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Of clueless mates and stupid best friends

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“Well?” Jimin tapped his foot impatiently, staring down at Taehyung. Taehyung shrunk back in fear, shielding the animal behind him. The fluffy haired wolf growled at Jimin with such hostility that he reigned in the urge to cower.

 

If this were any other time, Jimin would have been the first one to coo over the animal, preferably five feet away behind an unbreakable safety glass separating them. Unfortunately, the wolf was neither behind a safety glass and nor was Jimin ready to die this early in his life.

 

Only Taehyung would be the kind of person in the entire campus to somehow stumble upon a wild wolf huge enough to snap him into two between its canines and have it follow him around like a common dog, begging for treats. Jimin was way too sober to be dealing with Taehyung's shit at this point.

 

Jesus Christ, the mutt looks ready to eat me up, Jimin gulped.

 

“Jiminie…I swear I didn’t mean to take him here. He just followed me from the ice cream place. I even tried to shoo him away but he just turned those sad eyes on me and I couldn’t say no I’m so sorry Jiminie I’m weak I can’t turn him away.”

 

Jimin was not even remotely prepared for Taehyung throwing himself at Jimin, rambling in middle of his teary wails. Jimin felt a slight pang of guilt for making Taehyung sad, almost making him cave in. But he was too used to this kind of scenario happening around Taehyung. Experience told him to nip it in the bud as soon as he could.

 

The wolf only growled louder at Taehyung’s wails, looking menacing enough that Jimin felt slightly more terrified for his life, despite reminding himself that he knew seventeen different spells to restrain feral animals. Yeah, this mongrel was probably going rabid. There was no way he was going to let Taehyung keep it. God forbid, he’d probably wake up the next morning to find one his limbs missing and wouldn’t even mind when the wolf looked at him with puppy eyes.

 

“Tae, you can barely take care of yourself half of the time. How do you expect to hide a wolf in your room?”

 

A psychopathic mutt that looks like it can chew up ten humans and not be satisfied, was what he didn’t say.

 

The wolf immediately stopped growling when Taehyung sniffed and turned to look back at it. Jimin couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the mutt physically droop, tucking its tail between its hind legs. If he hadn’t known better, he’d be fooled into believing that the mutt was as docile as a pet dog.

 

The mutt drooped further and started whining, looking so sadly into Taehyung’s eyes that Jimin, despite himself softened. When the silence dragged on for a minute, Taehyung staring unblinkingly back at it, Jimin started panicking.

 

Fuck, they’re having eye contact. Abort abort jump ship what is happening Jimin stop them!

 

Taehyung straightened his shoulders and turned to him with a resolute look.

 

Oh no. Oh nononono.

 

Jimin felt like crying. Taehyung, his absolute idiot of a best friend who obviously had zero sense of self-preservation was going to die. Why else would he have not driven away the monstrous wolf at the first sight?

 

“Taehyung, no. Don’t do this,” Jimin nearly begged. Taehyung stared back at him firmly, shaking his head. Jimin almost snatched up the pot plant his mother had gotten him to clobber Taehyung over the head to knock some sense. Even plants would have more self-preservation instincts than his dumb friend. Maybe Taehyung could absorb something from them.

 

“I’ll be careful, Jimin, don’t worry. No one’s going to see him.”

 

No one’s going to see you! He screamed internally.

 

He started regretting choosing Hongdae University as an ideal college. He definitely wouldn’t have signed up for it if he knew that it would come with a friend who was too dumb to stay alive and depended on Jimin to save him from himself. It was practically a phenomenon in itself that Taehyung managed to survive this long without his help.

 

“Taehyung, think about this. He’s big enough to eat you! What if you get hurt?”

 

Taehyung turned to look at mutt, placing a hand on his head. The wolf closed its eyes and leaned into Taehyung’s palm eagerly. Taehyung grinned when the wolf darted out a tongue to lick at his hand and Jimin almost lost his shit.

 

Did wolves taste their food before they started eating them?

 

“See? He’s perfectly safe. Aren’t you, boy?” The mutt barked happily at Taehyung and Jimin smacked his forehead. God save him from stupid best friends.

 

The mutt gave him the evil eye when Taehyung wasn’t looking. Jimin nearly drew his staff to defend himself on instinct. His best friend, oblivious to the tension, patted his shoulder.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow Jimin. Don’t worry about me.”

 

Fuck, Jimin thought woefully as Taehyung turned away and started walking towards his room, the huge wolf loping around his heels excitedly. How the hell did no one even see a wolf inside the campus? Why was Taehyung so dumb?

 

He was dearly loved by his friends and family, Jimin mentally began constructing his obituary in preparation. It was time to get the funeral clothes ready.

*******

On the contrary to Jimin’s expectations, Taehyung was alive the next day.

 

Taehyung woke up baffled, with wet sheets. A warm puff of air kept hitting his neck rhythmically and he turned to see the wolf dozing away peacefully next to him. Taehyung stared at it for a confused second, still processing the dream he’d been having.

 

A flush crept up his neck and he almost screamed when it came back to him.

 

A black haired boy with red, puffy lips was sitting naked at the edge of his bed, gaze fixed predatorily on Taehyung. Taehyung tried to scoot back, half confused and half turned on when the boy’s lips lifted in a feral snarl, sharp canines poking out.

 

He crept up on his haunches, suddenly looming over Taehyung and he froze. The boy was so mesmerizingly pretty that it made Taehyung afraid to look in his direction or even let his eyes wander.

 

The barest hint of muscles bunching under his skin as he moved with a feline grace almost made Taehyung moan and he shrunk back. The boy smiled wickedly when he came close enough to touch Taehyung, caging him with his arms beside Taehyung’s head and his breath hitched in his chest, lost somewhere in the depth of his dark, dark eyes.

 

“Who…Who are you?” Taehyung whispered, heart beat loud enough that he felt that the boy could hear it. The boy cocked his head to the side, studying him with the same seductive smile and eyes at half mast, leaning closer. Taehyung leaned back, stretching his neck to keep the boy at a distance. A pleased rumble from the boy’s chest startled him and he froze.

 

The boy was nearly straddling him, crouched over his form. He was so near that Taehyung could almost count his eyelashes, could see little scars littered on his cheeks—how could those make someone look even more perfect? The boy ran his fingers over Taehyung's cheek, startling him. He cupped his chin roughly, brushing his thumb over Taehyung's spit slick lips. His jaw felt like it was burning under the boy's touch.

 

"Why..." Taehyung barely started when the boy darted a tongue out to lick his lips, looking as if he was ready to fuck him into his bed if Taehyung continued any further. Taehyung trembled, strength sapping out of his limbs at his touch. Instead of answering him, the boy turned and buried his face in Taehyung’s exposed neck. Taehyung’s pulse jumped and stuttered in its tracks. His cock instantly grew painfully hard in his boxers when he felt something warm lapping at his neck, over his pulse point.

 

“Nngh…” A moan slipped out, unfiltered. Taehyung froze, eyes wide in shock. The boy stopped in his motions as well, barely breathing.

 

Taehyung gulped, his Adam’s apple bobbing. A sharp animalistic growl ripped out of the boy hovering over him and Taehyung felt something sharp sink into the skin between his shoulder and his neck. He instinctively arched his back, rubbing himself against the boy’s torso and screamed, coming all over himself.

 

The wolf stirred beside him and Taehyung stared at it blankly. It turned to look at him silently with deep chocolate brown eyes. Taehyung raised a hand to brush down the sleep-ruffled fur, without any thought. The wolf stayed still as his hand made a run down over his head. When Taehyung reached the fluffier part of the wolf’s body, he clenched his fingers into the fur and buried his face into the warmth.

 

He panted, heart still racing as the memory of the unusually vivid dream hovered near his consciousness. The smell of his orgasm was so pungent in the air that he could almost choke on it. He had probably come in his boxers while he’d been dreaming.

 

It failed to explain why he felt so unsatisfied, so empty. Like something was missing.

 

Taehyung screamed silently, mouthing at the wolf’s fur. The wolf rumbled beneath him and somehow, Taehyung knew that the wolf wouldn’t harm him. It was more of a feeling, that the wolf trusted him and would keep him safe. It was inexplicable somehow that an animal could give him the feeling he craved for whenever he felt lonely. The warmth and the security emanating from the wolf—it felt nice.

 

The wolf moved his snout a little, tongue lapping at whatever part of Taehyung’s face remained uncovered. His wet tongue moved over to Taehyung’s neck, lapping over the same spot the boy had bitten and Taehyung instantly felt pleasure zinging down his spine. He flinched away, eyes going wide at his own reaction. He reached up trembling fingers to push the wolf away but the wolf followed doggedly, nose digging into his sensitive, hot neck. Taehyung whimpered as the heat suddenly felt like a furnace against his body, his wolf refusing to stop licking at the same spot.

 

“No…nngh, don’t do that,” Taehyung kept trying to push away, weak from the assault. The wolf growled, nipping the skin between his teeth, and Taehyung froze immediately.

 

A distressed series of knocks at his door startled Taehyung out of his haze. Jimin’s voice worked as effectively as a bucket of cold water.

 

“Taehyung, are you alive? Open up!”

 

Taehyung literally ripped himself away from the wolf, scrambling to put on shorts and hide the evidence of his night.

 

The wolf snarled at the door, baring his fangs. Taehyung chanced a look at the wolf, too panicked to take much note.

 

He could have sworn the wolf almost looked disappointed.

*

"What the hell, Taehyung? You let the mutt sleep on your bed next to you?" The wolf snarled at Jimin's words, looking enraged and Taehyung sprang to cover his cute, pointy ears. He glared at Jimin.

 

"Yah, don't call my friend a mutt."

 

Jimin looked warily at the wolf snapping his teeth at him. Taehyung tapped its snout slightly, holding it gently.

 

"And you. Stop scaring Jimin," He scolded. Jimin looked offended.

 

"Y-yah! I'm not scared!" Jimin's high pitched voice wavered. Taehyung smirked down at his wolf, patting his head. Good boy, he mouthed where Jimin couldn't see him. The wolf looked back at him with something like amusement, Taehyung could tell.

 

"So did you sacrifice someone to feed him? You know what, let me show you my enemies. I think your wolf would really like the taste of douchebags."

 

Your wolf. Something in those words pinged in his mind and he felt a grin tug at his mouth.

 

"My wolf..." He scratched the underside of the wolf's snout. His wolf's ears drooped as he closed his eyes in pleasure, looking so happy at Taehyung's touch that Taehyung barely had the heart to stop. The sense of rightness filled him again when he ran his tongue over the words. His wolf. His to protect.

 

"Taehyung. Tae!"

 

Taehyung broke from his daze, yanking his hands away from where they'd been brushing his wolf's smooth fur. Jimin looked half scared and half done with Taehyung's weirdness. When he saw that he had Taehyung's attention, Jimin hurriedly grabbed the stack of cards lying on the desk--ignoring the pulse of heat expelled in his hand--and picked up the bag lying on the chair. He threw Taehyung's phone at him and he scrambled to catch it.

 

"Here, I'll be waiting outside while you and your new friend finish saying goodbye. If you end up dead, knock twice on the door." Jimin hurried out, sending a freaked out look behind him before slamming the door. Taehyung laughed sheepishly and looked back at his wolf.

 

"Time to go to school, boy."

 

The wolf looked bored now that the fun time was over. He put his head back on his paws and closed his eyes. Taehyung scratched his head as he thought of what he should put for his wolf to eat while he was away. He shed his shirt hurriedly, wondering if the bacon strips were still lying in the fridge. He pulled out the container, figuring his wolf would eat it if he felt hungry.

 

Grabbing a half crumpled shirt and jeans, Taehyung dashed into the shower, unaware of the dark eyes following after him.

*******

"Tae, we're juniors now! How do you feel?" Jimin laughed, exhilarated. Taehyung, still a little out of it because of the morning, almost walked into the fountain in a daze. Jimin pulled him back in time.

 

"Woah, woah woah--it's just the first day. Stop spacing out, Taetae."

 

"Hmm...? Oh, yeah."

 

"So what do you think? Should I say yes to Taeyang's proposal? We're thinking a spring wedding would be beautiful."

 

Taehyung nodded blankly. When Jimin's words finally penetrated his haze he stumbled in his path.

 

"What?"

 

"Just seeing if you were paying attention," Jimin shrugged, pulling out his phone to check his schedule. Taehyung rolled his eyes.

 

Jimin looked up with a gleam in his eye.

 

"Hey, I've got a Modern Metaphysics Theology class at ten. Whatcha got?"

 

Taehyung cast his mind back, trying to remember his vaguely thrown schedule. Scrying? Chemical Alchemy? Wasn't there a Modern Politics class thrown somewhere?

 

"...Runeology."

 

Jimin gave him a sympathetic look and patted his back.

 

"Why the hell did you make alchemy your major anyway?"

 

Taehyung didn't want to tell him that it was because of watching anime. He'd get a long, judging look from Jimin for that one. He hated judging Jimin.

 

"Uh...it seemed interesting."

 

"Better you than me. I've heard alchemy students don't get to see the light of the sun for years."

 

Taehyung knew for a fact that it wasn't true. Their president for one, had graduated with honours in the subject. Still, it made him slightly wary of having already made a Huge Adult Decision he could regret later.

 

As they were walking, a boy coming from opposite side of the cul-de-sac collided with Jimin. Taehyung dropped his bag in shock as he watched them both go down in a mess of notes and papers.

 

Jimin groaned from beneath the boy, freeing his right hand to cradle the back of his head. The boy, upperclassman--Taehyung noticed--groaned in succession, cupping his nose. Taehyung sprung into action, pulling out his cards to clean up the mess. The Jack of Diamonds laughed, setting off a tingling in his fingers as he whizzed around to bustle the papers and pens together. The Jack of Hearts fumed in Taehyung's hand and Taehyung flicked him in the forehead.

 

"Uh, kid. You alive?"

 

The boy who'd fallen on Jimin finally got up, using his chest as a support. Jimin groaned in reply, barely able to open his eyes. Taehyung snickered at Jimin helpfully.

 

The pink haired boy looked annoyed at the lack of response and slightly remorseful. He held out a hand to help Jimin up. When Jimin touched the boy's hand and looked up, Taehyung nearly dissolved laughing at the dumbstruck look on his face. It was the face that spelt the beginnings of a horrible crush for Park Jimin.

 

It had been a long time since Park Jimin had fallen in love at first sight.

 

Taehyung almost took out his Ace of Hearts to conjure a mariachi band and serenade Jimin and his new crush with cheesy love songs on this historic moment.

 

"Kid, it's either your choice to keep sitting in dirt or get up. I'm kind of in a hurry here," The boy scowled. Taehyung looked back to see Jimin's mouth had fallen open, eyes as shiny as if he was seeing a woodland Disney creature come to life.

 

Yep. Jimin had it bad.

 

"Ah-s-sorry, I didn't-" Jimin stuttered, a blush blooming on his cheeks as he got up. He didn't let go of the boy's hand immediately. The boy looked down with a frown, raising an eyebrow and Jimin let go. Reluctantly so, Taehyung could tell. Taehyung caught the Jack of Diamonds without looking as it boomeranged around his head and put it back, shuffling the cards. Most of them protested in his head, waking up from their sleep in their positions.

 

"Anyway, sorry for knocking you down. If we meet again I'll make it up to you."

 

Jimin seemed at a loss for words, nodding dumbly, his gaze fixed somewhere down by the upperclassman's mouth. Taehyung nudged him not so subtly.

 

"Uh-what's your name, sunbae-nim?" Jimin finally asked shyly. The boy impatiently licked his lips and collected the floating notes out of the air with a grimace.

 

"Call me Yoongi. I've gotta run, kid."

 

"Jimin. My name is Park Jimin," Jimin burst out, startling Taehyung. Yoongi looked at him curiously and Jimin went alarmingly red.

 

"Okay. See you later, Park Jimin."

 

Yoongi didn't wait further, running past Jimin towards the M buildings. Taehyung waited for Jimin to turn to him so he could tease him.

 

"Yah Park Jimin, how does it feel? Senpai noticed you!"

 

Jimin made a face at him, cheeks still rosily flushed. Taehyung squished his squishy cheeks together making him break out in laughter.

 

"I just met him, Taetae."

 

"And you're already halfway in love with him. Yah, what if he's a psychopath? He looked grumpy enough," Taehyung yelled gleefully.

 

"Tae," Jimin complained. "Did you look at him? Have you seen anything cuter? Oh god. I need to see him again."

 

"Well, Romeo I hate to tell you this but it seems like your cute little Juliet hates you."

 

Taehyung would not kid Jimin about this. The Queen of Hearts was snickering in the back of his head all the while Jimin had been making love struck eyes at Yoongi. Taehyung knew nothing delighted her more than seeing a drama unfold in front of her.

 

Jimin's face crumpled.

 

"What? Why do you say that?"

 

"Her," Taehyung immediately shuffled her out without looking down, too used to the way the cards tried to fool him each time. Jimin looked even more confused but he went horrified when he saw the Queen pulling out a Joker card with her.

 

"Dude, no. What the hell, why does he hate me? At the first sight, too? What did I even do?"

 

Taehyung felt slightly guilty for laughing at his friend's plight. He shuffled the cards again, thinking hard.

 

When he looked down at the card he'd drawn his smile widened. He handed Jimin the Ace of Clubs, knowing that getting the Luck card would make him happier.

 

"Well, will you look at that? It's not a hopeless crush after all."

 

"Just an uphill battle," Jimin perked up, beaming at Taehyung. His phone beeped at him and Jimin yelped.

 

"Alright, I gotta go. Class starts in a few minutes. I'll see you at lunch, Taetae!"

 

Taehyung waved putting the cards back. Jimin had run off with the Ace of Clubs and it felt a little empty to have such a major power card away from himself.

 

But whatever. He was willing to lend Jimin some luck anytime he wanted.

 

What were best friends for?

*

Runeology wasn't as engaging as Taehyung had thought it would be. He spent the entire time making doodles, his mind still fixed on the boy from his dream.

 

He didn't remember seeing the boy before in his life. If he had, Taehyung was positive that he would have remembered him. But the way he seemed so familiar, like something that just slipped out of his grasp...

 

The dark hunger in his eyes when he had cradled Taehyung's face made his face flush. Sure, Taehyung was no stranger to desire. He was just less experienced in recognising it when it was aimed at him. It unsettled him, set his skin itching under the dark haired boy's gaze.

 

He felt naked even with the clothes on.

 

He remembered the way he'd come with the boy barely touching him and he flushed to his ears. Taking a heavy breath, he raised his hand to press his fingers around the spot in his neck, where he still felt the imprint of a phantom mouth biting down on it.

 

A cry almost spilled out of his mouth at the instant pulse of pleasure washing down his body.

 

A familiar low growl resounded in his ears and he froze with his fingers pressed to his neck. He whipped around his head to see where it had been coming from. A girl sitting two seats away from him started at his sudden motion but he paid her no attention.

 

There were too many students for him to recognise anyone. He met the eyes of a few djinn kids who were looking at him weirdly. He smiled shakily before turning back.

 

Nope. It was surely his imagination.

 

He hastily removed his fingers from his neck.

 

The Queen of Hearts snickered ominously in the back of his head. He ignored her, pressing a hand on his chest and feeling the racing heartbeat with a dry mouth.

Chapter Text

Taehyung hurried back to his dorm in the free time. He was accosted on the way by Jimin who started tugging him towards another direction.

 

“Dude dude dude…My tattoos are fading! Look!”

 

Taehyung dutifully stopped, forgetting about his wolf for a minute. Jimin pulled his shirt up, the bold chinese lettering standing out against his skin. When Jimin used his other hand to do a little wind charm, only the ‘華’ character glowed golden red. Jimin sighed in frustration.

 

“Dude, why didn’t you get crystallized gems like everyone else? It’s going to hurt injecting purified ink in there again,” Taehyung frowned, tracing the tattoo. People passing by Jimin gave him considering looks and catcalls but he took no notice. Taehyung winced at the thought of having needles pierce his skin like that.

 

“When was the last time you had it filled?”

 

花樣年華 crawled up along the side of Jimin’s torso. Taehyung was told it meant ‘golden years’ or ‘withering youth’. Taehyung had considered it to be slightly pretentious but when Jimin had told him how his parents used to work as Curse Workers before the government had them transferred for their own safety right after the Cursed riots happened, Taehyung changed his mind. Jimin had grown up in the Gulf, right in the middle of the war. They had barely returned to Korea unscathed but in the process, Jimin’s parents had exhausted all their lifestream reserves on protecting him and his little brother from harm.

 

They had been forced to live as the Non-Gifted. It was a tough position to fall in, being from the Gifted community but not being accepted in the Non-Gifted either due to the silent prejudice that still ran rampant in the veins of some of the more non progressive citizens. Jimin had been bullied a lot when he’d gone to a Non-Gifted school, slurs and taunts tainting his entire childhood. His family had to face alienation from all directions. It was what drove Jimin to work hard and get into Hongdae so he could protect his family and move them back into the Gifted community when he graduated.

 

Taehyung was always moved to tears whenever he thought about Jimin having grown up so miserably. He could barely bear seeing Jimin get hurt and suffering. Maybe if Taehyung was powerful enough one day he would go after all the people who had hurt his friend and make them apologise for hurting one of the best humans on the earth.

 

“Wanna come? Let’s see if we can get you one. Impure, of course.”

 

Taehyung was tempted. For a wild moment he thought about getting the elephant on his forearm inked before he flinched at the thought of the sharp needles touching his skin.

 

Jimin saw him look at his uncovered forearm and face palmed.

 

“No, not that one. Ugh, Taehyungie. You and your stupid elephant.”

 

“Hey, it’s funny,” Taehyung laughed, pinching it between his fingers. Jimin scrunched up his nose and started laughing with him. He slung an arm around his shoulder and steered him towards the Campus.

 

Taehyung startled as a flock of pigeons suddenly landed in their route. Jimin long sufferingly steered him away from them, ignoring the birds that hopped and followed after Taehyung.

 

“I swear to god, every-fucking-time we go out—it’s like you bring out every animal or bird from their hiding places. What are you, some sort of a Disney princess?” Jimin puffed a breath out. Taehyung considered the question seriously.

 

“I don’t think so? I mean, I remember this one time a monkey spit on me, and my friends said it was because he considered me his rival. Maybe the monkey was Gifted?”

 

“Who needs chrysalis ash to get high when they’re friends with Kim Taehyung,” Jimin muttered under his breath. Taehyung laughed and noogied the shortie beside him fondly.

 

When they reached the shop, Taehyung immediately slipped out of Jimin’s grasp. The live tattoo sketches glowing across the walls caught his attention, and he murmured the spells to restart the animations.

 

“Sorry, CL unnie’s busy. You could come back the next time.”

 

Jimin whined petulantly at the girl sitting behind the counter.

 

“Look, I’m almost running out of the Purified Ink. I have physical demonstrations day after tomorrow and I can’t show up with an almost empty tank. Can’t you just, like, slide me up the list? Please?”

 

Jimin’s puppy face was enough to soften the girl and Taehyung kept an ear out for them as he browsed through the cool and absolutely terrifying sketches hanging on the wall. Some of them were so good that he never got to pick up his jaw from where it was lying somewhere on the ground.

 

“Alright, I’ll try to pencil you in,” the girl said reluctantly. “Why don’t you try Namjoon’s place? He’ll probably be free right now.”

 

“No way, he’s too scary for Jiminie,” Taehyung laughed.

 

Jimin scowled at him and Taehyung stuck his tongue out at him. Jimin turned back to the girl and bowed in thanks, dragging Taehyung away.

 

“Hey, so how was the Metaphysics class? Interview any cool ghosts?”

 

Jimin shivered and shot him a glare.

 

“You know there are no such things like ghosts. Stop trying to freak me out,” Taehyung shrugged.

 

“I don’t know, I had this pet ghost when I was a kid. It hid under my bed and whenever I came home, I burnt it some shrimp crackers to eat. We used to talk about politics and soccer.”

 

Jimin stared at him, eyes wide in fright. He tried to see if Taehyung was being serious or not. One could never tell with Taehyung if half the crap coming out of his mouth was true or not. Taehyung looked serious enough, humming a tune under his breath absently as he walked beside him.

 

Nah.

 

Ghosts weren’t real.

 

Were they?

 

“For your information, the metaphysics class was very enlightening. We learned about soul energy and the dangers of accidently using it. We even prepared soul manna,” Jimin ended primly, expecting an awed silence from Taehyung.

 

Taehyung didn’t disappoint.

 

“Like, the one where you use your own essence to make it? Like crushing your hair or the epithelial cells in your cheek? Or did you all dramatically read rites and cut your palms and do it with blood?”

 

Of course.

 

“Don’t say shit like that with such a happy face,” Jimin pushed Taehyung out of his face, grossed out beyond belief. He wondered if he should use his remaining power to shut up Kim Taehyung so he wouldn’t bother him for the rest of the day. First the spawn of satan wolf and now this? All the money in the world couldn’t heal the trauma Jimin went through everyday with Kim Taehyung.

 

“Well?”

 

“I don’t know, we just sanitized our hands and put it in the bowl. All boring things. I felt my power go weak and realized my tattoos were fading. And what the hell, I didn’t even know people could use hair as a substitute.”

 

Seriously, where does Taehyung even hear these things?

 

Taeyung nodded in reply.

 

“A strand of hair, toenails, mucous, snot, pubi—“

 

Jimin stuffed his hand into Taehyung’s face with a horrified look. Taehyung looked so innocent that Jimin almost screamed into his face.

 

“Forget my tattoo, I need to buy a gag for you.”

 

Honestly, Jimin should be used to this shit, having spent two years with Taehyung. He looked up at the sky for some kind of a divine intervention. Maybe if he prayed enough, God would make Taehyung slightly more normal. Just a little bit.

 

Taehyung made a soft, questioning sound from behind his palm. Jimin rolled his eyes, tugging him towards their usual haunt.

 

“Let’s get you japchae, you crazy little shit.”

 

Taehyung happily stumbled after Jimin, scrapping his Chuck Taylors on the ground where the hidden pixie spots were marked. Golden bubbles sprouted somewhere around their feet, bursting with tinkling sounds and he frowned.

 

Why did he get the feeling he was forgetting something really important?

 

“Jimin, am I forgetting something?”

 

Jimin looked pointedly towards the bubbles below.

 

“You moron, you’re stepping on pixie spells. They are supposed to work like that.“

 

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Taehyung shrugged.

 

It couldn’t be too important, right?

 

*******

 

It started during the time Taehyung was helping himself to a third plate of japchae. Jimin dropped his chopsticks, crumpling in on himself.

 

“Jimin!” Taehyung yelled, holding him up.

 

Jimin moaned in pain and Taehyung helplessly tried not to panic.

 

“Where is it hurting? Jimin, tell me!”

 

The ahjumma behind the counter came over worriedly, pulling out her staff. It looked like the lesser ones and Taehyung could smack his head. He pulled Jimin’s bag, rifling through it for Jimin’s bonded staff.

 

“Hurts,” Jimin groaned, clutching his stomach. The ahjumma cast a diagnostic charm and Taehyung was grateful for her help. He found Jimin’s staff and yanked it out. It gave the cautionary warmth in his palm before Taehyung tugged Jimin’s shirt away to connect it to his tattoo.

 

Jimin protested weakly but fell silent. Taehyung gaped at the tattoo and Jimin’s staff slipped away from his grasp.

 

It was glowing silver blue, filled to the brim. Taehyung could feel the heat from where he was sitting as the energy kept pulsing in bursts of light.

 

“Jimin, what’s happening?” Taehyung whispered in shock.

 

Silver blue marks. Hadn’t he read something about them?

 

Jimin stared back at him, mouth open and a crazed look in his eyes. The ahjumma’s diagnostic spell came back negative and Taehyung immediately got up, crowding Jimin.

 

“Jimin, look at me,” he cradled Jimin’s face. The cards were buzzing in his pocket, deeply unsettled. An answering buzz resonated when Jimin met his eyes with a glassy stare.

 

He immediately yanked out the Ace of Clubs from Jimin’s pocket. Keeping Jimin’s head steady, he shook the card out to get rid of the energy.

 

The Ace was shivering, turning into ash. The lettering was barely holding together, the golden edges seared away.

 

What happened? Answer me this instant, Axel of the Spades!

 

Soul energy, the faint reply came. Taehyung turned white.

 

“Jimin, did you take the manna with you?” He asked faintly. Jimin’s eyes didn’t clear and he trembled in Taehyung’s arms. Taehyung ignored the ahjumma calling the University Medical Facilities on the scrye board, hauling out the Queen of Clubs from his deck.

 

“Seek,” he told her. The Queen of Clubs looked like she was about to refuse him. Taehyung poured more power into his command.

 

“Seek.”

 

It might harm your lifestream too, master! The cards pleaded in his head. He shook his head, pointing furiously at Jimin.

 

“Go.”

 

The Queen of Clubs obediently stepped out of the card and seeped into Jimin’s tattoo. Taehyung watched as she got incinerated and felt the feedback from Jimin’s mark almost knock him off his feet.

 

Touching someone’s source of the lifestream energy was incredibly invasive and personal. Touching someone’s mark saturated heavily with their soul energy? Taehyung would probably go to jail for breaking fifty different laws alone.

 

The King of Clubs let out an anguished cry when he felt the bond with the Queen card dissolve. His right hand holding the deck trembled as they all felt the loss of one of their own.

 

“He has soul bonded. His intended’s magic is rejecting it.”

 

His instincts screamed at him to do something. He but his lips and decided to do something he had been always forbidden to try. Fuck rules, saving Jimin was more important.

 

Taehyung closed his eyes, hovering his palm on top of Jimin’s mark. It had gone cold; all the heat seeped out of it suddenly.

 

“Young man, get away from him!” A shout made him lose his concentration. He lost the sight of the glowing string that had been forming in his head as he was brought down on the ground by someone’s weight.

 

“NO! I have to cut it before it solidifies—let me go!” Taehyung tried to yank himself out of the grip of the person holding him down. The medic tapped a crystal onto Jimin’s chest.

 

“Heartbeat is 240. We have to put him under, stat!”

 

“NO, DON’T—“

 

“Get the stasis seal ready, I’m administering propranolol.”

 

“I need help here!” The guy pinning him down yelled in a strained voice. Taehyung could barely focus. Why the hell didn’t they understand? Jimin was going to…

 

Taehyung blacked out.

 

*

“Way to go, Jiminie.”

 

Jimin shifted, instinctively pushing Taehyung away. Taehyung growled and swatted his hand away. Jimin opened his eyes, irritated. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light.

 

“What?”

 

“YOU IDIOT, DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE?”

 

Jimin turned to look at him with offended and incredulous eyes.

 

“What happened?”

 

“YOU GOT YOURSELF MARRIED TO SOMEONE, THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED!”

 

“WHAT?”

 

“JIMINIE YOU ABSOLUTE MORON, NOW I CAN’T EVEN WALK YOU DOWN THE AISLE YOU ASSHOLE.”

 

“WHAT?”

 

“THEY’RE TALKING TO YOUR HUSBAND IN THE ROOM NEXT TO US RIGHT NOW. YOU SOUL BONDED WITH THE GUY AND NOW YOU CAN’T BE MORE THAN FIVE FEET AWAY FROM EACH OTHER.”

 

“WHAT THE HELL?”

 

Jimin was white as a sheet. He pulled away the bedsheets and tried to get up. Taehyung stopped him firmly, pushing him down roughly by his shoulder causing him to yelp loudly.

 

“OUCH.”

 

“DID THAT HURT? GOOD!” Taehyung yelled back into his face.

 

“Do you know how worried I had been the entire time?” Jimin was shocked when he felt something drip on his nose. Taehyung buried his head into Jimin’s neck, throwing his arms around him. An uncomfortable itch settled into his skin where Taehyung was clutching him. He felt like throwing him off but he curbed it, growing warm at his concern.

 

“Hey, Taetae. It’s okay. We’ll get through this. I’m alright.”

 

“You idiot, you’re the one who messed up. Why are you comforting me?” Taehyung sniffed. Jimin smiled up at him, holding his wrists.

 

Taehyung was fragile, more than he realized. He gave his heart away too easily, trusted people far too much. He believed the best in people and didn’t understand that people were too willing to hurt others for too little.

 

A nurse entered the room, looking harassed.

 

“Mr. Kim, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the room.”

 

Taehyung’s arms tightened around Jimin.

 

“Wait, are you going to send him away to his new husband? Please don’t take him. He can't even give them any dowry--he’s too poor, not much worth anything.”

 

“Thanks, man,” Jimin muttered, his pride taking a hit. His stomach dropped when it finally hit him.

 

He had soul bonded with someone. The way Taehyung had said it, it seemed like his fault. So that meant he’d unwittingly roped some innocent person into this and they were likely to be pissed with him. Being soul bonded meant that he would be forced to stick with the person until the medics figured something out.

 

He could be expelled after this.

 

It hit him with the force of almost a physical blow, knocking his breath out of his chest. He tried not to alert Taehyung to anything.

 

“No. Please, you’ll see him soon. I need you to leave the room before things get more serious.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes went wide.

 

“Serious?”

 

“Yes. Newly bonded pairs need twenty-four hours of close contact to avoid suffering from touch starvation. If they avoid each other, it could lead to them losing significant amount of their lifestream energy,” the nurse looked Jimin in the eye and panic struck him again.

 

“Wait, who—do you know,” Jimin swallowed, sharing a look with Taehyung. “Do you know who my bond pair is?”

 

The nurse frowned, coming near the bed and pulling out the holopad attached to the base of the hospital issue bed.

 

“He was brought in when he collapsed in class, suffering from extreme stream exhaustion. His lifestream was fighting the bond being forced on it. We had to freeze his soul energy before it destroyed him completely.”

 

Jimin was instantly horrified. He wasn’t on the healing track or anything but it sounded serious enough. His parents had barely survived stream exhaustion. How could he have been so careless that he nearly cost someone their Energy?

 

Fuck. Definitely expelled after this.

 

The nurse noticed his crestfallen face and tried to comfort him.

 

“He’s stable now. He’s resting in the room next to you, actually. Would you,” the nurse hesitated.

 

Jimin nodded at her to go on and she pursed her lips.

 

“If you’re feeling strong enough, it would help if you went to see him. The closer in contact you both are, the faster your energies would sync up and heal.”

 

Jimin immediately nodded, straining to get up. He was going to do anything he could to make it easier on his bond mate. Taehyung came to his side and helped him up.

 

The nurse watched them uneasily, moving to help Jimin.

 

“Are you sure you’re feeling strong enough?”

 

“Yeah yeah. I’m fine,” Jimin huffed, leaning his weight entirely on Taehyung and limping towards the corridor. Taehyung pouted sadly beside him. The nurse hurried forward to open the door for him.

 

Jimin felt nervous at the prospect of seeing his bondmate. His hands were clammy where Taehyung was clutching at them.

 

“What did you say his bondmate’s name was?” he heard Taehyung ask as the nurse opened the sliding door.

 

The first thing Jimin saw was a familiar pink haired boy sitting up, glaring daggers at him. He instantly went cold when he met his eyes.

 

“Min Yoongi.”

 

“Oh shit,” Taehyung whispered.

 

*

 

Jimin shifted uncomfortably under the wrathful gaze directed at him. He could barely meet Yoongi’s eyes, feeling smaller than an ant. His hand twitched, in fact, his entire body tried to lean towards Yoongi. Jimin forcefully sat on his hands before they did something stupid, like touch Yoongi’s beautiful hair.

 

A sharp movement had his head snapping up. Yoongi was looking at his hand with shock and something akin to betrayal. Jimin was about to ask when the sliding door opened and an attractive healer decked in white scrubs came in.

 

Yoongi scowled at Jimin venomously and he flinched.

 

Of all people he could have bonded with, why did it have to be the one he liked? Why was God punishing him?

 

The healer pulled up the holopad, studying it. He looked up in interest and yanked down the report on it to update it. A tinkling sound made him quirk his lips and he pulled it away from the pad, expanding the report in the air. Jimin would have been interested in the mechanics of the entire holotechnology if he weren’t so freaking terrified about being stuck forever with Yoongi and having him hate him for eternity. He seemed like a person who could carry a grudge with vengeance.

 

“Park Jimin?”

 

“Yes?” his voice trembled.

 

“ID please?”

 

Jimin stuttered, mind going blank. Yoongi stared at him as if he was some kind of trash he’d found on the toilet seat. Jimin shrunk, panicking silently.

 

The doctor waited patiently, smiling at him. Jimin took slight comfort and wracked his brains before half babbling his ID number. The doctor somehow deciphered his nervous babbling, pressing enter and his entire bio came up. Even that embarrassing picture of when Jimin had been a chubby cheeked freshman in nerdy glasses cropped up and Jimin flushed in embarrassment. Yoongi was too busy glaring at everything and everyone in the room to say anything. The doctor was too kind to say anything about it even if his lips twitched when he scrolled through it.

 

“Am I going to be expelled for this?” Jimin asked in a small voice. Shit, what about his family? What about his promise to make their life better after graduating from Hongdae?

 

God, he fucked it all up.

 

“Probably not. From what we see, the bond was established without mutual consent of either parties. The Dean decided not to get the authorities involved for your sakes. He’s actually been pretty understanding about this.”

 

Jimin tried not to be too relieved about it. One mountain conquered, few more to go. At least his parents wouldn’t have to see him behind bars. He didn’t even want to think how Taehyung would take it.

 

The healer hummed contemplatively, looking through both of their reports. Yoongi’s face, of course, looked angelic even in his shitty ID pic. Jimin wondered how the healer knew Yoongi’s ID before he dismissed it. It was probably recorded when he’d been brought to the hospital. Yoongi broke the silence snappishly.

 

“Jin, just give it to me straight. How long am I going to be stuck to the midget?”

 

The doctor twitched, rolling his eyes.

 

“Who pissed in your cereal today?”

 

“Yah, you’re not allowed to talk to your patients like that,” Yoongi huffed.

 

“Only when they’re not acting like childish pups about this,” there was a whole undercurrent of meaning attached to the sentence that sent warning bells ringing in Jimin’s head.

 

“Uh, you guys know each other?” Yoongi scoffed, ignoring Jimin’s question. Jimin was man enough to admit that it hurt. Granted it was unfair for him to be stuck in an unintentional soul bond without his consent. It sucked for both the parties. But why did he have to be such a jerk about it?

 

“Oh, we go way back.”

 

Jimin’s stomach sank. He looked over the healer, noticing how broad his shoulders looked and how tall he stood. He made even the medical scrubs look fashionable. He looked like a model who was trying to play a role, not a healer who was used to dealing with everyday menial hospital work.

 

So this was Yoongi’s type? No wonder Yoongi looked so displeased at seeing himself bonded to Jimin. He had never stood a chance in the first place with him. Yoongi was way out of his league.

 

“Oh,” it came out small, crushed. Yoongi took no notice but Jin, the healer looked at him curiously.

 

“Ah, your test results came back. Jimin, were you making some kind of a soul decoction in class?”

 

Yoongi cursed but Jin hissed at him to shut up. Jimin studied his nails intently.

 

“Uh...we were making soul manna?" Jimin hated how unsure he sounded, how his voice sounded like a scared little kid's.

 

Yoongi's cursing grew louder.

 

"They're teaching those things to freshmen now? What the fuck?"

 

Before Jin could answer Jimin frowned over at Yoongi. Crush or not, he was being incredibly rude.

 

"Excuse you, I'm a junior," Yoongi looked at him with even more disgust. Jimin felt half scared for the sake of his life. If looks could kill, Jimin would have been dead, hanged and crucified horribly.

 

"That's not any better! You should have known to be careful around things like that, you brat!"

 

Jimin flinched. Strike two.

 

Why won’t his stupid body stop trying to get closer to Yoongi even when he was making his distaste of Jimin blatantly clear to all parties in the room?

 

"Anyway, we sent the energy samples from both of your marks for analysis. But I don't understand how soul manna would have caused you to develop a soul bond, considering Yoongi was nowhere near it..." Jin mused.

 

A horrifying memory from earlier struck him.

 

“I don’t know, we just sanitized our hands and put it in the bowl. All boring things. I felt my power go weak and realized my tattoos were fading. And what the hell, I didn’t even know people could use hair as a substitute.”

 

“A strand of hair, toenails, mucous, snot, pubi—“

 

He remembered brushing off a pink thread stuck in his shirt, thinking no more of it. Another horrifying realisation made him nearly swallow his own tongue.

 

"Could a strand of his hair going into my soul manna," he tried not to concentrate on how weird vocalising it felt, "Make an accidental soul bond happen?"

 

Jin looked alarmed, exchanging a tense look with Yoongi.

 

“Did you guys happen to meet before your class?”

 

“Uh, well. He ran into—“ Jimin instantly stuttered seeing Yoongi’s glare, “We kinda ran into each other on the campus. Uh, I remembered brushing off something on my shirt while I was making the soul manna.”

 

He practically spent every waking second of his life with Taehyung. He must have carried a million Tae cells and hairs and other gross shit with him wherever he went. It was exactly one in a million chance that he had the encounter with Yoongi, and it was his hair strand that did it.

 

Why did he feel like someone up there was having a lot of fun fucking around with his life?

 

“So you're telling me all this happened because you didn't have the goddamn sense of being careful about fucking around things like that?” Yoongi threw up his hands, looking like he was seconds away from punching Jimin. Jimin cowered at the animalistic look in his eye.

 

Jin shook his head, puzzled.

 

" Yoongi, that doesn't make sense. Soul manna is directly keyed in to the energy and the blood signature of its maker. A strand of someone else's hair shouldn't affect it much. Unless your energies..." Jin trailed off, a new light entering his eyes. Jimin almost felt like ditching the entire thing and running out of there in that instant. Yoongi shifted uneasily next to him, rage ebbing away at the look on Jin's face.

 

"Stop. Stop that, Kim Seokjin," he sounded deeply disturbed. Jimin was almost too afraid to ask.

 

"You know what, I have to check up a few things," Jin sounded like he was suppressing something, biting down on his lip with a strangely bright look towards Yoongi.

 

"It's not what you're thinking so stop it," Yoongi raised his voice threateningly. Jimin had a sudden animal urge to crawl into Yoongi’s lap and show his belly. He shook it off, creeped out.

 

Jin shrugged, eyes still bright and moved to--flee, it seemed by the looks of it. Great choice. Jimin would be behind the plan wholeheartedly if he wasn't soul bonded to the exact same person who made him want to run screaming for the hills.

 

Yoongi stood up and Jimin followed unconsciously after him. He didn't have any control over his limbs, feeling extremely disconnected from them as they moved automatically on their own. Yoongi doggedly followed Jin.

 

"Don't tell anyone about this. I mean it, Jin."

 

Jin turned to look at him with a neutral expression on his face, shrugging and tapping his head. Jimin had the front row seat to witness the most done expression he'd ever seen on anyone grace Yoongi's features. Jimin would almost start taking pictures, just as soon as he regained control of his limbs again. Jimin barely caught Yoongi's muttering.

 

"Ugh. Stupid alphas."

 

What? What did that mean?

 

Yoongi stiffened suddenly, sending a glare towards Jimin. Jimin immediately stepped away, suddenly in control of his legs again. He awkwardly tottered a few more steps back when Yoongi's glare didn't lessen in its intensity.

 

"Hey, take it easy on him. He can't help it."

 

Thank you, helpful person who made me question my entire self worth.

 

"I'm the one stuck with this, not you."

 

Ouch. That wasn't going to stop hurting, not when it came from the lips of the most perfect person Jimin had ever laid his eyes on.

 

"Have you seen..." Jin lowered his voice and Jimin leant forward to catch his words, "Kookie anywhere? He hasn't returned since yesterday."

 

Yoongi looked up with a slightly worried expression. Wow. It felt good to know he could make expressions other than the constant judging face. Jimin was starting to get worried that he really was a grump, like Tae had said.

 

"He'll come back. He always does," Yoongi said quietly. Jin nodded, a frown between those perfect eyebrows. Jimin looked curiously between them. It seemed like there was an entirely different conversation going on behind the questions that Jimin was not privy to.

 

"Jimin," he started, looking up to meet Jin's eyes. He smiled a perfect smile that lit up that unfairly handsome face. Ugh, that much attractive directed at him was starting to hurt at his self esteem.

 

"Don't worry. We'll figure something out soon and come back with something positive. Until then, try to cheer up. Yoongi can't hurt you with the bond in place."

 

What did it say about Jimin that the prospect of Yoongi not being able to hurt him disappointed and relieved him at once?

 

When in doubt, blame Taehyung.

 

All your fault, Tae, Jimin groaned in his head.

 

Jin closed the door behind him, leaving Yoongi and Jimin in a murderous silence. Yoongi shot him a cold glare and retreated to a corner, snagging the headphones that had been present on the table beside the bed. Jimin bit his lip, trying not to fidget when he passed by him. It was going to take all the strength he had in him to not let his hormones get the best of him and jump Yoongi's bones like he was itching to.

 

Fuck.

*

 

Taehyung sneezed twice in succession and shrugged. He spread out his deck on the grass, studying the empty spaces with a frown. He swiped a hand over them and they aligned perfectly, standing in attention. He clicked his fingers and they rose into the air, forming a circle around him, in order of cards and suits.

 

The King of Clubs refused to look beside him at the empty spot. The battered Ace of Spades could barely hover beside the King of Spades. Taehyung quietly brushed his finger over the worn edges of his old luck card. The Ace had been a loyal friend since the start when his father had placed his first deck of cards in his hand. Even when he made new contracts with new cards, the Ace had followed him and protected him from bad luck.

 

"I'm sorry I couldn't protect you," Taehyung whispered into the air. Of course no one paid any attention to him. The only things that were listening were the cards and the tree under which Taehyung was sitting.

 

He would have to go to a spell maker and get a new health card crafted, a new Queen of Clubs to join the deck. It still rankled at him. They were his friends, who would follow him to his death. A loss of one hit him even harder than them.

 

A sudden movement caught his eyes. He looked up, tears still fresh in his eyes.

 

A boy was standing fifteen feet away from him, staring at him. Taehyung went shock still, recognising him from the dream he had earlier in the morning. The boy's face looked sad for him, hair as rumpled as if he'd just gotten off of rolling around in Taehyung's bed.

 

Just like that, Taehyung's heart rate skyrocketed.

 

He couldn't be real.

 

Taehyung scrubbed his hand over his eyes, wiping his tears away. Was he dreaming? When he looked back, he slumped over in disappointment.

 

The boy was gone.

Chapter Text

Taehyung wandered listlessly on the road, waiting for Jimin to come out. His mind was still stuck on the boy from his dreams. Was he actually seeing things again? But the boy was too gorgeous, too perfect for even his subconscious to have cooked him up. But how else could he see him in the field in one breath and disappear in the next?

 

Maybe it was another ghost?

 

He didn’t even know why he couldn’t tell Jimin about him. It would have been so easy to just speak the words, let Jimin moan about his sanity and give him advice about the boy. But somehow, he couldn’t make himself do it. He had tried to speak while they'd been sharing japchae but the words dried up in his mouth before they even took shape.

 

A huge part of him was simply unwilling to share the boy with anyone. For Taehyung, who thrived on being open and social about everything, it was a strange thing. He wanted to keep the image of the boy in his head, wanted to obsess over him and remember how he had felt. He wanted the boy all to himself but couldn’t for the life of him decide why.

 

Maybe Jimin was actually right about Taehyung losing it. It was just a one time thing, just a fantasy. He would go home, sleep and not dream about mysterious boys with red lips and eyes that stalked his every move. It was just an embarrassing wet dream, not unlike the ones he used to have when he had been entering puberty.

 

Perhaps it had been a bit too long since Taehyung had met anyone. Or gotten intimate with somone. Perhaps his subconscious was sending him signals to do so as soon as possible. He puffed his cheeks out. Yep, he was definitely going all out on the next invitation he got for a party. He'd get laid, get the whole thing flushed from his system and live life as peacefully as he could. Challenge accepted.

 

He wondered how Jimin was faring inside, stuck in close quarters with a guy who made him so nervous. Taehyung felt slightly queasy about leaving him alone, but he had to go before the hospital kicked him out forcefully.

 

A slight tingle in his palm alerted him to the successful inclusion of the new Health Card into his lifestream. He exhaled, relieved and tired at once. It was really too much excitement for the first day back in the University. He spared a thought for the classes he'd ditched while he'd been out of it (and had woken up to spend the remaining hours of the day waiting for Jimin to get up so he could kick his midget ass).

 

Bah, alchemy.

 

He stuck his tongue out at nothing in particular, deciding to enjoy the rest of the day. The spellmaker hadn't taken much of convincing to craft Taehyung a new card, Jimin could probably have a better chance at impressing his crush even if Taehyung doubted he could do it, and Taehyung was free to do what he wanted.

 

He whistled, strolling around the stonework and hopping over the little toadstools to avoid crushing them. The huge statue of the Asclepius holding a creepy ass staff with a snake coiling around it in a spiral, stared down at him with a righteous frown, judging him for not spending his time doing something boring, like studying.

 

“What?” He asked. The statue didn’t answer and Taehyung wondered why the Medical Centers couldn’t keep animated statues outside their premises. At least, it would make the general atmosphere less depressing.

 

Taehyung whistled and hopped over, crossing the invisible line that separated the Non-Gifted part of the Medical Centres from the Gifted. He immediately felt the lack of the lifestream.

 

How strange was it that their side of things looked so much less lively than the Gifted side of the entrance? He knew it was partially due to the Gifted gardeners and landscapers who had saturated the other side with lifestream to make it bloom. It was peaceful, the air filtered and clean, rich with energy to help people stepping inside due to minor lifestream exhaustion.

 

The Non-Gifted wards had to be kept purified of Lifestream, to avoid any sort of contamination for the Non-Gifted who came for treatment. They had an entirely different set of rules to follow, stricter and with harsher consequences. The Non-Gifted could breathe in the lifestream enriched air just fine but if it came to serious illnesses, the lifestream caused more than just harm to their circulatory and nervous systems. They had to be constantly kept in quarantine to flush out the lifestream poisoning.

 

Taehyung once had an aunt who was a Non-Gifted. She had an advanced brain tumor, diagnosed too late. When she had been brought to the Medical Center, Taehyung had gone to see her and tell her about the new cards he had found. He remembered talking extra cheerfully, to make up for the dreary environment of the hospital. Even though she had been weak, she had tried to smile for him.

 

But something had been missing in her smile. Her eyes had looked lifeless and blank when Taehyung tried to look at her. When he had asked her about it, she told him that it was the deprivation from lifestream. She felt lifeless, stuck in the cold room with nothing but strangers looking after her. The air itself felt stale. She wanted to go outside in the world, watch the flowers bloom with vibrant energy of their own. She wanted to see Taehyung show her whatever new spell he learned that he couldn't do in the Non-Gifted wards. She had been blessed enough to see how wonderful the Gifts could be. She didn't want to die without seeing how vibrant the world around her could be.

 

The corners of Taehyung’s lips turned down at the memory. He almost changed his path to go back to the Gifted side when he saw a figure from the corner of his eye.

 

A little girl was sitting in a wheelchair, staring out of the compound with a sad look on her face. Taehyung turned to look at what she was seeing.

 

There was a huge Samsung HoloTV frozen on a picture of night time Seoul. Taehyung’s mouth fell open at the beautiful sight. It wasn’t as if holotechnology wasn’t present in the Gifted academia for their use. Holotechnology was founded for and by, primarily, the Non-Gifted. They had embraced their lack of special gifts or abilities and had made large leaps to overcome what they saw as weakness. They built their own machines who worked better than any Gifted could ever hope to, they made so many advancements in human research and medicines that the Gifted turned to them for advice, they made things by their hard work and built it up from scratch and it lasted longer than things crafted with their Gifts.

 

Gifted or not, every one was human in the end, Taehyung mused as he looked back at the girl. She looked so lonely, tiny in the shadow of the colossal HoloTV that Taehyung couldn’t bear to see it any longer.

 

He quickly checked if anyone was around before he ran over to the girl. When he reached her, he panted. She looked startled at his approach, not scared. The lonely expression was washed away instantly.

 

Good.

 

“Hey,” he grinned widely at her. She looked shocked that he was addressing her.

 

“Hi.”

 

Taehyung tried not to look too sad at her small voice.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Jolee.”

 

“Jo-ri?”

 

The girl giggled at him butchering up her name.

 

“No. Joh-Lee.”

 

“Jori? Sorry,” Taehyung laughed, unable to curb his tongue the right way. He’d have to practice it some more. The girl shook her head and laughed. Taehyung felt like patting her golden hair.

 

“Joy. I'll call you Joy,” he nodded seriously. She smiled at him so beautifully that it took his breath away. He wondered why there weren’t people around to look after the little girl.

 

“Where are you from?”

 

“France.”

 

One of her front teeth was missing. She could have barely been more than eight years old. It made Taehyung sad that she was stuck in the wheelchair, most likely due to some illness.

 

“Where are you from?”

 

“From another planet, far up there,” Taehyung pointed at the Seoul nightscape. It was a rare sight, to see it so unclouded. The stars twinkled back at Jolee when she turned to look at it.

 

“Joy, why are you here, all the way from France?”

 

Jolee’s face fell at the question and Taehyung’s shoulders drooped.

 

“They told me I am sick. My mom brought me here because of Hongdae’s Non-Gifted Medical Center.”

 

No. Too much sadness for the day already. Taehyung came over to cheer her up, not depress her further.

 

He wondered if he was doing the right thing, exercising energy in the Non-Gifted side. Before he had any more doubts, he crouched down to her level.

 

“Hey, wanna see something cool?” Jolee looked at him in curiosity. Taehyung smiled and whispered a little charm into his hand. When he opened his hand, a tiny lily bloomed its petals. Jolee gasped, looking so awed that Taehyung felt gratified. He gave it to her, letting her hold it.

 

“Can I be your friend, Joy?”

 

Joy looked at him in awe, nodding her head and Taehyung melted. It pleased him that something so small could give so much joy to a person.

 

A shout from the Gifted side made him look up, eyes wide.

 

“Joy, I have to go now. I’ll see you again, okay?” He ruffled her hair when she looked up with dismay. He quietly charmed the lily so that it wouldn’t spoil soon. It was unlikely that it would survive entering the rooms in the Non-Gifted wards. The purification seals disintegrated anything that was made with Gifted energy. He puffed out his cheeks and made her giggle at his face before he turned to go.

 

He sprinted, nearly running into a warning post. When he crossed the border, he looked back at Jolee and waved vigorously. The smile on her face made him so happy that he almost bounced his way towards the statue.

 

Something pulled at his wrist roughly, twisting it.

 

“Ow,” Taehyung yelped, twisting to look at the person. He was as tall as Taehyung, with a gentle but firm expression on his face.

 

“You are not supposed to step in there”, he chided. Taehyung sputtered, somehow falling over his words to explain himself.

 

“There was- there was this little girl. She looked so sad! I had to do something.”

 

The boy shook his head, pursing his lips. He released Taehyung’s hand.

 

“You’ll only make it worse for her. You’re giving the girl hope when you don’t even know if she’ll make it.”

 

“What’s wrong with a little hope?” Taehyung demanded, indignant.

 

“Look, it’s going to be cruel for her—“

 

“What’s wrong with cheering someone up? Is it because she’s Non-Gifted?” Taehyung thought of his aunt and frustratingly enough, tears prickled at the corner of his eyes. The boy in front of him looked stricken.

 

Taehyung looked away and raised his hand to wipe away the tears in pretext of running a hand through his hair.

 

“Hey, I didn’t mean that. You took it the wrong way.”

 

Taehyung didn’t want to stay and listen to the boy. He’d probably end up doing something rash or embarrassing. Like start bawling in public. Fuck, why did hospitals have this effect on him?

 

He turned and started striding away from the boy. He heard footsteps behind him and stopped.

 

“I lost my aunt when I was a kid. I know how lonely it can be. If I can do anything to help someone who is sad, I will do it. Nothing you say will stop me, alright?”

 

The boy came beside him, looking at him silently. Taehyung lifted his chin defiantly. The boy’s eyes went soft as the silence dragged on.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

What?

 

Taehyung didn’t know if he wanted to know his name to report him to the Medical staff or something. Shit, what would Jimin do?

 

“Why?” He asked softly.

 

“So I can apologize properly.”

 

“You don’t need to. It’s okay, you were speaking your own opinion. Having opposing opinions is not a crime.”

 

“It hurt you, so I count it as one.”

 

Taehyung gaped. The boy smiled at him. The smile lit up his features in such a way that Taehyung felt slightly winded. There was something so familiar looking about his eyes that Taehyung didn’t answer, too fixed on remembering what it was.

 

“My name’s Hoseok. Jung Hoseok.”

 

Huh.

 

Taehyung bit his lip in thought, wondering if he should introduce himself or not. There was still the chance that the boy would go running to the medical authorities and then Taehyung would not be able to visit Jimin or Jolee again. Nope, he wasn’t going to fall for it.

 

He failed to notice how Hoseok’s gaze had fallen down, staring at his cherry red lips.

 

“Uh…I need to go.”

 

Taehyung dashed away from the boy, choosing a direction on whim. He heard a shout behind him but he didn’t pause to look back.

 

When he stopped, he had to hunch over himself to try and catch his breath. The hint of laughter in the air made him turn his head.

 

Oh. It was Minseok hyung’s café.

 

His phone buzzed in his pocket, distracting him. He pulled it out, frowning. Twenty-four messages?

 

Taehyungie!

 

Taehyung ㅠ_ㅠ

 

Help me please

 

Taehyung they’re talking about shared quarters im going to die

 

Bury me with my staff when I die

 

Yoongi-sunbaenim is scarier than any horror movie characters you’ve shown me

 

But he’s so goddamn hot have you seen his lips shit tae I’m having thoughts I need jesus ㅜ_ㅜ

 

I cant control myself okay??? My entire body wants MIN YOONGI fuck my life

 

Ive never been this thirsty after someone’s ass before something’s wrong

 

Taehyung im no t kidding this is a n emergensahdjg

 

Taehyung where the hell are you come save me

 

You useless human

 

Taehyung come for me before I start taking off all my clothes

 

I don’t even have my abs right now I can’t do this orz

 

I’ll take away all your pokemon cards if you don’t rescue me NOW

 

Why is he so goodlooking

 

I want to make love to his face

 

Fuck they were serious about the shared quarters. Nope nope nope im going to get slapped with a restraining order if they do that

 

Taehyung I think im ready to take yoongi’s physical abuse at this point if it means he’ll touch me whatthefuckiswrongwithme

 

Theyre giving us free leave from classes hallelujah

 

Wait ill fail

 

This is all your fault taehyung

 


How is this my fault??? ㅋㅋㅋ

Idk it just is. Somewhere somehow

 

Stop pouting

I’m not pouting

Oh fuck im touching yoongi’s hand

 

Shit its so soft

 

Taehyung what the fuck why do I feel so good

Jesus don’t molest his hand

How are you alive ㅋㅋ

Doctors orders

 

He’s ignoring me

 

He’s going to murder me for this when no one’s looking

Can I have your comics

Fuck you

 

Yeah

Thanks man

Look they want us to get whatever stuff we need from our dorms to relocate us in special rooms

 

Apparently this is not the first time shit like this happened

 

Dude hide my underwear for me

 

Now!!!

 

Taehyung sighed and waved a sad goodbye to his thoughts of buying a Frappuccino, Minseok special.

 

He used the Jack of Diamonds to break into Jimin’s room and sent him off to work his magic. Their rooms were similar in layout so it didn’t take Taehyung long before he looked at the unmade bed and smacked his forehead.

 

He’d left his wolf alone in his room. He was supposed to check in on him before his classes started.

 

Ugh, pixie magic. So tempting to step on but so evil.

 

He pushed the entire deck out of his hands, bidding them to put everything in order. The lower number cards pouted at him. The Healing and Crafting suites rolled their eyes before they scattered. The Lucky Aces started commanding the remaining lower cards into order, preparing a war formation. Taehyung wiggled his fingers at them before high tailing it to his room.

 

A tiny burst of his energy against the lock and he rushed in.

 

“Hey boy,” he called out, running into his bedroom. The room was in order, contrary to his expectations. The only weird thing was that his closet was open, clothes lying scattered about. He pouted when he saw many of his shirts lying on the bed, crumpled. He picked one up, brushing off something that looked a lot like fur.

 

Why was his wolf rolling around on his clothes? Well, Taehyung shrugged to himself, picking up a stray shirt on the floor, at least he wasn’t running around pissing in the corners and marking his territory.

 

“Hey, where are you hiding?”

 

A sound from behind made him stumble and he fell on his ass. Groaning, he opened his eyes.

 

The wolf cocked his head at Taehyung as if questioning what he was doing on the ground. Taehyung closed his eyes and slumped back on the ground, relieved and huffed out a laugh.

 

“I thought you were gone.”

 

The wolf came over, wagging his tail slightly and started licking Taehyung’s face. Taehyung endured it with a smile, laughing and opening his eyes. He buried his hands into the fur near its neck, pulling it down to rest with him on the floor. The wolf flopped dramatically onto Taehyung’s chest, knocking the air out of his lungs. His ears twitched as he laid his head near Taehyung’s heart, closing his eyes as if he was concentrating on the sound. His ears kept twitching with the beat and Taehyung smiled lazily.

 

“Yah, did you go outside?” He asked the wolf curiously, plucking a stray leaf from his fur. The wolf opened one eye to regard him with a bored look. Taehyung was somewhat impressed that he managed to go out despite the seals somehow and come back without raising any notice. He snagged his fingers on some dirt in his fur when he hugged him in delight.

 

"Oh, you're really intelligent, aren't you? The most intelligent animal ever," he cooed. The wolf glared at him, nipping at his fingers. Taehyung smiled, tiptoeing his fingers over his head and out of his reach. When his fingers closed around one of his pointy ears, he let out another noise of delight and rubbed his thumb against the soft inside of the ear. The wolf twitched, looking uncomfortable but endured it when Taehyung kept smiling.

 

"Taehyung!"

 

Taehyung sat up immediately. The wolf yipped complainingly, biting lightly on his shirt and trying to lay him back down. Taehyung carefully freed his shirt from his teeth, shaking his head.

 

"It's Jimin. I need to go help him, boy," Taehyung really needed to name his wolf something better than 'boy'. Maybe Taekwon? He could always name his future son something else. The wolf looked at him with a distinctly displeased look in his eyes and followed after him when he moved out of his room, not bothering to close the door behind him.

 

Jimin was standing outside his room, holding hands with an angry Yoongi and fidgeting nervously. Taehyung tried not to snicker at the picture they made. God, they really suited each other so well. He wanted to coo over their tiny heights.

 

His wolf brushed against his legs demandingly, leaning most of his body weight onto his calves.

 

"Hey Jiminie, Yoongi-ssi," he called out. Jimin looked pathetically relieved at seeing his face while Yoongi looked up with a cross between a frown and a wince. It was probably the equivalent of a welcoming expression from him, Taehyung decided positively.

 

His wolf stopped at the sound of his voice, causing him to trip over. He caught his balance, throwing out his hands to hold him up—pressed all up against the heated furnace of his wolf's body. He looked up at them sheepishly to laugh. Yoongi was looking down at them with something like shock and disbelief on his face. Jimin was already closing his eyes in mortification.

 

"Yoongi-sunbaenim, this is my friend Taehyung…and his pet wolf. Which is probably rabid considering Taehyung decided to pick him up from the wild last night," Jimin started rambling, like he usually did when he was nervous. Fuck, he needed to field things for him, before Jimin had a stroke or something. Holding Yoongi's hand must have short circuited whatever remaining cells that had been present there.

 

Taehyung mournfully wondered if he should hold a funeral in homage of their memory.

 

"Call me hyung," Yoongi said, a deep and comforting lilt to his voice. He was staring down weirdly at Taehyung's wolf. It kept freaking Taehyung out and he cursed Jimin for opening his big fat mouth. What if Yoongi got him caught and had his wolf taken away by someone?

 

"Hey Tae, come help me find my stuff."

 

Taehyung looked up distracted from where he'd been watching his wolf. He'd been silently edging behind Taehyung's legs, tail lowering down from its bushy uplift. Jimin looked at him pleadingly, like he was trying to develop telepathy and send him a message, eyes shifting nervously towards the wolf. Taehyung shrugged, his gaze dropping on their entwined hands.

 

"Hey, how does it feel?" Taehyung asked curiously, waving a hand at the joined palms. They shifted on their feet, mutual expressions of discomfort growing on their faces.

 

"Like we are going to jump out of our skins if we're not touching each other," Jimin answered. Yoongi's head snapped up, a scowl fixed on his features. Jimin turned away tiredly, as if he was already somehow used to it. Only Taehyung saw the light pink blush that was etched across Yoongi's cheeks when he looked at Jimin's back.

 

Oh, this was good.

 

"So you guys have to touch each other all the time?" Taehyung asked innocently, inwardly laughing manically when he saw them both turn beet red. The blush managed to stand out a lot more on Yoongi's pale, snow white cheeks.

 

Jimin stuttered in humiliation and choked on his spit.

 

"What the fuck Tae? No, it's just for a little while so that we can stay at least a few meters away when we need to do stuff. See?” Jimin let go Yoongi’s hand, clenching his fingers and walking a few steps towards Taehyung. Yoongi’s arm immediately reached for Jimin’s hand before he forcefully supressed the urge to hold it again.

 

Jimin’s expression was uncomfortable when he looked at Taehyung, looking as if being seperated from Yoongi was immensely painful. He gave Taehyung a shaky smile and Taehyung clapped a hand on his shoulder, moving away from his wolf.

 

“Alright, let’s get you your things, yeah?” He said softly, tugging Jimin towards his room. The door opened when Taehyung pressed his palm to it and he waited for the cards to come to him. The suits rolled haphazardly back into his palm, cursing at each other when they collided in their way.

 

“Are you bringing your wolf in here?” Jimin hissed, looking over his shoulder at the wolf that followed behind Taehyung determinedly. Yoongi was still looking a little flabbergasted at the presence of the wolf and silently moved inside with it. Jimin moaned inwardly, feeling nervous about his crush being in his room and finding how messy he was and judging him. Not to mention even the wolf was inside and if it decided to go psycho on them, there was only one exit.

 

“Yoongi-hyung, you want something to eat? I think there’s some bread which has not expired yet,” Taehyung smiled. Yoongi made a face and declined.

 

How was it fair that Yoongi asked him to call him hyung but he was still sunbaenim to Jimin?

 

Jimin was slightly jealous of Taehyung’s ability to roll with things so easily. He wished he could have been that comfortable around Yoongi too. As things were, he could barely look at Yoongi’s face without feeling horribly awkward. The hand holding had made things even worse for Jimin.

 

Yoongi’s hand was so comfortingly warm that Jimin never wanted to let go of it. It wasn’t uncomfortably clammy like people’s hands tended to get, but soft and slender in his palm. When they had first held hands, Jimin had almost seen sparks go off behind his eyes at the contact. His energy thrummed cheerfully, happily racing under his skin where Yoongi’s skin was touching his. Jimin never wanted to let go. He wanted to cuddle with Yoongi and bask in the feeling of his energy seeking his and getting the comfort in return.

 

Jimin had never felt anything like it before. Sure he’d held hands with them. But the feeling of security and rightness that he felt when Yoongi held his hand so reassuringly…

 

“Will you be alright with him?” Taehyung was asking Yoongi, who sat down on the couch uncomfortably, fixing his eyes on the wolf. Yoongi’s face did something weird, a mix between a grimace and smile when he looked at the wolf. His expression said ‘are you kidding me now’ but his eyes were filled with mirth so Jimin relaxed.

 

“Bro, if your mutt ends up eating my bondmate I’ll be really pissed at you,” Jimin whispered in Taehyung’s ear.

 

“Hey, look on the bright side. You’ll no longer be bonded!” Taehyung replied. Jimin should have felt relieved at the prospect. But instead he felt a sudden, intense feeling of wrongness wash through him. Lose this connection with Yoongi? His entire body screamed no.

 

“Yeah, whatever.” He squared his shoulders and went inside to gather his clothes, not daring to look back at Yoongi. Taehyung ambled after him lazily, fiddling with his cards.

 

Yoongi relaxed at their departure and turned to the wolf. He quickly shot his hand out, catching and tugging at the wolf’s ear.

 

“You pain in the ass, Jungkookie. Do you know how worried we’ve been?”

 

Jungkook whined at him, scrunching his eyes closed. Yoongi knew the brat wasn’t listening to him, attention still fixed on the other boy that had gone inside.

 

“Yah—you need to come back with me to the den right now, understand?” Yoongi tugged hard on his ear and earned a high pitched yip in return. Jungkook’s eyes opened defiantly and he shook his head no. Yoongi tsked irritatedly, cursing the alpha traits Jungkook had been born with. He couldn’t risk changing here, in Jimin’s room. He was already feeling out of control with the bond in place. If he changed, he might just lose control of his human half and go with his instincts to mate Jimin.

 

Stupid humans. Why couldn’t they stop fucking everything up?

 

Taehyung came running out at the sound of Jungkook’s pained yip. Jungkook used the distraction to slip out of Yoongi’s grasp and go running towards Taehyung who knelt to his level and started patting him in worry. Jungkook, that little snitch, started whining more than the situation required, milking Taehyung’s worry for more caresses on his face.

 

Yoongi was stunned at Jungkook’s actions. Where was the sullen emo kid who refused any grooming from them and shied away from his own family’s touch? Why was he letting a human do it for him, leaning into his contact so delightedly?

 

Yoongi narrowed his eyes at Taehyung, wondering if he’d somehow enchanted Jungkook or put him under an enslaving contract. But the boy seemed naïve from what Jimin had been rambling about on the way. He didn’t even seem to know that the wolf he was touching so freely was the heir to one of the largest packs in Seoul, practically royalty for their kind.

 

Yoongi remembered the Elders giving Jungkook the crystals to wear that would prevent any enchantments from hurting him. And he doubted that Taehyung, no matter how mysterious his card magic seemed, would be able to get over those barricades of heavy ancient magic.

 

No.

 

So that meant Jungkook was doing this out of his free will, which what the fuck?

 

Taehyung wore a confused expression when he looked at Yoongi and he pursed his lips.

 

“Yoongi-hyung, did he do something?”

 

“Nothing out of the ordinary. He was just being really disrespectful.”

 

Taehyung looked even more confused. He met Jungkook’s eyes seriously, frown between his eyebrows and Yoongi wanted to laugh. Was he actually witnessing Jungkook showing his neck to a human? When Jungkook started whining, dipping his head further down, Taehyung clenched his fingers lightly into his fur and brought him over to Yoongi, to apologise most probably. It amazed him how pliant and obedient the pack heir was being, allowing himself to be led around by the whims of a human.

 

Jungkook was not going to survive the round of teasing once he returned. Yoongi would make sure of it.

 

The little shit deserved every last bit of it for making them worry.

 

“Yah, Kookie—stop looking at me like that,” he called, knocking him on the snout once he was close enough. The brat had the nerve to bare his teeth at him when Taehyung released him.

 

“What did you call him?” Taehyung asked curiously. Jungkook’s eyes went wide and his ears dropped.

 

Yoongi shrugged. Jimin came out from his room, holding some clothes and watching Jungkook with a frown.

 

“Kookie. Or Bunny. Whichever one you want to call him by.”

 

“You know him?” Taehyung asked. Jungkook rolled his eyes at Yoongi and bared his teeth further at him to show his displeasure. Yoongi sighed and reached out to clamp a hand around his jaws, shutting it close. Jimin let out a squeak of fear in response, almost looking like he wanted to run between them and whisk Yoongi away to safety.

 

God help him, Jimin was cute.

 

Yoongi hated cute things with a passion.

 

“We see him now and then. He’s a little brat, always sneaking in and theiving on our food. Specially ice cream,” he shook the brat’s snout and Jungkook let out a whuff of anger. Yoongi laughed at his grumpy face.

 

“Bunny? Is that supposed to be ironic? Because he hunts bunnies?” Jimin asked nervously. Taehyung pouted in response.

 

“Something like that,” Yoongi snorted, thinking of Jungkook’s bunny teeth. Jungkook growled at him, looking him in the eye.

 

Not funny, hyung.

 

Yoongi let him go with a smirk.

 

Taehyung started fidgeting where he was standing after a moment, looking down at his shoes with a sad frown.

 

“Hyung, do you want to take him back?”

 

Jungkook immediately started whining at Yoongi, panic in his eyes. Yoongi bit his lip in thought, studying Jungkook silently.

 

“Nah,” he answered casually. “He seems to like it here.”

 

Taehyung and Jungkook both looked so pathetically relieved that Yoongi wanted to snort. The brat could look after himself, specially if he wanted to live with a human. He would return by himself in a few days when he got disgusted of his little experiment.

 

Jimin looked like he was going to cry at his response. Well, Yoongi would have to make sure Jimin never came across anyone else in his pack when they were in their forms then. Poor kid probably would never heal from the trauma.

 

The distant clock in the center of the campus started playing Tchaikovsky. Huh. Yoongi didn’t realise how late it had gotten. The cafeterias would probably be full by the time Jimin and Yoongi reached them.

 

“Hey, we have to go,” Jimin spoke up, looking at Taehyung. Taehyung looked a bit sad at that.

 

“When will you be back again?”

 

Jimin looked at Yoongi and he met his glance impassively for once. Jimin bit his lip.

 

“Soon, don’t worry. I’ll talk through kakao, okay?” Yoongi had the sudden urge to charge in between Taehyung and Jimin and separate them when Jimin hugged him. He shook it off, telling his wolf sternly to pipe down. The mating instincts were messing with his head, mistaking the soul bond to be a half finished mating bond. Even his teeth itched for him to bite Jimin's bare neck, put a claim on him. He snapped his jaw open once or twice, massaging the ache building in it.

 

“Let’s go,” he said gruffly, turning his back on them.

 

“Tae, don’t forget to eat, okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung muttered morosely. Jungkook whined beside him. Geez, Yoongi had never heard the brat emote so much. What had gotten into him? And what was with the tearful goodbyes? It was like Yoongi was witnessing a fucking k-drama come to life.

 

God, the night was going to be long.

 

*

 

Taehyung was pretty sure he was dreaming again.

 

He was stretched out on his back, lying on the bed sheets. The ever-present heat of his wolf was absent from his side giving even more credence to the fact that he was dreaming. The boy from before was hovering on top of him, like a mockery of the dream he’d been having before.

 

His heart slammed into his throat when he met his eyes. The boy was so undeniably attractive, so completely at ease under his scrutiny that Taehyung was the one to blush first. The boy chuckled softly, leaning down to nose at the side of his cheek.

 

Taehyung, not for the first time, noticed that the boy was entirely naked, straddling him. It slammed in with a jolt of suddenness when he instinctively raised his hands and they met the hot, scorching warmth of his skin. A spark of desire zinged down his spine and his mouth fell open.

 

The light laughter surrounded him again when the boy slanted his mouth to suck light kisses across his jaw. Taehyung squirmed, wanting the boy’s weight to restrain him.

 

“You’re not real,” he whispered. Not when he was this perfect.

 

The boy dipped his mouth to run his teeth lightly over Taehyung’s Adam’s apple, shoulders shaking in mirth. It was as if he was sharing a silent joke with himself, one that Taehyung wasn’t in on.

 

“You’re not real,” he repeated louder, squeezing his eyes close as his fingers dug into the boy’s biceps demandingly.

 

“I’m just dreaming you up.”

 

“What if I tell you this is not a dream?”

 

Taehyung’s eyes snapped open at the smooth, velvety voice in his ear. His knees relaxed, legs falling open in response. Some kind of primal instinct rose in him that commanded him to arch his neck for the boy, to fall on his knees and let him claim him. He flushed in response.

 

“What if,” the boy ran a light, slender finger down his nose, “I tell you,” Taehyung shuddered when he licked his lips, staring down with an intense hunger in his eyes, “That I have been waiting for you to come along all this while?”

 

Taehyung’s eyes went wide. More than the black hunger, there was a barely contained yearning in his voice that shook him.

 

The boy cradled his head carefully, stroking his cheek so tenderly that tears formed in his eyes. The boy shook his head gently and leaned in, kissing Taehyung’s eyelids softly. Taehyung went boneless under him, surrendering himself to the boy completely.

 

He could not explain it, not when he barely understood it himself. The boy who touched him with such care as if he was the most precious thing he’d ever seen, yet looked at him with such a savage desire like he wanted to wreck every last bit of Taehyung and break him—Taehyung felt like he was flying blind, but yet tempted to let go and fall. His emotions were a messed up coil inside him, telling him to surrender yet holding him back, telling him he was going to get hurt.

 

What was this if not a dream?

 

The real question was, what was Taehyung going to do if this really wasn’t a dream?

 

“Who are you?” The note of pleading in his voice would have made him flush but he was far too gone to care about it. The boy lazily smiled in response.

 

“I’ll leave that up to you to find out, Taehyung.”

 

Taehyung had never heard anyone speak his name like that, slow drawling and lazily wrapping around the syllables. It sounded unbelievably hot, like desire was literally dripping off the boy’s tongue when he said Taehyung’s name.

 

“How is that fair?” Taehyung pleaded. How was any of this fair? Who was the boy who kept tormenting him since the first time he’d shown up in his dreams?

 

The boy shifted backwards, and Taehyung nearly sobbed when he brushed against his bare skin. He shushed Taehyung gently, brushing his fingers against his mouth. Taehyung scrabbled at his arms wildly, not willing to lose his warmth. His fingers found purchase in the sharp grooves in his shoulder and he clenched around them.

 

“How about I make it fair?”

 

Before Taehyung could answer, the boy had leaned down again and slanted his mouth against Taehyung’s. There was a crackle of energy and Taehyung’s mind went blank.

 

It was perfectly chaste, the boy just moving his lips softly over Taehyung’s immobile mouth. But it hit Taehyung with the force of a brick. He couldn’t muster the energy to respond, eyes staring blankly at his face in shock.

 

The boy opened his eyes and for the first time, Taehyung noticed a light golden ring around his irises and felt his breath catch. He felt the boy’s smile spreading across his lips at his hitched breath, a light rumble of laughter vibrating up his throat.

 

The boy kissed him again, a light-teasing smile pulling at the corner of his mouth. His fingers brushed against the spot on Taehyung’s neck he’d bitten the last time he’d been in his dream and Taehyung’s energy jolted to life. His world turned white and he arched his back when desire flushed through his lifestream, taking him closer and closer to the edge of an abyss.

 

He barely felt the boy’s kisses turn harsher, barely heard himself moaning through the haze of pleasure. He obediently opened his mouth, happily letting the boy’s tongue invade his mouth. Too sharp teeth nipped at his lips, making him jolt and hiss in pain. It mixed with the pleasure and he could barely focus more than panting harshly. The boy’s mouth slanted messily, sloppily over his, drinking in his moans. He buried his other hand in Taehyung’s hair and pulled, ripping his mouth away with an obscene sound and moving his fingers from Taehyung’s neck.

 

Taehyung protested wildly, felt like hurling curses and crying. He’d been so close, so close to falling off. Why was the boy teasing him like this?

 

Tears leaked out of the corner of his eyes in frustration. The boy’s eyes were wild, animalistic with desire.

 

“Le-let me,” Taehyung hiccupped.

 

“No.”

 

“Please,” he sobbed at the harsh tone. What had he done? Why was he tormenting him?

 

“No. Not like this.”

 

There was struggle in his voice when he let Taehyung go. Taehyung wanted to speak but he kept choking on his words. The boy looked tormented when he brushed a light hand through Taehyung’s hair, murmuring something. Taehyung strained to hear what he said but his eyes drooped tiredly, the hazy surroundings swimming in his vision. He closed his eyes reluctantly, telling himself he was going to open them in a second.

 

He felt the touch of the boy’s lips on his forehead, kissing him tenderly.

 

“Go to sleep, Taehyung.”

 

Taehyung fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Jimin wanted to throttle the guy who was teaching them how to make soul manna in the first place. Soul manna was supposed to enhance their understanding of soul energy, where it resided curled up in their bodies but instead it just brought Jimin a lot of pain.

 

Yoongi was sleeping on the bed next to him but it felt like he was miles away instead. He was leaning off the bed, as far from Jimin as he could get and Jimin was half worried that he would fall off the bed in the night. But he didn’t dare do anything lest Yoongi got even more upset with him for waking him up.

 

He rubbed his shoulders, feeling lonely all of a sudden. The new quarters they were given was devoid of anything that could make it homely. Everything was strange. His pillow wasn’t fluffy enough, the light streaming from the windows cast strange unfamiliar shadows and he couldn’t even hear the musical symphony of the clock from the room when it changed every hour.

 

Even the comfort of his familiar blanket tucked up to his chin wasn’t enough to drive the chill in his bones away. He’d nearly forgotten how weird it had felt when he wasn’t touching Yoongi, like his energy was being sapped away each second by an invisible source, leaving behind a frosty feeling. It felt like the chill could only be driven away if Yoongi touched him.

 

He shivered again, wishing Taehyung was there with him. Taehyung could make everything negative go away just with his presence. His energy was just so happy that it just physically wafted off him, seeking to make everyone else around him happy too.

 

Sudden warmth filled him and he froze when Yoongi’s curled an arm around his chest from behind. He tugged Jimin’s prone body into his tempting warmth, wrapping him up in an embrace. His cheeks flamed at the unintentional back hug Yoongi was giving him. He strained his ears and heard nothing but Yoongi’s peaceful exhales from behind. Jimin figured Yoongi was doing it in his sleep.

 

Even if it killed him to do so, he tried to move away from him so it wouldn’t upset Yoongi when woke up in the morning and found Jimin so close. He already seemed to hate him so much that Jimin found himself not wanting to make him angrier with him.

 

Yoongi grunted behind him, making his displeasure known and tugged him back forcefully.

 

“Shut up, Park Jimin.”

 

He was awake?

 

“Ah, sunbaenim, I’m sorry. I must have moved into your space by mistake,” Jimin tried to escape again. Yoongi sighed, restraining him and Jimin didn’t put up much of a fight.

 

“Shut up, I could hear you shivering from all over there.”

 

“I-I’m sorry, sunbaenim.”

 

"Stop apologising, Park Jimin," Yoongi grunted. Jimin bit his lip, trying not to focus on the feeling of Yoongi pressed up against him. This much contact was fraying his nerves, making him light headed with nervousness and pleasure. He squeezed his eyes shut painfully tight, trying not to make a noise. Did this count as spooning? Where was he supposed to put his arms now?

 

Yoongi's hands were pressing low against his abdomen, inches away from his dick. Jimin didn't dare shift even a bit, petrified.

 

Jimin sensed Yoongi shifting behind him, moving closer to Jimin. Warm breath hit his neck, directly beneath his ear. Goosebumps raced down his neck and Jimin wanted to scream like a teenage girl whose idol oppa had just noticed her.

 

"Yah, call me hyung."

 

Jimin stayed quiet, feeling like he was about to burst. The bond hummed happily in his head, becoming even more audible when it felt the closeness of Yoongi. After the day they had, even Yoongi's grudging touch felt like a reward.

 

Not like he's forced to do this because you forced a bond on him or anything, right? His subconscious remarked snidely.

 

"Stop thinking so loud, and get some fucking sleep," Yoongi muttered.

 

"I- wha," Jimin stuttered, inhaling shakily.

 

"I can feel you wearing yourself out stressing about something. What the hell is so important in this time of the night? Get some sleep. You have all day tomorrow to think about it."

 

Jimin swallowed. A burst of a welcoming warmth bloomed forth from his tattoo, the feeling entirely different from how his energy felt, when he was using it. It wasn’t like the soul energy which had enveloped him, something which felt so dangerous that he wanted to run away from it. This was someone else’s energy, unfamiliar and yet similar to his own. It was running over his nerves and soothing them gently.

 

He experimentally flexed his fingers, trying to tap to the beat of the energy pulsing in. With a warm feeling of realization, he realised it was Yoongi’s energy which was seeping into him. Yoongi’s fingers were covering his tattoo, gently brushing over them, pouring his energy into Jimin.

 

Jimin smiled.

 

Maybe Yoongi wasn’t going to be as difficult about this as Jimin thought he would be.

*

Yoongi wasn’t an early riser, by any means. On a good day, he’d wake up before noon. On a bad day, he’d probably try to beat his record of twenty four hours of straight sleep before he even thought about stepping out of his bed.

 

If it wasn’t for Jin’s nagging for him to at least attempt to do something productive like graduate school, he would have probably stayed back in the pack grounds, doing something mundane--like managing a record shop and amusing himself with little paltry tricks. Or pulling little pranks on the cocky, full of themselves teenagers who stepped into the shop thinking they were deep and different for choosing to listen to old tracks from the bygone years, and just mucked around on their phones trying to find the best Instagram filter.

 

He fucking hated those kids.

 

Jin managed to take advantage of his distaste and bribe him back to the University with the excuse of Jungkook starting his own academic career and needing all the protection he could get. Yoongi couldn’t resist the offer, not when he’d practically raised the kid himself. No matter how broad Jungkook’s shoulders got or how much taller he grew, he was still going to be that doe eyed kid who looked up to his Yoongi-hyung for guidance. Yoongi couldn’t leave him out to dry, just like that.

 

So, he ended up choosing a music major, despite his parents’ protests. They could stay satisfied with the Animated Architect Crafting major he’d gotten. It was time he did something else for himself.

 

But if one thing that never changed, it was Yoongi’s habit of sleeping like a log. Nothing could rouse him unless he let it. He’d be almost fooled into thinking that his Gift was sleeping, if he didn’t know that energy didn’t work like that. Real pity, that.

 

So when Yoongi found himself snuggling closer to something that smelled sinfully good, he didn’t question it much. He nosed further into it, nuzzling into the soft object with a smile. Something prickled at his cheek and he batted it away slightly, whining. It didn’t stop and he wanted to pout.

 

His ears picked up on another heartbeat practically roaring into his ear. He immediately snapped into attention, opening his eyes. Before his eyes even had the chance to adjust he was halfway into an offended snarl. When his eyes cleared, his mouth dropped in shock.

 

The thing that he had been nuzzling so happily into was Park Jimin. Or to be exact, his neck. Yoongi felt himself leaning towards him unintentionally, to get another whiff of his scent and blanched.

 

Fuck, he needed to puke before Park Jimin got even more under his skin.

 

Jimin looked even more like a innocent kid when he slept. His mouth was open, puffing out small breaths and face upturned towards Yoongi. There was a rosy flush on his cheeks, his eyelashes casting long shadows across them in the morning light. Yoongi felt like a pervert, some kind of a cradle robber, when he saw a strip of tanned skin peeking out from where his shirt had ridden up. He could see the beginnings of a tattoo that made his own energy tingle, stylised chinese characters standing out in sharp contrast against his skin.

 

His fingers itched to pull the shirt up and away, to trace the strokes of his tattoo with his tongue, to restrain Jimin and bite him there, leave his marks of possession everywhere on his skin. He wanted to make Jimin cry with desire, wanted to see him strung out with it, pleading with his body. He wanted Jimin bloodied with his claim, screaming out his name to everyone who could hear him.

 

Yoongi shook off the violent thoughts, frowning at the mating haze that almost took over him. He’d have to make sure he was at least two continents away from Park Jimin if he went into his mating rut. The rut would take away all his human inhibitions and would drive him to hunt down the nearest possible compatible mate to breed. And it seemed like his wolf had already chosen Jimin. Even before the bond had been established, Yoongi remembered how his wolf had taken notice when he'd collided with Jimin. One whiff of his scent and his wolf had started snarling in his head, demanding that Yoongi tie him down and knot him. Yoongi had snarled back defiantly, resolving to keep Park Jimin as far from him as he could.

 

That pretty much worked out well.

 

Yoongi's gaze shifted downwards as if by compulsion. Somewhere in the middle of the night, Jimin had kicked off the covers and snuggled into Yoongi. His legs were impossibly entangled with Yoongi's and the sheets. His sweatpants had tugged down so much that Yoongi could see the starting of his happy trail.

 

Jesus Christ, his mouth was watering at the sight. His wolf was literally frothing at mouth to claim Jimin, to breed him full of pups.

 

It doesn't work that way, you knothead motherfucker, he tried to chide his wolf.

 

His wolf ignored him, growling. Yoongi flexed his jaw on instinct and swooped down near Jimin's throat, enticed by the pulsing vein. Shit, he swore, reigning it back. The soul energy in the bond pulsed urgently at the proximity, demanding him to do something.

 

Shitshitshit. He was being boxed in.

 

He looked up to see if he'd woken Jimin. At this angle, all he could see was Jimin's full lips. They looked unbearably soft and inviting in the hazy morning light, like an irresistible sin pulling Yoongi in.

 

Yoongi was always weak with temptation.

 

He worked his way from the corner of Jimin's soft lips, memorising how they felt against his. It felt like he was tasting a forbidden fruit. He was cheating like this, stealing a kiss from Jimin while he was asleep, like a creep. He'd practically feel like one too if he wasn't so overwhelmed by the emotions that crashed on him.

 

Jimin barely stirred, exhaling slightly heavier. Yoongi's energy, which he barely used much of, was blaring in his head. The soul energy from the bond was sending down tingles of pleasure and happiness, making him press down harder on Jimin's lips.

 

Jimin let out a muffled moan, shifting his hips against the covers. Yoongi moved his pelvis in response, thrusting down in the sheets.

 

"Yoongi..." Jimin moaned.

 

Yoongi froze, watching Jimin's closed eyes. His eyes moved under his eyelids restlessly, unaware of how Yoongi was shamefully taking advantage of him. Was he dreaming about him then? Yoongi went rock hard at the thought. He half wished he would wake up already, catch him in the act. There was a sick thrill running down his spine at how pliant Jimin was being while he was asleep, allowing Yoongi to do anything he wanted.

 

Now that he'd had a taste of Jimin, his pulse raced for more. Jimin didn't stir and Yoongi panted slightly, mind half stuck on going through with it.

 

Fuck it, he thought. He was already living life in the fast lane. Yolo or whatever shit kids said these days. Carpe the fucking diem, he'd seize the fucking moment.

 

He set his lips against Jimin's, swooping in and lapping against the corners of his warm, hot mouth. The heat made a rush of desire flush through him, wondering how Jimin would look with his mouth wrapped around Yoongi's hard dick, tears leaking out of his eyes from the girth. He ground down on the sheets, moving closer to Jimin.

 

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong this is wrong, something chanted in the back of his head but he pushed it away.

 

He brushed his fingers gently against Jimin's sides and felt him stir awake. A moment of panic seized him when he felt Jimin freeze against him. He moved away, licking the taste of Jimin's mouth from his lips.

 

Jimin stared up at him, stunned. He was looking so shell shocked that a smirk pulled at Yoongi's mouth. He caught the corner of his lips between his teeth, watching Jimin's gaze falter.

 

"...hyung?" he looked so confused, so innocent that it made Yoongi want to wreck him even more. He grinned when he felt the burning feeling of desire from Jimin through the bond. He could feel how turned on Jimin was at his proximity, trying to restrain himself.

 

Yoongi dipped down slowly, taking his time to thoroughly explore Jimin's mouth. He caught Jimin's wrists, feeling them clench and pushed them down on the bed.

 

Jimin moaned, finally responding. When Yoongi pulled away with an obscene smack of their lips, threads of saliva connecting them, Jimin looked up dazedly.

 

"Hyung, you're so beautiful," he whispered longingly, sounding so fucking sincere that Yoongi almost couldn't stand the sight of him.

 

Yoongi wanted in that moment. He wanted to shut Park Jimin up, wanted to tell him he was more beautiful, wanted to scare him and make him run far away from Yoongi. Yoongi didn't deserve someone like Jimin. He couldn't be the guy who could treat Jimin right, couldn't marry him or mate him. Yoongi was too emotionally damaged to be with anyone.

 

"Shut up, Park Jimin," he whispered softly, looking into his brown eyes. They looked so bright despite the dim light, like if Yoongi let him in, he'd willingly illuminate all corners of Yoongi's dark heart.

 

Jimin smiled at him, eyes sliding closed. Yoongi suppressed a smile of his own and pressed down against him, fingers brushing Jimin’s corded thighs. Jimin must be on some sort of a physical regime or something, judging by how much muscle he'd built up. The ripe smell of youth clung to his skin enticingly, luring his wolf to think that if Yoongi bred him, he'd give him healthy pups. Yoongi's wolf strained against the mental walls he'd slammed down around it. No matter how much Yoongi tried to tell him that it didn't work that way with humans, his wolf was adamant that Yoongi let him try.

 

The Elders used to disapprove of the new age practices of separating the wolf of their personality to practice living amongst humans. They worried that it would have a detrimental affect on their mentality and thinking, cause them to grow unstable due to separation of such an integral part of them. That was why Yoongi had to practise being one with the wolf whenever he stepped into the pack grounds, to get rid of all the ill will the wolf had developed inside due to anger at Yoongi for being caged like that. But this time, Yoongi feared that if he tried to reconcile with the wolf, it would take over him and be feral enough to bring on the mating heat. All because he was spending so much time with Jimin and denying the wolf his instincts. Jimin was literally the bait for his wolf to come out.

 

Jimin stared up at him with those innocent eyes, his face an open book for him to read. He was entirely too expressive for a human. Yoongi curled an arm around Jimin’s shoulders and rolled, Jimin ending up on the top with his thighs around Yoongi’s waist. Jimin’s eyes dilated when he noted the change in their positions.

 

He dropped his head on Yoongi’s shoulders, unable to look at Yoongi’s face. He rolled his hips, as if on instinct. Yoongi gripped Jimin’s waist tightly, fingers sliding below his tanktop to touch soft, warm skin and rucking it up to Jimin’s shoulders. He mouthed up at the tender place beneath Jimin’s jaw, running his slightly sharp teeth against the vulnerable skin. His fingers brushed against Jimin’s tattoo, and he felt a pulse of his energy flow into Jimin.

 

Jimin rolled his hips again, slowly, deliberately this time. His movement was tentative, as if gauging Yoongi’s reaction to it. Yoongi growled when he felt Jimin’s hard on rubbing against his abdomen, hands dropping lower to grab at Jimin’s ass. He clenched his hands and Jimin moaned against his neck at his action.

 

Fuck, how had he not seen it before?

 

Park Jimin had to have the perkiest ass he’d ever seen. Yoongi’s mouth watered like a mindless dog who’d been offered a treat after having starved for days. He seeked out Jimin’s mouth and ravaged it messily.

 

Jimin shifted and ground down against Yoongi, struggling to keep up with him. He gasped soundlessly when his groin came in contact with Yoongi’s. Yoongi bit at his lips savagely, the tang of metallic blood running between their mouths. The wolf in him howled in pleasure, knowing Jimin wouldn’t heal up quickly. He was leaving his marks all over Jimin. Everytime he felt the wound on his lips, saw the bruise in a mirror, he’d be remembering Yoongi’s touch.

 

Jimin cried out, twisting as Yoongi used the hold he had on his ass to move him.

 

“Yes…” He hissed savagely, loathing the layers of cloth that separated them from each other. He felt his nails elongate, gripping bruises into Jimin’s skin and tearing into his sweatpants. His blood roared in his ears, in rhythm with Jimin’s heartbeat.

 

“Ah…Yo- Yoongi, hyung, I…” Jimin trailed off, a devastated look on his face when he looked down to see Yoongi’s dick straining against his boxers. His stomach rippled in as he gasped.

 

“Like that, yeah. Yeah, baby boy,” Jimin’s face contorted at the endearment, sweat dripping slowly down his temple. Yoongi leaned up to lick at it, tasting the salt mixed with the blood still fresh from the cut on Jimin’s lips. He lifted Jimin forcefully and brought him down forcefully, thrusting up to meet his pelvis. The cut of his hips were sharp against his grip. Jimin squeezed his eyes shut, feeling energy thrumming fast in his body, something reaching a crescendo at Yoongi’s willing and rough touch.

 

Yoongi freed a hand from under Jimin’s ass and brought it up to Jimin’s mouth.

 

“Spit,” he commanded in a gruff voice. Jimin shivered, flush high on his cheeks and lips swollen with the cut and Yoongi’s harsh kisses. Yoongi half regretted being so rough with the boy. It was something that went unsaid, their instincts didn’t allow them to make sweet, gentle love to people. The wolf characteristics were inherently embedded in their blood, overriding their human response to situations which got adrenaline pumping in their body. Sex, brawling, magic, anger-- the volatile mix of wolf instincts always came out during those situations, out of their control.

 

When Jimin swallowed and spit, it was mixed with red. Yoongi reached in with his other hand to pull down Jimin’s sweatpants, taking his boxers down with it. Jimin shuddered when Yoongi wrapped a slick palm around his hard dick. He thumbed at the head, barely able to focus at the new barrage of his lust and scent that screamed Jiminjiminjimin and tugged at the mating haze he was trying so hard to keep at bay. The wolf was crooning at the smell his chosen mate, drugged on the sensations from the bond. Yoongi felt like he was drowning in Jimin, all of his senses engulfed by him.

 

A bead of precome slowly trickled down Jimin’s dick and Yoongi licked his lips, swiping his fingers and sliding them down slowly, gripping his cock slightly. Jimin’s mouth fell open, eyes closing without his volition.

 

“You wet for me, baby boy? Is that for me?” Yoongi crooned into his ear. Jimin could only let out a tortured sound, looking like he was hanging on strings and Yoongi was the one manipulating them.

 

“Look at me,” he whispered. Jimin shook his head, scrunching his eyes closed and a flush of shame and desperation high on his cheeks. Jesus, he looked so hot like this.

 

Look at me, Jimin,” he put in command in his voice, squeezing the base of Jimin’s cock. The soul bond acted in the mating bond’s substitute, demanding Jimin to follow his order. Jimin opened his eyes in a small slit, all of it swallowed by black. Yoongi smirked up at him lazily.

 

“You’re so hot like this, all wet and open for me,” he tongued at his sharp canines, aching to sink them in, “You’d let me do anything to you right now, wouldn’t you? You’d let me bend you over, fuck you till you can’t see straight, mark you up with my come so that everyone can see who you belong to, won’t you? You want everyone to look at you and know you belong only to Min Yoongi.”

 

“Yoongi…” Jimin sobbed desperately. Yoongi laughed darkly, all thoughts of what was right or wrong driven out of his head. He leaned in to suck at Jimin’s nipples which were poking temptingly through his thin tanktop.

 

“How about it, Park Jimin? Do you want me to do all that to you?” he whispered darkly. Jimin trembled in his grasp.

 

“Yes,” he breathed out and Yoongi felt a victorious smile poke at the corner of his lips. He grazed his tongue against his nipple, lapping at the spot. Jimin sounded battered above him, bringing up his arms to hug Yoongi to his chest. Jimin’s hand clenched in his hair confusedly, like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to push Yoongi away or draw him further in.

 

Yoongi felt his own dick starting to swell when he started jacking off Jimin in the earnest. He paid no mind to it, slowing and twisting his wrist when he came up and going down fast. He traced the vein on the underside of Jimin’s dick, sucking at his nipple. Jimin groaned when Yoongi left his cock to slide his fingers languorously down towards his balls. Yoongi pinched teasingly at the place between his dick and his heavy balls, earning a high pitched sound from Jimin.

 

“Y-Yoongi…please…”

 

“Please what?” Yoongi teased, biting lightly at his nipple and holding his balls gently, stroking them.

 

“Please…”

 

“I can’t do it if you can’t say it, Park Jimin,” his voice dropped low in response.

 

“Aah, hyung--please!”

 

Yoongi blew lightly on the wet patch on his tanktop, watching Jimin crumble to pieces. The bond thrummed even faster between them and Jimin’s tattoo blinked up in short bursts with white silver light. Yeah, he was almost on the edge.

 

“Hyung, please. L-Let me come, pleasepleaseplease,” Jimin fell on his neck, sobbing desperately. Yoongi blinked, disoriented by the sudden burst of Jimin’s scent tickling his nose. His lips pulled back automatically, teeth lengthening slightly and blood roared in his ears.

 

Yoongi closed his eyes and clenched his hand around Jimin’s cock, pumping it furiously. Saliva pooled in the corner of his mouth in preparation of biting Jimin and turning him. Jimin’s cock throbbed in his hand and with a final cry from Jimin, he spilled onto Yoongi’s palm, sending a burst of his ecstasy through the bond into Yoongi’s body.

 

Yoongi’s cock swelled up and before he could throw him on his knees and forcefully mate Jimin, he lunged away roughly. Jimin tumbled down bonelessly onto the sheets, completely out of it with his orgasm.

 

Yoongi stared at his hand in shock, watching the pearly white come trail down his wrist. He had an overwhelming urge to bring it up to his mouth and lap it up so he could have more of Jimin’s scent with him.

 

What the hell was he doing?

 

What the hell had he been thinking, taking advantage of Jimin like that? He was under the influence of the bond, swaying him into having somewhat desirable thoughts about Yoongi. He would probably go through with Yoongi on anything if he felt that it would make things better.

 

Yoongi knew the kid was carrying a torch for him, thinking that he was hiding it well from Yoongi. What he didn’t realise that it was the bond that was probably influencing him to develop those feelings.

 

Shitshitshit.

 

He fucked up.

 

Yoongi was going to hell.

 

“Hyung…?” Jimin made a questioning sound, smiling with a sleepy look on his face. He was practically shining with the afterglow and Yoongi wanted to do it all over again, to make sure Jimin always looked so blissed out. Yoongi felt sick to his bones at the thought. He was a depraved monster.

 

He didn’t reply, wordlessly turning away. Jimin got up with a slightly worried look on his face, motioning towards Yoongi’s own dick.

 

“Hyung, should I…” Yoongi practically jumped away from Jimin, eyes wide. Jimin looked startled, the edges of a slow hurt biting through his expression. Yoongi hated that he had to be the jackass in the situation to protect him.

 

“This was just a one time thing,” Yoongi kept his voice emotionless, looking elsewhere as he wiped his hand on the sheets. Jimin blinked, looking like he was about to cry.

 

“What?”

 

Yoongi didn’t look at him, biting his lip and scowling.

 

“We were frustrated, alone and horny. It was just morning wood and we helped each other out. That’s all it was. A mistake.”

 

Jimin physically recoiled. The devastation on his face made Yoongi flinch away.

 

“A mistake…” Jimin repeated woodenly, as if he was trying to wrap his head around it. Yoongi felt him probing unintentionally into the bond and he slammed down his walls, steeling himself.

 

“It will not happen again,” he grit out between clenched teeth. His hands itched to hold Jimin close again but he suppressed the urge. He wasn’t going to touch the kid, not again.

 

“Yeah…” Jimin whispered, head hung down.

 

Yoongi got up, feeling nauseous all of a sudden. He paused, feeling like he should say something to make Jimin happy again. His wolf was quiet, equally as devastated as Jimin.

 

You need to get away from him.

 

Yoongi kept his mouth shut and walked away, the bond hurting from Jimin’s end.

*

“Hey Tae, what’s up?”

 

“Something wrong?” Taehyung asked Jimin instantly.

 

“What? No. I’m alright, pretty great here actually.”

 

“How’s Yoongi-hyung?”

 

“Ah, he brought me to his studio. I met all these cool guys who are pretty talented, Tae. I mean, there’s this guy who—“

 

“Did he leave you there?” Taehyung interrupted his rambling. Jimin sounded all wrong, extra cheery and more happy than the situation deserved. Taehyung wasn’t sure how he was supposed to feel about it.

 

“Uh, haha. He had to go and mix some tracks in silence, so I decided not to disturb him. It’s cool, Taetae, I’m having fun by myself.”

 

Taehyung’s feet immediately turned towards the M buildings, veering away from the café he was heading towards to grab lunch.

 

“Hey, wait up. I’m coming for you,” he grinned, skipping over a leaping hopscotch. He panted, trying to jump a large distance. It was a campus charm, one that caused a person to start yodelling if they got stuck somewhere until someone else came and rescued them. All of the blocks were differently sparked and charmed, with all kinds of funny consequences.

 

A really pretty girl, situated on a round block was running a hand through her shiny hair, checking her compact mirror. Taehyung wondered what she had been forced to do and how long it had taken her to take down the charm. He remembered being stuck making monkey noises once, at one of the front blocks and hopping around inside another block’s territory like a penguin.

 

“What took you so long?” the girl asked him, looking relieved. Taehyung grinned at her and aimed the hourglass hovering beside him on her right, going with how the hopscotch was directing him to finish it. The hourglass bounced with an unerring accuracy and Taehyung let out a whoop of laughter when he crossed it.

 

“Hey, careful with this one," the girl instructed him, looking harried.

 

“Nah, me and my friend do this all the time,” he laughed, thinking of the days in their freshmen year when Jimin and him used to have competitions on the charmed hopscotch. The girl looked at him like he was crazy.

 

“Why would you do this all the time? I was unlucky enough to get caught on my way while I was checking my messages.”

 

“You’re on the hopscotch?" Jimin asked with an amused sound. Taehyung hummed as he aimed the hourglass again towards the end. The hourglass hit the spot and bounced up turning on its end again. Sand started pouring down marking the coutdown for Taehyung to hop before he had to face the punishment.

 

“Yeah, this one’s kinda fond of us. Likes to pop up whenever we come by,” he winked at the girl. She blinked at him, frowning. Taehyung made a final leap and laughed when the hopscotch crept away from under his feet sulkily. That hopscotch charm was pretty fond of Taehyung in general, always trying to make his course more difficult to compel him to stay inside and have fun with it. Taehyung indulged it on days when he didn’t have anything to do, dragging a grudging Jimin with him.

 

The girl breathed a sigh of relief, smiling brightly up at Taehyung.

 

“Thank you so much. I was getting worried because no one was willing to come help me out.”

 

It was campus tradition to get caught in the charms and tricks when they were in freshmen year. People got used to avoiding the charms after their sophomore year so Taehyung wasn't surprised they were not helping her.

 

“No problem, I’ve pretty much faced all the campus tricks around here,” Taehyung laughed. She looked wary at that.

 

“Uh, there are more?”

 

“Yeah, lots around this side. Why, you never ran into them here?”

 

The girl shook her head.

 

“My dorm is by the Northern side. My sister just moved into the Southern dorms so I had to come here.”

 

Taehyung shrugged and offered her a smile.

 

“That sucks. You planning on moving here? We get to have a lot of fun with our campus charms when we’re free.”

 

She looked horrified.

 

“Oh, not really. It's alright,” she hesitated so Taehyung stalled, seeing if she was going to say something.

 

“Uh, I might come here a lot. Can you tell me what kinds of South campus tricks I should read up on?”

 

“What’s the use of studying up on them? They’re here for us to enjoy. If you study up, then that’s cheating,” he smiled cheekily. She winced, looking so unhappy that he took pity on her.

 

“Well, there’s a Dragon’s Quest, a Goblin’s Treasure Hunt, lots of pixie circles underfoot, a lava stream for the freshmen that crops up around this side sometimes…”

 

He dug up fond memories of him and Jimin cursing and running from the different traps they’d fallen into during their initiation week. They were countless, really. He wasn’t even going to mention the Manga corner of Doom, as it had been dubbed by the Southern dorms. There was a HoloTV near the bend of the fountain which spit out holopads of old mangas for the people who came by. It had inspired lots of little fey creatures, from the exposure to their pop culture through manga and they’d built hilarious little obscure charms centered around them.

 

“Oh, right. There’s an Idiot’s trail around the laughing Buddha statue. Don’t trust the dude, he’s going to lead you straight into it.”

 

Jimin was stuck in that one for hours end while Taehyung had exhausted nearly all his cards to dig him out of one of the trick trenches.

 

“Thanks,” the girl said, eyes wide. She motioned at his phone, cheeks turning red.

 

“Uh, can you give me a call? I might need to enlist your help if I come through here again,” Taehyung laughed, nodding his head. Then he changed his mind midway when he remembered that he had kept Jimin on hold.

 

“I’m actually on the phone with someone right now,” he replied apologetically. The girl blinked, looking embarassed.

 

“Ah, that’s okay. I-” She took out a pen and pad from her purse, scribbling something and tearing it off before handing it to him. Taehyung blinked down at the numbers and found her biting her lip with a shy look on her face.

 

“I’m Irene.”

 

“I’m Kim Taehyung,” Taehyung smiled back. She squeaked in response, a light of recognition in her eyes.

 

“You’re Kim Taehyung?”

 

“Sometimes,” Taehyung replied cheerfully, unfazed and yelped slightly when the phone in his hand warmed for a second. He looked down to see Jimin had sent him an angry string of emoticons. The writing bubble was up again and Taehyung decided to run before Jimin sent him even angrier emoticons. Experiencing those were no fun.

 

“I need to go, sorry,” he smiled at Irene, already turning away.

 

“Goodbye,” she whispered faintly, looking at his back.

*

“Jimin, I’m almost there,” Taehyung gasped, dodging a crowd.

 

“Tae, Yoongi-hyung and I are going to have a meeting with the healers right now. It’s alright, I’ll talk to you later.”

 

“Jimin…” Taehyung whined petulantly. He heard Jimin speaking to someone, muffled through the earpiece.

 

“Taehyung, we’ll meet you in the evening. Anyway, don’t you have a mongrel to look after? Stop being so clingy. What are you, my girlfriend?” Jimin said with a teasing tone in his voice.

 

“Bro, even if I was a girl I wouldn’t date you. I have standards.” Taehyung smiled. At least Jimin was being himself.

 

“Shut up, you know you’d be thirsting after this ass. How many numbers did you get today?”

 

Jimin was under the impression that the entire campus was trying to get in Taehyung’s pants. Taehyung didn’t know whether he was serious or not. Just because people felt lonely and asked him to get coffee with them a lot, it didn’t mean that they all had ulterior motives. But Jimin was adamant that somehow his alien vibes attracted the weirdest kinds of people after him. At the end of the day, he used to collect all the numbers he got and all the gifts people handed him with the random candies and burn them up with a fire spell. Taehyung had gotten used to it, even begging Jimin for prettier fireworks when he did his fire spells.

 

“Three,” he answered reluctantly. Jimin snorted.

 

“How many of them were Siren kids?”

 

“None. Hah, there! In your face.”

 

“Taehyung, how many classes did you attend today?”

 

Shit. Busted.

 

“Ah, just the one. I slept in the library after that.”

 

“Dude, pick up a book before I come over there and smack you in the head with it.”

 

“Yeah yeah, whatever. Go away, your husband’s probably getting impatient.”

 

“And stay away from Siren kids. And Djinns, you hear me? I better not see you in another marriage contract when I come back.”

 

“That was once. Just once, and I was helping her with her project. We were testing how blood sigils and runes could work in binding things.”

 

“And yet, you were almost forced into yet another marriage,” Taehyung spluttered in response.

 

“Taehyung, just do me a favour and keep still in your dorm. Stay away from Siren and Lamia kids. Stop making weird wishes around Djinn people when I’m not there, alright? Some of those freshmen coming here are still volatile around people.”

 

“Stop talking like you’re going away to Timbuktu for a year or something. I’ll see you soon,”

 

“Yeah, man,” Jimin’s voice was suddenly so full of affection that Taehyung quirked his lips. What had gotten into him?

 

“Yeah, bye. Stop thinking about me and concentrate on wooing your crush, okay?”

 

Jimin was silent.

 

“Chimchim?”

 

“Yeah,” his choked response made Taehyung tense. Nope. Something had happened and Jimin was not telling him.

 

Before he could ask, Jimin hung up on him. Taehyung frowned down at the phone, wondering what he needed to do to pry it out of Jimin. He resolved to take his suit of Hearts the next time they met, so they could help him influence Jimin to be truthful.

 

Stupid stubborn best friends.

*

“Hey Kookie,” Taehyung sang, letting his cards out. They rolled out and arranged themselves on his desk, around his papers. The lower number cards were the clingier kids, demanding they stay with Taehyung until he fell asleep. Taehyung shrugged, patting them reassuringly where they were barely hanging in his pocket. Usually only his Luck Cards insisted about staying with him, but with the Ace of Spades so battered, he made them all stay together on his desk to focus on filling him up with crafting and luck energy to make him heal faster.

 

Kookie wasn’t anywhere nearby when Taehyung set his bag down. He shrugged, catching notice of the open window. He’d come back, somehow. Taehyung didn’t know how he knew that but he had a gut instinct that told him that Kookie would return to him. There was something so human like about the intelligence in his brown eyes. Taehyung supposed that he’d grown up near a human civilization at some point in his life.

 

He’d better get started on that lunch for Kookie though.

 

When he was in the middle of frying the meat strips, he startled when he heard something fall behind him. He whirled, relaxing when he saw a black coat of fur near the chair.

 

He knelt near the crouching wolf, letting out a peal of laughter.

 

“Yah, are you playing with me? Aish, you must still be a kid in wolf years.”

 

Kookie stopped crouching and yipped sharply, like he was upset. Taehyung reached out to brush his head.

 

“I need to give you a bath soon, don’t I?” Taehyung mused, pulling his legs underneath him. Kookie’s eyes widened and Taehyung knew he’d understood him. He smiled, catching his cute furry snout between his hands rubbing his nose against his damp one. Kookie went cross-eyed trying to keep eye contact with him. Taehyung’s hair brushed his nose and Kookie sneezed gently in his grasp. Taehyung laughed, patting him down.

 

Kookie went to sniff at his hand where it was lying by his thigh. His tail wagged excitedly.

 

“Yeah, I put some meat for you on the fry. Let’s have a change from the usual raw stuff, boy.”

 

Kookie’s tail stopped wagging when he nosed further in by his thigh. His hackles went up, ears standing erect when he smelt something in Taehyung’s pocket. At his growling, Taehyung reached in with a puzzled frown. There was a slight crinkle of paper as he pulled it out and he let out a surprised sound.

 

“Ah, this girl. Kookie, there was this girl who was trapped in one of our campus pranks. I saved her and everything and she handed me her number. Your human friend is really good at making other friends, isn’t he?”

 

Kookie bared his teeth, staring down at the paper with barely concealed hostility. Taehyung slowly shifted it with a raised eyebrow and saw Kookie’s eyes follow its movements. A wild growl was building in Kookie’s throat.

 

“What?”

 

Kookie lunged at his hand and swallowed the paper.

 

Taehyung was stunned for a second, unable to process what had just happened. Kookie stared up at him smugly, with an extremely satisfied look in his eyes. When it finally sunk, he sprang for Kookie with wide eyes.

 

Yah, you bad boy! Spit it out! It’s going to give you indigestion!”

Chapter Text

Taehyung picked up the strawberry body wash bottle thoughtfully. He looked back at Kookie who started nosing into his bag again, as if searching for any more stray bits of paper Taehyung had dared to hide from him. He kept shooting disgruntled looks in Taehyung’s direction every few minutes.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

Kookie didn’t stop, burying his head into the bag. Taehyung walked over, setting the body wash down.

 

“You’re not going to find any more paper in there, if that’s what you’re looking for,” he swatted Kookie slightly. Kookie made an annoyed sound in response, digging further. Taehyung tried to tug the bag away from him.

 

“Hey, I have classes to attend. I’m going to need this.”

 

Kookie instantly shuffled further inside as the bag expanded to accommodate him. He shifted on his paws, turning and settling down comfortably. The bag’s size decreased, coming down to cozily wrap around him. He looked up beseechingly at Taehyung, cocking his head to the side. Taehyung stopped tugging on the bag, looking down at him with a fond smile. He reached out to brush his hand over Kookie’s head.

 

“Yah, I can’t take you to class with me. The professor will have a fit if he sees you.”

 

Kookie whined back at him, ears flattening down on his head. The expansion runes glowing around the inside of the bag cast colourful shadows on him when he slowly started edging back into the bag, out of Taehyung’s sight. Taehyung laughed. Kookie was too cute.

 

“I guess I’ve got no choice but to take you with me then,” Taehyung said in mock regret. He stood up and tried to pick up the bag, staggering under its weight. He hugged the bag firmly to his chest, trying to get a proper grip on it. The Diamonds and Spades clinging to him attached themselves to the runes, curiously studying the crafting behind the energy. Kookie's warm body heat permeated through the bag as he struggled to move with it. The weight lessened considerably when his cards modified the runes for him.

 

Kookie's pointy ears perked up, peeking out of Taehyung's bag. Taehyung snickered at him, leaning in to press a kiss onto Kookie's head when his weight became less painful for him to carry. Kookie struggled to get out of the bag when Taehyung's lips brushed his furry head, but Taehyung kept a firm grip on his body with a newfound strength. He lead them over to the bathroom, ignoring Kookie as he butted up against the underside of Taehyung's chin complainingly.

 

Kookie must have seen where they were heading because his struggles increased. Taehyung snickered again, restraining him.

 

"Nope, you're not getting out of this. You're getting a full body bath today, no matter what."

 

Kookie whined pitifully, licking at Taehyung's chin. Taehyung shifted, sticking his tongue out at his pleading eyes. When he saw Kookie was preparing to lick him again, he quickly retracted his tongue.

 

"It's your own fault for going out and getting all this dirt on you. Stop looking at me like that, it’s for your own good. Do you want to get fleas?”

 

He set the bag down gently near the bath, tapping on the runes and waited for them to deactivate. Kookie yelped as the bag started deflating around him, scrambling to get out. Taehyung grabbed a hold of his front legs, yanking him out as gently as he could.

 

"Stay still now," he instructed, turning to grab the strawberry wash and press against the heating seal for the water. The seal glowed bright lines on the linoleum floor as water started filling the tub. Kookie followed the progress bar curiously, moving his head with the seal lines as the curved towards their gateways. Taehyung grinned, ruffling his head.

 

"My nephews and nieces like watching Pororo while I bathe them. Should I turn it on for you?" Taehyung joked, half serious as he motioned at the tiny holoscreen that projected on the tub. He usually downloaded anime to watch while he played in the bathtub but he supposed he could connect it to the wifi later and download Pororo for Kookie.

 

Kookie looked so hilariously offended that Taehyung hastily retracted his offer, stifling a laugh. Kookie's eyes flicked upwards and away in response. Taehyung jerked back in surprise.

 

That was distinctly something humanlike. Where had his Kookie learnt how to roll his eyes like that?

 

"Kookie-ah, do you spend a lot of time with Yoongi hyung? He's teaching you bad habits, isn't he?"

 

Kookie nipped at his hand in response.

 

"Ouch," Taehyung pouted pathetically. Kookie turned his back on him, ears drooping as if he was disgusted with him. Taehyung grabbed his tail, playfully twining it between his fingers as the water finished heating. Maybe he should grab the bubble bath for him? It would probably make the bath a lot more entertaining.

 

He was wrong.

 

Bathing Kookie was more than an ordeal.

 

He refused to play with Taehyung and the bubbles Taehyung had painstakingly poured into the tub for him. He stood still under the flow of warm water, looking like he was going through an extreme form of humiliation as his fur grew heavy with water and stuck to him.

 

It was only when Taehyung started massaging the suds of the soap into his fur that Kookie shifted, a deep rumbling sound coming from his throat. He turned his body towards Taehyung's touch, leaning heavily on him. His eyes closed in pleasure and if wolves could purr, Taehyung was sure Kookie would be proclaiming his delight to everyone in their dorm.

 

Taehyung giggled and started making funny shapes with the foam on his fur.

 

"Look, there's a porcupine in front of me," Taehyung exclaimed happily, watching most of Kookie’s fur stand up in soapy clumps. Kookie eyed him with a murderous glint in his eye, as if he was contemplating something. He barely had the time to react when Kookie started shaking his body vigorously. Taehyung yelled loudly as soap suds and water droplets flew everywhere, drenching him completely. Kookie didn't stop until most of it was wrung out of his fur, looking back at Taehyung almost smugly.

 

"Fine, fine. No playing around with you. I get it," He grumbled. Taehyung shook his bangs out and pulled the shower head over Kookie's head, washing away the remaining soap clinging to his fur, feeling disappointed.

 

"That's strange," he mused, looking at the clear water in the bathtub. "Have you been taking baths without me noticing? I thought there would be a lot more dirt than that."

 

Kookie froze, looking like a deer caught in the headlights. He stared back at Taehyung silently, as if he was waiting to hear what he'd say next.

 

"Ah, well that's good, right? Now we just have to dry you and you're done," Taehyung smiled, willing to let it go. Kookie relaxed, making a chuffed sound and butting his head against Taehyung's wet chest. Taehyung quickly tugged the towel over his head, wringing and rubbing him down. Kookie endured it all silently, huffing when Taehyung brought his hairdryer out to dry the particularly wet patches in his fur.

 

When Taehyung was finished, Kookie rolled his eyes at him again. His fur looked so fluffy and soft that Taehyung had to laugh, leaning in to press a kiss to his head, between his ears. He smelled pleasantly of strawberry and his own underlying wet earthy scent.

 

“See? All clean now. Don’t sneak out to play right after this, okay? Or I’ll have to wash you again.”

 

Taehyung’s pants squelched as he made to get up and he made a face. He left the bathroom, shucking off his pants quickly. He hopped around, one foot still stubbornly trapped in the wet jeans and made his way to the closet, dragging it behind with him. He struggled slightly with the wet shirt, shivering when the cold air hit his flesh.

 

As Taehyung took it off, his hand brushed over a spot on his neck he’d almost managed to forget. His skin grew hypersensitive at the same time, balking under the drops of water sliding down his chest. His heartbeat started thundering in his ears, a pressure building up in his head behind his eyes. He hung his head, panting lightly at the intensity of the feelings washing over him. His warm breath hit his nipples and they tightened in response. Had he always been that sensitive down there?

 

“Nngh…” He let out an unintentional groan, barely resisting the urge to slide down onto his knees. What the fuck was happening? His blood roared furiously in his ears, drowning out everything else around him. He couldn’t even feel his cards anymore, everything physical heightened to an alarming degree. He felt like he could break at the slightest touch—lose himself completely.

 

A growl broke through the blurry haze in front of his eyes and Taehyung felt the hair on the back of neck rise. Suddenly aware of a burning gaze boring into his back, he stiffened, turning his head to the side.

 

Kookie was looking at him fixedly, his gaze fierce and predatory. He looked ready to hunt, crouching on his haunches, as if Taehyung was a particularly strong buck he’d happened to catch sight of. Taehyung shivered slightly when his eyes continued to bore through his, some dark kind of hunger rising in them.

 

What had gotten into him?

 

“Kookie-ah, didn’t I just feed you?” Taehyung didn’t know why his voice stuttered. He wasn’t particularly nervous, and certainly not because of Kookie. Why was he stuttering then?

 

Kookie crouched on his forelimbs, his hackles rising slowly. Taehyung's mouth went dry. His head tilted to the side without his permission, exposing his neck. The aggression in Kookie's eyes ebbed away slowly. They stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, Taehyung confused out of his wits. Kookie closed his eyes, finally breaking their stare and Taehyung relaxed minutely.

 

"You scared me for a moment there," Taehyung laughed shakily. Kookie didn’t answer, staring mutely. Taehyung rubbed his arms, soothing the goosebumps that had risen. He turned back slowly to the closet, more than a little uneasy about turning his back on Kookie. Racking through his shirts, he took out his favourite white shirt he'd once taken a pair of scissors to, when Jimin wasn't around to supervise him, quickly grabbing some cargo shorts.

 

He put it on hurriedly, looking back at Kookie. There was none of the earlier heated aggression in his gaze. His gaze was lowered, eyes fixed south. Taehyung looked down to see what had grabbed his attention.

 

Was Kookie looking at his ass?

 

What the hell.

 

"You little pervert," Taehyung scolded, quickly rushing out of the room with flaming cheeks. Kookie was just an animal, it wasn't like he was consciously doing it, Taehyung consoled himself and tried to will the flush away from his cheeks.

 

Why did he feel he'd just given someone a show?

 

*

 

"Hyung," Jungkook whined, face down on the couch. Seokjin hummed back distractedly, absorbed in looking through the microscope glass. He tapped a finger distractedly to the beat of a Big Bang song Jungkook had put on when he'd gotten tired of the silence in the lab.

 

"Hyung, he treats me like a kid. What am I supposed to do?"

 

Seokjin hummed again, studying the mutating DNA strands in Yoongi's blood sample. He shifted the slides, setting Jimin's in focus. They were fresh, extracted just two days after the bond had the time to settle. Seokjin remembered eyeing the uncomfortable atmosphere between the two of them with a curiosity, as they refused to meet each other’s eyes.

 

"That's new," he said, taken aback.

 

"Right? Who in their right mind would treat me like a kid anymore? I haven't been coddled like this since I was a pup."

 

"You're still a pup in human years, Jungkookie," Seokjin sighed, expanding on the helical structure. He tapped on the side of his glasses to activate the energy filter. Immediately, his field of vision turned dark. The soul energy and the natural energy stood out in bright magenta and white against the dark background where they were weaving in throughout the helix.

 

Yoongi's looked exactly the same as Jimin’s.

 

"You know, he's been apparently getting all these numbers from people. I heard that other human meat bag Yoongi hyung likes so much ask him how many numbers he scored that day. That day, hyung! I'm like this close to straight up stalking him everywhere to drive all of those admirers away." Jungkook seethed, possessiveness dripping from his voice.

 

Seokjin rubbed his eyes, adjusting the exposure again. He checked the Resonance levels on their charts again, looking back to confirm that their energies had the same color spectrum. It was precisely same, right down to the frequency, upto five significant digits.

 

"This is impossible," he murmured, shock warring with happiness.

 

"I know, hyung. But I still think I'm going to need to do something about all these people soon. Taehyung, god bless his dumb oblivious brain, doesn't even realize that they are after his ass. He honestly thinks they’re trying to be his friends!”

 

Seokjin definitely wasn't wrong about the calculations. He barely reacted to the obvious jealousy in Jungkook's voice. Jungkook huffed silently, startling at the rumbling coming from his stomach. He looked at Seokjin.

 

"Hyung, your child is hungry. Feed me."

 

"There's some fried chicken in the fridge, Jungkookie."

 

Seokjin's head was miles away, back on the medical tomes in the pack grounds that he'd never been allowed to read. He wondered if he could make a trip home soon. The summer solstice had crossed them by without Seokjin paying his respects to their ancestors. Maybe he could go back, meet up with the Elders and make an appeal.

 

He wasn’t sure how long Namjoon was going to hide the latest development involving Yoongi’s entire soul bonding fiasco, but Seokjin had to be discrete about even asking for the heavily guarded tomes. Knowing Namjoon, he was probably praying that if he closed his eyes to whatever was going on, the problem would go away on its own.

 

"Have you even been attending your classes?" he asked Jungkook, watching him rummage around.

 

"Yeah, when Taehyung leaves for his. Yugyeomie and Jun have been taking notes for me, for whatever classes I missed."

 

Seokjin was torn between lecturing Jungkook about abusing his pack heir privileges and asking who the hell Taehyung was. A sudden kind of instinct born out of spending all his time around his pack, something akin to a premonition made him close his eyes in resignation.

 

He felt Namjoon's presence long before he banged open the door, immediately knocking down two beakers perched on the table when he rattled it. Seokjin let out a long suffering sigh, gently setting down the glasses and sliding the test slides back into their place where they would be safe from Namjoon's disaster prone hands.

 

Namjoon sheepishly retreated, bumping into the fire extinguisher and sending it crashing down. Jungkook snorted, too busy stuffing his face to make a smartass comment. Namjoon looked up at him with a dimpled smile, as if he was hoping Seokjin wouldn't make him pay for the broken breakers with the cold couch treatment again.

 

Seokjin sighed again and rolled his eyes.

 

"Sup?" he asked lightly.

 

Namjoon cracked a grin, dimples digging into his cheeks and any remnants of annoyance Seokjin had melted away.

 

"I heard the brat had been by. The pack Elders want to talk to him and I have been assigned escort duty."

 

Jungkook froze in the process of stuffing his face, noodles hanging comically from his mouth. He swallowed and laughed faintly, setting down the container on the counter gingerly. He looked every bit the teenager he was as he started edging away from them, towards the window he’d crawled in through.

 

"Hyung, it was great talking with you. Thanks for the chicken. I'll see you later."

 

Seokjin stood up, moving quickly and grabbed Jungkook by the back of his jacket. It smelled like a myriad of scents—all of them distinctly unlike Jungkook’s own. It reeked overwhelmingly of human. He sniffed again curiously. Why did Jungkook smell so overwhelmingly like strawberries? Seokjin rolled his eyes, hoping Jungkook hadn't taken his rebellious ways to the next level and started mugging humans in college. At least, Seokjin hoped, Jungkook had the sense not to do it in broad daylight.

 

"Hyung," Jungkook whined. Seokjin dragged him away from the window, ignoring his protests and pushed him towards Namjoon.

 

"Get lost, both of you," He told them firmly, closing the door on their faces. He turned back to the table where the slides were hidden. Trepidation filled him as he blankly studied the psychedelic designs moving around on his idle computer.

 

G-Dragon's gritty voice was the only thing accompanying his turmoil when he looked back at Yoongi and Jimin's eerily similar samples, the blown up projections hovering over his table. The biorhythmic resonance was the least of it. The adrenaline levels had spiked up in Yoongi’s blood alarmingly, blipping on the scale Seokjin usually kept aside for the people in their pack, to keep track of their cycles and moods.

 

Yoongi was almost near his heat.

 

*

 

The Queen of Hearts was definitely hiding something from him.

 

Taehyung tried to pull her out of his deck, trying to see what she was up to. She dodged his grasp, jumping out of her card into her son's and pushing him into hers. The Jack of Hearts complained at the movement grumpily.

 

"Yah, what are you not telling me?" Taehyung asked, a knot in between his eyebrows. He could feel the entire suit of Hearts' amusement at something. The lower number kids squeaked when he turned to question them and hid their numbered faces.

 

Taehyung turned to the Aces, hoping the luck cards would tell him what was up.

 

"What has them all so restless? What's up?"

 

The Aces shrugged, sharing a knowing look between each other. Taehyung tried not to crumple the cards in his grip, suppressing the urge to demand them to spill everything. The other suits looked confused, leaning away from Taehyung.

 

Maaaaasterrrr, the little hearts of Five sang cheerfully. She was his favourite kid out of the entire Hearts family and he turned to her hopefully, thinking she'd spill what was up. She grinned, her sharp strokes wiggling in her excitement. Taehyung couldn't help but smile with her.

 

"What?"

 

Master, there's someone who's--

 

The Queen of Hearts shushed the hearts of Five. The King of Hearts was snickering at Taehyung's puzzled face.

 

"Someone who? What is it?" Taehyung blinked.

 

Gochan, master will have to figure it out himself. Don't spoil the fun!

 

"No, tell me. What are you guys so happy about?"

 

The Queen of Hearts looked at him with a pitying expression, somewhat softened by the fond smile on her lips.

 

Someone is going to make you very happy, very soon.

 

"Wha- is Jimin trying to set me up with someone again?"

 

The King of Diamonds shook his head, casting a wary eye on the Joker who was dozing. The Queen of Spades hit him in the arm, reaching out from her card.

 

Would you leave him alone? He's not going to try blowing up things around Master Taehyung again. Stop asking your Jack to sing him to sleep every time he tries to play with us.

 

Taehyung protectively cradled the Joker card on his palm with a frown. He'd lost the previous Joker of his set, his twin, when he'd neglected using him. He'd faded away during Taehyung's sophomore year when he'd been too busy studying to play with him. Taehyung had never wanted any of his cards to feel unwanted like that again.

 

"Why are you guys not making nice with him? Yah, he's older than you all."

 

Except for the Aces. But the Aces themselves were too cool to indulge their new family members. Their respective suits were intimidated at the huge share of power they stored for Taehyung, at the amount of control they could have on his energy if Taehyung let them use it. Taehyung kept the Aces as a symbol of his past, barely using the Luck they had in reserve for him. The number of times he could use them was limited, so he didn't want to risk spending anything.

 

The Joker had always been his ultimate trump card. Whenever he needed something to get out of a tricky situation, it was the Joker who always came to his aid. He was slightly sad to see that his cards weren't socialising as well as he had hoped.

 

The Joker sensed the shift in his thoughts and moved towards Taehyung, sleepily rolling off his bed. Taehyung gently picked him up and tucked him back in the colourful bed, sending him a bit more of his energy to keep him from fading away. His bells jingled cheerfully in response, sending out a sparkle of orange stars flying out of his card and Taehyung smiled.

 

The Royal cards looked abashed, sneaking uneasy looks at the snoring Joker and Taehyung. Taehyung shook his head, gathering them up. The Aces pointedly moved away from the deck when Taehyung motioned them to go back. The Axel of Diamonds sank into his skin, pulling Axel of Hearts with behind him.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

The Axel of Spades shrugged tiredly, nudging his Clubs companion.

 

The girl you met yesterday…

 

“Huh?”

 

Master, she reeks of Siren magic. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever come across.

 

Taehyung relaxed, laughing.

 

“You’re talking about Irene? Really? I didn’t get any kind of Siren vibes from her.”

 

The Axel of Hearts shifted beneath his skin, settling on his earlobe.

 

She wasn’t using any of her Allure, master. We couldn’t even sense her until you touched her hand.

 

“When did I even do that? Anyway, she seems pretty harmless from what I felt. What kind of Allure did she have?”

 

When none of his cards answered him, he shuffled them worriedly. When he stopped, he landed on a card face down. He picked it up, feeling a slight chill go through him. The Joker smiled wickedly in his sleep, looking like he was having a really nice dream. The cards whispered lightly against each other's ears.

 

“So what?” Taehyung smiled shakily, “It’s not like we’ll run into each other anytime soon. Anyway, our Joker could mean a lot of things. She might be someone whose Allure is harmless as Jackson’s. Has Jackson ever done anything to bad to someone?”

 

The King of Diamonds looked up beseechingly at him, speaking before any of the Queens who looked like they were about to rant about the power of Sirens.

 

It’s in their nature, Master. Once they set their sights on someone, it’s extremely difficult to deflect them. Master Jimin is right to say that they are dangerous, specially for you. As the Prince, it falls upon us to protect you at all costs.

 

Taehyung stiffened.

 

“What Prince? Me? Who told you that?”

 

It was whispered in our ears when we were Crafted. The energy you carry itself whispers that into the Lifestream, Master.

 

“Wha--”

 

He jolted when his phone started ringing in his pocket. The cards were shrugged off in his haste to pick it up when he saw it was Jimin.

 

“Hey, Taehyungie,” Taehyung tilted his head, balancing the phone on the blade of his shoulder and tried to command the cards wordlessly back into the deck.

 

“Yesh?”

 

“Dude, I need your help. I’m getting my tattoo Inked today.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes went wide as the image of a sharp and pointy end of the tattoo machine crossed his head. The cards reacted to his distress, looking ready to step out at his command.

 

“Inked? But I thought the 2NE1 noona’s shop was booked till the end of infinity?”

 

“Yeah well, Yoongi-hyung said he could get it done at Namjoon’s.”

 

“But Namjoon’s place makes you shit your pants, Jiminie.”

 

“That’s why I want you there with me, asshole,” Jimin hissed, lowering his voice. Taehyung scratched his head.

 

“Why don’t you tell Yoongi-hyung no? I mean, is it really that hard?”

 

Jimin laughed hysterically.

 

“Are you serious? Why don’t you try telling Yoongi-hyung no? Let’s see if that makes you shit your pants or not.”

 

“Wait, where are you right now? How are you able to talk to me without him attached to your side?”

 

“I’m hiding in a toilet stall. God, this place stinks,” A weird groaning noise interrupted his voice and Taehyung jumped.

 

“What happened?”

 

“I don’t know, there’s someone here who keeps making some really weird noises. Hey, you alright over there?” Jimin sounded like he was banging on the stall door next to him, voice echoing.

 

“Leave me alone, asshole,” a tinny voice came in response. Jimin huffed.

 

“Wait, are you getting high on chrysalis ash? Jesus, in this filthy bathroom?” Jimin asked with a derisive tone in his voice.

 

“Jimin, stop antagonising potential drug addicts, bro,” Taehyung said, slightly freaked out. Jimin had a bad habit of putting his foot in his mouth when he was distressed. Often, those times came with consequences which sucked for them both. Jimin was probably going to get shanked if Taehyung didn’t do something fast. “If you get into a fight with him you’ll get your midget ass kicked, okay? Get out of there.”

 

“Look, I’m not afraid of getting into fights with idiots who can’t even--”

 

A sudden bang sounded on Jimin’s end. Jimin’s breath hitched and Taehyung froze. It took five seconds before there was a sharp snap of bone and a pained yell accompanying it. Taehyung tensed when he realized it wasn’t Jimin’s voice.

 

“Beat it.”

 

Did that high-strung voice belong to Yoongi? Jesus, he didn’t remember Yoongi’s voice being that gritty and menacing. He sounded like he was ready to kick someone’s teeth out and punch the living daylights out of them.

 

“Keep your pet on a leash, mongrel.”

 

“You wanna go? Right here, in my territory? Bitch, you’ll be tasting this filthy floor before you even try to make another move on him,” he heard Yoongi growl.

 

What?

 

"Let's see you try."

 

"You Gyeongsangnam-Do scum think you're everything, don't you? Just because you found a new alpha, you start thinking you're better than the trash you are? That you can take us on? Try us, you little omega bitch. We'll make sure to take you to school and send you running back to your litter with your tail between your legs," Yoongi’s voice was so menacingly cold that Taehyung almost dropped the phone in shock.

 

"At least we don't lick our own asses like domesticated dogs, you little fuck. How are those balls feeling after your neutering? Any good?"

 

"At least try to make that weak trash rhyme, cunt. If I wanted your opinion I would have beat it out of you."

 

"Why don't you try protecting that pretty pale face instead? I hear you Seoul guys break real easy. Wouldn't want to send home the visual of the pack looking like a real bitch."

 

"Brave talk coming from the one who's going to go home with his limbs broken after this. Why don’t you try running away while I’m giving you the chance? Not like you'll be much of fight, after smoking all that shit you're on right now."

 

There was an answering snarl and Taehyung, who was speechless at the trash talk being thrown so freely, jolted. He desperately hoped Jimin was far, far away from whatever was happening. Knowing his luck, he'd be the first one to get hurt when fists started flying. The sound of a scuffle continued until there was a bang, and Yoongi's gritty voice faded.

 

Taehyung wondered if they'd really come down to blows after all.

 

“Jimin, are you alright?” He asked urgently. Jimin choked out a sound in affirmative and Taehyung relaxed slightly.

 

“Yeah, I’m...alright. Yoongi-hyung swooped in out of nowhere, just--” He cut himself off, sounding shaken. Taehyung sighed, figuring Yoongi had intervened in time before something had a chance to happen to Jimin. Something buzzed in his head, about the territory thing along with all the pack talk. Maybe Yoongi was a part of a fraternity or something. Why else would he be talking about territories?

 

Jimin sounded like he was staggering, bumping into something and falling down with a thump. Taehyung made a worried sound.

 

“Oh god, Jimin, you idiot. You’re lucky Yoongi-hyung is a badass.”

 

“Tae,” Jimin started faintly, sounding agitated. “Did your cards tell you anything...off about Yoongi-hyung?”

 

“Huh? Like what?” he wracked his head for anything regarding Yoongi. As far as he remembered, the only time his cards reacted to Yoongi’s presence was when Jimin and him had run into each other on the campus grounds.

 

“His eyes were glowing gold when he was in here.”

 

Taehyung furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. He didn't remember sensing anything out of ordinary with Yoongi’s energy when he’d met him.

 

“You know, this wasn’t the first time either. When we were woke up yesterday, we…” Jimin trailed off, like something heavy was pressing down on his windpipe. Taehyung quickly chucked the books off the library table, not bothering to see if they flew to their right shelves. The southern campus centre was a five minute walk from the library and Taehyung grabbed his bag, breaking out into a run.

 

“What? What happened yesterday?”

 

“We kinda did something,” Jimin mumbled. Taehyung strained to catch it.

 

“Like, cuddling something? Like baking each other cookies something?”

 

“Like, a handjob something,” Jimin’s voice was mortified.

 

“Well, that went from zero to hundred drastically,” Taehyung replied after a moment, stunned.

 

He knew for a fact that Jimin didn’t have it in him to make a move like that so fast. No way was his best friend so gutsy enough that he’d initiate anything related to sex with someone like Yoongi, who gave off enough ‘fuck a bitch up’ vibes to set someone on fire if they tried anything he didn’t like. And last time he'd checked, Yoongi regarded Jimin with barely more affection than he'd have for a trashcan. Even though he had no doubt that his best friend was adorable enough to wear down Yoongi’s prickly countenance eventually, it still seemed really unexpected.

 

“Isn’t that good news? Why aren’t you happier?”

 

“He said it was a mistake.”

 

“Oh. Shit.”

 

“Yeah.” Jimin’s voice sounded so crushed that Taehyung physically felt the pain prick in his chest. The Axel of Hearts hissed sympathetically as tears stung the corner of his eyes. He wished he could be physically capable of getting angry at someone. He’d never been good at anger, always winding up blubbering with snotty tears and blotchy red cheeks. He always let his frustrations out on Jimin, who never complained when he used him as an outlet. He wanted so badly, for once, to get angry at Yoongi for Jimin's sake.

 

“The thing was, he was really into it too. The whole handjob thing. I thought the entire thing was a dream because he was saying all these things that," Jimin hesitated, "You know, all these really dirty things."

 

"Oh my god, Park Jimin. I need at least a few more drinks in me before you can start telling me this shit."

 

"The point was," Jimin spoke over Taehyung's whines. "When we were doing it, there was a moment where his eyes were glowing dark gold. I thought it was a trick of light back then, but now…” Jimin trailed off.

 

Another set of eyes with a gold ring around the dark irises crossed his head. He shook it off, feeling the hair on the back of his neck rise to attention eerily.

 

“Whatever, you know what. That’s not important. I’m really scared to go out and see what’s happening out there right now.”

 

"So what now?" Taehyung slowed down to a walk. He crossed the lawn to avoid running into a Goblin treasure hunt cache.

 

"I don’t know. I think they threw him out. Jesus, I can still smell chrysalis ash all over the place," Jimin sighed shakily. Taehyung wondered if he should try diverting Jimin's attention towards something else.

 

"So no Purification Inking today?" Jimin was silent for a moment, breathing heavily. He was trying to calm down, Taehyung could tell.

 

"I don't know, the professors offered to waive the demonstrations for me due to my condition but...it's a huge part of my credits. Tae, I need to do this."

 

"In case Yoongi-hyung fails to come through, want me to check on The Blackjack for you? Maybe there's a free spot?" He doubted it but maybe if he did some aegyo, the noona at the counter would acquiesce to it? He remembered having run into Minzy briefly at one of the parties held in the dorms, where she had been performing with her band for the freshmen in the welcome week. Maybe she'd remember him?

 

"Don't bother. There's a hyung here--Chanyeol-hyung," Jimin huffed a watery laugh, "He's Yoongi-hyung's friend. Apparently he's a step away from becoming a sasaeng for one of the 2NE1 noonas. He said their entire schedule is booked when CL comes back from promoting overseas and finishes her concerts here. He'd tried to get an appointment but they banned him after the fifteenth time he tried to get to the books."

 

Taehyung blinked. Yoongi was friends with a sasaeng?

 

"Well, where did you get it Inked the last time?"

 

"Back in the holidays during freshman year, in Busan. Not exactly next door. And with the way things are between Yoongi-hyung and me after yesterday, I don't exactly feel like asking him for a favour. He already looked reluctant enough about offering."

 

Why was Jimin this stupid?

 

Taehyung rolled his eyes, catching sight of his face in the shiny surface of an inactive HoloTV. The Axel of Diamonds was lounging near his lips, looking like a beauty mark. Taehyung scrubbed at it, groaning when the diamond grew larger.

 

The Manga corner of doom was looking really sad, no one other than Taehyung around. He tentatively stepped on one of the pixie circles, figuring they were the least of the traps around to be dealing with. Shiny colourful bubbles rose up around him cheerfully, tinkling a melodic song along with his steps as Taehyung walked an entire path over them. Taehyung cocked his head, distracted by the song and forgetting he was holding an entire conversation.

 

Why did the song sound so familiar?

 

"Tae?"

 

Jimin. Right. What had they been talking about? Something about awkwardness around Yoongi and tattoos? Jimin being a dumbass?

 

He stepped out of the pixie rings, feeling it all rush back.

 

"Jiminie, stop dithering around. Go back and be a man about it. If Yoongi-hyung doesn't get expelled, ask him to take you to Namjoon's. We'll get through it together, okay? I'll be right next to you, holding your hand when you start screaming like a girl."

 

"Fuck you, man," Jimin replied as if on reflex, sounding taken aback at Taehyung's reply.

 

"Yeah, I'll see you near Namjoon's in an hour. Don’t do any more stupid stuff and for fuck’s sake, stop annoying dangerous drug addicts."

 

“Seriously, fuck you.”

 

“Take me on a date first, you cheap bastard,” Taehyung retorted before Jimin hung up on him in annoyance.

 

*

 

"Hey Joy."

 

It was sobering how Jolee looked like she couldn't believe her eyes when she saw Taehyung. This time he'd gone in through the Non-Gifted customs, making an excuse of how he wanted to cheer up his little sister. The woman who'd given him suspicious looks all the while he'd surrendered his cards and put on an energy dampening patch over his shoulder, relaxed slightly when a smile broke out on Jolee's face.

 

"Jolee, do you want to spend some time with this oppa? Do you know him?"

 

Jolee grinned widely, nodding her head furiously. Taehyung laughed behind the nurse's back, making a ridiculous face at her. The nurse turned and caught him, staring at him. Her face broke out in an amused smile, finally letting her guard down somewhat.

 

"Nurse-noona, do you mind if I take Joy out for a stroll in the gardens? I promise I'll be really careful with her."

 

The nurse seemed conflicted about letting Taehyung take Jolee with him. When she caught sight of Jolee's pleading face, looking so hopefully up at her, she agreed reluctantly. Jolee whooped loudly, looking at Taehyung with a happy smile. The nurse carefully helped her into her wheelchair, trying to control the smile at the corner of her lips when she fidgeted excitedly. She gave him a firm look when Taehyung tried to take over.

 

"I'll be taking her there, sorry."

 

Taehyung didn't mind, happily buzzing over to crouch near Jolee. Jolee gave him a happy and disbelieving smile. He bopped her nose lightly.

 

"Didn't I tell you I'd come back?"

 

She giggled and reached out to touch the corner of his mouth. The Axel of Diamonds was unreactive to her touch, dozing peacefully.

 

"What's this?"

 

Taehyung winked at her, raising a finger to his lips.

 

"A secret."

 

They reached the same garden Taehyung had met her, the nurse taking them over the stonewalled path. There was a crunch of gravel and dead leaves when Taehyung walked and Jolee looked curiously wistful. Taehyung wondered how long she'd been confined to her wheelchair.

 

The nurse left them to it, retreating a bit. Taehyung saw her sit down behind them on a bench, keeping a careful eye on them both. Jolee stared up curiously at him, eyes fixed on his vibrant hair.

 

"What's your name?"

 

"Oh, I forgot to introduce myself last time, didn't i?" He laughed sheepishly. "I'm Taehyung. Call me Tae-oppa, Joy-yah."

 

Jolee looked down shyly, fidgeting.

 

"Do you have any oppa or unnie besides me?" Taehyung crouched, keeping in level with her. Jolee nodded.

 

"An oppa. He visits me when I'm lonely too,” she was lonely a lot, it seemed. Taehyung imagined his niece in her place, feeling a sharp pang in his chest at the thought.

 

"Well then, it seems like I have competition," he spoke in his best Shrek voice, "I have to become your favourite oppa or die trying now." Jolee let out a bright peal of laughter and Taehyung realized she'd lost one of her lower canines as well. Her laughter was infectious, making him grin wide.

 

"Did the tooth fairy give you money for your teeth? This oppa will go fight her if she hasn't."

 

Jolee smiled, scrunching up her face.

 

"But my dad says the tooth fairy isn't real."

 

"Well, I hate to tell you this but he's wrong. Tooth fairy, Easter bunny, Santa ahjusshi are all real. They all come to help kids who are sad and need some good dreams."

 

"But no one has seen them, have they? How can they be real?"

 

Jolee looked so trustingly up at him, like she'd believe anything Taehyung told her. Taehyung looked up at the HoloTV for a fraction of a moment. The display was zooming through Galaxy Andromeda, only the few white dwarves visible in the distance and one of Gallahad's giant moons. Galaxy Andromeda was too vast for them to even have their Gifted satellites survive a larger range away from their Milky Way, with no Lifestream reserves to sustain them.

 

Taehyung waited a few seconds as the display shifted by the Horsehead nebula, moving into the Milky Way. It would take only a few more minutes before they passed their Solar System, crossing the Lonely Solar at one of the edges.

 

"Even if no one has seen them, it doesn't make them any less real, you know?" Taehyung said slowly. Jolee looked back at the HoloTV when he pointed at it. Their moon shone dimly, half of it blanked by darkness. Taehyung wondered which lunar cycle they were on.

 

"See? That's Hecate space station. It took us fifteen years to set up functioning bases on our moon alone. Hecate, Selene and Artemis have been up there for twenty years and they've still not explored everything on the moon."

 

Taehyung smiled, ruffling Jolee's hair.

 

"I know for a fact there's a rabbit up there, right at this moment who's stamping around making himself rice cakes. None of them have ever seen him, but that doesn't mean he's not real, right?"

 

"Maybe he's hiding himself!" Jolee exclaimed, looking back at the moon as if she was trying to find traces of the rabbit herself.

 

"Yeah," Taehyung murmured, eyes transfixed on the slowly rotating moon. Hecate was blinking out in morse code, spelling another end of the three cycles they had on the moon. Selene was going to start up their botanical and biological research machines in their half. He wondered how many Gifted people were there, looking down at Earth at the same moment like he was looking up at them. He'd remembered dreaming about joining his father up there, going on wild adventures looking for the rabbit with him when he was a kid.

 

"Maybe."

 

"Oppa," Taehyung jerked out of the memory. Jolee looked like she was hesitating about something.

 

"What? It's alright, you can ask me anything you want. Promise." She sucked her lip in, looking up at him doubtfully.

 

"Oppa, you're Gifted, aren't you?" She waited till he nodded, continuing slowly as if she was waiting to be shot down immediately. "Can you tell me about the Lifestream? How do some people have Gifts and others don't?"

 

Taehyung blinked.

 

"Which grade were you in when you were in school?"

 

She held up four fingers and Taehyung cocked his head in confusion.

 

"I thought they taught the Lifestream cycle along with the water cycle?" Jolee's face fell and Taehyung started panicking, hearing Jimin call him a rude jerk in his head.

 

"Ah it's okay, I can try too. Let's see," Taehyung scratched his chin, trying to remember how his grandfather had taught him.

 

"You know, Lifestream is just another component of air. It's just another form of energy, like a pseudo element." Nope nope nope, too many grown up confusing words.

 

"Imagine it this way. The world is orange. Everything around us is orange, like those trees and the birds and the big sky above us. The world is like a huge orange marshmallow," Taehyung grinned when Jolee started giggling.

 

"When people are born as babies, they have souls," Taehyung didn't know if she understood the concept of life and death yet. Usually kids her age had a pretty good understanding of everything, unlike how the adults around them thought they didn't.

 

But how in the hell was he supposed to explain the concept of soul energy and affinities to her?

 

"So these souls have their own way of influencing--of affecting how the person will grow up to see the world. Some people have souls which--" fuck, Resonance was a difficult concept by itself for people of their age to understand. How the hell was he going to explain a theoretical concept to a kid? Bleh. "--look like different shades of blue and some have souls which look like different shades of red. You with me up till now?"

 

Jolee nodded vehemently, eyes wide.

 

"You know how the orange crayon in a box is always next to the red crayon? It's always nearer to the red one than the blue one?"

 

"Yep."

 

"Well, people who are born with reddish souls are the ones who get to have the glimpse of the orange marshmallow world. They have what we call Affinities for the Lifestream. The Lifestream affects these people differently, gives them what everyone calls Gifts."

 

There was a different kind of explanation, where the specific soul energies of a person needed to resonate within a particular electromagnetic spectrum for the Lifestream to affect them. Their affinities were decided by their physical bodies, if they were capable of handling another form of biorhythmic energy.

 

Personally, for Taehyung it all felt pretty spiritual. He didn’t particularly like the fact that only a percentage of the human population lucked out and got blessed with Gifts and the privileges that came with it. It was what ripped a clear boundary between them, separating the Gifted and the Non-Gifted. The rest of them just became another part of a statistic that was somehow not lucky enough to be born in a specific way, perpetuating a lot of self hate between their own communities.

 

"What about the blue souls? Is that why we don't get special Gifts?" She looked morose. Taehyung winced, hiding the reaction from her.

 

"But for the special people like you," he tweaked her nose, "They realised pretty quick how dumb it was that we were all living in an orange marshmallow world." When she lost the frown, Taehyung smiled.

 

"They decided that in return, they'd start creating special things of their own. They'd make their own Gifts. In fact," Taehyung lowered his voice conspiratorially, leaning closer to her.

 

"I'm not really supposed to tell you this, but the Non-Gifted people lived happier lives knowing they didn't have any Gifts. They grew up having fun while we did all boring things like going to prep schools," he pouted. Jolee giggled, looking much happier.

 

"But what about the Lifestream? What does it--"

 

"Nope, you'll learn all that in school. Stop trying to distract me. I was supposed to show you fun things!"

 

Jolee's eyes widened curiously. Taehyung quirked his lips and reached into his pocket for his ordinary unsaturated deck of cards, shuffling them quickly. She followed his movements in awe and he added a flourish for her, spinning them around and over her head before presenting the fanned deck to her.

 

"Pick a card," he grinned.

 

*

 

When Jimin trudged up to Namjoon's tattoo parlour, following after Yoongi, he started dragging his feet. He felt drained out, like he could drop any moment. Yoongi waited for him to catch up silently and Jimin cringed. The bond was silent, no tugging or beckoning him to make peace with Yoongi anymore and Jimin wasn’t sure how he was supposed to feel about it. The bond itself felt like it was waiting for something inevitable to happen with a bated breath, anticipation thrumming through it.

 

Jimin was tense, disliking the feeling of not being able predict what was going to happen. How was he supposed to react if he didn’t know what was coming? Especially if it included Yoongi and him in the equation?

 

He dragged his eyes carefully over Yoongi's stiff face. The angry lines weren't standing out anymore and he breathed a sigh of relief. The image of Yoongi twisting the douchebag's wrist, brutally snapping it flashed in his head. If Jimin had been on the receiving end of that, he'd have been dying of agony.

 

The guy had barely reacted with more than a pained yelp.

 

“Geez, why was that bastard Mino hanging around here…” Yoongi muttered, sniffing and crinkling his nose in distaste. Jimin was puzzled, looking around for whoever he was speaking of.

 

“Who’s Mino?”

 

Yoongi looked at him sideways, lips pulling downwards. He turned back, probably deciding not to answer Jimin. He pushed open the door, the dragon etched on it glinting back at them threateningly and Jimin walked in nervously behind him, expecting a dark and a gloomy atmosphere.

 

Instead, he saw the back of Taehyung’s head bobbing along in agreement with someone. There was a girl in front of him, looking like she was speaking about something really passionately.

 

“Voldemort-sunbaenim is so cool that I can’t even look away from him when he’s on the screen. He’s my ultimate ideal type.” She gushed.

 

“Huh, I’m more of a Neville Longbottom guy myself,” Taehyung replied cheerfully.

 

What the fuck.

 

Yoongi cleared his throat and the girl looked away from Taehyung, smiling brightly at him.

 

“Oh, Yoongi-oppa! You’re here? Out of your bed at a time like this?”

 

Yoongi’s face broke out in a gentle smile. Jimin felt a justified spike of jealousy towards the girl. Yoongi looked so cute when he smiled, his eyes curving into cute crescents. He wanted it to be directed towards himself. The longer it lingered on his lips, the more Jimin wanted to snatch him away so no one else could look at his precious smile.

 

“Hyelin-ah, why didn’t you tell oppa about that punk coming back? I would have driven him away.”

 

Hyelin shook her head and Taehyung came over, sending Jimin a concerned onceover. Jimin endured it, looking between Yoongi and the girl fixedly. It felt like it was more of a oppa-dongsaeng relationship than anything else, but Jimin still felt uneasy. Yoongi had been somehow muting everything on his side of the bond. So even before Jimin had the chance of exploring his side of the bond and his emotions, like the healer Jin had said he would be able to, Yoongi had slammed down what felt like a fifty ton concrete wall to block Jimin out. It left Jimin feeling more than a little unwanted.

 

It surprisingly hurt more than anything he’d ever experienced.

 

“He’s not that bad, oppa,” the girl smiled. Jimin looked away, controlling the grimace of jealousy creeping up on his face.

 

The interior of Namjoon’s place wasn’t as dark as Jimin had expected. There were glowing fairy lights stuck at random corners, illuminating the coiled, slumbering form of a dragon on the wall behind Hyelin. There was a little chibi Yoongi smiling up at the dragon, patting a wolf pup beside him. Jimin wanted to coo over how cute Yoongi looked. There was something written beside it in hangul and Jimin squinted hard. Taehyung leaned on him, looking around equally curiously.

 

“Hey, did Jungkook raid the fridge again?” Yoongi asked, somewhat grumpily. Hyelin shrugged, laughing.

 

“He’s a growing boy, oppa. And he’s asked me to tell you to stop stealing his underwear or else he's going to chew up all your precious records.”

 

“Aish, this brat. Jungkook, next time hyung is definitely going to dominate you,” Yoongi muttered crankily to himself, digging further into the refrigerator in the dark corner.

 

Jungkook. Yeah, the rolling childish characters definitely spelled Jungkook. Jimin wondered who the kid was. He seemed close to Yoongi, judging by how he’d drawn Yoongi with such care. He looked up, and his eyes caught glowing signatures of the boy around the different, beautifully detailed drawings gleaming subtly on the wall. The signatures became neater, less childish as the drawings improved--somehow capturing the passage of time in which the boy was growing up. Jimin wondered if they had used energy to inscribe the drawings. Hadn’t Namjoon’s tattoo parlour just opened up recently?

 

“Look, Jimin!” Taehyung whispered, pointing at a drawing far away from the entrance. Jimin’s mouth dropped open.

 

There were two figures, one radiating a silvery darkness and the other lying on the ground, sleeping peacefully with flowers spread around her red hair. The dark, intimidating figure was crouching over her sleeping form, looking like he was reaching out to touch her but hesitating inches from her face. He looked like he couldn't move his eyes away from the girl, naked longing on his face. Jimin’s eyes went wide, taking in how detailed it was.

 

“Hades and Persephone,” Taehyung whispered in awe next to his ear.

 

“Has Heeyeon-noona been by? These rotten northern campus bastards have been sniffing around her dorm too, looking for a chance to talk to her.”

 

“Oppa, those bastards are her friends. How long are you going to drive away everyone who even looks at us? We’re already of age.”

 

“Hyelin-ah, you don’t know them,” Yoongi sounded flustered but Jimin couldn’t take his eyes away from the painting. “Boys like them, they’re all only after one thing, believe me. It’s better that they don’t come near you.”

 

“Why? What are they after?” Hyelin asked innocently and Yoongi groaned.

 

“You know what, Seokjin is better at dealing with this than me. Just promise me you won’t let Jiho or Mino or anyone from their gang inside. Better yet, don’t even go outside, okay?”

 

Jimin wanted to snort. Yoongi sounded like a dad lecturing his daughter to come home before the curfew.

 

Hyelin shrugged.

 

“You know my heart is reserved only for Voldemort-sunbaenim, Yoongi-oppa. You don’t have to worry about anything.”

 

Yoongi huffed in silent laughter.

 

“Well, that’s a relief. Is Namjoon in?”

 

Jimin took a step further inside towards the painting, looking back at Taehyung when he clutched his hand suddenly. Taehyung tapped at the Ace of Hearts on his earlobe, raising his eyebrows at Jimin in concern.

 

“They’re saying it’s been painted really recently. Like, just yesterday. The lingering energy traces are thick around it so if it’s probably for the best if you stay back, man. Your soul energy is still volatile enough right now without you getting it Inked.”

 

Jimin immediately stepped back, feeling foolish. He looked back at the painting, feeling wonder rise in him again. The painting felt personal, as if the artist had poured a lot of his own feelings into it. Even Jimin, as inept as he was regarding anything artsy, could admire the details and the effort the artist had given in making it. It honestly looked like it belonged in some kind of a gallery, untouchable but to be admired from a distance. His eyes followed Taehyung’s fingers when he pointed at something, making a small noise of wonder.

 

Jeon Jungkook.

 

Just who was this guy?

 

“Well, Jungkookie came in to meet Jin-oppa and Namjoon-ssi dragged him off to talk to the Elders.”

 

Jimin tuned back into the conversation, finally realising they were talking about the same Jungkook. He could feel Taehyung staring at the painting beside him, absorbed.

 

“So there’s next to no chance Namjoon’s coming back here today after getting chewed out by them, is he?”

 

Hyelin laughed, shaking her head. Yoongi looked at Jimin, looking like he was struggling with something. Jimin rushed to wave his offer away, a bit too gladly.

 

“Ah, hyung. It’s alright, I’ll be fine. I can do the demonstrations later.”

 

“Don’t be stupid, I saw how low you were running on Ink yesterday,” Yoongi muttered and Jimin flushed. It was probably during the time when Yoongi and him had been grinding on each other, when Yoongi’s hand had brushed over his tattoo. His ears felt hot with the memory, stomach rolling when he thought about how low and seductive Yoongi's voice had been.

 

Yoongi shook his head, making up his mind about something.

 

“Whatever. I’ll do it. I’ve done it before.”

 

Oh fuck. Having Yoongi’s hands touching him again?

 

“You don’t have to, hyung,” Jimin almost pleaded. Yoongi snorted.

 

“Look, I can do it. It’s your choice to either take me up on it or not. I won’t mess up so you don’t have to be worried about that.”

 

Jimin was a bit more worried he’d get embarrassingly hard the moment Yoongi laid his hand on him. He looked over his shoulder at Taehyung for help. Taehyung was stuck in his spot, looking at the painting in a riveted daze, unaware of the plight of his best friend.

 

Taehyung, you useless idiot, he lamented.

 

Yoongi saw the indecision on his face and turned his back on him, as if he took it for granted that Jimin would come after him. Hyelin went back to her magazines, shooting Jimin a dismissively polite smile.

 

“Come in when you’re ready,” Yoongi threw behind him. Jimin agonised over going after him, but it felt like the decision had already been made for him. Ugh. He’d feel like a coward if he backed down after that.

 

He gently shook Taehyung.

 

“Hey, Tae. You coming in with me?”

 

Please do, he begged silently, looking into his vacant eyes. Taehyung was usually a sucker for his puppy dog eyes, easily bending to his aegyo. Taehyung swallowed, looking back at the painting.

 

“Jiminie…” He began with a hushed voice.

 

“What?”

 

Taehyung’s eyes were wide and Jimin turned to look back at the painting. The flowers around Persephone’s hair were glowing, blooming in vibrant shades of red in front of them. Hades looked like he was much closer to touching her than before, only a hairsbreadth distance away from her delicate porcelain face.

 

“Jimin, it feels like the painting…it was made for me,” Taehyung whispered, a wistful smile pulling at his lips. Jimin’s eyes were drawn back to Taehyung’s ear when his lucky Ace started pulsing with even more energy, looking as if it was blooming in tandem with the flowers.

 

What the hell was he on?

 

“You idiot,” Jimin slapped Taehyung’s head, jerking him out of his daze. Taehyung eyes scrunched up and he looked ready to wail at Jimin.

 

“You coming in or not?”

 

Taehyung stared at him with a pout.

 

“Jesus, what’s with the hitting? I’m honestly feeling so attacked around you right now.”

 

Jimin glared at him, tugging at Taehyung’s cheek until he finally gave in. If aegyo didn’t cut it, physical abuse was the way to Kim Taehyung’s heart. Taehyung followed after him with a miserable face, looking like he was restraining himself from looking back.

 

“I really need to get better friends.”

 

“That’s my line, you asshole.”

Chapter Text

Jinyoung snickered, watching as the tall bumbling guy practically smothered the short attractive guy under the weight of his arm. Another attractive guy, shorter than the tall one but still managing to be taller than the one sandwiched between them, slung his arm around his waist.

 

“He looks as if he just died a little more on the inside,” Jaebum remarked dispassionately, perusing the scene. Jinyoung watched gleefully as the guy winced, shooting out his elbows to strategically knock into both of them painfully. They doubled over, letting out twin protests of pain. Kyungsoo slipped away with a black expression, walking over to where Howon was making his order. The two of them followed after him, whining loudly at their hyung to do something at the injustice. Minseok looked just about as done with them as Kyungsoo.

 

“Just throw them a bone, Kyungsoo-yah.”

 

Kyungsoo stared at Minseok with a deadpan expression, mouth twitching in irritation as Chanyeol and Baekhyun both whined his name, sounding like five year olds denied their favourite racing cars.

 

“I don’t need this kind of negativity in my life,” he answered him grimly and Jaebum snorted. Jinyoung scrunched up his face in sympathy at the kicked puppy dog looks on their faces.

 

Minseok eyed Chanyeol with pity, concern etched on his face. Baekhyun looked like he was plotting something, watching Kyungsoo walk away from them with almost a palpable black cloud hanging overhead.

 

“Chanyeollie, don’t give up. We can try something else, too.”

 

Minseok watched him with a horrified look on his face.

 

“Yah, you brat. Don’t go around mixing love potions in his food,” he warned.

 

Jaebum rolled his eyes at Jinyoung’s eavesdropping, swiping up the cream from his Frappuccino and smearing it on his face.

 

“Are you wearing makeup?” Jaebum laughed as Jinyoung yelped. Jinyoung glared at him, wiping it off.

 

“Screw your negativity too, man. BB cream is good for the skin. Not everyone is blessed with your good looks.”

 

Jaebum mockingly puckered his lips at him. Jinyoung had a look on his face, like he was moments away from punching him.

 

“To be honest, I feel sorry for Kyungsoo-sunbaenim. I’m really thinking of gifting him a cat to keep Chanyeol away.”

 

“Yah, are you his friend to call him like that? Give him respect!” Jinyoung reached out to pinch him and Jaebum winced.

 

Jinyoung’s face cleared, distracted by the spectacle again. He cocked his head, sending those sickeningly lovesick puppy dog eyes towards Chanyeol who was being dragged away by Baekhyun.

 

Jaebum knew, after four years of practice, to never question Jinyoung’s undying and frankly, gross crush on the clumsy musical prodigy, even though Jaebum didn’t know for the life of him what Jinyoung saw in the guy.

 

Sure, he had the looks of an ulzzang, when he actually bothered to clean up. He had the talent and the overbearingly happy personality that he was famous for in their University. But that seemed to be it. Jaebum didn’t know how he did it—everything basically seemed like a front. No one could be that happy, not all the time. But he had to hand it to the guy for making it seem like it.

 

For some reason, Jaebum had never really warmed up to him. What was the deal with his stupid ears anyway? His scent was all weird too, for a human. What did Jinyoung even see in him?

 

“Poor sunbaenim.”

 

“Go climb into sunbaenim’s lap and give him a lap dance. That might cheer him up,” Jaebum sucked on the straw, sounding bored. Jinyoung pinched him harder in retaliation, face flaming at the thought. Jaebum smelled the embarrassment on him, snickering.

 

“Drink your mojito, you jerk.”

 

Jaebum shrugged, idly tracing a rune on the table top. It was one he’d learnt when he was a kid, back when he was still in the cusp of the pack and still eager to learn how their energy worked. He heard Jinyoung mutter judgemental remarks about the people walking into the cafe distantly, wondering how the pack had been doing.

 

His younger brother had finally joined Hongdae, overjoyed at meeting Jaebum again. Jaebum could barely recognize Yugyeom from the little pup that used to cling to his fur when he was afraid of anything that moved. He’d shot up like a weed, broadening around the shoulders. At his age, Jaebum expected him to lose the hero worship he had for him, to start questioning everything that had happened between Jaebum and their father. But somehow, he was still the same kid. He carried the same air of naiveté and innocence. He still smiled so easily, forgave Jaebum with even more ease for deserting him. Jaebum felt the rush of protective love and apologetic grief well up within him each time they met, suppressing the urge to demand if he was keeping track of his cycles and shifts. It was still a bit awkward, a breath still tentative on his end.

 

Yugyeom seemed oblivious to his discomfort, happy to ask for him to indulge him with his touch. Jaebum hadn't known how touch starved he'd been for his pack until he'd carded his fingers through Yugyeom's hair again, smelling the familiar scent of home.

 

“Ugh, fetuses,” Jinyoung’s annoyed voice dropped low. Jaebum stopped tracing the old rune to ward evil spirits away on the table, looking up. Jinyoung was wrinkling his nose at a bunch of freshmen that were dithering around with their orders nervously. Minseok was smiling at them patiently, waiting for them to order while the people behind them rolled their eyes. Jaebum rolled his eyes at Jinyoung.

 

“Yah, why are we sitting around here passing shade like a bunch of bitchy ahjummas? It’s not good for my cool and chic image,” Jaebum slurped noisily. Jinyoung turned back in his chair, resting his chin on his palm and studying him with dancing eyes.

 

“Yeah, right. Cool and chic image? You’re practically an old cat lady yourself. What are you going to do when Nora decides it’s time for appa to let go and give her a chance to have her own family?”

 

Jaebum immediately stiffened, cradling his phone instinctively. His thumb hovered over the lock screen of Nora sleepily staring up at him. There was no way he was going to let any stray tomcat come up and lay their grubby paws on his daughter. She was too good for any of those scamps.

 

“Don’t say that. Don’t even think about it,” he said commandingly.

 

“How does it even make sense that you treat us like trash without batting an eye but when it comes to the thought of anything happening to Nora you practically become the Hulk?”

 

“You’ll understand when you get kids,” Jaebum said, staring at Nora fondly.

 

Jinyoung made a disgusted sound, going back to his bitchy ahjumma time.

 

“Where’s Youngjae?” Jaebum asked, moving past the selcas Jackson was spamming them within their group. Mark appeared at random moments in the selcas holding a cheering flag with Jackson's name, sending cheeky hearts at them. Youngjae kept sending crying emojis, begging Jackson to stop.

 

Jaebum sent a thumbs up, wishing Jackson a good luck on his fencing competition and an offer to treat him to whatever he wanted to eat when he came back. Jackson spammed him back with happy smileys.

 

“I think he said something about missing out on a Dynamic Crafting assignment? He’s stuck in his dorm, writing a paper.”

 

Jaebum smiled at Jackson’s wide grin affectionately, discreetly tracing a goodwill rune on the table. It was another one of the pack runes he’d been taught when he was a kid, something that worked only when it was done with the will of the wolf. Jaebum didn’t know if it would work when he hadn’t shifted for a while. Even if it didn’t, Jaebum still felt like he should do it. If he couldn’t be at the competition in person, at least this way he felt he could look out for him.

 

The crystals on his bracelet glowed dimly, echoing the state of his energy. Jaebum turned his wrist over casually, hiding it from notice. Jinyoung turned back to him with a mischievous look in his eyes.

 

“So, I heard about this new Bambam kid. You know, the one that’s been following Jackson around?”

 

“Everyone follows Jackson around,” Jaebum snorted. Jackson was a Siren, he was practically incapable of being anything but charming. There were fanclubs dedicated to his smile alone on the University network. Jaebum was apprehensive of even searching Pann and Cyworld for Jackson. There must be more than a thousand thirst and Jackson appreciation threads floating around somewhere on the web, waiting to scar one of them for life.

 

Jackson and Mark definitely hadn’t banked on their youtube career getting so much attention. Mark couldn’t look them in the eye when they teased him about his own fans but Jackson had taken to the fame like a fish to the water. He’d lapped up the interest eagerly, like the attention whore he was.

 

Another message pinged their phones but only Jaebum reached to open it. Jackson demanded he go to instagram and he followed it, smiling when he read the caption. It was one of Jackson’s international fans, smiling adorably at the picture under Jackson’s arm and holding up a colourful banner spelling Love from Africa, J-Flawless! Fighting ♡♡♡. Jackson was looking down at her happily, wearing a J-Flawless beanie he must have mugged from her. Her dark skin was glowing under the bright fluorescent lights, like Jackson had made her day just by looking at her. Jaebum felt proud for Jackson--that he’d managed to come so far after having put so much effort into his fencing, despite his reservations and pressure from his dad.

 

Thank you for making my day, Kaylee. I will definitely win this for you guys. Thanks to everyone who came to support me today!

 

“Youngji is going to be jealous! Fighting, Jackson.” Jaebum typed. He backspaced immediately, feeling his fingers curl in disgust from the sappiness. Encouragements like those definitely weren’t his forte.

 

“Stop inflicting your poor fans with your armpit sweat. Get some goddamn deodorant, you gross idiot.”

 

Yeah. Better.

 

Jinyoung snorted, tired of waiting for him to be done. Jaebum locked his phone and looked up, motioning for him to continue.

 

“But get this. Bambam’s a siren too. The only one in his year. He’s been hanging around with Yugyeom, following Jackson around like a lost duckling.”

 

“Yugyeom?” Jaebum asked carefully.

 

“Yeah, he’s this adorable kid. He’s got the whole hero worship thing going on with Jackson and Mark. I wonder how he’d be with us. You’d probably have him running for the hills,” Jinyoung teased. Jaebum looked away, smiling faintly.

 

"Yeah. Probably," he mused.

 

His nose picked up a scent that seemed all too familiar. It had the undercurrent of his pack, an aggression in the musk that indicated an approaching alpha. Jaebum darted his eyes around uneasily.

 

“Damn, Jaebum. Look at them.”

 

Jinyoung pointed to two people who’d entered, tension in every line of their bodies. They were carefully treading in, avoiding any kind of contact with each other. The shoulders of the guy with the peach dyed hair were up, as if he was on an edge. His body was aligned towards the shorter male next to him, body language screaming his concern. The other guy was carefully protecting his stomach, taking care not to bump into the pink haired guy. Jaebum indulged Jinyoung for a second.

 

“What do you think?”

 

“Definitely banging,” Jaebum replied. Jinyoung let out a low whistle when he saw the other guy’s ass. Jaebum sniffed again, the scent hitting him even stronger.

 

“Dude, look at the ass he’s got on him.”

 

It happened in a split of a second. Jaebum barely looked at the guy’s ass when the pink haired guy whipped his head, a low snarl building in his chest—oh, fuck.

 

Min Yoongi. The son of the pack Beta.

 

He seemed not too pleased either, looking straight at them, gritting his teeth and a silent command in his eyes for Jaebum. The hostility in his eyes took Jaebum aback, eyes moving towards Jinyoung and back to him.

 

Fuck.

 

Jaebum lowered his head in deference, discreetly tilting his head to the side. Making a show of brushing his fingers through his hair, he bared his neck pointedly. He watched with half lidded eyes as the other guy tugged Yoongi’s attention away, distracting him and he relaxed slightly. When the threatening smell of his anger lifted, Jaebum turned back to Jinyoung, hoping he hadn’t caught the interaction. It was for his own good that Jinyoung didn’t realize how close to losing his neck he had been just seconds ago.

 

“Man, that guy’s ass has got to be one of the best I’ve seen,” Stop talking, Jinyoungie, Jaebum pleaded silently.

 

“I mean, mine is obviously so much better than his. I don’t think I can give him the title of best ass yet,” Jinyoung ended, smiling obnoxiously. Jaebum trained his eyes on Jinyoung’s face, hoping like hell he wouldn’t have to shift and run with Jinyoung if Min Yoongi decided to take offence and challenge him. There was no way Jaebum was strong enough to protect the both of them. He felt the air near his ear vibrate with danger as Min Yoongi and his companion passed by them to get to a table.

 

“Are you kidding? Your ass is saggier than my harabeoji’s nutsack, Jinyoungie,” Jaebum’s voice came out surprisingly even. The crystals on his bracelet and his ears were probably glinting in warning, sensing a shift. Jaebum prayed that Jinyoung didn’t notice while he got himself under control.

 

“Yah, take that back, Im Jaebum!” Jinyoung hissed, looking mortally offended. He looked ready to fight Jaebum for the honour of his ass and Jaebum had to stifle a hysterical laugh.

 

Hyung.” He reached out to flick him across the forehead. Jinyoung yelped, reeling back.

 

“No need to call me hyung,” Jinyoung replied sulkily. Jaebum sighed.

 

Min Yoongi was famous in their pack, for all kinds of reasons. He was the one who’d been next to the Alpha’s omega while she’d been giving birth to the youngest. The entire pack had been out to help with the fights that were breaking out near the edge of their Busan territories. Min Yoongi, a kid of barely five summers—he’d protected his baby cousin when a rogue omega wolf—once an alpha in their pack—had broken in to take his vengeance out on the Alpha. Jaebum remembered peering from the dark curtains, eavesdropping on his father talking about how Min Yoongi was the only survivor, holding his little cousin and covered with his blood where he’d been protecting him.

 

The Omega had fought to her last breath, killing the rogue. The baby, minutes old, never had the chance to feel his mother’s embrace before she passed away, marking him as the pack heir with a rune she painted with her own blood on his chest.

 

Min Yoongi had grown up with a reputation almost as frightening as his older brother. His sleepy eyes carried a savageness that was borne out of protecting his little runt of a cousin from people even in their own pack. He was the feared protector, the reason why no one ever approached the pack heir. It must have cost the kid his childhood, but Jaebum knew that Min Yoongi was the entire reason the kid was alive.

 

Frankly, Min Yoongi scared the everloving fuck out of Jaebum. If Jeon Jungkook didn’t grow up to be the Alpha of the Seoul pack, it would be either Min Yoongi or his brother who’d take up the position. He was man enough to admit that the prospect terrified him.

 

He'd known the guy had been attending the University with a few more of his pack mates. He'd just never had the pleasure of ever running into him or raising any notice other than a cursory sniff of acknowledgement. He wondered if Yoongi would hunt him down now for some kind of perceived slight.

 

“Hey,” the tone in Jinyoung’s voice was tentative and Jaebum raised an eyebrow, distracted. Jinyoung was reeking of uncertainty.

 

“How funny is it that between the four of us, we’ve all dated each other at least once.”

 

"…and broken up at least five times," Jinyoung laughed at that, pulling his lip between his teeth. Jaebum met Jinyoung’s eyes, smiling wryly.

 

He thought of Jackson’s early morning snores and farts, Mark’s habit of hogging all the blankets and curling like a little kid around them, of Jinyoung’s habit of kicking out and hugging Jaebum to death after he was wiped out after having late night sex with him. Jackson’s habit of knocking him over when he got impatient with Jaebum’s pace and riding him down himself. Mark’s habit of biting down on his neck, almost making his wolf cry with the urge to take him as a mate. Jinyoung forcing him to go slow, quiet whimpers eking out of his throat.

 

“Senior year, Jinyoung. No time to slow down now.”

 

Jinyoung smiled fondly at the inside joke, probably remembering Jackson’s harebrained schemes and pranks—streaking outside in the nude while half the Western Campus filmed them, pantsing Jinyoung in front of a professor and cackling as the three of them ran away, leaving a hen outside their professors’ homes--going with whatever shit popped into their heads. They had always relied on Jackson’s impulse, Jinyoung’s cunning, Mark’s patience and Jaebum’s instincts to get them through everything, never stopping to think about the consequences.

 

No time to slow down, never the right time to go wrong.

 

"So do you ever think of how it could have been if we dated each other at the same time? Would it have even worked like that?" Jinyoung spoke airily, as if he could care less. Jaebum would almost be fooled into believing he really could care less if Jinyoung's scent wasn't giving him away.

 

Jinyoung kept his eyes pleasantly blank and Jaebum thought about telling him the truth. A beat, and then another passed silently. Jinyoung would never look at him the same way again. Jaebum could finally stop worrying about giving himself away even though his friendship with the three of them would be broken. His life would never be the same again without them. He would return to the pack like the prodigal son, marry a nice omega his parents chose for him obediently, wither away without Jinyoung, Mark and Jackson--his real pack. Without his real family. He'd never recover from the hole they'd leave behind, from the damage their absence would deliver to his wolf.

 

He blew out a silent breath between chapped lips, tasting the citrusy aftertaste.

 

"Don't go around with those stupid ideas, Jinyoung. Jackson is happy enough with Youngji. Mark is moving on."

 

Jinyoung smiled, smelling of sharp bitterness and mellow disappointment. His eyes were at odds with his scent and Jaebum smiled back easily, as if nothing was wrong.

 

"Yeah it would probably have gone down as the worst joke in the history of Hongdae," Jinyoung smiled secretively to himself.

 

Jaebum grinned sharply, smelling acrid bitterness on himself. Jinyoung didn't look taken aback, too used to his slightly animalistic ways.

 

"Well," he started, downing the remaining mojito in one gulp and hearing Jinyoung oohing sarcastically at him. He put the glass back down, finding Jinyoung looking at him with a fond smile on his lips. Jinyoung's comforting scent was the still the same from when they'd collided in the first freshmen party. Jaebum had been punch drunk on the barrage of human scents and their energies and Jinyoung had been smelling of alcohol and a broken heart. He thought about the missed opportunities, the painful heats, pressing down on the secrets bubbling up in his throat.

 

Walking towards Jackson's dorm holding a half assed birthday cake in apology and watching him kiss Youngji under a glowing lamppost woodenly. Mark sending pining looks towards Jinyoung and barely meeting Jaebum's knowing eyes. Walking in on Jinyoung going down on a guy in one of the clubs they frequented, his eyes bleak when he noticed Jaebum over the nameless guy's shoulder and his scent all wrong.

 

Jackson pulling them into a hug, a wide devil may care grin on his tempting siren lips, smelling like the musky deodorant he'd stolen from Jaebum. The smell of home, of the people he had never thought he'd consider pack.

 

The day they wrote all of their promises on origami cranes, hiked up to the tallest mountain they saw and let Jackson breathe life into them, watching the cranes fly away towards the sun like a beacon of their future.

 

Things were good as they were. Jaebum would be foolish if he even thought of hoping for more. He’d never considered that his wolf would come to revel in their company, shedding his monogamous solitude. Even staying like this, treasuring each moment he spent with them—it was enough.

 

He shut his eyes, hiding away any and all broken hopes he had harboured from Jinyoung. Jinyoung's scent still remained comfortingly the same, unshifting and hopeful. He bit down on the bitter howls ebbing up in his throat.

 

"I'm still friends with you guys. My life is already the worst joke in the history of Hongdae."

 

 

*

 

 

“What?” Jimin yelped. Taehyung hissed at him to quiet down, looking at where Yoongi had gone to grab them more fries after Taehyung had upended the entire thing on Jimin’s lap.

 

“Keep your voice down.”

 

“You mean to tell me you’ve been having these really creepy dreams where a guy comes and basically molests you? And that isn’t bothering you? Are you okay, Taehyung?” Jimin grabbed his face, tilting and turning it as if he was looking for Taehyung’s sanity.

 

Taehyung batted his hands away with a frown.

 

“It’s not molesting,” he protested. “I just—“

 

“It’s exactly that, Kim Taehyung. Don’t even try to tell me otherwise.”

 

“I knew you’d react like this! That’s why I didn’t tell you before,” Taehyung whined. Was it really molesting? Taehyung was ready to dismiss it as one of his wilder wet dreams, just without the glorified finish. He wouldn’t deny being attracted to the guy but it wasn’t like someone like him existed.

 

“Why do I have this feeling you’re keeping something else from me?” Jimin peered at him suspiciously like he could suss out what was wrong with Taehyung if he looked stern enough. Taehyung’s neck prickled, sensing the turn of his thoughts and he tried not to look too guilty.

 

“That was it. What more do you want, you jerk?”

 

“So, run me through this again. A wild boy comes to creep on you and these dreams don’t seem like dreams? Are you sure you’re not having me on?”

 

“No,” Taehyung tipped his chair back, balancing on the hind legs.

 

“Do you want a dreamcatcher? I could get my Mom to teach me how to do a proper one, if something weird is really happening. Curse Working on a dreamcatcher is not going to be that hard.”

 

“No!” Taehyung yelled. He lowered his voice when he saw heads turn toward them.

 

“You just got your tattoo Inked, okay? I don’t want you using it on dreamcatchers and blowing yourself up. Curse Working is going to take a lot of control.”

 

Taehyung was alarmed, but not for the reason Jimin would think. He was alarmed that he wouldn’t get to see the boy again. Something told him that he’d regret it if he ever chased away the dreams without even knowing who the boy was.

 

“So you’re okay with this? Really?”

 

“It’s not like it’s hurting me. I just wake up a bit more sexually frustrated than the day before.”

 

“I still don’t like this,” Jimin looked at him concern etched between his eyebrows.

 

"Look, I'll tell you if something weirder happens. Don't worry about it."

 

"You know, I've this hyung who's been asking about you. Maybe you need to go out on a date? He's pretty nice. And really talented."

 

Taehyung looked at him incredulously.

 

"The minute I turn my back you start setting me up with people!" He pointed a finger at Jimin accusingly. Jimin didn't even have the grace to look apologetic.

 

"Come on man, don't even pull that with me. You don't know the actual number of people I've had to fend off for you. Lord knows why they look at you as potential date material but there's no way I'm going to let you go out with someone who could hurt you."

 

Taehyung rolled his eyes.

 

"You're still on about that? Look, if I needed a date or a one night stand I would have been trawling through Tinder already. Don't worry about me. What's up with your situation? Why did that guy take you away?"

 

When Jimin had finished getting his tattoo Inked, tremors running through his body at the insertion of the Purified Ink (Yoongi's proximity also might have a lot to do with it, Taehyung thought), he'd barely had the chance to get up when Yoongi had pushed him down to tend to the tattoo himself. A guy had come in through the back door, barking at Yoongi to stop and let him do the remaining sterilisation around the tattoo and had led Jimin away. Yoongi had been glaring at the door through which they'd left, leaving Taehyung to shift uncomfortably on his spot.

 

It hadn't taken much time for Taehyung to start rambling at Yoongi. He completely sympathised with Jimin's inability to keep his mouth shut in his presence.

 

Yoongi had offered one word responses, looking distant as if he had been concentrating on something. It wasn't until Taehyung started speaking about Daegu that Yoongi had lightened up, fixing his eyes on him. He had started smiling halfway into Taehyung's babble about the favourite types of meat and intestines dishes his mom used to make. Taehyung offered to make him some and Yoongi looked at him weirdly, an uncanny wondering look in his eyes.

 

"Maybe this is why the brat likes you so much."

 

Taehyung had wondered at the cryptic remark. Yoongi didn't seem like he would explain any further. Taehyung gave it up when Jimin walked in, barely looking Yoongi in the eye. Yoongi had gotten up to help him but Jimin had flinched ever so slightly that Yoongi had immediately backed up, looking startled and mortified.

 

Yoongi and Jimin had been walking on eggshells around each other ever since the moment. Taehyung had to carry the conversation by himself when they had been walking to the cafe, feeling uneasy about their body language.

 

"The guy who'd taken me to treat my tattoo? Oh yeah, him," Jimin's voice was all wrong, morose and small. Taehyung frowned.

 

"What?"

 

"He was our healer in the Gifted Centre. He and Yoongi-hyung apparently go way back." He said bitterly, like he was quoting something.

 

"Wait, way back as in relationship back? You're telling me he is Yoongi's ex?"

 

Jimin shrugged. "It seemed like it. Now you know why I don't stand a chance with Yoongi."

 

Taehyung frowned, poking Jimin's cheek.

 

"Hey, Yoongi-hyung is dumb if he doesn't like you back. If I was lucky enough to get bonded to Park Jimin for even a day, I'd do everything in my power to make him happy."

 

Jimin looked like he was about to go emotional on Taehyung. Taehyung smiled at him cheerfully, expecting a hug or something. Instead Jimin reached out to slap his head and Taehyung yelped, swatting his face in return.

 

"Yah, who pays you to go around saying this sappy crap? Is this a Disney movie or something?"

 

"That's the last time I try to cheer you up, you asshole," Taehyung grumbled, feeling annoyed. Jimin smiled, looking a touch embarrassed.

 

"Thanks, Tae."

 

Taehyung rushed to change the subject, feeling a little embarrassed himself.

 

"So what did he give you? I saw you cradling it in your palm."

 

"It's...you know how Yoongi was literally moments away from beating up the guy beside my stall? He became really aggressive and everything? Well, Jin-hyung told me that the bond might be affecting Yoongi-hyung negatively. He gave me this," Jimin shifted his jacket to show Taehyung the inside of it. A mini hyposhot gleamed in the light, nestled within his pocket.

 

"So he handed you drugs to deal with this entire thing?"

 

Jimin rolled his eyes.

 

"No, this is for Yoongi-hyung. In case he loses his inhibitions, I'm going to have to inject this into his bloodstream. It's going to act like a tranquilliser, put him down."

 

"Are you sure? What did he say its name was?"

 

What Taehyung really wanted to ask was how Jimin had been dealing with the violent scene he’d witnessed. Jimin was fragile towards any kind of violence, often slipping back to the disturbed memories of his stay in the Gulf with his parents if he ever saw something like that. Taehyung was worried how the exposure would have affected him. Maybe it was the entire reason why Jimin had been avoiding stepping into Yoongi’s space and flinching away from any accidental brushes.

 

Jimin shook his head, about to reply when Yoongi came back, holding a truckload of food. Their eyes went wide when he dropped everything carefully on the table.

 

"Is this for us?" Jimin asked with a strangled voice, like he was praying to the gods of dieting to give him strength. Taehyung gaped at the amount of food, mouth watering.

 

"No," Yoongi grunted. "It's for me. Get your own."

 

"You're going to eat everything?" Taehyung asked with justified incredulity as Yoongi sat down, arranging everything somehow so that nothing fell off. By the time he was finished, the entire table was filled with enough food to feed a small starving village. Yoongi scowled at him, his Daegu accent slipping out and making him sound uncannily like Taehyung's cranky old grandpa when Taehyung hid his dentures.

 

"Damn straight I am. You got a problem, kid?"

 

"No, harabeoji," Taehyung dutifully replied. Jimin muffled his laughter and Yoongi went back to stuffing his face with the hamburger, shrugging.

 

Really, with the amount of food he's ordered, where does it all go? Taehyung wondered, exchanging a look with Jimin.

 

Yoongi moved onto the kimbap rolls, wolfing them down. Jimin turned to Taehyung, swallowing.

 

“So how’s the mutt doing? Chew up your clothes yet?”

 

“Huh?” Taehyung moved his eyes away from Yoongi’s mouth in wonder, focusing on Jimin. “Nah, he’s a good kid. But he’s definitely got a fascination with rolling around on my clothes, leaving his hair everywhere. I don't think I can ever get the smell of wet dog off my covers now,” he laughed cheerfully.

 

Jimin shuddered in revulsion at the thought. Yoongi made a muffled sound, drawing Taehyung’s eyes again. His eyes were crinkled in mirth, covering his face with a hand.

 

“He has this habit of going out to play in the mud and coming back tracking muddy paws everywhere so I gave him a wash today,” Taehyung told Jimin, keeping a curious gaze on Yoongi. Yoongi just about choked on his food, shoulders shaking. Jimin looked at him with concern as he doubled up in a coughing fit.

 

“He must have loved that,” Yoongi said when he stopped coughing, his eyes looking mischievous.

 

Taehyung laughed, thinking of his wolf sending him sulky looks throughout the bath, wet ears drooping in reproach.

 

“Definitely.”

 

 

*

 

 

Taehyung bit his lip as he balanced spirit on the table. The bubble wobbled around and he waited for it to stabilise. The Crafted alchemy modulus needed the levels to be stable before he could insert purified paper for it to operate. The energy level wobbled lazily, following the spirit below it. Sungjae nudged him and he hissed in return, almost knocking over the cooling beaker in front of him.

 

"What's the fifth rule of Hammington Principles? Taehyung, help me out here," Sungjae gave him a winning smile, quickly moving back out of the professor's sight. Taehyung waited, carefully filtering the purified crystals from the mother liquor it was prepared in.

 

"Dude, you're supposed to be doing the runes right now."

 

"Nice try. You want me to mess up our entire grade? Don't you think it's better off for me to do the documenting?"

 

Taehyung sighed, rolling his eyes and channeled his energy through the little rhombic crystals. They lit up with a vibrant blue, absorbing it and Taehyung carefully poured the energy absorbent gel over it with his other hand.

 

"Yah," Sungjae jabbed him insistently. Taehyung knew Sungjae was persistent enough that he wouldn't leave him alone until he gave in.

 

"Fielding crystals for marking the boundaries to prevent the runes from getting destabilised. They need to be embedded within the inner spirals of EPS seals. Do some Magnus Indexing of energy spectrums below that," Taehyung answered resignedly.

 

Sungjae's eyes were glazed over. Taehyung almost slapped him for disturbing him in between his crystal saturation. It took at least thirty minutes for energy to settle in the crystals. Taehyung looked back at the hardening crystals, groaning.

 

"Energy Prescription Seals or Preservation ones?" Sungjae looked so confused that Taehyung wanted to strangle him with the mouth mask dangling around his neck.

 

"Jesus, that's Hammington three. It's Preservations Seals for the outer boundaries. Stop asking me these things. Fail in your own time." Taehyung snapped.

 

"Someone's not getting laid lately," Sungjae muttered obnoxiously under his breath. Taehyung wanted to stab him with the pointy end of the pipette in front of him till he choked on his own blood.

 

Sungjae was not exactly wrong. But he was way off the mark at the same time.

 

The dreams had started to take a turn for weird, stranger than how they’d started up as. But it had started affecting his mood, making him feel like he was missing something crucial about himself. Like he’d forgotten something he shouldn’t have.

 

The latest dream had started off differently, in a completely separate location. While Taehyung had been able to recognise the surroundings of his dorm room, this bright place had been completely unfamiliar to him.

 

He'd walked curiously through the grass, feet bare. The trees were whispering in the wind. Taehyung felt like if he tried to hear, he'd be able to understand their conversation. The portion of forest behind the trees that faced him grew thicker, barely letting any sun rays penetrate their thick canopy.

 

He caught the shadows of the dryads and hamadryads who were peeking at him through the branches, their tinkling laughter spraying in the air. They slipped between the dark trees, bright flowers woven into hair the colour of tree barks, teasingly beckoning him into following them and playing games that would make him descend into a delirious madness, make him dance around fairy rings till his feet fell off.

 

Taehyung was enticed by the offer. He walked, almost physically feeling the Lifestream running through the grass under his feet, a smile spreading on his lips when he caught the eyes of a coy dryad. She beckoned him closer to her side of the woods, holding out a hand for him to take.

 

Taehyung reached out, already feeling the impending madness drum in his blood. He was about to grasp her wispy hand when something harshly jerked her away. She scattered into flower petals, soaring away.

 

Taehyung hazily looked at the person who'd batted her away, barely recognising him.

 

A fleet footed boy with petals and leaves caught in his shaggy hair stepped out of the tree covers, eyes fixed on Taehyung. Taehyung's breath hitched at his elfin beauty, feeling his mouth go dry. The boy was equally bare foot, crunching on dry twigs. He reached for Taehyung's hand with dark eyes, reaching out with the other to caress his cheek.

 

Taehyung's eyes fluttered shut, feeling the madness ebb away slowly. Instead, a different kind of feeling rose up to take its place and he opened his eyes.

 

The boy was looking at him tenderly, like he would kill the fiercest of beasts in order to protect Taehyung. His warm brown eyes held such familiarity that Taehyung wanted to protest--what gave him the right to look at him so intimately?

 

"You know better than that, Taehyung."

 

Taehyung stayed still, not even twitching a muscle. In the light, he could see the boy's features vividly. They were surreal, nothing like someone could have ever imagined. Even in Taehyung's wildest fantasies he could never dream up someone who'd be as beautiful as the boy in front of him was.

 

Taehyung traced the barely present scars on his pale cheeks with fascination. Each of them felt like they had a secret story behind them, that had Taehyung itching to ask him about.

 

"Who are you?" He asked again. He wondered if the boy would answer him this time around.

 

He smiled wryly, eyes moving down to Taehyung's bare collarbones. He stepped in closer and inhaled; Taehyung's breath hitched at his proximity.

 

The boy smelt something indelibly like earth, musky and warm. He smelt like the earth after Lifestream rich rain infused it with energy again. Taehyung didn't know how he couldn't have remembered his scent earlier. He definitely would have.

 

The boy dropped his forehead on Taehyung's shoulder, breathing lightly. Taehyung startled, goosebumps trailing up his entire body at the warm breaths hitting his chest.

 

"Geosmin," He muttered, half incoherently.

 

The boy huffed in laughter, fingers curling into Taehyung's hair. Taehyung jumped when he felt another set of fingers twine with his. He barely took in another breath, heart beating in his throat.

 

"What's that?"

 

"An organic compound. Contributes to petrichor. The smell of the soil in the air after it rains," Taehyung rambled, barely conscious of what was spewing out of his mouth.

 

"It's what you smell like."

 

The boy hummed contentedly, and Taehyung felt a smile curve on his lips against his shoulder blade.

 

"Do you like it?" He asked lightly, laughingly as if he already knew the answer. Taehyung let out a strangled sound, looking down at his shaggy black hair, interspersed with lilac petals and leaves. Taehyung wanted to brush them out, sink his fingers in his hair to see if it felt softer than it looked. The boy didn't seem to mind his bony shoulder, pressing his lips onto it. Taehyung felt it sear through his clothes. The rush of heat immobilised him as the boy lifted his head to stare at Taehyung.

 

His eyes were dancing, a soft smile pulling at the corners of his lips. His eyelashes looked wet with morning dew, like he’d been rolling around on the grass and Taehyung wanted to melt.

 

"Don't worry. Your scent is just as addicting to me," The boy whispered, leaning in invitingly with an unspoken promise.

 

Taehyung's brain blanked out. His eyes were immediately sliding half closed when the boy pressed a kiss to the corner of his lips.

 

"What's your name?" Taehyung murmured. His neck was on fire, itching for him to do something. He felt like bending his head to the side to pull the boy's attention to it, like that would please him and he would be able to ease it.

 

The boy smiled against his cheek, twining his fingers tighter around Taehyung's.

 

"Do you remember this place?"

 

The question jarred him out of it. He jerked back from him and stared at the boy, bemused.

 

"What?"

 

"Do you remember this place?" He repeated patiently.

 

Taehyung snuck a look around at the clearing, shaking his head hesitantly. The boy's face didn't change but somehow the light in his eyes dimmed. Taehyung instantly felt remorseful.

 

"Is this Daegu?"

 

The boy hand slipped from his hair, coming to rest on his waist. Taehyung almost felt his touch scorch him, flinching.

 

"Somewhere about," the boy answered vaguely, peering searchingly in his eyes.

 

"You really don't remember, do you?"

 

Taehyung swallowed and shook his head slightly. The boy quirked his lips.

 

"I was wondering how you didn't recognise me. I was so sure that if I showed up in front of you, you would have recognised me from miles away."

 

The boy smiled wistfully.

 

"We've met before?" Taehyung's voice went high in surprise. The boy didn't answer, looking as if he was waiting for him to remember.

 

"We did. You prayed for me, after all," he murmured softly, his lips pulling up in an amused smile. When Taehyung didn’t show any signs of recognition he closed his eyes, leaning in to press his lips on the same spot on his neck. Taehyung almost convulsed with the ache that consumed him.

 

"I prayed for you?"

 

He didn't reply and Taehyung deflated.

 

"Why won't you--" he protested but the boy interrupted him, darting a look over his shoulders uneasily, where the dryad had been inviting Taehyung to join her.

 

"Don't follow the Fae, Taehyung," he whispered. A chill went down Taehyung's spine at the tone in his voice. He swallowed nervously.

 

"Why?" The boy dragged his nose up the side of his face, leaving his neck and pressing a soft kiss to his temple. His hands gripped Taehyung's arms firmly, as if he never intended to let go.

 

"I won't be able to bring you back, not this time."

 

Master--

 

Taehyung jolted out of the memory when his new Queen of Clubs cautioned him. A boy with sandy hair knocked into Taehyung, sending him tumbling.

 

He blinked in shock and Sungjae snickered.

 

"Up you go, you airhead. I'm going to need that genius head intact," Sungjae pulled him to his feet and Taehyung cast his eyes slowly over his lab.

 

He'd knocked the mother liquor over, drenching his space with the blue and green glimmering fluid. He scrambled to mop it up, chucking the pen he'd been holding away.

 

Sungjae held up the sheet of paper Taehyung had been using for the rough observations with a raised eyebrow. He turned it towards him.

 

"Yah, this is not organic chemistry. Stop spoiling the readings with your weird benzene rings."

 

The sandy haired boy who was hovering apologetically over Taehyung perked up, peering at the paper.

 

"That's not benzene, that's...dimethyl-uh..." Taehyung snatched the paper away, cheeks flaming when he looked down on it. He had been doodling the chemical diagram of geosmin all over the margins without noticing it.

 

Sungjae scoffed turning back to his clipboard.

 

"Whatever, you organic chem nerds. Sealing is definitely the best approach to Alchemy engineering. Who wants to go through years of learning useless crap that we probably won't ever use?"

 

Taehyung reached out to smack Sungjae lightly, rolling his eyes with a helpless grin.

 

"Yah, say that to my face when I save both of our asses from you blowing up the chrysalis ash you're trying to grow. You need my organic chem skills for taking care of it, you know?"

 

Sungjae made a face at him, hissing at him to zip it. The boy looked between them innocently, looking confused.

 

"Not to be invasive, but can I use your energy modulus too? Mine is kinda..." He gestured behind them somewhere and Taehyung and Sungjae turned to look. It was smoking, energy hazing up from the crystals around it. The professor was fiddling with the dial, looking slightly concerned.

 

Sungjae whistled.

 

"Sungcheol-ah, you are more destructive than I gave you credit for," Sungjae spoke reverently and Taehyung snorted at the befuddled look on his face.

 

"Don't worry about him, he's just a little bit abrasive when Hyukkie isn't around."

 

Sungjae looked offended.

 

"Yah Kim Taehyung, what do you think Hyukkie is, my master? Don't go around spreading your filthy lies," Sungjae turned to Sungcheol with an angelic smile.

 

"It is in fact I, who is the master. Him and him," Sungjae pointed to Taehyung and Sanghyuk who was sleeping on an encyclopaedia peacefully, ignoring his incomplete assignments. "They are my servants. They follow my biddings like the loyal dogs they are."

 

"Woof." Taehyung barked, for the heck of it. Sungcheol looked like he didn't know whether to laugh or be horrified. He was stuck with a vaguely terrified look on his face. A beep interrupted them and Taehyung let out a whoop, turning back to his lab.

 

"Hey, I think my energy levels must have stabilised. Come help me!" Sungcheol and Sungjae scrambled behind him, getting Purified Ink cartridges and paper ready for him.

 

"Uh, are you sure this is right? This won't make it blow up?" Taehyung heard Sungcheol ask Sungjae behind his back. Sungjae slung an arm around Sungcheol’s shoulder, laughing with a manic note in his voice.

 

"Don't worry, this kid has never let me go wrong. Our Taehyungie is on an accelerated course for a reason, after all."

 

 

*

 

 

Master, I can't stand her in front of me anymore!

 

"Hush, Jiû," Taehyung scolded the nine of diamonds, balancing the squirming seven of clubs along with the shy four of spades. She was blushing as she held out her hands for the seven of clubs to hold and Taehyung moved along to the next row.

 

But masterrrrr!

 

"Be quiet or I'll marry you two," Taehyung chided and the Nine of Diamonds gaped at him in shock and outrage. The other cards holding hands and balanced under them snickered, shaking the entire mountain.

 

"Yah!" Taehyung whined as they all toppled when the shaking became too much. Most of them rolled their eyes and held their hands out again when Taehyung stood them upright to balance them.

 

But does it have to be her? Every time?

 

Taehyung rolled his eyes as the Ten of Hearts scoffed with disgust at the Nine of Diamonds.

 

"Call her noona, okay?"

 

No way, you got her to call me oppa when we were playing drama. I'm not calling her noona!

 

"I'm going to leave you out next time we play another drama," Taehyung threatened.

 

"Hi, Taehyung-ssi?"

 

"Damnit," he muttered when his cards tumbled over each other again. They all had quieted down, suddenly stopping the buzzing in Taehyung's head.

 

He looked up and met pretty brown eyes. A tentative smile played around on Irene’s lips.

 

“Oh. Hi. You’re taking Modern Theories of Energy Indexing too?”

 

Her smile widened, her features becoming softer in the afternoon glow and Taehyung’s cards warily started edging back into his hand.

 

“No, I’m actually doing my masters right now. I’m your TA for this class.”

 

What’s her Allure? Do you recognise it? The Queen of Hearts whispered in the Queen of Clubs’ ears.

 

It’s nothing I’ve ever seen before. Something is definitely happening but I can’t say what. Her energy is completely cloaked from me.

 

“Wow, Irene-ssi. I thought you were a junior,” Taehyung beamed at her and her eyebrows rose in surprise. Her grin turned bigger and slightly more goofier. It felt more genuine than any expressions he’d seen from her before and Taehyung laughed.

 

“Taehyung-ssi, don’t worry about formalities. You can call me noona.”

 

Not, the Queen of Diamonds screeched at him. Taehyung winced and flipped her over, chirping an affirmation up at Irene.

 

“Irene-noona, you can drop the formalities with me too, it’s alright! Taehyungie or Taetae is fine by me.”

 

Her eyes fell on the cards in his hand curiously and she leaned down, placing her elbows on the table in front of him and looked at him quizzically. Taehyung was distracted by the her earrings, glowing seafoam blue.

 

“Are those saturated with your energy? How do they work?”

 

Didn’t we read something about the Silvertongue abilities in Master’s old books?

 

“Yeah, they are bonded to me. They Craft things for me, heal small cuts I get everyday,” Taehyung replied. The earrings were really distracting, pulling his attention to her slender looking neck. The more he looked, the more he felt like he was forgetting something. He wondered why they were glowing like that.

 

I think it all depends on which clan she comes from. The King of Clubs replied softly.

 

The one with the Silvertongues—I don’t remember. She is a prominent icon in Master’s world. Bae Suji?

 

“What do you use, noona?” Taehyung met her eyes curiously. She took her gaze off of his cards, looking back at him softly.

 

“I have Grecian crystals. They’re in my earrings,” she swept back her silky hair behind her ears, pulling his attention to them again.

 

Oh no, I recognise this. This is how the females issue their mating calls.

 

The Jack of Spades hid his face as his mother rained down on him. His father kicked him. The Aces were tense, feeling the connection to Taehyung’s mind loosen the more he stared at Irene’s earrings.

 

“They look pretty on you, noona.”

 

Half of Taehyung's cards groaned exasperatedly at his response, the other half cooing. Taehyung reached out automatically to touch the trailing designs in a daze. Irene’s cheeks went cherry red, tilting her face towards him and allowing him to trail his fingers over the earrings.

 

Taehyung’s Aces scrambled onto his skin frantically, breaking his daze when they sensed his energy getting sapped away, as if the crystals were savouring his energy. His neck burned, jolting him out of it.

 

He jerked his hand back with wide eyes and Irene, who’d been staring at him with half lidded eyes lurched back in shock.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, noona. I…” Taehyung’s tongue tumbled over his apologies, unsure of what to say. He’d just broken a social decorum when he’d touched her source of energy without her permission. What had gotten into him?

 

Irene blinked, opening her mouth once and closing it. She finally gave him a close lipped smile, looking dazed herself.

 

“It’s alright. Don’t worry.”

 

Taehyung looked away, ashamed of himself. Irene relaxed when she saw his downtrodden face and she reached out to pat him on his shoulder.

 

“It’s really alright. I didn’t take offence, Taehyungie. I won’t yell at you for just being curious.”

 

Taehyung didn’t meet her eyes, scrubbing his fingers on the Axel of Hearts resting on his wrist, throbbing in time with his pulse. Irene sighed.

 

“Hey, if you need any help, feel free to ask me. I won’t mind if you call me up with questions about the course. I’ll do my best to help you with them, any time you need.”

 

Taehyung swallowed, feeling awkward. His neck burnt demandingly when soft fingers curled under his chin, tickling him.

 

“Yah, what happened to the happy guy who helped me out on the sadistic hopscotch? Don’t tell me he disappeared just because he had a slip-up? Smile for noona again, Taehyungie.”

 

The burning grew so intense that Taehyung jerked his chin away, looking at her. He clenched his jaw against the grimace crawling up and smiled uncomfortably. Irene’s reassuring smile reached her eyes, and she dropped her hand.

 

“There you go. Don’t stop smiling, okay?” Irene waited for him to nod. He did, bringing up his hand to touch the fiery patch of skin on his neck. It didn’t calm down, didn’t send any kinds of pleasurable waves down his spine. It just bit at him, constantly pulsing. Something welled up in his chest, making him feel like he’d just betrayed someone.

 

“Juhyun-noona,” A sudden voice interrupted them urgently. Taehyung’s eyes sluggishly wandered towards the person, feeling a slight hint of recognition prick at his conscious.

 

It was the guy from the Medical Centre, the one who’d caught him coming from the Non-Gifted wards. He was frowning at Irene, darting worried looks at Taehyung’s ashen face.

 

Hoseok? Or something?

 

“What happened?”

 

“I think professor Seohyun is asking for you.”

 

“Oh,” Irene’s voice was disappointed and she looked back at Taehyung. When he didn’t say anything, she waved slightly, making her way back towards the entrance.

 

It was only when Irene started walking away that the pain ebbed back into wherever it had come from. He winced, feeling weak and sapped. Taehyung caught the eyes of the people around the room who were sending him envious looks, shivering slightly.

 

“Hey, are you okay?” Hoseok asked him worriedly, reaching out to touch him. Taehyung jerked back instinctively and Hoseok dropped his hand.

 

“Yeah, I’m alright. Fine. Thank you,” Taehyung tripped over his words. Hoseok hesitated, like he wanted to say something. Instead, he pulled something out of his pocket and set it down in front of Taehyung.

 

“Hey, this will make you feel better.” Taehyung nodded blankly, looking down. Hoseok hesitated again when Taehyung didn't immediately pick it up. He seemed to deliberate something.

 

"Hey. Try to stay away from Juhyun-noona, okay?" there was a protective edge to his voice. Taehyung barely nodded, swallowing. Hoseok tapped on the yogurt drink before he left Taehyung. Taehyung stared down at the Axel of Clubs glowing on his wrist, like he was healing something.

 

But Taehyung didn't have any open wounds to heal, he wondered vaguely, feeling extremely disconnected when he looked at the cards. They were shivering in his hands, curling into each other.

 

He clenched his fingers around the cards, feeling a little cold himself.

 

 

*

 

 

Jungkook sketched on his college ruled notebook, darkening the lines of Taehyung’s hair. The professor droned on about something dull, and Jungkook, who’d been suppressing his excitement in front of his pack about attending Hongdae and getting out from under the scrutiny of his Alpha, couldn’t for the life of him enjoy his freedom. All his enthusiasm for learning more about the human side of his wolf, about the energy it could wield--somehow, it was replaced with a bigger motive.

 

He smiled when he lightly traced Taehyung’s lips, racing his thumb across them to smudge it. Taehyung’s eyes were tenderly fixed on a flower sprite resting on his fingers, a gentle smile gracing his lips. There was a will o’ the wisp trying to crawl onto his hair, where a small crown made of petals and leaves was resting.

 

“Hey, Jungkook,” Yugyeom’s soft voice startled him and he stiffened, controlling the urge to pull his wrist over the drawing and hiding it from the eyes of his pack members. Yugyeom was already looking over his hunched shoulders with an awed smile.

 

“Wow, what's that? It looks really good!”

 

Like clockwork, Seungkwan’s ears pricked up at Yugyeom’s voice. He leaned over, nudging Jun from where he’d been diligently taking notes. Jungkook groaned internally. What was it about attending college and being so far away from the pack that made his pack members so relaxed around him? How had they even shed the years of reserve and cautious fear they used to treat Jungkook with?

 

Jungkook wondered if it was a good thing. Seokjin would probably give birth to kittens if he knew Jungkook was finally making friends of his age.

 

“It’s nothing,” He answered reluctantly. Instead of being put off by the tone in his voice, Seungkwan perked up, going as far as to nudge his arm out of the way. Where the hell did he get the guts to do that with Jungkook?

 

“Woah.”

 

Jungkook immediately wanted to cover his drawing up, hide Taehyung from them. By now, the sleepy members of his pack had perked up, craning their necks to get a look at his drawing.

 

“Damn, son. You got some mad skills,” Seungkwan whistled. Jungkook rolled his eyes.

 

"Who's this guy? What's this about?"

 

Before Jungkook could protest, Seungkwan, that little shit, had lifted it from him. Yugyeom reached over to smoothen it and Jungkook tried to control the growl building up in his chest with an irritated huff.

 

"It's just a fae prince. It's nothing," he answered, reaching over to pull the notebook back. Most of his pack's eyes followed the sketch curiously as he dragged it back.

 

"Fae? Wow, I never thought our cute pack heir would be into the fantasy genre. Hey, I have loads of these kind of manhwas. Want to borrow some?"

 

"Cute," Jungkook repeated incredulously under his breath, feeling unbelievably insulted. What had changed?

 

He sniffed at himself suspiciously, suppressing a groan. Taehyung had used a no tears strawberry shampoo on his fur again, the one that was usually used for kids. That was probably the reason his pack members had been sniffing and stifling smirks around him the moment he'd walked into the class. Fuck.

 

They found him cute, he realised in a moment of horrifying realisation. That was what had preempted the entire change in their attitude towards him.

 

“No, thanks,” He flipped the pages furiously, moving past all the doodles of Taehyung he’d made. He cast an anxious glance to the hourglass blinking in the corner of his desk. It was cooling down, signalling the approaching end of the lecture. He glared at it, hoping it would quicken its pace.

 

His pack members were like bloodhounds, not willing to let go of the topic once they chanced upon it. Seungkwan nudged Jun with a curious grin.

 

“Hey, don’t you agree our pack heir’s really talented? He’s an artist, the best in fighting, has the noonas in the pack fawning over him, got such a great body. I heard the Gyeonggi-do pack have been eyeing Jungkook-gun, getting their engagement contracts ready,” Seungkwan teasingly raised his voice. Mingkyu let out a snort next to him, hiding his grin from Jungkook. Yugyeom didn’t bother hiding his grin. Most of the pack members around him looked pleasantly surprised that Jungkook was letting himself be teased without snapping his teeth at them.

 

Fuck, how many classes did he share with these idiots again?

 

“I’m right here.” Jungkook replied, hoping that would shut him up and stuff his daring back to wherever it had crawled out of. Much to his chagrin, it had the opposite effect.

 

“Jungkook-gun is the most sought after alpha in this side of Daehan Minguk, too. His omega would definitely be the luckiest one of whichever pack they come from,” Yugyeom smiled toothily, joining in on the teasing.

 

Jungkook cursed the fact that most of the freshmen were lumped together taking the basic courses for their first year. It had to be some kind of misfortune that one of the biggest waves of wolves in his pack that were considered eligible to attend Hongdae had to be the ones in his year.

 

His father probably thought it’d help Jungkook feel more at home with people from their pack around him, so that he could have more protection around him even though Yoongi and Namjoon were already there to look after him.

 

“They’ll be your warriors to command one day, Jungkookie. Learn to live with them.”

 

Yeah, right. Live with them. He was ready to bash his head into his table just after spending an hour in their presence.

 

Yoongi-hyung, help. He fairly screamed in his head, knowing there was dim to no chance that he would have shifted in time to hear him. He desperately looked at the hourglass again, dragging it to his left with his thumb. Numbers blinked back at him and he cursed in his head again.

 

He was itching to get back to Taehyung’s dorm, away from his pack, and see if Taehyung had remembered anything. He didn't know what the Fae in Taehyung's mindscape meant, but after the last time he'd had a run in with them--he was more disinclined to distrust them.

 

He tuned back into the conversation when his ears stopped burning, figuring they'd probably stopped talking about him.

 

“Fae are not real, anyway. It’s just pack lore, man,” Mingkyu said.

 

“Who's to say they’re not? I saw the little fae creatures on the Western Campus, booby trapping the stairs for the people to cross. They’re little menaces, I’m telling you.”

 

“Those are not real Fae. They were made as a student project by one of the graduate students in here. They are just charmed automatons to serve as an attraction.”

 

“Junie, you are stepping all over my dreams. Stop making me question my entire existence, okay?”

 

“It’s your fault for believing the pack lores Chankyung-harabeoji tells us, Seungkwan.”

 

They’re all true, Jungkook wanted to interject. The scars on his face were evidence enough that the entire experience had not been just a figment of his imagination. That Taehyung hadn’t just been a figment of imagination too. What was it if not fate that he’d run into Taehyung again, all these years later?

 

He wondered if his pack members thought Jungkook’s almost non-existent scars were left by a fight with another wolf. It wasn’t like he had any better healing than them. Moreover, a werewolf’s claws wouldn’t have been so kind to just graze his skin and leave only a slight surface scar.

 

“Yugyeomie, don’t tell me you believe they’re false too?”

 

Mingkyu slapped Seungkwan’s face, pushing him away with a huff.

 

“Look, we live in a world of science and cold facts--”

 

“And werewolves. With terrible romance fictions written about them.”

 

Mingkyu ignored Seungkwan’s interruption with a practised ease that Jungkook didn’t even have it in him to admire.

 

“Don’t you think we would have heard about them, even the slightest thing, if they were true?”

 

Jungkook kept his head down with a silent scoff. He invariably thought of Taehyung’s happy laughter, running into the forest after him with a thundering heartbeat, cursing how he wasn’t strong enough to protect him, scared out his wits that they would take him away forever from him.

 

How could Taehyung forget him?

 

“Our kind doesn’t necessarily reveal itself to the humans either, Mingkyu-yah. Doesn’t mean we don’t exist,” Jun frowned.

 

“Barring the fact that we wouldn’t be able to live amongst them anymore if we did that? At least we have a reason. What would be their reason for hiding an entire world, if Chankyung-harabeoji is to believed?”

 

Jungkook snatched up his notebook and bag gladly when the hourglass blipped, not caring as he knuckled and stepped over a few of his pack members to get to the door.

 

He paused in his steps when he felt an uneasy emotion creep up on him. What did his grandfather say about something like that?

 

Like someone is walking over your grave.

 

He shivered, feeling his shoulders hunch down. Something sapped away at his energy and his wolf tensed, licking his maws in preparation to pull Jungkook’s humanity down and make him shift against the perceived threat.

 

“Hey,” A heavy hand dropped around his shoulders. He looked up to meet Yugyeom’s cheerful smile blankly. Yugyeom didn't seem to sense the shift in his scent.

 

“Let’s get something to eat, Jungkook-gun.”

 

Something had happened to Taehyung, Jungkook realised with a foreboding feeling. He shrugged off Yugyeom’s arm, apologetically patting his shoulder.

 

“Sorry, I’ll catch you guys later. There's something I have to see to.”

Chapter Text

Taehyung shakily took his earphones out of his pocket, fumbling with the tangled wires. His was an old model, the kind that tended to get tangled in his pocket easily if he didn’t pay attention to it. He ignored their grumblings as he slowly shook them out, his thoughts haywire and unfocused. Like usual, they snarkily insulted his music taste, questioned his manhood and insulted his mother as they connected to the college cloud radio but Taehyung barely had the energy to indulge them.

 

He clutched the yoghurt drink in his other hand. Something was wrong with his cards and it felt like it was hurting his own energy.

 

Call Jimin.” He stammered, pressing on the command button on his earphones. They spewed forth another colourful set of insults as they followed his command.

 

Hey, I’m kinda busy right now--

 

“Jimin, I--”

 

--so if it’s something important, leave me a message and I’ll get back to you! Cheers!

 

Taehyung disconnected the call blankly, feeling the energy inside him recede somewhere where he couldn’t reach it. His entire body was numb to everything, needle pinpricks travelling up from his feet as if they’d been asleep for some time.

 

When it felt like his legs were about to give out under him, Taehyung collapsed behind a huge tree, away from the prying eyes of people. He pulled his knees up, hugging them tightly with his trembling arms and burying his head between the safe space, earbuds falling out of his ears.

 

Axel.

 

He called them faintly. His luck cards didn’t answer. He wondered if any of his Royalty suites would be able to hear him. Somehow with the absence of his energy from his fingertips, he could barely feel the cards themselves.

 

Fenil? Felix?

 

His Clubs didn’t answer his call either and Taehyung felt a low whine building up in his throat. There was something seriously wrong with them.

 

A branch snapped somewhere behind him, as if someone had stepped on it. He flinched, feeling a little drugged when he looked up. He distantly noted a jacket discarded somewhere a few paces away from the tree. How had it gotten there? Taehyung didn’t remember seeing any stray clothes when he’d been walking. Had he missed it somehow?

 

He turned back, head starting to pound with the nausea his energy was causing him. His energy rolled around beneath his skin, refusing to go back to functioning as it had been. Where was Jimin? Taehyung shuddered, holding onto his knees tighter.

 

Something wet licked at his fingers and he snapped his head up. He met Kookie’s sharp arched eyes, the pupils somehow wider than normal. His ears were drooping as he cocked his head, reaching further to lick at his nose worriedly. A high pitched, anxious whine surrounded Taehyung and he reached up shakily to put an arm around his neck, digging gently into the ruff of his silly black fur. Kookie's ears perked up as Taehyung rested his hot forehead against his, panting.

 

Taehyung opened his eyes, not knowing when he'd closed them. Kookie's eyes were boring into his, narrowing worriedly.

 

"Can we stay like this for a while?"

 

Kookie sat down on his hind legs obediently, letting Taehyung lean against him. He loomed over Taehyung like this but Taehyung didn't mind. The heavy weight of his body was almost reassuring, like the warmth from Kookie's body was leaking into his own.

 

Kookie nosed further in, nudging Taehyung over. Taehyung resisted half heartedly as Kookie nipped lightly at his jaw in reprimand. Taehyung landed softly on his side as Kookie moved demandingly into his space, nuzzling at his cheek with his damp snout. Taehyung shivered, wrapping himself around Kookie and hugging him tightly. His arms barely met each other around Kookie's large body so he grabbed on to his fur, mouthing at lighter patch at his neck. Kookie's whining had lessened, sounding more like he was crooning at Taehyung.

 

Kookie's woodsy scent tickled at his nose as he aimlessly buried his face further into his neck, chasing away the chill that had set in his bones. The scent was so familiar, so much like a memory slipping out of his grasp.

 

He closed his eyes.

 


He was tumbling around with a little wolf puppy, laughing happily. The pup yipped sharply, baring his fangs as he towered over Taehyung's prone form. Taehyung reached up to put his fingers around the edges of his mouth, pulling them down gently and baring his own teeth up at the wolf.

 

The wolf changed into a small boy, grinning back at him delightedly and a laugh slipped out of Taehyung's mouth when he saw his index fingers stretching the boy's lips to the side.

 

"Jungkookie," Taehyung cooed, pulling his fingers out to cup his fair chubby cheeks.

 

Jungkook laughed a little disbelievingly, grinning hard as if he couldn't stop himself.

 

"Taehyungie," he sing songed back.

 

"Were you waiting for a long time?"

 

Jungkook's eyes were shining as he reached down to nuzzle his nose affectionately against Taehyung's.

 

"For my wife? I'm ready to wait years for you."

 

Taehyung laughed, pinching his cheek.

 

"Aish, stop making me the wife. I'm the older one, I should be the husband."

 

"Isn't it the husband's job to wait on his wife?" Jungkook cocked his head to the side, a beaming smile still pulling at his lips. "That's what the pack ahjussis and harabeojis tell me whenever I ask them while they are sulking."

 

Taehyung snickered, letting his arms fall flat on the grass beneath him.

 

"Fine. I'll be the wife for today if you agree to switch the next time we play."

 

Jungkook's face fell, his chocolate brown eyes growing sad.

 

"I might have to leave soon, Tae. Yoongi-hyung and his brother are almost done talking with the Daegu pack."

 

Taehyung bounced up, immediately protesting.

 

"No. Ask them to stay a few more days, Jungkookie."

 

Jungkook scrunched his face up miserably, leaning against Taehyung.

 

"I can't. I'm not old enough to command them like my father yet."

 

Taehyung bit his lip, looking away from the boy sadly. His eyes fell on a little sprite resting among the wildflower bush, glowing dimly with energy.

 

"You know," he started hesitantly. "I could ask my friends to help us. They could make your hyungs stay."

 

Jungkook looked uncomprehendingly at him for a moment.

 

"Who?"

 

Taehyung deliberated over whether he could tell Jungkook about the fae or not. The river naiad told him that people from Taehyung's world, other humans could not be trusted with the secret.

 

But this was Jungkookie. He was not a human. He was Taehyung's best friend.

 

He leaned in, motioning Jungkook to come closer. He cupped a hand around his ear to whisper his words.

 

"There is an invisible world around us, Kookie. They live with us every second, secretly. They are here with us, even now."

 

Jungkook leaned back, looking confused but trusting.

 

"Taehyung-ah, who are you talking about? I can't see anyone."

 

"It's because you are not looking right, Jungkookie." Taehyung answered earnestly. Jungkook pouted at him, looking cheesed off at the remark.

 

"But I'm looking. Even through my other eyes, see?" Jungkook's eyes turned a golden brown and he pointedly took a look around their surroundings. Taehyung swallowed, wondering if he should really do it.

 

"Jungkookie, look at me."

 

Jungkook barely had a chance to turn back to look at Taehyung when Taehyung gripped the warm skin of his cheeks, leaning in quickly to peck at the corner of his mouth. He leaned back instantly, blushing a little.

 

Why was his heart beating so fast? Was this what the grown ups called a heart attack? Taehyung felt like he was about to die. Jungkook's eyes were wide, the golden irises dying down to a warm amber brown. His mouth was hanging open, looking shocked with what Taehyung had done. Taehyung felt like hiding his face.

 

"Can you see them now?"

 

Jungkook didn't reply, eyes dropping to his mouth. Taehyung brought his hand up to cover his lips, breaking his gaze. His ears burned under the intensity of Jungkook's stare.

 

"Look," he forcefully turned Jungkook's head towards the cluster of sprites hanging cheerfully from the willow tree, photosynthesizing under the warm Daegu sun. Jungkook stilled, silent as he stared at the willow tree. A moment after Taehyung let go, he turned back with his eyebrows raised.

 

“I don’t see anything.”

 

Taehyung’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. Jungkook waited with bated breath when Taehyung started fidgeting with the laces of his hoodie.

 

“They told me that me kissing someone would do it—they’d be able to see them too. My stamp- it would give them the Sight,” Taehyung blushed to the roots of his hair, staring at Jungkook’s bare chest. He reached out to brush out some of the smudged dirt under his bone collarbone. Jungkook flinched slightly but leaned into his touch.

 

“Maybe you didn’t do it properly,” Jungkook hedged carefully, nose twitching the way it always did when Jungkook was lying. Taehyung pouted, wondering if he was right, feeling even shyer than the first time at the thought of repeating the action.

 

“Tae, I want to meet your friends too,” Jungkook pressed hopefully.

 

Taehyung was silent, feeling like the heat coming from his cheeks would be enough to boil water. Jungkook’s wispy black hair filled his vision when Jungkook dipped and pressed his mouth against Taehyung’s impulsively.

 

“Mhhm—”he mumbled against his lips. Jungkook pressed in harder and Taehyung fidgeted under the soft press of his lips. Did Jungkook always smell like the rain? Taehyung almost wanted to know if he tasted the same as raindrops did on his tongue. Jungkook tilted his head, shifting his lips over Taehyung’s with a slight awkwardness and pressed another kiss into them. His dry lips caught on Taehyung’s and he jolted.

 

He’d only kissed his mother and his grandparents before. His friends told him kindergarten kisses didn’t count. So would this be considered as his first kiss?

 

He sprang away from Jungkook at the thought with a yelp, heart racing as fast as one of the KTX trains his mother had taken him to see when it had been just built. Jungkook opened his eyes slowly, blinking in a daze. Taehyung couldn't take his eyes away from his lips. Had they really been on his just moments before?

 

“T-Taehyung?” Jungkook asked, sounding sleepy. He reached out as if on a reflex and Taehyung leaned away. Jungkook’s eyes sharpened, fixing on Taehyung with an unerring focus. Something had entered his eyes when Taehyung moved away from him, a look Taehyung recognised from the neighbourhood kitten’s eyes when he used to dangle catnip in front of her.

 

A small pink tongue slid out of Jungkook’s mouth, licking his lips as if he wanted to gather all traces of Taehyung. Taehyung was spellbound by the sight of his gleaming lips.

 

Was that really his first kiss? Was it Jungkook’s first kiss too?

 

A small tickling on his hand made him jolt and he watched Jungkook’s eyes flicker to the side. A small will o' the wisp was climbing his fingers resting on the grass, sneezing lightly at the change of texture. Taehyung smiled, cupping it carefully between his hands and bringing it up between him and Jungkook.

 

“Can you see him now?”

 

Jungkook looked torn. His eyes kept flickering between the bright fae and Taehyung’s face. The corner of his mouth pulled up.

 

“Yeah,” he said, almost grudgingly. Taehyung grinned, the awkwardness of the moment dissolved between them. He moved his hand closer to Jungkook so he could see the glowing fae creature. His feathery trails tickled along his skin and he stifled a giggle.

 

“What is this?” Jungkook asked wonderingly.

 

“He’s a will o’ the wisp. He appears during funerals, to help the souls return to the Lifestream,” Taehyung said in a hushed voice, watching the creature glow contentedly in his palms. He set the creature down near them in the grass, watching him camouflage himself within the blades.

 

Jungkook watched in awe as Taehyung pointed out the other creatures near the glade. They were flickering in and out of sight, blinking warmly back at them as if greeting Taehyung’s friend. Taehyung felt so warm from the inside that he clutched at his stomach, feeling like it was about to burst from the happiness.

 

“They are all my friends, you know?” he peeked at Jungkook, smiling giddily. “There are a lot more of them, hiding somewhere. I haven’t met them all yet but these little kids tell me stories about them.”

 

“How did you discover them, Taehyungie?”

 

“Same way I found you, silly,” Taehyung chirped. “I prayed for more friends so I could write to appa about them every day. And God heard me, just like halmeoni said. He sent me all of them. And now, you!”

 

“God didn’t send me, hyung. My father sent me with Yoongi and Junho hyung because I am to be declared the pack heir on the Winter Sol- Solsti- on that day.” Jungkook fumbled, giving it up. “We needed the northern packs to know about it so they could make preparations.”

 

“So you’ll be Prince Jungkookie,” Taehyung teased. Jungkook blushed at the moniker, swatting slightly at Taehyung.

 

“Hyung!”

 

“Naked, naked Prince Jungkookie,” Taehyung tickled Jungkook, laughing as he shied away, giggling. “Prince Jungkookie who is a cute, cute puppy that still likes drinking milk and cookies,” Taehyung crowed into Jungkook’s unhappy face.

 

“Hyung, I won’t be a pup forever! Stop!” Jungkook held his wrists, somehow possessing more strength than Taehyung in his all eleven year old glory. Taehyung pouted. How unfair was it that his cuddly dongsaeng could stop his attacks? Taehyung was in serious danger of losing the honour of a hyung who could order around and tease his dongsaeng.

 

“You know, they call me a Prince too?” Taehyung giggled. “My friends, they think I’m a Prince too.”

 

“You’d be the worst Prince ever,” Jungkook complained, lifting Taehyung’s wrists up to control his squirming. “You would ignore everyone else to go talk to that weird ghost of yours living under your bed.”

 

 

*


“Halmeoni?” Taehyung blinked, trying to drive the haze away from his eyes. His grandmother was clutching at his shoulders, shaking him frantically.

 

“Taehyung? Taehyung-ah? Can you hear me?”

 

“Wh-What’s wrong, halmeoni? Is Bulgeogi okay?” Taehyung asked groggily, thinking he’d forgotten to feed his pet goldfish. He hoped his grandmother had seen the lettuce he’d kept out for Bulgeogi.

 

His grandmother let out a sob, clutching him tightly to her chest. Taehyung blinked again, yawning. Why did he feel so tired? His feet were aching something awful, like he’d been walking and jumping around all day. Why was his grandmother crying?

 

“Do you remember anything, Taehyung?”

 

Taehyung stared at his bed over his grandmother’s shoulder. Had he slept on the floor again? Maybe that was why he was so tired. What was he supposed to remember? He tried to think about what he’d been doing the last time he was awake.

 

There was nothing.

 

“Ah-halmeoni, you’re hurting me,” Taehyung complained, pushing lightly. His grandmother’s sobs had quietened down into breathy sighs.

 

“Bear with your old halmeoni, Taehyungie,” She replied, clutching him even tighter. “Your halmeoni thought she’d never see you again. She was almost ready to take the changeling in, forget you so easily. Forgive me, Taehyung, forgive your halmeoni,” She moaned. Taehyung scrubbed his eyes, smelling a rich, woody scent on his fingers. Was his grandmother going senile? He didn’t know what the word meant when his uncle said it when he talked about her, but it didn’t sound good. Taehyung didn’t want his only grandmother to leave him.

 

“Halmeoni, what’s the matter?” he brought his hands around her neck, pressing his face into the skin of her neck. He patted her comfortingly, frowning.

 

“Halmeoni is sorry about everything, Taehyungie. It’s for your own good that you forget everything that happened to you. I won’t be able to forgive myself otherwise.” His grandmother whispered in his hair. Taehyung stared at the wizened skin of her neck, wondering what she was talking about.

 

“Okay,” he replied softly, smiling comfortingly. His grandmother was silent, clutching at his shirt.

 

“Halmeoni, will you sing me to sleep?”

 

His grandmother made a choking sound and Taehyung murmured comfortingly. She laughed breathily, humming his familiar lullaby and Taehyung felt his eyes slide close immediately. The usual chirping of a songbird outside his window was absent and he groggily wondered where he’d gone off to. He muttered in his sleepy state, complaining at the lack of his usual chirping. His grandmother paused, hushing him and slowly getting up to tuck him into the bed. Taehyung whined at the movement, clutching at her.

 

When he felt her tucking him in, he yawned, turning on his side. A soft murmur of voices interrupted her lullaby and he pouted.

 

“Jaejoong-ah, are you sure he won’t remember anything?”

 

“Yes. I placed blocks in his memories so he forgets anything about the changeling and the fae he’s seen.” Taehyung didn’t recognise the voice, but it sent a warm rush of comfort through him. His voice reminded Taehyung of the summer, of his father. He smiled.

 

“Will--is his Gift alright? Does he still have the Gift?”

 

“It’s Beltane. The fae magick is strong in the Lifestream, right now. It will take time to recede. He will be weak for the next few weeks but he will spring back.”

 

“He’s such a precocious little child. I wouldn’t know what I’d do if something worse had happened to him. His mother would...no parent should have to bury their own child. It would have destroyed her,” his grandmother murmured softly.

 

“Your grandson is special,” the man whispered urgently. “You need to make sure he stays far, far away from anything in our world. There are creatures in our world that would take utmost pleasure in tasting his flesh and harvesting his energy.”

 

“I know better than to say that I owe someone from the Fae a favour,” his grandmother sounded slightly stronger. Taehyung hummed the remaining part of the lullaby to himself and his grandmother sighed. “Jaejoong-ah, I--”

 

“It’s believed to be a greater insult if someone thanks a Fae,” the man interrupted. “Just keep him safe and consider your debt paid.”

 

“What about the little boy who came to me? Did you kill him?”

 

“It was just a changeling. He was not your grandchild. Why worry about it?” Jaejoong replied wryly.

 

“He still had Taehyungie’s face. It felt wrong.”

 

“It’s their magick. They spirit away human children and replace them with their changeling children to take their places. If you had let the boy in, he would have destroyed you and fed on your flesh,” Jaejoong sounded grim. “Anyway, it was a little wolf pup who killed him. He was following your grandchild’s steps, guarding him from the more vicious of the fae. Your grandchild had quite a protector.”

 

“Taehyung always had such a way with animals. I would not be surprised.”

 

“Indeed,” Jaejoong murmured mysteriously.

 

Taehyung slipped into a dream, smiling peacefully. He dreamt of a dark haired boy, giggling and following after him, stumbling on a stray branch. He dreamt of his dark eyes, of his wide toothy grin and his habit of tackling Taehyung to the ground. He dreamt of a boy who loved him back happily, who swore to never leave his side.

 

He dreamt.

 

Something altered in Taehyung’s scent. Jungkook lifted his head, eyes widening when he sniffed at his neck. He whined low in his throat, unsettled by it. Taehyung didn’t respond, still dozing against his neck. The light was starting to get dark and Jungkook yipped sharply to wake him up. When a pained moan broke through Taehyung’s lips, soaking into his skin, he froze.

 

Taehyung’s energy was changing.

******

A black cat landed with a feline grace among the dry leaves, ears pricking up in startled shock. A squirrel scampered away from its vicinity but the cat paid it no mind, turning its head eastwards in a distance as if in answer to some kind of a call.

 

A prickling of the Lifestream was all the sign of another person appearing nearby, following lazily along the cat's footfalls, almost even more gracefully. The cat cocked its head to the side, meowing quietly.

 

"You sense it too, don't you?" A melodic voice commented lightly, hiding a gleeful undertone. The cat didn't say anything, blinking at the subtle change in the Lifestream. The powerful pulsing of a new presence, like a beacon in the distance announcing itself.

 

A new presence, something more immediate made the cat's fur bristle with warning. It crouched on its hind legs to jump into a tree for cover. The man behind it snickered at its actions as the foliage around him started to shrivel with the cold.

 

There was the slightest brush of a foreign energy against their own when a man, tall and covered in black armour stepped out of the tree bark. The cat hissed at the sight of him, crouching behind leaves.

 

"Ah, Yesung-ah. You scared poor Hakyeonnie, shame on you."

 

The man radiated his displeasure, the frost in his tone coating the leaves around them with little sharp icicles.

 

"You didn't have my permission to call me by my name the last time we met, Robin Goodfellow. What makes you think you have it now?"

 

"We fae folk are all friends here, Yesung. You can call me Puck. Or Heechul - the name I go by these days. Whichever strikes your fancy," the man winked, his bright orange hair equally as loud as his actions. Yesung's face twisted into an expression of disgust, disappearing just as quickly. The cat hissed another warning at Puck when it felt the Sword of Winter seethe with a frosty anger. Yesung rested a palm on the silver hilt, as if reassuring it.

 

"You are a disgrace to our kind, Goodfellow. Oberon should have disposed of you the second you stepped into the Fae Court. You and your merry band of criminals," Yesung sneered, darting a look at the cat behind the tree. "Your kind should be punished in front of the entire Fae folk."

 

Heechul pouted mockingly, delighting in the discomfort his very presence was causing the Winter Knight.

 

"How unfortunate for you then, Yesung. Though I doubt Hankyungie and Changmin would appreciate being referred to as criminals. But what do you know, maybe Hyukjae and little Donghae could get a kick out of it."

 

Yesung's face twisted at the mention of his former friends. He swallowed, breaking his gaze from Heechul’s sharp eyes. Heechul knew exactly where to hone in on his weakness and aim the barb, to dig into the old festering wounds Yesung would rather ignore.

 

“Don’t speak of them with your tainted mouth, wretched imp.”

 

“Oh Yesung-ah, if only had you not sought out the Sceptre of Life right in the middle of Beltane. Had you bent your head in defeat after having issued the challenge to the Knight of Summer, you could have been invited back to join us. Jaejoong would have been willing to contest for you with Oberon, just like Yunho did for him with Mab. All of this just because of some imagined slight to your honour... ”

 

Yesung clenched his jaw, refusing to rise to the bait.

 

“If only the Sceptre of Life was still present in Avalon...” Heechul mused, sneaking a sly look at Yesung's cold face. He winked cheerfully, turning back to the far horizon. His tongue flickered out, as if he was tasting the energy lingering in the air.

 

“Did it lure you out too, Yesung-ah? The impact of a glamour shattering?”

 

Yesung’s silence was stony. Frost started creeping up around the tree barks. It didn’t touch Heechul but his breath came out in little puffs of air.

 

"He's a young one, his energy is yet untrained. Curious."

 

"Goodfellow, you're forbidden from stepping into the human world. Don't even think of trying anything funny on my watch," Yesung threatened, looking like he wanted to draw his sword and cut Heechul's head off where he stood. Heechul giggled.

 

"Oh, my little dongsaeng is concerned about me? This warms my heart, Yesung. Quite ironic for you, isn't it?"

 

The chill turned biting when Yesung let out a scoff of disgust, turning back to the tree he'd come from.

 

"Put a step out of the line and I will know, Puck. And this time, Hankyung won't be there to save you from my wrath."

 

Heechul mockingly waved his fingers at his back, when he returned to Avalon. When the last of his black tunic disappeared, the black cat warily tip toed its way out. The smile slid off Heechul's face when he met the eyes of the cat.

 

"Is it the Sceptre? Are you sure?"

 

The cat meowed plaintively, making its way to wind between Heechul's legs. It carefully side stepped the melting ice, shaking off the water in its fur.

 

"Curiouser and curiouser," Heechul whispered, a gleeful glint alighting in his eyes. The glamour was trying to rebuild itself, to shield what it had been protecting all along. But the small lapse in it was enough for Heechul. He closed his eyes, spreading his energy forth, using the unmoving and silent trees of the human world. It took a bit more of his concentration because the Lifestream systems of the plants were more rigid than the ones of the fae, unreceptive to foreign energy.

 

The Sceptre of Life had almost become a myth in their world. Eons had passed since anyone had ever laid eyes on the Sceptre rumoured to possess enough power to command the entirety of the Faerie realms. The Sceptre had been the real source of their energy until one day, it vanished during a Beltane ceremony, right under the watchful eyes of Oberon and Titania.

 

There had been no sign of Fae mischief from either of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. It was unlikely anyone could have just thieved it. There had been no one, no creature or Fae, who'd been able to wield the Sceptre in existence. It was task so impossible that myths and dances had been spun about it to be recited in Oberon's court during summer.

 

The Sceptre was lost and with it, the axis of the power had shifted over the centuries. The Fae were weakening without the support of the Sceptre of Life. The widespread panic had lasted for a few centuries, soldiers and knights undertaking quests to bring it back to no avail. It had been lost, somehow another part of their forgotten myths of glory.

 

The human folk had started to lose faith in the existence of Fae. They grew their own machinations which could level entire worlds if they so wished. Paganism was dropped in favour for the new age religions and with it, the Fae were forgotten. Even the ones who owed their inheritances to the Fae folk adopted and polished the scientific theories for their existence, forgetting their heritage. Sirens, Djinns, Lorelai and Lamia of the remnants of Unseelie Court, Spellmakers, Well Wishers, and Shapeshifters of the Seelie Court--they all lost the Sight.

 

Heechul's energy pinged, focusing on a bright vortex. Heechul gasped, feeling the slightest twinge of the Sceptre's energy pulsing. It felt richer than the forests blooming in Avalon, brighter than the sun beating down from overhead, more seductive than any other Fae magick. It crooned at Heechul, bringing tears to his eyes.

 

He opened his eyes, focusing on Hakyeon when he let his energy go. His eyes glinted as a satisfied smile took over his face.

 

"How...fitting. The Sceptre has been hiding within the humans all these years."

 

The cat's whiskers twitched as he sprang up to claw his way onto Heechul's shoulder. It licked the pointed end of Heechul's ear with its rough tongue.

 

"No, Hakyeonnie. The human himself possesses Fae magick. Untrained, restrained by some kind of a block. The disruption in his natural energy was what caused the glamour to shatter in the first place."

 

The cat purred in dissent, pawing at Heechul's tunic.

 

"I did try to possess his mind. There's some kind of a barricade, the iron kind. This human child has definitely been in the company of Fae before. A powerful one, at that, to have cast such a strong glamour," Heechul mused.

 

The cat meowed in question, butting its head against Heechul’s cheek. Heechul brought up a hand to pet its head, brushing through its soft fur. The frost around them had almost melted completely, leaving the smell of burnt ozone. Heechul revelled in the charred aftertaste of energy, darting his tongue out to taste it.

 

“All in good time, Hakyeon. All in good time,” he murmured, a barely hidden malice dripping from his voice. His eyes glinted savagely, fixed on the distant horizon.

 

The strange human child with the Sceptre of Life.

 

It already sounded like the start of a fantastic tragedy.

*

Namjoon sighed, letting go of the pink highlighter, staring blankly at the passages blaring up from the book. The Celtic symbols were starting to blur in front of his eyes and he gave it up.

 

He wondered if Jungkook was adjusting well to the humans around him. Practically sheltered his entire life from the human side of the world, being thrust suddenly into the midst of people his own age who were barely entering adulthood themselves--the pack heir was bound to have problems controlling his volatile emotions. But on the other hand, it could probably count as a good experience for him too. To be so far away from the watchful eyes of the council and his father, he'd finally get to be himself and not the rigid and disciplined heir he'd been brought up as.

 

Namjoon considered signing the kid up for drama classes. He remembered watching him follow Yoongi around like a shadow, eagerly filming his progress when he Crafted intricate infrastructure plans. He certainly did have a flair for the creative arts. The only thing possibly restricting him would be his father's disapproval. But Namjoon was ready to risk the Alpha's wrath if it meant Jungkook could finally have his freedom to pursue what he wanted.

 

His eyes drifted towards the drawings he’d taped up on the cupboard, something he’d never admit having done to the brat’s face.

 

It was the drawing where Jungkook had captured Yoongi's white fur coat lounging on the ground with snowflakes on his snout, batting some of it away grumpily-- quite unsuccessfully because wolves didn’t have any opposable thumbs to boast about--that made him remember the very exact situation he'd been trying to forget. He groaned, pressing the heel of his palm to his eyes.

 

Seokjin was frantically dropping hints for Namjoon to do something about Yoongi's approaching heat. Dealing with Yoongi when he was in his heat was not a good idea of fun for him on good days. What made Seokjin think he'd do anything about the situation other than procrastinate shamelessly?

 

That fucking hyung could take care of his own knot. Namjoon wasn't that eager to get his neck broken by a furious Yoongi in throes of his heat, just because he tried to help him.

 

If not for Seokjin's annoying nagging, Namjoon would have let the matter resolve itself without any interference from him. Seokjin, the worst bane of his existence and the biggest cockblocker to his own chances of getting laid, was making him think about doing things he'd rather donate a kidney than do. All because Yoongi had managed to get himself involved with a human somehow who had triggered his heat. Fuck to the no, really.

 

Who needed two kidneys anyway?

 

Namjoon picked up the phone, wrinkling his nose as he immediately removed the reminder set by Seokjin to call the Elders about Yoongi's predicament.

 

I'm retiring, hyung. You can take care of the kids by yourself.

 

Seokjin was probably doing the double shift again. Namjoon forlornly wondered when his own heat was going to hit. At least then, Seokjin would willingly focus his attention on him.

 

He backed out of his KKT seeing another notification pop up. He warily opened the message from Hunchul.

 

Yah, gonna do something about your pathetic mopey status already? Is Seokjin not letting you mack on him enough?

 

Namjoon twitched.

 

Hello hyung, he typed back calmly. I almost have my diss track ready for you. Yoongi-hyung has been giving me tips on your lack of a love life too :)

 

At least I'm getting laid on a regular basis, fuckface ;)

 

Not according to what Yoongi-hyung says, hyungnim :D

 

How is your right hand feeling, Joonie? I've heard you could get a cramp if you do it long enough. Take care, ok?? :DDDD

 

Namjoon grit his teeth against the passive aggressive barrage of emojis that followed. He immediately booted up his computer, opening the folder he'd kept his disses in. It was time to deliver on his threat. To hell with Immunotechnology. He was never going to pass the class anyway.

*

Target sample not compatible with current specifications.

 

Yoongi cursed, exiting the window and shutting his laptop lid down hard. He threw it away from himself with a scoff, not particularly caring where it landed. There wasn't an alarming thump so he assumed nothing broke this time.

 

He fell on his back hard, throwing an arm over his eyes in frustration. His spine let out a twinge of pain at his action.

 

Fucking Park Jimin.

 

The bond was all but thrumming with the desire, gleefully sliding itself into the crevices of Yoongi's remaining pieces of sanity. Yoongi was almost a hundred percent sure the bond had sensed his heat approaching and had abated a bit, like it was waiting for a chance to overwhelm him. Yoongi was a wolf, a predator himself. He knew how the hunt worked. He knew the feeling of anticipation as well as he knew the back of his own hand.

 

Seokjin kept assuring him that the bond was established with the sole intent of bringing its pair closer and intermingling the energies on the either sides. It had no other ulterior motives. But Yoongi wasn't so sure. None of them had any idea how soul energy worked. At least their natural energies could be commanded only by conscious desire. Soul energy was slightly more sentient than its counterpart. Ergo, Seokjin knew shit.

 

He caught himself thinking of Jimin again, letting out a groan. Park Jimin was like the worst kind of drug, the one he couldn't help but find himself craving every moment he wasn't near. Yoongi's body went against his will, straining to get near to Jimin every second they spent sharing the same bed at night. It had been torturous, making him toss and turn throughout the night. Jimin held himself back rigidly, as if he was shunning his every touch. Yoongi was growing unsettled by it the longer it went on, even if it was what he’d been hoping for since the start.

 

He thought of the betrayal in Jimin’s eyes in the morning light, like Yoongi was tearing into him with his words.

 

Yoongi's wolf howled in his head, sending waves of aggression and self recrimination. Yoongi flinched, closing his eyes. The soul energy turned unmanageably hot, saturating his crystals and energy tattoos with its fury. Yoongi yelped out in pain, clutching his bicep and curling in on his side.

 

Epik High's Rich blasted near his ear and he flinched, letting it ring. His wolf was trying to absorb the pain for him, snapping his jaws at it. A low whine eked out of Yoongi's mouth at the intensity of it--twisting in further on himself.

 

The ringing stopped after a moment only to start up again, persistently. Yoongi clenched his teeth against the pain, shooting out a hand to accept the call and moved the phone somewhere near south of his mouth.

 

"Hello? Yoongi-hyung? Hyung!" Jimin's frantic voice pulled him out of his agony and he scrambled for the phone, catching it with an amazing agility he didn't know he had.

 

"What?" he rasped, hoping Jimin didn't hear the uplift in his voice. Yoongi rolled his eyes in disgust at his own actions. How desperate was he for the slightest bit of Jimin's attention?

 

"Hyung, are you okay?" Jimin sounded concerned, so different from the detached tone he'd been using the last few days that it knocked the breath out of Yoongi. A warm feeling crept in his skin and he barely noticed the pain in his mark abating.

 

"Yeah. Peachy," he cleared his throat, swallowing.

 

"Oh." Jimin sounded wrong again, like he was retreating back into himself. "Sorry for bothering you then."

 

"Wait!" Yoongi croaked impulsively. He smacked himself when he realised he had nothing else to say. He cast his mind back frantically, trying to remember how conversations worked.

 

"Where are you right now?"

 

"Uh, there are some demonstrations being held in the auditorium. I'm participating in one of the matches?"

 

"What?" Yoongi yelled, nearly jumping out of his skin. Jimin was participating in the Annual Demonstrations? Yoongi had assumed it had just been a small, personal demonstration for extra credit when he'd Inked Jimin's tattoo. How had Yoongi not noticed it before? It would certainly explain why Jimin had started cramming around the room. Yoongi had just assumed that the kid couldn't handle the awkwardness hanging in the air between them any longer and had turned to his books to avoid Yoongi.

 

Why hadn't Jimin told him about it?

 

You're not his friend, neither someone he'd be able to talk to, his subconscious chided him. You need to actually let the kid in before he trusts you enough to tell you these things, idiot.

 

"Yeah, I'm in the Applied Energy and Physical Demonstrations--"

 

"Wait for me, I'm coming over." Yoongi interrupted Jimin, hanging up the phone before Jimin could say anything else. He quickly brushed a hand through his unruly hair, blinking when his actions caught up with him. The strong thrum of concern from his wolf had him swallowing. He looked decisively at himself in the mirror, telling himself that he wasn't doing it out of any attachment towards Jimin. It was what he'd do for any dongsaeng of his. It was no different than him showing up for Jungkook's matches with the other pups and cheering him on silently.

 

Deep down, he knew it wasn't true.

 

He walked to the auditorium, clutching the cold cans of energy drinks in his hand with a wary hesitation. He avoided Hoseok, ducking into the auditorium before he could see him and start nagging, or God forbid, tag along in curiosity and find out about him and Jimin.

 

He stepped inside, feeling a jarring sense of deja vu freeze him in his steps.

 

The assault of human stench was much more intense than the usual, mixed with the slight musks of the wolves from various packs who were participating in the Physical Demonstration. Demonstrations like these came with a tacit advantage for the wolves, who unlike humans, could depend on the practiced reflexes and tenacious balance that coiled inside their bodies. It came easier for them--the agility, the higher tolerance to pain and lifestream burnout, accelerated healing to back it up. There was an entire silent battle between the wolves during the Demonstrations that the humans weren’t privy to. Nerves ran high, aggression came easier and blood thrummed raucously and out of beat in tightened muscles. Wolves like them could practically taste it in the air, the hunger to win and the eagerness to draw blood. It was all the reason they needed to assert their dominance on the field and emerge as the alpha amongst them.

 

It was also the entire reason why Yoongi never attended these Demonstrations. The only one he’d been to was his own and after being forced to hurt a few wolves of his own pack during the physical Demonstrations when he’d momentarily lost control over himself--it was all the reason he needed to stop doing any kind of physical bouts inside the walls of Hongdae. White Devil Yoongi, they called him, sniffed between lips twisted in disgust and a grudging respect. His teeth clenched down whenever he heard them, tasting bitterness and blood in between his fangs.

 

Yoongi shook it off and rubbed his lips with his thumb, making sure his teeth hadn’t elongated in response to the sudden rise of noradrenaline in his body. He eyed the people milling about, stretching and warming up on the floor and exhaled softly. The only people he could recognise from his own pack were Jiho training some of the kids who followed him around--Jiho egging them find an opening to hit him and throwing them around roughly once they came within grasping distance.

 

It didn't seem like anything had started. The huge sandglass on the ceiling blinked and rotating on its ends, filling itself up with blue tinged lifestream. The Anthem hadn't been read out then. Yoongi was relieved he hadn't missed anything.

 

Most of the humans were naked from the top, opting for less clothes to conduct their Gifts with more efficiency. Girls in sports bras and sweatpants were practising rolling and stretching, while some of them were doing push-ups and maintaining focused charms above their heads simultaneously. The boys were posturing at each other, getting their equipment ready and looking furtively around at the people they’d gotten matched up with. Yoongi perused the room for Jimin with a feeling of dread building up.

 

He found him jogging along the length of the auditorium, earbuds in place and his tan, naked skin glistening with sweat collecting on the grooves of his chest. Yoongi's mouth fell open.

 

Fuck.

 

He turned his face downwards to get his wolf under control. He couldn't take his eyes off Jimin's lithe form, tracking the bunching of strong muscles under his skin as he completed his circuit. Fertilestrongresilientoursoursours, his wolf hissed in his ear with a ferocious strength behind his carnal desire, jolting him. Yoongi snapped his mouth close, not even surprised at the buildup of saliva--for once, in complete agreement with his wolf.

 

Had he always been that tempting? How could a human cause Yoongi to lose his inhibitions to such an extreme extent?

 

Another boy cut into Jimin’s path, slinging an arm around his shoulders and putting him in a half nelson hold. Jimin laughed, cheeks flushing and Yoongi’s heart rate immediately skyrocketed. A feral growl slipped out between his teeth, eyes narrowing at the scene playing out in front of him. The other boy reached out to twist Jimin’s nipple teasingly and he flinched, shying away with a peal of laughter, willingly returning to shove him back. Yoongi’s breath hitched at the easy contact, feeling something grab hold of his lungs and choking them.

 

Since when had Jimin’s skin stopped itching when someone other than Yoongi touched him? How could he be so comfortable in someone else’s hold while Yoongi was driving himself mad with thoughts of stealing forbidden touches and disguising them as innocent actions around Jimin? How could he give himself so freely to others without any thought of the consequences?

 

He turned back, not able to bear the mixture of covetous anger and jealousy burning in his chest. His nails cut white crescents in his palm as he put one heavy step in front of the other, feeling tired all of a sudden.

 

“Yah, Min Yoongi!”

 

Yoongi froze in his tracks. Jiho made his way over, punching Yoongi in the arm. Yoongi snuck a look at Jimin and his friend, wincing when he saw Jimin looking up at him with wide eyes. He was thankfully standing a few paces away from his friend, gaping at him.

 

“What?” he asked crankily, scowling up at him. Jiho sneered mockingly at his expression before he tried to pull Yoongi down to noogie him. Years of having grown up roughhousing with him and their friends, Yoongi knew how to lean away and dodge him. Jiho snorted and reached out to ruffle the hair peeking from under his beanie.

 

“How’s that track you’ve been working on coming along, shortie? Pdogg-hyung is telling me all good things.”

 

“Call me shortie once more and I’ll break your face, Jiho,” Yoongi scowled, reaching up to pull the beanie back into place.

 

“Would like to see you try, shortcake,” Jiho grinned, darting curious eyes towards his clothed bicep. He leaned in, sniffing. Yoongi shoved him back roughly, using more force than he would normally. Jiho seemed to notice, eyebrows shooting up at his aggressiveness.

 

“Woah, are you in heat? What’s wrong with your scent, dude?”

 

Yoongi was saved from a reply when a scent he was all too familiar with swayed under his nose. He turned back when he felt Jimin’s light touch on his shoulder, feeling pathetically better just by Jimin's proximity.

 

“Hyung?” Jimin looked at him disbelievingly, as if he’d not expected for Yoongi to actually turn up. Yoongi grit his teeth, determinedly not looking at the expanse of skin. When he heard Jiho let out a whoosh of breath beside him, he almost snapped.

 

“Jesus, at least wear a tank or something, Jimin,” Yoongi’s eyes fell on the towel Jimin had carried up with him and he snatched it out of his grip, moving protectively in front of him so he could shield Jimin from Jiho’s wandering eyes.

 

“I--” Jimin stammered, looking taken aback by his sudden proximity. Yoongi furiously dabbed the towel at the sweat on his bare collarbones and muscled shoulders, motions turning gentle when he realised how tight his grip on the towel was.

 

Don’t hurt him anymore, you asshole, he scolded himself. Jiho let out a mocking ‘ooh’ from behind Yoongi, probably smelling all kinds of pheromones coming off from him. What was he, in middle school?

 

“Hyung?” Jimin asked softly, sounding fragile. His heartbeat roared in Yoongi’s ears and he looked up almost unconsciously.

 

Jimin’s brown eyes were swimming with disbelief and wary hope. It was as if he was a puppy waiting for a kick that he knew was coming. Like he was sure Yoongi was going to be the one to deliver it.

 

Yoongi broke away, shoving the wet and musky smelling towel into Jimin’s face.

 

“Get lost, Jiho,” Yoongi glared at him when he snickered, mouthing 10/10 would bang, good job, loser.

 

“Fucker,” Jiho muttered affectionately, patting his shoulder and leaving them alone. Shit, Yoongi was going to get a lot of flak for his scent changing around Jimin later. Jiho was nothing if not a reliable source of gossip.

 

“So, where’s your friend? That Gambit one?” Yoongi asked, trying for a nonchalant tone. He barely breathed through his nose, fearing what it would do to him if he did. Jimin didn’t meet his eyes, patting his neck dry.

 

“Taehyung? I-I don’t know, actually,” Jimin sounded fine but there was a subtle change in his scent, heading towards the morose spectrum of things, unsettling Yoongi.

 

“Call him, then. Shouldn’t you have people cheering for you?”

 

“He’s not picking up. Anyway, it’s fine,” Jimin rushed hurriedly, looking back at a bunch of people near the bleachers. “I have some friends here to cheer for me.”

 

Yoongi thought of the boy who’d so freely laid his fingers on Jimin and rubbed up against him, as if he had an unspoken right to. Was he a friend, too? He’d never actually asked Jimin if he was dating somebody, or was in the process of it, if he came to think about it.

 

“Awesome,” he said sullenly. His eyes fell on the cans he was holding and he thrust them into Jimin’s chest. Jimin staggered, catching the polythene bag.

 

“These are for you. For, you know,” he winced inwardly at his own awkwardness. “Good luck.”

 

Jimin gaped at him, mouth open. Yoongi scowled.

 

Nope, that’s it. I’m hauling ass, Jimin be damned.

 

“Thanks, hyung. I-” Jimin faltered, freezing him in his tracks. Jimin raked his hand through his hair uncomfortably, looking equal parts touched and befuddled.

 

“Shut up, Park Jimin,” Yoongi muttered in reply, looking down at the ground. He tapped his fingers on his thigh unconsciously, matching it to the drumming beat of Jimin’s heart. It had started to quicken. What exactly was Jimin thinking?

 

“Hyung, will you share one with me? Please?” Jimin asked when he saw Yoongi fidgeting. He shifted on his feet nervously, looking at him so hopefully that it nearly killed Yoongi inside to say no. Damnit, he hated sweet things.

 

“Yeah,” he replied grumpily. He grabbed a can, brushing Jimin’s hand in the process. Jimin shivered but he ignored it, opening the small tab. Jimin hurriedly followed his actions, setting the polythene bag down.

 

“Mazel tov.”

 

Yoongi shrugged, clinking the cans. Jimin gulping the energy drink like he was parched and Yoongi found his eyes fixed on his bobbing adam’s apple. His veins were standing out, fuck. Yoongi immediately fisted his hands, pushing them in his pockets to avoid them from doing something stupid. Like pushing Jimin against the floor and yanking his remaining clothes off and making him present himself to Yoongi and allowing him to scratch dark bruises onto him so that impudent little brats would take a wary look before even thinking of touching what was Yoongi’s.

 

The heat was starting to mess with his head, shitshitshit.

 

“Slow down, Jimin,” he coughed, yanking his eyes away. Jimin stiffened, bringing his can down. Yoongi almost felt like deleting his entire existence when he saw Jimin’s shiny red lips standing out in the dim light.

 

Was that how they’d look once Yoongi was done feeding Jimin his cock?

 

You little shit, Yoongi moaned at the bond and his wolf. Why?

 

Why didn’t he stay back at the pack like his common sense had been telling him? He could have been sleeping in his bed, away from tempting baby faced boys and their stupid propensity of causing Yoongi to lose his ability of speech. He was just a innocent wolf, trying a hand at living a half honest life. Why did fate have to pick on him of all people?

 

“Such a moron, fuck.” He cursed softly.

 

“Hyung?” Jimin was so innocently unaware of the vile thoughts running through Yoongi’s head that he almost turned his back on him.

 

“Do you know who you’re up against? For Physical Demonstrations?”

 

Jimin eyed him with confusion.

 

“Uh, Sungjae--alchemy major, my year. We’re going up against the two final spellmakers from the SpellCrafting Demonstrations. Are you gonna stay and watch?”

 

“No.” Yoongi instantly denied. Jimin’s face fell and Yoongi kicked himself. “Maybe,” he amended reluctantly. It seemed to be enough for Jimin. His face lit up, like Yoongi had offered to buy him a ticket to his favourite band’s concert. It was almost too much for Yoongi. He barely liked spending time in the sun. Standing before Jimin was giving him the first hand experience of how people must feel like under it for an extended amount of time. He was already feeling light headed. His wolf paid him no attention, preening at having cheered Jimin up, like it was the greatest achievement in his life.

 

Ugh.

 

Yoongi’s eyes drifted to the chinese mark he’d coated with Purified Ink. He inhaled, trying to ignore the wave of adrenaline and hungry anticipation coating Jimin’s scent. The bond simmered at the fringes of his conscious but he searched for the underlying crisp scent of energy. At the sharp spike, he surged forward, clapping a hand on Jimin’s bare arm. Jimin jolted in shock.

 

“Jimin, do a fire charm for me.”

 

Jimin swallowed, snapping his fingers. His mark glimmered an iridescent gold and Jimin yelped when the small flame bloomed, racing upwards on his arm. Yoongi ignored the heat when it singed his jacket, stamping down on Jimin’s palm and channelling his own energy. The mark on his bicep tingled as his crystals absorbed Jimin’s energy, recognising and acknowledging the resonance between them. The bond thrummed in the back of Yoongi's head as he twisted and controlled the firesong of the charm and doused it.

 

Jimin stared at him with wide eyes. Yoongi stepped back with a frown, blowing off the ash on his blackened fingers.

 

“Hyung! Are you crazy? Why did you do that?”

 

Yoongi gave Jimin a wry smirk, hiding his fingers when he made to grab for them. They would heal under a second. But explaining the mechanics of his accelerated healing would be more of a pain than anything.

 

“Yah, your energy is going haywire. Didn’t you tell me you had it under control when I filled your tattoo for you? How are you going to participate down there? You will hurt your opponent and yourself if you try using those heavy duty spells.”

 

Jimin bit his lip, looking back at the arena.

 

“I’ll manage something. I can’t afford to miss this, hyung.” Jimin turned pleading eyes on Yoongi, begging him not to deny him. When Yoongi did nothing, he set the can down near the seat next to them and jogged down, looking back at Yoongi uneasily. Yoongi’s lips tightened in concern.

 

“Nothing is worth damaging your own Lifestream, idiot,” he muttered.

*

Jimin completed the obstacle course easily, jumping on the hanging bars and dodging the traps with a single minded efficiency. Yoongi could have appreciated how easy he made it look if he hadn’t been sitting on the edge of his seat, waiting to jump down and grab him if his energy went awry.

 

Jimin’s professors didn’t seem to notice how one of their students was practically steaming with energy. Yoongi snarled, wanting to bite their heads off. Why were humans so stupid?

 

During the fifth circuit where the spellmaker designed a large feline in an impressively breakneck speed to throw Jimin off the course before he took them out of the play, he grabbed a lance, slapping down a quick seal on it. Yoongi tensed when he smelled a wave of energy, feeling his bond tingle. Jimin’s seal took a few crucial seconds to integrate the lance to his grip when the feline advanced, almost taking off his head. Yoongi snapped his thumb out of place. He looked down in surprise, blankly setting it back in place with barely a wince. The smell of blood reached his nose just as he saw his palms bleeding from the gouges his nails had dug in them.

 

He shook his head, focusing back on the match.

 

The feline was real enough that the deafening roars sent vibrations up the entire arena, even breaching the safety zone around the bleachers. Jimin jumped, arcing over its head and circling around the beast, panting heavily. His eyes were dilated with fear and his frantic energy. Yoongi sensed the constant wave of energy he was expelling with a harsh buzzing in his ear, the bond trembling and sending distress calls to its pair. His wolf snarled furiously and he ducked his head when a forceful shift came over him. His fangs started lengthening in his mouth, shredding the skin on the soft inside of his mouth. The taste of his own rusty blood was quickening the pace of the shift, the heat controlling his impulses.

 

Shit.

 

A high pitched scream had him snapping his head up. His wolf took the chance and snarled savagely, tearing down his human skin. Yoongi closed his eyes in resignation.

*

“Hyung.”

 

“No. Come with me.”

 

“I’m fine. Really.”

 

Yoongi looked back, not letting go of Jimin’s hand. Jimin was shivering slightly in the night air, letting himself be dragged along reluctantly. His scent seemed fine. Better than when Yoongi had intervened, trapped under the weight of the beast.

 

He seemed fine.

 

Was it the bond? Did his healing get shunted towards Jimin too? He hadn't tried shifting with the bond in place before but had the half shift he'd slipped into during the match actually altered the chemistry of the bond? Jesus, he'd never forgive himself if it had harmed Jimin in any way.

 

He pulled out his phone, making a quick fire call to Seokjin.

 

“Hey, I need to know something. Can the bond affect Jimin's immune system?”

 

“Good evening to you too. Why don’t I transfer your call to someone who actually has the time to put up with your shit?” Seokjin sounded exasperated. Yoongi winced. Seokjin was in one of those moods? He had a brief moment of pity for Namjoon, wondering if his room was covered in medical textbooks and charmed post-its scurrying around his head yet.

 

“Way to bite my head off, Jin.”

 

“Christ, do I look like a wish granting oracle or shaman here? I know shit about soul bonds-- especially ones that involve wolves. Your bond is mutating faster than I can keep up with and devise an antidote for and it’s pissing me off. Your goddamn metabolism alone is--”

 

Jimin shifted behind him when Yoongi pulled the phone away from his ear. Seokjin ranted furiously, obviously taking out some kind of frustration on him. Yoongi wondered whether he should shoot a ka-talk to Jiho or Hyosang to get Seokjin drunk and out of his lab to see the sun. Maybe he would loosen up after a friendly brawl or two.

 

Jimin almost slipped his hand out of his grasp, but Yoongi tightened his grip. He hung up Seokjin without a second thought, focusing on Jimin.

 

“Are you positive you’re fine?”

 

Jimin shrugged, gesturing at the crystals glowing under his wrist. They had almost dissolved completely, glowing a gentle violet blue.

 

“Those cuts on my legs stopped bleeding minutes ago. My energy dampening patches are pretty heavy, so no damage done.”

 

“And your sprain?” Yoongi pressed. Jimin shrugged again as he twisted his leg gently on the ball of his foot, the corner of his lips pulling up and his eyes smiling at Yoongi tenderly. His entire face had brightened so gently that it was almost too much to take in, all at once. His expression was unabashedly adoring. It was directed towards him?

 

What, Yoongi wanted to ask. What had caused Jimin to start liking him in the first place? What did Jimin, someone so friendly and so full of light see in him? Why did he look at Yoongi as if he'd hung the moon for Jimin when Yoongi had been the one to treat him like he was lower than the dirt they were walking on?

 

Don't look at me like that, he pleaded in his head with guilt prickling at him. He turned away from Jimin’s bright face, tilting his neck back to hide his expression. His eyes trailed towards the stars trailing in the sky, glittering as if they were just waiting for someone to look at them. So far, so beautiful. So out of his reach.

 

Just like Jimin.

 

He clenched his teeth and tightened his fingers around Jimin's, swallowing as he met his eyes impulsively.

 

“Come on, let me show you something.”

 

Yoongi led him over to the Idiot’s Trail, patting the laughing Buddha’s stomach in greeting. The laughing Buddha snored back at him cheerfully, lighting up a jade green to welcome him. Yoongi quirked his lips at the path it lit up for them to follow on the Idiot's Trail, rocks metamorphosing and shifting under the marbled road. Jimin hummed like he was contented, following him as he led them onwards--grip loosening on him.

 

Jimin gently curved his fingers around his palm and swung it slightly, walking side by side. Yoongi felt an emotion creep up on him, something he hadn’t felt in years. Jimin was smiling shyly, sneaking wondering looks at Yoongi when he thought he wasn't looking, just like the first time he’d done when Yoongi had collided into him.

 

Yoongi’s heart clenched. This didn’t feel like the bond forcing him, not by a long mile.

 

“The fifth idiot? Hyung, we were supposed to go the other way.” Jimin laughed when they were dropped on a hill from the wrong turn around the little hidden gem stone in the marbled road. He immediately turned back, tugging him the other way. Yoongi resisted, smiling reluctantly at his boyish laughter.

 

“Hey, we can go back to campus grounds if we try searching for the trail again. Can you do a lantern charm?”

 

“Yah, trust your hyung. You think this is my first time playing the Idiot’s Trail? I’ve been on this campus three years before you had your initiation.” Yoongi tugged playfully, snickering when Jimin stumbled. “I don’t need a lantern charm to know the way back, kid.”

 

Yoongi led the way to the lake, hidden behind the huge slope of the hill. He stepped on another little Idiot’s trail the students had placed to cross the distance. He pulled Jimin, sliding an arm around his waist.

 

“Wha-”

 

Jimin’s breath hitched when they stepped out of the connecting seal. Yoongi smiled, letting go of his waist and taking in the glowing lake. Jimin’s mouth was open, eyes glittering in the light coming off from the water.

 

Yoongi slid down on the soft grass, sitting himself down. Jimin was frozen in his spot, akin to how Yoongi had been when he’d first laid eyes on the lake itself. The sense of enchantment at how something so beautiful existed --it still lingered in the back of his head whenever he saw the lake in the night.

 

Yoongi tickled the back of Jimin’s knee, biting his cheek when Jimin let out a squeal and crumpled on the ground.

 

“Hyung!” He whined. Yoongi snickered, looking at the lake water.

 

“They call this the Lake of Dreams.”

 

Jimin shut up, turning to look back at it. The lake water was utterly clear, reflecting the light glowing from the stones on the riverbed, all the more breathtaking in the night. The water glittered with shades of vivid blues to reds, mixing in with each other. The pebbles shone like precious gems in the water, something quite like a scene out of a fairy tale. The residual energy rose up from it and took indiscernible shapes in the mist before dissolving.

 

“It’s beautiful.” Jimin whispered in awe. Yoongi chuckled at his dazzled expression. The light from the lake was casting colourful reflections on his face, making him seem otherworldly as well, yanking him somewhere even more out of his reach.

 

Yoongi ached to touch Jimin in that moment.

 

“You know why they call it that?”

 

Jimin looked at him in askance, eyes trailing back to the water as if entranced by its spell. Yoongi smiled, digging around and finding a smooth pebble.

 

"This lake is particularly sensitive to Lifestream. When you hold a pebble like this," he grabbed Jimin's hand, pressing the cool stone to his palm and closing his fingers over it, "and make a wish, this pebble absorbs it. If you throw it into the water, it glows the colour of your energy. Your wish, your Lifestream--" he pointed at the mist of energy above the lake morphing into incomprehensible shapes, "it's what makes it beautiful. It's your own wish that nourishes the lake. The lake preserves and protects your dreams in return."

 

"Do those wishes come true?" Jimin asked, something intense growing behind his eyes. Yoongi shrugged lightly.

 

"Mind over matter. Some do, some don’t."

 

Jimin studied the smooth grey stone in his palm, brushing his thumb over the glossy surface. He closed his eyes for a moment, sighing as he lobbed it. Yoongi watched curiously as it sailed a smooth arc, landing almost in the centre of the lake. Perfect shot.

 

It lit up a bright red, like the burning embers in the hearth. It flickered, steaming as it bounced twice on the surface of the water before sinking out of view. Only the smoky red residue of the energy bounced, bobbing in place in the crystal clear water.

 

Huh. He didn't know much about the colour spectrums that corresponded with energies within the Gifted, but he remembered reading how Curse Workers resonated with reddish shades more than other hues. Did Jimin have the gift of Curse Working? Yoongi certainly couldn't smell it on him. But then, he hadn't met many Curse Workers either. It was probably latent, even if it was present in Jimin.

 

“So, what did you wish for?”

 

Jimin was silent. Yoongi turned to look at him, meeting his solemn eyes.

 

“What?”

 

Jimin swallowed, like he was debating asking something. Yoongi motioned at him to spit it out.

 

“Hyung, was it really a mistake? That morning, what we did?”

 

Yoongi’s mouth went dry.

 

“What do you think?” Yoongi forced out, knowing it was a mistake to do so.

 

“I think you’re just scared. I don’t know about what, but you’re running away.”

 

Fight? Or flight?

 

Yoongi juggled another stray pebble, watching it turn over and over. It was a good wish stone if he wanted to use it.

 

“You’re not exactly wrong.” He admitted, tone gruffer than it had been moments before. He thought of his wolf’s savage desires and his approaching heat. Jimin was just a fragile human, all skin and bones. Yoongi was more than capable of hurting him and breaking him irreparably, and the heat looming ahead would only intensify those feelings. Yoongi was worried about a lot of things, but the worst fear he had--something that had crept up on him in a really unexpected manner--was harming Park Jimin.

 

“I am a dangerous guy to be around people like you, Jimin. You could get hurt if you stay too long with me.”

 

“I can decide that for myself.” Jimin retorted sharply, the weight behind his words making it sound like it had been building up for a while. “Anyway, since when did you start sounding like those trashy Twilight movies?”

 

“Shut up, Park Jimin.” Yoongi huffed in laughter as the tension split slightly, yanking a handful of grass and throwing it at him. Jimin sputtered, spitting out some of the grass.

 

“Hyung, it doesn’t have to mean anything. I get that.” Jimin caught his hand as it lowered, brushing his thumb over Yoongi’s pulse point. His wolf rumbled at his touch and Yoongi wanted to bang his head against something. Why wouldn’t he let it go? Why did he have to be so goddamn persistent?

 

“But, can we be friends at least? Can we try to talk to each other instead of ignoring whatever problems we have?”

 

Damn him. Damn Park Jimin and damn his parents for gifting him with such earnest eyes. Why was Yoongi such a pathetic sap that he was actually falling for it?

 

“Yeah. Whatever.” Yoongi tried to be dismissive but it failed when Jimin beamed at him happily, eyes curving in a breathtaking smile.

 

Yoongi didn’t shake off his hand.

 

“So what’s up with your friend? Why didn’t he come cheer you on?”

 

Jimin’s cheerful demeanour slipped away, replaced with the same strain he’d been sporting in the auditorium. Yoongi felt his scent shifting, turning worried.

 

“Something’s off with him. I couldn’t get hold of him since this morning. He picks up my call, says he’s fine and hangs up. He isn’t even replying to my messages.” His voice had turned distraught by the end. Yoongi pursed his mouth sympathetically.

 

“You want to go meet him? I think the bond radius has widened enough for you to go over to Southern Campus without me tagging along.”

 

Jimin contemplated it over for a minute. He nodded firmly when he looked back at Yoongi.

 

“Uh, would you still mind coming with me?”

 

“Why?”

 

“His wolf, it’s just--something about it just unsettles me. You know the wolf, don’t you? Could you distract it for me?”

 

Yoongi felt amusement at Jimin’s adorable question. While it was rightly so that he feared the pack heir and the brat’s size--because the brat had a mean pair of fangs on him--it still tickled at him how Jungkook and Jimin seemed to share a mutual distaste for each other. It was probably because of Taehyung that they both felt like the other was encroaching on their territory.

 

“He’s potty trained, don’t worry.” Yoongi replied. “We scold him a lot for stealing our food, that’s probably the reason he’s latched onto your friend. He probably seems like an easy prey, yeah?”

 

Jimin shuddered, scrunching up his face.

 

“You don't know the half of it, hyung. Taehyung is as innocent and self aware as a baby lamb. He trusts absolutely everything and everyone he comes across.” Yoongi raised his eyebrows at that and Jimin’s voice picked up as if gaining traction. “There are pretty dangerous kids here, you know? Those damn djinn kids--they have an unnatural way of honing in on Taehyung. Something about his energy entices them to try and get him into bed with them. Don’t even get me started on the number of people who hit on Kim Taehyung’s dumb self everyday.” Jimin bit his lip, frowning.

 

“It’s like that kid never learnt about bad touch-good touch--stranger danger, you know? I almost give myself an aneurysm every second I’m not there to stop him from getting kidnapped or something. Christ knows how many times I had to save that idiot from tripping into marriage contracts since freshmen year.”

 

Yoongi stifled a smile.

 

“Don’t you think you hover a bit too much? He’s what, twenty years old? He’s capable of taking care of himself.”

 

“You really think so? Even after you met him?”

 

“Yeah, you’re just having separation anxiety. Or empty nest syndrome. Whichever’s politically correct.” Yoongi snorted. Jimin reached out to punch his arm with a frown. Yoongi snickered at the offended look on his face.

 

“Don’t worry about your friend. Jung--Bunny is a good caretaker on his own. He’s going to look after Taehyung while you’re not there.” Yoongi grinned fondly, thinking of the time when he’d fallen sick to the only occasional flu their kind was vulnerable to. Jungkook had been nursing and hovering over him for the entire time he’d been shivering and shifting unconsciously. He’d practically driven himself to the ground, puttering around Seokjin and nagging at him to make sure Yoongi was not going to die.

 

Jimin’s skeptic silence had him rolling his eyes. God, Busan kids. They were nothing if not persistent.

 

Maybe they had a sense of humour? It didn’t hurt to ask.

 

“You wanna hear a joke?” Yoongi tried, letting a smile creep into his voice. Jimin's eyes lit up with his curious smile, hand clasped trustingly around Yoongi's. The warmth from his fingers spread through Yoongi's body, curling around his energy and settling down lazily in his limbs.

 

He moved closer to his warmth.

Chapter Text

Jungkook got off the bed, padding towards the door and quietly latching the door. His muscles flexed as he stepped out of his clothes again, feeling his wolf tear his skin down and yanking himself out, eyes fixed on the unconscious boy he had carried back.

 

It had been hours since Taehyung had opened his eyes.

 

He slid under the covers with him, pressing the palm of his hand to his clammy forehead. His fever seemed to be rising in little bursts as he trembled next to him and Jungkook felt uncharacteristically helpless in a way he had scarcely felt before.

 

Jungkook pressed himself into Taehyung’s shivering body, quietly snagging his fingers on the blankets lying around and tugging them over. Taehyung’s faint mumblings didn’t stop, heart beating an uneasy pace. It set him on an edge, making him feel like there was an invisible opponent that Jungkook wasn't capable of conquering, like he wasn't strong enough to protect Taehyung anymore.

 

The sensation of failure - it was an unusual one. Being the Alpha's son meant he had been forced to be the best, forced to fight tooth and nail to prove his worth, taste rust and metal and gouge his teeth in someone else's skin before he could emerge victorious amongst the ranks of wolves in their packs. Failure was never an option. Even more so, when it factored Taehyung into the equation. Jungkook had brought him back from the brink of destruction when he was a pup. He'd be damned if he had to see Taehyung go through something like that again.

 

Taehyung’s scent was still unnervingly different from what it had been before. Jungkook wondered if he should shift. If he should get Seokjin and Yoongi to take a look at Taehyung.

 

People’s scents weren’t supposed to change like that. Sure, the overlaying scents changed with their emotions and pheromones but the base scent was what always remained constant—unless their personality underwent a really drastic change. Taehyung’s base scent had morphed into something Jungkook could no longer recognise, something that reminded him of static noise in his head. It knocked the breath out of his lungs and made his fingers itch to gouge his nails into something, do anything just so he could get rid of the feeling.

 

Jungkook was barely educated in terms of Lifestream Theory, barely even interested in keeping his eyes open in those classes where he could just set his head down and think of combat strategies and the political minefields his father used him as a checker piece on. He wasn't as gifted academically as the Gifted and Non-Gifted people in his classes seemed to be. He knew half of what went on in the Lifestreams of human bodies, much less when it diverged and brought in a bunch of irritating theorems and physics with it. But there were some fundamentals he knew.

 

Lifestream mutation wasn't possible. Lifestream could create bonds, could be manipulated to such an extent that someone could either come out as a genetic superhuman or a twisted psychopath, could be transferred to other life forms. But mutation, it went against all laws. Natural mutation without external help wasn't possible - and Jungkook, Jeon Jungkook - a wolf, who had only his instincts and his brawn to rely on - he felt Taehyung's energy changing, dread in his heart.

 

He nuzzled his face into Taehyung’s feverish neck and held his fingers tight between his own, clenching down on his teeth and swallowed down something he didn't like.

 

Something that tasted like bitter defeat.

*

 

 

Heechul smirked, opening his eyes. Hakyeon was waiting for him, assuming his true form. His eyes still held a feline look about them, gleaming sharply in the dark.

 

“Can you tell me what you’re up to now? I need to know what I should do to help.”

 

Heechul reached out to card his fingers through Hakyeon’s velvety smooth hair, patting him fondly.

 

“So eager to help, my little friend. Do you really trust me so blindly?”

 

Hakyeon frowned up at him, like he was questioning Heechul’s sanity.

 

“You freed me from my contract. You let me go even when you could have kept me with you, and used me like my previous master did.”

 

“Didn’t you ever wonder if it was just a ploy? That I did that deliberately so you would want to stay with me out of a mistaken sense of gratitude?”

 

Hakyeon’s disgust showed on his face and Heechul laughed. Truly, gratitude was such a human emotion. To even mention something like that was enough to make a Fae’s magick swell up in righteous anger.

 

“Even if you did do it with an ulterior motive, I stayed out of my own free will. I owe you a debt and I will leave when I consider it repaid.”

 

Ah, self-autonomy. Such a joke for creatures of Heechul’s stature, who orchestrated games like these for sport in the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Still, it was amusing to see how far Hakyeon’s blind loyalty would last. Heechul could certainly do with some amusement after the years of monotonous probation he'd been under.

 

“The human child sleeps now.” He stated after a moment, letting go of Hakyeon’s hair. The Lifestream in their world felt so stale in comparison to the Lifestream flowing so richly in the human world. He yearned to feel it himself, to restore the same energy in their world. Possessing a human child and feeling the diluted energy through her was not enough. Heechul’s hunger had started to grow, started to crawl its way back into his head.

 

It was all because the Sceptre of Life was slumbering in the human world. Someone had stolen it from their world, robbing them from feeling the rich bloom in the air—but Heechul—he was going to make it right, go to whatever lengths he needed to restore the wrongs that had been committed, no matter what he had to do. Even if he had to raze the humans to the earth to get the Sceptre back into Fae possession, he’d do it.

 

The ends always justify the means, he mused to himself, looking into Hakyeon’s dark unfathomable eyes. They carried the same hopeful glow he knew other fae would if they knew of the existence of the Sceptre. He wondered if Hankyung would take him back, would accept him again and return to them if Heechul succeeded in getting the Sceptre back. Would it be enough to convince him?

 

“The human child’s magick was blocking me from detecting the Sceptre of Life. It’s hidden somewhere around him—still escaping notice from the humans.” He exhaled softly, shaking off everything that was clouding his focus. There would be a lot of time to explore those lines of thoughts, after all.

 

“And what of the mind you were possessing?” Hakyeon asked. Heechul wasn’t surprised he knew about it, considering he’d grown familiar with every little change in Heechul’s magick over the few decades they’d travelled together. What surprised him was that Hakyeon didn’t seem to bat an eye when confronted with his actions. Was he truly not affected by such things anymore?

 

“She is the one who’s going to be my vessel while I search for the Sceptre of Life.” Heechul smirked, biting down gently on his blood red lip and flexing his fingers, feeling the threads of her conscious still wrapped around them. He gently tugged on them, feeling the connection strengthen as her own energy moulded to give way to Heechul’s.

 

“Since I can’t get to the boy, I had to make do with what I found. She knows of him, sensed his magick much before we did. But she doesn’t recognise it. Such a curious little thing, her power.”

 

“You think everything is curious, Puck.” Hakyeon grunted, frowning down at his fingers like he could sense the imprint of her consciousness too. As if he did not like what he was looking at. Or maybe, his aversion was more due to the aspect of Heechul’s mind manipulation, of bending someone else’s mind to follow his will. His distaste would be understandable, considering how long he’d been a mindless slave for his previous master - how he was used to commit crimes against the Fae Folk themselves and cause an uprising in the Inner Lands of Avalon, against his own will. He would be carrying a justified wariness for any sort of mind or soul manipulation magick being performed near him.

 

“Maybe things could stand to be little more interesting, Hakyeon.”

 

“What about the boy who sleeps? Should I seek him out?”

 

“He will come of his own accord. I couldn’t alter the blocks in his conscious, keeping him out of our world, any further than I could reach out to touch them, but I was able to plant a little something to help things move along. He’ll come seek me out soon enough.”

 

“Do you even need me?” Hakyeon’s desperation and anger clouded his crystalline eyes, reflecting back at Heechul. He suppressed a smile.

 

“Why, you are the one who’s going to help me sniff out the Sceptre of Life while he sleeps. You’re the entire key to this grand ploy, Hakyeon.”

 

Hakyeon’s face shifted with his expressions, gazing up unblinkingly at Heechul. So trusting, so loyal. Heechul turned away to look at the horizon expressionlessly.

 

Things had been inevitably, unstoppably set to motion. The winter was starting to set in, and the faintest hints of the lark's song had started to resound within the worlds, resonating with the natural Lifestream of the Inner Lands and the vibrant Lifestream of the human world - the barriers around each of their worlds diminishing as Samhain approached. The glamour that had been hiding the boy and, consequently, the Sceptre of Life, had slowly mended itself—snatching away all the hints of the tantalisingly powerful weapon from Heechul’s reach.

 

Heechul had wanted to scream the instant he felt it fading away. Which of the Fae had betrayed their own kind, helped bring their own downfall by placing such a glamour on it? Hiding it within the humankind? Heechul could hardly bear the thought of it without the bloodlust curdling in his head.

 

Whoever it was, the human boy with fae magick—he was involved somehow. And Heechul would make sure, whoever was responsible for the downfall of the entire Sidhe and Fae Folk—he’d make them pay.

 

“Soon enough.”

 

 

*

 

 

Taehyung stared up at the spider webbing its way across the ceiling vacantly, mind hazy and muddled. The bed felt warm to him but he couldn’t bring himself to understand why it felt so strange.

 

There was something sleeping next to him.

 

Your wolf, a voice said in the back of his head. Ah. Jimin, was it?

 

Taehyung looked beside him at the slumbering form of the beast, feeling a strange sense of detachment from everything. It seemed familiar, but Taehyung couldn’t muster the energy to try and decipher the cluster of emotions that lurked in the back of his head when he stared at it. It felt like he was strangely ripped away from everything. Was he supposed to know this animal? It felt like he should.

 

His muscles ached with the long bout of inactivity but Taehyung barely felt it, staring distantly at the animal. Its ears twitched in its sleep and he looked back at the spider, blinking slowly, disinterested.

 

Seconds ticked away and Taehyung followed the progress of the spider trying to cover a desert made of plaster and paint, hazing in the soft filtering light of the morning.

 

How long had it been since he’d been awake? Hours?

 

Years, maybe.

 

Taehyung got up, limbs loose with exhaustion. Fisting his hands against the sheets, he sighed as his muscles stretched. The curtains whispered with the wind and he shivered, something penetrating the haze in his head.

 

Come to me, son of magick…

 

Taehyung’s lips parted in surprise, the slight flitter of thought lost between the lazy blinks of his eyelashes.

 

Who was that?

 

A sharp noise pinged somewhere, as if in response, and he fished around in the bed, brushing through dark stray fur hairs littering his sheets. His fingers closed around his buzzing phone slowly and he tilted his head curiously at the blinking notifications. He vaguely remembered answering Jimin’s call – the memory of it too fuzzy to seem like it had actually happened. He’d been delirious, too slow to catch up with what Jimin had been saying – barely being able to recall what Jimin looked like beyond the blur in his pounding head.

 

 

Tae stay put

You owe me a long explanation you know that right?

I was expecting you to have been breathing down my neck asking me about any episodes I had

Taehyungie whats wrong

Try selling me that ‘im fine’ line again and I’ll whoop your ass and dunk you in the Han river

Fight me

Stay put and stop ignoring my calls, punk

I’m serious

I’ve a lot of things to tell you

I forfeited the match :(

Are u thre you fucking assmunch

 

 

His brain took a sluggish few seconds to remind him why he was supposed to feel more than a slight disinterest in the messages, conjuring up images of a dark haired boy with a smile that reached his eyes – something that must have been one of Taehyung’s favourite things in the world, his gut told him.

 

But then, why would he forget Jimin? Why wasn’t he feeling anything when he thought of him?

 

You must be dreaming, right? If Jimin, of all people, doesn’t feel real then nothing else is real, remember?

 

“Am I?” He asked himself with a frown at the thought, feeling doubtful. Was it the reason everything felt so alien to him, why he just couldn’t muster up any kind of regard for anything? Like it wasn't his own body he was possessing, like he was wearing someone else's skin and breathing

 

He got up woodenly, unfolding his legs and slowly pulling on his clothes. He noted the goosebumps rising up on his arm curiously when he stepped on the floor. Was it cold?

 

Something growled from behind him.

 

He turned and frowned at the animal getting up on the bed, hackles rising. Its ears pointed straight up when it saw that it had Taehyung’s attention, slowly rising to stretch its paws. Its teeth were slightly bared, as if it was trying to intimidate Taehyung into submission – or to maybe to assert his dominance?

 

Human eyes, Taehyung noted curiously, not really feeling threatened. The wolf with the human eyes.

 

“Who are you?” Taehyung tilted his head to the side, wondering why those eyes looked so familiar. The wolf’s eyes widened, ears standing up on the ends. Disbelief coloured them – Taehyung didn’t know how animals like this one could convey so much emotion.

 

The wolf padded down from the bed, coming to a stop before him and he exhaled. Its silky black coat gleamed in the light as it stared up at Taehyung, the emotion in them becoming so complex that Taehyung couldn’t put a name on it, couldn't understand what exactly it was.

 

Forlorn, maybe. A mix of lost and forlorn, like the wolf knew it was missing something it considered precious. But Taehyung didn’t understand why the wolf was looking up at him like that – like Taehyung had taken away something beloved from him.

 

“Are you lost?” He asked distantly. Maybe the wolf was missing its pack somewhere, and had ended up in Taehyung’s room. The wolf didn’t answer, just kept looking up at him with golden brown eyes filled with a wounded bewilderment.

 

Taehyung turned away from it when it didn’t make any other move, frowning. He barely had the chance to react before something closed around the sleeve of his jacket, digging into his wrist and he jolted, turning back on instinct.

 

He met the wolf’s eyes, something emerging up in his head. A distant memory.

 

 

A little wolf pup snapping its teeth at Taehyung’s fingers as he balanced it on his chest, one hand buried into the scruff at his neck – morphing slowly into a boy who stared at him with the same eyes, as enchanted and fascinated as Taehyung when he watched him.

“Hi.” Taehyung beamed at him.

“Hello.” The boy breathed out, wide brown eyes filled with wonder.

 

 

 

The pain penetrated through the fog in his head, snapping him out of it. Crimson blood started pooling around his wrist, colouring the wolf’s fangs the longer they lingered. The wolf unlocked its jaws the second it tasted his blood, tail and ears tucked down, a loud keen arising from its chest.

 

Its golden brown eyes stared up at him in panicked alarm, like the wolf hadn’t meant for it to happen, hadn’t meant to hurt Taehyung. It immediately came closer, as if to lick up the blood trailing from his wrist but Taehyung raised his hand woodenly, away from its reach.

 

“That’s going to stain.” He murmured blankly, eyes falling on the little dark drops of blood on the floor. He was going to have to clean that up. The wolf flinched, staring up at him with devastation – a loud whine eking out of it, like it had just seen a member of its pack die. Taehyung flinched in return at the sharp sound, the pain in his hand hazing out as the fog came down again in his head, driving out the memory in his head and faint static filling his ears.

 

He turned away from the wolf howling at his back, like it was crying and walked away from the room as fast as he could, the scent of his blood fresh in the air.

 

The spider dropped from the ceiling, its web torn.

 

 

*

 

 

“Hey, do I look like a drug dealer yet?”

 

“If you mean looking like something the cookie monster spat up after having partially digested, sure.” Hoseok grinned. Jiho rolled his eyes, turning and thumping his friend, Minsoo on the back.

 

“Yah, Hoseokie—you know what’s up with Yoongi? He’s been,” Jiho’s eyes flickered to Minsoo before he rubbed his nose, meeting Hoseok’s eyes pointedly, “acting kinda weird these days.”

 

“When is that hyung not weird?” Hoseok shrugged. Jiho frowned thoughtfully, shaking his head at Hoseok.

 

It’s something else. Go take a look if he needs our help.

 

“Yeah, that jackass has probably not been getting enough sun these days. I oughta sic my brothers on that bastard.”

 

“He’d kill them.” Minsoo stated seriously. Hoseok’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, slanting a did you tell him about us? towards Jiho. Jiho shrugged, a resolute no in the sharp lines of his mouth. Hoseok laughed nervously, figuring Minsoo just meant it as a joke.

 

“Yeah, that hyung is no joke, Minsoo-hyung. He’d probably strip them and make them run around the campus for waking him up. He’s such a cranky old grandpa once he gets waken up, really.”

 

Jiho laughed boisterously as the silent tension broke and patted him on the shoulder.

 

“Alright, we’re off to distribute those flyers. Don’t forget to do your part in advertising us, okay? We need more players for the betting pool to be a success.”

 

“Aish, you and your shady businesses, hyung. Don’t get caught by any professors. The demonstrations are going to have most of them lingering about.”

 

“Peasant. This isn’t my first rodeo.” Jiho sniffed pretentiously. Cracking a smirk at Hoseok’s exasperated look, he ushered Minsoo away with a deft hand before he had a chance to knock down the carefully arranged flyers again, flinging a casual goodbye over his shoulder. Hoseok rolled his eyes at their backs, figuring he might as well get something to eat.

 

He had a vague feeling Yoongi had been dodging him because his scent lingered in the studio when Hoseok came in to practice, like he’d been there for a while and had escaped once he smelled him coming. There was something definitely fishy about his scent, like Jiho was trying to tell him.

 

Maybe Seokjin could help him.

 

A suddenly familiar scent made him look up.

 

Talk of the devil.

 

“Yoongi…?” He muttered with confusion as he sniffed again, looking around at the people crossing by him. The scent was so strong that Hoseok could, without any doubt, think it was Yoongi coming towards him.

 

His eyes fell on a boy with a familiar snapback on. Wasn’t that Yoongi’s?

 

“Hey.”

 

The boy looked up, eyes lighting up in recognition just as Hoseok reeled back in shock.

 

“Jimin?”

 

“Ah—Hobi-hyung!”

 

“Hey, what’s up? I thought you were busy with the annual demonstrations. Isn’t the finals chart being put up right now?”

 

Jimin fidgeted, looking uncomfortable. Hoseok figured his trials had gone awry somewhere.

 

“Hey, if you want I could talk to someone. If I tell them you trained with our group, they’re going to consider putting you in the game.”

 

Jimin looked horrified at the mere mention of it. He bowed deep, frantically.

 

“Hyung, thank you so much. I really appreciate it but—I’d rather qualify with my own merit. I don’t want to resort to any kind of unfair play to make it in there.”

 

“If you say so. You know hyung doesn’t mind,” Hoseok replied skeptically. Jimin shook his head, looking slightly harried.

 

“Hey, so what do you say I treat you to your favourite pizza? You can afford to go off your diet for one day, right?”

 

“Uh, I really—I can’t get hold of my friend. I came around with Yoon—uh,” Jimin faltered, looking like he was catching himself from blurting something out. “A few hours ago, but I couldn’t find him. So I’m kinda in a hurry right now, hyung. Sorry, really, really sorry.” Jimin offered him a smile that melted into an unhappy grimace, before bowing again.

 

Yoongi’s scent permeated the air once more, making Hoseok’s nose twitch. Hoseok was itching to ask how Jimin knew him, and why he smelled so intimately like Yoongi. As far as he knew, Yoongi barely had the interest or energy for maintaining relationships, let alone friendships with people like Jimin.

 

“Seems like I’m not the only one with troublesome friends. Go ahead, Jiminie. We’ll catch up later when training starts again.”

 

Jimin bobbed his head at him, already looking distracted as he hurried off. Hoseok sighed, ruffling the hair on the back of his neck. Maybe he could try and find someone else? This was college, there had to be a starving-sick-of-ramen-noodles flock of people somewhere.

 

‘'He was about to move into the food court when something caught his eye. He turned, looking at the figure that was sitting by itself near the hidden, shadowed corner on the stoned railing. An unconscious smile pulled at his lips as his feet took him over to the boy.

 

“Hey.”

 

Kim Taehyung’s warm brown eyes looked even more dazzling in the faint sunlight. Hoseok motioned to the space beside him, offering a timid nod.

 

“Can I sit here?”

 

Taehyung turned away without a word, staring at his hands. Hoseok took it for an affirmation, sitting a few metres away. He could hear the soothing rhythm of Taehyung’s heartbeat and his breaths, this close.

 

“I never got your name, you know?” Hoseok asked in what he hoped came off as friendly. The last time he’d tried to ask this question, Taehyung had high tailed it out of his sight like a bat in hell. He hoped this time wasn’t going to go over the same way.

 

Taehyung blinked, as if it on an afterthought. He fiddled with the bright, dazzling cards between his fingers.

 

“Kim Taehyung.”

 

Hoseok frowned. Was it just him or had Taehyung’s voice always been that cold?

 

“Nice to meet you then, Kim Taehyung-ssi.”

 

Taehyung fiddled with his sleeve, gleaming cards tucked between three fingers, a bandage peeking out from beneath. Hoseok drew in a sharp breath to ask him how he hurt himself but Taehyung barrelled over the unspoken question before he could voice it.

 

“Do you think people can live entire lifetimes in their dreams?” He asked curiously, startling Hoseok with the suddenness of the question. He looked up at him with eyes coloured golden brown in the sunlight, something blank behind his eyes. As if he was looking through him.

 

Hoseok scrambled for a reply, somewhat floundering.

 

“Maybe. If you have a good imagination, you can do it while you’re awake too. Just be careful enough to know when to come back.” Hoseok teasingly poked his forehead. Taehyung didn’t show any kind of reaction, negative or positive, nor by face nor his scent, to his casual touch. It made him anxious and slightly flat-footed, not being able to gauge his mood and adjusting his demeanour accordingly. He hadn’t realised how much he depended on his senses while socializing with humans.

 

“Can dreams make you feel like you’re not in control of yourself?” Taehyung seemed like he was puzzling something out. Hoseok shrugged but Taehyung didn’t catch it, back to fiddling with the bandage again.

 

“You’re worried about something?”

 

Taehyung frowned slightly.

 

“I’m not. Not really. I just can’t...feel anything.” He trailed off softly, sounding like he was speaking more to himself.

 

Hoseok was alarmed. He was definitely not going to jump to conclusions, he told himself firmly, even if it did sound like depression. Depression with humans was a lot more different than depression faced by the wolves in their pack. Their fundamental biological make up was different. It could be nothing. Humans often had off days, and unlike wolves, they could bounce back from those funks often by themselves.

 

He gently took Taehyung’s palm and opened it carefully, making the cards on it scatter on his trousers. Taehyung didn’t jerk back in alarm. His scent didn’t change and nor did his heartbeat. Was he truly feeling nothing?

 

“Can you feel this?” Hoseok swallowed, brushing his thumb over the dark bluegreen veins running under his wrist. Thud, thud, thud—the beat welcomed him encouragingly.

 

Taehyung’s face didn’t change but a slight sheen of confusion clouded his eyes. Hoseok pressed down gently on his wrist.

 

“I…can?”

 

Hoseok smiled, letting go of his wrist.

 

“There you go. Whenever you feel blank like that, feel your pulse. Count those beats until you forget whatever it is you were thinking of. Things often seem better once you give your thoughts the time to settle, you know?”

 

Taehyung knit his brow gently, light falling across his sharp cheekbones in a way that made him look utterly unreal, like something out of a fairy tale. There was something so utterly sad about his features that Hoseok just wanted to reach out and touch him, see if he really was real.

 

Taehyung looked like he was in a distant world, galaxies away from Hoseok even though he was just sitting next to him. There was something quite captivating about him, an ethereal beauty to his features that didn’t look like something Hoseok had ever seen on a human. He seemed like he was beautiful inside out.

 

He’s the boy who would bring the wild chase to your eyes, something whispered in his head. He’s the boy you’ll give your heart to, give up your body to worship, give up your soul to serve. He’s the one.

 

Hoseok almost reached out before he caught himself, his wolf keening in his head. Taehyung took no notice of him, standing up as if he was lost in his thoughts, Hoseok’s presence already forgotten. Hoseok stayed silent as Taehyung started walking away from him, only the traces of his scent behind to comfort Hoseok’s pining wolf.

 

The cards trailed a golden white as they fell away from their master’s grasp.

 

 

*

 

 

“What’s up with the pack heir?” Yugyeom whispered in Jun’s ear. Jun shrugged, frowning when he saw how tense Jungkook’s shoulders were. Bambam was walking next him with Seungkwan, laughing boisterously, blissfully unaware of the uneasy looks the pack members around him were exchanging after wary inhales.

 

“He’s upset about something.” Mingyu whispered. “I don’t think it’s something we did.”

 

They discreetly looked away from Jungkook’s tense back, keeping him in their peripheral view. Yugyeom half kept expecting him to blow up at Bambam or Seungkwan for being noisy next to his ear. He’d take the outburst at this point, so long the pack heir finally decided to do something. They were all on an edge, waiting for something to happen.

 

Yugyeom’s eyes were directed to the back of Bambam’s head when he heard them crack up. His eyes widened when he saw Seungkwan raise his hand to deliver a friendly slap to Bambam’s head for sassing him. He lunged forward, startling most of them when he caught Seungkwan’s wrist. Seungkwan started, looking back at him with wide eyes.

 

“You finally cracked, Gyeomie?”

 

Bambam stopped in his tracks, raising an eyebrow at him. Yugyeom sheepishly let go of Seungkwan’s hand.

 

“Ah, Seungkwan-ah—they don’t consider it polite to touch someone’s head in Thailand…” He trailed off with a wince as his pack members snickered behind him. Bambam looked astonished as Yugyeom retreated, stumbling over his words.

 

“I don’t remember telling you about that. Where did you learn it?”

 

“Can we get moving already?” Jungkook’s irritated voice saved Yugyeom from dissolving into the earth out of embarrassment. How was he supposed to tell Bambam about the late nights spent reading about Thailand and its culture so he could make him feel more comfortable around them? It already sounded so stupid in his head.

 

Jaebum would have been facepalming and cringing at having raised a brother like him if he ever knew how embarrassing he was in front of his pack.

 

“Our Wangja…Your wish is our command. Get a move on, plebians.” Seungkwan frowned at the people behind them, like he wasn’t the one who was holding them all up with his theatrics. Jungkook rolled his eyes, making Bambam laugh. He pulled them along with an easy grip around Seungkwan's shoulders, smiling back at Yugyeom. Yugyeom ducked his head embarrassedly to break the eye contact as he followed behind them, the tips of his ears burning hot.

 

 

*

 

 

Hoseok quickly pulled up the real time school directory in front of the Faculty of Cultural Studies, typing his student ID, hoping Kim Taehyung’s phone still kept blipping the same location as it had been in the few minutes Hoseok had taken to run across the Faculty of Runeology and Mineral Sciences. It had taken the better part of the day to find a timeslot where he didn’t have any classes to attend to and it had made him antsier the longer he failed to find Taehyung again - like he was holding someone’s lifestream hostage within his grasp.

 

He tapped his foot impatiently as the holoscreen disappeared, processing it. The pack of cards was sending faint scorching sensations in his pocket and he clenched his teeth, thinking about the encounter earlier in the day. How could their owner leave the tether to his own energy behind?

 

Depression does a lot of things, Hoseok. It can even cloud a Gifted’s thinking and muddle their connection to their own bonded attachments.

 

Fascination wasn’t a good enough reason to deprive someone of their bonded objects. Desire wasn’t a good enough reason to cause someone like Taehyung hurt. Hoseok was unbelievably guilty of doing exactly that.

 

Something made him look up.

 

Taehyung was sitting on the very edge of the roof of the building, a small figure in the distance – swinging his legs. His gaze was fixed in the far off horizon and – Hoseok’s heartbeat stuttered in his chest.

 

What if it wasn’t just depression?

 

He took off in a run, not bothering to close the holoscreen following after him. When he crossed the stairs, the holoscreen dissolved, losing its tether to his virtual ID. He took the steps four at a time, heart thundering in his ears. When he reached the roof, his wolf was practically clawing out its way from within him. He swung open the door, hoping against hope that Taehyung hadn't done something stupid in the time he'd taken his eyes off him.

 

Taehyung was staring lifelessly out at the horizon, looking so still that if it weren’t for the rise of his chest when he took half forgotten breaths, Hoseok would have assumed he was a statue. The wind carded through his vibrantly brown-blonde hair, blowing them up and over. Hoseok walked toward him slowly, heartbeat loud in his ears. Taehyung didn't seem to notice him, gaze still fixed blankly at a spot ahead of them.

 

Vertigo wasn't a dear friend of Hoseok's. He'd had a bad experience while he'd been a pup growing up in Gwangju, getting shoved around and harassed by the friendly neighbourhood Non-Gifted bullies. It still brought back harsh memories as he leaned carefully against the railing next to Taehyung, peeking downwards.

 

Things looked awfully small from up there, sending weak tingles to his knees, even if he knew they were planted firmly on the floor. He swallowed hard when he saw Taehyung's feet dangling freely above the drop, weaving around back and forth like a pendulum.

 

He suppressed the urge to grab and pull Taehyung to safety. Taehyung seemed to be in a delicate state of mind and Hoseok didn't want to chance doing something rash.

 

"The world looking good from up there?" Hoseok tried for a nonchalant tone. He wasn't sure how well he'd managed it since his knees were starting to quaver with nervousness. Taehyung didn't startle at his voice, simply humming in reply and swinging his legs to and fro even more carelessly. Hoseok was afraid he'd kick slightly too far, too much and he’d still be frozen in his spot like this, helpless.

 

"I bet the view is great from down here too. Why don't you come down and join me?"

 

Taehyung smiled blandly, as if he could care less. Hoseok wondered where the kid with the eager smile and wondering eyes had gone.

 

There was a warning pulse in his pocket and he shot his hand down. His staff had been touching the deck of cards in his jacket, causing it to give a cautionary sting.

 

Hoseok pulled it out, stiffening when he met the eyes of the Joker looking up knowingly at him, something secretive in his eyes. It was like he knew something about Hoseok, something vulnerable and was trying to decide the best way to exploit it.

 

Hoseok told himself to stop being stupid. They were just a charmed deck of cards, nothing extraordinary. People played with things like them everyday. It was not like Taehyung's energy would be any different than any other Gifted, would be able to give sentience to a charmed object.

 

He looked up, swallowing.

 

"Here." Hoseok held out the deck, touching it as minimally as he could. Taehyung turned to look almost reluctantly, frowning down at the cards. He looked extremely out of it, like he barely remembered having owned them.

 

"They're yours. I didn't do anything weird, I promise. You left these behind when we were talking."

 

Taehyung dipped his head once, faintly. He reached out to take them from his grip, eyes wide and pupils blown. Hoseok watched with an even more growing sense of alarm when he didn't react farther than a twitch as he held them. The leg swinging stopped as he continued to stare quizzically down at the cards, like he had forgotten what they were.

 

He stretched the arm holding the cards and opened his fingers. Hoseok watched in disbelief as they trailed away, falling from his hand into the far drop below. Weren’t those his bonded cards?

 

He looked at Taehyung, who was staring at them floating down with wide and curious eyes, like a child who was observing something particularly fascinating.

 

"Taehyung, what-"

 

Hoseok barely had the time to react before Taehyung was standing up with his feet on the small ledge and his eyes still fixed on the cards falling below. He stepped off, as if to follow after them.

 

Hoseok screamed, lunging forward to grab Taehyung's arm just as he started to fall. His fingers closed around the delicate bones in his wrist, catching purchase on the rough bandage. His arm trembled under the weight as Hoseok lost himself to his instincts and his wolf took over, lending him strength. Hoseok grit his teeth when he felt Taehyung struggle to loosen his grip, like he was still trying to get away.

 

"Taehyung, no!" Hoseok yelled, pulling him up. Taehyung went limp in his grip, looking down with a blank expression at the ground below where his cards lay strewn about.

 

“It’s not going to harm me, you can let go.” Taehyung spoke for the first time, sounding ever so certain that Hoseok felt like screaming at him. He looked surprisingly determined for the first time since Hoseok had talked to him, like he'd never been so sure of any other thing before in his life. Hoseok ignored him, gripping his wrist so hard that he was sure it was going to bruise. Scrambling to find his footing, he hauled Taehyung up and away, stumbling back with his weight and falling on the hard ground, Taehyung falling on top of him.

 

He buried his nose in Taehyung’s hair, heart beating a mile a minute. Taehyung’s own scent had barely changed, as if he’d been taking a casual stroll in the garden and not almost leapt to his own death. Even his heartbeat was smooth and languid, like he was sleeping.

 

Hoseok didn’t remember ever being this relieved before.

 

“What were you thinking, you stupid brat?” He asked harshly, jostling Taehyung’s still body above him. Taehyung moved his head from where it had been resting on his chest, looking down at him curiously.

 

“Halmeoni told me that you should never throw away things without thinking. If you do, you should go back and pick them up and think twice about why you don’t need them.” His voice was so innocently curious, eyes wide like he hadn’t the slightest inkling of what he’d done wrong.

 

“Yah, you don’t jump out of buildings like that. You are just a fragile human, think about what can happen if you do stupid things like that!” Hoseok shouted up at him furiously. An almost violent urge rose in him, making him want to beat some sense into the kid’s head. To grab him and never let him out of his sight, so he could keep an eye on him and make sure he never tried something that stupid again. He panted, waves of hot anger flushing through his body, following the retreat of the adrenaline.

 

Taehyung just looked confused.

 

Hoseok sighed. It was as if he was scolding a baby who didn’t understand how words worked. What had happened to Taehyung? Where was the kid who’d barked his opinions out and defended himself against him, self assured and confident? There was none of that intelligence he’d once glimpsed behind Taehyung’s blank eyes.

 

Why were his pupils so dilated?

 

He sniffed again, slightly suspicious. No chrysalis ash or weed—he wasn’t high. Taehyung stared at him unblinkingly, tilting his head to the side in question and exposing his neck. The sudden assault to his nose made him choke, coughing out.

 

What was such a strong claim doing on his neck? Who had claimed him?

 

He grabbed Taehyung’s shoulders, propping him in place and leaning in to scent the claim. Taehyung didn’t protest even as Hoseok invaded his space, mouth watering at the way his shirt dipped away from his shoulders and let him glimpse his delicate collarbone. He looked so appealing like this, pliant and relaxed in his grip, like he would let Hoseok take him right there and then without a complaint, submit himself to Hoseok.

 

Hoseok’s eyes went wide when the claim repelled him from getting any closer to his neck to scent it, the energy behind it so strong that it was unquestionable who he belonged to and the world fell away from beneath Hoseok.

 

It was the pack heir.

 

No one else had this much Alpha in their scent, not unless Min Yoongi or Min Junho had suddenly decided that they liked the way Taehyung smelled and decided to mark him. It practically screamed of a mate ship in progress, of a claim left to be settled only with Taehyung’s agreement.

 

Jeon Jungkook had been courting Kim Taehyung.

 

A sudden jealousy clawed its way to his heart, bringing with it dangerous thoughts of challenging the heir to a match to death. He shook it off, feeling shaken. His first priority should have been checking up on Taehyung, not lusting after him like a knothead in his vulnerable state. He was practically molesting the kid even if he didn't know it.

 

He let go of his shoulders, a black panic rising in him.

 

Taehyung got up lazily, shifting over him. Hoseok groaned when his scent intensified, drowning out the claim slightly and almost lulling him into the thoughts of how Taehyung would smell if he was tinged with Hoseok’s scent. The way Taehyung was shifting lazily above him wasn’t helping either.

 

This is so not the time to have thoughts like that.

 

Taehyung looked faintly amused when he noticed the uncomfortable look on his face as he hovered above him. Hoseok’s eyes dropped to the invisible mark on his neck reluctantly, as if now that it had been brought to notice he couldn’t possibly unsee it. Displeasure welled up strongly in the back of his throat, thudding in time with his heartbeat. Hoseok got up, hiding the grimace on his lips. His shoulder tingled slightly, as if feeling the impact from Taehyung’s leap.

 

Taehyung brushed his clothes off, looking back into the horizon wistfully. The sun was dipping down under the blanket of grey clouds, preparing to cross the horizon.

 

Hoseok’s eyes caught on something shimmering near the edge of the roof, where they’d stumbled. The Joker grinned up at him craftily, wagging his thumb at him. Like Hoseok was a big joke that he was having a particular joy in observing.

 

God, he hated that card.

 

Inexplicably unsettled, he turned away. Nudging Taehyung, he nodded towards the card lying on the ground.

 

“Let’s help you pick your cards up, then,” he said quietly.

 

It was time to do something about Taehyung. This was not depression, not entirely. Taehyung looked too out of it for it to be his normal behaviour.

 

It’s the pack heir’s fault, his wolf whispered sullenly in his head.

 

It’s just our jealousy talking, Hoseok replied uneasily, suddenly not so sure anymore. His wolf howled contemptuously at that, like he knew exactly how full of shit Hoseok was. He closed his eyes and clenched down on his teeth, feeling his howl ring in his ears.

 

 

*

 

 

Seungkwan wondered whether Yugyeom knew how obvious he was being. Friends, his ass. Yugyeom’s giant crush was so blaringly loud that he could sniff it out from miles away. Perks of having grown up together—they were all too transparent to each other to ever hide a secret.

 

But coming out of the pack, it was as if everyone had the chance to loosen up a bit, stop posing themselves as the post they held, being a part of Seoul Alpha’s pack, and just kick back and shoot the shit, like normal wolves their age did. Talk shit about other kids, do stupid crap that would probably get their asses kicked, be able to find something they liked. Even if, in the end, they did have to go back to the pack and leave every little human nuance they’d picked up in the Gifted world behind, at least they’d go back with full hearts and happy memories.

 

“Ming-gyuuu.”

 

Mingyu rolled his eyes at him.

 

“I don’t have any treats, go ask Jihoon.”

 

“Do you hate me? Why are you asking me to go to Satan?”

 

Mingyu rolled his eyes as the class ended, closing his laptop. He nudged Seungkwan to get a move on as their row emptied.

 

“You know, we all get that he has the closest ties to the Min clan. He practically resembles them too. But what made him go and dye his hair pink? Is Min Yoongi his idol or something? Isn’t he already evil enough? What if he picks up all those ruthless moves from him too? It would be the dawning of apocalypse, I’m telling you.”

 

“Yeah, you better sleep with an eye open in the night. He’d probably come gunning for you first.”

 

Mingyu pushed him gently so that they didn’t fall behind their pack. Jungkook stomped his way out, face looking blacker than it had been hours before. Seungkwan wondered if he was PMSing before his heat or something. The coming of age ceremony for him would probably all sorts of epic, considering how the packs around their country revered their Alpha.

 

“Hey man, do we go through PMS too?” Seungkwan asked Mingyu curiously.

 

“You.” Mingyu slapped his hand on Seungkwan’s face, pushing him away. “Need to. Stop. Bothering. Me.”

 

“Mother of fuck, that hurts,” Seungkwan howled when Mingyu flicked him harshly on his cheek to emphasize his words.

 

“You weren’t this violent before. When did you start hating me? Is it Jeonghan-hyung? I knew he was shady as fuck. He poisoned you against me, didn’t he?”

 

Mingyu tipped his head back, looking up at the ceiling as if he was questioning fate why he was being tormented with Seungkwan’s presence. Seungkwan pouted. Let him walk like that. He wasn’t going to warn him if he happened to collide into something. It would serve him right.

 

“One day, you’re going to get your ass kicked. Thoroughly. If we’re lucky, then it’s going to be Jihoon who delivers it.”

 

Seungkwan stumbled in his tracks, staring with wide eyes at Mingyu who used to his faltering as an escape. He quickly caught up to the cluster of people retreating like the red sea towards the Food Court.

 

Seungkwan hissed, making a rude gesture at his back. Good riddance, he wasn’t good company anyway.

 

He jolted when someone gripped his shoulder, reeling back when he found resolute, hard eyes staring down at him.

 

“Yes?”

 

He remembered seeing this wolf around during one of their ceremonies, messing around with Min Yoongi and Kim Namjoon. Jung Hoseok? He had belonged to the former Gwangju pack before it had dissolved, their wolves migrating to join their Seoul pack.

 

“Where is Jeon Jungkook-gun?”

 

“Uh, there.” Seungkwan raised his arm to point out Jungkook’s broad back, barely visible through the cover of their pack’s instinctive protective formation around him. Even from there he looked prickly enough to ward away all the humans who were jostling each other around him.

 

“Thanks.” Hoseok offered him a terse smile, darting towards him. Seungkwan walked faster, eyes wide at the urgent and worried note in his scent. The faint anger was directed towards Jungkook, intensifying the nearer he got to him.

 

The pack members froze when they smelled Hoseok’s arrival. They let him pass with a conflicted gaze, seeing how he was stronger and much older than them. Seungkwan’s winced when he smelled how pissed Jungkook was.

 

Hoe, don’t do it.

 

Hoseok reached out, setting his palm on Jungkook’s shoulder. Jungkook stiffened in his tracks, smelling something that made him snarl so loud that it rose the hair on the back of Seungkwan’s neck. He grabbed Hoseok’s arm—and with a smooth, an almost ruthlessly painful move - he flipped Hoseok over his shoulder and onto his back, wrenching his shoulder out of its socket with a loud snap.

 

Everyone around them froze.

 

 

*

 

 

Yoongi rolled his eyes, studying his reflection in the shiny interior of the elevator. His dye was starting to fade into a dirty peach, dark roots starting to grow out. He really needed to give it another coat of dye soon if he didn’t want to look like an ass.

 

The elevator dinged open and he walked to the end of the corridor, nose twitching in irritation at the fumes of the bleach they used to sterilize the hospital. His energy crawled under his skin, itching like it always did in hospitals.

 

He found Seokjin practicing his sutures on something that looked ugly enough to make him barf. He didn’t feel the slightest bit of consternation when he rapped on the door, startling him and probably ruining all his hard work. Seokjin jerked, cursing.

 

“Delivery.” Yoongi held up the takeout. Seokjin sniffed and made a face.

 

“Geez, burgers again?”

 

“And ddeokbeokki. Get your ass outta those scrubs, man. The sooner we get to the eating, the better.”

 

Seokjin rolled his eyes, shedding his lab coat and slinging it neatly over his arm. Snapping off his protective white gloves, he left them in the Lifestream purification tray with the instruments he'd been using. Yoongi bobbed his head to a silent beat, leaning against the door nonchalantly.

 

“Let’s go.” Seokjin locked the door behind him, sliding the tab over his name on the locking chromo mechanism. It blinked a bright blue in reply and Yoongi yawned. His entire sleep schedule had been thrown to havoc since the bond had formed and his body was clearly paying for it. Not like the impending heat was making anything easier.

 

Good evening, Dr. Kim Seokjin.” A cool female voice announced politely in English, churning out his log off slip. Seokjin pocketed it, nudging Yoongi to start walking. The few interns they passed slid shy and admiring looks towards Seokjin’s tall figure, combing back their hair and blushing. Yoongi snorted when Seokjin greeted them back pleasantly, a handsome smile on his face.

 

When he noticed how his new insoles weren’t making him look any taller than before, in comparison with Seokjin, he scowled in mild irritation.

 

They entered the elevator together, Yoongi suppressing his groan when he saw that there was another bushy tailed, fawning intern in the elevator waiting for Seokjin.

 

He grunted in displeasure when the doors closed, leaving them to her obnoxious perfume in an enclosed space. The girl startled in her ogling, looking back at Yoongi with a wary glance. Seokjin carefully sighed, the one he always kept reserved for Yoongi--usually meaning that he wanted him to behave. Yoongi rolled his eyes at his reflection on the metal doors, trying not to breathe in. The doors opened after an eternity passed and Yoongi let out an audible sigh of relief.

 

“Good evening, sir.” The girl stuttered, clutching her books and looking at Seokjin.

 

“Scram, kid.” Yoongi muttered. The girl balked, side eyeing him when Seokjin rushed to cover up for Yoongi.

 

“Good luck for the exams tomorrow, Soojung-ssi.”

 

She nodded with a blush, distracted by Seokjin’s gentle smile. Seokjin wielded it with such ease, like he was really that generous and genuine enough to not be bothered by her admiration. Yoongi frowned because how dare he pretend to be a gentleman.

 

Jesus, what a phony.

 

He stomped out, sending foul looks towards the interns who would even think of daring to stop them on their way. Seokjin followed after him easily, smelling slightly relieved. Yoongi would bet his entire set of prized beanies that Seokjin’s princess ass got mobbed as soon as he set a foot out of his nerd quarters. Usually, only Hoseok bothered enough to go rescue him. But Yoongi’s stomach was almost withering from the hunger and he was too damn done with the day to bother playing niceties with Seokjin’s human colleagues.

 

Most of them halted in their paths at his glare but Yoongi’s irritation worsened when none of them averted their wandering eyes, barely flinching.

 

“Am I losing my touch?” Yoongi asked Seokjin, slightly aghast. Seokjin eyed his frown with an amused smile, pressing his ID against the doors and letting them out.

 

“Nah. You’re still as cold and evil as the day Satan himself decided to place you in your mother’s arms, Yoongi.”

 

“Aigoo, your flattery is off the charts today, Kim Seokjin.” Yoongi smirked. Seokjin snorted. “But really, have you been conditioning your interns against me or something, then?”

 

Seokjin raised a shoulder in a halfhearted shrug, smiling tiredly at the offended look on Yoongi’s face.

 

“Would probably help if you didn’t have your hair coloured like Pinkie Pie. You look about as scary as a hapless kitten.”

 

“First of all, I’m insulted you even remember the names of those blasted ponies - My Little Pony, seriously? Second, fuck you man, this colour looked swag while it was fresh, okay?”

 

“I was reading to the disabled kids in the pediatrics ward, Yoongi. What’s your excuse for recognizing that reference?”

 

Yoongi muttered something, stomping away. Seokjin caught up easily, laughing.

 

“What was that?”

 

“I said, Jungkook used to like watching it when he was a kid,” Yoongi grumbled. “He used to make me change the channel every damn time it came on.”

 

Seokjin laughed hysterically, imagining a little Yoongi curling his mouth at the TV in disgust like he was doing now, only tolerating it because the pack heir liked it. He was such a sap, honestly.

 

“Haha, laugh it up.” Yoongi smiled sarcastically as Seokjin took another look at him and laughed in his face. Yoongi’s ears burned with embarrassment.

 

“Jesus, stop before you piss yourself.”

 

“Aw, Yoongi—I wish we’d been friends before. I could have had years of stocking up blackmail on you.”

 

“Cool story, get out of my face now.” Yoongi pushed Seokjin away, affecting a grumpy look. Seokjin’s weary shoulders lost the downward set and his gait had become lighter next to him. Yoongi didn’t often feel sorry, but at the moment, realizing how much stress Seokjin had been under due to him—he felt uncharacteristically regretful. Seokjin had been trying his best to help him, even when Yoongi hadn’t exactly made things easy for him. Seokjin needed a rest from all his fretting and Yoongi wasn’t sure how he could ease him. He was not exactly the resident Agony Aunt, expert in all things emotional and navigating the minefields of empathetic comfort. He’d rather put on a dress and go to a drag show and pole dance than choose to listen someone’s emotional turmoils and help them.

 

“So.” Seokjin started with an airy voice of someone who knew he wasn’t fooling anyone with it and Yoongi stiffened in suspicion. “I heard you smacked around a guy from the Gyeongsang-do a few days back?”

 

“I also ran out of toilet paper while I was taking a dump, wanna hear all the gory details?” Yoongi asked sardonically. Seokjin looked at him with what seemed like a serious case of bitchface and Yoongi puffed his cheeks out, squinting suspiciously at him.

 

“Look Yoongi, we’re not here to play pack politics. Leave that up to the Alpha unless you actually want to take up the mantle. We’re having enough trouble with the pack of Pyongyang as it is.” Seokjin frown was chastising, eyes firm with the look of a person who wanted to be heard out. “Our Alpha doesn’t need you to prove our authority in his own country and cause unnecessary conflict. Those dog days are long over, with our Omega’s passing. Stop stirring shit up.”

 

“You talk shit, you get hit. It’s as simple as that, Seokjin.” Yoongi’s irate reply made the pinched look on Seokjin’s face turn even grimmer.

 

“Is this the example you want to be setting for Jungkook, Yoongi? Just because you can get away with doing things like that, it’s okay for him to do it too? Because that’s what you’re shouting— clear and loud – across all our territories.”

 

Yoongi didn’t want to get into it with Seokjin, half regretting his decision to fetch him. All his previous good will disappeared into the air, hackles rising up.

 

“I had a reason, okay? That bitch was jacked up on chrysalis ash, talking trash about…”

 

Seokjin watched him falter with a sharpening gaze, eyes flashing.

 

“About…what?”

 

Yoongi thought about Jimin’s unsuspecting face, how the wretched little motherfucker had nearly put his claws into Jimin. His blood boiled at the thought and he fumed. The bond he was sharing with Jimin trembled under his wrath and he toned it down, concerned about what effect his anger would have on Jimin.

 

Seokjin had said that intense feelings usually spiralled down the bond if they were drastic enough to affect the other’s state of mind. Jimin’s psyche was already battered enough with the presence of the bond. Yoongi wasn’t stupid enough to pile on his own messed up emotions on top of it.

 

“Nothing.” He grunted, clamming up. Nothing. None of Seokjin’s business. Anyone else’s either, really.

 

“Was it because of your bond mate?” Seokjin asked suspiciously, putting his hand on Yoongi’s wrist. Yoongi shook it off, making a face at the itch it caused. Seokjin didn’t seem to mind his discomfort, pressing on determinedly. “Was it because of Jimin that you lost control?”


Yes.

 

“No.”

 

“Then what? What got under your skin and made you lose control of your actions like that?”

 

“Let it go, Jin.” Yoongi’s voice dropped low.

 

Seokjin went quiet next to him, biting down on his words. They followed the graveled path quietly, taking the turn out of Hongdae Medic Centre and crossing the huge planetarium situated beside the Founder’s Statue near the Western Gates.

 

Yoongi heard the faint shouts, barely discernable in the distance. The Annual Demonstrations were probably still going on—moving onto the Astrological and Runic Trials of the week. Yoongi had rarely ventured into the huge Faculty of Astronomy that encompassed most of the Western Departments, facing Hongdae’s equally as polished University of Sciences on the other side of the boundary separating them.

 

A boy was holding some kind of a public debate near the gardens, projecting a model of a weird shaped object. Yoongi spared a moment to be fascinated by the shifting colours as the boy spun it on his fingers, speaking gibberish. He looked like the typical guy who caused memes to be born on the internet—the ones which crashed and burned horrifically.

 

“It would be easier for us to use the 2D Quantum Field Theory of open string to study the excitations of the branes—and with most of the D-brane techniques, they can be used to…”

 

Jesus. No.

 

Yoongi eyed the students eagerly taking notes down like they were kids on a field trip to a museum. Scratch that, even high school kids wouldn’t be that enthused about shit like this.

 

He wondered if any of the cheekier kids in their pack had taken up astronomy just for the irony of it and had ended up dropping out when they found out how tough it was. Namjoon had almost ended up acing the astronomy exam until he’d gone through a total roundabout after mating with Seokjin and taken up Biotech engineering as a major.

 

“So, how are you feeling today?” Seokjin asked him gently after a moment when they crossed over to the food court. Beating around the bush, today was the day.

 

“Bitchin’.” Yoongi replied coolly. Seokjin guided them towards his personal lab.

 

“I analysed the latest samples.” Seokjin accessed the mainframe at the entrance for the personal labs, pressing his ID to it. Yoongi impatiently juggled the takeout boxes waiting for him to be done. He sniffed slightly, catching the lingering scents littering the entire place. Namjoon's musk dominated the place, standing out amongst the human stink.

 

"And?"

 

Seokjin took his time to think about what he was going to say and Yoongi rattled the polythene bag in his hand again, pointedly.

 

"You know, our wolves are sometimes the most perceptive parts of us? They sense danger in the wind before our eyes process it, protect us when our human frailty crumbles and give us what they feel would make us content with our den. We are not solitary creatures, Yoongi. We're just not meant to be, however hard you try to reject that and live life your own way. Mother Nature didn't make us that way."

 

Yoongi licked his lips, wondering where this was leading to.

 

If this is another roundabout talk of the birds and the bees, I'm going to sock you in the jaw, Kim Seokjin, he promised silently.

 

"You think you have to be the pillar Jungkook needs, don't you? That's why you live like this, denying yourself the slightest chance at happiness."

 

The idea of socking him in the jaw suddenly seemed a lot more attractive than before.

 

"Jin, I'm going to mean this in the nicest way possible, man--when I say my life is none of your business, it really is none of your goddamn business."

 

"Jesus, why do I put up with your shit," Seokjin snapped loudly with frustration. The aggression ebbed away and he pinched the skin of his glabella between his fingers, like the stress was getting to him.

 

"I get you trying to be the hero Jungkook wants. I get you trying to fight for your place in your pack to get your brother's attention. I even get you tolerating Namjoon's position for the best of the pack pups entering Hongdae. What I don't get is how you won't even try to entertain the idea of you having the slightest bit of happiness when it's placed in front of you."

 

The suspicion unfolded and his teeth ground down on his molars.

 

"This whole bitchfest has been about Jimin all this long? Christ, how many times do I need to assure you that things are fine between us now?"

 

"Yoongi, things are not supposed to be fine, they're supposed to be fantastic right about now. For fuck’s sake, he's your mate!"

 

Yoongi reeled back in shock, feeling like the ground had given away under his feet. His wolf picked up his head from where he'd been napping in his conscious, rumbling in question. Yoongi soothed him back to sleep numbly, staring at Seokjin.

 

Seokjin's eyes were blazing an unapologetic brown, lips pursed as if he was trying to stop another blow from tumbling out of them.

 

"He's not my mate." Yoongi said numbly. Jimin was human. He couldn't possibly be his mate.

 

"What does your wolf tell you?"

 

Yoongi flinched unconsciously at Seokjin's gentle voice, like he was trying to comfort a cornered animal.

 

"Don't talk to me like that." His rebuttal was faint.

 

"Science may lie, Yoongi. But your wolf won't. Your body doesn't lie. It isn't made that way."

 

No.

 

What the hell was Seokjin saying?

 

"You sound ridiculous." Yoongi choked out a hysterical laugh, heart racing. He remembered lying awake in the mornings, listening and memorizing Jimin's heartbeat. Cherishing it like it meant the most important thing in the world. Brushing his thumb over his palm the evening before, tap-tapping the beat of his pulse with a fond smile and delighting in the easy touch. Kissing Park Jimin like he was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, more precious than anything he'd ever held in his arms.

 

He choked on the lump in his throat. It tasted like defeat, bittersweet and breathtaking.

 

"Your heat—it’s not been induced because of the bond, Yoongi. It’s because of Jimin. Ask yourself, Yoongi. Your wolf won’t lie to you." Seokjin's eyes were liquid, beseeching him to believe it. Yoongi couldn't get past the lump in his throat. What was he supposed to say?

 

His wolf yawned lazily in his head, throwing his consciousness towards where the bond was singing. He yipped in joy when he found Jimin, reassured that he seemed safe.

 

Is he really our mate? Yoongi whispered tentatively, timid hope rising in a corner of his heart. Or is it just the bond making us feel like that?

 

Mate. Ours. His wolf firmly growled, stretching up with a smug look in his eyes, like that was it. Like it had always been so from the start and he’d just been waiting for Yoongi to catch on.

 

Park Jimin was his mate.

 

It was not the fucking bond. Min Yoongi wasn’t just in love with Park Jimin because of it. He was in love with Park Jimin in spite of it.

 

Fuck.

 

It was supposed to be Park fucking Jimin, all along.

 

His wolf threw his head back to howl in preparation of the hunt, as if he'd just been waiting for Yoongi's acknowledgement. Yoongi closed his eyes and slowly tipped his head back in unison, giving in with a defeated sigh, knowing he wouldn't be able to stop it. Not now. Not anymore.

 

He let the blood red mating haze bleed into his eyes, warmth creeping up his limbs and a ravenous hunger starting to throb in his veins.

 

His heat had arrived.

 

 

*

Chapter Text

Jimin barely had the time to drop his head on the tome before his mobile went off, messages plink-plinking their way into existence. He dragged a weary hand down his face, and got it out of his pocket with a sigh, eyebrows shooting up at the name.

 

Healer Kim: Park Jimin?

Healer Kim: There’s something urgent we need to discuss. It involves your bond with Min Yoongi.

Healer Kim: When would you be available to talk? Need to get in touch.

Healer Kim: Asap.

 

Jimin’s blood froze when he read the texts, wild theories racing across his head. Had they finally discovered how to break their bond? Would this be it, just rupturing their bond? Would Yoongi even want to see him again when he didn’t have the obligation of the bond hanging over his head?

 

With trembling fingers, feeling like a block of ice had dropped in his stomach, he typed out an insincere ‘ok’. He stared blankly at the blue background of his phone, wishing he hadn’t sent it. The block of ice grew heavier in his stomach when he saw the healer had received and read his reply.

 

Healer Kim: Give me your location, I’ll come to you.

 

No.

 

Fuck no.

 

He wasn’t prepared to give Yoongi up.

 

Jimin felt a weight pressing down on his chest with a force of a brick, constricting his windpipe and lungs – startings of a panic attack. He wondered what was triggering him, a hysterical sound caught in the back of his throat.

 

There was no blood to pull him out and transport him back to his childhood, no sound of gunshots or gunpowder, nothing chemical to trigger any of the memories he’d blocked out. What was triggering it then?

 

Maybe, he wondered, struggling to catch his breath and trying to stem down on his panic, maybe, it was the prospect of losing Yoongi that was causing him to break down.

 

In the exact moment he realized that, their bond pulsed.

 

His head snapped back on its own, as if on instinct, barely feeling the muscle on his neck he must have pulled with an action like that.

 

The bond didn’t interfere much in the way of his life because Yoongi had been blocking it off, an almost supernaturally stronger force than the bond itself to suppress it. Jimin had felt empty without the presence of an open, alive bond but he had started to get used to it. Only a few days went by and even his skin had started to go numb to Yoongi’s touch, to everyone else’s. He suspected it was one of the side effects of the bond not being able to accomplish what it needed to. He didn't tell Yoongi about it, unwilling to inconvenience him with the knowledge.

 

The bond could remind him of its presence all it wanted, it didn’t change the fact that Yoongi wasn’t going to suddenly look at him with the same shy affection that Jimin craved so much from him. Yoongi was like an unmovable wall-cold and impenetrable. Jimin had almost given up on getting his feelings returned, if not for how Yoongi had practically yanked him out of the arena, with an animalistic fury wrenching his features into something savage, and clawed the feline right across its face, making it disperse and spray ink across his face like a mockery of blood.

 

Yoongi had looked so wild in the golden light, like he was more than capable of murder. But when he’d met Jimin’s eyes—his eyes the same burning gold he’d possessed back when he had protected Jimin from that insane guy —he looked so tender and scared for him that Jimin forgot to be afraid.

 

In that moment, Jimin knew he had fallen. Hard.

 

Yoongi didn’t owe him anything other than cursory pleasant talk, maybe even less, had given all the indications that he detested his presence more than anything, went out of his way to avoid him. But he had still jumped into the arena to save Jimin even if he hadn’t been in real danger, looked so scared for him that all the words and excuses in his head for Yoongi’s actions had choked up in his throat.

 

Yoongi had been scared. For Jimin.

 

The bond hadn’t been the one responsible for pulling Yoongi in front of him. He’d hoped not. He had barely been aware of the bond at the moment he watched the gold in Yoongi’s eyes die down, coloured ink painting down his cheeks. His hand had been resting on Jimin’s hummingbird fast beating heart, pushing him down to protect him, but he’d kept it there as if he had wanted to assure himself that he’d protected Jimin’s heart.

 

The bond had been singing, alive again under his touch. Jimin forgot to breathe the second he felt it.

 

It was almost like that moment, the bond so vibrant and full. Sweat dripped down the skin of his neck, his entire body flushing with some kind of heat. He gulped, his abdomen muscles contracting inwards as if to grasp the roiling heat drizzling down his skin.

 

He felt a phantom touch rippling down his body, making his eyes scrunch shut. He panted, the memory of Yoongi touching him so possessively that one morning striking him with the force of a blow, knocking the breath right out of his lungs.

 

All his previous convictions to forget about how firm and warm Yoongi's pale fingers had been when they held Jimin, the brush of his hot, wet tongue against the skin of his neck - the touch of his hand to the point of overstimulation on his dick - the glimmering sweat beading on his own collarbones that Jimin couldn't help but wish he could lean up and lick it off his skin, saliva pooling in the corners of his mouth at the thought of how good he would taste - it was all in vain. The memory of his scent surrounding Jimin, driving him mad with desire to clench his fingers into Yoongi's skin and grapple with the bond and dive into it, let him in, let Yoongi consume him, let him possess everything - set him alight with lust, make him crave Jimin as much he craved Yoongi - like he could go berserk if he couldn't have Jimin.

 

The healing crystals under his skin shattered from the influx of soul energy and he watched the black marks of one of the Causal Seals he'd used in the match to reinforce his style onto the staff, morph into existence - unblocked by the crystals. The Vector and Gravity seals started slowly spreading from it into his arms and he exhaled, adrenaline flowing on instinct. With a deft finger, he used a cleansing charm to pick up the shadowy seal lounging under his skin before they activated and the pencil under his fingers sharpened into a spear - laying out the black trails on the table. He winced slightly at the scorching heat his own skin started giving off.

 

The seals pulsed under his palm on the desk and convalesced together to form a tight, grey sphere, before it collapsed into itself and blinked out without so much as a by your leave, removing the link to Jimin's energy.

 

Magic, Jimin thought vaguely, is a funny thing.

 

Seals like those were capable of creating a singularity that could devour everything in existence but yet, they never did. The Model of Physics was so vastly different to the Model of Physical Energy - yet these everyday things never registered with people. A tiny butterfly fluttering its wings could do more to the Lifestream than a tornado on the other end of the world. The Chaos Theory of the physical world was balanced by the Unchaos Theory of the Lifestream after all.

 

The theory of scales and balance were riddled with holes, bleeding full of discrepancies, yet it was still believed in as fiercely as a superstition amongst the Gifted.

 

The bond rippled under his skin, startling him from his daze and he flinched. A phantom throb started low in his abdomen, heat curling through it.

 

Yoongi, the bond whispered. Yoongi. Go to him. Help him.

 

Forget Taehyung, it felt like Yoongi was the one in more trouble. Jimin clenched his jaw and got up, but before he could take even a step towards the door, it banged open and a familiar ginger haired boy swept in. Jimin frowned and tried to duck past his gaze, but the boy lit up on seeing Jimin.

 

“Taehyung’s not here-“ Jimin started.

 

“What?” Sungjae interrupted him with a confused frown, clutching a teaching edition holopad that gleamed silver new, making Jimin wonder whom he’d lifted it from. Not really eager to get into the details of how Jimin and Taehyung absolutely did not live in each other’s pockets, he mumbled a half hearted apology and tried to politely curtail his path away from Sungjae. Sungjae stopped him, a hand on his shoulder and lips quirked downwards.

 

“Hey, I’ve actually been looking everywhere for you,” Sungjae swallowed. “You need to see this, dude.”

 

“What?”

 

Sungjae quickly tapped out an open icon, chattering while Jimin followed the progress a little impatiently.

 

“You know how we were supposed to face off at the Demonstrations, sucks about that by the way, man. I’m glad that guy pulled you outta there before you got your face ripped out.”

 

Jimin wondered where this was going, trying to focus on Sungjae’s blabber. Sungjae tapped on the university page, on the secret web the students of Informatics Technology had mapped out for them – all antics and news about Hongdae University, immortalized and impossible to take out, inaccessible by anyone else other than the students – and pulled out the latest videos. Jimin noted the time stamp before it disappeared, eyebrows shooting up at the barrage of comments.

 

“-But see, I remember seeing your training group cheering you on. And when I saw this guy, he looked so familiar – and it clicked after I heard him yell. Fuck, dude. This looks like such a mess.”

 

Sungjae angled a contrite look at him and gave him the holopad, clicking on the video. Jimin’s mouth fell open once he realized what he was watching.

 

A dark haired boy was pinning someone down with an aggressive set to his shoulders, such a brutal look on his face that Jimin wanted to drop the device. He heard a broken yelp and his heart clenched when he recognized Hoseok struggling under him. The boy snarled back in reply and the camera shook, as if the person holding it was shuddering too. The boy punched down with his fist and Jimin winced, watching as Hoseok somehow slid away before it connected.

 

Hoseok staggered to his feet, cradling his shoulder, arm hanging as if it was broken. Blood trickled out of a cut near his hairline and Jimin cursed.

 

“Stop,” Hoseok said loudly. The boy slid out of his crouch, standing up with a smooth move. He stared stonily at Hoseok, lips pursed as if he was controlling the tremors that were rushing through him. The veins in his pale arms were standing out threateningly, as if he was barely controlling his impulse to knock Hoseok flat on his back again. His fists were barely bruised, Jimin noted with bated breath.

 

“Stop,” Hoseok repeated, softer this time. He was looking away, head bowed down but a subtle line of defiance to his posture. Jimin wondered why he wasn’t doing anything. Hoseok was more than capable of holding his own. Why wasn’t he fighting back?

 

Look at me,” the boy growled. Goosebumps pebbled Jimin’s skin and he could see the crowd’s expressions freezing and contorting into something akin to terror.

 

Hoseok lifted his eyes and Jimin’s breath knocked out of his chest. They flickered gold for a second, flashing in the fluorescent light, vanishing in the next and almost too quick for Jimin to catch it. It reminded Jimin of the pictures of his childhood stuck on the fridge, the ones where his grandmother’s dog always reflected back the light, glowing eerily golden.

 

Something niggled in the back of his head.

 

Hoseok’s eyes were back to normal, but his face was hard. Defiance was etched onto every line of his expression. It was a sight so familiar to Jimin that he had a jarring moment of disconnection – of seeing it in a place so out of context. Hoseok looking so grim –that kind of Hoseok only belonged to the mats where he was facing down opponents, not outside in the real world.

 

The camera went out of focus, static filling the speakers.

 

“Sorry about that,” Sungjae spoke up, startling him. Jimin jarred out of it, realizing that the wrist holding the holopad was trembling. He met Sungjae’s eyes with a blank expression. Sungjae tongued at the side of his cheek, his too expressive features twisted in a wince of sympathy.

 

“What about the rest of it?” Jimin asked hesitantly, unwilling to know the answer.

 

“That’s about it. The people who uploaded it were anonymous so I don’t think I can track it back to them.”

 

Jimin didn’t reply, blinking slowly.

 

“I think he’s okay, Jiminie. If there is anything I trust, it’s you always coming out on top, when it comes to brawls. So if he’s the one who’s taught you, I don’t think you have to worry.”

 

Sungjae was trying to comfort him in his own slightly awkward, stilted way, but it wasn’t helping. Jimin’s vision blurred in front of him.

 

“Can I keep this?” He was surprised his voice came out so level. Sungjae bobbed his head and Jimin muttered a tight ‘thanks’. Picking up the static holo video still playing out in front of him, he gave it a light push into the library table in front of him. The display flattened, losing a dimension and going into 2D. The Global Projector above their heads started rendering it.

 

“I don’t know what’s happening to everyone,” Jimin murmured, words slipping out without his control. “It’s like, I take one step forward somewhere and everything else takes two steps back, leaving me out the loop.”

 

Something’s wrong with Tae, the voice inside his head whispered miserably. But you already knew that, so what are you doing sitting around?

 

I can’t find him no matter how much I try, Jimin wanted to scream back, feeling helpless and guilty - like he wasn’t trying enough. The silence in his head was damning enough. Jimin exhaled, something like condemnation filling his throat up.

 

Codependence, at its finest, the memory of his father’s wry voice resounded in his ears, a faint imprint in the well of his conscious, the smell of Taehyung around him and his hyperactive limbs nearly strangling Jimin in his sleep, prickly soft black hair tucked under his chin. Letting go of Taehyung will always be his breaking point in the end, if this goes on.

 

They’re good for each other, his mother had murmured, a small tinkle of laughter as her soft hand brushed over Jimin’s forehead, shushing him to sleep. Jimin is too used to looking after us, he wouldn’t know what to do if he didn’t have a lost lamb like Taetae to look after.

 

For the longest time, Sungjae didn’t say anything. Jimin would have almost wondered if he’d left, if not for the presence he could feel behind him. When he took in a breath, like he was gearing up to say something difficult, Jimin tensed up.

 

“Have you,” Sungjae asked haltingly, something heavy in his voice, “- maybe, by any chance - heard about Curse Workers?”

 

Jimin froze in his seat, eyes going wide.

 

“I don’t know how much you know about them, but my mother used to be one.”

 

Used.

 

Jimin didn’t breathe, waiting to see where this was going. Sungjae sounded exactly like those protestants with the stigma against Curse Workers and Jimin –

 

Park Jimin, ten years old. Son of Korean Curse Workers Park Heeyeon and Park Junghoon, retrieved from the East Base. Kept captive for three days, seems to have retained only minimal memory of the targets. He’s suffering mild aphasia and photosensitivity – energy reserves are blocked. Surface bruises around his throat and wrists. More injuries on further examination, first aid crystals administered.

 

Jimin clenched down on the memory, hand shooting toward the golden years tattoo on his abdomen. His energy bucked up under his touch, unsettled.

 

“My family was nothing special, not in the way happy families should be. All apple pie houses and white picket fences with a dog chasing around. I never understood why my mother used to hate me some days, but love me on others. My father never stayed at home long enough to remember my birthdays.” Sungjae’s voice faltered, the sound of him swallowing audible.

 

Does he know, Jimin wondered.

 

“When I went to school for the Gifted, I could barely do a thing. I could understand everything but somehow, I could never connect with the class, or with the people my own age. No one ever seemed to understand, and everyone was just so mad at me, man. Like, constantly mad. I became the butt of every joke, but no matter how much I fought to stop it.

 

“When my dad got my mother diagnosed, they found out that she had been fighting fibromyalgia for some while.”

 

Jimin hissed out a breath, shocked. Fibromyalgia, when it occurred to Curse Fighters and Workers, worked as lethal as any other brain cancer or dementia - impairing every sense they had for their Gift. Jimin would know, having seen the Riots being caused just because Curse Workers were so prone to getting psychological impairment because of the usage of their Gifts.

 

“It's one of those funny little things that never occur to you, that they can be real, you know? Until it happens to someone you love and you're thrust into the damage zone without a safety helmet and forced to face it head on," Sungjae smiled bitterly. "When they got me diagnosed for any signs of hereditary illnesses too, they found signs of curse working in my Lifestream. Artificial autism, they said. It had the marker of my mother’s energy.”

 

Christ.” Jimin shuddered.

 

Sungjae shrugged, chewing his lip. Patting Jimin on the shoulder, he picked up the holopad as if he had been talking about something as mundane as the weather.

 

“But, hey – I’m studying the production of panacea, in Hongdae University – of all places, man. Things somehow turned out to be alright in the end.” Sungjae smiled, eyes crinkling up. “Well, not quite alright. My chrysalis ash is taking an eternity to grow and Sanghyuk protects his weed like a crotchety old bastard. Shit still gets real nasty in the dorms, when people go knocking on his door for his weed.”

 

Jimin’s snort was a little half-hearted. His head was spinning with everything and the heat creeping up his limbs wasn’t helping.

 

“Fretting about things isn’t going to help anyone. Be optimistic, man, that’s all I’m trying to say,” Sungjae picked up the complicated twelve sided rubik’s pentagon he’d set down beside Jimin, smiling slightly. Jimin stared at it, feeling the same impact from it under his chest as he did when he picked up on other people’s bonded staffs around him.

 

Them’s the breaks, kid. Curse Working ain’t everyone’s cup of tea - that’s what we have the Cursed Riots breaking out for all over the world. Don’t let others know about your abilities, and you live to breathe another goddamn day like the special snowflake you are.

 

“That’s your staff, isn’t it?” Jimin asked. Sungjae hummed in reply, mouth tilting up mischievously as he fiddled with the glowing squares on it.

 

“Yeah, solving this is a real trip when you are about as high as a kite flying over Namsan Tower. You can literally feel your brain having a meltdown and losing faith in everything just with the world. It’s pretty fun.”

 

“You’re insane,” Jimin wondered out loud. Sungjae broke out in sharp, raucous laughter at that, ignoring the stinky looks the librarian was shooting him.

 

“Insanity is just another name for conquering life. The real trick to it is to do it before it fucks you back, Jiminie. Life is too short and your Lifestream is too valuable to waste on mundane things,” Sungjae seemed so strong and self assured that for a moment, Jimin envied him. Envied everything about how he talked about Lifestream like it was an everyday commodity, was able to stop worrying about things and just let go.

 

“See you around, man,” Sungjae saluted him cheekily, smile turning a little sober at the video open in front of them. Jimin called out a thanks in a hurry, gratified when he realised that Sungjae had been trying to cheer him up by distracting him and Jimin was apparently too focused and oblivious to notice and appreciate. Sungjae hooked a thumbs up over his shoulder, head down and solving the pentagon as he left the library.

 

Turning back to the video playing out on the table, Jimin pursed his lips and picked up his phone. The display blinked open and he read the messages again, swallowing.

 

Jimin: i’m at the western library right now

 

The answer came promptly, as if Healer Kim had been waiting on the edge of his seat to get Jimin’s reply.

 

Healer Kim: On my way.

 

Hoseok’s eyes glinted gold in the light. Jimin clenched his jaw, zooming in on the video, looping it over again. He thought about Yoongi and Seokjin, about the first meeting they ever had with each other, where Seokjin looked knowingly at Yoongi and a little too curiously at Jimin – as if he knew something that Jimin didn’t. He’d written it off as not being in the loop, of not being familiar enough with Yoongi to know anything about him yet.

 

But something had taken root in his head slowly, without his notice. The connections his thoughts were starting to make, the answer that was starting to take form – it seemed absolutely ridiculous, so ludicrous that he wanted to discard it as soon as the thought entered his head.

 

“Eliminate all possibilities…” he muttered out loud, thumbing the video to the start again, thinking of Yoongi pulling away from him a few days before, of some of the things he’d said.

 

And whatever else remains, must hold true.

 

Jimin paused the screen on the same time stamp where Hoseok’s eyes glinted gold again, certainty rising in him.

 

It was time to get some real answers.

*

Seokjin scanned the huge library, feeling uneasy. Jimin was nowhere to be seen, and the longer he stayed idle with his thoughts, the more worried he got about Yoongi.

 

He wondered what Namjoon would do in his place. He’d probably tell Seokjin to stop meddling in Yoongi’s life.

 

But Yoongi was technically his patient. It was his job to make sure he wasn’t suffering. Be it his heat or his own blockheaded promise to be an idiot about it, Seokjin had enough of his stupid best friend.

 

“Pain in the ass, is what you are,” Seokjin muttered out loud, imagining Yoongi tipping his head arrogantly at him, a cocky smirk placed secure on his face.

 

He inhaled, trying to find the strain of scents. Yoongi’s stood out the strongest, intertwined with Jimin’s natural aroma and Seokjin followed it, striding towards the corner of Physical Sealings.

 

Jimin’s head was bent over something, back to Seokjin. Seokjin came close enough to smell the distressed signal in his scent and the hair in the back of his neck rose in alarm. He gently rapped his knuckles next to Jimin on the table and he flinched so violently that Seokjin drew back in alarm.

 

The numbness in his nose alerted him to the fact that Jimin’s lifestream was growing strong in intensity. He checked Jimin’s brown eyes.

 

Slightly dilated.

 

The heat had started to leak down the bond, fuck.

 

“Are you alright, Jimin?” he asked carefully. Jimin’s eyebrows furrowed and his jaw clenched in reply.

 

“Healer Kim,” he sounded grim, so determined that Seokjin was immediately aware something was off, way off than what he’d initially thought. “I need you to see something.”

 

Before Seokjin could even reply, Jimin tapped on the table. When the video started playing, Seokjin’s blood went cold.

 

He’d recognise Jungkook anywhere. But the aggression in his face, that feral set to his teeth as he snarled and grappled with the person below him – they let out a yelp – and Seokjin froze.

 

He recognized it.

 

Seokjin’s head went blank.

 

Hoseok limped up and Seokjin felt faint, could almost taste the rust and pain in the air, but he couldn’t move. His stomach dropped.

 

“Stop,” Hoseok pleaded of Jungkook and Seokjin couldn’t even recognize him anymore, couldn’t see an ounce of regret or humanity in his eyes. Jungkook didn’t even pay heed to Hoseok showing his neck. His muscles stood out, as if he was barely controlling the aggression.

 

Seokjin recognized that set to Jungkook’s shoulders, the same way Yoongi relaxed and drew them back, preparing to shift midway while chasing a hunt and bringing a buck down. Jungkook was looking at Hoseok like he was his hunt and it sent a chill down Seokjin’s spine.

 

Look at me.”

 

Seokjin clenched his jaw at the amount of command flowing through Jungkook’s voice, wondering bleakly what was going to happen next. It was unmistakably the sound of the Alpha, the chill which could tear into someone’s soul and grab them by their strings – and for once, he had no doubts that Jungkook would be the High Alpha of Seoul when his age came, would be capable of taking his father on in a fight and clawing his way up – and Hoseok, like all the other wolves around them, was compelled to look at Jungkook and face his wrath.

 

Jimin’s fingers shot out, pausing it on Hoseok’s face. He swallowed audibly, zooming in on the scene. Seokjin stared blankly at Jungkook’s figure, hearing Jimin’s heartbeat go up in the background.

 

“I know I’m not seeing things,” Jimin said slowly, voice trembling. “I know I’ve been a little slow, and there are things about Lifestream and energy I won’t ever understand.”

 

Seokjin said nothing.

 

“But, I’m not blind. I’ve seen Yoongi-hyung’s eyes turn that colour. Thrice – I don’t think – I mean, that can’t be a coincidence.”

 

When Seokjin didn’t say anything, Jimin’s face turned distressed. He swallowed and raked his hand through his hair nervously, smelling of nerves and incredulity.

 

“Yoongi-hyung – he’s so different, and when he protected me from that animal – I know he got hurt, but he seemed –“

 

“He needs your help,” Seokjin interrupted him softly. Don’t, his instincts screamed at him, it goes against all codes to entrust a human with something like this.

 

It’s Yoongi’s mate, he told his wolf. I will make all sacrifices in the world if it means Yoongi finally gets his own happy ending.

 

Jimin stopped, staring up at him a shell-shocked look on his face.

 

“He’s-” Seokjin licked his lips, clamping down on the worry and conflict. “He’s going to kill himself if you don’t –”

 

Jimin’s chair knocked back with a harsh crash and Seokjin flinched, words drying up in his mouth as Jimin pushed past him, working up to a sprint.

 

“Jimin – no!” He reached out to pull Jimin back. His hand closed Jimin’s healing elbow and Jimin jerked harshly, looking back at him, face clad with fevered eyes and a frantic expression.

 

“I thought – I felt him. I knew there was something wrong, why didn’t I go to him before, fuck,” Jimin’s voice shook.

 

“Jimin, you don’t have all the pieces right now. If you make a decision, you might end up regretting it later.”

 

Jimin’s scent spectrum was starting to hurl all around the place, a blatant panic signal and Seokjin knew he was solely focused on getting to Yoongi as fast as he could. Nothing else would shake that conviction, and none of the words he was uttering were registering in his head. He shook Jimin, trying to jar him out of it.

 

“Jimin! Focus on me, right the fuck now.”

 

Jimin looked up and froze. Seokjin’s eyes were a blazing gold, angry and cold ice at the same time. He took a step back, a sound slipping out of his mouth when he realized Seokjin had a firm hold on him. Seokjin was about to let go of him, when Jimin’s soul energy pulsed forward in response to his distress, lashing out at Seokjin.

 

Fuck,” Seokjin hissed, feeling the alien energy trying to assault his skin. He let go of Jimin, eyes rusting back to his soft brown. “Fuck, goddamnit. Jimin, you don’t understand – “ he looked up and felt his stomach drop.

 

Jimin was gone.

 

“Son of a bitch,” Seokjin swore loudly, ignoring the look the librarian shot at him.

 

It will be alright, a voice whispered soothingly in his ears, sounding so much like Namjoon’s that Seokjin immediately relaxed. Have a little faith in them.

 

“That’s the mistake I made the first time around,” Seokjin muttered, pressing the heel of his cool palm to his flushed cheeks. The alien energy burns would scar if he didn’t treat them soon but Seokjin felt so tired that he couldn’t muster up enough energy to go through with the healing spells, or even reach in for the spare crystals he carried around.

 

Namjoon laughed in his head, light and genuine - something in his tone giving Seokjin the impression that Namjoon was thinking he was adorable.

 

Then have some patience, darling.

 

Seokjin sighed.

 

Stupid best friends, indeed.

 

 

*

Hoseok's blood fresh on his hands, he broke away from the crowd and ran. Away from Hoseok’s damning eyes, away from his pack’s conflicted gaze and Hoseok’s accusations.

 

Hoseok looked at him with a bloodstained grin, sharp and biting, like he knew he could deliver the worst damage no matter how much Jungkook tried to hurt him. Something savage shone in his eyes, tempered with an anguish that seemed like his need to hurt Jungkook was personal.

 

“You don’t even know what you’ve done, have you? Where were you when he needed you, Jungkook-gun? When he was about to step off to his own death—“

 

Jungkook ran.

 

Always running after our Prince, never able to catch up, a memory of a snide Fae whispering into his ears made his heart slam against his chest, causing the muscles in his leg to spasm and his gait stuttered.

 

Pixie rings burst under his foot, scattering into tinkling songs and making him snarl in aggression. Too reminiscent of the wild festivity of the Fae world for his taste.

 

Jungkook was back in that same trap, wasn’t he?

 

He ran past the humans clustered around the buildings, ran past the commotion of his own pack members running about a thousand paces behind him. Senses heightened, everything assaulted him, too much toomuchtoomuch.

 

Deal with it, he snarled at his frail human body, loathing how it started breaking down on him the second he needed it the most. Thoughts were starting to scatter, and all he heard was his own heartbeat roaring loud in his ears.

 

“Fleet footed boy he is, capable of fighting the fiercest of our enemies. He is born with the wolf heart, amongst prey blood of his kin and underneath the shine of the brightest moon of the aeon. It rings truest in him, out of all of us. His heart belongs to us – and it’s the greatest fortune the goddesses have ever bestowed on us.”

 

“No, abeoji,” Jungkook breathed, feeling like everything was slipping out of his grasp. Taehyung, Taehyung, Taehyung – his heartbeat screamed, like it was trying to slam out of his chest and outrun Jungkook to Taehyung.

 

My heart belongs to Taehyung.

 

His wolf howled so loudly, Jungkook was sure that even packs not connected to his own mind would be able to hear the sound of it. It rang in his ears, blood singing alive in his veins.

 

Taehyung.

 

Jungkook ran.

*

Jimin banged on their door insistently, sweat rolling down his neck. The air was humid and crackling with energy, humming in time with his heart. The bond seethed, blinding white under his eyelids when he blinked and he wondered how long it would take before his eyes scorched from the heat. Healer Kim hadn’t been clear about the specifics when he was doing the talking – or maybe Jimin hadn’t been able to focus on anything further than Yoongi suffering through something he didn’t need to? He’d run away from Kim Seokjin’s intense eyes, ignoring his calls, with only the single-minded intention of getting to Yoongi as fast as possible.

 

There was no time to think, no time to have second thoughts. Yoongi was dying and Jimin would rather kill himself than not save him. Fire scorched under his fingertips on the now familiar wood of the door, leaving behind charred black markings. His throat grew dry as the door opened, slowly – too slowly for Jimin.

 

The pungent scent of Yoongi assaulted him as soon as it opened and he gasped, leaning forward involuntarily, eyes catching on Yoongi’s hunched form.

 

Yoongi looked like shit. His eyes were red rimmed, the faintest hint of gold in his brown irises, and his eyelashes were clumping together, with damp tears at the corner of his eyes. Sweat rolled down his temple and over his flushed cheeks, hair utterly drenched.

 

“What are you doing here?” Yoongi’s voice had dropped so low, so gritty that Jimin, inspite of himself, felt like taking a wary step backwards. The look in his eyes was close to an animalistic fury, dark and fixed on Jimin’s face like they were waiting to devour him.

 

“A-Are you –” he stuttered, words drying up in his throat and he swallowed. Yoongi’s eyes didn’t leave him, teeth clenched in a way that told Jimin that he was suppressing something. The bond kept drawing him in, urging him to grab Yoongi and – do what? What exactly was Jimin supposed to do?

 

Yoongi’s hands were clenched around the door handle and Jimin watched in alarm as the white knuckles dented the surface of the door.

 

“Are you alrigh-“

 

“You shouldn’t be here,” Yoongi cut him off, tiredly. He was barely breathing, lips fallen open in slight pants and Jimin frowned. He raised his hand to brush his palm against his head and Yoongi cringed back, shooting a hand out to catch hold of Jimin’s wrist.

 

The bond sizzled at their touch and Yoongi only had a moment to choke out Jimin’s name, eyes wide in fright.

 

Jimin collapsed.

Chapter Text

Yoongi’s hand clenched around Jimin’s wrist tightly the instant he collapsed, pulling him up and towards himself, unable to stop his actions. Not like he wanted to stop them either.

 

Jimin…” he whispered, relief flowing through him at the sensation of holding his mate in his arms. It felt so right, so fucking good to feel the weight of Jimin, the solidness of having his mate in his arms – someone he’d never even imagined he’d have. Not for him, never.

 

But against all odds, against all the warnings given by the pack elders and shamans against Yoongi ever finding his mate – here Jimin was.

 

Park Jimin is his mate.

 

His to protect and his to claim. Only his to cherish, and only his to keep.

 

Please.” Jimin shivered in his arms, eyes rolling back so only the whites showed. His neck was exposed to Yoongi, as if he understood what he was offering to him.

 

It sobered him up.

 

“Jimin,” he ground out, suppressing the flashes of lust trying to pull him down under again. Jimin moaned in reply and Yoongi caressed his cheek, trying to get him to focus on him. “Jimin-ah.”

 

“Hyung,” Jimin moaned again and Yoongi felt physical pain when he tried to push the desire for his boy back.

 

“Do you even know what you’re doing to me right now?” His voice sounded unbelievably agonized, even to his own ears.

 

Jimin’s eyes opened a sliver, focusing on him. His eyes held something desperate, something that spoke of devotion and ready agreement and Yoongi felt his breath catch in his throat.

 

“Yes,” Jimin whispered, clenching his fingers in Yoongi’s sweatshirt, nails digging into his skin. “I know. I know,” he repeated, voice soft and firm. “I want to help, any way I can.”

 

Yoongi despaired, wondering if this was a good time to break it to Jimin, that he wasn’t all human, he wasn’t like him. That he deserved better, deserved someone who held him tenderly instead of someone who wanted to break him apart and devour every little inch of him. He deserved the love that Yoongi wasn’t sure his heart was capable of providing.

 

“Jimin-ah, you don’t need to do this. You don’t know-” Jimin hand cupped Yoongi’s cheek, pressing his thumb to the corner of Yoongi’s lips and stunning him into silence. The look in his eyes was tender, smile lingering on his face.

 

“It doesn’t matter.”

 

Yoongi exhaled.

 

“I’m not human, Jimin.”

 

“I know,” Jimin replied quietly. Yoongi heartbeat stuttered in his chest, and he jolted.

 

“You knew?

 

“I knew it since the morning you touched me, Yoongi. I had felt it the second you let me in.” Jimin smiled gently and Yoongi staggered back. He wondered how much Jimin knew. He swallowed when he thought of Jimin knowing how intense Yoongi’s feelings for him were.

 

If Yoongi mated Jimin – which he definitely would, because there was no way his wolf would let this particular heat pass by without his mate beside him, hanging off his knot and scented with Yoongi’s claiming bite adorning his neck – there would never be any chance of breaking the bond. The mating bond was the strongest of any bonds forged between their kind. Jimin was only human, not bound by any such rules. Could Yoongi really force this on him?

 

“You need this, don’t you?” Jimin’s eyes were so soft that Yoongi wanted to shake him, make him think about all the consequences he was probably not thinking of. The kid was only twenty summers, barely an adult capable of making responsible decisions. If he kept tempting Yoongi like this, especially during his mating heat, he was afraid he’d end up doing something about it whether he liked it or not. Or worse, Yoongi could end up hurting him – something that had become his worst nightmare.

 

“Tell me again, Jimin.” Yoongi tightened his fingers around his bicep, ignoring his question. “Tell me if you don’t want to do this. I could hurt you, you know?”

 

“I don’t believe that,” Jimin answered, thumbing at his jaw and sending down trails of fire at the point of contact. “Even if you do, I’m capable of taking care of myself, you know?”

 

“I’m a wolf, Jimin. I’m bigger than you are when I shift.”

 

“And I have taken my tetanus shots, don’t worry,” Jimin replied without missing a beat, a mischievous smile sneaking up on his lips.

 

“I could really end up hurting you, even if I didn’t want to.”

 

He broke off with a choked sound, the corners of his eyes stinging. Jimin looked up at him with wide eyes and Yoongi wanted nothing more than to pull him in and kiss him, hold him, love him – if Jimin would let him. And in that one moment, he stared into Park Jimin’s dark eyes, full of understanding and comfort, and felt a searing vulnerability in himself; he felt so weak, that his words poured forth without his usual censor.

 

“I don’t know what,” Yoongi’s voice cracked. “Or how we crossed paths that day. Hell, it’s probably a needle in a million haystacks chance of stumbling upon someone like you – I must be the luckiest goddamned son of a bitch ever, to have lucked out in this side of the galaxy, fuck. You don’t know how glad I am that you fucked up that potion, Jimin. You don’t know how many times I looked at your face and wondered what I did to deserve someone like you in my life—“

 

Jimin cut him off, warm and soft lips covering his and swallowing up the words stuck on the tip of his tongue. Yoongi let out a muffled sound, hand clenching on Jimin’s bicep, the heat of Jimin’s hard body sizzling into his flesh. His wolf growled, and the sound rattled around his chest, emerging from within him with a strong tenor and reverberating around the room. Jimin didn’t pay it any attention, gently using his hand to clutch at the back of Yoongi’s neck and tilting him towards him, shyly licking at the seam of his mouth and retreating, as if he was waiting for him to respond.

 

Yoongi melted.

 

He opened his mouth and captured Jimin’s plump, soft lips between his. Jimin relaxed in his hold, a soft sigh falling from his mouth. The warmth of his mouth, of his mate’s mouth on him – it made him feel so indescribably content, so full with the joy of having his mate in his arms, granting him his touch, that he was almost choking on it. He needed to give his mate more, he needed to give his mate everything Yoongi was. He needed to show Jimin just how completely Yoongi belonged to him, how Yoongi was ready to bring the world to him if he just asked for it.

 

Jimin moved back, away from his insistent lips and Yoongi exhaled, not ready to let him go. Jimin gave a breathless laugh, thumbing at the soft bone below his ear.

 

“Shut up, Min Yoongi.” He breathed, eyes warm and soft on Yoongi’s. A smile pulled at the corner of his teasing lips, like he was about to let Yoongi in on a secret. “I’ve been waiting on you for a long time. I’m not going to let you push me away again.”

 

"Jimin." Yoongi groaned, already feeling like it was too much to handle all at once. Jimin was pliant in his arms, ridiculously tempting and seductive when he looked up at Yoongi from under his lashes, lower lip caught between white teeth and cheeks flushed prettily.

 

His wolf let out a low growl at the same time the bond between Yoongi and Jimin pulsed, a wave of heat crashing down in his veins. His heart stuttered and Yoongi let go of Jimin to clench his fists, riding the wave of agony and anticipation out, bloodlust lighting him up from the inside to metamorphose into something sharper and more vicious, invulnerable and a predator at its finest - animal instincts with all the human restrictions shattered.

 

Jimin let out a cry and Yoongi slowly opened his eyes, blinking out the grit in it. The smells around the room had intensified once more but all Yoongi could smell was JiminJiminJimin in front of him.

 

His body convulsed, slouching into a more relaxed crouch, readying himself to stalk his mate, to court him and prove himself worthy in front of him. Eyes fixed on Jimin, he shivered with the amount of lust and chase thrumming through his veins.

 

Jimin swallowed, eyes wide at Yoongi. He growled in reply, scenting the air. Lust, Jimin’s lust and desire, anticipation – his essence was so sweet, so pretty for his mate. All for him. All for him to mark, knot, claim as his.

 

He prowled around him and Jimin moved away from him instinctively. Yoongi growled louder, a feral grin starting to pull at his lips. He would have torn down his frail human shell, if not for the knowledge that his mate was not a shifter himself. If he shifted completely, he could hurt him. His hindbrain knew that hurting Jimin was out of question.

 

His ears picked up the sound of humans, far away enough that Yoongi didn’t care enough to close the door. All the better, if they did hear anything. At least that way, they would know Yoongi’s hunt, know not to get in between the White Devil and his mate. And when his mate accepted him, they’d hear it loud and clear and know there was no one else for either of them.

 

“Hyung.” Jimin’s voice was high pitched, as he saw Yoongi stalking towards him. Jimin retreated on instinct, mouth falling open. A vague human corner of his consciousness reminded Yoongi of the bed and that his human mate would probably appreciate if he took him on a comfortable surface when he claimed him. “Wh-what are you doing?”

 

Yoongi grinned the moment he saw the bed behind Jimin’s legs, watching him stumble back with wide eyes still fixed on his. He started squirming backwards on the bed, apprehension written across his face but posture so open that Yoongi knew he had considered him to be worthy as soon as the hunt had begun and had accepted his courting. Intoxicated on the knowledge, he crawled forward onto the bed, following the scent of pheromones across the sheets.

 

Jimin’s back hit the headboard, and he let out a squeak. Yoongi cocked his head to the side, wanting to coo at his mate. Such a pretty, lovely mate. He would look so good with Yoongi’s knot inside him.

 

“Jimin…” he crooned, hair falling into his eyes. “Jiminnie,” he dragged out the sound, approaching his boy slowly. Jimin trembled at his approach and Yoongi wanted to reassure him that he wouldn’t hurt him, even if the mating haze made him go mad. The claiming was bound to be a little painful in start but it would be all better, because Yoongi would make sure to take care of Jimin.

 

Jimin’s trembling didn’t stop, pupils wide and black. Yoongi inhaled again, smelling the lust. He growled low in his throat when he saw the bulge in his mate’s jeans, feeling heady with thick arousal clogging his senses.

 

When he was close enough, hovering near the apex of Jimin’s thighs but not quite touching Jimin yet, he stopped.

 

Leaning in close enough that his breath fanned out against Jimin’s neck, he paused for a moment. Felt triumph swim in his blood and energy, the longer Jimin didn’t raise any complaints. The intense rush of love and adoration for his mate jolted him out of his mating haze, the longer he heard Jimin’s heartbeat thrumming beneath him.

 

A sense of wonder engulfed him when Jimin turned his head sideways, as if unable to control himself, and met his eyes. This near, he could see the entire world in him, so many dreams he’d not let himself harbor, coloured within the shades of Jimin’s eyes – Jimin, who held the entirety of Yoongi in his soft grasp, without a hint of doubt in those fearless eyes of his.

 

Yoongi had dreamed about this.

 

A long time ago, maybe. He barely remembered it, stumbling after Jungkook and running into a Faerie Circle. Finding a DreamCatcher wielding sprite who’d freed him. Falling unconscious, because the sprite wanted to steal something valuable from him, give him a dream in return to distract him. Barely dreaming about a boy with large and vivid brown eyes, who made him feel everything he hadn’t been able to understand at that time. So alluringly wonderful, someone who loved him to ruins and encompassed his entire world.

 

He’d driven away the wild sprite before it had taken away the memory of Jungkook from him, breaking away from the dream even if he had wanted to keep living in it forever. Mourning because he couldn’t remember the boy after everything was over and he was back in Seoul, in his bed and feeling unsettled.

 

“Mine?” he asked quietly, the gruffness of his voice leaking out. Jimin relaxed, eyes roaming his face with a quiet look of adoration.

 

Mine,” Yoongi confirmed softly, leaning in to press his lips to Jimin’s neck.

 

“Yours, Yoongi,” Jimin replied out loud, letting out a light sigh of satisfaction. For the first time in a long while, he felt complete. There was no wolf and no human. There was just Yoongi. One and the same, both sides of him. Only Yoongi and his mate in his arms.

 

Yoongi kissed up his neck, laving it with attention until Jimin shuddered, baring his neck in submission. Yoongi’s mouth watered with the need to bite him, but he refrained.

 

“Will you let me have you?” Yoongi whispered into Jimin’s ear, only a step away from shedding his momentary sanity at the proximity with his mate and not being able to touch him.

 

“Yes.” Jimin placed an open mouthed kiss at the corner of Yoongi’s lips and Yoongi’s heartbeat started matching the hummingbird pace of Jimin’s own heartbeat. Adrenaline rushed through him, sharpening his nails, and he grit his teeth at the blaze of ruthless want.

 

“Good,” Yoongi hissed, placing his sharp nails on the sweaty grey shirt Jimin wore, abhorring the barriers between them. “Because I can’t hold back anymore.”

 

He dug his nails in and in a snap, the shirt was hanging off in shreds, tan and muscled skin on display. Jimin’s tattoo stood out in stark relief against his skin, such energy emanating from it that Yoongi sucked in a sharp breath.

 

Jimin let out a reedy sound, hands instinctively coming up to grasp at the lapels of Yoongi’s shirt. Fire raced up his fingers, Jimin barely conscious of his own actions. The stench of burning cloth filled the air around them and Yoongi hissed out through his teeth. Even the heat of the fire feeling less than the intensity of the mating heat.

 

Jimin pursed his lips, meeting Yoongi’s wild eyes with wildness in his own. Yoongi started to wonder if the feral need to mate was boiling down their bond and affecting Jimin too.

 

“Does it bite?” Jimin asked him. His eyes seared into Yoongi’s with a heat that matched the fiery finger he traced down Yoongi’s shirt, where it singed and ate away at the fabric, leaving ashes behind.

 

“No.”

 

Yoongi didn’t know what came over him, but the second Jimin’s fingers raced down his bicep where his own tattoo was resting, his fire coming into contact with the crystals embedded around them, Yoongi acted on instinct.

 

Flipping Jimin onto his fours, denim covered ass in the air and back arched, looking like an appealing treat. Yoongi didn’t restrain his loud, possessive growl, instead dragged down the remaining tatters of his shirt off. Jimin let out a high-pitched moan, shifting in response.

 

Fuck.

 

It was too much.

 

Jimin turned his head sideways, eyes so smoky with desire that Yoongi could barely control his actions. Jimin’s eyes ran down his skin, tongue dragging across his red swollen lips – fuck, his mate probably didn’t even know how alluring he looked.

 

“Yoongi,” he said, voice like a siren and Yoongi the hapless sailor caught in the trap of his sweet song, blood on fire and desire to possess him sparking every single nerve ending of his. “Yoongi, I want to see you.”

 

Fuck, Yoongi wasn’t ready to handle Park Jimin pouting at him. He let out a choked sound caught in the back of his burning throat, feeling like he would give anything and everything to Jimin if he ever looked at him like that again.

 

“What do you want me to do, baby boy?” Did it sound as desperate as he felt? Jimin looked at him from under his dark eyelashes, pink tongue peeking out teasingly from the corner of his lips. Yoongi’s cock was painfully hard against his pants, making him press the heel of his hand on the bulge, restraining it. It didn’t help any, only added another agonizing layer of pressure

 

Jimin’s eyes shot down to gaze at his hand and he swallowed.

 

“Take off your clothes for me.”

 

Yoongi breathed out, and breathed in again.

 

It was a mistake.

 

Jimin’s scent was shifting all around him, stoking the flames of his heat. He shrugged off the burnt remains of his shirt, crystals and tattoo glowing in the dim light of the evening streaming in through the window. Jimin bit his lip, a pleading expression on his face even as Yoongi arched his hips to slide his pants down his legs, feeling a little relief at not having his cock confined within his constricting pants anymore. He palmed the head, trailed his fingers down to squeeze at the base of his knot.

 

Jimin’s eyes went wide when he saw Yoongi’s knot.

 

“When we are in heat, we carry some of the characteristics from our wolves when we shift back.” Yoongi’s voice was tight, and he wondered what Jimin’s reaction was going to be. Jimin looked visibly shaken, but his eyes trailed back to Yoongi’s eyes with a naked kind of curiosity that made Yoongi relax slightly.

 

“What happens when we-?”

 

“When I’m inside you, it will expand. It helps to stop all the come from leaking out,” Yoongi said casually, watching Jimin flush, vague amusement cutting through the haze that had descended in his head. “It’s slightly painful at first, but it goes away. If you don’t want me to go through with it, if you’re sca- indecisive about it, I can always pull out.”

 

God, it would kill him to do that. Having sex with Jimin without mating him properly, and knotting him good - Yoongi would not be satisfied. His instincts wouldn’t let him lie still. But it was Jimin’s decision to make, being his mate.

 

“I,” Jimin started with an unsteady voice, “Maybe I’d like to give it a try.”

 

If there was one thing Yoongi had realized over the time he spent in Jimin’s company, the more someone discouraged Jimin to do something, the more he wanted to reach up and achieve it with a savage determination to prove them wrong. He knew it was a bad idea – and maybe he should be going about it some other way, but he couldn’t not tell Jimin how it would feel like, how it would make sure Yoongi and Jimin were sufficiently stuck together until their scents merged and Yoongi imprinted on him.

 

Maybe, Yoongi was the one daunted by the intimacy the knotting would bring.

 

“Jimin,” he licked his lips, controlling the tremors going through his body. “-there’s no saying how much it will hurt you, being a human. Wolves have their tricks of dealing and compartmentalizing the initial pain, but humans don’t have that luxury. What if I really hurt you?”

 

“How many others have you been with?” Jimin asked abruptly, completely ignoring his question and all of the skittishness melting away from his posture. His eyes narrowed on Yoongi’s and a hint of jealousy leaked out in his scent, curling around them, poised like a snake ready to strike.

 

Yoongi stared into Jimin’s eyes, dumbfounded.

 

“What?”

 

“How many” Jimin reached up to snake a palm around the back of Yoongi’s head and grip the baby hair there tightly, nails scratching against his scalp and sending a tantalizing heat down his body to match the one already there, “other people,” Jimin pulled him down, something of an angry grimace over his lips, “- do I have to compete with?”

 

There was something feral in his eyes, and Yoongi wondered if the madness had started to affect him too.

 

“Five,” he murmured quietly, staring into Jimin’s eyes. Jimin didn’t flinch back, the sound of his teeth clenching lightly the only sign of his ire washing down their bond. “They were all one night stands.”

 

“Did you ever knot with any of them?”

 

“No,” Yoongi replied, hands coming up to grasp at Jimin’s biceps.

 

“Good,” Jimin hissed harshly, and Yoongi felt something like redemption wash over him. Jimin pulled him down and bit down harshly on his lip, metallic taste of rust tinting their mouths and making Yoongi jolt, cock grinding down against Jimin’s clothed one.

 

“Then let me be the only one to have you that way,” Jimin muttered.

 

Fuck,” Yoongi hissed, tasting his own blood. He pushed him down, gripping his shoulders hard enough to leave behind dark red bruises, everything in him screaming for dominance.

 

Jimin’s hips bucked and he looked up at Yoongi, wide eyed.

 

*

 

Jimin went willingly when Yoongi ran a rough hand down his side, back arching under the light streaming in through the window. Yoongi whispered rough kisses down the knobs of his spine, gritty and loose vowels clad with softer consonants, enough to lull Jimin into a state of lax arousal.

 

“The first time we ran into each other, I hated you.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Jimin snorted, voice hushed. “Taehyung’s Joker was smirking at me every time I saw him.”

 

Yoongi traced his name on the spot just at the base of Jimin’s spine, feeling him shudder in response. Slick and wet under him, Yoongi sank in easily, like Jimin had been waiting for a long time for him to come home.

 

Jimin moaned under him, rolling his hips and fucking himself back on Yoongi. Yoongi’s breath hitched at the warmth that engulfed him, the heat barely keeping his own movements at bay.

 

“Yoongi,” Jimin moaned when he jerked back his hips, cock slipping out and punching back in.

 

“Yoongi,” Jimin laughed, rolling over on his back and trying to escape Yoongi’s fingers skating along his sides, pressing down on the ticklish spots.

 

“Stop,” he gasped, out of breath. “No more!”

 

“More,” Jimin barely breathed out, voice hoarse as Yoongi slammed back into him with a ferocity that shattered him down to his bones. Yoongi growled, voice sounding so animalistic that Jimin shuddered, barely able to tolerate the intensity of heat bouncing off the bond between them. Yoongi’s fingers slipped down to hips, grip punishing. They brushed against Jimin’s tattoo; soul energy resonated through both of them with such force that Jimin screamed, feeling Yoongi slide back into him.

 

“I know I haven’t been exactly nice to you,” Yoongi swallowed, biting down on the inside of his cheek. Jimin smiled softly, posture mirroring his, head pillowed on his own arms.

 

“Yeah, you were a dick,” he agreed cheerfully. “I hated you a bit for rocking that hot asshole thing. Taehyung told me he was willing to have Kookie cut you up and I barely just disagreed.”

 

Yoongi’s snickers started off slow, eyes scrunching up in delight. Jimin licked his lips, biting down on a grin as he watched Yoongi shake apart with laughter.

 

“Is that?” Jimin gasped, cock slapping against his belly with the motion, feeling Yoongi pushing his way into him, getting in deep, deeper than he’d ever let anyone in.

 

Yoongi bent down, eyes trained on Jimin’s as he pounded into him. He reached out to restrain Jimin, clamping down his wrists to the bed roughly, not budging even as Jimin instinctively struggled. Jimin threw his head back, feeling the weight of Yoongi’s eyes on him like an electric spark, almost to the point of overstimulation. Yoongi’s head knocked against his jaw a little painfully, his teeth rattling together. Yoongi corrected himself when Jimin groaned, too far gone to even complain. He buried his face into Jimin’s shoulder, using his grip on his biceps to make his thrusts faster, harder, slightly more feral with his impulses.

 

Jimin clenched around him, his own cock rubbing up against Yoongi’s hard muscles. He felt so battered, so helpless to do anything but just lie there, let Yoongi take him.

 

A clock chimed Tchaikovsky somewhere in the distance.

 

“And they say romance is dead,” Yoongi muttered, opening his eyes to the flowers Jimin crafted for him. They didn’t hold the momentary scent for longer than a few seconds but Jimin was too wary of using Curse Working to freeze it. “Thanks,” Yoongi said almost grudgingly. He looked so soft, eyes barely open and pink strands glowing in the light from the window.

 

“Rose for the one who has my heart,” Jimin murmured softly, watching Yoongi’s eyes go lidded. “Camellia, to signify my longing for you.”

 

“I can feel you cringing on the inside, you know that?” Yoongi answered wryly, amusement lacing his husky voice.

 

Jimin pouted.

 

Yoongi panted, painting a new set of hickies around Jimin’s jaw. Jimin clenched down around the knot forming, letting out a hoarse cry when it finally slipped in.

 

“So what’s the deal with those cards anyway? Your Taehyung?”

 

Jimin shrugged, tracing an idle line over Yoongi’s chest, dipping in to press a teasing kiss to his clavicle. Yoongi shuddered, shifting to let Jimin settle into him. Jimin granted a lasting kiss to the crystal embedded under his skin, lapping at it. His fingers touched and pressed kisses of their own everywhere they travelled, exploring every single part of him.

 

“He doesn’t have the same kind of staff we carry. His grandfather loves him a lot, you know? He used to be a really big Crafter back in his day.”

 

“Part of the Four Unions?” Yoongi hummed, back arching off the bed as Jimin nipped around his navel. Jimin chuckled.

 

“Close enough. Royalty Union. Taehyung is like, Thirteenth generation Royalty. Rich as fuck.”

 

“The fuck.”

 

“His grandfather Crafted him the deck to keep him safe. Taehyung was prone to getting lost when he was a child, so he made him something that would always lead him back and keep him safe.”

 

“Interesting,” Yoongi hummed, something faint tugging in the back of his mind.

 

Jimin cried, clenching his eyes shut at the sensation of Yoongi’s knot filling him to the brim. Yoongi bit down instinctively the instant he felt Jimin come, walls clenching around him.

 

“Yoongi!” Jimin screamed, feeling their bond pulse for one last time. Yoongi muffled his own scream into Jimin’s neck, feeling himself start to come. Jimin’s thighs tightened around Yoongi’s waist and he scoured red lines down his back, unable to contain the energy rolling through him, searing him from the inside. His back completely arched off the bed as he registered the numbing pain at the base of his spine, tempered by the overwhelming pleasure descending on him. His other hand gripped at Yoongi’s tattooed bicep, barely registering the scorch as it glowed under his touch.

 

“What does your tattoo mean?” Jimin asked curiously, tracing the edges of the curling tattoo on his arm. When Yoongi didn’t reply, he looked at him questioningly. Yoongi slowly curled his arm around Jimin, fingers reaching to touch the tattoo on Jimin’s abdomen, tracing the hanzi characters. No more soul energy, just a solid, strong mating bond in its place. He pulsed a little of his own Lifestream into his mate, smiling when Jimin jumped.

 

“Warrior. Protector,” he answered quietly. “Destroyer,” he added, even quieter.

 

“But you’re adorable!” Jimin protested.

 

Yoongi grunted, his sombre mood breaking.

 

“Go back to yakking about Taehyung and his cards, Jimin,” he said grumpily. Jimin laughed, brushing his hair off his forehead.

 

“Four suites, all from different regions, carrying Lifestream from their native places. Hearts from Japan, to protect his own dreams. Diamonds from the sacred Tai Shan Mountain in China, to help him Craft things with grace. Spades Crafted inside the temples of Apollo and Artemis to defend him. Clubs infused with the healing lifestream from the major rivers around the world. Lucky Aces to give him luck when he needs it.”

 

“But everything changed when the fire nation attacked,” Yoongi said promptly. Jimin’s violent laughter dislodged his hand from Yoongi’s hair.

 

“Jimin,” Yoongi whispered, barely able to control his voice.

 

Jimin hummed back contentedly, rolling his hips lazily to ride out the next orgasm, because Yoongi’s knot was pressing right up against his prostate. He peeked up at Yoongi dreamily, lazy delight and arousal in his eyes. He looked so utterly happy, so content under Yoongi that he felt dizzy with his own emotions, dizzy with the barely healing mating bite he’d just placed at the apex of Jimin’s neck and his shoulder.

 

Park Jimin was his.

 

“I love you, Jimin,” Yoongi said tremulously, brought down to his knees.

 

Jimin smiled, eyes crinkling up affectionately.

 

“I know.”

 

“And what exactly is this supposed to mean?” Yoongi huffed out his laugh as Jimin pulled out his other hand hidden behind his back, clutching a white flower. Jimin deposited it in his hand, energy still forming around it - the flower Crafted the second it touched Yoongi’s fingers. He looked down at it, spellbound.

 

“Violet,” Jimin whispered softly, eyes big and fragile. Yoongi’s eyes widened when Jimin reached down to pick up the hand clutching the flower, pressing a tender kiss to the back of his fingers. Like a promise hanging in the air between them, Jimin smiled shyly.

 

“Let’s take a chance on this happiness.”

 

*

 

 

Taehyung didn't understand why everyone around him kept giving him strange looks, faces scrunching into expressions of sympathy and pity.

 

His skin crawled with their stares, unease tracing its way up his spine. He felt as if he was under some kind of an uncomfortable focus, drawing people to look at him – as if they all knew there was something wrong with him –

 

Why were they still looking at him?

 

Taehyung’s heart beat faster in panic when he met the eyes of someone he barely recognized, a girl with long dark, shining black hair and grey-green eyes – Grecian crystals glinting off with energy. She looked so concerned (why was everyone so concerned about him, he knew there was something wrong with him – something enormous missing from inside of him, but the more they looked the emptier Taehyung felt) and Taehyung grit his teeth when she started to make her way towards him.

 

He looked away, something dim in his head telling him he was standing in the spot of the Fifth Idiot.

 

Escape, his instincts soothed him.

 

He clenched his fists in his hoodie and looked away from her, holding his breath – making a deft turn around the animated face of the statue, stamping down on the patch of grass where one of the hidden stones glowed golden on instinct, feeling a burn of energy go up his spine – dropping him down a hill.

 

He stumbled and tripped down the incline, caught off guard. When he caught purchase on a stray clump of grass, the palms of his hand smarted from the impact. The wrist of his left hand stung sharply, jarring him into alertness. The bandage had peeled off, dark with his blood. His sleeve was coloured crimson with it too, like his blood had soaked through it.

 

That would explain why everyone around him had been shooting him looks. Taehyung fidgeted with the trailing end of the bandage, feeling some of the tension from his shoulders leave him.

 

He looked around him, feeling utterly relieved that no one else was around. The hill seemed empty, just an expanse of dark green against the backdrop of darkening sky.

 

“It’s okay, it’s alright,” Taehyung muttered out loud, flinching a bit when he heard the hollow sound of his voice ring out around him in an echo.

 

“Son of Magick…”

 

The whisper against his ears startled him and something buzzed down his fingers. He clenched them automatically around his cards.

 

No, he thought, with a sudden tremor travelling down his spine, I don’t have them with me. They’re not mine anymore.

 

The sense of loss that bloomed after the thought was so strong that Taehyung bit back an agonized cry, tears blooming in his eyes.

 

Something changed around him.

 

Through blurry eyes, he saw something slowly start glimmering in the distance. He knuckled his eyes, scrubbing away the strange tears that had formed.

 

There was a path glimmering in golden red, the tips of the grass blades gleaming in the dim light, each blade a tiny light source of its own. Taehyung’s mouth fell open when he saw the path curving over the hill, a blaze of fiery amber. He clenched his fingers around the grass, awestruck.

 

Something urged him to get up and follow the path, a distant song in his ears tinkling softly – like a lost memory he’d just remembered.

 

Halmeoni’s lullaby.

 

A bright smile took over his features at the familiar sound, the memory returning with a sense of joy. Safetywarmthfamily, the sensation enveloped him and carried Taehyung up onto his feet, moving him towards the arching path.

 

Taehyung laughed when he saw energy spiraling out into pretty, colourful spirals in the ground the minute he stepped on the glowing path, chaotic and ecstatic in their bloom.

 

Welcome, little prince, the blades of grass whispered against each other as the rich air blossomed around Taehyung.

 

We are so happy to have you with us, the Lifestream around Taehyung – invisible but tangible all the same – seeped into his skin, slowly healing his wounded wrist with a gentle touch.

 

Taehyung’s smile grew wider, feet stepping steadier and surer on the path forward.

 

In that moment, the world fell in love with his smile again, rejoicing in his return with the purest of adoration, singing a richer song – one that it had whispered into his grandmother’s ears when she’d been born, that she’d passed down to her son and then his offspring, by turn.

 

The Prince walks with us again.

 

*

 

Jungkook skidded to a stop, eyes growing wide when he caught the scent of Taehyung’s blood.

 

No, he howled in devastation.

 

“Jungkook-gun! Jungkook- damn it, you asshole!” Seungkwan’s voice shouted in frustration from behind him, breathless.

 

If Jungkook heard, he paid him no heed. His head snapped to the south where the scent of the blood trailed off. Heart beating in his mouth, he leaped over the stonewall separating the eastern and southern sides of the campus, ignoring the gasps of the people around him.

 

Seungkwan moaned behind him, hot on his trial. “Damn it, hyung – couldn’t you be a little slower?” he sighed, boosting himself over the wall with a palm braced on it.

 

“Stop following me,” Jungkook bit back sharply, eyes narrowed. The heady scent of Taehyung’s blood reached his nose and he almost burnt down the entire campus with the force of his energy whirling up in him, the wolf not helping to abate the tangle of energies within him.

 

Seungkwan shrugged, looking unaffected. His scent changed into something a bit more timid though, as if he knew that angering Jungkook any further was going to have a cataclysmic outcome. His eyes darted around the people who were gawking at the two of them.

 

“Ain’t nobody followin’ ya,” Seungkwan’s speech slipped out of the standard, hints of his Jeju accent peeking out tremulously. Jungkook loomed over him, clenching his teeth, but Seungkwan didn’t lower his head.

 

“Look, I’m not crazy enough to stop ya, not when you look like you’re about to stamp down a bitch – homicidal pack heirs, totally cool with me. Seriously, I can’t appreciate those claws enough, I’m really happy I was born in this pack because I so do not want to be on the other end of those,” Jungkook’s hard expression turned disgusted, and Seungkwan chattered faster.

 

“I don’t know what that wolf back there did to you, hyung – but I totally support you fighting for yourself. I want you to know I’m totally backing you up on this. Let’s get a shovel and a rake, dig him a grave.”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes, his ears picking up the sound of his remaining pack members approaching them. So many wolves, nearby. Not all of them from his pack. But most of them would likely be reacting to the aggressive signals in his scent, would note it. He felt their eyes like hawks on them, observing their interaction predatorily, probing for weaknesses - remembered how this was not his pack grounds anymore, this was a place where any chink in the armour would prove to be fatal if they weren’t careful.

 

Seungkwan – Jungkook needed to make sure Seungkwan was safe. He needed to make sure he did not leave his own pack unsafe, not when Yoongi had taught him better.

 

“Seungkwan,” he said and Seungkwan stopped. Dropped his string of thought and stared at him with a half open mouth, breathing laboriously.

 

“I have to protect - something really precious to me, something that’s mine. You understand that, right?” Jungkook asked, steel in his voice. Seungkwan’s expressive face scrunched up, eyebrows drawing together. He looked shaken, and Jungkook realised that Seungkwan had never seen him in action before. None of them had ever, and he wondered vaguely if their opinions about him would change after this.

 

“I understand that, I understand that so well, hyung. You’re the alpha, the one we’ve been trusted with to watch your back. We’re willing to jump in front of you, Jungkook. To combat any danger, seriously - we are so ready to be your power rangers. Just point us, we’ll fight for you.”

 

Jungkook listened to the sounds of the wolves from their pack approaching, eyes darting towards the foreign wolves perking up at the sounds too. Three unknowns by their scent markers, Gyeonsang-do pack aggression and sharp revulsion distinct in their eyes.

 

Un-fucking-believable.

 

I need to warn Yoongi-hyung once I meet him, Jungkook thought.

 

“Seungkwan, some things hyung needs to fight for all by himself. This is something I have to deal with - alone.”

 

Seungkwan’s distressed emotions filtered under his nose and Jungkook reached forward hesitantly, clapping a slight hand on his shoulder. He was such a young wolf, had barely been to any real fights where they had to take out their claws. Seungkwan barely even knew Jungkook, but he was willing to pledge his own life in place of Jungkook’s. He deserved better than an alpha who would just take that for granted. His brother may be like that to some degree, but Jungkook would never ever be able to do that.

 

“So what, I’m supposed to leave you to go look for whatever you are doing by yourself? Smelling like blood - like that?” Seungkwan snapped, waving a hand at Jungkook’s general direction.

 

Insolent, Jungkook thought with a momentary stab of humour. It faded away as easily as the glance towards the stones where Jungkook’s nose located Taehyung’s scent.

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook replied simply. “You are.”

 

“Fantastic,” Seungkwan replied morosely, squaring his shoulders. “Fine, I’ll guard your six - go ahead, do your thing.”

 

“Probably better off not following me, man.”

 

Seungkwan rolled his eyes at Jungkook, would you lay off already painted on his face. Jungkook quirked his lips at his brother, before pressing his wrist to the base of Seungkwan’s throat where his pulse throbbed. Just when he felt he’d given his scent marker to Seungkwan so he wouldn’t be unprotected till the pack arrived, Jungkook twisted on his heel and broke out into a sprint.

 

Taehyung’s blood traced a crimson path, so potent that Jungkook could almost taste the metallic tang of it in the back of his throat - and he almost lost it. Jungkook grit his teeth, reminding himself to focus, fucking find your focus, you goddamned hack.

 

Jungkook tracked down the remnants of Taehyung’s distinctive scent, smelling all kinds of wrong, curving along the campus - following it until he was brought up short when it disappeared from right under his nose.

 

What the actual fuck.

 

He scented Taehyung’s brunette friend’s scent - the fiery tang of his Lifestream energy coating one of the statues, maybe part of the campus tricks he’d yet to be fully educated about. And, what the hell, was that Yoongi?

 

Scratch that, Jungkook knew for sure it was Yoongi. He’d recognise the scent anywhere, even with most of his senses blocked. He’d grown up with it long enough to not recognise it within a heartbeat of sensing it.

 

“What the fuc-” he muttered, tracing his fingers on the blue grey features of the guy laughing. Jimin’s lifestream reacted to his touch, stronger than any other imprint left behind. The statue flinched under his fingers, letting out a booming laughter and startling him. His hair came alive, growing softer than the motionless hard bristles it had been sporting. His electric blue eyes met Jungkook’s, a beaming smile poised on his lips.

 

“Need something, laddie?”

 

Taehyung’s scent was starting to wither away, get softer with the wind and Jungkook frowned, his senses telling him that he should be standing on Taehyung’s toes right about now.

 

Where was he?

 

“Do you see people who pass by you?”

 

The statue shrugged.

 

“Only the ones worth noticing. People whose Lifestream are strong enough to shake me into life.” The statue looked at him with something like admiration and Jungkook shifted uneasily.

 

Should I be flattered or something? Jungkook brushed the errant thought away.

“Did you notice a boy, one whose Lifestream seems…” Jungkook trailed off, crinkling his nose. How could he explain a scent, Taehyung’s morphing scent at that, to an inanimate object?

 

“I have sensed men with peculiar Lifestreams all around the University, lad. Men, creatures like you, unlike you - all the same.” The statue brightened, intelligence shining in his eyes. “Would you like to play on the Idiot’s Trail too? We’d be delighted to have your Lifestream imprinted on our journey!”

 

The statue was far too cheery, even as a shrewd glint shone in his eyes. Jungkook felt himself getting dizzier the longer he stared into the statue’s eyes. Who the fuck even thought it was a good idea planting these in the campus? Southern Campus was horrific, shit.

 

“No, I’ve to -”

 

“- Idiot’s Trail will lead you to places unknown, each stone embedded in the path linked to paths unwandered. Maybe even to the paths in your own memories you’ve considered forgotten, wolfchild.”

 

Jungkook jerked back sharply, hissing.

 

“You’ve been granted sentience? Who Crafted you?” Jungkook demanded, freaked out and feeling his hackles rise. Unnatural, something hissed inside him.

 

The statue cocked its head to the side, hair shivering with the motion.

 

“No more sentience than your own Lifestream provides, lad. We exist to help people who come to play in our Trail. We help lead those to places they unconsciously yearn for. And for someone like you.” The statue’s eyes drilled through Jungkook’s, unnatural and glittering with energy. Jungkook tensed some more, feeling like he was being put under a narrow microscope.

 

The statue smiled, the red in its lips standing out in stark contrast with its green blue colours. “We suggest stepping on that goldstone five paces to your front. It should lead you to find what you seek.”

 

If Jungkook was Yoongi, he’d have punched a fist through the statue already, goddamn creepy things that they were. But Taehyung’s scent scattered near it, his hyung’s and Jimin’s markers laced around the statue too - it made him take a few wary steps back, reevaluating the entire situation once again.

 

He swallowed, rolling back his shoulders and trying to stem the uneasy feeling in his throat.

 

The statue smiled reassuringly at him, shivering back into its original frozen state as Jungkook’s energy leaked out of it. His eyes stared into the distance eerily, little grey green gems embedded in a normal statue.

 

Jungkook stared at the little goldstone buried into invisibility under the brown soil, glinting into notice the longer he looked at it. Should he even trust the Idiot?

 

Closing his eyes, he inhaled sharply. The tang of Taehyung’s scent, Yoongi’s marker and Jimin’s energy - the crystals embedded in his earrings tingled.

 

The grey cat’s eye crystal in his right ear, the one that served to measure the premonitions in the universal Lifestream, hissed in reaction to something it sensed around Jungkook.

 

Danger.

 

Doesn’t matter, Jungkook thought. Taehyung’s hurt and I’m to blame. I can’t lose him.

 

The other crystal that determined Jungkook’s present state and the fluctuation in his moods, hanging from the thick wire around his neck, gave a light beat against his chest.

 

Yes.

 

Jungkook smiled grimly, stepping lightly onto the stone and inhaling the slight chill in the air.

 

Well, he thought, the decision’s been already made.

 

Jungkook closed his eyes, feeling the alien energy wrap itself around him. He counted down the seconds before the seal activated, taking him away from the Southern Campus.

 

The Idiot’s lips curved up into a mysterious smile.

 

*

 

Not far, Jungkook thought with a growing sense of relief.

 

His energy swirled around him, putting the extra force under his footfalls as he leapt over the ground. The night was falling quick and fast, like a heavy cloak over his human eyes. He scoffed in irritation.

 

Let me take over.

 

His world instantly turned vibrant, reds and blacks standing out like dark spots in his vision. His paws came down on the shifting earth below him with more force, hind balance returning to him like a sore limb he’d missed. Lifestream stood out sharper in the mixture, pinching its way into his sinuses, the sensation like a sneeze waiting to tickle at his nostrils.

 

Taehyung.

 

Lights blinded his vision, and he staggered. Fractals of blooming reds and whites formed in the back of his eyelids - beautiful and devastating in the same brief moment
his breath hitched in his chest.

 

His wolf melted away from him, leaving him naked to the night air. His eyes were watering from the sting of the strong Lifestream, feeling the give of his own energy under the intangible force pressing down on it.

 

Jin-hyung would have a field day with this, Jungkook thought.

 

The sight beyond his eyes was so breathtaking that Jungkook’s mouth fell open in wonder.

 

There was a lake pulsing with Lifestream right in front of him, its radiance so bright, so searingly intense, that Jungkook wasn’t surprised his wolf had shied away. The stones under the bed were pulsing out colours - and Jungkook was half relieved he’d changed back to a human. Trying to discern those colours through his colourblind wolf eyes would have been useless.

 

The coloured mist forming on top of the lake was never constant, was so turbulent that Jungkook could swear he saw shapes in the mist.

 

There’s a lake called Lake of Dreams, Yoongi had whispered with a hushed voice in his ears, eyes shining in the dark when Jungkook had begged him to tell him about the human world. Some aeons ago, when Jungkook was a pup, could barely totter on all fours properly. Yoongi had returned from Hongdae with a burst of human stink on him, all sorts of fascinating scents.

 

It’s filled with a bit of everyone’s dreams. They light up the lake in all sorts of colours, along with their Lifestream - and god, it’s so colourful, Jungkookie. I think you’d really like it, Yoongi had said, tweaking his nose affectionately. It listens to your dreams - the ones you can’t tell your own self about.

 

What is your dream, hyung! Jungkook had demanded in an indignant tone, like it was a personal offence that Yoongi could be keeping something from him.

 

Yoongi had clicked his tongue, rolling his eyes. Jungkook had proceeded to climb all over him in response, all teeth and nails and Yoongi hadn’t even batted an eye before putting him in his place, Jungkook’s snout ending up muzzled with his hand. He’d slapped Jungkook’s rump lightly, an amused grin on his face at the yelp he let out.

 

Little brat, Jeon Jungkookie. Yoongi laughed. Going around thinking you’re old enough to know everything about hyung.

 

But I tell you everything, Yoongi! Jungkook’s childish, wheedling voice echoed in his head like a forgotten memory as he watched the colours morph into lighter hues inside the lake water. He really had been asking for a beating, hadn’t he?

 

“What were your dreams, anyway,” Jungkook wondered out loud, watching the colours shift, even as the water remained as still as glass. Yoongi had always shied away from questions like those, like a bad smell under his nose. Frustrating was an adjective that wasn’t enough to describe Yoongi.

 

“Always copping out on answering the most important things, Min Yoongi,” he muttered.

 

The scent of Taehyung’s blood was gone, and all he could smell was the fresh air. Lost, he furrowed his eyebrows and tried to pinpoint a direction where he could find his troublesome human again.

 

A whisper of the wind against the blades of grass, maybe a hint of his own instincts made him look away from the lake, towards the hill sloping down near the edge of the dark copses looming in the east.

 

His feet moved on their own, limbs wooden.

 

Taehyung, it was Taehyung who was lying on the grass, it had to be him. There was such a familiar tinge to the air hitting Jungkook’s bare skin that goosebumps pebbled their way up his arms. His eyes caught the way the grass had started to glow around Taehyung’s prone figure, and Jungkook’s eyes widened when he reached him.

 

The lifestream enriched lake water cast reflections on Jungkook’s skin, light bouncing off playfully and hitting Taehyung’s peaceful face. He barely breathed as he looked down at the sleeping boy just inches away from him.

 

Taehyung’s chest rose and fell with his breaths, his scent something so intoxicatingly powerful that Jungkook’s knees buckled with the relief of it.

 

Taehyung is alive, he thought brokenly, fingers clenching in the grass beside Taehyung’s prone hand. He’s not dead, he’s not – Hoseok was wrong, Taehyung is still alive. He’s breathing.

 

Taehyung’s face was light, a small smile on his lips, eyes moving under his eyelids – a sight so familiar that it sent a sharp pang through Jungkook’s heart. It was as if this was just another day in their dorm and he was taking a nap with Jungkook, protected and safe, smelling like home – not like Jungkook had almost snapped his wrist off of his arm and hurt him –

 

Jungkook shivered, his jaw tightening against the sting of self-loath burning its way up his throat. He reached out trembling fingers to touch Taehyung’s cheek, wanting nothing more than to scoop Taehyung up and hide him away, take him back to Daegu (not Daegu, it’s no longer your territory, Busan is protection – Fae won’t be able to step into Busan, not with Yoongi and Donghyuk’s seals) and keep him in sight, where nothing would be able to touch his bones.

 

Warmth bled back into his cold fingers as Jungkook cupped Taehyung’s cheek. Blue and orange lights decorated his face, glancing off the way his smile curved up a just little more under Jungkook’s touch.

 

Jungkook leaned down, tears stinging the back of his eyes. He pressed his lips to Taehyung’s forehead lightly, barely breathing. Taehyung’s heart beat soothingly under his skin, and Jungkook’s lips trembled. He clenched his eyes shut, squeezing back his tears.

 

He slowly moved away, his body no longer cold – not with the way Taehyung’s warmth assured him of his existence. Jungkook blinked open his eyes when he was sure his tears wouldn’t fall.

 

Taehyung was watching him, an achingly impish smile on his red lips.

 

Jungkook froze.

 

“You’re real,” Taehyung said, voice low and mirthful.

 

You’re not real, Taehyung’s voice echoed in his head, drawing up the memory of him clenching his fingers on Jungkook’s biceps with wide, yearning eyes. I’m just dreaming you up.

 

“You were real, all this time,” Taehyung’s smile widened, eyes bright with wonder and happiness.

 

“You remember me,” Jungkook’s voice was crushed, hope and longing clogging up his throat. A

 

Taehyung’s eyes softened, the recognition shining in them as clear as the lake water.

 

“Jungkookie,” he cooed, his warm palms cupping Jungkook’s cheeks and brushing away something under his eye. Jungkook didn’t dare blink, feeling his vision blur.

 

Jungkookie. Little fluffy puppy Jeon Jungkookie, my best friend Jungkookie, Taehyung’s childish high pitched voice trilled in his head.

 

“My Jungkookie,” Taehyung grinned, fingers tracing up into his hair, tugging it at the place his ears would be if he had been a wolf. “There’s no way I could forget you.”

 

Taehyung barely had the time to let out a confused sound before Jungkook reached down and captured his lips, chaste and real at last. Taehyung’s fingers scrambled for purchase on his bare skin, curving around Jungkook’s hips with a sigh. Jungkook deepened the kiss, intoxicated on Taehyung’s scent and taste, on the sound of his heart beating under his palm.

 

Please don’t ever stop beating, Jungkook prayed silently, cradling the back of Taehyung’s head with his hand. Let me protect you, don’t slip away from me again.

 

Taehyung giggled when Jungkook’s teeth knocked against his and his heart squeezed in response to the light sound. He smiled, waiting for Taehyung to calm down before he pressed another kiss to the corner of his swollen lips.

 

The claim Jungkook had left on Taehyung’s throat manifested as a gentle silver blue under his skin, lost in the array of golds and reds radiated by the lake water.

 

*

 

“Such a dangerous game you're playing, Hakyeon.”

 

The cat stiffened at the whisper against his ear, head whipping to the side. Only the whisper of the leaves in the unmoving trees greeted him, wind hissing through the dark copses. He wondered if he had started hearing things.

 

He looked back at the human folk gathered near the Lake of Wishes and Worlds Yonder, feeling a stab of disgruntled relief.

 

He had been following the human Heechul had put a spell on the entire day, following his progress with a growing sense of familiar disgust. It was as if someone had cut off the human’s strings, as if he was hanging like a limp and lifeless doll. The human was strong, he'd give him that. He had been trying to break out of the spell since the second he'd woken up the previous day and noticed something off.

 

Something made him search for what made him so curious to Puck, what exactly it was that had caught Heechul’s eye. What made Kim Taehyung so special?

 

The naked wolf boy gathered Taehyung in his arms, the desire and relief on his face distinct, even from the distance. Hakyeon’s ears pricked, listening to them murmur softly to each other, adoration glowing on their faces.

 

Well then.

 

Heechul’s magick had broken, after all.

 

How?

 

How could a mortal child have broken such a complex spell? He knew how the spell worked, even lightly cast as it was, it would cause the mortal significant damage. But Taehyung seemed fine, nary a sign of unrest or unwitting mind control in his actions.

 

How could a child barely of age, even in human standards, have succeeded where Hakyeon himself had failed?

 

“There should be better things for Puck to do than sending his friends to spy on innocent humans, Hakyeon,” a warm voice whispered into his ear. Hakyeon jumped, chills rising on his skin in reaction to the warmth that suddenly descended over the woods. He hissed loudly, readying his claws to strike.

 

When he saw who it was, he froze.

 

Jaejoong was standing in front of him, in all his intimidating, radiant gold and blue clad glory. His delicate, elfin features were expressionless as he looked out towards the same sight Hakyeon had just been observing. His brows furrowed in contemplation.

 

Run! Hakyeon’s instincts told him. Jaejoong’s eyes shifted towards him sharply, as if he’d heard. Jaejoong’s golden brown eyes were blazing with a fury that chilled Hakyeon to the bone, his magick singing so furiously around them that Hakyeon cowered. His claws dug into the soft earth in panic.

 

“Carry this to your master, Cha Hakyeon. This is the one child he is not allowed to interfere with or else I will bring the entire Summer Court down on him, regardless of whose favourite flavour of the season he is.” Jaejoong looked down at the cat with a dangerous look in his eyes. His fingers slipped to the bright hilt resting upon his hip, looking like he’d like nothing more dearly than to cleave Hakyeon into pieces. “I’ll rip you both apart the instant I come across another one of his poorly advised tricks on Taehyung.”

 

Hakyeon’s eyes widened, fear making him tremble like a prey trapped between the gaze of a much larger, much more dangerous predator. Jaejoong’s magick was starting to flicker off him with such a terrible fury that the intent behind it left Hakyeon paralysed.

 

Let me go, he screamed in his head. Let me go, you bastard.

 

“Away with you, imp,” Jaejoong’s tone was frigid, mouth twisted in something resembling a sneer. The force of his crushing Magick, akin to the pressure of a dying sun, lifted and returned to him once more.

 

Hakyeon disappeared.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Heeyeon clamped a strong hand on Hoseok’s elbow, bracing a foot against the hard seat as Hyelin clutched his other hand, making teary noises. Hoseok was not too far away from whimpering. Heeyeon looked up with a furious glare in place which softened when she saw Seokjin rounding into the room.

 

“Seokjin!” she exclaimed in relief, holding down Hoseok’s arm away from his body. “You need to help Hoseokie, his wolf is trying to heal his shoulder all wrong.”

 

Seokjin rushed to Hoseok’s side, brushing past a frozen Namjoon. Hoseok, the scaredy cat that he was all along, let out a pathetic keen at the sight of Seokjin, eyes flickering between greyish gold and his warm brown.

 

“You big baby, it’s just a dislocated shoulder,” Seokjin murmured, trying to stop him from fretting and giving himself even more damage. Heeyeon glared at Hoseok, eyes ablaze with an electric gold that made Seokjin worry about how many wolves Hoseok had managed to piss off in the short while university had started.

 

“Hurts like a bitch, ow.”

 

“Don’t swear in front of Hyelin,” Seokjin scolded him firmly, studying his shoulder. The bruising was fading in and out from the edges. Hoseok stayed quiet, studying Seokjin’s calm face as he turned to Heeyeon.

 

“Stop pushing your will onto his wolf, Heeyeon. It’s confusing him.”

 

“Then his wolf is as much of an idiot as him,” Heeyeon snapped, uncharacteristically angry. Alpha pheromones flared in the air and Seokjin sighed, again. “I found this idiot wandering around campus like a space cadet, his wolf on display for all humans to see. If I hadn’t enforced my will on him, he would have snapped the nearest human into two.”

 

“Let him go,” Seokjin reiterated softly, touching Heeyeon’s delicate wrist. Tendons were pulled taut against her skin and she looked as if she would like to snap off Hoseok’s head herself. “Let me take a look at him, alright?”

 

Heeyeon hissed as she let go of Hoseok’s wolf. Seokjin watched the bruising heal within the space of time it took for Heeyeon’s eyes to turn back to her piercing brown. That was good. Healing response was not sluggish, Hoseok’s wolf had landed on his feet pretty quickly.

 

Hoseok let out a sigh as the pain ebbed away, hold loosening on Hyelin’s small palm.

 

“Were you seriously about to perform the Hippocratic maneuver on the kid?” Seokjin asked, touch light on Hoseok’s bare shoulder. It was protruding at an awkward angle, humeral head jutting forward and the dip forming beneath the acromion. He probed around on Hoseok’s clavicle, hoping nothing had broken or gotten lodged someplace wrong. Hoseok’s wolf was probably numbing everything for him, healing things over and over. Seokjin had to work promptly if he wanted to act before his tendons stitched back together and tightened the joint in place.

 

“I knew it was a bad idea!” Hyelin sounded like she was about to let lose a waterfall of tears and Seokjin wondered why Namjoon was still frozen like a statue to the door. “Heeyeonnie told me it was the only way.”

 

“Heeyeonnie,” Seokjin murmured, reaching back into his pocket for any painkillers. His fingers closed around the cool crystals of Ketorolac he’d packed just in case, glittering in his fingers as he crushed them with his energy and massaged them lightly into his clavicle. “Is not qualified to give professional medical advice. You should know better than to listen to her.”

 

“Jin, gramps used to do this for me all the time. I grew up fine. Besides,” she cast Hoseok a look of disgust, voice taking on a tone filled with false pity, “he can handle a bit of pain.  Boy used to train with Yoongi everyday, didn't he?”

 

“I will sue you once I get up,” Hoseok snarked back, voice rough. Heeyeon glared back at him, hold tightening on his arm and making Seokjin and Hoseok yelp together.

 

“Alright, ease up, you two,” Seokjin commanded. The crystal dissolved all the way, Hoseok’s skin glinting gentle peridot. “I need to set his shoulder back and I’d like you both to be grown ups like Hyelin and co-operate with me. Snapping at each other like a bunch of pups still fighting for your mother’s teats is only going to make you both look like immature fools.”

 

“Brutal,” Heeyeon hissed, looking chastised. Seokjin didn’t pay attention to her, probing and waiting as the crystal did its job. Slowly moving Hoseok into a sitting position against the wall, he ignored the whuff of discomfort Hoseok let out as his head lolled into Seokjin’s neck.

 

Complete anterior dislocation. These pain in the ass kids.

 

“Namjoon!” he snapped at his still form. Namjoon jolted to life at his command, eyes flaring.

 

“I need you to hold his other hand up to his collarbone.”

 

“But you-”

 

“I know it’s a bad fucking idea, I don’t care about your history with everything breakable around you, get down here right now.

 

“I can do this, oppa, let me-” Hyelin started, voice faltering as Seokjin shook his head. Namjoon gingerly took his place next to her and Hoseok, eyes catching on his.

 

“I will fuck you up if you break me,” Hoseok slurred, high on the crystals. “I will come back to piss on your grandmother’s grave, I swear to everyone who’s listening to me. In front of God as my witness.”

 

Namjoon silently brought Hoseok’s palm up to his chest. Seokjin motioned for Heeyeon to hold Hoseok’s arm at ninety degrees and pull it towards her. He placed his right thumb below the lowest part of his shoulder, slapping Hoseok’s cheek lightly with his left hand.

 

“Hey, hey. Focus.” Seokjin didn’t dare channel any of his energy, feeling the thrum of Hoseok’s Lifestream under his skin. Hoseok’s eyes cleared a little, sobering when he looked at Seokjin. “I’m going to start traction. You need to tell me if you feel any pain, alright? Hey, Hobi. Don’t fall asleep, you moron.”

 

“Don’t fall asleep, gotcha.” Hoseok flashed him a dreamy look. “You’re really good looking for a doctor, hyung. When you’re not eating dirt on the ground anyway, back in the pack.”

 

Seokjin used his other hand as a pressure to stabilise the shoulder as he pushed it back with his thumb slowly. Hoseok’s slurry rambling filled the tense room.

 

“God, existing as a wolf is fucked up. You get to feel everything, and smell everything, and you can’t even hide what you’re feeling.” Hoseok’s eyes fell on the painting glowing in the distance, and he sniffed curiously. Sniffed again and again till Heeyeon told him to cut it out, brow wrinkling.

 

“It’s his Lifestream, isn’t it? My wolf says it is weaved into that painting. That alpha kid is a mean piece of shit, Namjoonie. Not even in the fun, place your head in between a tiger’s maws, Yoongi way. He’s just plain evil.”

 

“Careful,” Seokjin cautioned Heeyeon as her hold loosened. “Keep pulling, it’s almost in place.”

 

The sound of his joint popping back into its socket was a blessed one, and Seokjin exhaled. Hoseok kept rambling, not even noticing and Seokjin nodded at Heeyeon to let go. When he looked up at Namjoon, he saw him listening carefully to what Hoseok was babbling about, slurring out his vowels.

 

Making quick work of seals with the knife Hyelin handed him, Seokjin fashioned a sling for Hoseok out of the bandages they kept for the people who came for their tattoos, and hardened the tissues into splints.

 

“You troublesome kid, aish.”

 

Hoseok stared at him like he’d just discovered God. Seokjin snorted and squeezed his cheek softly.

 

“You saved my life, hyung.”

 

“It was just a dislocated shoulder, but you’re welcome,” Seokjin replied dryly.

 

“You’re too good for Namjoon, Jinnie,” Hoseok cooed, and Seokjin’s lips twitched up into a smile. Who the hell could resist when Jung Hoseok was looking up at them with wide-eyed worship.  

 

“Sleep.” Seokjin murmured a pacifying spell he used for babies in the pediatric ward who often suffered from crying spells and set the other children off. Hoseok was down under in the next second, looking younger than Seokjin ever seen him.

 

“I don’t know what’s going on. Was going to my Lab class when I saw him wandering around near the Faculty of Mathematics, smelling like blood. I cleaned him up and brought him back but he scratched me up real good.” Heeyeon lifted her sleeve to show them a nonexistent scar near her elbow and Seokjin carefully tried to conceal the rolling of his eyes.

 

“Your bedside manner needs a lot of work,” Seokjin told her, sighing. Heeyeon flashed him a grin, looking like her cheeky self again.

 

“Been learning from the best.”

 

Seokjin chose to ignore her teasing remark, looking back at Hoseok with a frown. He was no good like this, Seokjin wouldn’t be able to get anything out of him. Why had he even tried to attack Jungkook?

 

“Why didn’t you set his shoulder yourself? I know you know at least seven different methods to diagnose and treat it.” Seokjin washed his hands under the sterilising UV light. Cool energy prickled away at his fingers as he listened to Hyelin scold Namjoon over something in the background.

 

“Wasn’t sure he wouldn’t shift on me and go for my throat first. Besides, I had Joohyun and Eunji with me. They’d freak out if they saw me digging Hoseok’s teeth out of my bicep in case he decided to clamp down.”

 

Seokjin had faint recollection of the vivacious brunette Heeyeon hung around so much. University life seemed like such a long time ago, even if Heeyeon and Seokjin were the same age. They had barely shared any classes, Seokjin graduating when Heeyeon’s parents had allowed her to attend the University at last.

 

“What is up with him, anyway? I tracked the scents of multiple hostiles around him. The kids assigned to look after the pack heir were there, for one, looking scared shitless when I came up to them.”

 

Seokjin shrugged, avoiding Heeyeon’s sharp eyes. She was too clever for her own good. With a fiery curiosity inside her to butt in where she should not, to boot. Seokjin had enough reason to be wary of her. Even though it was inevitable, the pack being so involved within each other, he was leery of letting anyone in on Jungkook’s affairs.

 

“Hyung.” Namjoon’s careful voice startled him. Seokjin inhaled, narrowing his eyes and Heeyeon’s head snapped towards him. Smelling like apprehension and panic, Seokjin would be willing to bet a good amount of money there was something else that had happened, something he wasn’t aware of. Namjoon lived in his head after all.

 

It’s Jungkook, isn’t it?

 

Namjoon looked away. Hyelin bit her lip, looking curiously between them before catching Heeyeon’s eyes. She beckoned her towards the entrance.

 

“Catch you later, Jin, Namjoonie.” Heeyeon paused, turning towards the lump on the bed. Sending a ticked off huff in Hoseok’s direction, she picked up her bag and brushed past them. Hyelin slapped her arm with a dirty look, hissing furiously as she dragged Heeyeon away. Heeyeon grunted in response, turning to make a face at them over her shoulder as she was tugged away.

 

Namjoon was silent next to him and Seokjin felt the weight of his stare on his back as he started cleaning up the mess of ink from the sealwork and his crystals. Seokjin wasn’t surprised when Namjoon’s jaw clicked as he cleared the space up. He turned to look at Namjoon, leaning back on the leather bed Hoseok was lying on.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Namjoon’s eyes flashed a golden colour in the light, shifting back to its characteristic deep brown, contemplative and unreadable. Something about the look in them made Seokjin wish for a drink. A strong one maybe.

 

“There’s something I need to show you.”

 

“What is it?” asked Seokjin uneasily, coming forward to slip an arm around his waist. Namjoon waited for a moment, rested his head against Seokjin’s and inhaled.

 

“You know how the pack elders and shamans get the pack land’s fortunes and its Lifestream read? They get the Alpha’s fortune read too?”

 

“Yeah, of course.” Seokjin rubbed his back as Namjoon’s distressed scent came into focus like a sharp sting to his senses. His heartbeat started racing, teeth clenching down in response.

 

Namjoon pulled out his phone, opening an image of seven different fortune reading apparatus kept nearby each other. Seokjin was not versed in the art of occult, because there were only a few Gifted people who knew how to wield it. They protected the language fiercely and possessively, one of those age old practices to keep the allure of it safe from falling into corrupt hands. Those Gifted didn’t attend the Modern Science Universities, preferring to keep to themselves and study in a separate institution with ones who were gifted in occult sciences.

 

Namjoon, his mate, clever as he was, didn’t know how to read them either. Only the pack shamans were the ones who were called upon after every moon cycle to gauge the prosperity of the far off pack lands that belonged to the Seoul pack, make sure none of the humans’ trades, Gifted or not, crossed over and created unnecessary problems for their kin.

 

“Yoongi’s hyung called on me. They had the Alpha’s and his heirs’ fortunes read.”

 

“And?” Seokjin asked softly, dread thrumming under his skin. Namjoon met his eyes, grave and calm. The dread unfurled into terror, its punch as sharp as a blade to his heart.

 

“Jungkook’s future has disappeared.”

 

***

 

 

 

 

Yoongi marveled at the string of lyrics lingering in his head, inspiration to write coming to hit him with the force of a freight truck. It was as if he was more centered now with Jimin in his arms, colours blooming into lyrics and notes behind his eyes.

 

“Taetae was the one who encouraged me to go and get it when we first ran into each other, you know?” Jimin asked softly, watching as shadows played upon Yoongi’s sculpted jaw. Dragging a finger down his face, he laughed as Yoongi scrunched up his nose in complaint.

 

“Remind me to send him a gift basket,” Yoongi grunted into Jimin’s soft skin.

 

“Okay,” Jimin agreed, shivering as he felt Yoongi’s hardness rub against his thigh.

 

“Heat not over yet?” he asked with a naughty smirk. Yoongi grunted again, sleepily, sounding like a muffled no.

 

“Who says no to sex, hyung?” Jimin whined a little petulantly, put out.

 

“Says the wolf too tired to go another round, to the human who has been through multiple rounds already .” Yoongi stared down at him with slitted eyes, looking adorably rumpled. “Keep that idea on a hold, I’m gonna grab a quick nap.”

 

Jimin dragged his fingers through Yoongi’s soft hair, not complaining as he cuddled into Jimin, arms winding around his waist. It was probably going to get rough and feel all kinds of unhygienic when they woke up again but Jimin was willing to let him rest for now.

 

One day and a half , he thought with a satisfied sigh, resting his head on Yoongi’s chest and staring at the digital clock on the desk. His toes were pressed into Yoongi’s calves, his heartbeat the only thing he could hear in the silence, Yoongi’s soft breaths hitting Jimin’s neck. The air smelled like them, sweat and sex musk and heaven and Yoongi and Jimin - he just couldn’t get enough of it.

 

Yoongi , his entire being sang, sated and content.

 

It was a quiet night, the taste of Yoongi on his lips and the weight of the secrets Yoongi’s lips had bequeathed onto his shoulders, scorching and gentle in their touch. The secrets Jimin had whispered back in return, mouth painting red bruises that healed the second Jimin blinked.

 

So he didn’t.

 

He’d kept his eyes open for as long as he could. Wished he was Gifted with eyesight, so he’d never have to look away from Yoongi for even a moment.

 

Yoongi’s energy was ice to his fire, Jimin had discovered, when Yoongi came, losing his tight knit control over it in the most unexpected time. Not when they’d first made love for the first time ( Yoongi made a face at Jimin for being that sappy, when they were tracing words into each other’s skin and shut him up with a gentle bite to his earlobe).

 

Not the second time either.

 

It was around the fifth time, when Jimin braced himself against Yoongi’s chest and rose up and sank back achingly slow on Yoongi’s cock. Frost clung to Yoongi’s eyelashes, to his fingers where they clenched around Jimin’s hip, right over his burning tattoo, snowflakes hovering over the serene crystals in Yoongi’s earrings, on the cupid’s bow of his lips where they melted into Jimin’s mouth, tasting like Yoongi and inexplicably, what Jimin had always thought happiness would taste like.

 

Jimin realised for the first time that his cheeks were hurting from the strain of his smile.

 

Yoongi’s claiming bite ached still, ached much worse than his entire body did, but Park Jimin couldn’t bring himself to care.

 

Now, if only his stupid best friend would stop dodging his calls, everything would be perfect. He couldn’t wait to break it to Taehyung and show Yoongi off in front of everyone.

 

“Stop thinking so loudly,” Yoongi mumbled sleepily, taking him back to the first ever night they’d shared together in the very same room.

 

Familiar words, same bed, Jimin laughed to himself. Another them.

 

They were the ones who had changed.

 

“Go back to sleep, Yoongi.” Jimin tangled his fingers with Yoongi’s long, piano slender fingers, giddy happiness rising up again. Yoongi nosed into Jimin’s hair and emitted a low, short growl which sounded as if he was content and at peace with himself finally. Something about the action felt so puppyish that Jimin had to stifle a giggle, thinking of his own dog back in Busan.

 

“Wolf, huh?” He murmured to himself softly. He wondered what kind of wolf Yoongi turned into. Would he look like something so majestic that it could only belong to the National Geographic Channel or would he look like an adorable, cuddly wolf?

 

A sudden thought occurred to Jimin and he shot up on the bed, jostling himself out of Yoongi’s arms. Yoongi let out a groan of pain as Jimin jabbed him in the abdomen in his hurry to get up. Peeking through disgruntled eyes, Yoongi found a wide-eyed Park Jimin perched on his thighs, looking as if he’d just seen a ghost.

 

“Does this mean that the wolf Taehyungie sleeps with every night is an actual person too?”

 

Yoongi blinked up at him, suddenly wide awake.


 

 

 

****




 

 

 

“I know you’re awake, Jung Hoseok.” Seokjin calmly flipped a page on his medical text, studying the bioresonance levels. Nothing matched the odd markers he’d found in Yoongi’s blood yet, and by extension, Jungkook’s eerily similar markers either. Hoseok shifted on the bed, breathing laboriously and heart racing like a buck during a wild moon hunt.

 

“Hyung.” His voice was scratchy and Seokjin looked up. Hoseok looked tired, his bandaged hand held gingerly against his waist as he winced and sat up.

 

Seokjin got up and dog-eared the book. He sterilized the cup of water he’d kept ready beside him. When it glowed blue, he handed it to Hoseok. “Drink this.”

 

“You look like a sight for sore eyes, hyung.” Hoseok smiled, gulping down the water.

 

“Pity I can’t return the compliment,” said Seokjin. He checked the crystals in Hoseok’s skin. “You know the drill by now, right?”

 

“Don’t move the joint, yep. Keep it steady.” Hoseok’s eyes dropped to the carton of milk on the table next to the bed. He looked up at him with a delighted grin breaking through his exhaustion. “You got this for me, hyung? Damn, you’re soft.”

 

Seokjin laughed a little reluctantly. “Jiho. He came to visit you while you were out.”

 

“Seriously?” Hoseok gaped down at the milk again, expression looking like a cross between  him half considering throwing the thing into the nearest trashcan, and being touched enough to feel weirded out.

 

“You took your sweet time to wake up. It’s been a day already since we knocked you out. Half of the pack’s heard by now.” Seokjin’s lips twitched up at Hoseok’s dismayed groan.

 

“Jiho was the first one here to check on you. Well, he brought in a pup with him, one of those assigned to the pack heir.” Hoseok’s face went blank at his words. Seokjin eyed him sharply. “Came in all slinky and guilty behind Jiho, looking like he’d been caught thieving. Jiho actually brought a lot more stuff but he grew thirsty after laughing and cussing at you and bullying the kid so he drank most of it.”

 

“He really laughed his ass off, didn’t he?” Hoseok smiled resignedly, picking up the carton and looking up beseechingly at Seokjin for help with the straw.

 

“‘ Evolution is going to chop off your nuts with an axesaw, you weak assbrick’ were the exact words he wanted me to convey,” Seokjin recited dutifully. “Has a real way with his words, doesn’t he?”

 

“The next time you see him, tell hyung to get rid of those chipmunk cheeks before I can take him seriously.” Hoseok laughed good-naturedly, slurping the milk.

 

“The kid looked awfully scared of Jiho. And me. Practically reeked of guilt and confusion,” Seokjin mused. Mingyu, was it? His knuckles had been white where he’d been clenching them into fists when he’d looked at Hoseok. Seokjin figured the kid had been one of the people who had been there to witness Jungkook’s meltdown.

 

Seokjin met Hoseok’s eyes, watching shutters come down in them. He really needed a well-justified context to know what had happened. He didn’t need to have to accuse a friend without a viable reason.

 

“What happened anyway?”

 

Hoseok looked away with a frown.

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Nothing ended up with you in a sling and Jeon Jungkook missing.”

 

Hoseok looked up with alarm in his eyes. “The pack heir is missing?”

 

“Presumably.” Seokjin frowned and reached to pull up Hoseok’s eyelids and check his reaction to light. His pupils were equal in size, slow to focus when he let go, easing back. Ketorolac was still working its way through his system, fuzzing his vision and judgement. “We were hoping you could shed some light on that.”

 

“I,” Hoseok started, voice weak. Seokjin waited, inhaling. Hoseok clenched his fist. “I don’t know.”

 

Seokjin snapped.

 

“Hoseok, I saw you get beat up brutally by Jungkook in front of a few thirty college students. I can’t work with an answer like that, not if it is regarding the pack heir, someone who rarely loses his cool in front of his father, let alone others.”

 

“I didn’t do anything, Seokjin. I barely touched him.” Hoseok hunched in on himself, protecting his healing arm. His eyes were big, beseeching Seokjin to believe him. There was a touch of something sad and resigned in them that made Seokjin back up. It was as if Hoseok was rearing himself for an attack from him, was preparing to take it and not fight back.

 

What the hell?

 

“Alright,” Seokjin soothed Hoseok, sitting down next to him. There was something wrong with the picture. Something quite damaging had to have happened to Hoseok, to incite this kind of response in him. It was usually the wolf inside them which was the strongest when the human counterpart was threatened. He was doped up on pills, but his natural reaction was to hunch into himself when cornered, not show his fangs like any other wolf?

 

Seokjin tried not to let his unsettled emotions show on his face.

 

“Alright, I believe you.”

 

Hoseok looked at him in distrust. Lifestream jarred in Seokjin’s veins when he put a tentative hand on his shoulder, his Gift reacting to Hoseok’s distressed energy. He concealed a wince.

 

“I’m not going to blame you for anything, Hoseokkie. I swear to you.”

 

Hoseok would have flared up at this if he’d been sober; shot back something funny and deflecting with a carefree grin. But this Hoseok, he subsided under his touch. Seokjin bit his lip, feeling a lump form in his throat.

 

Hoseok was silent for a while, looking down at the crushed box of milk in his fist. Seokjin didn’t say anything when Hoseok leaned into him, whether it be for comfort or reassurance.

 

“I have been hard on the kids lately,” Seokjin murmured quietly, guiltily. He’d been tearing down everyone around him, buzzing around and working himself up to a frenzy to make sure he was there to catch them when any of them fell. “I am butting into their lives and trying to order them into living well, reprimanding them for their mistakes instead of encouraging them to do better. I’m a pain in the ass, aren’t I?”

 

Hoseok didn’t reply, staring at the distance. Seokjin followed his gaze slowly towards the mural like paintings Jungkook had hung up near the entrance of the tattoo shop. Persephone looked peacefully asleep amongst her flowers, a content smile on her face as Hades hovered over her.

 

“There’s this boy,” Hoseok started after a little while, voice steady. “He seems to carry around a light that people rarely have in this world. I saw him in the Non-Gifted Wards, Crafting a flower for this little girl he barely knew. He showed her his world, our diseased world, painted such a pretty picture for her because she couldn’t go out to see it.”

 

“He sounds like someone worth knowing.” Seokjin furrowed his brow, studying Hoseok’s clenched fist.

 

“He smells like – smelled like the happiness of spring, you know? God, it sounds so cheesy, so tacky – I know – but that was the closest I could come to place his scent. Like, he used to smell like the earth under your feet in spring. Like wet leaves and fun. But then – today,” Hoseok looked outside the window, dazed voice with an expression that looked taken aback when he saw the dim light of the sunrise peeking over the huge trees that surrounded the campus. “Yesterday? His scent changed so much. He seemed damaged – depressed, you know, hyung? That light he seemed to carry around was snuffed.”

 

Seokjin didn’t want to see where this was going. He really didn’t.

 

“And?” he asked almost reluctantly. “How did that factor end up leading you here with a busted cheek and black eyes?”

 

“Is my immune system really crapping out on me now?” Hoseok murmured, raising his fingers to gingerly poke at his cheeks.

 

“They have healed,” Seokjin reassured him. “Stop trying to give yourself another bruise. It’s just your arm that refused to heal right. Go on.”

 

“Taehyung smelled so much like the pack heir; I was confused why he would be hanging around a human. I saw,” Hoseok swallowed hard, like his throat had dried up. Disappointment rolled off him in waves, blatant enough to someone who didn’t have enhanced senses to help them. “I – the pack heir’s bite on his throat.”

 

Seokjin raised rubbery fingers to his chest, wondering if he had suddenly succumbed to a heart attack. Jesus fucking Christ, what?

 

“Hyung?”

 

Jeon Jungkook, the anointed heir to the entire pack of Seoul – the first thing he did when he came to Hongdae University was to bite a human?

 

At least the kid’s not dead, something hysterically rang in his head.

 

Yeah.

 

Small favours.

 

Fuck, Seokjin had an inkling that it was problematic to have the Alpha’s son, who was so accustomed to their ways and spent only a few days out of the year in his human skin, introduced into the human fold like this. The worst that could happen was him losing his control and lashing out at every frail human around him, ousting them. But then, it was a risk that every wolf that left the pack carried with them. It wasn’t fair to deny Jungkook the same privilege they offered to every other wolf who wanted to practice their Gift.

 

“Hyung?” Hoseok shaking his elbow gently brought him out of his daze.

 

“What kind of a bite is it?” Seokjin asked hoarsely. Hoseok’s voice was unexpectedly gritty when he replied, eyes shuttered.

 

“It was a mating bite.”

 

“I,” Seokjin started. Stopped. Seokjin tried to gather his words, wondering why his thoughts were fleeing away like this. Jungkook had bitten a human.

 

He laughed. Choked on the shocked cry caught in his throat and let out another peal of disbelieving laughter. Hoseok looked stunned at his reaction, rearing away from him, one leg coming up on the bed as if he wanted to drag himself away from Seokjin. Hair rose on his forearms, goosebumps in response to Seokjin’s sharp laughter.

 

“Is – Yah, Hoseokie, you’ll have to forgive hyung for this, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Seokjin laughed again, pressing his fingers to his eyes. There was a migraine beating down behind them steadily, in rhythm to his breathing. The laughter ebbed away.

 

Jungkook’s future has disappeared , Namjoon had murmured in his ears.

 

“The devil’s always in the details…” Seokjin murmured to himself, feeling a chill rise up his spine. There were too many unsettling, inexplicable things that had started to come to light, the pack heir right in the thick of it all.

 

Jungkook had bitten a human. His blood had peculiar Lifestream remnants that should never have escaped Seokjin’s notice before. They were festering inside him, dead but there, never recycled out of his body. The same Lifestream markers were in Yoongi’s blood and Seokjin had failed to notice them in all the numerous times he’d asked for his blood samples.

 

Seokjin’s thoughts came to a standstill.

 

Yoongi. Who was going to tell Yoongi about this?

 

There was something to be said for Jungkook’s luck. Always the one who brings the change, he was living up to the bloody rune painted onto his chest by his dying mother’s fingers.

 

“Hoseok.” Seokjin bent down, reaching out to cup his cheek. Hoseok looked perturbed at the action, like a deer in the headlights.

 

“You can’t tell anyone about this, you know that, right?” Seokjin asked urgently. His Gift fluttered uneasily under his skin, bound under his will as he focused it into his voice.

 

“We can’t have anyone outside the pack know about this. It will put,” Seokjin searched for the name, finding that it came too easily to him. Had he heard about him before? “ Taehyung and Jungkook in danger. We don’t have the manpower to protect them and be discreet about it in front of the Gifted.”

 

Hoseok exhaled.

 

“I won’t.” His voice was quiet. Seokjin closed his eyes, not being able to read Hoseok’s unreadable ones.

 

He would just have to place his trust on Hoseok on this one.





****



 

 

The clock started chiming Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 as the sunlight crossed the eastern gates of Hongdae University.

 

Jungkook’s head snapped up with his heart beating fast, instantly alert. Taehyung breathed next to him, serene and unhurried, head resting in the crook of Jungkook’s arm and mouth open. Jungkook’s arm twitched as his eyes went wide.

 

You found him again, his wolf reassured him. He’s safe. Taehyung’s safe.

 

Jungkook was still as he heard Taehyung’s heart beat steadily. His soft, brown hair whispered over his brow and when he snuffled in his sleep, it fell across his eyes. Jungkook lifted his hand to brush it back, thumb tracing down to his flushed cheek and over his lips, trailing over soft skin, barely believing his own eyes.

 

Taehyung sighed under his touch, turning into it like he recognized it and Jungkook felt his throat catch on his next breath.

 

There was no other way to describe Taehyung other than captivating. He kept coming up short of words, eyes tracing over Taehyung’s lovely features that seemed even more ethereal in the sunlight.

 

His wolf seemed to laugh at the idea of wanting to describe Taehyung in terms of human words, finding the idea too ludicrous. Mate, he told Jungkook simply. He’s mate.

 

Jungkook smiled, eyes falling down to the dip between Taehyung’s shoulder and his neck. He leaned down to press a soft kiss into the skin, inhaling Taehyung’s scent.

 

It smelled so vibrant, so much more of Taehyung himself – like his scent before was just a pale imitation of this. His wolf keened in his chest, yipping in joy. A sound escaped Jungkook before he could keep it down. He was so distracted by the solidness of holding Taehyung in his arms again that he didn’t notice it when Taehyung stirred, too absorbed with nosing his way up his neck to notice.

 

“Jungkookie,” Taehyung murmured into his hair, shifting his head. Warm. Happy, his scent told Jungkook. Confused and wakefulness, the last vestiges of sleep clinging onto his skin.

 

It was purely out of instinct that Jungkook turned into a wolf at that moment. He’d blame it on his routine of everyday, of waking up before Taehyung opened his eyes, to turn back into a wolf and keep the secret to himself a bit longer. He’d wonder why he even bothered, if not for his childish urge to maybe wait till Taehyung remembered him at last. To have Taehyung seek him out again. To be pampered by Taehyung in a way he had never let himself be by anyone else before.

 

Taehyung let out a wuff of laughter as Jungkook’s weight became heavier. If Jungkook could have flushed in this form, he would have. He forced control over from his wolf to roll himself away before he could suffocate Taehyung.

 

Taehyung’s arms whipped out quickly to wrap around him, stopping his movement.

 

“Oi, where are you going?” Taehyung asked flatly, arms tight around Jungkook’s neck and torso. “Are you not going to explain yourself for your creeping all this while?”

 

Jungkook winced, looking up at Taehyung’s face. The frown on Taehyung’s face was playful, even as his pupils seemed the lightest bit dilated.

 

His eyes were light, happy as they looked at Jungkook. His eyelids folded at the corners with joyful crinkles and Jungkook couldn’t look away, transfixed.

 

Taehyung’s frown melted and he lifted his palm from his neck to butt against Jungkook’s snout. Jungkook flinched away from him.

 

“Stop looking at me like that, Kookie.”

 

Jungkook shook his head up at Taehyung, rising up on his limbs so his weight didn’t ride on Taehyung any longer. Taehyung didn’t shrink back as Jungkook inched closer on his limbs, bending his head to lick under his jaw, at his throat. Taehyung’s fingers crept higher, cupping around his ears and rubbing against the back of them.

 

“You think that’s going to get you out of the doghouse?” Taehyung snickered to himself. “Change back, I can’t scold you like this.”

 

Tae-ah, Jungkook sighed when Taehyung’s fingers tugged demandingly around his ears. It was as if Taehyung knew how annoying it was, even after years had passed since he’d played with Jungkook. Taehyung was smiling softly, teeth peeking out from behind his lips.

 

His muscles elongated and changed as he shifted, feeling his wolf snap back to place under his skin, seeping back into his bones. Taehyung stared at him, eyes wide with newfound wonder – as if this was the first time he was witnessing it even though he had expected it to happen.

 

A smile tugged at Jungkook’s lips as Taehyung’s fingers dug into his hair. Red crept up Taehyung’s cheeks when his eyes trailed down Jungkook’s naked body above him, over his muscles and down his abdomen.

 

“Yah,” Taehyung yelped, mortified – trailing off weakly as if he’d choked on his own words. He closed his eyes, squeezing them shut tightly. Jungkook was confused when Taehyung hit him upside his head.

 

“What?” Jungkook whispered.

 

“How can you be so casual about – about being that naked, on top of me, oh my god .” Taehyung squeezed his eyes shut before they trailed any lower, steered into the territory of do not think about it . Jungkook looked down at himself in confusion.

 

Hadn’t Taehyung seen him bare in his dreams? And the night before? Why was he so flustered?

 

Taehyung’s cheeks were flushed cherry red under him, arousal tingeing the air around them. Jungkook stifled his smile and leaned down to peck Taehyung on the lips, making sure his body didn’t brush against Taehyung’s. If he wanted to play the part of a blushing virgin, who was Jungkook to deny him? Taehyung looked cute like this, when he was too aware of Jungkook and unable to deny his reaction to him.

 

Taehyung’s eyes flew open, affronted and flustered – pleased all the same as Jungkook whispered another kiss on his nose. He blinked, going cross eyed to keep Jungkook in his sight as he pecked Taehyung on his forehead.

 

“You were gonna scold me?” Jungkook reminded him, smiling cheekily at his tongue tied state. A little too cheekily for Taehyung whose cheeks burned fiercer as his eyes tried to follow the lines of Jungkook’s body yet again. “I thought I would have to grovel a bit more to please you?”

 

Taehyung swallowed past the lump in his throat, trying to control his laboured breathing. His heart felt like it would beat right out of his chest at the look on Jungkook’s eyes.

 

So he did the thing that made the most sense.

 

He toppled Jungkook from over him with a kick, wiggling out from underneath with an urgency that was purely driven by his self-preservation instincts. To preserve the last shreds of his dignity anyway. Who had asked Taehyung to go and develop an attraction towards Jungkookie of all people? Who the hell had asked Jungkook to lay one on him while Taehyung was so defenseless?

 

Jungkook let out an amused sound from where his head hit the bed, arms stretching to catch Taehyung’s escaping limbs.

 

“Where are your clothes, Jungkook? I refuse to talk to you before you have put at least one shred of clothing on yourself.” Taehyung might be a pervert but he was more comfortable being a pervert in the closet. Being confronted with so much skin was driving his sensibilities right to the edge of insanity, was making his hands twitch with the need to do something foolish – like pulling Jungkook down and making him answer all his questions, while Taehyung explored his skin as a way for making up for all the times he’d wake up right on the verge of being able to do just that.

 

Jungkook lazily caught the boxers Taehyung hysterically threw at him, clear laughter written in the lines of his soft face.

 

“Never took you for a prude, Tae,” he licked across his lips, an absent action but it sent shivers down Taehyung’s skin. Jungkook didn’t have any idea how much of an effect he had on him, and if Taehyung could help him, it would stay that way. No matter how hooded and knowing Jungkook’s eyes could look, no matter how Taehyung could feel Jungkook noticing every little thing when it came to him.

 

“I’m not!” Taehyung immediately replied, regretting it when Jungkook looked at him with glittering eyes. “I’m not,” he amended softly.

 

“So that’s why you’re avoiding looking at me, aren’t you?”

 

Taehyung pointedly stared at Jungkook’s clothed crotch, trying to keep the flush in his cheeks to a minimum. Jungkook looked at ease with the attention, wicked smirk pulling one corner of his lips upwards. Fire licked its way in his stomach, something uncoiling as if in a reaction.

 

“There, see?” Taehyung widened his eyes for effect. “Fine. I’m just dandy, looking at you.”

 

“Look up for me, would you?” Jungkook’s low voice was controlled and gritty, sending something electric shooting down to his groin. Taehyung swallowed and let his eyes trail up again, meeting Jungkook’s dark, hooded stare. “I don’t think I could hold myself back if you kept smelling like that. ” It rolled off his tongue as if it was something lewd, dirty. Taehyung bit his lip, feeling Jungkook’s lips on them as if they had left a permanent indention on them.

 

From the way Jungkook had held him yesterday, had kissed the breath out of Taehyung’s all too willing lungs – like it had been the most natural thing to do, even after all the years of missing memories between them – it made Taehyung’s energy spark inside him, filling his heart up with something heavy and weigh it down.

 

“Smelling like what?” Taehyung asked, unable to help it. Jungkook stared at him, dark and intense and so unfairly good looking – especially more so because it was Jungkookie of all people – Taehyung felt trapped under his gaze.

 

Was he ready for this? So soon? How many years had it been since he’d last seen Jungkook?

 

 

Was he even the same person who he used to be?

 

Jungkook shifted, his features going impassive as Taehyung ran through the questions in his head and it startled Taehyung how regal he’d grown to look over the years. Jungkook looked so different from how he used to look when he was a kid. There was the scar Taehyung had noticed before in his dreams, visible under the sunlight streaming across the sheets. His face was sculpted, jaw sharp and defined. His eyes had slanted a little from the round shape they used to have, a little less wondering and a little more wary now.

 

“As if you want nothing more than to have me.”

 

Taehyung clenched his teeth against the whimper in his throat, Jungkook’s absolutely guttural voice making him want to drop to his knees in front of him. A flush started climbing up his chest again, this time a little more willing.

 

“I – you, what have you –“

 

Jungkook hummed softly and looked away from him, stretching back on the sheets with a sharp grin.

 

“You don’t have to worry about that, Tae. Not so soon. Not when I plan to court you – right and proper.”

 

What ?

 

“Who does that kind of thing anymore,” Taehyung muttered under his breath, yanking his eyes away from Jungkook’s coal dark ones. He couldn’t stop a flush from rising up, biting his lips against the smile that wanted to press against his lips. When had that happened? It was slightly disconcerting to see how different Jungkook in front of him was from the one in his memory, and there was still so much more about him Taehyung kept discovering as each second passed. He still breathed the same, the goofy smile with his teeth poking out was entirely the same as the imprint of it in Taehyung’s spotty memory, his habit of splaying out on Taehyung was the same.

 

Even his sass was the same.

 

But then, there were so many things that were different.

 

He smelled even more vibrant than Taehyung remembered, more honeyed and earthy, like rain. Petrichor , he thought with a smattering of vague deja vu. He’d dreamed of it before.

 

Taehyung was pretty sure Jimin would actually probably attempt to kill Jungkook the second he saw him, considering how protective he tended to be where Taehyung was concerned. He already felt wary enough when he’d heard about Taehyung’s dreams, ready to beat Taehyung up for waving away his concern.

 

Jimin.

 

Taehyung scrambled for his phone with a shriek, stumbling over his own pants in the way. Founding it dead, he hissed and started searching for the charger pod, throwing his cell into it.

 

“Jimin - I gotta go find Jimin, oh man.” Taehyung muttered under his breath, scrambling to find a shirt and picking up the first plaid shirt he found. There was a spot of blood on the floor, likely from the other day when Jungkook had sunk his fangs into his wrist.

 

“What’s the matter?” Jungkook’s voice was lazy.

 

“It’s Jimin - I haven’t seen him in the last three days, he must be going apeshit somewhere.” Taehyung sucked in his lip, chewing on it anxiously. He spotted his cards glowing under a stack of books with a frown, wondering if someone had placed them there. His memory had been spotty the last two days but he didn’t remember specifically where he’d lost them. He reached in to pick them up, a tremble running up his veins at the little pulse of energy balancing between his own Lifestream and the energy stored in the cards. It felt a little different than usual, even as he watched the Axels wake up and crawl into his skin through the cards to heal his luck. It felt like they sat a little deeper in his bloodstream than usual, took more time to adjust snapping into his skin rather than their normal pace.

 

There was a phantom twinge in his calves, the feeling of vertigo hitting him in the stomach as if he was suddenly standing on top a cliff with a steep drop. He realised something with a sense of horror, judders climbing up his spine.

 

Hadn’t he dropped his cards off a height somewhere?

 

“Your cards.” Jungkook studied them curiously, watching Taehyung flip the desk and check if all of them were still intact. They were slumbering in their cards, looking as pristine and undamaged as ever. The Lucky Aces were humming under Taehyung’s skin, power rushing up his synapses as they pulsed.

 

“What?” Taehyung turned to look back at Jungkook, a little dazed. Jungkook frowned, eyes narrowing on Taehyung’s.

 

“Are they alright?”

 

Taehyung jolted, watching with wide eyed panic as the Ace of Hearts’ card blackened a little under his fingers.

 

Axel!

 

A most curious thing happened, just as Jungkook yelped and shot a hand out to pull Taehyung back. Taehyung’s Lifestream rippled under his skin, right where his fingers were clenching the cards. There was a silent jingle of bells, a peal of laughter as his Joker crept spindly white fingers out of his own card, brushing over Taehyung’s skin.

 

Oh, little master...

 

Taehyung’s mouth fell open as the Joker reached into the card of the Axel of Hearts lying above him in Taehyung’s fingers, eyes half lidded and dangerous. He gripped the spreading blackness on the card, like clutching dark vines of a particularly venomous plant. He waited till Taehyung met his eyes, mouth agape, before he wrenched it away roughly with a triumphant and vicious expression on his features.

 

The Axel of Hearts shivered where it was lounging on his cheek, sending a tremble through the other luck cards too. The empty frame of the Axel of Hearts was red, intact and untarnished, as if its lifestream hadn’t suffered through any trauma at all. Taehyung’s legs gave out from under him and he staggered back with the force of Jungkook’s harsh grip around his elbow.

 

“Taehyung!” Jungkook’s eyes were wild, terrified as he cradled his face. “Taehyung, what’s wrong?”

 

Taehyung’s mouth opened, eyes unwillingly drawing back towards where the Joker in his hand was winking at him, licking the blackness on his finger and sending a thumbs up at him. He seemed unperturbed by Taehyung’s reaction, white painted face animated as he started playing charades for him.

 

Guess who I am , he mouthed, quickly wrenching something out from his waist and swinging it up and down in his frame. Fire raged around him, licking at the frame of his card and burning the last of the black remnants of the damage.

 

“Taehyung,” Jungkook whispered. “Look at me.”

 

“Did you see that?” Taehyung asked dazedly. His cheek tingled as Jungkook thumbed across it. The Axel of Hearts was breathing easier, as if it was resting a little more comfortably now. Had his Joker really mended the card? Taehyung shivered, cards falling through his fingers. How was it possible?

 

“How did he do that?”

 

Jungkook furrowed his brows and looked down at the cards he was clutching. The Joker angled a sly look at him, blowing idle bubbles which floated up and burst into lavender sparkles when it touched the ceiling of the card. Jungkook glanced back at Taehyung, only to double take.

 

“Tae-ah,” Jungkook’s eyebrows furrowed. “Your hair is changing colours.”

 

Taehyung frowned, glancing back at the lavender sparkles. What was up with his Joker? He reached his fingers up to card through his hair, scalp tingling. Lavender again.

 

Must you , he asked the Joker resignedly. The Joker blew a kiss at him, red lips puckered teasingly.

 

“Yeah, my Joker tends to do that when he’s bored. He can’t enter my Lifestream like the Aces do, so he pulls shit like this when I’m not looking.”

 

Jungkook rubbed a lock of his hair between his fingers, a curious frown on his face as he studied Taehyung, warm breath fanning out against his cheek. His broad shoulder pressed into Taehyung’s bony one as he leaned over to look at them. He hesitated for a breath, chewing the corner of his mouth.

 

“When did you get your cards, Tae? I don’t remember you having these back in Daegu.”

 

Taehyung tried to cast his memory back. For as long as he could remember, he’d always had his cards when they’d been pressed into his hands by his grandfather. Was it after Daegu? When had Jungkook been in Daegu? Was it after his grandmother had taken him to live in Jeju-do?

 

That didn’t seem right. He had been thirteen when he’d met Jungkook, before Jungkook had left for Seoul.

 

“My grandfather gifted me with these suits.” Taehyung hesitated. “After you left for Seoul, I think. I used to keep getting lost by myself, so he Crafted me these cards to guide me back home.”

 

Jungkook looked at him with a thousand and one thoughts in his eyes, quiet. Taehyung tilted his head wonderingly at him with a hesitant smile on his lips, almost even more hesitant to know why Jungkook was looking at him like that.

 

“I’m sorry.” Jungkook said with a depth to his voice that spoke of a sadness Taehyung couldn’t understand.

 

“What for?” Taehyung laughed softly. Jungkook’s lips tugged up in response to his. Jungkook always thought a lot, didn’t he? He used to be like that back when they were kids too, pensive and quiet when Taehyung left him, only to be stirred out of it when he tackled him to encourage him into joining his games.

 

Stop thinking , Taehyung fondly reached up to poke his finger at Jungkook’s forehead.

 

“Coming with me to meet Jimin or not, then?”

 

You still forgive too easily, Jungkook’s eyes said. Specially when it comes to me.

 

Taehyung didn’t understand what there was to forgive but he humoured Jungkook anyway, smile lifting his lips into a cheerful curve and heart beating steadily against his chest. Steady and warm. Present.

 

I’m helpless when it comes to you , Taehyung hoped that was what his fingers whispered against Jungkook’s soft cheek. Jungkook leaned into his touch slowly, eyes sliding shut.

 

“Let’s go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Taehyung, I don’t think this is a good idea.” Jungkook sniffed the air, feeling a foreboding sensation in his gut. Taehyung’s Jack of Clubs and the Jack of Diamonds were hovering just a little way from his hand as they tried to pick the lock on the door. Jungkook wasn’t too big on the idea of barging in on his hyung while he was smelling like this.

 

He didn’t remember Yoongi smelling like this, so aggressive and alpha. There was an undercurrent to the base note of his scent that made sweat automatically bead over Jungkook’s temples.

 

What was his hyung doing inside? Jungkook could just feel the bite of his hyung’s wolfish Lifestream even as his fingers hovered over the door.

 

“Don’t touch it, they’re still working, Jungkookie,” Taehyung told him absentmindedly, tongue sticking out from the corner of his lips as he stared at his cards with a furrow between his eyes. Jungkook glanced his way, eyes catching on his vibrant lilac hair.  Should he try and place himself between Taehyung and Yoongi, in case anything went wrong?

 

The red heart nestled under Taehyung’s hairline, near his jaw, was glowing noticeably. The little spade and club had hidden themselves away, dangling from his ears, as dull as a stud piercing. Unnoticeable but materialising like seemingly solid objects - out of nothing. Jungkook wondered how it was possible.

 

There was something different about Taehyung, no matter how Jungkook looked at it. Something that had shifted under his skin. Taehyung was himself , if not more assured and radiant. A brighter version of himself, filling up the edges of Jungkook’s vision and gripping his attention in a vice tight grip. If Jungkook hadn’t been able to look away from Taehyung before, now he couldn’t even bring himself to blink for even a second when he looked at Taehyung. It was like looking into the sun, allowing himself to be blinded, losing vision of everything else that wasn't Taehyung - and it was alright with him.

 

This was how it was always supposed to be.

 

Maybe Jungkook hadn’t anticipated the chances of running into Taehyung again when he’d entered Hongdae but he had known that someday, it would happen. There had been a thread of something in the air that used to drift in the pack grounds whenever Jungkook used to hunt, fiery blood thrumming in his veins and hammering down in his skull - a feeling that there was something waiting for him. Waiting till Jungkook had found himself, understood himself and had been ready to find him again.

 

Taehyung had been enamoured by the dangerous world around them, while Jungkook had grown up with just his memories of him, protecting them viciously from the pack shamans. Maybe he had been in love with the idea of Taehyung himself, for too long. Jungkook had pushed it to the back of his mind like a fond memory of a time he cherished.

 

But then he had found Taehyung again, when he'd least expected it.

 

Maybe it was like a ship lost at sea, finding its anchor again. Maybe he'd always known deep down that he'd find himself back in Taehyung's arms one day, no matter what.

 

Serendipity, Jungkook thought wryly as he watched Taehyung almost flail as one of the Queen cards slapped his cheeks. He reached out to catch him even as Taehyung instinctively shot a hand out to wrap around Jungkook’s.

 

“Stop abusing me, ow, woman - I tried - okay fine, it’s healed now, I’m sorry.” Taehyung tried to tug her away from his cheek, paying no attention to Jungkook. A smile curved up Jungkook’s lips as he stared at their hands, warmth running up his veins as he traced Taehyung’s slender fingers with his eyes. They fit so well, slotting perfectly together - as if they had been made for holding each other.

 

Maybe, Jungkook wondered with happiness curling under his ribs, the universe had fought for them too. Even after Jungkook had left Taehyung behind without any memory of him.

 

The door opened in front of them with a slight click and Taehyung froze.

 

Yoongi was standing in front of them with a murderous glare in place, sweat running down his bare chest. Jungkook sniffed, trying not to scrunch up his nose. Yoongi smelled like sleep, a combination of sex and heat, of - was that happiness ?

 

“Hyung,” Jungkook started, happy smile in face. Yoongi barely dealt well with aegyo in his general state, he might be even more prickly with the raging pheromones in his system. Jungkook would take the brunt of it so Taehyung wouldn’t have to. “Hyung, wow.”

 

“Why are you smiling?” Yoongi’s face scrunched up even more, eyes narrowing. “You little shit, what are you doing here when you’re supposed to be in your classes?”

 

Taehyung shifted behind Jungkook, curiosity and embarrassment rolling off him in waves.

 

“Um,” he interrupted Jungkook’s cheeky reply meekly. “Could you please, ah - hyung, could you put on some clothes?”

 

Yoongi rolled his eyes, studying the steadily shrinking Taehyung hidden behind Jungkook with an intensity that could have set fire to flint.

 

“Taehyung?” A high pitched, panicky voice that could only belong to the dark haired boy Taehyung was so fond of, resounded in the air. Jungkook barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes, even as Taehyung slipped around him with a shout of excitement and ran past the naked form of Yoongi without a single thought to how maybe he shouldn’t exactly leave Jungkook’s side when Yoongi was smelling like this.

 

Yoongi’s hand twitched at his side when Taehyung brushed past him, nostrils flaring in something like barely concealed aggression and Jungkook had to stifle a growl. Yoongi didn’t do anything, however, his head turned in the direction where Taehyung had disappeared to find Park Jimin. Jungkook tried to curb his instinctual anger, taking in deep breaths.

 

No, Yoongi wouldn’t do anything. Yoongi smelled like he was still in senses.

 

“You’ve been in heat?” Jungkook hissed, reaching forward to hold Yoongi’s bicep. The lifestream in it pulsed under his touch and Yoongi let out a growl, an unintentional one from the looks of it. Jungkook clenched his teeth and held on. His wolf rolled up from its rest, flaring his own fangs in response to Yoongi’s alpha.

 

Yoongi met his eyes and Jungkook noticed the golden ring around his pupils, that hadn’t been there before, like he was on the edge of shifting. Maybe it was just the influence of his wolf that affected Yoongi this way. Jungkook realised that Yoongi was carrying the heightened senses, the strength and magic from his wolf, maybe even his mating instincts from him right now.

 

“You have mated ?” Jungkook asked incredulously.

 

“No shit.” Yoongi’s response was dry as he breathed out through closed teeth and tilted his head to the side. There was a dark bruise crossing the space between his shoulder blade and his collarbone that had Jungkook almost backing up in alarm.

 

“How the hell are you so chill right now? I thought you’d be freaking out about this.”

 

“Fuck, you have no idea,” Yoongi answered with a thread of wounded cynicism in his voice, cringing a little. Jungkook slowly strong armed his way in through the doorway, ducking under his hyung’s swing even as it clipped him on the shoulder. "I'm pretty much stoned on my wolf’s emotions right now. I don’t even remember when I stopped giving a shit about him being human, Kook."

 

“A human, I’m okay with, but him ? Park Jimin ?” Jungkook questioned with a scrunch of his eyebrows. “Hyung, I can’t decide who is selling themselves short here.”

 

Yoongi punched Jungkook for that, knuckles cracking hard against his jaw. Jungkook let out an affronted grunt, reeling back and finding his footing. Yoongi came at him with a casually ruthless aggression, obviously spoiling for a proper fight after having fulfilled his heat and Jungkook grinned, tasting the metallic tang of blood on his teeth.

 

“You fucker,” Yoongi threw another punch that connected with an accuracy that made Jungkook’s lips thin, legs almost folding under him. “Stop being cheeky before I kick your ass back to your dad.”

 

After a moment of hesitation, Jungkook threw caution to wind, ducking under Yoongi’s next punch and bracing the balls of his feet against the floor, fist connecting with Yoongi’s bare skin with a loud smack. Yoongi went down like a sack of potatoes, and Jungkook wondered if the heat had started interfering with Yoongi’s skills or  if he was still trying to hold back on Jungkook, wary of hurting him.

 

“Ouch,” Jungkook echoed, watching Yoongi wincing.

 

“Goddamnit,” Yoongi hissed through clenched teeth, disbelieving laughter spilling out of his mouth, breathless, the kind that his hyung let out whenever he felt pain. Jungkook’s apology was soft, an offering of a hand to haul him up. Yoongi looked at him with sharp eyes, inhaling sharply.

 

Jungkook let his grin touch his lips when Yoongi accepted his hand. Yoongi thumped up back on his feet, holding Jungkook’s arm firmly.

 

“I needed that,” he said grudgingly. There was a reluctant smile tugging at his lips even as he pulled Jungkook in for a short, half hug, arm around the back of Jungkook’s neck half choking him.

 

“I know.” Jungkook snorted into Yoongi’s hair, leaning down to return the hug. “You’re welcome.” Yoongi’s arm clenched around Jungkook’s neck, tight chokehold that might have crushed a lesser man’s windpipe. Jungkook refused to cough nonetheless, only a light grunt eking out of his throat.

 

“Good to see you again, bunny.” Yoongi huffed, laughter real in his voice as he let go of Jungkook.

 

“Will you ever stop calling me that, Christ.” Jungkook sighed, cocky smile gentling down. “You would think I never grew up, the way you keep that name fresh in everyone’s heads.”

 

“God knows why those brats respect you anyway,” Yoongi rebuffed gruffly, eyes crinkling. The golden rim around them had dimmed down to a barely distinguishable amber. Yoongi patted Jungkook’s head, annoyingly enough, as he made his way inside the room, limp half visible in his steps. Jungkook rolled his eyes at Yoongi’s pale back.   

 

“I saw that, you little shit.” Yoongi called back coolly, grabbing a white shirt that was draped on the table. His nimble fingers quickly worked to put it on and Jungkook swallowed as he heard a loud crash.

 

Jimin’s high pitched voice had been just a silent drumming in the background while Jungkook’s adrenaline had taken over, when faced with Yoongi’s claws. But even as his heartbeat slowed down, Jungkook could suddenly hear the loud commotion Jimin and Taehyung were making in the adjoining room. It was almost deafening in its frantic fury and Jungkook’s muscles were alert with the need to protect Taehyung.

 

Taehyung was spluttering, floundering as Jimin interrogated him - the panicked ferocity laced in his voice letting all the people in the near vicinity know that he was not going to be appeased easily.

 

“You asshole, you think you can disappear for the three days without fucking writing me an official notice? This is a fucking dictatorship, alright? You are not allowed to take off days without fucking letting me know you just aren’t lying in a ditch somewhere, I thought we’d established that before.”

 

“Jiminnie, what the hell is that on your neck?” Taehyung finally screamed back, as if he had tried his best to calm Jimin down and his only remaining choice was distracting him.

 

“What if a djinn had gotten their hands on you? You think you’d have been coherent enough to send me a SOS? What if it had been a siren? You fucking get targeted enough as it is, you want me to lose the remaining hair on my head worrying my ass off about you?” Jimin yelled back, wet tears in his voice. The scent of burnt ozone filled the air, invading the rooms outside as fast as light.

 

Goddamn, Yoongi and Jimin must have been mating everywhere , Jungkook realised with a terrifying clarity as he felt the dense energy in the atmosphere. It was the only plausible reason why Jimin’s emotions were being broadcasted so swiftly, if his energy saturated the air around them to this extent. Was this how intense mating usually was?

 

Yoongi’s head shot up, a horrified expression on his face as he met Jungkook’s eyes.

 

“I’m not going in there, just so you know." Jungkook grimaced. He'd probably lose his soul the moment he entered it, God did it smell rank. "Not until you perform at least three cleansing rituals, and spread herbal crystals to eliminate all evidence of whatever took place with your human.” Jungkook added for good measure, pressing his lips together and trying not to breathe. He cursed his own legs as they yearned to carry him to Taehyung’s side and tried to glue them together to his spot with the sheer power of his will.

 

“That room stinks worse than you do on your good days, hyung." 

 

Yoongi glared at him in reply. 





Chapter Text

 

 

Jimin refused to look at Jungkook, reaching up to tug on Taehyung’s ear as Yoongi ambled behind them, hands in his pockets.

 

“Ow, ow, Jimin - you stupid hamster, would you please cut it out.” Taehyung’s pleas fell on Jimin’s deaf ears. Jungkook restrained a growl from emerging at that, and Yoongi shot him a look laced with derision.

 

“How old are you again? Have some damn control, kid.” Yoongi’s drawl was thick, but his lips twitched upwards when Jungkook went to protest. “One would think you were raised by wolves, Kookie.”

 

Jungkook snorted, shoulders loosening. Yoongi shrugged with a smug smile on his face, looking pleased with himself when Jungkook doubled up in laughter, all because Yoongi looked like a satisfied cat who had gotten away with licking all the cream. Jimin and Taehyung immediately stopped squabbling ahead, looking back at them with wide eyes.

 

“It wasn’t even good, what the hell, hyung?” Jungkook gasped, shooting a hand out to hold onto Yoongi’s protruding elbow. Yoongi shook him off with an offended expression.

 

“You’re excused.”

 

“Hyung, Jiho-ssi cracks that joke every time he comes by the pack house, you’d think that we would have grown tired of listening to it.” Jungkook shook his head, meeting Taehyung’s guileless eyes and snorting again. “The world must actually be ending if you’re recycling his worn out jokes.”

 

Yoongi rolled his eyes. Jimin looked at Jungkook with suspicion in his hard brown eyes, leaning in to whisper into Taehyung’s ears furiously. Jungkook’s stomach rolled and made him feel vaguely guilty, a little nauseous, and the dislike he’d harboured for Park Jimin - something about it had shifted. Maybe it was scent based, now that his wolf was recognising Yoongi’s claim on him and marking him as pack too. His wolf was feeling nauseous at the scent of Yoongi, mixed with such a damning emotion aimed at him.

 

Fix it, his wolf urged him, unsettled at the dark look in Jimin’s eyes. He’s pack, but why does he smell like that?

 

“Taetae, where is the wolf you adopted off the streets those few weeks ago?”

 

“You told him, didn’t you?” Jungkook asked Yoongi quietly, falling in step next to him. Yoongi shrugged, an answer in itself.

 

“He pretty much figured it out himself.”

 

Taehyung swallowed, heartbeat audible to the Jungkook’s ears. His steps faltered as he mulled over Jimin’s question.

 

“I set him out to be a free wolf once more?” Not even halfway convincing - Taehyung smiled sheepishly at Jimin.

 

“Who do you think you are, Tae, the boy from the jungle book?” Jimin asked in disbelief. His expression exasperated, Jimin threw his hands up. “Wait, don't even answer that – those damn birds are following you about again.”

 

“Huh?” Taehyung asked, looking confused. He turned to look at the huge fence that separated the dirt and gravel road from the gardens, birch trees growing up and reaching over the fences with massive, sylvan arms over their heads. There were birds twittering along the top of the fence and Jungkook, for the first time, realised that they'd started following them only a little while after they'd left Yoongi and Jimin’s shared flat.

 

They came in vibrant colours of dusky reds and sharp blues, a mix of orange feathers somewhere and some pure white. Loris, blackbirds, sparrows hopping and chirping, circling over Taehyung’s head and settling on the branches on the opposite side, restless. Their feathers kept blooming and shifting colours, smooth gradation between them. Taehyung’s fingers twitched as a smile took over his lips, awed and happy.

 

“Woah, look at ‘em, Jungkook,” Taehyung sneaked a glance at him for nary a second to see if he had his attention, before fixing his eyes back on the birds that were collecting on the branches. “Aren’t they beautiful?”

 

Jungkook could certainly appreciate the vibrancy around them, feeling the urge to put it on paper, to sketch out the lovebirds that were perching next to a navy blue parakeet.

 

Yoongi whistled next to his ear, a small smile forming on his own lips when the tune was reflected back at him by the birds. He looked at Jimin with an eyebrow cocked when he heard him sighing.

 

“I used to see this every day,” Jimin explained with a puff of air, planting his hand on Taehyung’s head. “Not to this extent, but. Just three or four birds every once in a while, stalking around this little Paulie whisperer.”

 

Jungkook didn’t understand the reference but he let it go in favour of steering himself closer to Taehyung.

 

“So this is usual for the kid, is it?” Yoongi’s voice sounded amused. Jimin sighed again.

 

“He’s like, I don’t know, some sort of animal whisperer. Dr Dolittle - he’s better than some of the Gifted who are studying ethology and anthrozoology. You take him outside the walls of Hongdae University, and you’d bet that puppies and cats from the entirety of Seoul would be trailing after him like lovesick idiots.” Taehyung clicked his jaw and batted away Jimin’s hand as if he was too used to being teased about this.

 

“It’s not my fault everyone likes me, Jimin.” Taehyung snarked back at him and Jungkook snorted. “It must be hard, spending all your time being jealous of your best friend.”

 

“Jealous.” Jimin scoffed in affront as if he couldn’t believe the words coming out of Taehyung’s mouth. “Jealous. Please, god. You’re so delusional, I’m surprised you can even see straight, asshole.”

 

Yoongi snickered when Jungkook turned away from them, looking like he was about to step in but refraining. His eyes fastened on Yoongi’s and he frowned.

 

Bickering as if it was going out of style, Jimin and Taehyung led the way inside the little,dainty cafe around the familiar square which linked the four corners of the university housing dorms together. Yoongi’s feet almost turned to walk towards his tattoo parlour by instinct before he steered himself back into path.

 

Jungkook was still lurking behind Taehyung and Jimin, adopting that same regal gait that fooled everyone but Yoongi, but he couldn’t fault the other wolves scattered around the periphery for stiffening anyway. Yoongi had had years on them, growing up around a bite sized Jungkook, to know how awkward and discomfited he was feeling. It was directed towards Jimin’s and Taehyung’s backs, towards the comfortable arms slung over each others shoulders - and Yoongi could have known how lonely Jungkook was suddenly feeling, even without smelling it.

 

Maybe because Yoongi had started to feel a little of that anyway. The fact that someone else had Jimin’s attention was enough to get him to raise his hackles, but the futility of that intent - to tear Jimin away from Taehyung - was sharp enough to pierce in through his head.

 

The only fact that Jimin’s end of the bond thrummed so happily kept him from opening his mouth, tearing open new words that would yank Jimin away from Taehyung’s side to his.

 

Jimin met his eyes as the door opened for them, hand poised over the Crafted flower with a giddy smile, a secretive one that made Yoongi’s lips twitch up despite himself.

 

Jungkook went ahead and walked Taehyung into the cafe as Jimin interlaced his fingers with Yoongi’s and tugged him in. The mating bond in Yoongi’s head pulsed and his shoulders relaxed by an entire fraction, tension leaking away under Jimin’s warm touch.

 

“Alright?” Jimin asked, eyes glittery and light. His thumb brushed over the back of Yoongi’s palm and his strong will grazed against Yoongi’s, a scorching heat in it that calmed his wolf down.

 

“Better now,” he grunted and tightened his fingers over Jimin’s, a silent command for him to not let go.

 

Jimin ducked his head to hide a smile when Taehyung and Jungkook stared at their linked hands unabashedly as they walked in.

 

 

 

***

 

 

“Tae,” Jimin said cautiously, biting his lip when Taehyung looked up at him with a wounded puppy expression as if he expected to get scolded again. Jimin softened, despite himself, and very carefully tried not to give himself away when he spoke. “Why don’t you get us some breakfast? God knows, I could use it.”

 

Taehyung perked up at the mention of food like Jimin had expected him to. He tugged on the arm of the dark haired boy next to him, excitement on his face. Jimin clenched his teeth at the action, feeling an unsettled grimace trying to crawl up his features.

 

“Yah, you can go by yourself up to the counter, can’t you?” Jimin said it lightly for Taehyung’s sake, laughter in his voice. Yoongi looked away from where he’d been staring outside to stare at Jimin with dark, dark eyes, nostrils flaring. The black haired boy met his eyes head on but Jimin, very carefully, made sure the anger boiling his blood didn’t show itself on his face. “Isn’t that Baekhyun-hyung by the counter? I think he’s been meaning to talk to you for a while, Tae.”

 

Taehyung looked up at the counter, where sure enough, a brunette lounging on it with his knees tucked underneath him in Indian style, kept looking towards him with a mischievous grin on his lips. Baekhyun shot him playful finger guns, mouthing ‘piu piu’ and Taehyung snickered quietly. He looked down when the boy next to him shifted with a disgruntled look on his face.

 

“Hey, Kookie – hyung’s gonna go and be back soon, okay?” Taehyung’s bright lilac hair bounced in excitement as he brushed his fingers over the boy’s shoulder, patting his cheek as if soothing him.

 

Jimin knew Yoongi could feel him seething over in his chair, just as Jimin could feel Yoongi’s calm, gentle presence grounding him. It was stronger than the bond they had before, solidified somehow when Jimin had sunk his own teeth into the space between Yoongi’s shoulder and his neck and accepted his claim.

 

Yoongi was in his thoughts, even though he made a polite effort to give Jimin a semblance of his own privacy by not reading them too often. By contrast, Jimin could read almost every wayward thought Yoongi had, passing through his own head as if he was the one thinking them. But he knew he could never have the poetry to his thoughts, the musing spirit that Yoongi infused them with.

 

So, Yoongi knew the words that were about to spill from his mouth before they even did, when he turned to the black haired boy whose eyes followed Taehyung’s passage through the tables towards the counter.

 

“So, who the hell are you again?” Jimin asked, fire raging under his skin when the boy cast an almost bored look his way before turning back to look at Taehyung. Jimin grit his teeth. “Look at your elders when they’re speaking to you, you little shit.”

 

The boy, Jungkook, stiffened in his seat and turned to look at him as if he was seeing him for the first time. Something like disbelief glanced past his eyes, as if he’d never been questioned like this before.

 

“Jungkook,” Yoongi said quietly, almost too quietly for Jimin to catch.

 

Jungkook’s shoulders were up, soft features that would look endearing any other time set in a hard expression as he stared at Jimin with dark brown eyes. Unnerving brown eyes, the kind Jimin had never seen on another. He was sure he’d never see the likes of them ever again.

 

Jimin squared his own shoulders in response and stared back steadily. Maybe, any other time Jungkook’s strong eyes would intimidate him but with Yoongi beside him, he knew that no matter what Jungkook would do, Yoongi would protect him.

 

Hyung.” Jungkook voice was raspy, eyes not flickering away from Jimin. Something unsaid passed in the air between them, charged and suffocating before Jungkook swallowed and looked away.

 

Stop. Yoongi’s thought was a gentle one. When Jimin looked at him in surprise, he found his somber eyes fixed on Jungkook’s. Stop being reticent. You’re not a child anymore.

 

Resigned, as if he was giving up something, Jungkook exhaled. When he spoke again, it was to the tablecloth in front of them, to the charmed moon snoring in it and the slew of stars it kept expelling with every exhale.

 

“I’m Jeon Jungkook, Heir to the Mighty and Brave, Pack of Seoul. I come from two royal lineages, blessed by the moon and the night.”

 

If he expected Jimin to be intimidated by any of it, Jungkook clearly had the wrong audience. Jimin was tether-hooked tenacious when he wanted to be, come what may.

 

Jungkook didn’t speak, tilted his chin up as if he too was ready to battle whatever came his way, and despite him – Jimin was a little confused to feel a curl of fondness settle itself somewhere in his heart, softening him.

 

Hyung, he swallowed and looked at Yoongi. No.

 

Yoongi almost recoiled from him, a turmoil inside him that even Jimin could feel.

 

He’s not a bad kid, Jimin.

 

“That’s up to me to find out, isn’t it?” Jimin asked softly. Don’t make me hold you responsible for his actions too, he pleaded.

 

“I wasn’t going to harm Taehyung,” Jungkook spoke up, lifting his eyes from the table to look at JImin. It was the first time that Jimin saw them directed at him with something that resembled guilt. “He was my friend, he was the best friend I ever had – I wouldn’t ever dream of even touching a hair on his head.”

 

Jimin unclenched his fists and inhaled. How far was he to trust?

 

“Yet you did.” Jimin’s resent filtered through his voice but to Jungkook’s credit, he didn’t show any signs of bristling. “Yet you went and exercised mind magic on him anyway. If he hadn’t given you his consent – if it was all done without his knowing, how can you say you weren’t harming him anyway? Considering what he told me, Jeon Jungkook, I could have you hauled off to the Gifted CORPs on the basis of sexual assault alone.”

 

“I never harmed him, I swear an oath on the moon, herself,” Jungkook protested strongly, eyebrows bunched together. “I – he’s my mate, he’s my chosen – I thought I’d lost him all those years ago, I’d let him be taken – I couldn’t let that happen again. I had to protect mine. There’s a-” His eyes had taken on a wild glow, feral almost and Yoongi had tensed next to Jimin, rearing forwards on his chair. The lines around his mouth wrinkled in distress and Jimin almost started at the thoughts running through his head.

 

He’s afraid, Yoongi noted. Terrified, pup, need to calm him down.

 

Jungkook didn’t seem to notice the way Yoongi had tensed, eyes fixed almost imploringly on Jimin’s as if asking him to understand.

 

“There’s only one way to protect a mate – to establish a bond with them, to be there with him if anything ever happened to him again – so I can protect him. You don’t have the whole story, I was afraid -” He broke off, as if his breath was caught in the back of his throat and almost startlingly, Jimin noticed the tremor running up his arms.

 

“So why didn’t you approach him the way normal people do?” Jimin questioned, a little less demanding and a little more tempered. “You could do all that without all this crookery, getting into his space posing as a wolf and invading his privacy without him knowing anything.”

 

“The first time he saw me, I was on a run,” Jungkook swallowed. “It happened that way, I couldn’t believe my eyes – I followed him back, because he treated me the same way as he used to. I could barely believe it was him. There had been an incident back when we were kids,” Jungkook swallowed, looking discomfited and somewhat shaken. Jimin tensed and leaned forward to listen, shoulders rising. Jungkook looked at Yoongi, and back at Jimin, swallowing again.

 

“Something traum - painful had happened the last time I’d seen him. I - I assumed that he’d been spelled to forget what had happened, or maybe that he’d blocked it out after all. I wanted to keep away, believe me.” Jungkook’s voice broke, and Jimin found himself wanting to empathise with him, despite everything. There was something about Jungkook’s scruffy hair and wide eyes that suddenly looked helpless and lost.

 

“I didn’t want him to remember anything that would hurt him again. I couldn’t keep myself away - not when. Not when my wolf kept telling me to protect my mate.”

 

Mate? Jimin jolted back, eyes darting back to the front of the cafe where Taehyung was giggling, boxy wide and happy as Baekhyun tried to playfully bully him. A traumatic incident? Jimin frowned, casting his mind back at anything that he might have missed around Taehyung.

 

“He’s the strongest part of me.” Jungkook pleaded with his eyes for Jimin to understand, drawing his attention. Jimin filed away the question unfolding in his head, brow creasing. Jungkook’s eyes were disconcertingly deep, strong and vibrantly expressive with his emotions and Jimin wondered if that was what set wolves apart from humans after all. “He knows what is right and what to do to protect him.”

 

Did it excuse what Jungkook had done, though? Jimin found it a bitter pill to swallow that Jungkook, however misguided his intentions were, had gone to such an extent. But looking at the conviction in his eyes, Jimin could already say that there was nothing in the world Jungkook wouldn’t do to keep Taehyung safe.

 

Such a goddamn clusterfuck of things, he thought.

 

It’s the wolf, Jimin. Jungkook’s wolf is different; he’s not like mine or anyone else’s. Yoongi told him gently, not pushing or manipulating. Just laying out facts.

 

The reason it’s so difficult to scold Jungkook is because he trusts his own wolf more than anyone of us. He’s always followed his wolf’s instincts and morals, because it’s what’s kept him alive all these years. Can you try to understand?

 

Perhaps Jimin really couldn’t, because he was all too human to understand. For beings like Yoongi and Jungkook, to have another whole personality inside them guiding their actions, it alarmed something in Jimin even as he tried to take it in a stride. Humans were predictable in the sense that they had logic guiding them. How was Jimin supposed to work with someone who relied on his animal instincts more than he did on his human?

 

Whether it was fate, or if he’d somehow sensed Jungkook’s distress, Taehyung swooped in with a laugh, hiding his face in Jungkook’s neck, arms winding around him from the back. Kim Taehyung stumbled in with the same belligerent disregard he had for anything happening around him, soothing ruffled feathers without even knowing it.

 

“Hyung, no! Stop poking me, it tickles!” he yelped and Jungkook subsided under his arms, eyes closing. Yoongi didn’t take his eyes off Jungkook.

 

Baekhyun laughed delightedly, reaching out to ruffle his cowering head.

 

“Kid, you barely stop by as it is. Let hyungie have his fun.”

 

“This is why I don’t stop by,” Taehyung peeked out from behind Jungkook’s neck before hiding again as Baekhyun frowned.

 

“Joonmyeonnie is starting to miss you too, Tae. Can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think even Kyungsoo-yah, that cute ball of satanic fury, even he wouldn’t mind it if we saw you around a little more.”

 

“I thought Jackson-hyung would have been enough to keep you all entertained. Besides, hyung, you just want me to come over to help you win over your crush, don’t you?” Taehyung looked at him balefully, as if he’d sussed out Baekhyun’s real and nefarious reasons and he’d found them utterly deplorable. Jimin breathed a little easier as the tension broke around them, mind mulling over everything Jungkook had said.

 

“You know, I think, having you around is the equivalent of having a baby around for single moms to coo over. I’ve seen even Kyungsoo-yah bend for your aegyo,” The note of woeful surprise made Taehyung’s boxy wide grin appear. “And I didn’t even think it was possible for him to crack smiles when Jongdae or Yeollie weren’t getting beat up.”

 

“So Kyungsoo-hyung is somehow the single mom in the equation? Baekhyun-hyung, I think it would just be simpler to get yourself checked in the Gifted Psychiatric Wards before you have a chance of cracking him.”

 

Jungkook leaned back in Taehyung’s grip and inhaled, arm coming up to hold his clasped hands around his neck. Taehyung leaned down to nuzzle his ear and it seemed familiar, the way Jungkook relaxed into it. To Jimin, it felt like Taehyung had performed the same action almost a hundred times before.

 

“Why you little shit, this kind of insolence coming from a twerp I haven’t seen –“

 

“YAH, BYUN BAEKHYUN!”

 

The shout made Baekhyun pale, strong as it was despite the reedy voice yelling it. Minseok had his eyes narrowed at them, midget rage directed towards Baekhyun.

 

“Shit, hyung – I think, Minseok-hyung’s more likely to send you to the psychiatric ward before Kyungsoo-hyung does.”

 

“Not helping, Kim Taehyung,” Baekhyun hissed at him heatedly, before slinking over to the counter, a kicked puppy dog expression on his face. He cowered when Minseok reached out to twist his ear and pull him inside towards the kitchen, whimpering.

 

Taehyung looked at Jimin happily, making no move to unlatch himself from Jungkook.

 

“I ordered us samgyeopsal and japchae, and Baekhyun-hyung is gonna treat us to some ox bone soup, hyung.” Taehyung directed at Yoongi, who had been staring at him with furrowed eyes.

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing.” Yoongi’s eyes flickered down to look at Jungkook who was looking up at Taehyung with a smile. “Everything’s fine.”

 

“Alright, then.” Taehyung couldn’t shake off the smile on his face when he looked at Jungkook, almost as if it was helpless and Jimin swallowed. Jungkook was looking up at Taehyung as if he’d never like to see anything else ever again and Jimin – he couldn’t feel the same extent of resentment in the face of that kind of naked adoration.

 

“Jungkook was telling us how you were his best friend, before.” Jimin would try, for the sake of his best friend. If Taehyung showed even one sign of not being comfortable with Jungkook’s presence –

 

Trust in him a little more, something spoke up in his head as he watched Taehyung unlace his fingers and sit down close to Jungkook, leaning into his warmth. He needs to learn to take care of himself without me hovering around him waiting to catch him when he stumbles.

 

Yah, Park Jimin, Yoongi sounded like he was smiling a little. Growing up, are you ?

 

Jimin shrugged, a small motion. Just kinda realized I had been trying to control Taehyung’s life in a way, too.

 

Yoongi looked at him fondly, almost like he wanted to tell him how much he loved him.

 

Taehyung looked so alarmed that Jimin almost wanted to snort.

 

“He knows,” Jungkook said gently, eyes soft on Taehyung’s. “Tae-ah. Listen, it’s alright.”

 

Tae-ah.

 

Jimin almost wanted to look away from them, because it looked almost as intimate a moment as it sounded. Yoongi chuckled under his breath, slinging his arm around Jimin’s chair and curling his cool fingers into Jimin’s hair.

 

It’s alright, they don’t stop needing us even after they grow up. Yoongi’s voice was almost teasing. You’re allowed a little bit of fretting here and there, sometimes.

 

Jimin looked at the way Jeon Jungkook carefully cradled Taehyung’s fingers in his own, looking more relaxed and content than Jimin had ever seen him and felt a reluctant acceptance well up in him.

 

Seems like I’ve got someone to do that for me, Jimin replied.

 

“Jimin, you should have seen Jungkookie when he was a puppy – he was this high and the most adorable thing you’d have ever seen in your life, you know?” Taehyung detached one hand to indicate how small Jungkook had apparently been, delighting in the groan Jungkook let out and tried to raise his hand a bit.

 

“Not that small, god. You’re exaggerating.”

 

“Nope,” said Taehyung, cheerfully. “You could fit in one hand and go off to sleep under my chin, don’t you remember? Cutest puppy ever.”

 

“It’s you who doesn’t,” Jungkook grumbled, rolling his eyes when he saw Yoongi nodding along. “I was eleven, not five.”

 

“He’s grown up pretty big,” Yoongi said almost proudly, talking over Jungkook. Taehyung leaned in to listen to him talk about Jungkook’s passage of growing up and Jimin met Jungkook’s dark eyes.

 

I accept you.

 

Jimin wouldn’t forgive him just yet. Jungkook looked rueful when Jimin darted his eyes down to Taehyung and his connected hands with a gravitas that spoke of his distrust. Jungkook’s hand tightened around Taehyung’s imperceptibly and Jimin knew that Jungkook would work to gain Jimin’s trust, because somewhere, even he knew that it was important to him if he wanted to be around Taehyung.

 

For Taehyung’s sake, for Yoongi’s belief, he’d give Jungkook a chance.

 

Jungkook bit his lip and nodded, inhaling. The shadows melted away from his face as his shoulders relaxed. Taehyung pulled a face at Jimin when he caught him looking, determinedly yanking his attention back towards Yoongi.

 

Jimin closed his eyes and let Yoongi’s careful touch center him, exhaling to calm his frantic energy down. Unease coiled in the pit of his stomach, slow and languid and tasting something awful. Something about the entire thing felt as if he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. A catch somewhere he’d failed to see coming, along with this entire wolf thing that had practically blindsided him and choked itself down his throat.

 

Taehyung’s bright laughter pealed around Jimin, undeterred by his turmoil. And despite himself, Jimin felt his mood take a turn for the better at the sound. Jimin swallowed, squeezing his eyes shut. Realized that it had definitely been a while since he’d heard Taehyung laugh.

 

We need to talk, you and I , Jimin scolded the idiot in his head, smiling reluctantly when he heard Yoongi’s laughter chasing after it. Stupid Tae.

 

“Oi, old man Park. Park-ahjussi, hello,” Taehyung called him, as if sensing his thoughts. Jimin opened his eyes to find his best friend with a shit-eating grin on his face, the one that usually came after a cheeky comment. “I know you fantasize about me in your spare time, but you don’t have to be quite so indecent about it in public, Jesus. ”

 

“The only fantasies about you that I’ve entertained involve me gutting you with a knife and delivering you a swift death, Taetae.” Jimin smiled sweetly, eyes promising murder at Taehyung’s stupid self, especially for whipping out unnecessary jokes like those around Yoongi, of all people. Eviscerate him, Jimin definitely would, by the end of their meal.

 

 

***

 

 

Heechul observed the humans around him with a barely disguised expression of boredom, as he breathed in clean, Lifestream enriched air. Savouring the control over the body he was possessing, he admired his handiwork. The siren’s spirit was tucked away in some desolate corner of her mind, giving way to his own will to take over and move about freely, if a little encumbered by her fragile mortality. Her energy, her magic that her ancestors used to boast was merely a pale imitation of what they used to have when they dwelled in Fae Lands, in the great Tir Na Nog.

 

“Fools,” Heechul said to no one in particular, voice pitched low with disgust. Berserkers and traitors, their lot, leaving their homes and forgetting their roots and traditions.

 

Even the young djinns that crossed past him with their facades of normality, trying so hard to fit in - Heechul could practically feel their yearning in the air. Their own magic of needing to fulfil wishes restricted by the crystals they wore, only designed for creatures on this side of the realm. Such a chokehold on their natural magic, that it manifested in them with the obsessive need to latch onto a person and make them an emotional conduit. Feed off someone’s desires in a way that was harmful to both of them.

 

Fools.

 

But, in the end, they were children of the same world, just gone astray from their path,

Heechul’s unwilling realization made him want to smack his own sense of moral rationality to oblivion. The more the need to obliterate such abominations in front of his eyes, the more the long forgotten voice piped up in his head, with the need to save them from themselves.

 

Heechul licked his lips, the long forsaken Puck, Robin Goodfellow, the sweet talker of Fae lands but the hero of the dames - his voice ringing in his head once more with the beckoning of days of his glory. It was something he’d thought he’d shed a long time ago, just like the boughs of Avalon shed gold tipped leaves in Beltane. Swept away, scattered and disappearing as if they never existed in the first place.

 

Puck didn’t always used to be so twisted. So jaundiced with the bitterness of being cast out of the Courts. But that’s how it came to be. Robin Goodfellow stopped existing, scorched off the lips and memories of the Fae Folk.

 

Jaejoong certainly saw to it.

 

Hakyeon appeared next to Heechul with barely a sound, eyes brimming with darkness. In his true form, he towered over Heechul’s vessel.

 

“He’s here.”

 

Heechul exhaled and reluctantly turned his attention away from his vessel. Hakyeon appeared vexed, barely perceptible magick steaming off him in his dread.

 

There were only a few people in the world that Hakyeon would be so intimidated by, even if he tried not to show it. Since Oberon had barely bothered to keep any tabs on him, Heechul would be safe to rule him out. It wouldn’t be Taeyeon either, the Queen Titania was too busy with her consortly affairs to even look in Heechul’s direction ever again.

 

“Yesung?” he asked, not surprised.

 

Hakyeon’s grey eyes narrowed on Heechul’s.

 

“Jaejoong.” Hakyeon’s hands were fisted, white. “He’s watching over the boy.”

 

Funny, how the destiny worked. Jaejoong hadn’t crossed his mind in centuries, and yet. Yet.

 

“The boy,” Heechul mused, almost for dramatic effect. To see Hakyeon bristle at it, almost tripping over his words to remind Heechul of his spell to draw the boy’s natural Fae Magick affinity out.

 

“The boy,” Hakyeon spit it out. “The one you decided to lure to our world. Jaejoong was there –Jaejoong was the one to break it yesterday. And the moment he finds you near him again, he’s going to drive his sword into your heart and slay you.”

 

“Interesting,” Heechul said, eyes narrowed on Hakyeon. Hakyeon’s eyes narrowed further, shoulders rolling back.

 

“He’s not joking about that, Puck.” Hakyeon’s eyes were quietly furious.

 

“That’s not what’s interesting,” replied Heechul, carefully, twisting a lock of black hair around a dainty finger. “The fact that you seem almost scared of the boy is.”

 

Hakyeon was quiet, lips pursed.

 

“There’s something strange hovering around him, Puck.”

 

Heechul nodded casually, raising his hand to gently pat Hakyeon on the head. Almost dismissively. Hakyeon’s eyes were blazing into his with a demanding concern.

 

“Promise me, you won’t do anything reckless.”

 

Heechul chuckled and looked down at himself. His siren vessel. She had chosen quite a flattering outfit for herself when Heechul had let go of the strings of her consciousness for the slightest bit, elegant and revealing.

 

“She’s being a wonderful host,” Heechul said, throwing a non sequitur for no reason, if maybe to rattle Hakyeon. It was almost a compulsion at this point. Hakyeon’s eyes glowed in turmoil, repressed as it was. “Her mind was quite easy to break, really.”

 

Hakyeon’s throat bobbed as he ducked his head, almost boringly submissive. How predictable, Heechul mused vaguely. “What am I to do?” Hakyeon asked tonelessly.

 

“Don’t worry about the boy, for starters. Keep a lookout for the magick of the Sceptre, if you find any hint of it. Be my ears, while my body rests back in the bough of the Willow Tree near the Lake of Worlds.”

 

Hakyeon nodded, and in the next blink of Heechul’s eyes, he was gone.

 

The boy was giving him more trouble than Heechul had reckoned. He was clearly under Jaejoong’s protection somehow. But how? Had Yesung been in touch with Jaejoong? Had he been the one to tell him about their interaction, to let him in on how Heechul had openly planned to investigate the human boy with his strange Fae Magick?

 

He inhaled sharply, yanking his eyes off the grassy ground when a scream meant for his vessel caught his attention. “Joohyun-unnie! Irene-ssi, our celebrity, our voice, my savior,” a noisy, brown haired girl giggled as she ran for her, chased by a curious little wolf child behind her.

 

Eunji, his vessel supplied almost meekly. Eunji and Heeyeon and Byulyi.

 

“Save me,” Eunji squeaked when she stopped in front of her, chancing a frantic glance behind her. Heeyeon, the wolf child, only cocked her head to the side with a toothy grin reached for her, deliberately controlled strength as she tugged Eunji away.

 

“I’m going to make you pay for a boba, you think you’re getting off this easily?” Heeyeon laughed.

 

She was certainly beautiful, Heechul could admit. There was wildness in her eyes, typical of the fierce wolf spirit she carried within. Her magic smelled like the sharp ozone in the wind just before lightning struck the earth, Heechul remembered from ages ago, back when crossing over to the mortal realm from Avalon was still as easy as stepping over stones in a still pool of water.

 

“Hey, unnie.” Byulyi winked at him, sly and mischievous. “Want to dunk these kids in that Fortune Fountain?”

 

Heechul smoothed down the pleats of the skirt Joohyun had decided to wear in the morning when he’d relinquished hold of her consciousness, a practiced and easy smile on his face.

 

“What’s that?”

 

Byulyi startled, though not too violently to make Heechul want to draw his glamour out to do any damage control.

 

“I thought we showed you around Eastern Campus,” she laughed lightly. “Must really suck being so old and losing track of things, unnie.”

 

“Yah,” Heechul protested, Joohyun’s delicate voice rising up by reflex. Joohyun must not be a very confrontational one, considering how relaxed the girls all looked around her. It would seem out of character if Heechul reached out to crush the human’s neck with Joohyun’s dainty fingers.

 

Keeping it quiet, it was.

 

Moon Byulyi grinned, as if she was sharing a joke with Heechul.

 

“Alright, lets go to the library before all the seats are taken up by those sleepless zombies of sophomores walking around.”

 

“Like this one?” The wild wolf girl knuckled Eunji fondly on her nose.

 

“Hey, I take offence to that.” Eunji protested, a flare of bright energy around her. “I’m one part student, two parts coffee, and all parts sunshine. What exactly about me speaks undead?”

 

Heechul tongued the back of his teeth, eyes catching on a lithe form leaping over the heads in his periphery. As he walked with the girls to the library, he rubbed his Magick between his thumb and index finger warily.

 

Hakyeon dipped his head in uneasy acquiescence and followed after them, keeping an eye out for the web of magick Heechul spread out.

 

 

***

 

 

“You plan on following me to my classes, Jungkook?” Taehyung asked amusedly. Jungkook held his books captive, almost acting as if the moment he departed from Taehyung’s side would result in him being spirited away by something.

 

“It’s not a bad idea,” Jungkook replied, as if he was almost considering it. Taehyung rolled his eyes and took off the books from him.

 

“Okay, dude. You gotta attend your own classes, okay? Alchemy is going to fly over your head. You don’t want to be on the opposite end of a transmutation gone wrong, trust me.”

 

Jungkook scowled, shuffling on his feet and looking shifty. Taehyung eyed the small entourage trailing behind them since Jungkook and Taehyung had stopped by his apartment for his books, for the afternoon classes. It was with a slight horror that Taehyung had realized he’d missed more than five days worth of classes, without his knowledge, during that strange part of his week spent blacked out. Jungkook had looked uneasy when Taehyung had asked him about it.

 

“Even your squad looks like they want you back,” Taehyung joked, pushing Jungkook softly. Jungkook startled and darted a glance behind him.

 

“Oh. Them.” He didn’t sound surprised. He didn’t make any move to elaborate so Taehyung gaped at him.

 

“So they’re really your squad?”

 

Jungkook shrugged, a corner of his mouth lifting. “Sorta. They’re stuck on protection duty.”

 

Taehyung didn’t exactly like the way Jungkook put it. As if he was putting up with them. Or, they were. He frowned at him.

 

“They’re your friends, right?” Taehyung’s worry had Jungkook rolling his eyes.

 

“Yeah. Friends.”

 

“Are you giving me sass, Jeon Jungkook?” Taehyung demanded heatedly. “You are, aren’t you?”

 

Jungkook pushed him towards the class with a determined look in his eyes, a little more willingly than before.

 

“Go. I’ll meet you after your class is over.”

 

“Kookie,” Taehyung wrinkled his nose at him. “Kookie, treat your friends nice, or else they’ll ditch you.”

 

“I’ll still have you, won’t I?” Jungkook asked, as if he was sure of Taehyung’s answer, smile finally turning into a grin that showed his adorable overbite and scrunched up his eyes. Taehyung rolled his eyes and stepped into the class, waving a final goodbye to Jungkook.

 

Almost immediately, he felt the absence of Jungkook’s presence. It was subtle thing, the drum of his heart calming down now that Jungkook’s heat was absent. Taehyung barely had the time to dwell on it. Sungjae, who was the first one to see him, mouth falling open as he smashed an elbow over the levitating chess board in his hurry to get up and call him over.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen.” Sanghyuk crawled onto the table to escape Sungjae’s flailing limbs. His face scrunched up in disgust as the chess pieces clung to his trousers, the knights stabbing little pin swords into his jeans to hold on. “Make way for the resident disaster to go through, before he ends up smashing you to death.”

 

“Shut the fuck up,” Sungjae hurled back cheerfully when he reached Taehyung, panting. “My partner in crime is back! And with fantastic hair at that! Hallelujah, my grades are saved.”

 

“Alright, alright – back it up,” Taehyung laughed as Sungjae wrapped a demanding arm around him and tugged him to his chest.

 

Seungcheol popped his head up groggily; drool trickling out of his mouth. The girl sitting next to him cackled, causing him to blush in contrition when he noticed the drool.

 

“You piece of trash,” Sanghyuk yelled back. “Ditching your best friend for the new, hot thing. Just ‘cause we got similar subjects this year, you decide to forget your oldest friend, motherfucker.”

 

Sungjae’s eyes twinkled and he slung an arm over Taehyung’s shoulders and steered him over to their tables.

 

“Did you hear that, Taetae? Hyukkie thinks you’re hot. Who the hell is your hairdresser, dude, gimme his name.”

 

Taehyung put his books and his deck of cards on the empty spot in front of a sleepy Seungcheol, who put up his hand in greeting, wincing only a little when Taehyung high fived him in greeting instead.

 

“Hungover,” Seungcheol explained, with a glance towards the hollering duo next to him, that pretty much explained everything.

 

Taehyung cocked an eyebrow and shuffled his cards, shifting in surprise when the King of Clubs and the newly Crafted Queen of Clubs rose without his command, pulling out their family to greet Taehyung.

 

“Seek.” He smiled at them, directing them towards Seungcheol.

 

Yes, master,” they chorused jubilantly, ignoring Taehyung’s pleased confusion as they hovered over Seungcheol’s head and healed him.

 

Good day?” He asked his cards. They hummed in his hand, thrumming together with energy. Stronger energy than usual.

 

“Thanks, Taehyungie.” Seungcheol looked weary, but a little less pale.

 

“There’s a nifty spell for that kind of thing, you know?”

 

“I don’t think I have enough Lifestream in me for the amount of spells I’d have to exercise to keep up with them, you know?” Seungcheol rested his chin on the heel of his palm, staring at him from under half lidded, sleepy eyes.

 

“How have you been?”

 

“Down with a cold, man.” Taehyung sat in front of him, rolling his eyes when Sanghyuk was pushed onto him.

 

“The lovebirds, my heart can’t take it anymore. Wheein-ah! Save me!” Sungjae moaned dramatically, getting irritated looks cast his way as the people around him scrambled to summon the wayward chess pieces.

 

“Wait a second,” Taehyung chuckled along with Sanghyuk, lifting a quickly fleeing horse out of the back of his shirt as Sanghyuk giggled at his ticklish fingers. Taehyung emerged triumphant, holding a struggling horse piece out to him. “This crafty one was trying to crawl into your pants.”

 

The girl next to Seungcheol made a jubilant noise and snatched it out of his palm, setting it back on the chessboard that grumbled at being straightened again.

 

“Thanks.” Sanghyuk laughed and stood up to horse around with Sungjae again. Taehyung watched them with a grin, thinking about Jimin.

 

He shuffled his deck of cards, licking his lip and watching as the Ace of Hearts tucked itself out of his deck and hovered in the air. The King of Hearts and the Jack of Hearts detached themselves from his deck and stood beside the Axel, guarding him ferociously and Taehyung’s grin widened.

 

“Way to go, Minnie,” Taehyung crowed to himself in joy. Jimin’s love was strong and fierce, and he’d conquered at last. Taehyung let himself slump back and laugh breathlessly in joy for his best friend. His soulmate had found him.

 

Taehyung quickly took out his phone to snap a picture of the three cards, snickering as the Jack and the King posed for it, the Queen of Hearts also tucking herself out to hover beside them.

 

“Okay, okay, you’re all in it,” he murmured, taking a short video of himself making a disbelieving face. He sent it to Jimin on kakao, accompanied by a slew of love emojis. Puking and poop emojis behind them for good measure. Jimin replied almost instantly, as if he was waiting for Taehyung.

 

You’re lucky those poop emojis aren’t spelled, dipshit<

 

Taehyung yelped as the angry emojis stung his palm.

but!!!!

did you see??!

the cards love you now!

bow down to me, your overlord

the one who made this all possible

 

Jimin sent a selca back of him making a skeptical face.

 

Just keep that joker away from me and all will be good.

stfu it was all me and my weeks of effort to break hyung down

And stop cracking those weird puns around him, would you!!

So embarrassing T-T

 

“Class, is everyone here?” The teacher chimed in from the podium, voice spelled loud. Taehyung wiped the wet sensation away from his palm and switched off his mobile, tucking it into his pocket as Sungjae wrangled the seat next to him and shoved him inside, setting his own pearly rubic’s pentagon down next to his scattered cards, bubbles rising out of it.

 

Did Jungkook have a phone, Taehyung wondered, something warm curling inside him in happiness at the thought of Jungkook, himself. Things felt right, better than they had been in a long time, now that Taehyung had found Jungkook again.

 

Or, Taehyung corrected himself, Jungkook had found him once again.

 

“Do a reading for me,” Sungjae insisted eagerly, voice low. “I’ll let you have a taste of the latest supply of chrysalis, bro. It’s fucking dope, man – you’re going to grow actual wings when you take a hit.”

 

Taehyung sighed and ignored him with a patience of a saint, looking outside the window.

 

An hour and half till he could be outside, be with Jungkook again.

 

 

***

 

 

“Bad idea, right?” Mingyu asked Yugyeom, watching the pack heir smile as the lilac haired boy next to him tucked his hand into his elbow.

 

Yugyeom hummed, catching Jungkook’s eyes as they shot to the tree they were lounging in. There was a spark of territorial fury in them, for the faintest second, before he calmed down.

 

Yugyeom held up his hands in a peace offering, tilting his neck to the side. The pack heir looked back as the boy next to him – Taehyung – laughed at something.

 

“Not so much.” Yugyeom smiled, finding the pack heir’s almost helplessly adoring expression endearing. “It’s college, Kim-ssi ahjussi. He’s allowed to be young and in love.”

 

Mingyu inhaled, eyes sharpening and expression pensive.

 

“Yugyeom,” He said solemnly, looking at him. Yugyeom turned to him with a crooked smile.

 

“You don’t know shit about love.”

 

Yugyeom reached out and swiped at his brother, annoyed.

 

“Just because we were born in the same litter, doesn’t mean I’m as dense as you when it comes to love.”

 

Mingyu snorted, reaching out deftly to deliver a soft box to his ears that Yugyeom whined at. He almost toppled out of the tree when Mingyu followed it up with a poke to his waist.

 

“You wanna talk dense, you little dipshit, I saw you making puppy eyes at Bambam when you thought we weren’t looking.”

 

Yugyeom flushed and looked at him reproachfully. “Gyu, god. I almost forgot how annoying you were.”

 

Mingyu flashed him a grin that was all too insincere and Yugyeom could suddenly see Jaebum in the lines of his mouth. His face dropped and he tried to turn away, but Mingyu, like with everything else, was far too quick in noticing the shift of his expression.

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing,” Yugyeom replied. Jaebum-hyung never had the chance to get to know Mingyu, nor had Mingyu ever known their older brother. Anyang was a long way from their pack, for their omega mother to have separated from their father just after they were born. Their father had claimed Yugyeom, being the beta that he was, sending his alpha son away with the omega to live in Anyang.

 

He knew he smelled wrong, but his brother didn’t raise the topic.

 

“The pack heir seems harmless, doesn’t he?” Mingyu wondered, his eyes trained on their backs. Taehyung, who was perhaps a third year, was charming colourful paper butterflies around him, laughing as Jungkook aimed a mischievous glance towards him and picked him up, forcing him to wrap his hands around Jungkook’s neck and legs around his waist. Jungkook sped off with him, and Mingyu twitched.

 

“Are you really okay with this?” he asked Yugyeom, looking more unsettled than he’d ever seen him. Aside from, perhaps, when Jungkook had almost ripped Jung Hoseok’s arm off his shoulder. His dark eyes were somber on Yugyeom’s. “You know it’s not allowed. Jeon Jungkook, of all people, shouldn’t be allowed to have any sorts of romantic attachments with humans.”

 

Yugyeom swallowed.

 

Of all people.

 

“Of course, I am not okay with this,” he replied softly. “Of course I am as disturbed about this as you. But it’s not like we can do anything else, can we?”

 

Mingyu closed his eyes and leaned back on the branch of the tree.

 

“Doesn’t matter. Let the pack heir have his fun. The moment the pack shamans read it in his future and the fury of the High Alpha rains blood down on all of us, it’s probably gonna end anyway.”

 

Yugyeom tilted his head to the side, noting the morbid humour in his voice. His brother was more like Jaebum than he ever knew.

 

“You really don’t like the pack heir, do you?”

 

Mingyu shrugged, mouth pursed in a thin line.

 

And that, Yugyeom supposed, was answer in itself.

 

 

***

 

 

“I need to show you something.” Taehyung nuzzled his head into Jungkook’s hair, breathing. Jungkook hummed and slowed down to a jog, holding his weight effortlessly.

 

“Are we far away from your chaperones now?” Taehyung asked quietly. Jungkook turned his face to the side and inhaled, and Taehyung, despite himself, felt his heart stuttering at the proximity to Jungkook’s pretty lips.

 

It felt like a dream, the night before – that Jungkook had been kissing him awake. Almost something like a fairy tale itself.

 

Taehyung found himself wondering if Jungkook’s lips would still taste the same.

 

“Yeah, we’re safe.” Jungkook seemed reluctant to set him down, so Taehyung didn’t complain. It was comforting, to have Jungkook’s warm hands holding his thighs up around him anyway.

 

“You know the Medical Facility? The one with the weird statue of Asclepius, that old dude with the freaky snake staff?”

 

Jungkook cocked his head to the side, contemplating it. “Maybe. One of my hyungs works there as a medic.”

 

Taehyung called out his Jack of Spades, finding it hovering in the air in front of him excitedly.

 

“Back up,” he complained, feeling fond as the other Jacks started quarrelling for his attention again. “Lead the way, Non-Gifted Medical Facility, Jack.”

 

Jack saluted him in a friendly manner and winked at Jungkook before zooming off. Taehyung broke out in giggles when Jungkook made a questioning sound.

 

“He asked you to try and keep up.”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes.

 

“I’m not getting into a competition with a magic card, of all things, Taehyung.”

 

“Then Jack will be happy he won the match,” Taehyung teased. His cards must have sensed Jungkook’s, the way they had been buzzing happily around him the past few days.

 

“You know, I think my cards knew about you long before I did?”

 

Jungkook faltered in his steps, hands tightening around Taehyung’s legs.

 

“Is that so?” he asked neutrally, voice controlled.

 

“Yeah, the suites were buzzing about you for weeks, I think. I remember them keeping something from me. Each and every one of them was in on a secret I didn’t know.” Taehyung pouted.

 

The Queen of Hearts hushed the squalling smaller suites, the ones Taehyung suspected had developed quite a crush on Jungkook, considering the way they kept peeking out of his pocket to grasp his energy.

 

“They’re quite enamoured with you, you know?” Taehyung murmured in Jungkook’s ear.

 

Jungkook laughed in reply, almost nonchalantly.

 

“You jealous?”

 

“Of my cards? Nah,” Taehyung’s voice deepened. He felt a tremor run up Jungkook’s spine as he brushed his fingers against Jungkook’s neck and felt something utterly pleased fill him at the thought of having caused a rise out of Jungkook. Something inside him liked the thought of teasing Jungkook. “They’re a part of me.”

 

“Why are you so slow, Master!” The indignant voice of the Jack of Spades broke his attention away from Jungkook. The card was hovering in front of them and the Jack of Spades had already unsheathed his sword in his indignation, the poky edge pointing towards Taehyung’s nose. Taehyung reached up slowly to flick his card before the Jack escaped. The Jack of Spades let out a howl of complaint as the other Jacks in Taehyung’s pocket snickered.

 

“It’s your fault for running off without me, kiddo.”

 

Jungkook was still staring at him, so Taehyung flicked him too.

 

“Get going, there’s something really special you should see.”

 

Jungkook didn’t shift his dark eyes away from him, and Taehyung bit his lip at the heat that curled low in his gut. His heart thudded louder in his chest, and Taehyung just knew that Jungkook would be able to hear it.

 

“Let’s go?” Taehyung almost squeaked. Damn him, Jungkook, his wolf, he would never let him have the upper hand in anything, would he?

 

“Yeah.” Jungkook’s voice was gritty as he shifted his eyes away, flickering around his mouth before focusing forward on the impatient card. “Let’s go.”

 

When Jungkook let him down near the entrance of the Non-Gifted Wards, looking around with confusion and a scrunched nose, Taehyung tugged him on.

 

“What’s wrong?” Taehyung yelped when Jungkook didn’t budge, fingers tangling in Taehyung’s sweater and holding strong.

 

“Do we really need to go inside?” Jungkook asked uneasily, barely breathing.

 

“Kinda.” Taehyung frowned, studying Jungkook. His eyes were strained, and he seemed to be barely holding in a wince. When Taehyung saw his eyes dart towards the opened doors, nose crinkling again, he figured it out.

 

“The scent?” he asked in a low voice. Jungkook grit his teeth, not willing to admit it.

 

“Stubborn little wolf,” Taehyung laughed in amusement. “Keep close to me. We’ll be out in the air soon.”

 

“What is it?” Jungkook asked, disgruntled when he was asked to hand his staff over. He looked at the nurse with the dirtiest look Taehyung had ever seen someone give. “No staff on me right now, I’ve got crystals.”

 

Taehyung left his cards in the filter tray, laughing at the Dampening Patch Jungkook was forced to put around his earrings. Taehyung helped him stick them on, feeling him breathe easier when Taehyung was in front of him.

 

“You’ll see,” he murmured softly, combing Jungkook’s hair back. It had been a long time since he’d returned to see Jolee, but he hoped she would not take it to heart. If she did, Taehyung would try his best to gain her affections again.

 

He led them towards the room he only barely remembered, an eager spring to his step. Jungkook fell into step beside him obediently, curious as well and Taehyung smiled as he opened the door to a familiar room, eyes landing on the little girl on the bed. She wasn’t wearing pigtails this time, hazy eyes focusing on Taehyung and sharpening in disbelief when he stepped into the room.

 

“Hey, Joy,” Taehyung grinned warmly.

 

It immediately fell of his face the instant Jolee started bawling, no holds barred, big tears leaking out of her eyes. He let out a squeak and looked at Jungkook for help.

 

Jungkook's eyes were wide and distressed at the sight, shoulders hunching in as if he'd like to do nothing more than hide behind Taehyung. Taehyung sighed.

 

Figured that Jungkook would be the one terrified of the little, crying girl.

 

 

***

 

 

 

Hoseok watched the kids of the Seoul pack hustle the ones from Gyeonggi-do, sharp grins and eyes flaring blue and gold amongst themselves. The Final Demonstrations for the obstacle course was over, only the final matches to decide the strongest player amongst them was left. Hoseok studied the way a blonde Gyeonggi wolf palmed the deck, using a deft hand to slip a card inside his sleeve as he picked up one more.

 

“How’s the crowd looking this year?” A gentle voice had him stiffening. The wolf that came down the steps was an unfamiliar one, yet there was something about him that reminded Hoseok of someone. He had dyed brown hair and sharp, wolfish eyes that were at odds with his hesitant voice and measured steps. He was an alpha, yet he didn’t smell at all like his wolf. It was such a faint and muted scent that even Hoseok had trouble trying to discern his rank.

 

“Now that depends on which team you’re rooting for, doesn’t it?” Hoseok replied, inclining his head when the alpha sat down next to him. The alpha seemed to relax at Hoseok’s friendly words, a small corner of his lips lifting up.

 

“The winning one, of course.”

 

Hoseok exhaled in faint amusement and grinned, pointing at the kids who were scratching their heads, watching as the Gyeonggi wolves turned the entire game on them. Hoseok’s fellow trainers seemed content to kick back at a distance and jeer mockingly at them. Jiho snickered with Kihyun at the maknaes snapping their teeth back at them.

 

“Those dimwits from Seoul pack. They have the best chance of winning the Demonstrations right now.”

 

The alpha’s emotions were tightly controlled, not one chemical marker out of place to bely his mood. Good skill, whoever had trained it into him. His smile seemed to turn wistful when his eyes darted over the third years, chin cradled on his palm as he watched the cards shuffle through hands.

 

“You don’t have her, do you? You don’t have the old bitch,” Taehyun’s voice was vicious with his triumph as he pinned down the Gyeonggi alpha with his stare. Minho leaned forward with flared nostrils and glinting, challenge glowing in his fierce eyes. The Gyeonggi alpha smirked, almost as if he was toying around with Taehyun.

 

“You impatient Seoul City idiots,” he snorted. “You think you know it all, don’t you? How ironic would it be if I did actually have her?”

 

“The Queen of Hearts is actually hidden up his sleeve,” Hoseok told the alpha, amused. Taehyun had caught the slight bit of cheating the Gyeonggi alpha had done and used his flicker Gift to jab the card out of his sleeve and into his grasp before the alpha had a chance to even notice anything. “It’s a royal flush for Taehyun, but the Gyeonggi alpha thinks he’s got the better hand.”

 

“Seems fun,” the alpha said, turning to look at Hoseok curiously. “Are you not going to take part in those games?”

 

Hoseok shrugged, scratching at the spot on his shoulder which seemed to itch a lot.

 

“Somehow, I never got into the whole ‘let's play painful psychological games and see who sticks out the longest’.” He yawned around his words, meeting the alpha’s eyes head on. “Haven’t seen you around before.”

 

“Im Jaebum,” the wolf offered his hand, and Hoseok took it after a moment stifling his surprise.

 

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said, a little tightly. Why did that name sound so familiar? In Hoseok's experience, anything familiar that wasn’t instantly in his friendly category never seemed to be any good. “Jung Hoseok.”

 

“Which year?” Jaebum asked, drawing his hand back. His hold had been surprisingly relaxed for an alpha, when Hoseok had expected a rough grip and grind of the bones in his hand. When Hoseok hesitated to tell him, Jaebum willingly offered up his own. Hoseok couldn’t stop the sound of his surprise from slipping out.

 

“Same?” Jaebum asked, cocking his head when Hoseok nodded. “No wonder. I’ve seen you around sometimes, but -” he cut himself off, swallowing and looking almost guilty and Hoseok frowned at it.

 

“Do you belong to the Seoul pack, Jaebum?”

 

Jaebum swallowed, eyes casting nervously over the other wolves that were engrossed in the on going game.

 

“Once upon a time, I - I used to.”

 

“Oh.” Hoseok licked his dry lips and wondered about the stories he’d heard. Turned out, he might just know who this alpha was.

 

Im Jaebum. The scandalous, runaway wolf from the Seoul Pack, firstborn of the pack’s Second Beta. A huge clusterfuck of things where the High Alpha had deliberately not labelled him as a rogue wolf, technically still titling him under his own protection even if he ran amok.

 

“I saw your brother the other day,” Hoseok offered, not telling Jaebum how it had been only when the pack heir had been handing him his ass. Quite painfully and unnecessarily in front of humans, at that, like an out of control and rabid wolfpup. “He looks like a decent kid.”

 

Jaebum smiled faintly. “He takes after his mother, I’ll tell you that. If you met my father, you wouldn’t have such a flattering opinion of one half of Yugyeom’s parentage anymore.”

 

“Little dude seems to have done alright, though. Landing a job with the pack heir’s entourage.” Hoseok caught the curious play of pride and skepticism on Jaebum’s chiselled features. Jaebum met his eyes and seemed to instantly clam up.

 

“Not a fan of it?” Hoseok tilted his head to the side.

 

“It’s not that I don’t like it,” Jaebum started cautiously, knowing one wrong word against the Seoul pack’s heir would have almost all of the wolves snapping at his neck. “I’m just. It’s an honour he even got chosen, that too by the pack heir himself.”

 

“Born with the wolf heart, amongst prey blood of his kin,” Hoseok quoted the High Alpha from memory, grimacing. “Moon blessed.”

 

“Moon blessed,” Jaebum repeated, churning it around his mouth with an uneasy expression. “The moon inspires madness more than any other thing in nature. The pack heir was always surrounded by danger back when I was in the pack.”

 

“We are all born with the moon’s grace in us, too, Jaebum.” Hoseok wondered how long it had been since Jaebum had even turned. Had he even been on a run with a pack since he’d deserted their pack? Wolves thrived in numbers after all. They were not designed to run alone on the full moon and howl solitarily up at the sky. “How long has it been since you’ve shifted?”

 

Jaebum was quiet for a lonely second, and something in Hoseok ached.

 

“A few months,” he said finally, closing his eyes. His sharp, fierce features were at such odds with the odd fragility to him, Hoseok thought. “It’s been six months.”

 

Hoseok’s throat closed up at the mere thought, and with difficulty he swallowed down the pity. Man couldn’t live by bread alone, after all. If there was no one who’d offer this to Jaebum, because of the stigma attached to him, it was - Hoseok didn’t even think about it before he spoke.

 

“We’re friends, right? Same year? Feel free to join me on a run, anytime.”

 

Before Jaebum even had a chance to reply, something banged loudly behind them.

 

“Yo, JB!”

 

Jaebum and Hoseok flinched together at the sharp sound cutting through the conversations like a knife through hot melted butter. Hoseok turned to look when Jaebum cringed.

 

Namjoon was being dragged into the auditorium by a guy who was two whole heads shorter than him, beefy arm slung over his neck. The guy’s voice was unapologetically loud, and the toothy grin on his face was louder than anything else. The way he was draped over Namjoon had Hoseok’s eyebrows rising in surprise.

 

Definitely not a wolf.

 

“Jackson.” Jaebum sighed and got up, resigned. He froze when his eyes met Namjoon’s over Jackson’s head, but Jackson didn’t pay it any attention, flinging himself off Namjoon and into Jaebum’s almost instinctive arms.

 

“Don’t say I never did anything for you,” Jackson crowed, effectively commanding all the attention in the room. He ignored Jaebum’s muttering of ‘you loudmouthed idiot,’ with a grace that spoke of how familiar he was with Jaebum. “This is Namjoonie, Namjoonie - this is my best friend, Jaebum.”

 

“Hyung,” Jaebum stressed to Jackson, almost petulantly. Hoseok found Namjoon’s eyes as they fastened on Jaebum. Namjoon bowed politely, even though all of them knew it was not his place to do so. Jaebum flushed in faint embarrassment.

 

“It’s nice to meet you.”

 

Jaebum, almost immediately, bowed lower than Namjoon.

 

“No - uh, it’s an honour.”

 

“Kim Namjoon.” Namjoon’s eyes were curious as he looked at Jaebum and Hoseok realised that the two of them were the same height. “Any friend of Jackson is a friend of ours.”

 

“Damn straight,” Jackson laughed, and it was such an uplifting sound that Hoseok couldn’t help it when his lips tugged up in a grin. “All of my friends are fucking awesome. You guys know how lucky you are to have me here and drag you recluses out of your hidey holes to interact with people? Gods know that you both would just wither away if I wasn’t here.”

 

Jaebum and Namjoon snorted almost in unison.

 

“What kind of dreams have you been having, Jackson? Who wants to see your mug every day, in and out.”

 

Jackson pouted in mock hurt, raising his hands with an expressive scowl on his face.

 

“Begone, such foul words. You dare to speak them in my presence, Kim Namjoon?”

 

Jaebum seized Jackson’s ear painfully and bowed again, almost apologetic. “Sorry about him, he needs a leash and a muzzle some days.”

 

“Why are you so kinky, Jaebum-hyung? God, I’m pretty sure you and Namjoon could probably bond over weird dirty BDSM things.”

 

Hoseok choked, in unison with almost all the remaining wolves who were forced to hear Jackson outing one of their most respected alpha leaders’ private preferences. Namjoon smacked his head with his palm, looking utterly done with his life.

 

“Jackson!” Jaebum hissed in chastisement, ears glowing pink.

 

“He’s kinda crazy, isn’t he?” Hoseok murmured with wide eyes, watching Jackson struggle in Jaebum’s hold with a new kind of wariness he’d never had to exercise around humans. Was Jackson even human, considering how easily he hung out around wolves and didn't seem to detect the dangerous vibes emanating off them?

 

“He’s a siren. It was bound to fall either this side of the fence or the other, anyway,” Jaebum explained, wincing as Jackson jabbed at him. “Jackson, stop! Have you even been to see Jinyoung in the Medical Centre yet? He's pissed off at you.”

 

Lightning fast, Jackson stiffened in Jaebum’s arms, face dropping.

 

“Scaredy cat,” Jaebum muttered lightly, but bowed accordingly to Namjoon. “Sorry for encroach - for coming in without permission.”

 

Namjoon shook his head. “No offence taken. Feel free to come in anytime, it’s University grounds after all.”

 

Jaebum looked uneasy as he nodded, catching the underlying message. He pulled Jackson along with him, looking over his shoulder to throw a half hearted smile at Hoseok before he closed the door behind him.

 

Namjoon looked at him and Hoseok pulled a face.

 

“Asshole.”

 

“Your arm doing alright?” Namjoon asked gently, face creased in concern. “Hobi, are you sure you’re up to roaming around like this? That fracture was serious, wasn’t it?”

 

“Not you too,” Hoseok groaned, slinging his uninjured arm around Namjoon and leading him towards Jiho. “I’ve been lectured on this by Seokjin already.”

 

Namjoon followed, biting his lip.

 

“I’ll talk to Jungkook. Don’t worry Hoseok, Yoongi is definitely not going to let Jungkook escape unscathed once he hears about this.”

 

“I haven’t told Yoongi about it yet,” Hoseok told Namjoon casually. “There’s no need to drag this out.”

 

“We’re your best friends!” Namjoon protested, when Jiho looked up at them with a wolfish grin, cheeks pushed up to his eyes. Jiho seemed to take no heed of Namjoon’s self-righteous anger. “Joonie! You finally brought your fake piece of philosophical ass over here! Guys, move over, quick. Seriously, quick, before Joon breaks you all.”

 

“I know,” Hoseok smiled at Namjoon, warmth flowing through his chest when they were both pulled down to rough house with the other wolves. Jiho locked his arm around Namjoon’s neck, choking him playfully, and Hoseok laughed along with the others when Namjoon started turning blue.

 

Not running away, he told himself. Kim Taehyung’s safety is more important than me turning my head and looking the other way. Not this time. Besides, making Yoongi choose sides between me or Jungkook would only come to bite me on the ass now, wouldn’t it?

 

“Yah, Hobi-yah! Help me out,” Namjoon choked, reaching out as if Hoseok was his last support, even if all of them well knew that Hoseok was no match for either Jiho and Namjoon, and that Namjoon, himself was quite skilled enough to get out of the hold.

 

Hoseok grinned and lunged for Jiho, revelling in the heat of limbs and the sharp growls the wolves around him let out.

 

***

 

“Tae!” Jungkook called out, voice strained. Taehyung paused and looked back, eyes wide.

 

Jungkook was stuck in the magical Hopscotch.

 

Taehyung burst out in peals of laughter at the look on Jungkook’s face, stricken and what the fuck do I even do, stop laughing, you stupid human spelled out blatantly in his wavering eyes.

 

Taehyung, by an instinct finely honed over months of immersing himself in defeating the campus tricks, had hopped over the exact spot the hopscotch liked to linger in wait for him. But Jungkook had no such prior warning of the eccentric hopscotch’s behaviour to go off on, getting himself stuck to the spot and unable to move out, a large hourglass blinking in his face.

 

“Quick, you gotta lob the hourglass to the next circle before the hopscotch fucks with you.” Taehyung grinned at Jungkook’s grimace.

 

“Really? Seriously?” Jungkook looked as if he was utterly exasperated with the concept of it, wrinkling his nose down at the glimmering hopscotch circles. “I’m not doing it, this stupid thing can’t hold me in forever.”

 

Taehyung pouted as the hourglass finished trickling its energy sand. The hopscotch manifested a chalk drawing next to the circle Jungkook was standing in, a wrinkly peach that shook its fist up at Jungkook. You wanna die? The hourglass wrote, aimed at Jungkook, sounding extremely ticked off.

 

“Fuck you,” Jungkook responded, quite calmly. Taehyung wondered if Jungkook realised how endearingly stupid he was being, arguing with a charmed trick.

 

The hourglass drew a ominous skull drawing next to the peach. The skull stuck out a tongue from between its teeth, hollows in the space of its eyes glaring up at him. The skeletal hand next to it stuck up its figurative middle finger. Get bent, asshole.

 

Taehyung sighed when Jungkook seemed to almost blow his lid off, deciding to go and help him out before Jungkook destroyed the entire area around him with his energy.

 

“Come on, don’t be like that,” Taehyung teased Jungkook, walking up next to the hopscotch. Jungkook grumbled when the hopscotch started buzzing with happy energy when Taehyung stepped into a chalky circle next to Jungkook. Puppies and rainbow drawings bounced around his feet when the hourglass flickered into being next to his hip. Taehyung cocked up an eyebrow at Jungkook and grinned. “Watch.”

 

Taehyung aimed the hourglass into Jungkook’s circle, and when it landed, the hopscotch went back to being ticked off. It started shrinking the circle around Jungkook’s feet, as if commanding Taehyung to try again, but Taehyung snorted and hopped nimbly.

 

Jungkook caught him, exhaling softly when the weight of Taehyung’s body pushed against him. Taehyung cocked his head at Jungkook with a teasing expression and stepped down on Jungkook’s insteps. Jungkook, who was barely a few breaths away, flushed and rolled his eyes.

 

The hopscotch buzzed angrily, the hourglass jabbing itself in between Taehyung and Jungkook insistently. Taehyung wrapped one hand around Jungkook’s broad, big shoulders and did his best to not concentrate on the line of his hip and his chest pressed flush against Jungkook’s overwhelming heat. He grabbed the blue hourglass and bounced it to a circle that was a little ways further away from them, hoping Jungkook could cross the distance.

 

“Don’t fuck with the game, Hoppy,” Taehyung warned, watching the hourglass soar. The circle which had covertly been sneaking away from its path froze, letting the hourglass land.

 

Taehyung hummed happily and looked back at Jungkook, freezing as he did so. Jungkook’s eyes were dilated, fixed on Taehyung with an unnerving intensity. He was suddenly so near, and everything around them smelled so irresistibly like rain and forests and earth that Taehyung’s words dried up in his throat.

 

“Tae,” Jungkook’s voice was so breathy that Taehyung’s heart stuttered in its path. His eyes fell upon Jungkook’s lips and suddenly all Taehyung could think about was how Jungkook had kissed him in the forest, gentle and fierce at once, stealing the breath right out of his lungs.

 

The hopscotch buzzed in anger behind them and Taehyung gasped, arms loosening around Jungkook’s shoulders. Jungkook caught him before Taehyung stumbled right off his feet, strong fingers wrapping around his hip. A shiver went down Taehyung’s spine at his touch, torturous in its intensity.

 

“Jungkook.” Taehyung cleared his throat, trying his best to not let Jungkook’s dark, dark eyes and his delicate, long eyelashes distract him again. Jungkook’s fingers felt scorching over his hip, even through the cotton of his shirt, as if they’d leave a brand behind. “You’ve got to jump before the hourglass ends, or else we’ll be stuck in here all evening. I - I don’t think we’d want that.”

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook whispered, eyes cloudy. His tongue swept out over his lip, leaving a bright, mesmerising sheen behind that drew Taehyung’s eyes instantly. “Okay.”

 

“I’m serious,” Taehyung reiterated hopelessly, because Jungkook looked like he was about to kiss him. A tingle started in his neck at the thought, heat collecting at the base of his spine welcomingly. “I- we have to move, Kook.”

 

Jungkook, with what looked like great effort, swallowed and closed his eyes. Taehyung couldn’t look away from him, even if he wished to.

 

“Where?” Jungkook asked, voice strangled and eyes barely open. Taehyung pointed to the circle that was glowing, waiting for them. Jungkook, with Taehyung balanced on his instep and steadied with the hot, scorchingly hot fingers grasped around his hip, somehow managed to cross the distance lightning quick. Taehyung’s knees knocked against Jungkook’s awkwardly and he crossed his arms behind Jungkook’s neck, grasping them tightly to avoid falling off.

 

“There.” Jungkook exhaled, and Taehyung almost stumbled in his haste to let go of him. Jungkook’s eyes were hooded, fingers slowly leaving Taehyung’s waist and trailing across his back as he stepped on solid ground again. Taehyung shivered and tried to suppress the flush crawling up his neck and taking over his ears.

 

Jungkook’s hand slipped, caressing the fold of his elbow and pausing. Taehyung’s heart beat in his ears when his long, long fingers trailed down, over the web of veins in Taehyung’s wrist and down his palm. Blood rushed downwards and everywhere else it wasn’t supposed to, to Taehyung’s mortification, especially in presence of a wolf like Jungkook, because details like those rarely failed to escape his attention.

 

His hot fingers tiptoed across Taehyung’s palm, before the heel of his own palm pushed against Taehyung’s. Taehyung’s heartbeat was skittering at the contact, and he couldn’t raise his head to look at Jungkook when his fingers slipped in between the spaces of Taehyung’s and curled gently over the back of them. Heart in his throat and desire blooming in his veins, Taehyung tilted his neck and grabbed the hourglass and bounced it.

 

Fingers tightening around Jungkook’s, Taehyung pulled him across when he leapt over the circles.

 

The hopscotch left them when Jungkook had completed the game with Taehyung’s help, slinking away with sadness, probably to design nefarious ideas the next time it crossed Jungkook’s path again. Taehyung panted next to Jungkook, a small smile blooming on his face when Jungkook huffed in laughter.

 

“Fun?”

 

“Maybe,” Jungkook replied a little reluctantly, a helpless smile tugging up his own lips and exposing his cute front teeth. Taehyung grinned wider in reply. “It’s been some time since I played one of those. This one was just bloodthirsty.”

 

Taehyung laughed in agreement. “It’s a little sadistic, yeah. Kinda gets its jollies when kids hurl their abuses at it, when they’re stuck in it. Especially if they have an exam in the opposite corner of the campus and they’re barely equipped with enough sleep to concentrate on the hopscotch.”

 

“Who lets these things loose around college students, for fuck’s sake?” Jungkook rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe no one’s ever lifted the charm off of it yet. Are they going to let it stay and grow stronger and evolve or what?”

 

Taehyung’s pulse slowed down, thumping lightly in the artery in his wrist, where it lay enveloped by Jungkook’s own wrist pressing at it. He grinned slowly, cheshire cat-like and happy when he realised that Jungkook was playing with him again, after a long time.

 

“Wanna hit the Goblin’s treasure hunt next?” He smirked at the curiosity wafting off Jungkook despite the narrowed eyes. “I promise it’s better than this.”

 

Jungkook sighed and tipped his head back, reluctant.

 

“I draw the line at little, bloodthirsty midgets trying to murder me, Taehyung.”

 

“It’s going to be fun, I promise!” Taehyung tugged Jungkook, grinning widely. “Besides, if you win, you get to find the cornucopia and get whatever you want to eat at the end!”

 

“Is that some kind of trap to lure in starving, withering students?” Jungkook asked suspiciously. “There’s a catch somewhere, isn’t it?”

 

“Come on, you braved an eight year old crying girl and comforted her. Nothing can be as challenging as that.” Taehyung laughed teasingly at him. He let go of Jungkook’s hand and set off towards the campus, jogging backwards and egging Jungkook on. The stones in the Idiot’s trail gleamed in his periphery invitingly. He caught the sounds of people who were there, eyes brightening at the shouts and laughter spilling around him. When he looked over his shoulder, he found them struggling on it, laughing as they pushed each other into the marshes disguised as grass. He turned back to look at Jungkook, finding him still frozen to his spot.

 

“It’s fun, I promise!” he called back, wind ruffling his hair into his eyes. “Come on, you little puppy.”

 

Jungkook grumbled and ran after him, cheeks flushed.

 

“Let’s go,” he groused, claiming Taehyung’s hand again when he reached him and dragging him on. Taehyung’s cheeks hurt from the force of his grin, at having Jungkook give into him. Jungkook caught it and rolled his eyes. “You’re still as annoying as you used to be, hyung.”

 

“Cheers to that,” Taehyung laughed, eyes catching on the curls on Jungkook’s windswept hair delightedly.

 

It was probably for the best that Taehyung didn’t tell Jungkook he was veering away from the Goblin’s trail and into the corner where the Dragon’s quest started just yet.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“—bet you’re something right out of a comic book, Kookie,” Taehyung grinned, nose scrunching when Jungkook nipped at his fingers. “The wolf boy – who’s always afraid of losing control around humans and harming them. Maybe, someone who was cooped up in a lab, operated upon evil scientists, but finally breaks out and instead of turning on the humans, he tries to protect them?”

 

Jungkook sighed, as loud as he could in this form. Taehyung tended to have the strangest imagination sometimes, so fantastical that Jungkook wanted to bite him on his behind, the way he’d seen the pack parents do to their misbehaving pups. Jungkook figured, if someone had to discover something impossible like the fae, it would always have been Taehyung, with the way he believed in them so wholeheartedly.

  

“It’s getting dark, right?” Taehyung looked up, voice turning smaller. He swallowed and licked his lips, the smile a little less genuine on him now. “When do you have to leave, puppy?”

 

Jungkook didn’t want to reply, not when they both knew the answer. He wasn’t labouring under any delusions about their time that was spinning, sure and fast, to a stop around him – that his break from his own life was going to be over soon. He was going to accompany Yoongi back to Seoul, he was going to pack Taehyung and his bag of magic tricks and faeries and tuck him away in a little corner of his head.

 

Maybe, Jungkook allowed himself to dream, he'd bring his memories of Taehyung out when it was late in the nights and the pack would be asleep, maybe he'd be able to miss him.

 

The sun was really starting to drown, last rays of bright light tearing open red gashes in the sky. Taehyung’s fingers sank into the fur of his flank, curling slowly with a wistful tenderness, as if Taehyung was trying to relearn and commit to his memory – exactly how his fur felt under his fingers. Jungkook lapped at the air, tasting the cloying sadness he had never, never sensed from Taehyung before.

 

“I wish you didn’t have to go,” Taehyung said, smile fading from his features. “Who am I going to run around with, after you’re gone?”

 

And just like that, Jungkook’s heart started trembling.

 

The Fae, Jungkook motioned quietly, towards the edge of the woods. His vision had dimmed, slowly ebbing away – but something in Jungkook had been relieved at that. Even if he could have used it as an excuse to have Taehyung look at him like that again, after he kissed him, alarm bells were still set ringing in his head at the prospect. The wrongness about the world he could watch but couldn’t smell – hence leaving his wolf essentially blind – it had kept rankling at him, nipping at his heels until the vision had slipped away after all.

 

But Jungkook could fly blind, would learn to do it, if it was with Taehyung. If Taehyung insisted upon it, Jungkook would willingly submit to his will.

 

“They’re being naughty, these days,” Taehyung said, an uncomfortable tang to his scent. “They keep trying to pull me in some kind of dance – um,” he looked down at Jungkook and away, a flush crawling up his neck. Jungkook’s senses flared to capture and note the interesting scent, and Taehyung scratched at the back of his neck with a small huff.

 

Jungkook pawed at him in curiosity, inhaling again. Something about it felt enticing enough to warrant a fifth, a sixth whiff.

 

“It’s kind of a grown-up thing, Kookie. I didn’t – it’s fun for them, so I try not to be the buzzkill – but maybe it’s going to good if I take a break for a while.”

 

Jungkook tried to identify the emotion welling up in him, not having much success – only succeeding in it pooling faster and faster till it sat heavy at the back of his throat, constricting his breathing. The nearest thing his wolf could come to describing it was a misery so visceral, that it felt as if Jungkook was watching a pup die, the weakest runt in the litter blinking out of life before it even opened its eyes. It didn’t matter if the pup had barely seen the world; the link with the pack existed from the second its mother nursed the litter.

 

Taehyung was pack. Human, but pack. There was certainty in his gut about that, at the way Taehyung’s scent curled around him, the way Jungkook’s heartbeat slowed and paced to match Taehyung’s own breaths unconsciously.

 

“Jungkook,” Yoongi called, and Jungkook picked up on the strain threading through his thoughts, something Yoongi always worked so hard to shield from the pack link. The negotiations must have been wearing thin on his nerves, being forced to posture his alpha to enforce his authority at the packs working in Daegu. “Where are you?

 

“You need to go, right?” Taehyung smiled faintly, reaching to cup his perking ears. Jungkook didn’t protest, not this time.

 

I could stay, he thought to himself, heartbeat picking up a wild pace as he stared at Taehyung’s brown eyes, darkening under the evening sky. I could find a shaman to cut my link with the hyungs, with – with Father. I could stay in the forest here, I could play with Taehyung and protect him. I don’t have to leave Taehyung.

 

“No. Jungkook,” Taehyung almost tripped over his words in his urgency to get them out, frowning down at him as if he could hear Jungkook. Jungkook wouldn’t be surprised; Taehyung had learnt to decipher his thoughts with a startling efficiency since the first time they’d met.

 

“It’s your family, Jungkook. You’re not allowed to leave family, Jungkook, not for anything in the world. Nothing is worth that. Stop that stubborn –” Taehyung let out a frustrated noise and grasped his snout, fingers barely coming to meet each other around it and shaking it slightly. “Stop scowling like that.”

 

Jungkook growled, because Taehyung was pressing down on his nasal passage, cutting off his access to his scent. “You’re being stupid,” he tried to communicate in a series of muffled noises. Taehyung’s face softened at his struggle and he let go, leaning down till his forehead touched Jungkook’s, something fragile in his deep brown eyes as Taehyung stared at him.

 

Jungkook exhaled, a strange tremor seeping through Taehyung’s body into his. You’d be worth it.

 

“You’re only eleven, Jungkook,” Taehyung’s words were gentle against his snout, and Jungkook gritted his teeth. Not young enough to go on a hunt and have his teeth bloodied by a stag he dragged back to his pack, but young enough for a human boy to look at him with regret and rejection in his eyes. “Eleven. Go home.”

 

Jungkook shifted back, fluidly, until Taehyung was staggering back with wide eyes when Jungkook followed him down. “ No ,” he snarled fiercely, forehead pressing hard to Taehyung’s, hard enough for it to hurt. Taehyung’s breath hitched when Jungkook let out a wild growl in the space between them. As if Taehyung wasn’t his home too. “No. I’m not going to leave,” You . This , Jungkook finished in his head, clenching his teeth. Us. He’d sworn Taehyung a promise he intended to keep – come whatever hell.

 

Taehyung stared up at him with eyes that hid nothing of the sadness – going limp under his grip, but his heart beat almost as fast as Jungkook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jungkook broke away from Yoongi, while they were preparing to leave Daegu once and for all, it wasn’t the resigned misery fueling him. It was Taehyung calling for Jungkook, hiccupping his name before his faint voice blinked out– and against every rule and decorum that was imposed upon him – Jungkook left his pack behind and followed the sound of Taehyung’s furious heartbeat, because it was the only thing he could hear. Louder than anything in his ears, louder than his hyungs screaming for him in outrage, louder than the wind whistling past his ears as he bounded back to Taehyung.

 

Yoongi might have been following after him, cursing and growling about biting him to submission, the alpha thundershout to his imposing thoughts, but Jungkook paid him no mind. He ran, he ran and ran and ran – until bloodsmokemagick smacked his senses, a force so violent that it burnt them off, sending him tumbling blindly between the earthy soil into the ground that moved up his limbs, trying to devour him like a bloodthirsty quicksand. Silvery moonlight melted into a world filled with eldritch light, a source he couldn’t find no matter how his eyes tried to adjust to it.

 

Jungkook snarled and fought against it, because his father had taught him to get up, keep fighting until you can’t move anymore, runt. Tear into anything that gets in your way. If it’s your own self stopping you, destroy it. Jungkook clenched his teeth so hard that he felt coppery blood fill his mouth, his father’s command blazing through his veins and suddenly, Jungkook was running again.

 

He found Taehyung trapped under something on the ground, bloodied and dazed and barely any clothing on him, staring up blankly at the sky. Jungkook howled bounded faster, and Taehyung blinked slowly, lips upturning in a soft smile, even as he lay on the ground like a broken, bloodied toy.

 

Jungkook’s overwhelmed nose barely caught up with the haze of red that descended over him, a fury so black that it razed his logic and sent his long dormant energy crackling down his limbs.

 

He barely even registered it when he leaned down and licked at the blood trailing down Taehyung’s temple, lapping it back to the source of the wound. Within the withering heartbeats, friendpackmate – Taehyung’s, because Jungkook no longer cared about his own – the world burst around him, sinister and magical and hungry.

 

A creature wearing Taehyung’s face materialized out of the dark and looked up at him with a bloody smirk. His talons dug possessively where they wrapped around Taehyung’s body on the ground – on his lap, Jungkook’s vision sharpened – drawing dark blood and sapping away at his life.

 

“Little boy,” he spoke with Taehyung’s mouth, voice a shrill scream that froze Jungkook in his tracks. Loud laughter, raucous and howling filled the air his voice from behind, as if it was a spine-crawling herald for blood and war. “ This is my hunt. My prey. My Prince.”


Half Taehyung, half a creature so grotesque, that Jungkook could barely look at him, his smirk widened into a grin full of blood and sank his talons into Taehyung’s chest, where his heart lay. Taehyung gasped, wet and soft – pliant and trusting as he stared up at Jungkook.

 

Jungkook roared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jungkook bolted awake, mouth open in a silent scream.

 

Taehyung was a warm weight in his arms, heart beating loud in Jungkook’s chest. Louder than Taehyung's, almost, and Jungkook’s eyes were snared helplessly on the small space between his neck and his shoulder, as Taehyung nuzzled into him.

 

He couldn’t remember what he’d been dreaming out, but whatever it had been, his heart beat as if he’d been hunting something with the intent of taking its life. Maybe it was about his mother again. It was about time it was due anyway. He tended to have one of those every once in a while.

 

He looked around muzzily, finding the laptop gleaming in the dark – a memory of how Taehyung had coaxed him into watching a series of animated movies; scraping the last of bingsu out of the cup they were sharing together and watching Taehyung flush when Jungkook reached out to wipe his lips after he was finished; eyes slipping shut between the bunny cop putting the fox in his place on the screen and Taehyung’s delighted laughter in his ears.

 

Jungkook didn’t know how they’d ended up like this, stretching out on the bed and Taehyung with his legs between Jungkook’s, head nestled on his bicep – smelling like everything Jungkook had ever wanted. He reached out to brush Taehyung’s bangs back, something in his chest tightening when Taehyung sighed at his touch.

 

The mobile (which Yoongi had thrown at him and nearly brained him with just a few days ago) buzzed near Jungkook’s head, shaking him out of his reverie. Jungkook sighed and reached out to pick it up, not feeling particularly friendly when he saw there had been five missed calls from Yugyeom.

 

He thought about ignoring it – any pack matters could be dealt with when it wasn’t ass-o-clock – but when the next call came from Yoongi, dread dug itself into his gut and took root.

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook murmured, tracking Taehyung’s steady heartbeat, an action so self-ingrained he hardly took notice of it.

 

“Listen,” Yoongi started hoarsely, in the tone he always took when he had to put the belligerent pups in place when they started sniffing around his home or even had the slightest idea of peeing in his territory. As if he was on his way to working up into an apoplectic fury. “Listen. Jungkook.”

 

When he stopped, it was a pause so horrifying that Jungkook’s heart leapt to his throat and froze, a dull weight pressing down on his windpipe. “I am,” Jungkook whispered, unable to point why he felt so apprehensive. There was a scuffle on the other side, muted words Jungkook couldn’t make out.

 

“Jungkook,” Namjoon said, brusque and quiet. “We’ve been summoned by the Alpha. If we have to make good on time, we need to be going now. Do you get me?”

 

“Who’s ‘we’?” Jungkook asked slowly, eyes flickering down to watch Taehyung breathe.

 

Namjoon exhaled, voice short in a way that was downright unnatural for him. “Just a few of us. Me. You and Yoongi. The pups with you. Get to the gates in ten.”

 

Before Jungkook could even protest, Namjoon hung up on him. Jungkook sighed softly, trepidation at the thought of leaving Taehyung rising in him. There was something of a strange déjà vu to the faint ringing in his ears, a lick of an old, festering wound waiting to be ripped open again.

 

Taehyung was still curled around him, hair tickling Jungkook’s collarbones – claim secure on his neck.

 

Jungkook brushed a thumb against it, feeling a faint incompleteness. Taehyung murmured in his sleep, leaning into the warmth of his touch. Something in Jungkook felt hopeless even as he stared down at it. There was no real sense of permanence to it. It was as if Jungkook was trying to put a claim on the sun, to be solely his and only his, but he was too insignificant and small for it to ever matter.

 

The most beautiful things were always made to be unattainable, Jungkook thought faintly, and leaned down to a press his lips to Taehyung’s temple, inhaling his scent and faintly casting his consciousness to make sure Taehyung was having a pleasant dream.

 

When he withdrew, Taehyung murmured something softly, fingers curling into Jungkook’s shirt, and Jungkook’s chest ached.

 

“Sleep well, Tae,” Jungkook whispered, hating himself like he’d never hated anything before. Jungkook felt too tired to examine it, too busy trying to clutch onto time that was slipping away from his grasp.

 

The light in the bathroom was harsh on his sleep laden eyes, and Jungkook grasped the basin for the brief few seconds it took for him to get his trembling under control. The person staring back at him from the mirror looked the same, just a little softer around the edges in a way Jungkook had never seen before. The two-day beard he hadn’t bothered to shave prickled his palm, as he rubbed the last of Taehyung’s Jungkook away.

 

When he blinked his eyes under the fluorescent lights again, the Pack Heir glared back at him with hard eyes, invincible and fierce. The scar on his face stood out a little more, a mark of battle on the human armour he wore over his wolf for now.

 

He shrugged on Taehyung’s old sweatshirt, keeping his breathing a steady inhale, hold, hold, exhale, one foot after the other. He picked up Taehyung’s cards and ignored the warning they gave off, singing his hand as he placed them near his violet locks. The cards seemed to heave a sigh of relief when he released them, scattering themselves sleepily around their master, half slumped out of their cards and into his hair.

 

All except one, of course, for he was ever the one bastard least liked.

 

The Joker looked up at him, cocking his head in a silent question, hand almost halfway out of his frame to touch Taehyung and shock him awake. Jungkook studied him.

 

Jungkook took a leap of faith and finally brought a finger to his lips, a faint smile curling his lips. The Joker shrugged and poked Taehyung’s cheek, dark colour bursting forth from where he touched him and travelling – slowly darkening Taehyung’s vibrant hair into a glossy black.

 

Jungkook frowned as he smiled up at him, as if he was doing Jungkook a favour he hadn’t asked for.

 

Like yours, the joker motioned to his hair, smirking. He grinned almost lasciviously, insufferably knowing. Looks good on him.

 

It did look good on him. It had always looked good on him, back when Taehyung had gone around with bright leaves and flowers and sprites woven into his hair. It had been almost as if they were attracted to it – when in reality Taehyung had accumulated most of them by roughing around on the ground with Jungkook.

 

He swallowed, feeling wrong-footed by a memory he hadn’t expected to face, just as he was leaving Taehyung behind. A strange repetition of events, almost. “Cut it out,” he told the Joker. “Turn it back.”

 

“Jungkook?” Taehyung murmured again, in the same, lost tone he’d used just moments before. His arms curled around himself. “Where are you?”

 

“Right here.” Jungkook knelt down to clasp his hand, and Taehyung made a small noise.

 

“Thought you left me.” Taehyung smiled and Jungkook’s stomach twisted. Taehyung’s heartbeat was steady – he was likely sleep talking the same way he tended to do when he was having a good dream. “Can you hear the music too, Kookie?” he asked, sounding happier, fingers loosening around Jungkook’s.

 

Jungkook exhaled, a small smile blooming despite the heavy despair he felt. “Be safe.” Taehyung wouldn’t hear it – but Jungkook felt the compulsion to say it anyway. He wished there was enough time to project his consciousness into Taehyung’s dreams, but after what had happened over the past few weeks, he didn’t want to chance fucking anything up again in Taehyung’s head.

 

“I’ll be back soon,” he reassured Taehyung, mostly for his own benefit. The phone in Jungkook’s jeans let out a warning chirp. Reluctantly, he let go of Taehyung’s hand.

 

He stalled for as long as he could, keeping Taehyung’s face in sights as he traced a safety rune into the windowpane – the ones the pack shamans used to ward away the evil – channeling his steadily angering wolf and breathing them to life. When they pulsed into life under his palm, it was far too soon.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

“Hey,” Seungkwan’s smile was lopsided as he dropped to a slouch next to Jungkook, leaning against the jeep. He pulled out a small box and flipped open the tab, offering it to him. “Tic-tacs?”

  

Jungkook stared at him. Where most of the wolves had chosen to take up spots far away from Jungkook, barely nodding to him, no one had yet to approach him to explain anything.

 

Maybe it was the way he carried Taehyung’s scent around him. Or maybe, they could all feel Jungkook’s wolf bristling under his skin, waiting to be let out and run free. Whatever it was, it clearly had no effect on the affable beta, who looked like he spent all his waking hours near wolves with ruffled feathers.

 

Seungkwan shrugged at him, rattling a few into his palm and throwing them into his mouth. “No? Pack heir-hyung is too good to have morning breath?” He chewed noisily, almost deliberately loud enough to wake every wolf who had fallen into sleepy stupors around the jeep.

  

Kid definitely had a pair of balls on him.

  

It was almost to the point of being too obnoxious for his nerves. Jungkook was thankfully spared an answer when Yoongi staggered from the road, a pronounced, practiced slouch to his form. It had always been more for the benefit of the wolves from other packs, for the humans they were surrounded by all the time. To let them to run their eyes over him, and dismiss him as someone insignificant and harmless. But no one who knew Yoongi had ever made the mistake of thinking that twice.

 

Jungkook rolled his shoulders and straightened, licking his lips. Namjoon flanked Yoongi, melting out of the dim morning-sun limned path, quite as a shadow.

  

“Joon,” Jiho tilted his head when they approached, as if listening to something. “Keys?”

 

“I’m driving,” Yoongi snapped, and Jungkook’s muscles tensed automatically. Namjoon motioned over to the path behind him, face grim.

 

“Your car’s over there. Key’s in the ignition. Grab some of the pups and try not to speed.”

 

Jiho didn’t even look at Yoongi as he brushed past Namjoon with a grin. “Hell if I am the one who likes turning cars into roadkill. Mr Congeniality here’s got that covered for me, ain’t that right?”

  

Jungkook scowled as Namjoon jumped between them and put a hand on his shoulder, firm in the way he had -- before they could rip off each other’s heads. Yoongi’s aggression was so heavy and palpable that it was starting to affect the other wolves near them, hearts flittering faster and faster.

 

“Get in the car, Jungkook,” Yoongi snapped, ignoring Jiho to his surprise. Jungkook startled a little – not expecting that tone to be directed at him. Yoongi met his eyes with a steely glare, and Jungkook exhaled under his breath.

 

He took one last glance back at the Eastern Dorms, a sense of ominous disquiet roaring inside him. He was leaving Taehyung unprotected, his instincts screamed at him. Something was lurking around the University, just waiting till he turned his back and left Taehyung defenseless.

 

“Jungkook-gun?” Yugyeom’s reedy voice pleaded from the jeep. Jungkook sighed, and brushed away his instincts quietly. He leapt up into the fancy jeep, scenting Yoongi’s aggression coiling its way and invading the entire car.

 

It was going to be a long drive.

 

 

 

*

 

 

“Take it easy.”

 

Yesung frowned, sword sliding back into its scabbard with a clink. Jaejoong stepped out of the willow tree, easy as you please, with all the polite disregard he kept for everyone else’s privacy.

 

“What are you doing here?” Yesung grunted and pulled up a leg to brace his arm on it, eyes trained on the Knight of Summer’s regal features that were shadowed under his golden bangs that glowed even in the dusk. “You are in the wrong place if you’re seeking out Yunho.”

 

A flash of pain flickered across Jaejoong’s eyes, a wince that was barely there before it disappeared. Making his way across the small glade, he picked up a flower that let out sparks when he tore it out of the vines creeping over Yesung’s head.

 

“Quite an interesting choice to rest here.” Jaejoong’s eyes flashed when he crushed the flower, little sparks flying away with the wind and disappearing as they turned to energy. Yesung rolled his eyes up at him, feeling slumber fringing on his periphery again. “I don’t suppose you’ve taken up fire-eating as a leisure over the years.”

 

“Sounds like a trite hobby of a Summer native.” Yesung reached up to touch the bloodthirsty vine that had crawled around him, keeping a safe distance from him but still moving restlessly with the urge to suck his magick out and absorb him. Frost started at the tips of the velvet-soft leaves, spreading out under his fingers and claiming the life of the vine rapidly. He closed his eyes and brought his arm down, intent on sleeping till the sun finally raced to its demise over the horizon. “Why are you here? Isn’t disgracing me in front of the Courts enough for you yet?”

 

Jaejoong didn’t reply, but Yesung knew he’d heard. Yesung didn’t care if he was slighting the Knight with his words; bared his throat a little more in case Jaejoong did decide to slice it after all. He was not afraid to die back then; he was not going to be afraid now.

 

“I’ve come to seek your help.”

 

Yesung inhaled. Now that was an insult, if he’d ever heard one.

 

“You presume I would aid you, Knight of Summer? Has your sanity fallen prey to the dancing nymphs at the Courts, that you need me to deliver it back to you?”

 

“I do not mean to presume anything. I only seek your assistance as an equal,” Jaejoong said quietly. “It’s a cause even you will find worthy enough to fight for.”

 

“With you?” Yesung laughed huskily, derision and disbelief thrumming through him. “Fight beside you? Do tell, noble Knight. What is it that has made you come and seek me out, and interrupted you from cleaning Oberon’s holy shoes on your knees like you do?”

 

Jaejoong’s cheeks reddened, like the first burst of colour blooming in foliage that was coming alive. The warmth around him quivered, wavering with the first signs of a fury that Yesung was intentionally agitating. Yesung’s magick gained another inch on Jaejoong, blanketing around his humming power.

 

Jaejoong exhaled, jaw ticking with the effort to keep his composure. “The human world has been breached by one of our rogues, one that Oberon and Mab personally banished from the Courts. Robin Goodfellow,” he added, watching Yesung’s face with eagle sharp amber eyes. Yesung’s fingers turned into claws where they were gripping his knees, annoyance burning through him at the mention of Heechul.

 

“How do you know this?” Yesung gritted his teeth, baring them.

 

“I was on a patrol near the outer boundaries when I sensed him,” Jaejoong said, eyes near inscrutable. Nothing to indicate any sense of falsehood. “Near the Lake of Worlds. Hidden away from my vision, but there.”

 

“What would you have me do?” Yesung murmured, breath hissing out in a fog of thick smoke. Jaejoong loomed over him, lines of his regal face turning hard and forbidding.

“Cut a patrol around the Lake of Worlds. Puck is up to something I don’t trust, so an extra sword will come in help when we drag him back to the Courts.”

 

By Mab, gladly, Yesung thought. If he willingly had to choose to kill anyone in the all the lands of Avalon, the first one would be Heechul’s blood he’d choose to adorn his Frost Blade with. Heechul had deserved it from the first moment Yesung had set eyes on the wretched imp. The previous Knight of Winter was brought to his demise at the hands of Puck, and this Knight of Winter was going to avenge the hunger of the Blade that had been passed down to him, scorch him alive with the bite of its icy wrath.

 

“Know that this is no favour.” Yesung met Jaejoong’s eyes carefully, in any case if Jaejoong took it as such. “This never was, or will be a favour. I have pledged to my sword that I will let her scavenge on his filthy heart. If I do draw my sword, you will not hinder me.”

 

Jaejoong didn’t look away from Yesung, silent for a long moment. The heat snapped out around them when the sun finally blinked out, last of its rays flickering off Jaejoong’s brilliant gold hair and bouncing away from his warrior armour. A promise with its demise woke in Jaejoong’s amber eyes.

 

“I won’t,” Jaejoong replied, voice soft. Firm. “So be it.”

 

Yesung inclined his head, feeling satisfaction thrum in his blood when the first howl of the night rang out. The hunting party to bring back Queen Mab’s feast had started early, and Yesung was being heralded to assist in it.


“So be it.”

 

Jaejoong vanished, leaving a patch of green, healthy grass in midst of a dead forest around it. Yesung stood up and brushed away the snow and ash from his own wolf fur, armour flaring out when he unsheathed his sword. The blade screamed with bloodthirst and delight as it sliced through the air, scenting Yesung’s eagerness and feeding it.

  

It was time to hunt.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

“Taetae!” Jimin complained breathlessly, when Taehyung started laughing at the look on his face. Even after having taken a tumble down the hill, Taehyung’s limbs didn’t feel weary. No, energy was buzzing in him, powering through his exhaustion and sleep and lifting up his mood. It felt as if Taehyung could perform the most taxing of transmutations and not feel tired, could blow through the worst kind of traps with an easy swipe of his energy.

 

Taehyung laughed into Jimin’s bicep breathlessly, just a light exhale of air, before he rolled away and landed on his back. Starfishing out on the grass next to Jimin, he stared up at the dark sky.

 

“You okay?” Jimin asked him after he’d caught his own breath, a small smile in his voice. Taehyung hummed.

 

“Don’t fret, little Jiminiee,” Taehyung drawled lazily. “Oppa took worst of the fall for you.”

 

“What the fuck, you idiot,” Jimin mumbled, not sounding impressed. “Gonna actually sit on you and suffocate you one of these days for all your crap.”

 

Taehyung exhaled, flinging out his hand and landing it on Jimin’s chest with a satisfyingly sharp thwack. Jimin yelped, reaching down to rub at the spot. “Love you too, man.” Taehyung chuckled, wrinkling his nose. Retreating his hands from Jimin when he looked like he was going to bite them off, Taehyung braced them behind his head and looked at the colours playing out on his skin amusedly.

 

“So, what’s up with this place?”

 

“It’s the Lake of Dreams,” Jimin replied, sighing and brushing his dark hair out of his eyes. “Down by the hill, further on, there’s this one lake that the other kids fling their wishes into. It’s pretty neat, Taehyung. The lakestones hold a little bit of their energies and the lake nurses those energies.”

 

Taehyung’s eyebrows rose, curiosity drumming in him. He climbed to his feet, brushing himself off the grass. Jimin laughed at him when Taehyung beckoned him, getting up slowly.

 

“Nah,” Jimin said, yawning but complying anyway. “Fuck off. You plan to toss me into it, don’t you?”

 

Taehyung shrugged cheerfully, tugging Jimin to his feet and slowly following the luminous pattern of the colourful lights playing on the grass, excitement making him rush down.

 

"Can’t believe we’ve never been here before! Just when you think you’ve seen all the secrets this place has to offer, you discover more, don’t you?”

 

Taehyung stopped chattering when his eyes fell on the shining lake, awestruck.

 

“Cool, right?” Jimin bent down and picked up a stone by their feet, eyeing Taehyung with a light smile. “Get this.”

  

With that, Jimin flung his stone above them, gold flaring between them on the tattoo in his abdomen. Taehyung watched it soar and crash into the middle of the lake after an impressive flight, blazing up in a fire of red the second it touched the still water. The mist above it shivered a little when a new stone joined their midst, but Taehyung’s mouth fell open when Jimin’s stone shone a bright ruby in middle of universe of blues and greens.

 

A universe built on dreams and wishes, his Spade Ace murmured in his head. Taehyung had to struggle to get his eyes unstuck from the sight.

 

“What kinda wish did you make?” Taehyung asked Jimin curiously. Jimin shrugged, thumbing at his tattoo.

  

“Ah, just the – usual, you know? Hoping Appa and Omma and Jihyun are okay. What about you? Wanna give it a try?” The lanterns flickering above Jimin’s shoulders blinked out, his energy tattoo pulsing a gentle blue as his energy returned to its source.

 

Taehyung shrugged at Jimin, lips quirking as he sat down on the hill. There was something about the lake –

 

“It’s pretty,” Taehyung said slowly, looking up at Jimin. “But – eh – I don’t think I have any wishes to make.”

 

“What the hell kind of answer is that?” Jimin rolled his eyes, handing him a small, glossy stone. “Just toss one.”

  

“It’s the answer of one who’s definitely contented with everything in his life, ass,” Taehyung grinned and chucked the stone anyway, more for Jimin’s benefit if nothing. He stretched his legs out, resting his chin on his knees. “I wish someone else could do my terraforming assignment. I’ve got quite a bit riding on that essay.”

 

“Isn’t that due tomorrow?” Jimin asked with wince. “Always cutting it close with those dates.”

 

“Well, after everything with Seokjin-ssi,” Taehyung sighed, knocking sideways into Jimin’s shoulder. “Kinda been distracted.”

 

Jimin hummed, brow creasing a little. Taehyung wondered if he could hear Yoongi’s thoughts, right at this moment. He told himself he wasn’t jealous. It was ridiculous to be jealous of his best friend; no matter how much he was busy missing Jungkook. He wasn’t allowed to feel envious how Jimin could always have some kind of a magical telepathic bond – seriously, how did that even work – with Yoongi, would never have to be alone in his own head.

 

Taehyung felt a lump form in his throat at the thought of his own wolf.

 

 

 

Seokjin had taken them aside when Jimin and Taehyung had decided to meet up with Sungjae and Sanghyuk for a basketball match, to discuss the Demonstrations and ease over a few ruffled feelings Jimin had been harbouring for them.

 

Taehyung didn’t know how Seokjin had tracked them down, but it had taken Sanghyuk and Sungjae stopping still in their tracks to gape at someone over their shoulders for Jimin to finally notice Seokjin hovering over the chain links. When Seokjin had seen them, he’d lifted a hand in greeting, the uptick to his lips carrying a question for them.

 

Later, as Taehyung stood a few paces away and practiced flicking his cards to strike the ground the right way, Seokjin told Jimin about what had been happening.

 

The pack Yoongi and Jungkook belonged to – they’d called them back on short notice.

 

“Pack politics,” Seokjin had said gently, almost apologetic. “I can’t get into further details about it, but it would be the best for you both if you were to act as if you don’t know Yoongi or Jungkookie for the next few days around here.”

 

Jimin had stared hard at Seokjin, mouth a grim line. “Is this about the campus police who came looking for –” Jimin darted a glance at Taehyung, words cutting off. It was telling enough.

 

Taehyung caught the five of hearts as she returned to him. Why, Taehyung asked Jimin silently, dread creeping up like a dark cloud. Jimin swallowed, shaking his head.

  

Tell you later, Jimin darted his eyes towards Seokjin. Not now.

 

Seokjin looked at them searchingly, and slouched back in his seat. The apologetic expression melted off his face, replaced by a cautious steel behind the soft and gorgeous features. Jimin seemed utterly unfazed by it, and for the first time, Taehyung realized how wrong he’d been about Seokjin.

 

Seokjin was really good at playing genuine.

 

“Something along those lines,” he replied, voice pitched lower. A small smile that seemed more genuine than anything he’d given them ticked at his lips, unfurling hesitantly. “Soulbound now, aren’t you?”

 

Jimin shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Seokjin sighed.

 

“I should have offered to teach you how to properly shield your mind, when your soul energy bonded with Yoongi’s in the first place,” the confession was leaning toward self-deprecating almost, the way Seokjin’s smile turned rueful. “A pretty big misstep for me, since I was your acting healer. A soul bond – mating bond – with a wolf operates on an entirely different level than a natural, human one. It keeps on maturing the longer you stay together, keeps mixing your energies together. Unless you want it to drive your human consciousness into the wolf madness, you should learn how to control it.”

 

“Why Yoongi?” Jimin asked, back ramrod straight. “Why did the pack call him back?”

  

“It’s not because of you,” Seokjin replied firmly, as if he was reading Jimin’s mind. “But now that he’ll be connected to the pack again, I want you to…hold strong on your end. You’re not just some place where Yoongi lays his head, Jimin. You are his only home now, his first and foremost packmate. As long as you keep steady, nothing’s going to happen to him.”

 

Taehyung met Jimin’s eyes, and swallowed at the weight in his eyes. Jimin looked at him distantly, as if his head was miles away from the conversation happening in front of him. Taehyung frowned and approached the table, leaning down to snap Jimin out of his blank trance.

 

“Taehyung,” Seokjin’s voice was as effective as any barrier, stopping him in his tracks. It was curious how he said Taehyung’s name, as if he was used to doing it. “It’s okay. He’s – he’s talking to Yoongi.”

 

Seokjin’s brown eyes turned to his, limned golden in the faint sunlight. Something bright flickered in them, almost the same way light seemed to bounce off of canine eyes. Taehyung gripped the cards tightly within his fingers, hairs rising on the back of his neck involuntarily.

 

“You don’t need to be afraid of me,” Seokjin murmured softly, his gaze almost a little too intense to bear.

 

“I’m not,” Taehyung forced a smile, blinking. It was true. The cards were still calm underneath his fingers.

 

“Pack doesn’t hurt each other,” Seokjin’s smile was brilliant, a blazing sun to Taehyung’s faltering imitation of it. “You and Jimin – you’re both pack now.”

 



 

“Yah,” Jimin squawked, and knocked Taehyung out of the memory. “Were you calculating the steps it takes to cross the Great Wall of China or what?”

 

Jimin was one of the most private people he knew. If he didn’t have any major objections to sharing a mind link with his – mate, then Taehyung would push his own possessive jealousy down, however small the fire that had been kindled. The wistfulness though, that was significantly more difficult to deal with. It was linked directly to Jungkook, it was twisted around his old, hazy memories of Jungkook and it kept Pandora’s box of emotions bound with a fraying string Taehyung was wary of pulling at.

  

“No. Just calculating how steep a fall it would be if I had to jump off your ego and find your IQ,” Taehyung mused, smirking when Jimin’s face scrunched up. “It never really took off from the 20s, did it? Man, you’re the only dumbass who’d fuck up a manna potion, in all the history of dumb things humanity has done.”

 

“You know, I'm sure as hell no Gandhi,” Jimin replied, recovering. “But even he wouldn’t dare object if I dropped you off a cliff right now.”

  

“You’re such a sweet-talker.”

Taehyung let out a shriek when Jimin actually reached out to swing at him, looking as if he was about to make good on his promise. Jimin let go of his neck, exhaling loudly.

  

They sat in the silence for a while. A long while. The faint music of bagpipes and the high pitched tinkling of something that sounded like crystals – a faint cacophony of noise that beat in tune with Taehyung’s heart rang in his ears, like a soft whisper carried over by the gusting breeze. Taehyung’s cards slowly melted into his skin, as if called by some kind of invisible threat.

  

Just as he turned to ask Jimin about it, the song disappeared – leaving behind not the faintest imprint of a tune in his head. Jimin cocked his head at him. Taehyung shook his; it was just going to be a non-starter if he voiced his question.

 

“So,” Jimin started, an unreadable quirk to his lips. “Jungkook, huh?”

 

“Jungkook,” Taehyung repeated, his heartbeat ticking up. “What about him?”

 

“There is a lot of things that went wrong,” Jimin spoke carefully, as if he was weighing his words before he uttered them. Taehyung had a faint feeling he knew where this was going.

 

“There is a lot of things that went right, too.”

 

“You think the rights are enough to absolve the wrongs, Tae?”

 

“What is this?” asked Taehyung lightly. “The Spanish Inquisition? Aw, Jimin.”

 

Jimin crossed his arms, sighing. “Good to see we’re being mature adults about issues of consent, friend.”

 

“I used to know him once. Before, I mean.” Taehyung licked his lips. The scent of the grass came first, fresh cut, notes within bursting with lifestream. The memories followed, clouded by time and Taehyung’s own brain tricking him into embellishing details that might not have been there. He might have to ask Jungkook how much of it was real. It was the strangest thing – how had his own brain forgotten those memories even existed? “Before I moved to Seoul, before I even met you.”

 

Jimin hummed, eyes narrowed on Taehyung. He tried to not take it too personally.

 

“He was a baby, a puppy that used to follow me around. I used to come back from school with my grandmother and rush to play with him.” Taehyung grinned at Jimin. “He was the cutest wolf I’d ever seen – of course, I had never seen a wolf up close before, in Daegu of all places!”

 

“Shared history makes it a lot worse, you know?” Jimin said, but there was a reluctant hint of a smile somewhere. “Romanticizing his actions because you used to know him?”

 

“Oh god, let my fairytale live,” Taehyung complained unenthusiastically. Things kept blurring around the edges a little, right from the time he’d had that…episode. His mind coaxed his attention away from it, as if there was something truly traumatic that it needed to shield him from. The only thing standing stark in his head was that it was Jungkook who’d been protecting him from what had happened.

 

Jimin huffed, a silent laugh. “You don’t need to explain his actions to me. I got the rundown from him.” Demanded it probably, Taehyung thought. Jimin tended to be tenacious like that.

 

“I suppose – I just wanted to make sure you were alright,” said Jimin.

 

Taehyung laughed. Oh god, his best friend was the most ridiculous sonofabitch on the planet. And Taehyung was equally the damned lucky bastard to have found him.

  

“Peachy,” Taehyung chirped. “We’re trying to work it out. Of course, it’s slow progress, m’boy, compared to how you jumped into bed with Yoongi on the first night.”

 

Jimin flushed on cue. “Yah, would you sto-“

 

“You’re like a married woman now, aren’t you?” Taehyung teased, mirthful. “Man, does the passion dull after marriage? How often do you guys schedule it these days? Hey – I know how it gets after marriage, dude – how you forget you used to have friends, when you’re caught up with your newly wedded beau.”

  

Instead of flushing some more, Jimin quietened, a pensive silence that made Taehyung fidget. His eyes were suddenly all too probing, as if Taehyung had hidden a riddle within his words for him to figure out.

 

“I’m not going to forget you,” he said, as if it was something he’d not even considered it as an option for a mere second. Taehyung’s heart warmed at his expression.

 

“I’m not a house plant that tolerates being ignored, either,” Taehyung nodded, completely serious.

 

“Listen,” Jimin shot his hand out, gripping Taehyung’s wrist in a tight hold and making him jerk against it. Jimin’s tattoo pulsed under his shirt, the same way Taehyung’s rippled, as if they were making some kind of a ritual oath. He shook his head at Taehyung, lips pursed resolutely. “You’re my brother, Tae. It’s always going to be you and me, against the world. Together. Mate or not.”

 

Taehyung’s voice caught on a lump in his throat at the words. Jimin’s dark eyes burned into his with a trust so warm, so full of loyalty, that it struck Taehyung in the chest somewhere vital.

 

Taehyung and Jimin, taking on the world, Taehyung thought. Together.

 

It sounded good.

 

“Just try shaking me loose.” Taehyung challenged with a watery laugh caught in the back of his throat. His voice sounded like his throat had been shredded multiple times over, and then had a smoke too many. Jimin allowed him to grip his sleeve, and Taehyung threw his head back to let loose his laugh. His cheeks were hurting with how wide the smile on his face must be; so the tears were probably just stinging his eyes because of how much they hurt.

 

“Just you try.”

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

Jungkook didn’t see his brother approaching him from behind, but Yoongi tended to have an almost preternaturally honed instinct for anyone who even breathed within a few spaces near Jungkook. Junghyun was taller, a lot more broader around the shoulders and a little more prone to smiling than Jungkook was. The aura he carried with him wasn’t exactly too unnoticeable either. And just because he was Jungkook’s brother, Yoongi didn’t react.

 

Besides, he was not really the biggest fan of the kid at the moment.

The other pups around him were squirming, looking between Yoongi and Namjoon and at Jungkook’s back, as he trudged forward through the dirt path, back ramrod straight and proud.


When Junghyun struck the kid, Jungkook’s breath was knocked out of his chest. Yoongi exhaled, watching Jungkook hunch over a little and shoot his elbow out. Junghyun caught his elbow easily, dodging it sharp and using it to pull it over Jungkook’s back, and calmly wrapping a huge arm around his neck, cutting off his air supply. Jungkook reacted in a way that was completely instinct-driven, and none of the battle heat calm Yoongi had taught him to harness.

 

He drove his head back, smashing it recklessly on Junghyun’s chest and knocking into his chin. Junghyun let out a grunt when Jungkook used his weight to tip him over - the typical heavyweight fighter move Yoongi had advised him against using, because it painted a predictable hunt. Jungkook always considered it within bounds of fighting, as long as he was quick enough to obliterate his opponent with it.

 

Junghyun’s chokehold was effective, tightening even as he fell down and Jungkook gasped, bringing up his hand to try and wrench it away.

 

Yoongi tensed, cursing under his breath. It was an air chokehold, brutal and effective. Yoongi started counting Jungkook’s heartbeat in his ears, mouth twisting to the side when he found it beating at a hummingbird pace. Jungkook turned his head to the side, eyes blind as he grabbed Junghyun’s thighs and flipped himself over using sheer will power, and Junghyun’s hold went weak.

 

Jungkook was on him in a second, snapping down at him. Junghyun shot his arms up to keep Jungkook at bay, and looked up at him with a beam that was bright enough to make Yoongi scoff from his place.

 

“Easy there, tiger.”

 

Jungkook panted, breaths slowing down. “Hyung-nim?” he asked incredulously, as if his nose hadn’t affirmed as much the second Junghyun had tried to make a move. “What are you doing?”

 

“Just checking if you were keeping those muscles working, baby brother,” Junghyun smiled, charming and sheepish in the same breath. “Seems like you’ve still got it.”

 

It’s nothing, Yoongi assured Jimin, realizing his irritation had leaked over the bond. Jimin hummed in his head, as if he wanted a little more to work with. Just some annoying relatives, Yoongi allowed, swallowing. Jungkook laughed, pulling Junghyun up with a strong tug.

 

I’ve had those, Jimin laughed, opening up without any prompting, as if he sensed Yoongi needed a distraction. We went from being the social pariahs of our clan, to being the unfortunate outcasts when Omma and -- well, we returned from the Cursed Riots in Middle East. They couldn’t look us in the eye for months, like we were carrying some kind of demonic diseases with us.

 

Yoongi acknowledged the thread of an old pain, memory hurt in the words. Mulled them over. Sounds like people I’d like to have for dinner, to be honest, flower-boy.

 

Yoongi let the laughter he could feel over the bond wash over him, warm like a pond heated in the sun.

 

Junghyun tugged Jungkook into a hug, grateful and warm - and Yoongi wasn’t supposed to feel this surge of old anger, possessive and paternal. Junghyun was Jungkook’s brother, even if he had rarely taken up the role. He was just an absent afterthought, drifting in and out of the pack when he pleased. Jungkook was right on his part to have missed him.

 

“I thought you were going to be out for the Lunar Hunt?” Jungkook asked, a slight bounce in his voice. He was delighted, Yoongi realised that a little sourly. He almost wished for Jiho at that moment, to have him snarking under his breath at the scene and cracking the stupid jokes that Yoongi enjoyed guiltily, but never really let on. But Jiho had taken a different route to the Pack grounds, instead of keeping with the pups, and Yoongi didn't even have the mercy of distraction.

 

Junghyun ruffled Jungkook’s hair, laughing at the way his wayward curls bounced a little. “What, and miss Chuseok? No chance in hell,” he said, as if he hadn’t just done that for years before. Yoongi itched with the pretence of it.


Namjoon shot him an unreadable look, slowly shaking his head. Keep it down, he signalled, tapping his nose. Don’t make a scene where it’s not needed.

 

Sure, Yoongi snarled bitterly.

 

Easy, easy, Jimin coaxed gently, and Yoongi’s body followed the command without his conscious thought. Did Jimin even realise how strong his pull over Yoongi was?

 

How about I distract you with something a little more fun? Jimin sounded warm, and a heat started burning down the thrumming bond. Yoongi swallowed carefully, feeling a little paralysed, as if Jimin had taken control of his thinking process and told him to take a back seat, and he’d just helplessly followed.

 

Fun, Yoongi repeated slowly, a little belatedly, even though the desire stealing through his nerves and electrifying them had said enough.

 

Fun, Jimin crooned, an undertone of mischief and arousal in his drawl, it’s just been a day, but I feel so empty without you here. So worked up today, I missed you so much.

 

Yoongi had felt it, he’d been right there when Jimin had wrapped a hand around himself and tried to tempt Yoongi into joining him. Yoongi almost didn’t give a damn about how he was running ahead of the pack, just as wolf as the rest of them and they could most definitely hear him in this proximity if he lost control.

 

Don’t be a bad boy, Yoongi swallowed. Keep taking your notes.

 

Jimin’s disappointment was so strong that Yoongi almost caved.

 

“Abeoji is waiting for you with the pack shamans,” Junghyun said, not surprised when Jungkook’s expression rippled. “Get a grip on it, and try to not forget your manners, huh? Treat them like the piranhas they are, lying in wait to smell blood. They won’t let go an opportunity to have you under their thumb, if you’re not careful about it.”

 

Jungkook was stiff, and he darted a glance at Namjoon. “I heard,” he said, muscles held still. “I know, hyung-nim.”

 

Can I ride you in the studio when you come back, Jimin asked, and Yoongi wanted to mourn the bashful Jimin who had disappeared the second they had mated and thrust down the barriers between themselves. Jimin’s thoughts were as unfiltered as Yoongi’s and Jimin had lost his self-consciousness about demanding things from Yoongi. Please, Yoongi-hyung.

 

Yoongi wanted nothing more than to kiss Park Jimin at this moment, to shut up his pretty, tempting mouth and stop all that filthy begging he was directing at Yoongi.

 

Jungkook didn’t look back as he walked under his brother’s arm, and Namjoon looked at him with quirked lips.

 

“You’re going to be facing the firing squad pretty soon, yourself, hyung. Don’t make it worse for yourself.”

 

Hoseok’s words, echoed by Namjoon. There was a familial concern in their words, though aimed with different intentions. Hoseok didn’t want Yoongi to confront Jungkook about his actions, because he was a sentimental sap who had a guilt complex the size of the Jeju Island.

 

Namjoon didn’t want Yoongi to pull a White Devil ever again, and more so over Jimin, because he was apprehensive of the backlash he was going to face from the pack. So he contended himself by keeping pace next to Yoongi, hoping to steer him in the right direction that avoided any bloodshed and pack conflicts.

 

Yoongi was never a fan of doing things the easy way.

 

We’ll see, he murmured, shaking his head to hide a small smile when Jimin groaned, his heart beating parallel to Yoongi’s, his own pulse thundering sure and loud in his ears and the memory of home, mine, yours whispering within his thoughts.