There’s something to be said about the burn of crashing through an atmosphere but Jeongguk isn’t in his body. He’s there but not, pressure so harsh, so agonizing that Jeongguk feels liquefied, stretched so thin that his flesh melts off his bones until he’s nothing.
Later, Jimin will tell him he looked like a shooting star.
Jimin’s barely stepped out of his cabin when he sees it. The sky is falling.
It streaks through the dawn, burning ever brighter as it gets closer and closer to the ground and Jimin’s not sure when he starts running, but he does. Aino is next to him in a matter of seconds, even faster than Jimin on her four legs. He morphs quickly, skin dissolving into fur, feet turning into clawed paws, and he tramples through the underbrush.
As they near the burning embers falling through the sky, Jimin senses it. There’s something alive in there, in that pit of fire and before he knows it, he’s focusing, he’s got a protection spell already running through his mind of protecting.
Aino howls, pushes herself harder and Jimin follows, maintaining his transfiguration as he simultaneously prepares whatever or whoever is falling through the sky for the crash. The possibility that they won’t survive the fall blares through Jimin’s concentration and he only hones in on their aura more.
Trees give out to an open field, a grassy valley and Jimin slides down the slope recklessly, fueled by his desire to protect whatever was in that flaming ball of fire. Aino skids to a stop, Jimin faltering behind her, nearly tripping over his own feet. He nearly loses focus on his spell, but as the wreckage crashes to the ground, the protection spell glows through a purple pentagram stretched out on the ground.
The ball of fire hurdles down and hits the pentagram dead center with a bounce. Jimin transforms back into his Heaux form, arms coming up to cover the impact’s blowout. Heat sears through the air, electric and unforgiving but Jimin is unscathed, feet sliding back as the initial dust settles. He adjusts his tunic as it flutters in the gust of the impact, stepping toward the wreckage.
Aino paces behind him, unwilling to go forward. He supposes he always has been the more reckless of the two of them. The wreckage radiates heat and Jimin won’t be able to completely cool it down on his own. He concentrates on the lifeform in the pulsating heat, begins muttering an incantation under his breath as he nears the piece of the sky. It’s scalding hot, and Jimin wonders if it’s part of the sun. As he gets closer, the smoke makes it difficult to breath and Jimin wishes he had the wings of the villagers to fan it away.
Coughing, Jimin continues forward, eyes widening as he takes in the appearance of the wreckage. Parts have eroded completely, but the body is made completely of metal and the shape reminds Jimin of a bird. It has strange looking wings, mangled now by the crash. Jimin hasn’t seen metal since he was a child, when he was still allowed in the village and learned with the other kids in the school. They’d been taught they were not to impure the organic nature of their magic by transforming anything to metal, their teacher showing them a slab of dull grey when she’d informed them.
Jimin’s scared to even touch it, but the lifeform is stuck inside and he’s not sure he can maintain the protection spell for much longer if he has to fight off the smoke as well. As he stares at the contraption, he can make out what seems to be a door of some kind. There is, however, no doorknob. Jimin stares at it, worries his lip between his teeth as he recites a cooling spell over the wreckage.
It won’t be strong enough to reduce the overall heat, but it’s enough that Jimin feels comfortable reaching out to touch the contraption. The metal is smooth, heat seeping into his skin and swallowed by his magic. As he slides his fingers over it, he startles when it suddenly slides open, stepping back as a wave of heat radiates out of the strange bird. Jimin coughs, forces himself to go inside the beast, the aura of the lifeforce increasing exponentially.
Jimin follows his senses, nearly gaping at the strangeness of the inside of the bird like contraption. A red light pulsates through the ship and Jimin stares at the bulbs of light; he wonders how the light has been trapped inside. The lifeform’s aura gets stronger as he steps deeper inside, an unsettling feeling crawling up Jimin’s skin. He stumbles through a set of sliding doors, knows he needs to get out as quickly as possible. His spell would only last for so long. This room is small, two chairs situated in front of some kind of board of blinking lights and there is a head peeking over one of the chairs.
“Hello?” Jimin calls out, hearing nothing in response. He hurries over to the chair, hand gripping the edge and when he manages to turn it around, the seat balanced on a single leg, he finds a man passed out. The sky had dropped a man in some kind of metal bird?
Jimin hesitates before reaching forward to touch him, his skin burning from the heat inside the contraption. He’s completely unconscious, but when Jimin checks to see his pulse, fingers digging into his neck, he finds a faint one. There’s some kind of band locking him to the chair, the material too tough for Jimin to pull away. Frowning, he grabs the blade he keeps to protect himself from any beasts in the woods before cutting through the band. It’s a struggle, the material tough to slice through but it gives away, the man’s body sagging forward. Wasting little more time, Jimin hauls the body up, overwhelmed by the size of the man. He practically drags him out, lungs burning as he lugs the weight of the man, half draped over Jimin’s lithe frame and the remainder dragging on the floor.
When he stumbles out of the ship, Jimin’s eyes are watering from the heat, the protection spell ends on his lips. The transfer of the man’s pain fills Jimin and it cripples him, knees giving out. Aino’s there in seconds, Jimin gasping in agony, barely able to keep his eyes open. Blackness simmers around the edges of his vision, convulsions rocking through him as he grits his teeth.
Aino drags the man away from the wreckage first, leaves Jimin lying in the glowing purple pentagram as he slowly adjusts to the agony. He’s not sure how long it takes before the pain reduces into nothingness, exhaustion taking its place. Aino’s already sniffing at him, small whimpers escaping her as she nudges at Jimin. He rolls onto his back, smiles at her weakly before petting her just under the chin.
“I’m fine, girl,” he rasps out, voice coarse. He closes his eyes, breathing evening out as he readies himself to get up. “Can you get him onto your back? He’s alive but I don’t think for much longer.”
Aino makes a noise of agreement before she’s running back to wherever she’s dragged the man off to. Jimin pulls himself up slowly, staggering to his feet. He wishes he had to his channeling staff, it’d have been useful for walking right about now. Stumbling, Jimin clears his mind, vision still blurry. His senses tell him where Aino is and he makes his way over.
He’d need help from the villagers to completely heal the man, there was no doubt. Reaching Aino, he finds her crouching next to the man. Jimin mutters a weight lightening spell, before helping to get the man draped over Aino’s back. She’s even bigger than him, white fur muddied with dirt and blood. Jimin notices that the man has several wounds and while those would be easy to heal, he knew that there was internal bleeding. The heat and pressure in that strange metal bird had been insufferable. Even still, the man had shown no signs of life besides his weakening pulse.
The problem, of course, would be that none of the villagers would want to help him. Groaning, Jimin rubs his hands over his face before looking at his great wolf. He couldn’t just let the man die.
Jimin hardly makes it halfway to the village before he runs into a handful of villagers. They’re immediately suspicious of him, eyeing Aino warily as if she’d ever hurt any of them before.
“He’s hurt,” he tells them, careful to keep his voice as neutral as possible. He doesn’t want to start a fight, have them read into his tone like they usually did as if he had curses hidden in his words. He needed to get help for the poor man. When no one says anything, he adds, “He fell out of the sky.”
There’s a collective gasp, followed by some hushed murmuring. One of them, suddenly brave enough to speak steps forward. Jimin recognizes his aura. He hangs around Hoseok and Seokjin often.
One of the best witches in the village, and with talent, Jimin found, came a thirst for more. More knowledge, more power, more pride.
“Is that what the light in the sky was?” he asks, curiosity winning out over whatever the Elders have told them about staying away from Jimin.
“Yes,” Jimin answers, doesn’t make mention of the strange contraption he’d been trapped in. If he did, they’d only leave him to die. He’d have to go back and cloak it, make sure none of the villagers found it. “I tried to ― ” Jimin holds his tongue, knows better than to mention his own powers, least of all his protection spell. “He needs healing. I think there’s internal bleeding.”
Some of the villagers faces darken but they say nothing, leave the decision making to Namjoon. If Jimin recalls correctly, he was the Village Chief’s nephew. No wonder he was so powerful.
Namjoon stares at the body of the man, glancing back at Jimin. “You can leave him to us.”
The suggestion makes Jimin bristle, but he holds his tongue. If the man fell into some kind of coma, none of them would be able to help him, even joined through their auras. He hated how easily they dismissed him but he couldn’t risk the life of a man for his bitterness.
“Aino, let him down. Gently.”
The great wolf crouches, body wiggling as she slowly slides the body of the man down her spine until he lands on the ground with barely a sound. She leaves him there, making her way to Jimin who smiles at her in gratitude, smoothing the fur of her head.
“Then we’ll be off,” he tells the crowd of villagers, hiking a foot up and over Aino. Namjoon stares at them, nods discretely as two men hurry over to the man to pick him up. They manage his weight better than Jimin had, his strange clothes ripped up and dirty.
He nudges her away and when they’re out of the villagers ear shot, he races her back to the crash site. By the time they’d have the healing circle set up, he’d have the whole contraption hidden under a concealment spell. Then he’d go back to help with the healing, even if it would have to be from some sort of hiding spot.
Jimin’s body aches, but he keeps his hands fisted in Aino’s fur. He needed to know where that man had come from, and while the villagers would keep him out of their town, Hoseok would never turn him away from his door. The man would likely end up in the healer’s hospice.
He pushes Aino harder, the clearing nearly in sight. Time, Jimin knew, was as fickle as she was tiresome and right now, he needed all the time he could get.
Jeongguk remembers the glow of the cube, the way the water had lapped gently at his body, how it was like he was being lulled to sleep. Above all, he remembers how he’d felt nothing at all, body numb to the pain.
There was a warmth around him, flowing through him, as if someone had wrapped him up in a particularly loving blanket.
The beach is a difficult place to hide, Jimin learns, but thankfully there are enough rocky formations in the shallows that he manages to hide between them. He spots Momo, Mina, and Sana surrounding the cube, the body of the man laid under it. They’re dressed in the traditional white of healers, already walking around it in formation to start the incantation. Off toward the coast, some of the villagers stand watching. Jimin can spot some of the Elders amongst them.
They’d sent a few villagers to the crash site, but Jimin had hidden everything, nothing but the scars laid on the ground of the impact left as evidence. There’d be no doubt that they would be suspicious of whoever this man was, the skies often serving as evidence for their good and bad omens.
Chewing on his lip, Jimin assesses how far he can stretch his aura. A healing spell normally required direct contact or interaction through some kind of pentagram or transmutation circle. But Jimin’s powers were different from everyone else’s, after all, that’s why he’d been singled out.
He realises he’s too far away to do much more than a transference spell, but managing that, the man’s body will heal that much faster. Jimin can still remember the heat of his skin, hair singed near the tips, the heavy weight of him. No one in the village felt so solid, so heavy. They were made differently.
Perhaps a piece of the sun truly had fallen off and crashed into the ground.
Focusing, Jimin draws a single pentagram on his own forehead, so familiar with the seal he doesn’t even need a mirror to know he’s gotten it right. It’d help him focus, and moreover, speed up the process. He begins his incantation, careful to watch the girls make their rounds around the cube. They would need sixteen full circles before they’d start the second incantation. Jimin needed to lock in on the man’s life force before they got that far.
Water laps at his thighs, sand seeping between his toes as he positions himself to kneeling. He misses Aino but she could never have hidden between the rocks, they were barely covering him.
Jimin watches the three girls complete their seventh round, the transmutation circle coming to life above the cube, glowing white. The cube focuses it’s energy and magic into the man, and Jimin’s body feels electrified as he feels the surge course through him through his connection to the man. Pain floods him, less sharp than earlier but he has to force himself to stay upright, nearly curling in on himself.
As the sky bleeds darker, nighttime air getting chillier and chillier, Jimin forces the incantation through his chattering teeth and stiffened tongue. The girls complete their rounds, forming an equilateral triangle under the transmutation circle. The white light of the circle glows brighter, cube intensifying and Jimin is hit with a second wave that nearly blacks him out. Sheer will has him continuing, breaths short and ragged as the spell comes to an end.
Sana steps closer, pours the first part of the Sani potion into the water. Momo follows, and finally Mina completes the spell. Jimin’s vision blurs, the transference spell ending as he doubles over, gasping. The man would be okay.
Jimin breathes through his pain, unable to see what the villagers were doing as he waited for his body to rid himself of the agony. By the time he looks back up, they’re gone. The beach is empty save for the eerie glow of the cube.
Jeongguk wakes up.
At least, that’s what he thinks is happening. His eyes won’t open or maybe they are open and he simply can’t see anymore? Could a crash-landing do that? Maybe if he’d cracked his skull open. Except Jeongguk doesn’t remember that. He doesn’t remember much right now.
Someone says something next to him but it sounds like gibberish. They repeat themselves but it doesn’t come any closer to making sense. Jeongguk groans, body aching with malaise. If he’s being honest, he’d expected to be in a lot more pain.
He’s lucky, he knows that much. Lucky that someone found him, that he’d landed on a planet with life at all.
Jeongguk tries forming words but he fails, sounds more like a dying animal than anything else. The someone says something again but it makes less and less sense. Jeongguk can’t tell if his eyes are open, but everything is black black black.
And then he’s gone.
Jimin sneaks into the hospice through the back door after the sun dips below the horizon. It’s empty save for Jeongguk, who’s been stuck in a bed in a far corner. Hoseok seems to have stepped out as Jimin can’t sense him either. Either way, it makes little difference to him.
It had taken him two days to convince Hoseok to let him see the man from the sky and then he’d been relegated to visits in the middle of the night, after everyone had gone to sleep. Five days had passed since the man had fallen, and Jimin’s already heard that the Elders are furious he found the man first. Like maybe he’s tainted him or something. Jimin snorts at the idea.
If anything, the man is alive thanks to him. He has curious markings all over his skin, some kind of beast made of ink on his back and strange markings all over both his forearms. The one that stands out most is the wolf on his right arm, which Jimin had wished he’d been able to conceal. The Elders would have seen it by now and Jimin had a feeling it had something to do with their distaste that Jimin had found him first.
He settles on the edge of the bed, staring at the unconscious man. After Hoseok had told Jimin he’d woken up on the second day, Jimin had refused to be told to leave. Hoseok owed him, after all, and he’s grateful to have been able to call the favours in.
The healing spell has left the man in some kind of stasis as his body heals itself. He hasn’t even moved while Jimin’s been over the last few nights. Jimin just wants to know where he’d come from. He’d gone back to the crash site, carefully checking to see if any of the villagers were there before lifting the concealment.
The bird had revealed nothing and Jimin had only been more confused. How could the man have come from the sky? Was the sky made of metal? Or perhaps it really was the sun. That didn’t explain why he had a moon among his skin markings though. Jimin’s mouth purses, a finger ghosting over the wolf on the man’s arm.
He glances up at him, his features at rest. He’s handsome, face small and round, with a prominent nose and thin lips. The colour has returned to his skin, more flushed and pink than the sallow yellow it’d been a few days prior.
As he stares at the man, Jimin allows his hand to wrap around his bicep, the muscle under his skin hard. In comparison, Jimin feels soft, brows furrowing. The feeling is curious.
Just as he thinks to let go, the man groans and Jimin’s heartbeat stops dead, body slamming him into shock. The man’s groans become louder and Jimin, panicked, glances at the front door. No one is here. No one shows up.
The man’s eyes are blinking open, and Jimin stares transfixed in equal parts excitement and horror. Hoseok had said the man hadn’t been able to open his eyes last time.
“Hello?” Jimin asks, but gets no response. He lets go of the man immediately, scurrying off to get him a glass of water. When he returns, he looms over the man, watches as his vision focuses, confusion settling between his brow. Jimin doesn’t expect him to be recognized. He smiles, shows the man the glass of water.
That gets him something, his fingers twitching and Jimin doesn’t hesitate, leaves the glass hovering next to him as he gets the man into a slightly more upright position. When he grabs the glass out of the air, the man’s confusion has increased but Jimin ignores it. He feeds him the water, slow and steady until he’s shaking his head to indicate that he’s had enough.
“How are you feeling?” Jimin asks but he gets no answer. Jimin worries his lip between his teeth, repeating himself but he receives another clueless look. Could the man not hear him? Or maybe he couldn’t understand Jimin?
“Can you hear me?” he tries again, pointing toward his ear. He cups it and then points at the man. “Hello?”
The man seems to understand him, head nodding but the confusion is still ever present. Jimin’s nearly at a loss when he remembers the spell he’d seen the villagers using to trade with some of the Western tribes. Glancing around, Jimin spots a pot of ink on one of Hoseok’s tables. He hurries over and brings the pot back to the man, who’s looking at Jimin rather curiously.
“Right, okay, this will fix it,” Jimin tells him, finger dipping into the ink. It’s red, which isn’t ideal but it’ll do for now. Jimin draws the necessary symbols on the man’s skin, who’s too surprised to yank his arm away from. Using his compliance, Jimin chants the spell quietly, watches the startled expression on the man’s face.
He tries again.
“Do you understand me?”
“I ― Yeah,” he answers, blinking at Jimin.
Jimin grins, attempts to contain the rush of excitement that grips him. There’s a million questions he wants to ask but he filters through them until he gets to the most obvious one. “How are you feeling?”
“Okay,” the man answers, the general air of confusion not leaving him.
“You fell out of the sky,” Jimin tells him, wonders if he even remembers what happened. “I did the protection spell myself ― Well I’m the only one who can and ― ”
“Yeah,” Jimin answers, staring at the man. He’s gaping at Jimin. “Um, is there something on my face?”
“No, just. I mean, what do you mean spell?”
“A spell is...I mean, you know! It’s a way to harness and use magic,” Jimin explains, slowing down. Maybe the man had suffered some kind of trauma, lost his memories.
“Magic?” The man repeats, eyes widening into large saucers. Jimin notices that his are a deep brown.
“Yeah, magic. Everyone has magic.”
“Uh, not me.”
“I just. Can you ― Start from the beginning please.” The man squeezes his eyes close and Jimin really should be checking on his health before he bombards him with questions.
“Okay, that sounds good,” he says, hoping that he manages a comforting smile. “I’m Jimin. I saved your life.”
“Jeongguk, and I’m very grateful. Thank you,” Jeongguk offers in return, his shoulders tense. Jimin wonders if he should cast a calming spell but Jeongguk didn’t even seem to know what magic was. “So you said something about magic.”
“It’s a foundation of the world. Everything and everyone has magic in it. It’s one of the first things we learn, Jeongguk. Did they not teach you?”
“There’s...like you don’t mean card tricks do you? What am I saying, this is a different planet, duh,” Jeongguk mutters, seemingly more to himself than Jimin.
“My ship, where’s my ship?” Jeongguk asks, glancing up at Jimin, a startling clarity to his eyes now.
“You didn’t come here by sea,” Jimin says slowly, more and more confused by the strangeness of Jeongguk’s words. “But I hid the metal bird. I’m not sure if it’s still alive.”
“Metal ― No, that’s, thank god. That’s the ship,” Jeongguk says with relief, sagging back into his pillows. “And it’s okay?”
“The metal bird doesn’t look like a ship,” Jimin points out. He has no idea if it’s okay. It had stopped emitting smoke after the first day but Jimin’s not sure if that’s a good thing or not. He has less and less of an idea of what it is.
“The metal bird doesn’t travel in the sea. It’s for space travel.”
Jimin’s eyes widen. “Space? How can you go into space? The Gods would be angered by such hubris. Maybe that’s why you fell out of the sky,” Jimin accuses, arms crossing over his chest. “Are you from some other tribe? How do you not have magic?”
Jeongguk looks like he doesn’t know what to say, a hand coming to rub at his face. He stares at Jimin, eyes calculating, and Jimin finds himself averting his gaze, the intensity a little overwhelming.
“I’m not from...your world,” Jeongguk explains, pushing himself further upright in the bed. Jimin grabs him another pillow, settling on the edge of the bed himself. “In my world, you can travel into the stars, go into space. We don’t have magic.”
“Did the Gods send you?” Jimin asks, carefully quiet and a little awed.
“Uh, definitely no. I’m not sure who your Gods are.”
“But you fell out of the sky!”
“Because my metal bird ― ”
“My ship, yes, it can fly in the sky. It can go beyond the sky.”
“How did it fall then?” Jimin furrows his brows together, staring at Jeongguk for answers. It’s as if for every question Jeongguk answers, Jimin has five more to ask.
“There as a malfunction in, uh, one of the parts. I didn’t think this planet was inhabited.”
“You keep saying that word, planet. What is it?”
Jeongguk groans, his hands rubbing at his face. Jimin sits patiently next to him and awaits his answer. “Do you know that your world is round?”
Jimin tilts his head to the side. “The sun is round. The world...it just goes on forever, doesn’t it?”
“Not really,” Jeongguk answers. “You’ve walked around a circle before, right?”
“Well, when you walk along a circle, you always end where you begin.”
“Yes, that’s why they’re used for pentagrams. They represent a coming together. We learned that when we were five, Jeongguk,” Jimin tells him, a little annoyed by the condescending nature of Jeongguk’s lesson.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Jeongguk quickly apologises. “I just mean to say that the world is like that, too. If you were to start walking from here now and kept walking in a straight line, you’d eventually come back to this same spot. The world doesn’t go on forever.”
“The world is a circle?” Jimin gasps, bewildered. Jeongguk looks a little pained.
“Not a circle, a sphere.”
“Like a Satran fruit?”
“Uh, I’m not sure what that is but if it’s round, yeah. Like that.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I’ve seen it. When you go out in space, you can see whole planets, whole worlds. They’re all round.”
Before Jimin can ask another question, the front door opens and he ducks beside the bed, just out of range of sight. It’s Hoseok, which is who Jimin expected but he could never be too careful.
“Jimin?” Jeongguk’s staring right down at him like some kind of moron.
“Shh,” Jimin hisses at him, glaring.
“I know you’re here, Jimin. I wouldn’t expect less of you,” Hoseok says. “When did he wake up?”
Jimin slowly rises from his rather poor hiding place and gives Hoseok a semi-guilty smile. He didn’t want to get Hoseok in trouble. “A little while ago.”
“How’re you feeling?” Hoseok asks Jeongguk, who stares at Hoseok with a hint of confusion. He looks back at Jimin and then seems to chose to not ask whatever burning question he’s formed by looking between the two of them.
“A lot better than I expected.”
“And what did you expect?”
“That I’d be dead.”
Jimin stays quiet during the exchange, already knows he needs to warn Jeongguk about what he tells Hoseok and the other villagers about his strange sky ship and the world being round. Of course, he can’t say any of that in front of Hoseok either.
“Did you have food, Hoseok? I’m sure he’s hungry. I only gave him some water.”
Hoseok nods, stepping toward the other end of the room. Jimin immediately leans in close to Jeongguk, ensures that he looks as unsuspicious as possible. “You can’t tell him or anyone else anything you told me, okay! They won’t react like I did.”
“What? Why ― ”
“Just promise me you won’t,” Jimin persists and Jeongguk nods slowly. “It’s for your own good.”
“But what do I say then?”
“That you can’t remember anything.” Jimin stands up straight, can sense Hoseok coming back with a bowl in his hand. “I’ll get going then,” he says, directing the comment more at Hoseok than Jeongguk. “You probably need to do some check ups.”
“Nothing I’m sure you haven’t already sensed,” Hoseok smiles, the amusement colouring his voice settling like a warmth in Jimin’s belly. Besides Hoseok, no one in the village really showed him anything but contempt and suspicion. Even then, Hoseok was careful, couldn’t risk his own well-being for Jimin. He didn’t blame Hoseok.
“I didn’t pick anything up but I didn’t cast any extensive spells,” Jimin says, looking at Jeongguk. Hoseok’s handed him the bowl and it’s a broth, vegetables floating among the midst. “See you later, Jeongguk.”
In the morning, Jeongguk wakes up to find no sign of Jimin. Instead, there’s three other people in the makeshift hospital. He stares at them, unwilling to say anything in case he understands nothing again like last night. Jimin had done something before they could speak to each other, he knows that much. Some kind of spell, he assumes.
As he sits up in bed, he finds the stiffness in his joints and muscles has practically disappeared. Even with all the advancements in technology he knew of, he didn’t recover this quickly. The idea that this world had magic is still boggling his mind, but Jimin had said he’d used some kind of protection spell on him. Then later, Hoseok had practically glowed as he’d waved his hand over Jeongguk’s body. Magic seemed to be real for now.
“You’re awake,” Hoseok smiles, coming over to Jeongguk’s bed. He’s surprised he understands Hoseok but then the small symbols Jimin had drawn on him are still on his arm. The two other people follow Hoseok, both older than him, with long braided hair that had gone completely white. It’s different from what Jeongguk remembers of Jimin’s hair, a charcoal grey, and different from Hoseok’s pale orange. None of them bare the same black half-crescent he’d seen on Jimin’s forehead either.
“Yeah,” Jeongguk replies, trying his best not to look at the two new individuals. They give him an unsettling feeling, their eyes dark with something indescribable. From the way they carry themselves, they’r’e important, and Jeongguk’s guess is that they’re the Elders Jimin had mentioned last night.
“How’re you feeling now?” Hoseok asks, hands already glowing as he scans Jeongguk’s body. It’s a little overwhelming to see.
“Like I never cr ― fell out of the sky,” Jeongguk quickly answers, smiles weakly.
“You remember your fall then?” One of the Elders says, tone sharp, and Jeongguk’s not sure why Jimin had been so adamant about him not revealing anything but this reaction is affirming enough. Hoseok had asked him after his check up what Jeongguk could remember and he’s said nothing but his name, keeping with Jimin’s lie.
Shaking his head, Jeongguk stays quiet, imagines Hoseok has told them whatever Jeongguk had told him.
“These markings on your body, what do they mean?” the other Elder asks. She has a voice deeper than Jeongguk expects, smooth and deceptively soothing.
“I-I don’t remember,” Jeongguk answers. Jimin hadn’t even know what a planet is, how could he explain tattoos to these people.
“There is great wolf on your arm. Do you not understand that they are an omen of bad luck?”
Truth be told, Jeongguk had gotten the wolf tattooed after his last stay on an Earth colony. He’d spent two years with the same crew on a freight-liner, and had gotten it in memory of his “pack”. Sentimentality seemed to be getting him in trouble now.
“I really don’t remember getting it,” Jeongguk answers, his smile now much more of a grimace. The Elders both look rather unimpressed, and perhaps even unconvinced. He can’t exactly fake being in pain to get them to go away so he sits and waits under their scrutiny.
“The Gods would not send down a man who remembers nothing,” the man says to the woman, leaves his distrust visible on his face. The woman is better at hiding her emotions. Jeongguk finds her unreadable.
“It could very well be a test,” she counters, looks away from Jeongguk to her acquaintance.
“They would not send a man covered in strange, meaningless markings,” the man snaps back.
Not liking the direction of the conversation, Jeongguk interrupts, directing his question at Hoseok. “Where’s Jimin?”
“What?” The man’s glaring openly at Jeongguk now, his voice like a whip as he turns on Jeongguk. “How do you know about him?”
Bewildered, Jeongguk glances at Hoseok who’s gone pale, stepping aside to allow the Elders closer to the bed. “He...he saved me, right?”
“Who told you that?”
Behind the two of them, Hoseok is shaking his head discretely and Jeongguk is at a loss for what to say. “He...he was here last night.”
“Hoseok!” the man all but screams, turning on the healer. “Did you know of this!”
“He didn’t!” Jeongguk blurts out just as fast, the man’s attention falling back to him. He’s practically heaving with anger, while the woman’s eyes have darkened. “Hoseok had left...F-for dinner. Jimin snuck in after he’d left.”
“That vile bastard,” the man sneers, already marching out of the hospice in a fury. The woman stares at Jeongguk a moment longer, before she turns to Hoseok.
“He is not to leave the hospice, Hoseok.” With that she stalks out as well, her robes fluttering behind her. Jeongguk’s heartbeat beats like a drum against his chest, body coiled tight and it’s not until Hoseok falls back onto a bed that Jeongguk remembers he needs to breathe.
“This is my fault,” Hoseok says outloud, a hand carding through his hair. “I ― How could I forget to tell you not to mention Jimin, Gods.”
“What’s ― ”
“Listen Jeongguk. Chances are…“ Hoseok looks uneasy, pained almost as he gathers the words together. His shoulders sag in defeat. “They won’t let you stay in the village.”
“No one will help someone who the Elders call a bad omen. We are spiritual people, misguided by our fears. Jimin...He’s banished from the village. You shouldn’t have asked for him.”
“How was I supposed to know that?” Jeongguk asks, exasperated. He knew absolutely nothing about this strange planet, needed to get back to his ship and repair her. The problem, of course, was that only Jimin knew where the ship was.
“You weren’t,” Hoseok mutters, an air of guilt hanging around him. “Thankfully you’re fully healed. Jimin’ll probably come by again tonight. It’s best if you just run off with him.”
“I don’t understand what’s happening. Why did the village banish Jimin?”
“That’s not for me to say.”
“Then why did you allow him here?”
“Jimin’s magic is…” Hoseok trails, glancing back at the hospice doors. He drops his voice lower, “His magic is capable of things ours is not. He’s healed a number of villagers, my best friend’s brother would have died if not for him. Our magic can’t do what his can.”
“So you banished him? That makes no sense,” Jeongguk exclaims, staring at Hoseok with confusion.
“It’s not my decision to make. If it were, he’d never have been told to leave, but the Elders...They make the final decisions.” Hoseok doesn’t look at him, rises from the bed and goes toward one of the windows. “Leave tonight. It’ll be better for you.”
“Won’t that just confirm what the Elders think of me?”
“Why should their opinion be so important to you?”
“It isn’t,” Jeongguk says, realizing that it really didn’t matter where he stayed. He’s better off with Jimin anyways. “But it does affirm their power over the village.”
Hoseok looks back at him, eyes somber. “Safety has a price, and they’ve kept us safe.”
Jeongguk doesn’t know how to tell him that living under someone’s regime with no say in the matter is hardly safety. He says nothing.
Jimin shows up after the planet’s star disappears off the horizon. He can hardly remember his crash, just the agonizing pain and how it’d melted away when he’d gotten closer to the planet. The ship had malfunctioned, and Jeongguk couldn’t have fixed the problem in time with just him aboard. He hadn’t expected to survive.
“Jeongguk?” Jimin calls out, slipping through the back door. He comes to a stop when he senses the tension in the room, glancing from Jeongguk to Hoseok. “Is everything okay?”
“You need to take Jeongguk and leave,” Hoseok instructs, leaving the window he’s been watching the village from all day. He’s been waiting in the hospice with Jeongguk, no sign of the Elders returning. They’d come to the conclusion that they’d probably announce their decision in the morning, which is well enough. It’ll give Jeongguk time to run away.
“Wha ― Did something happen?”
“Jeongguk mentioned you in front of them,” Hoseok offers as an explanation and Jimin’s eyes widen in understanding, his uncertainty transforming into a frown.
“Oh, guess I should have mentioned that,” he mutters to himself.
“It doesn’t matter,” Jeongguk tells him. “I need to...uh,” he looks at Hoseok briefly, wondering if he should mention the ship. He’d promised Jimin he wouldn’t, “Something tells me they wouldn’t have liked me even if you hadn’t been the one to find me.”
“Probably not,” Jimin agrees as Hoseok nods.
“They’re not big on strangers, I guess. Least of all ones falling out of the sky,” Hoseok adds, grabbing a small satchel. He hands it to Jeongguk, who finds his old clothes in it. Hoseok had given him some plain white robes earlier, and the flowy material feels decidedly strange. He can’t remember the last time he wore something that didn’t stick to his skin.
“They’re not big on a lot of things,” Jimin mutters, snorting. Hoseok looks guilty but doesn’t say anything. Jeongguk imagines there’s little that could comfort Jimin anyways.
“We’d better get going,” Jeongguk reminds, throwing the satchel over his shoulder. Jimin nods, heading for the back entrance. Jeongguk lingers for a moment, turning to Hoseok. “Thank you for looking after me.”
Hoseok gives him a smile, genuine this time. “It’s my duty,” he says, eyes darting over to Jimin, who’s disappeared behind a wall. “Take care of him.”
“I’m not sure how much help I’ll be,” Jeongguk confesses, a little surprised by the admission. “But I guess I’ll try.”
“You’ll be okay?”
“Yeah, don’t worry about me. Go on, now.”
Jeongguk nods, heads in the same direction as Jimin. He walks past a corner, finds an open door at the end of the small hallway. Jimin’s waiting in the doorway.
Jimin watches as Jeongguk rises out of the water, claiming he’d wanted to wash the smell of the hospice off of him. He didn’t blame Jeongguk exactly. The scent of some of the darker herbs always lingered in the hospice, the sharp burn dulling out overtime. As they’d snuck out of the village, Jimin had heard the loud clap of Hoseok casting some kind of damaging spell. From the sounds of it, a blaster.
While he knows it’s necessary ― Hoseok had been charged with guarding Jeongguk, whether Jeongguk realised that or not ― it didn’t mean he liked it any better. Jimin always has to be the bad guy.
He feels a little miserable, stares at Jeongguk drying himself off, the lines of his body harder than Jimin’s. The sight is a distracting one, his muscles coiling and flexing as he slips the robes back on. Jimin watches the jut of his shoulder blades disappear, biceps bulging as Jeongguk’s arms bend above his head.
Now he feels like a voyeur, but Jeongguk had insisted on cleaning up before Jimin took him back to his own cabin. Tomorrow he’d take Jeongguk to see his strange metal bird, and perhaps have the rest of his questions answered.
Jeongguk walks back over to Jimin, who hasn’t bothered getting up from his seat in the sand. He isn’t even particularly fond of the sand. Aino’s lurking around somewhere on the peripheries, still suspicious of Jeongguk herself. Jimin’s glad he has her, at least.
When Jeongguk finally gets to Jimin, he sticks a hand out to help Jimin up and then he says something. Jimin doesn’t understand a word of it.
They both realise it at the same time, Jeongguk looking down at his arm, as Jimin mutters a “Duh.” The translation spell has been washed off and unlike Jeongguk’s markings, Jimin’s symbols have washed off.
“I don’t have the right ink on me,” he says, not that it does Jeongguk much good. He stares at Jimin incomprehensibly and Jimin sighs, grabbing him by the wrist and picking up Jeongguk’s discarded satchel with the other hand. “This way.”
The lighting orb he’d created to help them see through the evening darkness trails after them.
In a way it’s nice, being able to say whatever he wants to Jeongguk since he doesn’t understand a word of it but then, that’s what Jimin’s been doing since his banishment anyways. Jeongguk doesn’t pull his arm away from Jimin, lets himself be tugged along. They leave the beach behind for the woods, the trees getting bigger and thicker as they wind through them.
Jimin’s cabin is a good distance away from the village but fairly close to the beach. It doesn’t take long to spot it, although only Jimin can. He imagines Jeongguk sees nothing, since Jimin keeps it under a concealment spell. After a while, he’d trusted the villagers about as much as they trusted him.
“Almost there,” Jimin says, dropping Jeongguk’s wrist as he gets to the outside of his first protective enchantment. Jimin can pass through it easy, along with Aino but it’d blast Jeongguk out about fifty meters if he tried to walk past it. Turning back around, Jimin motions for Jeongguk to come closer. The man does, and when Jimin reaches up toward his head, he smiles before plucking a strand of Jeongguk’s hair out. Jeongguk yelps, scowling, but Jimin pays him no mind. He faces the shield once more, begins modifying the enchantment.
When he’s finished, Jimin sighs. “Should have done this sooner.”
He steps forward, the enchantment barely perceptible to him. Jeongguk sees nothing, his expression unchanged but he follows after Jimin. Two feet from the door, Jimin pauses again, this time taking Jeongguk’s hand. He lays Jeongguk’s palm face down in his own, presses his other hand up against the enchantment barrier before modifying the protection spell.
Jeongguk seems to have caught on, doesn’t look too bothered that Jimin’s using magic on him. The barrier ripples, glowing momentarily pink before it vanishes. There’s a look of awe on Jeongguk’s features and Jimin can’t believe he has no magic. How did he live?
“We can go in now,” Jimin tells him, isn’t sure why he keeps trying to talk to Jeongguk. They’d need the translation spell before they could understand anything. Opening the front door, Jimin invites Jeongguk inside physically, knows the house will reject him otherwise. He didn’t even remember the trap he’d set up. Was it fire or being spliced into a thousand pieces?
Jimin’s cabin is modest, with three separate rooms that more or less looked into each other. His kitchen took up a fair bit of space but Jimin spent a lot of his time messing around with brewing potions and perfecting various ways to project transmutation circles. A helpful skill.
“Stay here,” Jimin says, leaves Jeongguk by the front door as he goes looking for a proper blue ink. Translation spells always gave the best results with blue. He finds it sitting among a dozen other bottles, grabbing a thin brush along the way.
Jeongguk’s just staring at his surroundings, mouth hung open. Jimin’s cabin is rather cluttered, he’ll admit to that. He didn’t really bother cleaning up much, considering how quickly the place returned back to a mess.
“Okay, let’s fix this, shall we!” Jimin smiles, sticking his arm out. Jeongguk mimics him, and Jimin begins drawing the symbols again, a set of five. He murmurs the accompanying spell, feels the tingle of magic between them as it settles.
“Hello?” Jimin asks, a little like a test run. He rarely got spells wrong. At least, not ones he already knew how to cast. The ones he was trying to create himself, those were another story.
“Um, I think it worked?” Jeongguk says it with uncertainty but Jimin only smiles, delighted that it, indeed, had worked.
“You’re gonna have to be careful about the spell. Too bad, I can’t embed it into your skin like all those other markings you have,” Jimin pouts, sticking the bottle of ink and brush onto the corner of an already cluttered table. Jeongguk doesn’t look too happy about it but then Jimin not too concerned about that. “How did you ― ”
“Before you ask me another thousand questions,” Jeongguk interrupts, smiling as if that would appease Jimin, “How soon can we go see my ship?”
“I said I’d take you tomorrow. You’ll barely be able to see in the middle of the night,” Jimin says, lips pursing.
“Yeah but you made that weird glowing light thing, didn’t you?”
“It’s a spell for sight in the dark,” Jimin snorts, rolling his eyes. “Magic like that is temporary, it wears off. Besides, who knows what those damn villagers are doing now. They don’t know where I live, but I’m sure they went back to the crash site.”
“They healed me, didn’t they? So why ― I think Hoseok said the Elders thought I was a bad omen,” Jeongguk says, looking at Jimin expectantly.
Jimin doesn’t really want to talk about it but he supposes he owes Jeongguk some kind of explanation. He had told Jimin about the world being round. “I found you first. If they had, you’d have been a good omen. They might even have ignored that wolf marking on your arm.”
“They called it a bad omen, too.”
“Yeah, because the great wolf only stays with someone the village has banished.” Jimin heads for his bedroom, the door to which was blocked by two baskets full of herbs and plants he’d spent the weeks prior to Jeongguk’s arrival collecting.
“The great wolf?” Jeongguk echoes, follows after Jimin until they’re both in his room. At least Jimin had transmuted his bed to be on the larger side, a luxury he could afford himself. Without the rules of the village to stop him, Jimin had taken to casting any spells he wished to.
“You’ll meet her tomorrow.”
Jeongguk’s body heat is closer than Jimin anticipated, a quick glance behind him showing barely a foot of difference between them. His aura is fainter than anyone Jimin has met, a weak presence.
“Why do they…“ Jeongguk asks, lets the question trail off, unsure.
“Hate me?” Jimin offers, cleaning the half of his bed he’s haphazardly thrown things on to by letting them fall to the floor. He really needed to clean up the place.
“I don’t mean ― ”
“It’s okay, Jeongguk. They do. I’m different, they think I’m a threat. I’m sorry they thought you were a bad omen. That wasn’t fair,” Jimin says, voice getting quieter and quieter. His eyes are downcast. That miserable feeling is back in his gut.
“Hoseok said you’d been banished.”
“More or less,” Jimin agrees, climbing into the bed. Jeongguk stands at the edge of it, staring at Jimin with wide eyes. “Oh, do space people sleep standing up? You seemed fine at the hospice…“
“No, I don’t…Nevermind. Are you okay with me sleeping in the same bed as you?” Jeongguk asks, looks uncomfortable.
“I only have one bed. If you want to sleep on the floor, be my guest, but you really could have told me earlier. I threw all my things off the bed,” Jimin huffs, annoyance lacing his voice. He falls back against his pillow, hikes his blanket up and around him.
Jeongguk stands by the edge of the bed for a little longer before climbing in, perhaps realizing that a mattress would always be more comfortable than the floor. Smart.
“Thank you,” Jeongguk says, leaves an arm’s width of space between them. Jimin’s curled up next to the wall. He’d made a big bed but really, Jimin hardly used any of the space. Sometimes Aino even came and slept inside with him. “I’m sorry they banished you.”
It’s the first time anyone’s ever said that to him and Jimin’s whole body stills. Jeongguk’s a stranger, he tells himself, but it doesn’t quell back his tears, eyes wet as he mumbles out a quiet thank you.
That night Jimin dreams of the stars, never ending.
“Your metal bird,” Jimin informs Jeongguk, arms spreading out over the clearing.
Jeongguk stares at the empty space before looking at Jimin. He quirks up an eyebrow and Jimin only laughs, giggling to himself.
“Obviously,” Jimin starts pointedly, “I hid it under a concealment spell. Imagine if the villagers had seen it. They’d have never agreed to heal you.”
Jeongguk, Jimin’s found, asks as many questions as Jimin does.
“It’s made out of metals, which are considered inorganic. Unnatural. You’d have been written off as a bad omen that much faster.”
“The village Elders certainly seem to think a lot of things are bad omens,” Jeongguk snorts, walking toward the the scorched earth that is visible, even if the ship is not. Jimin begins murmuring the revealing spell, careful to only only Jeongguk and himself visibility.
The revealing spell brings Jeongguk’s ship into glimmering light, morning sunlight shimmering against the sleek metal. It’s been scorched in a few places, but Jimin certainly thinks it looks less mangled now than he did when he’d first seen it. Although, he really has no frame of reference here.
“It’s quite ugly,” Jimin offers, following after Jeongguk, who’s all but rushed at his ship.
Jeongguk gasps, turning on Jimin with his eyes narrowed. “She’s been through a lot!”
“It’s a she? Is it alive, too?” Jimin’s eyes widen as he looks at the ship but try as he might he can’t sense any lifeform from the hunk of metal. He frowns. “Jeongguk, it’s not alive.”
“She’s not alive ― Well, not like that anyways,” Jeongguk says, his hand sliding over the same door Jimin’s had when he’d been trying to get inside. He’s thankful there’s less scorching heat and choking smoke to deal with this time.
“You’re weird,” Jimin mutters, trailing behind Jeongguk. He enters the ship, Jimin glancing around at everything with more interest. “This thing really lets you travel among the stars?”
Jeongguk grimaces as he takes in some of the damage to the ship, some of the panels on the walls completely blown off. “Yeah, but not in her current condition. I’ll have to fix her up but I don’t know how I’m going to do that. You don’t even have technology.”
“Right, you don’t know what that is,” Jeongguk recalls, looking back at Jimin. “You know how you have magic and it lets you do things you couldn’t otherwise.”
“Yeah, although magic doesn’t let us fly in the sky like you did. But I suppose that was more of a fall,” Jimin says, recalling the way Jeongguk’s ship had burned through the sky.
Jeongguk looks a little pained. “Right, anyways. Technology lets me and people like me ― ”
“Non-magical people, yes, do things we couldn’t otherwise.”
“Oh!” Jimin exclaims, delighted. “Technology is magic!”
“No, well, maybe sort of?” Jeongguk looks confused, but he’s entering the small room Jimin had found him in and crouching down. Jimin watches as he pulls the floor open. There are strange worm like things inside but they are entirely unmoving.
“What are those?”
“Wires,” Jeongguk answers, as if that means anything to Jimin. He’s completely focused on the wires, hand pushing them this way and that as he looks for something. Jimin waits patiently, crouched next to Jeongguk.
“Are they good or bad?” Jimin asks eventually, figures Jeongguk is trying to see how much they’ve been damaged. That’s what Jimin usually checks for with his magic experiments.
“I was expecting them to have been fried but they’re not. The damage might not be as bad as I thought,” Jeongguk answers, smiling. He looks nice when he smiles, Jimin notes.
“Does that mean it can fly?” Jimin can’t keep the excitement out of his voice. He wants to know what flying feels like.
“Not quite. I still have to repair all the damage on the outside, and I’m pretty sure one of the quantum carburetors is broken. I think that’s why ― as you keep reminding me ― I fell out of the sky.”
“Well, that is what happened,” Jimin says matter of factly. Jeongguk isn’t smiling anymore but Jimin finds he still looks nice. How strange.
He’s about to ask Jeongguk how long all the repairs would take but senses Aino’s presence outside of the ship. Jumping to his feet, Jimin tells Jeongguk as much. “Aino’s here!”
Rushing out of the ship, Jimin finds her prowling around the inside edge of the concealment spell, looking uncertain if she wants to come any closer.
“Aino, it’s okay!” he shouts at her, waving at her to come closer. She trusts Jimin enough that she lets go of her uncertainties and patters over, footsteps light.
“That’s Aino?” Jeongguk asks from behind him and Jimin gives him a big smile, happy that the two have met.
“Isn’t she beautiful? She’s powerful, too. I think that’s why the villagers banished me, rather than, you know, disposed of me some other way,” Jimin rambles, running over to Aino. He lets his hand run from her snout all the way to the fluffy fur between her ears. She practically rumbles with contentment, rubbing up against Jimin as she twirls around him, likely unhappy with Jeongguk’s unfamiliar scent clinging to Jimin. “Hope you’ve been staying out of trouble, girl.”
“She’s huge,” Jeongguk says, the edge of fear in his voice. Jimin expects it, would be rather surprised if he didn’t hear it. Aino is intimidating to look at. She’s taller than Jimin when she stands on her hind legs, lean and muscled from years spent running this way and that, carrying Jimin around on her back.
“She’s a great wolf,” Jimin points out. “They’re one of the largest animals in the world. Or, what did you call it, planet?”
“Yeah, planet,” Jeongguk confirms. He hasn’t bothered to take a step out of the ship.
“Stop being so scared and come say hello,” Jimin scolds him, waving him over. Aino lays down, and Jimin kneels down next to her, petting her fur. “She’s a sweetheart.”
“She looks like she could tear me apart,” Jeongguk observes as though it weren’t obvious.
“Guess you better not give her reason to,” Jimin remarks, laughing at the way Jeongguk gets a little paler. “I promise she won’t bite. Right, girl?”
Aino growls but it’s not predatory and Jeongguk, despite his hesitation, manages to come over. He stands next to Jimin awkwardly, unsure if he should try and touch Aino and Jimin finds it amusing.
“You can pet her, you know.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. If she didn’t like you, you’d know.”
“That’s reassuring,” Jeongguk drawls. Jimin’s not sure if he appreciates the sass.
“Are you always this rude to the people who save your life?”
“Only the ones with giant, predatory beasts for pets.”
“Aino’s not a pet!” Jimin gasps, glaring at Jeongguk. He’s finally managed to work up the courage to glide a hand over Aino’s fur. He looks surprised by the softness but truth be told, Jimin had been, too. “She’s my friend.”
“Okay, your giant, predatory friend then,” Jeongguk acquiesces, too fascinated by Aino’s fur. He’s crouching next to Jimin, looks content to just be stroking the wolf’s fur. Jimin stares at the scales in the marking, they wind around Jeongguk’s bicep, seemingly rippling as his muscles flex.
“Why don’t your markings wash off?” he asks, reaching out to touch Jeongguk’s arm. He rubs against the scales, but they are unbudging. Having permanent ink like this would be rather useful.
“They’re called tattoos,” Jeongguk tells him, eyebrows disappearing behind his fringe. His black hair’s dried from his previous night’s wash to a messy wave. It looks nice. “The ink is embedded into my skin using a needle.”
“Sounds painful,” Jimin says, wrinkling his nose. He can’t stop tracing the scales, fingers working higher and higher up Jeongguk’s bicep. “Why would you want to go through all that if they can’t even help you do magic?”
Jeongguk laughs, a brightness to his eyes that Jimin can’t recall ever seeing directed at him. “They’re to decorate your body. Some of them are in memory of people and things in my life. Kind of like being able to carry them around with you.”
“Do you forget those people and things otherwise?” Jimin asks, staring at Jeongguk with wide eyes. “Does everyone have them where you’re from?”
“You don’t forget them, no,” Jeongguk replies, shifting to sit cross legged. Jimin’s hand slips from his arm, and he settles against Aino’s soft fur and warm heat. “Did you make that necklace for Aino yourself?”
“Huh?” Jimin’s not sure what that has to do with his question but he glances over at Aino’s neck. He had made it for her, thought she’d look pretty with it on. He’d added some protective charms to it as well to keep her safe, not that she really needed them. “Yeah, I did.”
“Why do you think she wears it?”
“Because I gave it to her. She knows I don’t mean her any harm.”
“Tattoos are kind of like that. The ones that remind you of something, they’re important because they remind you of that person.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Jimin murmurs, one of his hands rubbing at Aino’s side. He hadn’t slept all that well, Jeongguk’s body heat something he was completely unused to. No one had ever slept in the same bed as Jimin.
“And no, not everyone has them. Some species really look down on them,” Jeongguk adds, his weight falling back on the palms of his hands. He glances over at his ship, sighing. Jimin follows his line of vision, stares at the one bent wing, the impact damage along the underside of the ship.
“Will you be able to fix everything?”
“I’m not sure,” Jeongguk admits. “Your planet doesn’t have any technological advancements, just your magic. I’ll need to use panels from the inside of the ship to make up for some of the hull damage since I haven’t seen your people using metals.”
“It’s not allowed,” Jimin explains, looking back at Jeongguk. “The Elders say it creates impurities in our magic.”
“Of course they do,” Jeongguk mutters but then goes a little red in the face, eyes wide. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that. I don’t know anything about magic.”
“No, you don’t, but you’re not wrong,” Jimin agrees, smiling maybe a little smugly at the temporary panic on Jeongguk’s face. “I don’t think it’s as bad as they claim it is. But I knew if they saw your ship, they’d think you were someone from another tribe trying to deceive them.”
“Does that happen a lot?” The afternoon breeze ruffles Jeongguk’s hair, black hair pushed away from his face.
“I can’t even remember the last time it happened,” Jimin says, sighing. “Some of the Elders have lived through feuds with neighbouring tribes though, so they worry.”
“Seems like they’re just projecting their own fears onto the rest of the village,” Jeongguk comments, reaching to smooth down the fur along Aino’s hind leg. She hums under the touch, pleased by the attention.
“They’re just trying to protect their loved ones,” Jimin says, shrugging. He doesn’t like where this conversation is heading, the burn of rejection ever present.
“Are they protecting the village from you, too? What did you do?”
Jimin’s lips press into a hard line, and while he doesn’t really want to talk about it, open up wounds that have never quite closed, he’s never had anyone to talk to about any of this. “I’m different.”
“Different how? You said that last night, too.”
“I don’t have wings, my magic is...not like theirs. I can do more.”
“Shouldn’t that be a good thing? Hoseok said you saved the lives of some of the villagers. If I was you ― ”
“You’re not me,” Jimin snaps, fighting to keep his tears at bay. “You fell out of the sky a week ago. I ― I don’t have anyone.”
Jeongguk looks surprised, and Jimin wants to think he sees guilt, maybe shame in his expression. He doesn’t know Jeongguk though. He doesn’t really know anyone. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Oh?” Jimin sneers, upset. “How did you mean it then?”
“Just that ― It’s hard being alone. And it’s unfair that Hoseok only gave you a chance because you could do magic he couldn’t.” Jeongguk isn’t looking at him, eyes fixed on Aino’s fur. She’s tensed up, sensing Jimin’s hurt.
Jimin’s breath catches in his throat, and it feels like something’s just sat down on his chest, crushing him. Jeongguk’s not wrong. Hoseok had come looking for him in the woods with Seokjin when one of the villagers had fallen sick. They’d come looking when they needed him. But he doesn’t blame them for keeping their distance. He’s the outsider, and showing favour to him would mean the village turning on them, too.
“Yeah, I guess,” he mumbles, eyes wet. Jimin swipes at the unshed tears, doesn’t really want to cry in front of Jeongguk after meeting him only a week ago. They sit quietly for a while, all of the questions Jimin wanted to ask Jeongguk suddenly gone.
The breeze is cool, sun beating high up in the sky. When Jimin gathers up the courage to look at Jeongguk, his head’s tipped back, eyes closed. His skin has a glow to it, a subtle gold shining through.
“You said something about wings,” Jeongguk says, voice quiet and soft. Jimin barely catches it.
“Everyone has them.” After a pause, Jimin adds, “Except me.”
“Weren’t you born in the village?”
Jimin hums, nodding. Jeongguk can’t see it but he seems to understand anyways. His head tips back forward, eyes opening slowly and his gaze is so intense it leaves Jimin’s mouth dry, heartbeat pounding against his ribs.
“They don’t have the crescent mark like you, though“, Jeongguk observes, staring intently at Jimin’s forehead.
“I got it when Aino found me.”
“She found you?”
“Great wolves don’t just become anyone’s companion,” Jimin tells Jeongguk, head resting against the warm of Aino’s body heat. Her fur feels particularly soft today. “I think she knew I was lonely, but the Elders are fearful of wolves.”
“What aren’t they fearful of?” Jeongguk mutters under his breath and Jimin’s a little touched by Jeongguk’s annoyance with the Elders.
“That’s a good question,” Jimin smiles, finds Jeongguk’s scowl shifting into a matching smile. It’s nice being able to talk to someone. For the first time in a long time, Jimin feels light.
“Well, it’s their loss anyway.” Jeongguk shrugs, getting up and patting his hands clean. “I’m gonna go see how bad the engine is.”
“What’s an engine?” Jimin asks, following after him. Aino opens her eyes, watching the two of them head toward the ship.
“Do I have to explain it?”
They fall into a routine after that, Jeongguk oddly comfortable around Jimin. He hardly knows him, but Jimin is easy to be around and he’s all the company Jeongguk has. Not that he minds. Jimin has an innocence to him, a curiosity, and while the constant questions could be tiresome, Jimin’s enthusiasm is infectious.
“Why do you keep bringing metal pieces from inside the ship for the outside?” Jimin asks. He’s holding a wrench in his hand as he stands in front of the engine he floated out of Jeongguk’s ship two days ago. Jeongguk’s still trying to figure out how he’s gonna fix all the damage, most importantly, to the quantum carburetor. Luckily, he still has about half his deuterium supply, enough to get him off the planet anyways.
“I need to fix all the hull damage,” Jeongguk explains, hoping that the newest piece of panel he’s screwed out of his ship’s floor can cover the largest hole that’s been ripped along the underside. Jimin’s got the ship floating about a foot off the ground, enough space for Jeongguk to slide under and fix her up.
“But you’re exposing all the, what were they called, wears?” Jimin’s brow furrows together as he tries to remember the word and Jeongguk almost tells him but finds his expression of confusion rather cute. “Wires! They’re called wires, right, Jeongguk?”
“You got it,” Jeongguk smiles, Jimin’s satisfied grin infectious. “I can always get that fixed when I get off planet.”
When Jeongguk had first mentioned that he’d be leaving the planet and going back into space, Jimin had gone so quiet, Jeongguk had thought maybe he’d fallen asleep. Except Jeongguk knew he hadn’t, the stillness of his body telling. Jimin’s room always got too dark to see in, but Jimin’s bed wasn’t so huge that they couldn’t feel the other moving around. Even now, his smile drops and Jeongguk’s gut twists in guilt.
“Y-yeah, I always forget,” Jimin mumbles, looking away from Jeongguk. He’s been helping out as much as he can, using his magic to make things easier for Jeongguk. Of course, his magic couldn’t fix everything but he’d smoothed out all the damage to the ship’s hull and fixed the bent wing. That much work would have taken Jeongguk months on his own.
Jeongguk had gone to school for quantum mechanical engineering but he’d dropped out when the chance to travel across the galaxy had sprung up. Most of what Jeongguk knew now was through his experience, and what others had taught him. He had very limited resources on Jimin’s planet, and only the tools in his own repair kit to fix everything up. What Jeongguk was most grateful for were the solar panels he’d installed a year ago to help with power supply issues. While the ship ran on deuterium and antimatter, it was easier to store energy for the ship’s non-engine related needs in solar cells. He’d rerouted the wiring to help keep his welding and sawing tools fully powered.
He’s about to crawl under the ship when Jimin speaks up again. “You know, I could probably just transmute wood into metal.”
Jimin’s got his bottom lip caught between his teeth, looks uncertain. “It wouldn’t be that hard. I’d just have to figure out the spell.”
“You can do that?” Jeongguk exclaims, excitement already building up.
“Probably? As long as the transmutation is between equal amounts of matter, I can morph it to any shape.”
“Jimin! That’s fucking incredible!” Jeongguk’s practically vibrating, grinning hard as he rushes over to Jimin. “What would you need? Would it be the same metal? Is that possible?”
Jimin looks a little overwhelmed by Jeongguk’s response, big eyes widening even larger. He’s got an innocent looking face, feelings always written honestly on his features. Jeongguk likes that about him.
“Um, I’d have to tinker with the spell but yeah. And I’d need some of the metal to make sure it’s the same type,” Jimin replies, a hint of pink colouring his cheeks. His ears are burning a brighter red and Jeongguk’s a little surprised to find Jimin so shy.
“How long would it take?”
“Depends but probably not more than a day.”
“Can I do anything to help?”
“I’m gonna need a lot of wood.”
It takes Jimin over twenty tries ― he stops counting after a while ― to get the metal to match the fragments Jeongguk’s given him. Jeongguk’s had it worse though, chopping down two trees to give Jimin enough material to work with.
He’s sweaty, the white of the robes Jimin’s given him to wear see through as Jeongguk’s sweat makes the cloth cling to his skin. Jimin finds it only marginally distracting, his frustration with the spell getting the better of him.
“What about this?” he asks Jeongguk, who’s lying in the dirt exhausted. The moons are all out, hanging huge and full in the sky. Jimin thinks the sun will be out in a few hours. They’ve been at it for more than a day.
Jeongguk heaves himself up, taking the neat square Jimin’s transmuted out of a pile of wood nearly twenty times its size. His eyes widen under the glow of the magic orbs Jimin’s got hanging in the air around them, their brightness dimmed by Jimin’s focus on the transmutation spell.
“This...Shit, Jimin, I think you got it?” Jeongguk says, voice filled with wonder even as his exhaustion seeps through. Jimin’s not sure he has it in him to try again, anyways. He wants his bed, wants to sleep for at least a whole day.
“Are you sure?” Jimin collapses down next to Jeongguk, suddenly feeling the burnout from all the spell casting he’s been doing all day.
“I know titanium when I hold it,” Jeongguk grins, big and bright, and Jimin’s heart stops for a split-second, the heaviness of his eyelids forgotten. Jeongguk’s happiness is dazzling.
“Okay,” he whispers, believes Jeongguk. Somewhere in the background, he can sense Aino’s presence watching over them. She always looked out for him.
“You’re amazing, you know that?” Jeongguk says, all his attention focused on Jimin. It makes something hot burn in Jimin’s cheeks, chest tightening up, the feeling overwhelming in a way that Jimin’s never felt before. “Absolutely brilliant.”
“It ― It’s nothing,” Jimin mutters, unable to look Jeongguk in the eye. “Besides, you did the hard part.”
“I just chopped some wood, Jimin,” Jeongguk laughs, and for the first time, Jeongguk actually reaches out and touches him, pushing Jimin’s hair back. His fingers are longer than Jimin’s, which isn’t surprising, he’s bigger than Jimin in just about every way, but feeling them card through his hair is nice.
“I hate chopping wood,” he mumbles, hopes Jeongguk can’t see how red his face has gotten.
“I don’t blame you,” Jeongguk agrees, standing up. “Come on, I think we both deserve some sleep.” He extends a hand down to Jimin, who takes it, Jeongguk’s calloused palm hard against Jimin’s soft hands.
“I’m tired,” Jimin says, can hear the whine in his voice. Jeongguk’s got this look on his face Jimin’s never seen directed at him before. He’d seen some of the village girls look at Hoseok like that before but he’d never really figured out what it meant.
“You worked hard,” Jeongguk murmurs, tugging Jimin toward his house. It’s not an especially long trek but Jimin doesn’t want to walk all the way there, thinks he might just sleep right here. His pentagram glows on the valley ground, a soft pink.
“You did too,” Jimin yawns, feet dragging as he walks a little behind Jeongguk. They manage to get to Jimin’s cabin somehow, Jimin bumping into Jeongguk every now and then. It’s not until they reach the front door that Jimin senses Aino lurking around behind them.
“Good night, Aino,” he calls out to her, lets Jeongguk pull him into the house. He gets Jimin to bed, pulling the blanket over the both of them. It’s not until he’s under his blanket that Jimin realises how cold he is, finds himself reaching out and seeking Jeongguk’s heat. When his hands smooth over Jeongguk’s skin, he realises that Jeongguk’s taken his robe off, is just in his pants.
For a moment, Jeongguk feels stiff against Jimin’s hand before he relaxes and Jimin curls up toward him, presses up bodily against his back. Jeongguk says something, but Jimin doesn’t catch it, already gone to the world.
Jimin dreams of a needle etching his skin with ink, of Jeongguk’s kind eyes, and infectious smile. He watches as his skin is coloured in, his markings different from Jeongguk’s yet somehow the same. Jimin’s brow furrows, a warmth spreading from his chest toward until it feels as though the sun has engulfed him. But the sun feels an awful lot like the hard lines of Jeongguk’s body, caresses his skin with the same callouses, seeps warmth into Jimin.
It feels like belonging.
Jeongguk’s taking a break, tired from fitting in the titanium panes Jimin’s been transmuting for him. He finds himself staring at Jimin. He finds himself doing that a lot lately. It’s not hard trying to justify himself, excuses about how he’d barely been able to sleep because Jimin had burrowed into his arms again always readily available. Jimin was like nothing Jeongguk had ever seen before.
The silver of his hair seemed to glitter in the sun; the pink of his mouth, the rosiness of his cheeks a contrast against his pale skin. Time seemed to slow down when Jeongguk was staring at Jimin, carefully tracing the jut of his jaw, the roundness of his cheeks, the cuteness of his nose.
The worst was when Jimin laughed, eyes crinkling up as he fell bodily into Jeongguk, laughter like the sweetest music Jeongguk had ever heard. It’s addicting.
Sighing, Jeongguk reigns in the dopey look he’s probably wearing right now and walks over to the pile of metal sheets Jimin’s readied for him. While Jeongguk had spent the morning fixing up the carburetor rupture, Jimin had transmuted more titanium for the ship. He’s fixed most of the damage up, had even been able to get Jimin to help him make gears and bolts after he’d drawn out what he needed them to look like. Jimin was incredible.
If he hadn’t saved Jeongguk, he’d be dead right now. There was no doubt about that.
“Did you need any more?” Jimin asks, leaving Aino’s side to bring Jeongguk a bowl of broth. Jimin, Jeongguk had learned, isn’t a very talented cook. Jeongguk did better in the kitchen.
“I think I’m good for now,” Jeongguk smiles, thanking Jimin for the broth. They’d started a fire a little ways off, and had set the pot over it to boil while they worked. Jimin’s smart idea.
“You fixed everything so quickly,” Jimin says quietly, reaching out to smooth a hand over the ship.
“It would have taken me ten times longer without your help. If I was alive, that is.”
Jimin grins at him, always happiest when Jeongguk thanked him for saving his life or told him how helpful he was. “I’m glad you’re alive.”
“Me too,” Jeongguk says solemnly, laughing when Jimin shoves at him. They end up sitting against the ship’s hull, Jeongguk slurping down the last of his broth. Jimin’s head falls against his shoulder, two fingers tracing over the petals of a flower on his bicep. It had become a habit with Jimin, his fascination with Jeongguk’s tattoos bordering on obsessive. His tendency to trace the shapes always threw Jeongguk off, mouth going dry as his heartbeat seemed to drum loudly in his ears.
“I want to get a tattoo, too,” Jimin murmurs, pulling back from Jeongguk enough that he can turn his head to look at him. He’s got this thoughtful expression on his face, bordering on a pout and Jeongguk wants to know what Jimin’s mouth tastes like, if it’s as sweet and generous as Jimin’s heart.
“What do you wanna get?” he asks softly.
“I don’t know.” Jimin’s definitely pouting now, plush lips pushing together. “Something to remind me of you, I think.”
Jeongguk’s heartbeat stops, falls out of his body like it never belonged to him in the first place, before the world breathes back to life. “What?”
“Remember,” Jimin starts, “You said you get tattoos to remind you of people. That’s why they’re important.”
Jeongguk swallows. “Why do you want one to remind you of me?”
Jimin looks up at Jeongguk, eyes wide and sincere. “Because you’re important.”
The way Jeongguk’s chest caves in, happiness frothing underneath the surprise, feels painfully new. For a split second, he can’t believe his ears, before any semblance of control goes out the window and he surges forward to kiss Jimin. Touching Jimin is perhaps even more addictive than existing at the same time as him.
Jeongguk’s entire body feels aflame, Jimin’s mouth plush and soft and inviting. He’s so sweetly yielding, a bitten off squeak of surprise disappearing between Jeongguk’s lips. He hardly wants to pull away, but Jeongguk knows he should, can feel an undercurrent of stiffness, the surprise of Jeongguk’s actions not quite wearing off of Jimin. He doesn’t want to force anything.
Jimin looks confused, but his hand is fisted in Jeongguk’s robe, like he can’t bear Jeongguk pulling back too far. “Why ― why did you touch our mouths together?”
Jeongguk blinks, brows furrowing together. “It was a kiss, Jimin.”
And Jeongguk should have known, really. “Yeah, a kiss. When you like someone on my planet, you kiss them. I hope...I mean, you don’t have to like me ― ”
“I do like you.”
Jimin looks very sincere in his confession but Jeongguk’s not sure if Jimin knows what he’s admitting to. Just as Jeongguk’s about to ask, Jimin’s brow furrows. “Does that mean you like me, too?”
“I ― Of course, I like you.” The way Jimin’s face lights up has Jeongguk’s breath catching at the back of his throat. “But not just as a friend.”
Jimin looks confused again, and then suddenly his mouth parts in a gasping realisation. “You,” he starts, embarrassment creeping into his voice, “You like me as a potential mate?”
That’s not quite how Jeongguk would put it but it fits more or less. He’d have to explain the concept of a crush later. “Yeah, kinda like that.”
Jimin’s lip catches between his teeth and he looks so happy, Jeongguk’s mesmerized. He’s really never seen someone as beautiful as Jimin before.
“Did ― did you like it?” Jeongguk blurts out, wanting to know.
Jimin looks back up at him, his eyes on Jeongguk’s mouth. “Yes,” he murmurs, cheeks flushing red. “It felt nice.”
It takes every ounce of Jeongguk’s willpower to not just push Jimin down onto the ground and kiss him until he’s devoured every ounce of Jimin’s breath. Instead, he smiles, pleased and fond.
Jimin, despite his shyness, leans closer, eyes sometimes flickering up for confirmation that he’s allowed to come closer, that he’s doing this right. When his lips meet Jeongguk’s, he kisses Jeongguk softly, chastely, and Jeongguk’s heart throbs in his chest. He wraps a hand around Jimin’s neck, practically has Jimin in his lap as he leans in closer, chasing Jimin’s mouth.
There’s no finesse to it, but Jeongguk doesn’t care, just wants to feel Jimin’s mouth against his, feel how his body pushes against Jeongguk’s. Jimin’s curiosity is enthusiastic, the pleased little sounds escaping him so involuntary they surprise him, too.
Jeongguk has to break the kiss to allow them both to breathe but he loves the redness of Jimin’s mouth, the half-lidded eyes and flushed look on his cheeks. He’s beautiful.
“Was that nice?” he asks, hands on Jimin’s slim waist.
Jimin nods, arms wrapping around Jeongguk’s shoulders as he closes the distance between them. He squeezes Jeongguk in a hug, and Jeongguk swears he can hear the way Jimin’s heart beats in sync with his own.
Jimin’s curled up in Jeongguk’s side when he asks, his voice like a quiet rumble. It echoes through Jimin until the words squeeze around his heart.
“You could come with me.”
Jimin doesn’t know what to say, and then Jeongguk’s tacking on a, “Only if you really want.”
“You’re here all by yourself. Aino could come, too. If she wants. There’s room on the ship.” Jeongguk makes it sound too easy and Jimin’s seen dreams he never thought possible in Jeongguk’s existence. The Gods may not have sent Jeongguk for the village, but he thinks maybe they sent him for Jimin.
They’re lying in Jimin’s bed, the quietness of the night engulfing them in silence. Jimin can hear Jeongguk’s heartbeat, can sense the brilliance of his aura so strongly it’s all he can focus on.
“Are you sure?” he hears himself ask.
“I wanna show you the stars up close, Jimin.”
Jimin laughs, he can’t help it, happiness bubbling up so quickly he doesn’t know what to do with it. There are tears in his eyes and Jeongguk’s wiping them away in the darkness, kissing Jimin softly, with a kindness Jimin had thought he’d never get to taste.
“I’d like that.”
Jeongguk’s ship is magical in a different way, in a way Jimin never thought he’d experience. As it lifts off the ground, higher and higher up, he can’t keep the grin off his face, the sheer joy of being free.
Jeongguk’s staring at him, strapped to his seat just like Jimin is to his. He’s got that same look on his face, the one Jimin understands now. The one Jimin feels now.
Everything shrinks as they reach the clouds, and Jimin watches as the sky turns black, body suddenly weightless. When Jeongguk kicks the ship into warp, it feels like they’re sitting still even if Jeongguk’s told him they’re ripping through reality. Aino’s curled up behind them on the floor, completely unimpressed.
Jimin sees stars, never ending.