond the bounds of what should exist, the love that he, himself, has been enveloped in - angers taehyung. 

 

don’t get him wrong, taehyung cherishes it, but he despises that it’s all engaged in under the duress of a politically advantageous marriage that nearly everyone else looks forward to. he hates that decisions are being forced upon those he cares for simply because it’s what the kingdom wants. taehyung’s never expressed what he wants, what he thinks, how he wants the future to unfold. now, taehyung finds himself repulsed at the upcoming marriage, repulsed by what it stands for, and repulsed for the further manipulative kingdom that will come of it. 

 

this is bullshit. 

 

and by midday, he’s had enough. the anxiety has simmered and melted into anger. finally, and honestly after not much thought, he decides to confront his father about it. 

 

though it’s a very rare chance that it will be civil conversation, taehyung decides to try nonetheless. 

 

he doesn’t walk so much as he storms into the throne room, gaze immediately falling upon the king, who’s consulting yet another group of scouts that have just returned from the silvrust mountains, burdened with exhausted limbs and grimy faces. the king sees him, eyes him with warning as he continues his reprimand and eventually grunts in frustration, sending them away. 

 

“you’re not here to bother me with trivial matters now, are you taehyung?” it comes out laced with malice, a venomous glimmer in the king’s stare, and taehyung wonders how he ever accepted this man as his father. 

 

simply, he says, “i don’t want this,” and he really fucking means it, but he reigns control of the bite of his tone. 

 

“want what?”

 

their voices echo in the throne room, bouncing off the stone walls and the high ceiling and the scuffed floors. the sound is haunting, crawls under taehyung’s skin, but he pushes onward nonetheless, approaching the thrones with measured footfalls and climbing the four steps there until he’s only a few breaths from the king, towering over him. seeming to dislike the display, his father stands, crossing his arms behind his back, face wrinkled with growing distaste that the prince has so casually come up to him. 

 

“i don’t want to be married,” taehyung takes a deep breath, schools his face, “i’m not ready for marriage, and i think it’s unfair for this to be forced upon two unwilling parties. there must be some other way to bring tanaera into the higher council, some other way that does not require indoctrination by arranged marriage.”

 

surprisingly, the king begins to laugh, this full bellied sound that’s extremely resonant in the wide expanse of the room. it’s not a hearty laugh though. it’s one of disbelief and sarcastic humor and bitter bemusement. it’s toned with a sense of deprecation and devaluation, and taehyung hates it. 

 

“the decision has already been made,” his father says firmly, all humor bled out of his voice. 

 

taehyung huffs, maintaining his composure as best he can, “and i believe it can be changed… as i said, i don’t want this for myself.”

 

“it doesn’t matter what you want,” and it’s at this point that the king’s voice raises in volume, anger written in the harsh-cut lines of his face and malice dripping from his lips, “what matters, prince, is what’s in the best interest of the kingdom, and that means you - “ he pauses, points at taehyung, “ - getting married. be thankful i was able to arrange for you to be married to a man and not a woman, for the princess of the kingdom of salisoa is searching for a husband, and if i had taken her up on her request for your hand, we may have even had a better place on the elven council than we will when tied to naodai. that option, if you truly wish for a change, is something i could make happen.”

 

taehyung’s blood boils. he’s appalled and mortified and furious that such a thing is spit back in his face like it’s nothing more than an inconvenience, that he’s threatened with another marriage that disregards his attraction towards men and no other gender. he bites his tongue, bitter bile creeping up on his taste buds. 

 

this is where he draws the line. 

 

this is where taehyung snaps. 

 

“how dare you,” taehyung says darkly, body gone rigid, “how fucking dare you.”

 

another laugh, “how dare i?” his father says incredulously, “oh my dear boy, how dare you. if only your poor mother could see you now.”

 

“mother has nothing to do with this.”

 

the king bites back, “she has everything to do with this!” and he steps forward, rage no longer hidden. taehyung tells himself he’s not terrified when his father continues, “she died giving birth to you. she died so that you could live and you could rule. she died for you. she died because of you. this has everything to do with her. you owe this marriage, at the very least, to her .”

 

bristling, taehyung sneers, voice sharp, “i wanted to have an actual conversation with you, my king, but since you can’t even seem to manage that without fucking throwing shit back at me, i - “

 

he feels the punch before he sees it. first, the impact against his left cheek, then the searing pain of his father’s ring scraping the skin there, then the blow as a whole. it sends him careening backward, tripping on the throne steps, and landing hard on his back, the utter breath knocked out of him. the hit throbs, and taehyung’s eyes flutter as he processes, spine and face aching with the force of the blow and the fall. his mouth is open, so he closes it. his frame is tense, so he relaxes it. tears burn his eyes, so taehyung blinks and blinks and blinks and -

 

“you have no choice in the matter,” out of his peripheral, blurred vision, taehyung watches his father shake out his right hand, wipe his bloodied ring on his robe, and sit back down upon his throne, “challenge me again and you won’t see the sky for a long time. get out.”

 

taehyung can’t move. 

 

get. out.

 

near shaking out of his skin, taehyung stumbles to his feet. he doesn’t give his father the pleasure of watching him flee though. he takes deep, shocked breaths and slowly exits the throne room, waiting until he’s out of sight before he hurtles down the palace halls, his heart beating to quickly and his breaths heaving in his lungs. he can’t be alone, needs to be with someone he can talk to, needs to find safety.

 

he thinks of yoongi and shudders, of seokjin and almost begins to cry, of jungkook and grimaces, of namjoon and…

 

namjoon. 

 

namjoon will understand more than anyone. 

 

decidedly, he’s heaving by the time he makes it to namjoon’s quarters, swaying with exertion and trauma, and by the gods, he can’t quite see straight. the side of his face throbs, and taehyung knows it must be swollen, knows it must be bleeding, but all he has the energy to care about is knocking on namjoon’s door, everything hazy and unfocused.  

 

it swings open fairly quick, revealing namjoon beyond, a book in one hand, silver rimmed specs perched on his nose, “taehyung?”

 

“i - i tried? tried to… i tried to - “

 

“taehyung. taehyung-ah, look at me. what happened to you?”

 

and although, taehyung tries, he can’t seem to say anything else. it’s as if his lungs have frozen up and his voice has given in to growing white noise in his head. his ears are ringing and his limbs are buzzing. and wait, is that right? buzzing or numbing or shaking? something like that. 

 

pain?

 

“taehyung.”

 

namjoon? 

 

“taehyung.”

 

a hand encircles his wrist, a docile strength pulling him forward. 

 

his cheek hurts.

 

he’s sitting down on a too-expensive couch with too-fluffy pillows, and there’s a hand on his shoulder, shaking it gently, “taehyung.” a pause, “taehyung, i need you to talk to me. otherwise i can’t help.”

 

so taehyung talks, but it doesn’t really seem like he’s the one who’s talking. his mouth is forming words and his voice is rising in his throat and he’s staring forward at nothing but it doesn’t matter because his cheek hurts and he’s never been punched like that before and namjoon is here, but it doesn’t really feel like taehyung is. 

 

the hand on his shoulder moves, coaxing him to lay down, rest his head on namjoon’s lap. 

 

he knows what happened, but he doesn’t quite understand what’s going on now. something’s not connecting right in his brain, and things are muddy and weird, and namjoon is staring down at him, but taehyung doesn’t really want namjoon. 

 

taehyung wants jimin. 

 

where’s jimin? 

 

he can’t feel his fingers. 

 

sharp, “taehyung,” and the world comes into focus for a moment. 

 

then the door opens and is that jungkook? smiling, smiling, smiling until he sees taehyung, the state he’s in, sees namjoon’s worried eyes. he says something and whips around, leaving in less time than it took him to arrive. 

 

“close your eyes.”

 

taehyung breathes and closes his eyes and drifts. 

 

he doesn’t know how long for, only knows that he opens his eyes again when there’s the soft sound of footsteps against the palace floor. three figures walk in, and taehyung blinks, closes his eyes again, floats. 

 

a hand cups his unwounded cheek: petrichor, lavender spice. a thumb caresses under the soft skin of his eye, wiping away tears. oh, taehyung is crying. 

 

“baby.” 

 

oh, jimin.

 

taehyung’s cheek hurts. he opens his eyes, sees jimin’s pretty face, and tries to smile, grimacing instead when pain sears across his cheekbone, and for a moment, he’s back in the throne room falling to the ground, the blow fresh. 

 

warmth. his bones are abuzz. the air feels heated. magic. 

 

something’s taken hold of his existence and is reeling it in, like one would do if stars could be taken out of the night sky. taehyung comes back to himself and sighs. he’s surrounded by his friends, too, namjoon and jungkook and seokjin observing in quiet concern. jungkook must have asked seokjin for help fetching jimin, bringing him to the palace. taehyung must have lost himself as namjoon lent him his lap. 

 

"taehyung, i'm here, okay?" and that's jimin saying that, his voice kind and his care quiet.

 

"okay."

 

seeming relieved at the response, jimin smiles, and he looks to namjoon, nodding. then, taehyung is being helped up ,and gods, he's dizzy. he hiccups, wanting to lay back down.

 

jimin says something else, but taehyung doesn't catch it. he only really focuses on the fact that jimin is here now, and although it doesn't change what happened, at least taehyung feels safe enough to be more present in the moment - even if whatever's going on in his head is something he can't control.

 

the next thing he's truly aware of is that he's being helped into his quarters, jimin a steadying presence on one side and seokjin on the other side.

 

then he's sitting upright on his bed and his cheek stings, but it's more because of the touch against it, wiping away the blood, the salve being coated over the cut of his cheekbone, than anything else.

 

"lay down, tae, c'mon," jimin is wrapping him up in his arms tightly, and taehyung is simply going with him, allowing him.

 

blankets are draped over him, jimin plays with his hair, and a hushed song is leaving his lips.

 

so taehyung drifts, drifts, drifts.

 

until he falls asleep.

 

when he awakens, his room is darker, moonlight streaming in through the open window. the winter chill is in the air, but it feels nice against taehyung's skin, gives himself something to focus on as he shakes away the tiredness. jimin is holding him, nose in his neck, and taehyung finds himself reaching for the elf, turning the both of them until they're facing each other in bed, and jimin's eyes are blinking open, confused.

 

taehyung simply kisses his nose and pulls jimin into his embrace, for the moment, appreciative. the fear of what happened has yet to sink in during this sleepy state of his.

 

"tae..."

 

"he hit me, my father." more detached, he says, "the king," spitting it out with no respect.

 

"namjoon told me."

 

"i told him?"

 

"he said you were really out of it, but yeah. we think it was partially the shock."

 

"oh..."

 

taehyung takes a deep breath, feeling his chest expand against jimin's. he doesn't know how to talk about it now. he knows he told namjoon, but that was different. that was reciting an event he barely remembers even telling of. this is talking. this is difficult. but this is also jimin. 

 

regretfully, he pulls away from jimin and sits up against the headboard of his bed, pulling his knees up with him. the air is nice, and the moonlight is bright: both assuring.

 

he opens his mouth to speak, but he can't. not yet.

 

jimin, his love, his angel, understands his hesitance, his acknowledgement of what happened, so he begins first, expressing subtly that it’s okay to be vulnerable. it’s okay to talk about it. “you know how i get nightmares?” he asks with a sigh as he sits up beside taehyung, mimicking the position he’s in, too. 

 

“yeah.” something in taehyung melts. 

 

“and how one of my ears is tipless?”

 

oh.

 

looking out the window and into the landscape he can barely see from here, jimin sighs. his voice shakes the slightest bit, but it likely wouldn’t be noticeable, the waver, to anyone but taehyung, “i was young. it was maybe… six years after the end of the elven war. it was - “

 

taehyung knows this part, knows jimin’s parents, magical too, died alongside all the others, fighting for their magic and for their children and for their lives. he knows that they managed to place jimin on the doorstep of a blacksmith family in the eastern region before the siege, still only an infant. knows jimin was taken to a refuge for children in the western part of the village and that he grew up there, was able to put together his story from the bare pieces that were left of it: he had magic, he had no parents, he was abandoned just before the kingdom’s siege of the southern region. 

 

only a year older than taehyung, jimin is, and yet he’s gone through the most unimaginable things. 

 

“ - when i was still in the refuge home. one day, i’d gone into the woods on my own, made it all the way to the river of mangata before i had to stop and rest. do you know where that is?”

 

taehyung nods. it’s on the border of their kingdom and naodai’s kingdom. jimin had wandered quite far.

 

“a scout saw me there, using magic. i can’t remember what i was doing… he tried to kill me, but i tripped and fell, so he got my ear instead. my magic went off like a grenade, i blinked, and he was in the river, screaming, being swept away by the current,” voice quieting, he says, “they found him dead two days later. i’d made it back to the refuge home by that time, and the healers did the best they could for my ear. but the cut was clean, so it was best to simply let it heal instead of anything else. from then on, no tip.”

 

“you have nightmares about being attacked?”

 

“i have nightmares about killing that man.”

 

taehyung startles, “jimin, that - “

 

“was my fault,” jimin interrupts. his hands tangle together, arms outstretched, elbows propped over his knees, “and i dream that everything people say of magic is true. that it’s uncontrollable and inherently evil. that it kills and it harms, that it’s what made me kill that man. that i did it on purpose.”

 

leaning forward and moving across the bed, taehyung settles himself in front of jimin, feeling his heart sink when he sees jimin’s glimmering eyes, shiny with tears. “jimin,” taehyung’s voice is small, pleading, “jimin, from what i understand about magic, it works to protect the user, and unless a mage has trained to control it in that way, magic will do what it deems necessary,” he takes jimin’s hands in his, slots their fingers together, and sighs, “you were a kid. you didn’t have the training to control your magic. he could’ve killed you, min-ah.”

 

guilt stiffens jimin’s frame. 

 

and maybe it’s the wrong thing to say, but taehyung tells him, “that’s why there were so many losses during the southern tanaera siege… barely any of the adult mages had the training to do so. it wasn’t their fault that so many of tanaera’s guards also lost their lives. it was the kingdom’s fault for sending them to attack and the guards’ fault for obeying… you were a kid, jimin. you couldn’t have been expected to reach a level of magic that allowed for it to not burst. not only did you have no training, but there was no one left to teach you.”

 

“had to teach myself,” jimin murmurs, softening. 

 

“you did. you had to teach yourself, love.” grazing his lips over jimin’s knuckles, taehyung says, “he attacked you. he was in the wrong. your magic protected you in the only way it knew how. that’s not evil jimin… no matter how much your dreams twist it to be like that, you are not evil.”

 

magic isn’t evil. it never was. it can be used for evil. but truly, magic is a gift. 

 

humming, jimin finally looks at him, a warm glow exuding from him beneath the moonlight, “i try to tell myself that. it often doesn’t work.”

 

“i’ll keep telling it to you… until it does.”

 

there’s something so, so fragile in jimin’s pearly gaze, something tender and endeared and appreciative. jimin’s whole being has gone soft with taehyung’s trying words, has melted under taehyung’s assurance, has listened and heard and mulled over. jimin is beautiful, and taehyung notices this frequently, but it’s the beauty of his heart that he really sees: the fact that even through trauma, jimin puts fear for others above his own self-knowledge. jimin is selfless, a bit too selfless if you ask taehyung, and he’s not the kind of person who asks for help often. rather, he gives it. 

 

by whatever the word means, jimin is an angel. he doesn’t have wings the cream color of the stars or dark blue constellations running up and down his skin like the myths say, but he may as well be one. 

 

his hardships shaped him, and although taehyung hates what he’s gone through, it’s made jimin who he is, and who he is is worthy of the brightest gemstones and the clearest nights and the loveliest falling stars. 

 

“taehyung-ah,” jimin calls softly, rousing taehyung from his thoughts. he squeezes taehyung’s hands, “taehyung-ah, i love you.”

 

tears well up in taehyung’s gaze, “and i love you.”

 

it’s the first time they’ve said it, and the moment is ever serene, surreal, starful. 

 

after letting it wash over them, taehyung returns to jimin’s side, cuddles in close, and he tells of what happened. it would be kind of cute, seeing the anger that paints itself over jimin’s features, but not tonight. taehyung talks and talks and talks until his voice has gone hoarse and his cheek throbs and his thoughts feel like the mush porridge the chefs sometimes make for breakfast. 

 

taehyung is weary. 

 

“i’m sorry,” jimin murmurs, kissing his hair, an arm around his shoulder as taehyung leans against him, “you deserve better. i’m so sorry.”

 

there’s really nothing either of them can do, so even though they talk further about the king’s threat of marriage to a woman and his blame on taehyung for the queen’s death, no action can come of it. 

 

their hands are tied. 

 

“i want to leave.” taehyung tells jimin, “i want to be somewhere else tonight.”

 

“we can go and work in my garden if you want. i need help preparing new herbs and more healing salve.”

 

“please.”

 

and so, they go. 

 

taehyung slips out the palace gates, but this time with jimin alongside him, and he makes a note to thank his friends later, for knowing what to do, trying to help, and fetching the one person who could truly bring him out of whatever he was stuck in. 

 

despite all else, taehyung is the slightest bit blessed. 

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

jimin is leading him through the forest. the moon is full and it illuminates off the satin and periwinkle royal robes that taehyung gifted him for his twenty-first birthday only about two and a half moons ago, leaving only one more moon left until the wedding: one more moon left until taehyung is ripped from the life he’s been settling into: the life he has with jimin, calm and peaceful and filled with love. 

 

it's not easy knowing that all of this will end soon.

 

and it's not that taehyung has accepted the fact that this will end. it's just... it's simpler to believe that over any other alternative.

 

taehyung and jimin have discussed things a little, have talked about how when taehyung is married to namjoon, neither of the princes will have as much time to devote parts of their life to their respective partners. they've discussed how awry things could go if they continued their relationship beyond the knowledge of the kingdom: as well as what would happen if at the same time, the kingdom discovered jimin was magic.

 

briefly - very briefly at that - taehyung has considered uprooting from this life and going somewhere else, somewhere far away, somewhere he and jimin can go where neither of them will be found. he's considered the options: the silvrust mountains, a home along the xynthae sea, somewhere deep in another kingdom. but taehyung knows that the king will search far and wide for his presence, and he knows that when he is found, he will never be able to leave again.

 

he will lose jimin.

 

one day - he's still trying to come to terms with it - he will lose jimin, whether it be by whatever means, what they have will someday end.

 

although, taehyung thinks that even if it does, he'll still love the elf, still think about him, still want to see him, hold him, and breathe him in.

 

like he said, he hasn't accepted any of this yet.

 

"we're almost there," jimin turns to tell him, pulling him eagerly along, a shimmer of excitement in his eye.

 

he's beautiful. gods, jimin is beautiful.

 

the moonlight accentuates his features: the porcelain of his cheeks, the slope of his jaw, the crescent of his smile, the stark dip of his collarbone, the way the royal robes have had to be adjusted to fit about his very slim waist.

 

taehyung loves him. he really does.

 

he doesn't know where they're going - jimin said it was a surprise - but he knows they're nearing the river of mangata. from the way the stars twinkle in the sky, taehyung would say they're approaching the mouth of the river, northward, where it empties out into the lake. then again, he never was good at reading the stars, so he could be entirely wrong. 

 

if he listens hard enough, beyond their footfalls and the rustle of the breeze through the trees, he thinks he can hear the river's rushing waters.

 

no one quite knows why, but it seems that when the winter melts back into springtime, the river flows with more force. it's not natural. it's not the way a river would carry on with melted snow and dissolved ice in its depths. the push of mangata in the spring presses water onward toward runaei, a kingdom of which is less wealthy and whose subjects are less fortunate. specifically, the river forges a path right around the edge of the village, perfect for drinking water and exactly what the runaei people need to assist them in everyday life.

 

now that taehyung thinks more about it, it honestly feels a little bit like magic.

 

“jimin?” asks taehyung inquisitively when they stop. they’ve arrived at the edge of a meadow, tall grass swaying back and forth like a song in the wind. jimin’s hand is warm in his, and there’s this tingling warmth at the tips of taehyung’s fingers, a telltale sign of magic in the air. 

 

“we’re here,” jimin says simply, a soft smile on his face. 

 

at first, it doesn’t look like much, but then jimin is raising his free hand and touching upon the free air, fingers outstretched in the most delicate way. something shivers through taehyung, sends pleasant chills up his spine, and the world around him explodes with surreality, and when he takes in a breath, it’s clear and fresh and fulfilling, and it honestly feels like the best breath he’s ever breathed. 

 

he blinks and blinks and blinks. 

 

before him is not the meadow they stood at the edge of. before him is… magic. 

 

tall grass still sways, but blooms of glistening flowers litter the area, varying in pastels of blue and the purist whites. whites like the glimmering full moon that hangs overhead, blues like the serenity of jimin’s robes. if jimin were a color, the palette pastels of the image before them is what he would be. 

 

there’s a flower by taehyung’s foot, and he can’t help but kneel down to get a closer look, his hand slipping from jimin’s. it has five petals sweeping downward toward the earth and curled inward towards its center as if its protecting the shimmer of bright yellow pollen it holds. the flower standing tall at about the top of his shin, it keens toward the moon at his back. the petals are smooth when he touches them, thick and strong too, the bloom about the expanse of his palm. 

 

this one is a crystalline white, gorgeous and outlined with pale periwinkle edges. it’s not that the flower glimmers really, but there’s something in its grain that shimmers like starstones. 

 

taehyung adores it, thinks it’s prettier than any other floral he’s seen. 

 

he dips down, brushing his nose against the flower. although it doesn’t have much of a scent, the bloom still has a very gentle smell, something a lot like the teardrop flowers but with a little more fragrant and saccharine sweetness to it. 

 

squeezing his shoulder, breath brushing taehyung’s ear, jimin murmurs, “this is the moonlily meadow. these are moonlillies.”

 

“moonlillies…” repeats taehyung breathlessly, awed. 

 

jimin dips down beside him, and he nimbly plucks the flower from it’s highest leaf, tucking it tenderly behind his ear and kissing the pointed tip there before pulling away. 

 

coaxing him to stand, jimin pulls taehyung forward and into the meadow, grass brushing their robes and moonlillies blossoming around them. there’s a small cottage across the way, it’s base stone and it’s walls wooden, a chimney towering up from its roof. 

 

“whose - “

 

“my parents.”

 

“what?” taehyung twists toward jimin, heart fluttering, “how do you know?”

 

humming, jimin kisses his cheek, eyes sad, “i was drawn to this place a couple years ago. my magic pulled me here, lifted the veil, and i found the meadow and the house… the veil barely held in all the years it took me to find it. even magic has its limits… anyway, there’s a mage around here who’s a couple years older than me, hoseok, and he and his family had watched the veil in my parents stead… until it called to me. they met me here when i discovered it, taught me how to keep the veil up myself, using magic.” 

 

“hoseok?” taehyung honestly didn’t think there’d be another magic-user in the kingdom’s vicinity. it’s different for jimin because he’s hiding in plain sight, but with how many scouts are sent out by the king, taehyung didn’t think any elf capable of magic would dare settle beyond the village.

 

“yeah. he’s a good friend of mine now, actually…” with a much more serious edge to his voice, jimin stills the two of them, “if something ever happens to me, or if something happens to you and i’m not by your side, you go to hoseok, okay?”

 

taehyung frowns, doesn’t like entertaining the idea, “okay.”

 

expression softening, jimin says, “alright,” and continues, “he lives at the mouth of the river, in his own veiled area of space just like this one. it’s a shop for the magical, a place where the weary go to rest, a pocket of safety.”

 

“but... i don’t have magic. i won’t be able to get in.”

 

“there’s a key, love. repeat after me, if ever the moon shall fall, the stars will mourn its light.”

 

“if ever the moon shall fall, the stars will mourn its light. that’s the key?”

 

jimin hums in affirmation, and now that that’s been addressed, he looks as if he feels a bit more free, a bit more relaxed. taehyung tucks the words into his memories carefully, going over them repetitively: an inkling of importance wavering behind the words in his thoughts. 

 

they approach a blanket spread out over the grass, cleared of moonlillies and swaying forage, and with the widest smile on his face, jimin sits down on it, not-so-gracefully tugging taehyung down with him. surprised, taehyung falls atop him, an oof leaving his chest, followed by laughter. off a ways crickets chirp in the forest, and maybe taehyung’s just enjoying himself, or maybe they actually sound happy. it’s clear that jimin planned this. 

 

taehyung wonders what else he’s planned. 

 

he doesn’t have to wonder for long though he thinks, as jimin splays a hand over his chest and urges him to lay back on the blanket beneath him. after a moment, he realizes it’s the quilt from jimin’s bed, and there’s a fondness that overwhelms him at its fabric beneath his touch. 

 

jimin lays beside him, turned into him and holding him around the waist. it’s his turn to rest his ear over taehyung’s heart, curled tight against him. 

 

“jiminie.”

 

“hm?”

 

“was this all you wanted to show me?”

 

“just wait for it, baby.” 

 

so, patiently taehyung waits, and he gazes up at the stars and the galaxy and the universe above him. he feels so small like this, but it's a good kind of small, the kind of small that reminds you how infinitesimal you are in comparison, but that you exist with it , that your sheer existence is a reminder of your worth: as much as that of the stars that enfold you. after all, you exist in a distant togetherness, and the creation of such beings is a miracle all on its own. 

 

finally, jimin takes hold of taehyung’s wrist and holds it out, “point,” he asks softly, and taehyung does, letting jimin move his outstretched arm until satisfied, “there… look there.” taehyung looks, lowering his and jimin’s hands now that he’s captured the spot with his gaze. 

 

at first, nothing happens. 

 

a blink of light. 

 

another. 

 

they’re merely only pops in the sky at first, but suddenly jimin is pressing a kiss over his robes and magic is pulsing through taehyung, nearly vibrating him out of his skin with its insistent warmth. no longer are those pops in the sky blinks of light as taehyung looks at them from the ground. instead, they’re newborn stars forming in his altered gaze, pulsing with this rhythmic light: beating like the heart inside taehyung’s chest does. it’s stunning, elysian, and taehyung is a witness to the birth of new brightness across the galaxy. 

 

“it’s a new star formation,” jimin says softly, and taehyung realizes just how once in a lifetime this is. 

 

the realm has only ever mapped eleven constellations, which makes this one the twelfth, and taehyung is watching it form - nebulae collapsing in on itself and spinning, growing warmer and warmer as the pressure of the universe holds it tightly in its grasp until it explodes with grandeur, filling the darkness of surrounding space with incandescence. 

 

with magic, taehyung can see it happen as clear as day, can feel the warmth of it upon his skin, can revel in its beauty as it is. 

 

when the universes ceases in its new creations, taehyung holds his breath, speechless. 

 

then, “how did you know this was going to happen tonight?” and it’s said quietly, in reverence. 

 

“i could feel it. my magic could feel it… you’ve heard the myths, right?” jimin smoothes a palm over taehyung’s stomach leisurely, completely at peace. 

 

“what myths?” 

 

(taehyung's heard many myths, but he's not sure he's ever heard what jimin's about to tell him.)

 

so jimin tells him, “at first, there only existed the being of sun. he was alone in his existence, doomed forever to brighten the darkness around him with no other life to shine his light upon. he was named syhrn. there were no days to count and there were no years to pass. there was only endless time, and syhrn lived in its depths for eons. after so long of such a life, he was desperate for companionship. and eventually there came someone else, a being who lived on a moon hurtling through space, homeless. made of iron and rock, she was cold where the sun was warm.”

 

taehyung closes his eyes, his lips tipping up at the corners, “and what was her name?”

 

“aor…” jimin answers softly, “her name was aor, and naturally, she was drawn into the sun of syhrn’s orbit.”

 

“naturally,” echoes taehyung, teasing.

 

with a rumble of a laugh in his chest, jimin holds him tighter and continues, “they danced together, an orbit and a gravity drawing them ever closer. syhrn found companionship in aor, and aor found a home in syhrn. without ever realizing it, they found what they needed in one another.”

 

kind of like us, taehyung thinks. 

 

“they fell in love.”

 

exactly like us, taehyung thinks. 

 

jimin sits up, moves so that he has a leg hooked over taehyung’s hips, hands bracing him up on either side of the elf. the moon behind him - as if aor is watching over them - jimin gazes softly, eyes trailing across the lines and flushes of taehyung’s face. 

 

“they kissed,” and jimin bends down, presses their lips together, smiling sweetly against taehyung’s mouth. then he parts, hovering just above his nose, pearl ringed eyes bright and clear, “they left their respective abodes, met in the middle of their dance, and they kissed. something happened when they kissed. the cosmos exploded with light, and this is when they realized they had the ability to bring life. this is when they realized they had magic . the two of them were no longer alone in their existence, and although far off, more suns twinkled and more moons danced in their far off orbit. so they named these far off suns ‘stars.’”

 

“you’re a star, park jimin,” taehyung arches to kiss him chastely. 

 

whining falsely, jimin pouts, chiding him, “hey, i’m trying to tell a story here.”

 

giggling beneath him, pulling him down until their foreheads touch, taehyung lets out a sigh, playful but urging. 

 

“though they were in love, something was missing in their courtship of space. so after further passage of time, they kissed and summoned nebula. syhrn’s sun heated it, gave it part of itself, while aor’s moon encouraged it, moving from its orbit to encircle the slowly forming existence. from the nebula and aor and syhrn’s magic, a planet was formed. and the divinity of this planet, this planet’s being, was named zaith.

 

“zaith was young, confused. zaith looked at aor and saw enduring gentleness, femininity, and zaith looked at syhrn and saw quiet strength, masculinity, and zaith felt similar to both aspects as well as dissimilar to either. zaith declared themself a new being, as they existed with waters that were both rough against the shore and docile in pools of earth: same and different in essence. aor and syhrn guided zaith as they grew, as the lifeforms on their planet grew too. this is when the realm of elves began, and it was discovered that elves had magic like aor and syhrn did. although it wasn’t as easily used, they were humble in applying the gift, and they employed it to help zaith’s planet thrive. 

 

“the three celestial beings’ existence felt whole from then on. aor and syhrn loved one another as much as they loved zaith, and they cared for zaith as their own… but as all they lived, they grew weary, still loving and still alive, but weary. in agreement, happy with what time they’d had together, aor returned to her moon, syhrn was enveloped in his sun, and zaith reunited with their planet, their elves, making a home for themself deep beneath the earth. 

 

“magic continued to flourish in the elven realm, but as years passed for those that lived there, it diminished as generation after generation was born. it remained, yes, but it faded too, a simple connection to the beings that created the elves… because aor and syhrn created life using magic, the myths that told of their story explain that magic therefore senses the creation of galactic nascence, senses its first mages awakening to bless the universe with more life, more light once more.” 

 

breathlessly, taehyung looks up at jimin, waiting for him to proceed. 

 

except, he doesn’t. 

 

“the end,” he says instead. 

 

“that’s it?” taehyung can’t help but feel a little bit upset at this knowledge. 

 

jimin hums, kisses him again, tasting of rosemary, “that’s how the myth ends. but do you wanna know what i think?”

 

relaxing warmth flooding through his veins, jimin resting over him, and the sky all encompassing, taehyung asks, curious, “what do you think?” and he watches jimin’s face soften, pull away a bit. 

 

“i think all elves have magic. i think we’ve had it since the very beginning... over the years, i believe zaith has locked some of it away, deep within us, until we prove the pureness of our hearts, until we prove the love we have for what life surrounds us, until we’re worthy of it.”

 

taehyung wonders how such a man has grown to love him, “i love you,” he whispers in reply, tenderhearted, enchanted, astounded by the myth, by the theory, by jimin’s words. 

 

finally relaxing down upon him, chest against chest, heartbeat against heartbeat, breath against breath, jimin tells him, “i love you too. more than anything.”

 

the moon is soft above them, shining down on their twined frames with its soft light, encouragement, and magic. the moonlillies keen up toward it, petals glistening like starstones and pollen as yellow as stripes of the palace garden’s honeybees. jimin is gorgeous like this - even though he’s gorgeous all the time. stunning, really. he glistens under the moonlight, arms caging taehyung’s body softly, holding him so tenderly that taehyung is convinced that if he were to break, jimin and his love would be able to keep him together.

 

“jimin?”

 

the elf named lifts himself up a bit, so they can make eye contact with one another. 

 

jimin’s skin gleam, and the refraction of the moonlillies surrounding them shimmer in his luminescent brown eyes, pools of the moonlight’s warmth. taehyung raises a hand to cup his cheek, caresses that pale, soft skin with his fingers, relishing in the life he feels hovering over him. jimin is so, so alive, breathing in, breathing out, every breath a grounding presence, as if he’s the starlight in the dark sky, surrounding the moon carefully, protecting it from harm. jimin is protecting taehyung from harm. 

 

(taehyung thinks that jimin is like aor: protective and strong in gentleness, careful in love, but also avid toward it. taehyung thinks that he himself might be most similar to zaith, growing still, but determined to learn and to love and to make his own belonging, his own fate.)

 

the moonlillies' soft scent make things feel a bit hazy, but in the best way. the way that makes taehyung’s aware of the softest, most innocent yearning: a forever of this. 

 

“jimin-ah... this is all i want,” taehyung finds himself admitting, “you, us. magic and moonlight and love. this is all i want,” and even with how quiet he says it, it seems to echo in the meadow, the words surrounding the both of them in a chilling embrace. 

 

the stars, the moon, the dark of night, jimin: they’re all aspects of serendipity, of a singularity taehyung is sure he won’t happen upon again. 

 

taehyung doesn’t feel like a prince now, doesn’t feel like an elf bound to duty, bound to serve his kingdom to his very end. 

 

he just feels like taehyung. 

 

he feels… he feels in love. 

 

when taehyung opens his eyes, not realizing he’d let them slip closed, jimin is collapsing down to meet him, their lips crashing together. it’s messy, the kiss, full of passion and love. jimin’s tongue teases his lip, and taehyung can’t help but laugh, allowing jimin to dominate the kiss in the most tender and soft way. 

 

something changes though, as they kiss. jimin becomes a bit heavier upon him, his shoulders slouching, his lips less avid to capture taehyung’s breath. 

 

and then taehyung tastes the tears. 

 

“min? angel?” he mumbles, to which jimin responds by hiding his face in taehyung’s neck, fingers tangled in the cross of the prince’s silver robes, his own periwinkle ones pooling over them, loose. jimin shakes a bit, and taehyung knows he’s crying, so he encircles his arms up around jimin’s waist, hands soothing up and down his spine. 

 

“what are we going to do, tae?” 

 

oh... 

 

taehyung shudders, focuses on the night spring air and the comforting weight of jimin and his warmth, “i’m going to get married… and we’re going to have to figure out what to do along the way… how we’re still going to be together…” he trails off, takes a deep breath, has made a decision, “because i refuse to leave you, jimin. i’ve only just found you…” there’s a deep ache in his chest now. 

 

in his arms, jimin lets out a strangled sob, burying into him further. 

 

“no matter what happens, min, i want to have a life with you, even though it might end up having to be a secretive one. no matter what happens, i want to be with you, even if that means it’ll be difficult sometimes. i want that… if you’re willing to want that too.”

 

“i want that. us.” jimin confirms, lips kissing taehyung’s neck. 

 

“i love you, jimin.”

 

through tears, jimin says, “and i love you, baby,” and it comes out sniffly and thick with emotion and adorable, so taehyung laughs.

 

laughs, smiles, grimaces. 

 

holds jimin closer. 

 

and with only jimin, the stars, and possibly aor and zaith to bear witness, he begins to sing a haunting tune, beautiful and deep, one near a lullaby, and he lets the sound carry throughout the moonlily meadow. 

 

an echoing reminder of what is yet to come. 

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

they’re kissing, because of course they are. 

 

it’s a beautiful spring day, the sun gentle with its rays, wisps of clouds curled delicately in the sky, floating across the bright blue expanse slowly. the trees whistle, their full and bright green leaves swaying in the breeze. and the birds are happy today too, an incessant but cheerful chirping resounding through the forest. it’s warm but not too warm, a day that's touch is graceful when brushing across taehyung’s skin. 

 

perhaps it even rivals taehyung’s touch to jimin’s frame. 

 

jimin’s sitting back against a tree, his face in taehyung’s hands. 

 

yes, taehyung is sitting comfortably in his lap, straddling his hips. yes, taehyung is giggling into the tender mouth that presses against his own. yes, taehyung is ignoring the fact that he’ll be married in a week, having just turned twenty only a few days ago. yes, taehyung is utterly and completely and irrevocably in love. 

 

so, they’re kissing, and jimin’s lips are warm, slotting smoothly against taehyung’s. his arms are slung around taehyung’s neck, fingers tangled up in the curly locks of his hair and tugging ever so slightly. 

 

“baby, my baby, tae,” jimin is saying, and taehyung wholeheartedly agrees. 

 

he hums, “yours…”

 

the both of them are at peace, relishing in one another’s presence and taking advantage of what time they have left before things change. 

 

although, perhaps things will change sooner than they expected. 

 

there’s a gasp, a sound that comes from neither one of them, too high and surprised to be anything but something that fills the pit of taehyung’s stomach with dread. whipping around, yanking himself from jimin’s tender hold, his eyes fall upon a kingdom scout, clad in a brown tunic with a plate of armor about his chest and a sword at his side. at first taehyung only looks at him, the scout barely six meters away from where he and jimin sit tangled together against a tree. 

 

jimin stiffens. he sees the man too. 

 

before taehyung has a chance to say not to, there’s magic in the air and trembling warmth spills over him. the ground starts to shake and shake and shake, and the scout falls to the ground with how violent the earth trembles beneath them all. taehyung can only let out a scared sound and turn, slightly terrified, back to jimin, burying his face in the elf’s neck and rambling, “it’s okay, jiminie, jimin, it’s okay, stop jiminie, please, it’s okay.” the magic makes it feel as if he's burning.

 

it seems as if the world is coming apart beneath them, and taehyung clings to the boy, trying to soothe him, trying to quell the rise of magic, the growing feeling of fear. 

 

with a shout of fright, the scout stumbles to his feet and flees, staggering out of sight. 

 

it doesn’t matter that he’s gone. he’s seen enough. 

 

“hey, jimin,” taehyung presses a kiss to his neck and hugs him tighter, trying to ground him, “jimin, angel. hey, i need you to stop. i’m okay, we’re okay.”

 

(they’re not okay. they’re so not.)

 

nevertheless, the quake beneath them slowly comes to a halt, and with it, complete silence envelops the forest - every living creature is likely terrified, the trees hanging tightly on with their roots, the sky above watching on in distant concern. 

 

only then does taehyung pull his face back from jimin’s neck, shaking, “he saw us.”

 

jimin is pale, eyes filled with apologetic terror.

 

“min, you - “

 

“i’m sorry,” and it comes out feeble, thin, in a tight and fearful voice that taehyung’s never heard jimin speak from, “tae - tae, tae i’m sorry, so sorry. shit, i….” he swallows, blinks, lips parted. 

 

“min,” taehyung starts again, hands coming up to cup jimin’s cheeks again. he makes jimin look at him, soothing his thumbs over the soft skin beneath his eyes, “min, you need to go home, pack some things, and run.”

 

there’s a choked noise, a breath lodged in jimin’s throat by emotion. 

 

gently, taehyung presses forward and kisses him, knowing well enough that the taste of jimin’s lips - like frostberries and sugarrose tea - is something he may never taste again. jimin’s lips are soft and pliant, his mouth still slack from shock, but taehyung kisses him deeply, gentle still, but fervent too. this may well be the last time he’ll ever get to do so. he makes it count. 

 

“not only did he see his prince with another elf, betraying the marriage set by the kingdom, but he saw an elf with magic. he saw you use magic.”

 

“but -” jimin tries to protest. 

 

taehyung’s hands drop to his shoulders, squeezing insistently, “but nothing,” he hisses, trying to get him to understand, “the scouts have been trained to recognize magic, to recognize the signs. he knows , jimin. and he’s going to tell the king about all of this... you need to get out of here.” and with that, he moves himself off of jimin’s lap and stands, forcing the still stunned elf to his feet too. 

 

there’s no response. 

 

“jimin!” and taehyung’s never said his name this sharply before.

 

“come with me.”

 

heart dropping in his chest, taehyung sighs, “i can’t.”

 

“you can - “

“no!” taehyung breathes heavily. his chest is tight with panic, still, and his emotions are welling up too quickly to tamp them down. jimin needs to leave, and taehyung has to stay. he owes it to his kingdom to stay. he says as much, voice hard and insistent, rough and calloused like a farmer’s hands after years of working in the fields. 

 

desperately, jimin grasps taehyung’s hands, fingers pressing hard into his skin, “what about what you owe to yourself, taehyung?”

 

“go.”

 

“tae…” 

 

go.” he growls, bare elf instincts rising steadily, bubbling over in his chest. 

 

finally, jimin relents. “i love you,” he whispers, and he tries to catch taehyung’s gaze. when he fails, he says it again, “tae, i love you.” his hands drop taehyung’s then, drawing back from his space, and he turns away, sprinting back to the village, to his home, to the place he’s leaving in the name of safety. 

 

“i love you too,” taehyung whispers into the wind, and he begins the trek back to the palace.

 

despite how slowly taehyung walks, it doesn’t take all that long, especially when halfway there, a flank of palace guards approach him and swarm him from all sides. they don’t touch him, but they circle him closely, making it clear that he won’t be allowed to move past their ranks. news travels fast in tanaera, so he’s not surprised that in the twenty minutes that have passed, the scout was able to alert the king and his advisors about what he saw. 

 

he’s escorted through the main palace gates and through the long arching hallways and past his room. 

 

it’s odd, the calm energy that’s washed over him. 

 

jimin is gone, jimin has left, jimin has escaped. 

 

perhaps that’s why he’s calm. 

 

they’re nearing the throne room, where his father awaits, when seokjin strides into view, stopping their progress. his face is hard, “the prince is under my protection. return to your posts,” he tells the guards, and his voice is chilling. it’s clear that he doesn’t know what’s happened, has only heard of taehyung’s unjustified accompaniment for his return. 

 

a guard from the front steps forward, equally as stiff in posture and challenging in tone, “as of now, you’re relieved of your duties as the prince’s protection. the king has demanded an audience with him.”

 

this guard outranks seokjin, as told by the sash of purple about his waist, symbolizing the highest rank in the guards classification. he’s a protector of the royal advisors and occasionally, the king. 

 

seokjin’s sash is white, a rank below his challenger, and reluctantly, he steps back, allowing them to pass. he meets taehyung’s gaze, a question in his eyes. taehyung merely shakes his head, dread slowly creeping through the calm haze that had blanketed him. as they continue their stride, seokjin trails behind, an ever faithful friend using his status to do this, at the very least. 

 

when they make it to the throne room, taehyung’s father is pacing back and forth, face twisted in a rage the prince has barely ever seen. 

 

the guards disperse, leaving taehyung be, and they file back against the walls, hands on the hilts of their swords. seokjin stays near the entrance, knowing his place. 

 

the king barely acknowledges him, “kneel,” is all he says, voice empty. 

 

not hesitating, taehyung drops to a knee, head bowed ever so slightly. 

 

he doesn’t dare test his father’s patience now. 

 

“is it true?” the king barks, finally stilling, gaze heavy upon taehyung’s form. 

 

this, taehyung does hesitate to say, thinking of jimin and his pretty eyes and prettier soul, “yes,” he breathes. he can feel the tension in the air, thick with fury. deciding enough is enough, he stands, tries not to flinch when his father’s stare cuts to him. taehyung feels like he’s being taken apart, like the bits of freedom he’s relished in for the past thirteen moons are being sliced into and examined, taken apart as easily as one can rip pages from a book. he doesn’t speak again, waits for the throne room to echo with the king’s voice once more. 

 

“what were you thinking, kim taehyung?!”

 

taehyung lets the question echo, doesn’t respond. 

 

at his silence, the king sighs, a degrading smirk lifting up his lips, “tanaera’s own prince betraying his kingdom by courtship with a commoner,” he scoffs, “a commoner with magic, at that.”

 

a shudder of fright rolls up taehyung’s spine, but he maintains his composure, looking on evenly at his father. there’s defiance in his gaze. he can feel it simmering throughout him. 

 

“nevertheless, the marriage will still commence, if not just for the benefit of the kingdom, but to teach you a lesson about loyalty. we’ll deal with the magic-user, as well… thanks for leading us to him, prince,” there’s a commotion at the throne room doors, and taehyung turns to look, seokjin moving to the side as the king continues, “oh, speaking of such.”

 

jimin. 

 

unconscious. 

 

being dragged in by the arms through the arching entryway.

 

taehyung’s entire body flashes white hot, and before he realizes he’s moving, his hands are tangled in his father’s robes and he’s growling, pushing him backwards. as soon as he’s done so, though, hands make purchase on his arms and waist, forcing him back. “what the fuck have you done?” he screams, refusing to let go of the king, hands fisted so tight that his knuckles have gone pale, and as the guards that have grabbed him pull him backward, he drags the king with him. 

 

he's unphased by the conflict until the hilt of a sword slams down on his wrists, dislodging his grip and ripping a cry of pain from his mouth. 

 

he struggles, limbs thrashing for freedom even as the guards hold him tighter, yank him back harder. when they restrain him enough to keep him somewhat still, five bodies surround him, two restricting the movement of both his arms, one with an elbow snaked around his throat, and two more in front of him, swords drawn and pointed at his chest. 

 

“pathetic,” is all the king says, watching the color drain from taehyung’s face as jimin is brought to the throne room steps, thrown unceremoniously to the stone floor. he crumples face-first like a ragdoll, hitting the floor with a thud. humming, his father tauntingly approaches, robes sweeping across the floor as he bends over, studying the elf. 

 

and when the king’s fingers tangle in jimin’s dirty blonde hair, the tips barely any shade of blue, lifting up his head from the floor in a harsh grasp, taehyung growls. feels like acid runs through his veins as he struggles, air coming harder to him as the guard behind him puts pressure on the chokehold. 

 

fuck breathing. 

 

“don’t you dare fucking touch him,” and finally, gods, finally, taehyung rips one of his arms free, bucking his frame in determined defiance, trying to loosen the grip they have on him. he scrambles to grasp at the sword strapped to the guard’s waist behind him. successfully, he pulls it from its scabbard and growls so hard he feels his throat go hoarse. taehyung is released quite quickly, and although he’s only ever held a sword once - he’s much more experienced at bow and arrow - he holds its weight carefully, crouched the slightest, he brings in his elbows, grips it with both hands, and points it toward the king. 

 

with a hard thud, his father lets jimin’s hair go, his head thumping against the floor, 

 

it’s only now that taehyung notices that jimin’s bleeding, a pool of red expanding from somewhere beneath his stomach. he’s hurt. 

 

taehyung steps forward absentmindedly, and as soon as he does so, the king draws his own sword, hidden under the outermost layer of his royal robe, encrusted with the finest gemstones and made with the strongest ivory and silver composites. he briefly wonders how long it’s been since his father has drawn his own sword, ever dared to point it at someone, always protected by his cadre of guards. 

 

the sword is not pointed at taehyung like he thought it would be. instead, it swings downward until its sharp tip hovers just above the back of jimin’s neck. 

 

he knows his father will swing without hesitation, so when the king bites out, “drop it,” taehyung lets his sword clatter to the ground, every inch of him trembling in anger and fear and fucking dread. 

 

the guards restrain him once more as the sword pointed at jimin is sheathed. 

 

steps slow, the king approaches, grabbing taehyung’s chin and forcing it up, forcing the prince to look at him, “you fool,” he hisses quietly, “we’re going to kill him anyway.”

 

at this taehyung snarls, screaming obscenities and howling himself raw. the only thing stopping him from clawing at the king’s unremorseful expression are the tighter-than-before grips on taehyung’s limbs. he barely hears the king say, “lock him in the dungeons until the wedding. i don’t wish to look at him anymore,” before he’s being dragged away screaming and screaming and screaming. his words begin to blur together, shouts of jimin and fuck you and let me go leaving him in short bursts of panicked, angry air. to make it more difficult, he lets his legs give beneath him, forcing the guards to drag him, work harder to pull him along and away. 

 

through his screaming and zoned focus on jimin’s unconscious form, he barely notices seokjin slipping out of the room with tears in his eyes and terror on his face. 

 

when he’s finally hauled out of view, he thrashes harder, convinced that the whole palace can hear him crying out and wailing and screaming for his release, for jimin to go unharmed. his throat fucking burns, and his body aches with the effort, but even still, he continues to resist. 

 

he doesn’t stop when they force him down the dungeon stairs. he doesn’t stop when they throw him into a damp and dark cell. he doesn’t stop when one of the guards jabs his side as he hurls himself forward in an attempt to escape. he doesn’t stop when the cell door is shut and locked. 

 

he doesn’t stop when he’s left alone in the pitch black. 

 

he doesn’t stop as he wraps his hands around the metal bars and shakes the gate-like enclosure as hard as he can. 

 

he only stops when the exhaustion overtakes the adrenaline and it slams into him so hard that the leftover rasp of screams die on his tongue. 

 

taehyung retreats to the corner of his cell, so tired that he’s barely aware of his movement, and allows himself to sob until sleep drags him unwillingly into its embrace. 

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

time passes, but taehyung is numb to it. he’s pretty sure at least two days have gone by. he’s gotten four meals in the time he’s been stuck in the dark - well spread out, eyes having adjusted to see the frayed cot against the right wall and the bucket for… well. 

 

he’s learned that there’s no point in screaming anymore. no one hears, and if they do, no one indulges him.  

 

the thought of jimin is heavy on his mind. 

 

from what he remembers of when the scouts came back with magic-users, they’d bring them into the interrogation chamber, just offset from the war room. most were there for at least three days, some for longer, most for shorter. taehyung doesn’t know what was done to them, knows that they were hurt, that they were asked of things they likely had no information on: locations of other mages, popular meeting spots for magic-users who were left, and more. he does know that they were sedated enough to keep their magic chained and lulled, unable to protect or defend. 

 

taehyung never had the courage to personally view what went on, not like his father did whenever an elf of magical abilities was brought back to the palace. the whole ordeal was always an atrocity, a cruelty that taehyung had never been supportive of, had always rejected. 

 

he can’t bring himself to think too hard on what they’re doing to jimin. he can’t bring himself to entertain the idea that jimin may already be… 

 

no.

 

when his extended period of lonesomeness is interrupted by a soft voice, taehyung almost screams in fear, but he stops himself when his eyes shoot open and land on jungkook. 

 

tears burn behind his eyes, “jungkook-ah?”

 

“yeah, tae. it’s me.” and it is. jungkook is crouched at the bars outside his cell, hands wrapped around the cold metal tightly, “tae… tae, are you okay?”

 

the answer obvious enough, taehyung scrambles to meet the boy at the bars, extending a hand. he almost sobs in relief when jungkook’s hand grasps his, holding it tightly. “have you heard about jimin?” he asks, voice wavering dangerously. and it’s hard to discern the look on jungkook’s face, but from what he can tell, grief shapes his expression. 

 

“he’s magic, isn’t he?” the question is simply that, a question. jungkook has no malice toward mages. none of taehyung’s friends do. 

 

jungkook.”

 

with a reluctant huff of breath, jungkook tells him, “yesterday, namjoon and i heard the guards betting on how long he’d last. since then, nothing. the whole palace has silenced. as if he was never here to begin with…” on the last part, jungkook trails off, voice sorrowful. 

 

taehyung tells himself to stay sane, knowing well-enough that this hush is typical after the king has deemed the magic-user no longer useful. but just maybe…

 

“you need to get out of here,” taehyung says finally, “you need to take namjoon, seokjin, and yoongi, and you need to leave.”

 

chuckling dryly, jungkook levels with him, “there’s nowhere for us to go. and there’s no way we’d leave without you.”

 

if something ever happens to me, or if something happens to you and i’m not by your side, you go to hoseok, okay?

 

he lives at the mouth of the river, in his own veiled area of space just like this one. it’s a shop for the magical, a place where the weary go to rest, a pocket of safety.

 

there is somewhere they can go.

 

“the river of mangata,” taehyung starts, nearly shaking out of his skin, “do you know where that is?”

 

jungkook nods. 

 

“northward, where the mouth of the river empties out, there’s a veiled house. you’ll be safe there… the owner goes by the name hoseok. if you tell him you’re friends with jimin, if you tell him what’s happened, he’ll allow you to stay. he’ll allow you safety.”

 

“veiled?”

 

explaining softly, taehyung says, “hidden from plain sight. you have to have the key to enter… gguk, repeat after me: if ever the moon shall fall, the stars will mourn its light. ” jungkook does so, and taehyung allows himself a deep breath only after hearing him say it twice more. 

 

“we’re not leaving you here - “

 

“yes, you are.” gripping jungkook’s hand insistently, taehyung meets the boy’s deep brown eyes, finding a maturity there that hadn’t been there before, “you are going to take namjoon, seokjin, and yoongi there, and you are going to hide. if you want to come back for me at a later time, fine, but you’ve risked enough with this one visit already, and you can’t afford to break me out before you leave.”

 

“no - “

 

taehyung snarls, “i’m not losing anyone else, jungkook. i’m counting on you to do this. and i swear to the gods, if seokjin so much as tries to come down here on your way, beat his chest hard, and i mean hard, jungkook. tell him i told you to. and if you have to shove yoongi into a satchel to keep him from being stupid and flying down here too, do that. you do whatever it takes, jungkook. you get namjoon and the others, you get out, and you live,” pacifying at the tolerance in jungkook’s gaze, he asks, “do you love him? namjoon?

 

and although he can’t see the blush creep over jungkook’s cheeks, he knows it’s there. 

 

“i think i do…” he admits quietly. 

 

“then don’t let him marry me. get him out. all of you, get out now. leave.”

 

“taehyung, i…”

 

do it .” taehyung knows he’s coming off as harsh, but it’s only because he’s terrified. because he wants to preserve his friends’ future, their happiness, “do it now, jungkook. do it for me.”

 

after contemplative silence, jungkook finally relents, and his voice breaks, “okay.”

 

from then on, taehyung simply savors jungkook’s presence, the comfort of their held hands. but soon enough, jungkook has to depart, but not before taehyung makes the year-younger elf promise to do what he said as soon as he leaves the dungeon. 

 

taehyung is left to his lonesome once more, but this time the darkness seems a little more ominous, a little more sinister. 

 

despite himself, taehyung mourns the possibility, mourns the chance that jimin no longer breathes, mourns him wholly and entirely, barely allowing himself to hope that none of what he’s thinking is true is

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

taehyung can tell when the palace realizes that the prince visiting from naodai has gone missing. can tell even further when they realize that a servant, a pixie, and a guard from their own ranks has disappeared alongside him. he can hear the pounding footsteps and frantic voices, searching. it’s laughable, and if he weren’t so lost in grief, maybe he would actually laugh. it’s only been a few hours. this, he knows. 

 

he sits in his corner and breathes and cries and -  

 

footsteps: heavy, measured, andante. 

 

the footsteps of his fath-

 

no, the footsteps of the king

 

something in taehyung’s gut burns, like a spark has kindled inside him, flaring up with flames that lick against the walls of his chest and tenderly curl warmth around his heart. it hurts at first, but something about it softens when he closes his eyes and focuses on it. something about it tames. 

 

the footfalls get closer.

 

the fire moves through him, flickering in his blood and setting his lungs ablaze. a tremor rolls through him too, the flames wrapping up around his spine and embracing it tightly enough for taehyung to straighten, hum at its insistence. it feels kind of like the flintleaves that he used to set off when he was a kid: leaves that ignited with sparks as soon as a flicker of fire touched their green curve. 

 

the steps get louder. 

 

more demanding, the flames burn through his legs, tingle his toes and the tips of his fingers. taehyung stands. the air around him vibrates, and his very bones feeling encased by warmth, his body abuzz with energy that feels somewhat familiar, coiling within his ribcage, the flames strongest there of all places. it builds, its intensity crawling up his throat and into the tips of his ears. it burns in the best way now, has grown from flintleaves to a campfire to an inferno , and he likes it. it feels good. it feels powerful. it feels…

 

it feels magical.

 

the king steps into view then, says, “taehyung,” sharply, his eyes glinting in the dark. 

 

i think all elves have magic. i think we’ve had it since the very beginning... over the years, i believe zaith has locked some of it away, deep within us, until we prove the pureness of our hearts, until we prove the love we have for what life surrounds us, until we’re worthy of it.

 

magic. 

 

that’s what it is. 

 

suddenly, it bubbles over, feels like a fire that spills directly from his skin, static raising the hairs on the back of his neck, and taehyung learns what jimin meant when he said his magic went off like a grenade. 

 

because taehyung goes off like a grenade. 

 

it happens in an instant, magic expelling from him in a wave of protective fury, alighting all his nerves simultaneously. it blows open his cell door, slams the king against the wall behind him, rattles about every musty stone from its place, and leaves him as fast as it had rushed through him. the force of it rattles taehyung’s bones, leaves him dizzy and way too warm, but that too, fades. 

 

tranquility washes over him, and he blinks slowly, languidly, stunned. the fire still simmers in his chest, but it doesn’t burn now, only heats, and it pools in his stomach too, humming in quiet content as taehyung breathes in a deep breath. 

 

his mouth tastes a little bit like ash, but it's not all that unpleasant, taehyung finds. 

 

when he closes his eyes and focuses, his magic keens for him, reaches for his attention, and asks what next? 

 

what next? 

 

strength somewhat regained, taehyung steps forward. the king is lying motionless against the wall. in fear, he looks at taehyung, breaths rasping in his chest. rage flooding taehyung’s vein, he approaches, crouches down, grabs the king by his robe and asks, “where is jimin?”

 

the king only coughs, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. 

 

his magic rises again. he feels it seep into the air, raw energy stinging across his skin. he asks again, voice tempered solely by the need for an answer. 

 

this time, he gets one. 

 

no smirks alight the king’s face this time, only a grimace of pain, “last night, when we were done with him we threw him in the river. we let the current clean up our mess.” and although he’s not sneering or taunting, there’s dull amusement in his eyes. he likes this doesn’t he? watching taehyung lose it, watching him suffer. 

 

“done with him?” taehyung questions darkly, voice dipping low, a bitter molasses, not sweet like with jimin. 

 

“if you’re asking if he was still breathing, then i couldn’t tell you for sure. we were too busy toasting to his weakness.”

 

taehyung snarls, growling so incessantly, so loud and ferocious that he feels the king stiffen, watches the amusement drain from his gaze, replaced by fear. 

 

but this coward of a king means nothing to him now. taehyung got what he needed, and his anger is slowly morphing into panic. before he lets it be seen on his face, taehyung releases the king and stands, straightening. “mother would be so fucking ashamed of you,” he hisses, and then he walks away, ignoring the stuttered rebuttals and harshness of breath. 

 

(he feels this in his heart to be true.)

 

he leaves the dungeon rather smoothly, not bothered until he’s climbed up the stairs and stands in the arching palace hallways. palace guards see him, hesitate, and then burst toward him. taehyung only continues walking, feels his magic well and bubble and broil over again, bursting out. for the second time in barely ten minutes, it goes off, and he stumbles through it, determined. 

 

thankfully, it only stuns the guards, sends them flying backward and landing on the ground, heaving for breath. 

 

after that, he’s not bothered. the remaining guards that see him as his walk becomes a jog becomes a run don’t mess with him. taehyung’s fairly sure it’s because of the energy that encases him now, buzzing with warning, ferocious in its growl. 

 

taehyung thanks it. 

 

he’s outside in a matter of minutes, and he only touches the tips of his fingers to the palace gates when they begin to melt before him. 

 

then, he’s free. 

 

but not entirely. 

 

he runs northwest. the sky is dark. it might be thundering. his magic pounds with it. 

 

the forest welcomes him, darker than he’s ever seen it, seemingly dampened by the storms above. or perhaps dampened by fading magic. taehyung cannot tell, even as he senses the weaving energy that wraps around the treetops and rustles through their branches. 

 

it takes a good while to get to the river of mangata, and by the time he does, he’s barely breathing. his lungs hurt in the worst way, and taehyung has no clue how he hasn’t yet collapsed from over exertion, although he has an inkling of a feeling that his magic is pushing him along, gifting him just enough vigor to continue. 

 

he scans the rushing water - beautiful but deadly in its flow. it is spring, after all - and the riverbed, eyes searching searching searching. his heartbeat is too fast, his breaths too weak, but taehyung can’t stop. he races north, following the wind and bend of mangata, looking as hard as he can, and stepping as close to the banks as he dares. 

 

taehyung doesn’t know how long he looks. he knows that it starts raining, soaking him and the silver, tattered, dirty robes he’s for the last two or three days, approximately. 

 

he’s almost at the mouth of the river when the hope in his chest snuffs out. 

 

he stops walking, feeling fractured and broken and too late. the feeling expands, overwhelming him almost to the point of wails, but then - 

 

then he hears the faintest groan, and he turns in circles, looking looking looking. 

 

oh.

 

jimin

 

across the river. 

 

tangled in the reeds and the growing mangata brush.

 

taehyung is already soaking wet, so when he wades into the river, straining against its course, he doesn’t much care. he probably wouldn’t have care anyway. each step forward is difficult, mangata striving to tug him into its current, but thankfully, the river isn’t deep, and for all its strength, it’s not very wide either. the bank on the other side is steeper and he uses what energy he can summon to tug himself up and out of the water with a cry. 

 

he doesn’t give himself the courtesy of laying there on the grass and catching his breath. he crawls over to jimin, grabbing him by the wrists and pulling him further up the riverbed until the elf lays limply by his side. 

 

his lips are blue. his face is nearly as pale as the moon. and he’s shaking, shivering, trembling. 

 

but that means he’s not dead. 

 

sure enough, when taehyung hovers a finger below jimin’s nose, the weakest, shortest, and shallowest breaths hit it, and when he rests a palm over jimin’s chest, his heartbeat is faint and weak. 

 

he’s alive, though. 

 

he’s alive. 

 

and bleeding too. his cheek is swollen and a purpling bruise rests just under his jawline. there are multiple wounds across his body, most of them over his chest, and his back - from what taehyung can guess. the bleeding has stilled only because of the cold of the water and icy feel of jimin’s frame. his legs and arms are bruised badly, too. and although taehyung doesn’t know just how deep the wounds go, how bad the bruises are, or which bones may be fractured, sprained, or broken, he knows that jimin is in bad condition. 

 

overwhelmed, taehyung sobs. he tries to soothe the elf, whisper him awake. it doesn’t work. he shakes jimin’s shoulders, voice a bit louder. that doesn’t work either. finally, after so many attempts and his efforts growing more and more frantic, the warmth of his magic hits him like a punch, slamming against him, berating him as if to say, that won’t work. you can’t help him here. 

 

dutifully, taehyung listens. 

 

hoseok’s isn’t far, he realizes. 

 

hoseok can help. 

 

they’ll both be safe at hoseok’s. 

 

crying, vision blurry, taehyung does what he can to lift jimin on to his back. jimin can offer no resistance, and even though he is alive, it doesn’t look or feel like it, and he only cries harder when he finally manages to pull jimin up, bending over, arms hooked under his thighs and hands gripping jimin’s own, securing him on taehyung’s back. 

 

jimin is heavy, not that heavy. he’s smaller than taehyung, after all, but taehyung is so tired, energy dipping lower and lower with each moment that passes. 

 

“jimin, angel,” he says shakily, staggering along the riverside, toward where it empties out into the lake, “jimin, i’m taking use to hoseok’s, just like you said, right? we’ll be okay. You’re gonna be okay.”

 

he continues murmuring it, the scent of petrichor consuming him. 

 

taehyung tells himself that it’s more for jimin’s sake than his own, even though he’s pretty sure that’s a lie. 

 

but that doesn’t matter. 

 

jimin matters. 

 

after what feels like hours, he arrives at the mouth of the river of mangata, jimin’s weight on his back heavier. 

 

“if ever the moon shall fall, the stars will mourn its light,” and this time he feels the magic behind it, tastes the sweet syrup of the words. it shivers through him, and he closes his eyes. when he opens them, though, nothing before him has changed. 

 

desperate, he repeats the words between wails, and he spins around, frenzied. 

 

he stumbles backward, almost collapsing under jimin’s weight, because there it is. a house. it’s much like jimin’s parent’s cottage, stone at the base with wooden walls and a towering chimney. except… smoke floats from the top of this chimney, and flickering light shines through the curtained windows. the house is exactly where jimin said it would be, in a vast space where the forest touches upon the riverbend, roots drinking from its waters. 

 

gasping for breath, taehyung ambles toward the front door, somewhat relieved at the fact that it exists, that the key worked, that safety and help is right here. 

 

he’s just reached it when it swings open inwardly. 

 

taehyung barely has the chance to catch a heart-shaped smile melt into a shocked o, before the words, “help him,” leaves his lips, and everything he is gives under the mounting exertion, and he sinks into darkness like a rock tossed in the river’s depths. jimin falls with him, still unconscious and barely breathing. 

 

before he’s truly taken by the exhaustion, he hears a flurry of high and panicked voices, able to identify one of them as namjoon’s. that alone allows his magic to fully let go of the vigor and determination that brought him here. 

 

and just like that, taehyung is unconscious too, gone to the world. 

 

like jimin had said, even magic has its limits. 

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

“he won’t make it through the night.”

 

hoseok is kind. 

 

introductions were short as he replenished taehyung’s strength and magical energy, no doubt sensing that taehyung’s magic is new in existence, had just shown itself. of course, he does this after taehyung wakes up, having been unconscious for fourteen hours straight. knowing he wasn’t ready to face the others, hoseok had sent namjoon, jungkook, yoongi (now full sized), and seokjin to another room. 

 

“i’ve done all i can for him.”

 

every inch of taehyung feels battered, still. 

 

he hasn’t seen jimin despite only being awake for the past twenty minutes, and he needs to, needs to feel his warmth and see his color and hear his heartbeat. even if he’s still unconscious. but he’ll wake up, right? that’s what taehyung had come here: for jimin to be healed, to get better, to open his eyes and say something. 

 

“i’m sorry, taehyung. but i can let you sit with him, ease him into the afterlife.”

 

taehyung’s magic rumbles like a sleeping beast within him. 

 

it’s a beast he has - for the most part - tamed: so far, at least. it’s something he can turn to and rely on. now that it’s housed within taehyung, he’s not sure he’d ever be able to lose and grieve this part of himself, should it one day leave. it feels alive, curled within him, feels like something he coexists with, a flaming energy that guides him and encourages him and reassures him. oddly though, as hoseok talks to him, it’s gone silent. as if… as if anguished. 

 

“taehyung, are you listening to me?”

 

taehyung snaps back into focus, awareness going razor sharp and zoning in on hoseok. the elf in question is sitting across from him in a chair, and it’s only now that taehyung realizes he’s sitting too, stiff and still, a warm mug in his hands. 

 

“what?” he asks. 

 

(part of him remembers what was said, but he refuses to acknowledge it.)

 

hoseok takes the mug from him and sets it on the table. in a consoling motion, he takes taehyung’s hands in his, and from the shake of his fingers, taehyung can tell that hoseok is only holding himself together for him

 

sorrow written into the delicateness of his face, hoseok says softly, “jimin is dying. he’s not going to make it.”

 

numbness. 

 

taehyung is numb. 

 

“i wanna stay with him,” he responds blankly, feeling emptied out, shell-shocked to his very core. 

 

“you can.”

 

“take me to him.”

 

“alright,” and one hand still in his, hoseok leads him down the hall, opening a cracked door and pulling taehyung inside. 

 

there’s a chair pulled up to the bedside, so taehyung slips his palm from hoseok’s and settles himself in it. jimin looks more like he’s sleeping now. his color has come back, lips pink and cheeks the slightest bit flushed: like the color of a dreamblossom at dawn. his hair is dry and his clothes have been changed - as have taehyung’s. a thick blanket has been pulled over his chest, and taehyung is relieved to see that jimin is no longer shaking from the cold. 

 

there’s a hand on taehyung’s shoulder. he barely feels it. “it shouldn’t be long now, tae. you can hold his hand, talk to him, tell him it’s okay… i’ll be right outside if you need anything.”

 

hoseok leaves. 

 

there’s a lit candle on the nightstand, but taehyung blows it out. he also gets up and opens the curtains and the window, allowing the moonlight, slightly shadowed by clouds, to fill the room with more natural light. 

 

jimin would prefer it like this. 

 

taehyung sits down again, but not in the chair. no, he pulls that away from the bed, and instead sits on the mattress. 

 

“jimin…” he drawls sadly, emotion finally showing through, “jimin, you can’t do this. not after all that you’ve gone through. not after all that you’ve survive.”

 

jimin remains motionless, and now… now taehyung breaks. 

 

he’s careful when he drapes his upper body over jimin’s chest, burying his nose in jimin’s neck. jimin’s arms don’t come up around him to hold him. jimin’s voice doesn’t part his lips in its honey tone. jimin’s existence has completely screeched to a halt.

 

he only breathes and sleeps. 

 

“you asked what i owed to myself,” taehyung cries, an ache so painful and so agonizing throbbing in his chest, “this, jimin. i owe myself this. a life with you, happy… and that’s what i should’ve said. min - min, i’m so… so sorry that i didn’t. please don’t leave.”

 

under the moonlight, he dissolves into a series of pleading chants, tears staining jimin’s skin, sobs let out against his collar. 

 

taehyung begins to pray. he doesn’t know to whom, maybe to aor or syhrn or zaith. it doesn’t matter. but he mutters prayers into jimin’s neck, begging for him to live, for his life to be granted more time, for his being to experience more of the world, more happiness, more love. it’s all taehyung can do. 

 

he prays. 

 

(when he’s asked later on what happened next, it’s hard to recall. and even when his memories are a bit clearer, taehyung still could never truly explain what happened in that room with jimin dying under the moonlight.)

 

taehyung feels something stir. something that’s not jimin and not himself, nor his own magic. whatever it is, it’s sweet. it feels like touch, like being held or being sung to. it feels soft, like salt water lapping at skin, like satin bed sheets and a cool spring breeze. curious, he raises his left hand and crooks his pointer fingers under jimin’s jaw and against his neck, where his jugular pulses with the fading beat of his heart. at that, the sweetness stirs, thickens. 

 

it floats gently in the air, like clouds. 

 

it occurs to taehyung then, when he reaches deep within himself to allow his magic to help him feel it, that this softness is jimin’s magic. furthermore, he recalls all the times jimin used magic, the times that set taehyung’s skin all tingly, set the air buzzing with incessant energy. and, oh.

 

oh

 

all those times, it wasn’t jimin’s magic he felt. 

 

it was the dormant languish of taehyung’s magic in reaction. 

 

the magic he felt had been his own, unrealizing of it. 

 

“oh, jimin… jiminie, baby.”

 

the saccharine touch of jimin’s magic fills the air, and taehyung closes his eyes, lets it fill him too, lets it drown his senses and embrace the ferocity of his fire, his warmth. he lets the magics twine inside him, lets them bond, lets them love. 

 

the tears keep falling, but taehyung doesn’t feel sad anymore. for some reason, he feels peaceful and sated. 

 

he feels safe. 

 

he’s always felt safe with jimin. 

 

his chest flutters. kiss him, the magics tell him, taehyung’s much stronger than jimin’s. the warmth and sweetness crescendo, legato bows of rising music, adagio expansions of love. it’s overwhelming, how tender his heart now feels, how softened. life is connected to magic. magic can bring life, just as life can bring magic. the serenade of magics continue, and taehyung easily acquiesces to their ask of him. 

 

sniffling, he withdraws his face from jimin’s neck, feeling as light as a feather. 

 

“i love you,” taehyung whispers, and he dips his head. 

 

as soon as their lips meet, the twined powers within taehyung implode. and it feels like a star being born in his chest, as if his body is the galaxy and the magics are the cloud of nebulae, forming light from near nothing. it happens quickly, the sweet and fiery within him consuming all of him, and by extension of a kiss, consuming all of jimin too. jimin’s lips crackle with electricity, and beneath taehyung, his chest hitches. 

 

and then it’s over. 

 

just like that. 

 

taehyung is left confused when he pulls back. the feeling inside him has gone quiet. 

 

he searches gently, nervous for what he may or may not find. what he does find… well, what he does find incites a whole new wave of tears. jimin’s magic and his own are curled together around his heart, forever entwined and forever protecting. sweet softness holds warm hearths and warm hearths croons to sweet softness.  

 

he feels the same thing in jimin, nestled around the boy’s heart. 

 

their magics have bonded. their magics have encircled them. their hearts beat to the same rhythm now, and something tells taehyung that they will continue to do so until the end of time.

 

life is connected to magic. magic can bring life, just as life can bring magic.

 

a deep breath fills jimin’s lungs. his heartbeat is stronger. 

 

it doesn't seems like he’s dying. it seems like he’s coming back to life. 

 

taehyung, still hovering over jimin, turns to the moon, and he thanks it. he thanks aor and syhrn and zaith and magic. he thanks them endlessly, the ache in him lessened, the grief placated.

 

when he turns back, jimin’s eyes are open, gazing at him softly, “i love you too.”

 

༻﹡﹡﹡༺

 

two moons pass. jimin fully heals. taehyung copes with everything. jungkook falls more for namjoon. namjoon, in turn, falls more for jungkook. seokjin shucks his armor. yoongi relearns about the world. hoseok finds his gaze drawn to both the guard and the pixie whenever they’re in the room. they grow. 

 

together, they plot the downfall of the king. together, they come up with ideas on who to recruit, who to trust, who they can turn to. together, they estimate it’ll take at least two years before they can overthrow this kingdom, gaining traction to challenge whoever decides to take them on for their ideals. together, they devise a way to allow magic to freely roam the world as it did before the elven war. 

 

jimin and taehyung’s lives are bonded now. hoseok has told them as much, still perplexed as to how taehyung did it. from here on out, if jimin dies, taehyung does too, and vice versa. so, they vow to protect one another, as they’ve tried to from the beginning. 

 

the cottage in the moonlily meadow becomes their home, although the two elves frequently stay over at the magic shop, where the inside is much more vast than the outside. scouts no longer roam the forest, apparently put in their place by the deigned prince of magic. 

 

(taehyung hates the title, but he can’t exactly stop people from calling him it.)

 

with one another, truly, taehyung and jimin allow themselves to love, no obstacle in their way any longer: how it should be. they have a forever kind of love that spins among the stars and shines as bright as any sun, is as gentle as any moon, is as welcoming as any planet. 

 

after everything they’ve been through, finally loving each other without abandon, forever sounds good, sounds like more than they’d ever dreamed of and hoped for and ached to have, now theirs. 

 

for as long as their love lasts: forever.

 

༻ ☽ ༺