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Black Lungs

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Yoongi's nose twitched as he watched the line of ants disappearing into the little hole in the ground. Where were they all going? He’d asked his mother about it before, and she’d told him that they lived underground- that their whole society was under the dirt. And Yoongi wanted to see it.

It was his sixth summer, and his mother wasn’t so intent to watch his every move. Yoongi was enjoying the freedom.

So with no one around to tell him not to, Yoongi started digging next to where the ants kept disappearing. There was just something satisfying about the rhythmic scrape of his paws against the dirt, and Yoongi found himself fixated as he kept his eyes peeled for any ant colonies.

Something thudded against his side, and Yoongi toppled over before he could even try to keep himself upright.

Tail working to help him regain his balance, Yoongi scrambled to his feet and whipped his head around as two wolf pups darted by him.

Couldn't they see he was busy digging here?

The two were yapping loudly as they ran right across the hole Yoongi was working on, knocking some dirt back in.

Yoongi felt a growl start to vibrate in his throat, lips curling as he stared down the pups who had interrupted him.

He got a couple angry barks for his trouble, and he felt his hackles rise in frustration. This wasn’t his fault! He had been minding his own business, and these two had been causing trouble.

But before he could try for a more menacing snarl, there was a blur of brown fur whizzing by him to the right and breaking his concentration.

Turning, Yoongi wanted to make sure the intruder wasn’t going to trample all over his digging site, but the wolf- slightly bigger than him, but still a pup- just flopped down next to the hole and rolled onto his back.

Well, that was weird. But at least there had been no further damage done.

When he turned back to the troublesome pups to finish telling them off, they had already run off again. Oh well. At least the threat to his ant colony search was gone.

Though the wolf that had dashed over so suddenly was still there- rolling around and wiggling in the dirt as he panted happily. Yoongi blinked, trying to figure out what to do with this sudden company.

The pup yipped, rolling over and looking back and forth between Yoongi and the hole. He wanted him to keep digging? Was he just going to lay there and watch him?

Apparently, because even as Yoongi stared at him, he didn’t move.

Yoongi guessed that was fine. At least he got to continue what he’d started.

So with the pup panting at him and occasionally wiggling around in the dirt, Yoongi continued digging his hole, looking for ant colonies.

However, after quite a bit more digging, he still hadn’t found anything. Which was why he allowed himself to be coerced into running with the pup- Yoongi barking when the wolf nipped at his heels and chasing after him with all his might when the pup turned and ran.

That light brown wolf pup turned out to be Seokjin, a wolf a season older than him. And after Seokjin had just inserted himself into Yoongi’s life that summer, he never really left.

 

---

 

“Oh! Do I look like a spirit guide now?” Seokjin asked, draping a blanket over his shoulders.

Dust from the animal hides and spare wood they’d disturbed floated through the air in the shaft of late afternoon sun coming in through the gap in the supply tent, and the warm glow of light that filled the space almost made it feel like they were in their own world.

“No,” Yoongi told him, laughing as Seokjin spread his arms so the blanket billowed out when he turned.

It had been Seokjin’s idea- sneaking into the supply tent. There had been a few bear sightings in the past few days in their territory, so wolves who hadn’t yet experienced sixteen summers weren’t supposed to be in the forest without a chaperone until they could be sure the bears weren’t going to be a threat.

Yoongi, who liked nothing more than to escape camp with Seokjin to the clearing they frequented, was very put out by the temporary rules. He was sure that, as a smart wolf who had experienced eleven summers, he would have been fine.

But when Yoongi had been dejectedly kicking up dirt near the fire pit, Seokjin had grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him into the supply tent.

They technically weren’t supposed to be in there, but Yoongi had to admit that watching Seokjin rummage through piles of blankets was somehow almost as fun as chasing each other through the trees.

“How about now?” Seokjin wanted to know, a second hide draped over his head.

“You look crazy,” Yoongi laughed, knees pulled up to his chest. He was sitting between stacks of supplies, crammed into the tiny space, and Seokjin had teased that anyone else wouldn’t have been able to fit so comfortably because no one was as small as him. He’d gotten a grumble and a poke in the ribs for it, but Yoongi barely minded.

“Oh yeah?” Seokjin challenged, eyes wide and smile stretching across his face. “How about this?”

With that, he procured a long, thin piece of firewood from behind his back and held it up triumphantly.

Cackling, Yoongi knocked a couple of baskets over with his foot. “You look deranged,” he wheezed as Seokjin struck a series of poses that he seemed to think were befitting of the outfit.

“Here,” Seokjin said, bending to pick up one of the baskets Yoongi had upset. Turning it upside down, he set it on Yoongi’s head with a flourish, and then immediately broke down into peals of laughter.

“Hey,” Yoongi complained, squinting up at Seokjin and reaching up to take off the makeshift hat.

“No, leave it on!” Seokjin protested, hand shooting out to try to stop him. “It looks-”

“What are you boys doing in here?”

Namjoon’s mother was standing at the entrance to the tent, holding the flap open and regarding them with a stern expression.

“We were bored,” Seokjin said with a shrug, trying to look innocent but looking absolutely ridiculous in his makeshift robes with his wooden scepter.

“You know you're not supposed to be in here,” she said with a sigh. “Clean this stuff up and then get out of here.”

Yoongi pushed himself to his feet as Seokjin divested himself of the blankets, all the while being watched to make sure they put everything back in its proper place.

Restacking the baskets he’d kicked over, Yoongi caught Seokjin’s eye as he refolded the hides he’d been using as a costume. Even though they had been scolded, Seokjin’s eyes were laughing, and it was all Yoongi could do not to start giggling and get them in even more trouble.

Even though they were corralled into help with dinner preparation after that, it was hard to be too sorry that they’d snuck into the supply tent. Especially when they both dissolved in laughter every time Seokjin held up a stick for the next few months.

Not to mention, whenever they passed the supply tent, they always shared a knowing grin.

 

---

 

“Does anyone know which direction we should go from here?” Zhou Mi asked the group of adolescent wolves.

They were in the forest, getting lessons on hunting. In order to be able to articulate some of the intricacies as well as ask and answer questions, they were all in human form, which was not how they would actually be hunting. But Zhou Mi had promised they could go out as wolves the next day, and Yoongi was eager to try out his new skills.

Crouching down, Yoongi inhaled- scenting the rabbit they’d been tracking.

Excitement simmered in his belly as he caught the scent. Standing up eagerly, Yoongi caught Zhou Mi’s eye.

“That way,” he said, pointing in the direction he had smelled the rabbit.

Zhou Mi beamed at him, and Yoongi couldn't help but smile as warm pride bloomed in his chest.

“That’s right, Yoongi,” Zhou Mi praised. “For those of you who didn’t catch the trail, try focusing in that direction and see if you can pick it up.”

Feeling Seokjin’s eyes on him, Yoongi turned to find Seokjin looking at him with furrowed brows.

What? Yoongi mouthed to him, but Seokjin smiled and shook his head.

“What’s the big deal about Zhou Mi?” Seokjin asked later when they were flopped in the grass in their favorite clearing in the forest to run to. They’d found it during Yoongi's tenth spring, and it was his thirteenth, now.

Yoongi quirked a brow, thrown off by the sudden question.

“I mean he's tall, but so what?” Seokjin went on, ripping a piece of grass out of the ground and folding it up. “Lots of people are tall.”

“Why don't you like Zhou Mi?” Yoongi asked, perplexed. “You like everyone.”

“I like him,” Seokjin countered with a shrug. “I like him the average amount. I just don’t know why you think he's so cool.”

Yoongi’s brows jumped. He thought Zhou Mi was cool? He liked him more than any of the other wolves who had taught them. He was a nice guy. Why shouldn't he like him?

“I like him the average amount, too,” Yoongi told him.

“But your average amount is not liking someone at all,” Seokjin argued, and Yoongi scowled.

He didn't actually have much of a comeback for that. Because Seokjin was kind of right. Not that Yoongi didn’t like anyone. He liked his parents, his older brother. He liked Namjoon and Hoseok. He liked Seokjin. But he was definitely pickier than Seokjin.

With a shrug, Yoongi flopped onto his back- hand coming up to shield his eyes from the sun.

So what if he liked Zhou Mi? Zhou Mi was likable.

Seokjin could go ahead and be huffy about it, if he wanted. He was just lucky Yoongi liked him enough to not mind.

 

---

 

Yoongi felt like his blood was simmering in his veins, ready to boil.

Hands clenched into fists, he stared down the wolf challenging him.

“You’re too slow,” he said, addressing Yoongi. “You slow us down too much.”

“Hunting isn't exactly a sprint,” Yoongi spat, feeling anger trembling through him.

“Part of it is,” the boy argued, and Yoongi felt his top lip pull back in a snarl even though he wasn’t in his wolf form.

Yoongi’s wolf was clawing its way to the surface, wanting to get out to tackle this boy to the ground.

“Maybe if-”

“Hey,” Seokjin cut in quietly, nudging against Yoongi's side and stopping the biting remark so it was trapped between the roof of his mouth and his tongue. “We’ve got some time before dinner. Wanna run with me?”

It sounded like an offer, but Yoongi knew what it really was.

Taking a deep breath, Yoongi broke eye contact and let his gaze travel to the side.

With a grunt of agreement, Yoongi started off toward the forest without another glance at the boy or Seokjin.

Yoongi had already shifted by the time Seokjin caught up with him, stepping out of his covering much more carefully than Yoongi had.

“You shouldn't let him get to you like that,” Seokjin told him, fixing Yoongi with a stare instead of shifting right away.

Making a low sound in his throat, Yoongi watched as Seokjin sighed at him before finally letting his wolf take over.

Seokjin was faster, but Yoongi took off first- something comfortable settling in his chest when he heard Seokjin’s footfalls as he followed.

It was probably not a good thing that his temper resulted in enough incidents by the time it was his sixteenth fall that it wasn’t uncommon for Seokjin to step in and talk him down or coerce him out on a run.

Somehow, Seokjin was the only one who could engage him when his blood was boiling without running the risk of getting his head bitten off- figuratively, of course. Literally, too.

But it wasn't Yoongi's fault that everyone else was obnoxious.

Seokjin was, too, but he was...Seokjin. And Yoongi had extra patience for him or something.

He suspected that that was why his complaining had been heeded when he’d been put into a working rotation that wasn’t with Seokjin. Maybe everyone figured life would go more smoothly if Yoongi had Seokjin nearby to talk him down.

Just as Yoongi settled into a comfortable rhythm, anger melting off him with every stride, Seokjin whizzed by him with a taunting yap to chase him.

With a playful growl, Yoongi’s muscles bunched as he pushed off and bounded after him.

It was only adrenaline from the chase, not the fight, that drove him as they careened through the trees.

 

---

 

“Wanna go run?” Yoongi asked, catching up with Seokjin after they’d finished stacking the firewood they’d gathered throughout the day. Yoongi was honestly a little tired for running, but he figured they could at least run to their favorite clearing and then nap. A nap sounded wonderful.

“I was thinking I should go hang out with some other adults,” Seokjin responded cheekily, lips curving up with the tease.

The coming of age ceremony for wolves who had been born eighteen winters ago had been the day before, and since Yoongi had been born in spring, not winter, he wouldn't come of age until the following ceremony.

“Shut up,” Yoongi grumbled, elbowing Seokjin in the side and listening to his shrill laughter.

It didn't really matter that they didn't come of age at the same time. But something still burned, sick and uncomfortable, in Yoongi's gut when he thought about it.

As of now, Seokjin could take a mate. He could tie his life to another wolf, have pups, start his own family- have his own life.

Yoongi didn’t want to get left behind in this one.

“So, uh,” he started when they got to the treeline, “are you gonna take a mate or whatever, now?”

They’d never talked about it in relation to Seokjin’s coming of age. Sure, they’d made proclamations about their grand futures when they were younger. But recently, there hadn’t been any mention of Seokjin’s plans for when he became of mating age.

Folding his hide pants, Seokjin raised his eyebrows.

“Who am I gonna take as a mate?” Seokjin asked, setting his pants down before straightening up again to look at Yoongi- blinking hard.

“I dunno,” Yoongi mumbled, feeling dumb for asking, but also a little relieved that Seokjin hadn’t told him yes.

“Exactly,” Seokjin said decisively. “Now come on.”

With that, Seokjin was shifting in his wolf form, so Yoongi hastily dropped his pants on top of Seokjin’s to follow suit.

There was some residual embarrassment from even having brought it up, but the easing of the knot of tension that had been building up in Yoongi's chest recently outweighed that.

Because nothing was going to change. They could stay like this. Just how Yoongi wanted them to be.

 

---
---

 

Following the light brown of Seokjin’s tail through the greenery of the forest was second nature. In fact, when Yoongi went out by himself, he often found himself searching for that specific shade of brown fur before caught himself and reminded himself that Seokjin wasn’t there. From the time when he had met Seokjin until now, his twenty-first spring, he had become accustomed to spotting Seokjin’s coloring through the trees or in the midst of a large group of wolves.

So, even though Seokjin was trying to be all kinds of sneaky, Yoongi had no problem keeping track of him as he darted through bushes and around tree trunks.

If he really wanted to, Seokjin could probably lose Yoongi just from speed alone. Not that Seokjin was exceptionally fast- his legs were just longer. But Seokjin wasn’t trying to get away. He was just being difficult and forcing Yoongi to stay alert as they ran.

And even if he really did manage to shake Yoongi, it wasn’t as though they both didn’t know where they were headed. Just because Seokjin was swerving and weaving didn’t mean they weren't decisively headed in a particular direction. It was the direction they were always headed, and Yoongi was pretty sure he could find his way even with his eyes closed.

Seokjin squeezed between two bushes, causing the branches spring back to almost hit Yoongi in the snout when he went to follow. Letting out a frustrated bark, Yoongi ducked and felt the branches dragging against his flank as he moved forward.

But Seokjin couldn't elude him for much longer. They were nearing their destination.

After an unnecessary detour around a cluster of trees, Yoongi burst into the clearing seconds after Seokjin, slowing his momentum and panting as he watched Seokjin happily trot to his favorite spot and flop down.

Tipping onto his side, Seokjin let out a whine, craning his head to look at Yoongi. He wanted Yoongi to come lay with him.

Just to be a shit after Seokjin had run him all over to get there, Yoongi laid down right where he was, stretching his legs and letting out a groan.

Seokjin yelped, sitting up and looking at Yoongi imploring. But Yoongi just blinked, yawning wide and squirming a bit to get more comfortable.

Barking, Seokjin stood up and shifted- wolf giving way to his human form.

Yoongi,” Seokjin complained, walking over and plopping down next to him.

Yoongi just looked at him as Seokjin made a sound of frustration and collapsed into his side. Wiggling, Yoongi tried to move so Seokjin’s elbow wasn’t digging into his stomach, but then Seokjin was scratching against his ribs and Yoongi couldn't help the way his back foot twitched in response.

“I don’t know why I’m doing this, I'm annoyed,” Seokjin told him, and Yoongi chuffed out a little breath in amusement.

He’d have never asked for the attention. Not like Seokjin who would literally roll over so he was belly up and whine until Yoongi paid him mind. But it was nice, and by the time Seokjin stopped to tip over onto the grass beside him, Yoongi could feel his eyelids drooping.

“Would you just come over there,” Seokjin complained, startling Yoongi out of his almost doze. “The ground is softer.”

With a sigh, Yoongi propelled himself up with his tail, stretching his back and yawning again before shifting.

“You’re a pain, you know that?” Yoongi grumbled, trudging over to the place where they usually napped.

“I know,” Seokjin replied with a grin, following after him. “You didn’t have to shift.”

“Wanted to make sure you knew you were obnoxious,” Yoongi told him, dropping down onto the ground and laying down.

Seokjin was right. The ground was softer.

Snickering, Seokjin joined him on the grass and stretched out next to him with an arm over his middle and chin notched against his shoulder.

When they were both wolves, it was natural to curl together like a couple of pups. But even as a human, Seokjin always latched right on when they laid down to take a nap. Sometimes Yoongi liked to complain about Seokjin’s unnecessary cuddling, but if he was honest, naps with Seokjin were the best naps. Despite his clingy tendencies while he slept and his loud and hyper nature when he was awake, he was a pretty perfect nap partner. He kept still, kept quiet, and always indulged Yoongi when he said he was up for a rest.

So just like every other time over the course of their friendship, Yoongi let his eyes close as his body relaxed- lulled to sleep by Seokjin’s steady breathing against his ear.

 

---

 

“You and Jimin looked awfully sweet sitting by the fire last night,” Hoseok, an alpha a bit younger than Yoongi, teased. She waggled her eyebrows at Namjoon as she deposited a seed into the ground, and Namjoon chuckled even as he looked down in embarrassment.

“Do I smell a mating ceremony soon?” Seokjin wanted to know, leaning into Namjoon’s space to grin at him with wide eyes and raised brows.

“Not soon,” Namjoon countered, laughing as he pushed Seokjin back.

“Not soon?” Hoseok asked. “But Jimin came of age this season. I thought you guys would mate right away.”

Yoongi didn't like making the business of others his own, but even he was surprised to hear that Namjoon and Jimin didn’t have imminent plans to mate. They’d been together since before Namjoon had even been of mating age.

“It’s only the first season she can mate,” Namjoon reasoned as he shoved Seokjin, scooting close just to be annoying, back again. “I don’t want to rush her into it.”

“Rush?” Yoongi snorted, quirking a disbelieving brow.

“I don’t want her to regret it,” Namjoon explained, elbowing a still too-close Seokjin in the ribs.

“But you’ve been courting her forever!” Hoseok argued, her lips turned down in confusion.

“So, what's another season cycle?” Namjoon challenged, chin stuck out defiantly.

“A long time,” Yoongi chuckled.

“Hey,” Namjoon countered, eyes sparkling with mischief as he turned to Yoongi. “You and Seokjin have been courting each other way longer than I've been courting Jimin. I don't know what you're waiting for.”

“We’re not courting each other,” Yoongi said with an eyeroll.

A glance up at Seokjin revealed that he was pushing dirt over the seed he’d just planted, and yeah- it wasn’t even worth a response. Namjoon was just being ridiculous.

“If you were, it’d be the longest courting period in history,” Hoseok snickered, and Yoongi just snorted, shaking his head and scooting over to start planting a new row.

They worked quietly for a moment, Yoongi losing himself in the rhythm of his task until Seokjin abruptly broke the silence.

“Do you think I could catch ten seeds in my mouth?”

What?” Namjoon sighed, already eying Seokjin judgmentally.

“One at a time or ten at once?” Hoseok wanted to know, and Seokjin’s brow furrowed.

“One at a time...you think it would work with ten at once?”

“No,” Yoongi cut in without looking up from what he was doing. Hoseok was laughing in disbelief, but Yoongi was more used to Seokjin’s sudden and impractical whims than anyone. Sometimes they were fun to explore. Other times, they needed to be shut down.

“You really want these seeds in your mouth?” Namjoon challenged, holding up a seed and losing his grip on it so it tumbled away and landed by Yoongi’s knee.

“I don’t want them in my mouth,” Seokjin said, looking at Namjoon like he’d asked the most ridiculous question. “But surely they’re not that bad.”

Glancing up, Yoongi was just in time to see Seokjin lick one of the seeds and grimace.

Blech,” Seokjin exclaimed as Yoongi went back to focusing on what he was doing and Namjoon snorted out a laugh.

At least that whim had been halted before it could get out of hand. Though apparently Seokjin was in one of those moods, because he barely shut up for the rest of the afternoon- sharing random musings, attempting several stunts, and singing loudly the rest of the time.

It was excessive, even for him, but maybe he’d just gotten too little sleep the night before. Or too much. Yoongi thought of asking Seokjin if everything was okay, but he seemed fine when they set out for their usual run, so he just dropped it.

Sometimes it was just best to not even ask.

 

---

 

“Aren't you gonna shift?” Seokjin asked, his own wolf shed so he could stand in the middle of the clearing and eye Yoongi for not doing the same.

The run had helped to cool him down a bit- potent anger fading to a dull annoyance. But Yoongi knew that if he shifted, all that was going to come out of his mouth were grumbled complaints, and he just didn't feel like it.

“Come on,” Seokjin sighed when Yoongi walked over to their usual spot and flopped down. “It was annoying, but you know that's how he is. It wasn't our mistake and he knows it. He knows he told us hunting rotation yesterday. He just gets like that when things go wrong, whether it's his fault or not.”

Seokjin was referring to the wolf in charge of assigning alpha and beta work rotations. He had told them the wrong thing and then flipped out when they’d set out to go hunting when he should have told them they were building that day.

It wasn't that Yoongi didn't know what Seokjin was telling him. He knew they weren't at fault. But to be snapped at and lectured despite that had had his blood boiling.

All day, he’d been on edge- jaw clenched tight and movements sharp as he laid wood on top of clay.

Seokjin’s gentle nudge against his side when they’d finished for the day had been expected, but appreciated- the two of them walking wordlessly to the edge of the trees before shifting and taking off.

The run had helped; Yoongi no longer wanted to leap out of his own skin. But after having anger gnaw at him all day, Yoongi hadn't quite managed to shed it all.

If he shifted, Seokjin was going to want to talk about it while Yoongi just wanted to lay down and take a nap.

“Fine,” Seokjin said on a sigh when Yoongi just watched him, ears twitching at the rustle of leaves behind him.

Even though there was no need, Seokjin shifted back into his wolf form, and curled up next to Yoongi on the grass. Nipping at Yoongi’s ear for his trouble and teasing a half-hearted grumble from Yoongi’s throat, Seokjin wiggled around and made himself comfortable.

Seokjin might have been making a big show of getting comfortable, but Yoongi knew how much Seokjin liked curling up when they were both wolves. He liked contact and comfort regardless, but to sleep in a ball like when they were pups was Seokjin’s favorite way to nap.

He was trying to play like he was annoyed, but his lick against Yoongi’s muzzle as he settled in was pure contentment, and Yoongi felt himself relaxing just from Seokjin’s peace.

There was some residual frustration clinging to him- tension holding tight to his muscles. But with Seokjin relaxing next to him, it was like the annoyance of the day was being siphoned out until Yoongi was dozing off to the sound of Seokjin’s steady breath and the warmth of him against his side.

He could have stayed that way forever.

 

---

 

“You’re getting so huge!” Seokjin exclaimed, not even hesitating to put his hands over Junghwan’s round belly.

“Hey!” Junghwan squawked, loud in a way Yoongi had come to expect from despite not knowing him beyond the times Seokjin dragged him along to visit.

Junghwan’s family lived in a hut nearby to the one where Seokjin’s parents lived, so though Junghwan was an omega, and therefore kept fairly separate from betas and alphas, he and Seokjin had gotten close as kids. It was a friendship that had continued into adulthood, and now that Junghwan was mated, Seokjin liked to make weekly visits to the other side of their territory where Junghwan was living with his mate.

“What if there are like seven pups in there?” Seokjin teased, palms still against Junghwan’s very pregnant tummy.

Mouth falling open and eyes glazing over for a second, Junghwan finally snapped to and smacked Seokjin on the arm.

“Don’t even say that! One is going to be hard enough!”

Cackling, Seokjin stepped out of range of Junghwan’s still flapping hands.

“I can’t believe you’re going to have pups,” Seokjin marveled like he did every time he saw Junghwan these days.

“Pup,” Junghwan corrected. “Singular.”

“We’re the same age,” Seokjin went on as though Junghwan hadn’t spoken. “And you’re having pups.”

“Yeah,” Junghwan agreed, head tilting thoughtfully. “I can’t really believe it either.”

He chuckled, looking down at his protruding belly before looking back up at Seokjin and Yoongi.

“How is my lovely, wonderful mate?”

Yoongi turned, watching as Jinyoung, Junghwan’s alpha, sauntered up to them with a grin.

“Hungry,” Junghwan answered, eying the two rabbits Jinyoung was carrying with him with intense interest.

“Then you’re in luck!” Jinyoung beamed, placing the carcasses on the ground by their small fire pit. “Because I brought back dinner just for you.”

Jinyoung’s smile was just for Junghwan as he stepped in close to his mate and pressed a kiss to his lips.

“You get more adorable every day,” he cooed, hands on Junghwan’s belly. “I like you pregnant.”

“You’re so embarrassing,” Junghwan whined, cheeks flushed as Jinyoung continued to commune with his protruding tummy.

Yoongi was expecting Seokjin to jump in to tease Junghwan, but when Yoongi looked at him, he was just watching the pair with a serious tilt to his brows. That was odd. What was he-?

“I wasn’t expecting company,” Jinyoung said, addressing Seokjin and Yoongi for the first time since he’d walked up. “I’m not sure I have enough food for everyone.”

“We’re not staying for dinner,” Yoongi assured him, pulling his gaze away from Seokjin’s tight jaw.

“No way are we splitting two rabbits four ways,” Junghwan added, earning himself another fond smile from Jinyoung. “I’m starving.”

Seokjin snickered, and Yoongi looked back over at him. He didn’t look pensive anymore. Instead, he was regarding Junghwan with amusement, and it was like the past couple minutes during which Yoongi had no clue what he was thinking hadn’t happened.

“I’m eating for two!” Junghwan reminded them, defensive from Seokjin’s giggling.

“Or eight,” Seokjin teased.

“Eight?” Jinyoung asked, brows raised.

“Seokjin thinks I’m giving birth to a whole litter,” Junghwan complained, hands protectively cradling his belly.

“I wouldn’t mind,” Jinyoung told him, placing his hands on top of Junghwan’s.

“I would mind!” Junghwan announced, pouting when Jinyoung just cooed at him.

“We’ll get going,” Yoongi told them, placing a hand on Seokjin’s shoulder and beginning to steer him back toward the center of camp. “Enjoy your rabbit.”

“And your litter!” Seokjin called over his shoulder, snickering at the loud protesting that followed.

“What was that back there?” Yoongi asked when they’d put ten or so huts between them and the expecting couple.

“What was what?” Seokjin asked, looking at Yoongi in confusion. Like he truly had no idea what he was talking about.

“When Jinyoung came back,” Yoongi said with a shrug, feeling a little self conscious now. “You got all...serious. I dunno.”

Seokjin glanced over at him again- Yoongi could see his head turn out of the corner of his eye.

“I didn’t?” he said, pace even with Yoongi’s. “Maybe I zoned out or something?”

It hadn’t seemed like he’d been zoned out. It had seemed like he’d be exceptionally focused on the way Jinyoung was doting on Junghwan. It had seemed like there was something wrong.

“Okay, whatever,” Yoongi acquiscised. Seokjin had seemed weird, but he wasn’t going to argue.

Maybe he’d just imagined it.

Maybe he was projecting his own discomfort at watching others be really affectionate in front of him.

Maybe he was imagining the tension in Seokjin’s shoulders for the rest of the evening.

He had to have been, because it was either that or Seokjin wasn’t telling him something. Either Yoongi was wrong or something was wrong.

And if something was wrong, Yoongi didn’t know what to do about it.

So he had to be imagining things. Because Yoongi always knew what to do when it came to Seokjin. There was no reason why that should change.

 

---

 

“Can you believe we’re gonna have to listen to Namjoon wistfully sigh about Jimin for another whole season cycle?” Yoongi joked, flat on his back on the grass and looking up at the treetops as they swayed in the breeze.

They’d finished working late, so there was no time for a nap, but Yoongi was laying down regardless. His motto tended to be of the why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lay down variety.

It might have been a little silly to even have taken the time to go all the way to their clearing considering it wouldn't be long until they had to turn around and go back so they wouldn't miss dinner, but to Yoongi, it was well worth it. Sometimes he felt like the only time he was truly relaxed and content was when he and Seokjin were off on their own- not having to deal with anyone else and basically in their own little world.

Yoongi dragged his gaze away from the leaves dancing against the sky to Seokjin when he didn’t laugh at Yoongi’s observation. He thought maybe Seokjin had fallen asleep, even though he was more susceptible to spontaneous naps than Seokjin, but Seokjin was still sitting up, staring into space and seeming to have not heard Yoongi at all.

“Hey,” Yoongi said, raising his eyebrows when Seokjin finally looked over to him, still seeming distracted.

“You know who just came of age?” Seokjin asked when his eyes finally made their way over to Yoongi.

“Jimin?” Yoongi tried, thinking maybe Seokjin had heard what he’d said and was making a weird joke that wasn't actually funny.

“No?” Seokjin said, blinking at Yoongi like he was the one saying random things. “I mean, yes. But I was thinking of Nayoung.”

Nayoung? It took Yoongi a beat to even figure out whom Seokjin was talking about.

“Uh, okay…” Yoongi replied, unsure of why they were talking about the younger alpha whom Yoongi barely even knew. He didn’t think Seokjin knew her particularly well, either. “So?”

Seokjin shrugged, expression unreadable.

Seokjin’s face did a lot of things that were perplexing, but none were as unsettling to Yoongi as the near blank expression that he wore right then.

Grunting, Yoongi rolled onto his side and squeezed his eyes closed rather than going cross eyed trying to look at the grass in front of his nose.

He felt like something had been knocked off balance, except he wasn't sure how or when or what. And without knowing any of that, he was helpless to do anything to fix it.

Perhaps everything would settle back into place as easily as it had shifted.

The air was warm, but the breeze made it chilly, and Yoongi felt his skin pebble at a particularly strong gust. Shifting to alleviate the itch of the grass against his arm, Yoongi tried to ignore the dread rising in his chest.

Everything was fine.

 

---

 

Where the fuck was he?

Stalking through the center of camp, Yoongi already knew that none of the faces he saw were going to be Seokjin. His scent wasn't strong enough to be right there. It was diluted- mixing with other smells and dissipating. Seokjin had been there earlier, but now he was somewhere else and Yoongi didn't know where that was.

They were supposed to be going out with a hunting party. Soon. And Yoongi had no clue where Seokjin was.

When Yoongi had finally forced himself up, off his pallet, he’d wandered over to the fire pit to get some breakfast as he did every day. And every day, he’d find Seokjin there, already with his cheeks full of whatever game had been caught that day.

That morning, however, Seokjin had been nowhere to be found. So after grabbing a piece of meat, Yoongi headed over the unmated beta hut. Maybe Seokjin had overslept. Maybe he wasn't feeling well.

But when Yoongi had asked Seulgi as she exited the hut if Seokjin was still inside, she’d said no.

So where the fuck was he?

There was something unsettled simmering alongside the annoyance as Yoongi walked the perimeter of the North side of camp. If he didn’t find Seokjin soon, he was going to have to go without him or else be late. And Yoongi may have liked sleeping in as much as possible, but he did not like being late.

Just when he was grumbling to himself and about to turn back, he caught a whiff of Seokjin’s familiar scent on the breeze.

Following it with hastened steps, Yoongi finally came upon him with a hand resting against a tree trunk as he laughed so his face scrunched up. What he was laughing at, Yoongi didn't know. With the way he was looking at Nayoung, the same Nayoung he’d brought up out of nowhere, it might have been something she had said. Though knowing Seokjin, it was probably some joke he’d made.

Still, she was laughing with him, cheeks rounding with her smile, and what the hell was Seokjin doing laughing with Nayoung when they were supposed to be getting ready to be going hunting?

“Seokjin,” Yoongi said, voice coming out sharper than he’d intended.

Seokjin was still smiling when he turned his face to Yoongi, and Yoongi didn’t know how to feel when the expression faded.

He’d been seething and ready to tell Seokjin off for disappearing, but none of what he’d wanted to say felt right with Seokjin and Nayoung looking at him, waiting for him to explain why he’d crashed into their conversation.

“We’re supposed to be going out to hunt,” Yoongi said, voice gruff and quieter than his initial exclamation.

Brows jumping, Seokjin regarded him with confusion. “Not yet.”

And that was true. They weren't late yet.

“Soon,” Yoongi countered, trying not to let his resolve completely crumble.

Seokjin stared at him for another second with that unreadable expression Yoongi had come to loathe before he nodded.

“Okay, let’s go,” he agreed before turning back to Nayoung. “Sorry. I’ll see you later though.”

“Okay,” she said with a reserved smile, eyes going between Seokjin and Yoongi like she was trying to figure out what she was missing.

Yoongi could relate.

Starting off, Yoongi felt Seokjin fall into step with him.

“I wasn't gonna be late,” Seokjin said after a silence that felt too long despite all the comfortable silences that had stretched much longer between them over the course of their friendship.

“I didn't know that,” Yoongi mumbled, unsure of how annoyed he was when he compared it with the unsettling feeling that he shouldn't have gone looking for Seokjin to begin with.

“Have I ever been late?” Seokjin challenged lightly, gaze on the side of Yoongi’s face.

Yoongi didn't turn to meet his eyes.

“You’ve never disappeared in the morning before,” he pointed out quietly, swallowing against the dread rising in his throat like bile.

The sound of conversations happening around them seemed muffled and too loud at the same time when Seokjin didn't respond.

This didn't feel right. This wasn't right. Everything was tilting further and further off balance, and Yoongi felt like everything he did was just exacerbating the process.

The worst part was the sick feeling in Yoongi’s gut that said he shouldn't even be trying to fix it.

After three hours of hunting, Yoongi had nothing to show for himself except one measly rabbit.

Everything was not fine.

 

---

 

“Where’s your other half?” had been the first thing Joohyun had said to him when he’d sat down with her and her mate outside their hut.

Yoongi hadn't been able to find Seokjin that morning, and whatever. That was fine. They didn't have any pressing responsibilities, and Seokjin was allowed to do whatever the hell he wanted. If he wanted to go talk to Nayoung, Yoongi wasn't going to go seek him out. He had other friends, too.

Unfortunately, Namjoon was usually busy courting Jimin these days. And Yoongi hadn't been able to find Hoseok either.

So when Joohyun had beckoned him over, he’d obliged. She wasn't what he’d call a close friend, but they’d always gotten along. And if Seokjin was off cultivating new friendships, maybe he should be, too.

After Yoongi had answered her initial inquiry with a shrug and a busy, he’d gladly sat back as Seungwan started chiding Joohyun for grabbing her butt in public. Not the first time they’d had this argument, it seemed, and Yoongi found his mind wandering as he scented the air on instinct.

“When are you gonna get yourself one of these?” Seungwan asked, gesturing to Joohyun with a thumb and a laugh.

Blinking, Yoongi realized that she was talking to him.

“Someone who inappropriately grabs my ass?” he joked, not really wanting to answer the actual question.

Joohyun cackled, and Seungwan snorted. “Something like that,” she said, still seeming to be waiting for an answer.

Shrugging, Yoongi tried to appear impassive. Because he didn't fucking know. Why was everyone so obsessed with talking about taking a mate?

“Are you pining over someone you can’t have?” Seungwan teased, and Yoongi felt himself tense. “Is it our Alpha?”

“Huh?”

“Shut up!” Joohyun demanded, laughing and leaning forward to swat at Seungwan.

“Joohyun was totally enamored with Boa,” Seungwan explained as she dodged Joohyun’s hits. “I had to snap her out of it.”

“It wasn't like I expected to mate with her!” Joohyun defended.

Yoongi relaxed as they playfully bickered. This wasn't about him. They were just making conversation and taking the opportunity to tease each other.

But still, the talk of taking a mate had him on edge in a way it never had before.

Maybe it was because it had been a few seasons since he could take a mate and his parents had started asking him about it. Maybe it was because Seokjin had randomly brought it up out of nowhere. Maybe it was because Yoongi didn’t like to be expected to do things. Regardless, the topic was leaving a bitter taste on his tongue.

“Make sure to get someone who will let you grab their ass,” Joohyun said, laughing as Seungwan made to reach for her. “I bet Boa would let me.”

“You can’t talk about our Alpha like that!” Seungwan protested, trying to slap a hand over Joohyun’s mouth.

Yoongi snorted, ignoring the knot of tension in his gut.

Maybe he should have just gone running by himself.

 

---

 

Yooungi’s shoulders were tight as he deposited the firewood he’d gathered into the supply tent. He was hoping to go running with Seokjin now that they were done with their work, and it was insane that the tension in his muscles was from unease about asking Seokjin if he wanted to. They’d gone running a million times- almost everyday since they’d been old enough to go alone. And yet Yoongi found himself hesitating as he stood outside the tent, waiting for Seokjin to emerge after dropping off his own wood pile.

Seokjin hadn’t mentioned Nayoung that day. Not that… It didn’t matter, one way or another. Yoongi just wanted to go running. That was all.

Dusting off his hands as he stepped outside, Seokjin blinked hard before before glancing up at where the sun was in the sky.

Waiting for Seokjin to look over at him, Yoongi swallowed before speaking.

“Wanna run?” Yoongi asked, voice quiet and brows raising in question.

Seokjin blinked again, like he hadn’t expected Yoongi to ask.

Though, to be fair, Yoongi usually didn’t have to ask.

“Oh, I actually told Nayoung that I’d come find her when I finished,” Seokjin told him, cautious like Yoongi was going to be upset. Which was stupid. Yoongi had other things he could do and Seokjin could do what he wanted.

“Okay,” Yoongi said on a breath.

But Seokjin was still looking at him like he was waiting for something. The air felt charged with something heavy that Yoongi didn’t have a name for.

“Didn’t know you had a thing for tall people,” Yoongi joked on a creaky laugh, hoping that the weird feeling surrounding them would crack.

Brows jumping, Seokjin sputtered out a laugh.

“Me?” he snickered. “That’s you!”

Yoongi frowned.

“Zhou Mi,” Seokjin prompted with a chuckle.

“What about him?”

Seokjin sighed like Yoongi was being obtuse. “You had a crush on him when we were younger. I’d say you’re the one who has a thing for tall people.”

“I didn't have a crush on him,” Yoongi grumbled in protest, unsure of why he was even arguing. It didn't matter.

“Oh really,” Seokjin challenged, quirking a brow and smirking like he knew everything about Yoongi and his feelings and preferences.

“Really,” Yoongi snapped, watching the playful expression drop from Seokjin’s face. He kind of wanted to apologize, but what was the point anyway? “And if I did, it wasn't because he was tall. That’s an idiotic reason.”

“It is,” Seokjin agreed, face closed off.

Fuck.

Whatever this was- whatever was happening between them these days… Yoongi was just making it worse. Seokjin was slipping away and instead of trying to stop it, he was pushing him even further. But the idea of trying to hold on when Seokjin didn’t want him to...

“So, whatever, you should go,” Yoongi said with a shrug, something uncomfortable burning inside his stomach and making his mouth taste like ash.

This was all wrong. This was all so wrong.

Seokjin wasn’t supposed to be looking at him like that- like he didn’t know what to do with him. Like he didn’t want to even bother trying.

Being with his best friend wasn’t supposed to feel like this.

“Yeah, I’ll see you later,” Seokjin agreed, scrubbing at his own neck and blinking rapidly. “At dinner, probably.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi mumbled, turning to walk away before Seokjin did.

Everything had been fine until suddenly it wasn’t.

Yoongi didn’t know where he had gone so wrong.

Even the bird calls seemed to mock him as he ran through the forest alone- only green leaves ahead of him no matter how hard he looked for light brown fur.

 

---

 

As spring progressed, the chill in the breeze gave way for balmy air and increasing warmth that had had Yoongi panting when he and Seokjin had arrived at their clearing.

Now, as he reclined on his back in the grass, he could feel sweat gathering behind his knees and in the crooks of his elbows.

It had been Seokjin who had nudged Yoongi toward the trees after they’d finished work, and it had been a wave of relief to know that Seokjin still wanted to go running with him. But of course he should. Just because he’d been spending time with Nayoung didn't mean he and Yoongi weren't friends. Although that was certainly what it had felt like when they’d first shifted back into human form, and Yoongi found himself at a loss for how to act around Seokjin. That was not an issue he’d ever had before.

The silence as they both lounged in the shade was relatively comfortable, but there was still a thread of discomfort that stretched between Yoongi’s throat and his heart, taking a detour to wrap around his lungs.

Still, despite the tightness in his chest, just relaxing in their clearing like they always had had Yoongi feeling more at peace than he had in the preceding days.

“Did you know that Joohyun used to have a thing for our Alpha?” Yoongi asked, grabbing for the only thing he could think to talk about with his stomach tying itself in knots that had him wanting to just curl up in a ball and block out the world.

“Hm?” Seokjin hummed, looking over at Yoongi like he’d forgotten he was even there.

Swallowing down his annoyance, Yoongi spoke again. “Joohyun and Boa. Apparently Joohyun wants to grab her ass, or something.”

“Well, it's Joohyun,” Seokjin allowed, snorting and letting a smile flirt with his features for a moment.

“Seungwan said-”

“I should actually probably get going,” Seokjin interrupted, blinking rapidly and avoiding Yoongi’s eye.

The tension in Yoongi’s chest increased- despair, panic, and anger battling to get his attention as he tried to push both down.

“I told Nayoung I’d find her before dinner,” Seokjin explained, standing up and dusting off his hands.

“What is the deal with you and Nayoung, anyway?” Yoongi demanded before he could stop himself. But he regretted it as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Because he’d been doing his very best not to think about it, and now he was inviting the subject to the forefront.

Seokjin paused, lips parting and gaze finally on Yoongi before he looked away again.

“I’m considering her as a potential mate,” he said with a shrug and restless eyes.

It was Yoongi was expecting. It was what he’d already known, if he had let himself really consider it. But despite that, the words had an ice block dropping in his stomach and quickly spreading a chill to all of his extremities.

Seokjin looked uncomfortable, like telling Yoongi was a great source of anxiety. It shouldn't have been. And yet…

“I didn't know you even really knew her,” Yoongi managed to get out gruffly. He’d been the one to ask the question. Seokjin had answered. It had been his turn.

“My parents are friends with her parents,” Seokjin explained, glancing at Yoongi and then away, over and over. “They mentioned her coming of age so-”

The sight of Seokjin shifting from foot to foot and avoiding his eyes just had the whole thing becoming suddenly so infuriating that Yoongi was speaking again before his brain had even caught up to the surge of anger he was feeling.

“Her parents are friends with your parents,” Yoongi sneered. “What a great reason to take someone as a mate.”

Seokjin was gaping at him like he couldn't even fathom what Yoongi had just said. But at least he was properly looking at him.

Even though he had Seokjin’s attention, finally, he couldn't stop.

“Maybe I should ask my parents who their friends are and if they have any offspring whom I can mate with,” he mocked, sick to his stomach as he spoke, but anger pushing him on regardless of what his head was telling him. “Sounds like a great plan for finding a mate.”

Seokjin’s jaw was tight as he regarded Yoongi- eyes hard and steady, unlike when they’d been nervously darting everywhere that wasn't Yoongi’s face.

“Maybe you should.”

His tone wasn't nasty, just unwavering. And Yoongi felt like he’d been slapped.

Yoongi didn't have a retort as Seokjin turned away. He couldn't even keep his eyes on Seokjin as he shifted because his pride wouldn't let him. If Seokjin glanced back, Yoongi didn't want to be looking.

But he didn’t think Seokjin glanced in his direction before taking off through the trees.

Left sitting in the clearing, Yoongi couldn't parse which emotion he was feeling most strongly. The contents of his stomach felt like they were simmering inside of him, and Yoongi wished he could peel off his own skin to escape. He could trade his human skin for a wolf pelt, but either way, he would be trapped with himself. He was stuck with only the company of someone who had snapped at the person he cared most about.

Yoongi was disgusted with himself, but he was also angry at Seokjin. And hurt. And about ten other unpleasant things that didn't even necessarily make sense, but he felt anyway. He didn’t know whom he was more upset with- Seokjin or himself. Regardless, anger and sadness sat heavy in his stomach.

Everything was slipping further and further away from where it should be, and Yoongi had to acknowledge that he truly had lost his grip on the life he wanted.

As he tracked a rabbit with disinterest, Yoongi acknowledged the part of himself that hoped that maybe this was salvageable.

But as the breeze finally picked up and cut through the heat Yoongi had forgotten to be uncomfortable in, he had to wonder whom he thought he was kidding.

 

---

 

“Fuck,” Yoongi cursed, too loudly and too angry for dropping a piece of meat on the ground during breakfast. He could still eat it- it wasn't like it had fallen into the fire. But the frustration he felt toward himself- toward the damn meat- still surged through him as he bent to retrieve the piece. “Son of a bitch.”

“Calm down,” Namjoon muttered, still groggy as he ate his breakfast next to Yoongi. “What’s up with you?”

“Nothing,” Yoongi grunted around his food, not looking over even though he could feel Namjoon studying him.

“You’ve been so grumpy lately,” Namjoon said, as though Yoongi hadn't noticed. “Is everything okay?”

“Fine,” Yoongi gritted out, kicking at a clod of dirt near his foot.

It was kind of not a lie.

The morning after his confrontation with Seokjin, Yoongi had swallowed his pride and shuffled his way over to Seokjin before they were set to go out hunting. His apology might have been mumbled, but Seokjin had accepted it nonetheless. Which he was grateful for. But that didn't mean that Seokjin didn't disappear right after they’d come back, probably going to find Nayoung. Because he was considering courting her. Basically was already.

“You sure?” Namjoon pressed, and Yoongi couldn't help the rumble of a growl in his throat in response.
He just wanted to fucking drop it.

“Whoa, okay,” Namjoon said, tilting his head to bare his neck in surrender. “Sorry I asked.”

Yoongi grunted, eyes on his feet.

Seokjin hadn’t been anywhere to be found that morning. Obviously he was with Nayoung. Which was fine. If he wanted to court her, then of course he should be with her.

Taking a bite, Yoongi chewed furiously and tried to ignore the way Namjoon kept glancing over at him like he might burst into flame at any time.

It was because he hadn’t smelled anything besides a slight residual hint of Seokjin’s scent that morning that his head lifted on instinct when he got a heavy whiff. But he forced himself back to his food before he could look around. He could smell Nayoung, too.

Eyes downcast, Yoongi could feel his skin pebbling- fine hair on the back of his neck standing up. It was his hackles trying to raise, but in his human form, it wasn't very effective.

It happened unbidden sometimes when he smelled an alpha. And since Nayoung was an alpha he didn’t know well, the alpha in Yoongi perceived her as a threat.

“Calm down,” Namjoon whispered, a slight tease in his voice. Evidently he’d noticed Yoongi’s futile defensive instincts.

“‘m calm,” Yoongi muttered, ripping another piece of meat from the bone.

He was calm. He was fine. As he finished his breakfast, Yoongi ignored the fact that the hair on his nape remained standing.

 

---

 

Shoulders pressed against a pelt, there were lips against his- someone’s weight on top of him. Yoongi’s mind scrambled to catch up even as he tilted his head and allowed those lips to move against his jaw. His fingers tangled in long hair as kisses were pressed to his neck.

It was nice, even though Yoongi couldn't remember how he’d gotten into this situation. He wasn't set to mate with anyone. He-

With a start, Yoongi registered to whom the lips belonged.

A glance down confirmed it- Nayoung’s eyes looking back at him.

But that wasn't right. This wasn't right.

Why was this so wrong? He couldn't remember. There was something in the recesses of his mind screaming at him that this wasn't what was supposed to be happening, but he couldn't-

Seokjin.

Seokjin was the one counting Nayoung, not Yoongi.

No sooner had he had that realization, he found himself floating off to the side, no longer pinned to the ground by Nayoung's weight.

Instead, he was privy to the slide of lips as Seokjin arched up to meet Nayoung's kiss.

He’d been trying so, so hard not to think about this. And yet here he was- unable to look away from the way Seokjin’s hand cupped her neck and moved to her shoulder.

Fingers he’d been looking at for years, dragging along skin.

Seokjin’s chest shuddered with his intake of breath, lips parted and wet from kissing, and Yoongi felt as though he was seeing something he shouldn’t. Of course, it went without saying that he shouldn't have been watching two people like this. But it wasn't even that.

His eyes were on Seokjin’s throat as he swallowed, on his chest as he breathed… Being without coverings was hardly something to give a second thought. The amount of time he and Seokjin had spent in their clearing with their hides back on the edge of camp was too much to count. But right then, watching Seokjin’s muscles flex under his skin, Yoongi felt like he was seeing him naked like he never had. The fact that he was with Nayoung was barely even a factor. Yoongi had nearly forgotten she was even there.

And with that thought, she wasn't. Nayoung was no longer straddling Seokjin’s hips with her lips affixed to his neck. Yoongi was.

Seokjin’s skin tasted so familiar as Yoongi dragged his lips against the column of his throat, Seokjin’s hands coming up to grip Yoongi’s waist.

Arousal surged through him, hot and potent, and Yoongi couldn't help the rock of his hips down as he found Seokjin’s mouth and kissed him like it wasn't the first time.

Hands braced on Seokjin’s shoulders, Yoongi pressed his hips forward, feeling Seokjin’s arousal as a mirror to his own and only serving to push his own want higher.

Seokjin was meeting his kisses with fervor, and Yoongi shuddered as arousal danced over his skin. Fuck. He just wanted to knot him, but he didn’t think he’d last that long. Just this- rutting against Seokjin like he had against his own palm the first time he’d brought himself pleasure- was too good.

Pulling back, Yoongi watched Seokjin suck in a sharp breath- eyes dark and trained on his own. His head was starting to spin as his hips sped.

Yoongi felt like he couldn't breathe. It was so good. It was so fucking good-

Waking himself up on a gasp, it took a second for Yoongi to take stock of himself- to realize that he was on his pallet in the unmated alpha hut and that he’d been dreaming.

The details, what he could remember of them, trickled back into his mind, and he blew out a frustrated breath. What a fucked up dream. What the fuck was he doing dreaming about-

Arousal giving an insistent throb, Yoongi reached down and cupped himself- hissing as he felt the way his knot had already begun to swell.

Maybe in a different situation, after a different dream, he’d have snuck out to the woods to take care of himself. But with visuals from his dream still fresh in his mind, Yoongi forced himself to turn over and close his eyes.

It was only sheer force of will that allowed to him fall back to sleep just as dawn’s light was starting to filter in between the slats in the walls.

 

---

 

Yoongi was quiet as he lounged in the shade, not even knowing what to say. He didn’t really need to say anything. Quiet was fine. Except it didn't feel fine. Not anymore.

Seokjin had usually been the one to break the silence with some story or musing, often a joke that had Yoongi blinking at him while Seokjin doubled over in laughter. But Seokjin had barely said anything to him all day. Not while they had been gathering reeds. Not afterwards when Yoongi had raised his eyebrows and inclined his head toward the treeline. And not now.

If he hadn't wanted to go running with Yoongi, he should have just said so.

Out of nowhere, Yoongi found himself remembering one instance a handful of seasons ago when Seokjin had gathered up a bunch of pinecones and had been attempting some complicated slight of hand with them that hadn't been working at all. He’d made himself cry he’d been laughing so hard, and Yoongi felt his lips pulling up slightly as he thought about it.

A glance up at Seokjin had the smile withering because Seokjin looked nothing like the happy memory in Yoongi’s mind. His brows were furrowed as he stared blankly into the trees- blinking rapidly and fiddling with a stick he’d picked up off the ground.

Looking at them now, Yoongi thought it would have been impossible to tell what they used to be. Yoongi almost felt like he must have been remembering incorrectly, because how could things change so severely in so short a time?

“I should get going,” Seokjin said after a short interim of continued silence.

The sun had barely started its descent. They used to stay out so late that they would get back to camp when it was nearly dark and they had to be quick to grab some scraps from dinner before it was gone completely.

Yoongi grunted, knowing his displeasure wasn't hidden at all.

“I told Nayoung I’d find her before dinner,” Seokjin explained, like that might assuage Yoongi’s annoyance.

“Of course you did,” Yoongi muttered before he could help himself, almost wanting to shrink under the betrayed look Seokjin shot him.

His subconscious had forced the image of Seokjin and Nayoung together on him, and that visual haunted him- making him want to bare his teeth at just the mention of her. It wasn't rational but-

“I can’t-” Seokjin started, cutting himself off and blowing out a frustrated breath. “Can’t you just let me try to be happy?”

It hadn't been what Yoongi had been expecting, and he was left speechless as Seokjin ran his fingers agitatedly through his hair.

“I can't do this,” he went on, looking away. “I’m just trying… You remember that spirit guide who got so sick and died when we were pups?”

Seokjin’s eyes were back on him, pausing until Yoongi nodded.

“She was so young and they didn't know why she died, so they...opened her up and her lungs were black. From breathing in the sacred smoke. It poisoned her. Doing what she loved killed her,” he went on, shaking his head and back to looking everywhere but at Yoongi’s face.

Of course Yoongi remembered that. It had been a point of contention among the elders, whether or not they should cut her open to find why she had gotten ill or not. And the resulting change in the way spirit guides got in touch with the spirit world to avoid more deaths. But why was Seokjin bringing that up now? What did that have to do with Nayoung? Or Yoongi? Or Seokjin? Why-?

“You are poisoning me,” Seokjin said, voice quieter though the impact Yoongi felt in his chest was like Seokjin had yelled it. “I can't keep doing this. Being around you- I need to give myself a fair shot at being happy, and I can't do that if we keep doing this.”

“This?” Yoongi repeated, mouth dry and heart thudding in his chest so hard it nearly hurt.

“This,” Seokjin confirmed with a nod and a hand that gestured between them. “Spending time together like we have. Spending time together at all. I just- I don’t think I can do this anymore.”

There was so much Yoongi wanted to say, so many questions he wanted to ask. But he couldn't speak. He didn’t actually know what to say because Seokjin didn't want anything to do with him. What could he possibly say to change that?

Yoongi remembered being in this clearing with Seokjin when they were kids and confessing to Seokjin that he was his favorite person and that he wished they never had to go back to camp.

That hadn't changed, but obviously something had.

“I’m sorry,” Seokjin muttered, sparing Yoongi a sad look before he turned and paused only briefly before he shifted.

Then it was his brown tail disappearing among the trees, and Yoongi was left alone.

He should have said something, something, to make Seokjin stay. But it hadn't seemed like it was meant to be a discussion. It hadn't seemed like Yoongi got a say in Seokjin’s decision. Because if he was…poison, then he couldn't force Seokjin to be around him. Maybe all this time, he’d been being selfish and Seokjin hadn't even wanted to spend time with him or be his friend.

Yoongi wasn't sure what hurt worse- wondering if the one person he’d trusted more than anyone else had secretly loathed him all this time or simply knowing that whatever it was they’d had was indefinitely over.

He wanted to leave, the clearing that had been their clearing only serving to mock what he no longer had. But he couldn't move- body frozen with shock and sadness that he couldn't even fully process.

By the time he pushed himself up to head back toward camp, the sun was nearly below the treeline. He was going to be late for dinner and only get scraps, but he didn’t care.

None of that fucking mattered. Not anymore.

 

---

 

If Yoongi had held onto any hope that maybe Seokjin would change his mind, those hopes would have been dashed when it became very clear that Seokjin was purposefully avoiding him.

The following few days, Yoongi didn't see or smell Seokjin at breakfast at all. He didn’t know if Seokjin was off with Nayoung or if he was simply avoiding him, but either way, it had his stomach clenching tight until he didn’t even want to eat.

During their daily tasks, Seokjin stayed as far away from Yoongi as he possibly could, whether it was on the opposite side of the crop field or far enough downstream that Yoongi could barely hear his loud laughter that was directed toward Namjoon and not him.

When they went hunting, Yoongi had been so preoccupied with Seokjin’s scent after barely smelling it that he couldn't focus on any one prey. He’d ended up catching nothing, finding himself accidentally trailing Seokjin’s scent more than once.

After they were done working for the day, there was no eye contact or inclined heads toward the forest. Seokjin seemed determined to be gone before Yoongi could even think of looking for him. Not that he planned to. Seokjin had made himself very clear. He wanted nothing to do with Yoongi, and that was all there was to it.

But that didn't mean Yoongi was having an easy time accepting that. Every reminder of his reality had Yoongi’s stomach sinking, and every time he thought about Seokjin and Nayoung off being happy somewhere, he felt an anger in him rise that he couldn't put a name to. It had been too long since he’d gotten a good night's sleep, and he had to admit that he wasn't doing well.

Fuck,” Yoongi bit out, rage rising fast as he lost his grip on the pile of wood he was holding and the pieces on the top fell onto the ground. “Fucking shit.”

Namjoon was looking at him as he threw down the rest of his pile, but Yoongi didn't care- leaving the wood in a heap on the ground and stalking away like he could leave his anger there with it.

His fist against a tree trunk only served to scratch up his knuckles, but Yoongi couldn't help it. He felt like he wanted to climb out of his own skin and run away from all of this as fast as he could- until the wind had disintegrated whatever was left of him. But instead, he was stuck muttering curses to himself as he checked to see if his knuckles were bleeding. They weren't, but he didn't think he really cared either way.

“Yoongi.”

Namjoon’s voice. He sounded exasperated, and Yoongi braced himself for a lecture.

He knew he was being unreasonable, but that didn't mean he wanted to hear about it.

Turning around as he rubbed his knuckles, Yoongi was met with a predictably serious looking Namjoon.

“What’s going on,” Namjoon asked, though it didn't sound much like a question. “You have been intolerable lately.”

Wincing, Yoongi felt his hackles try to raise. “So I’ve heard,” he mumbled. Poison, intolerable. He was on a roll.

“You’ve got to get yourself together,” Namjoon went on. “This is getting ridiculous.”

Yoongi just grunted. He couldn't disagree, though he didn’t exactly have an abundance of ideas on how to remedy the situation.

Namjoon sighed, leaning against the trunk of a tree and eying Yoongi. “Look,” he started, holding eye contact even though Yoongi wanted to look away- not wanting to be scolded. “Just talk to Seokjin. You’re miserable, and-”

The scoff Yoongi let out was loud enough that Namjoon broke off mid-sentence.

“Talk to him?” Yoongi sneered. “He said I’m poison. He wants nothing to do with me.”

Just repeating those words had Yoongi’s stomach clenching, a burst of sick adrenaline shooting through him.

But Namjoon was sighing again like Yoongi was still being difficult.

“Do you really believe-”

Yes,” Yoongi bit out. He had made his peace with it, was trying to make his peace with it. He didn’t need Namjoon trying to make him feel better or convince him otherwise. His relationship with Seokjin was obviously unsalvageable, and he needed to accept that and move on.

From Namjoon's outside perspective, he probably thought that of course they could work things out. They’d been friends for so long. Surely, whatever it was was fixable. But if Seokjin thought Yoongi was poison… And Yoongi felt like poison. He couldn't blame Seokjin for not wanting…

“I’ll get it together,” Yoongi said gruffly, hoping Namjoon would just let it drop and leave him alone. He wasn't sure how he was going to do that. It wasn't like he wasn't trying already. But anything to end this conversation that was doing nothing but reminding him of what he didn’t have.

Namjoon nodded slowly, but he didn't look convinced.

“Just...use your head,” he told him. “Think about what you want. And I’m here if you want to talk.”

What he wanted? That was the last thing Yoongi wanted to think about because everything he wanted, he couldn't have.

“Thanks,” he responded anyway. Namjoon was only trying to help.

The truth was, though, that there wasn't anything to be done. Yoongi just had to figure out how to get his heart to stop feeling so heavy. And that wasn't something Namjoon could help with.

Yoongi was on his own.

 

---

 

Digging at the edge of the clearing, Yoongi tried to lose himself in the rhythm of his paws in the dirt. He wasn’t digging for any reason other than to try to get his mind off of...everything. He’d already been running all morning, and that hadn’t worked. Despite not wanting to come to the clearing that was once his and Seokjin’s clearing by himself, his feet had taken him there. And being still seemed like the worst thing he could do with his mind trying to ricochet in ten different directions. So he was digging.

It wasn’t working.

Letting out a growl, Yoongi straightened up and abandoned the shallow hole he’d made in favor of pacing along the treeline.

Being here felt wrong, but being back at camp made him itchy and jumpy and on edge. Of course, he was still all those things as he paced by himself, but at least he didn’t have to pretend to be okay. Because he wasn’t. Not at all.

But why not?

Well, because the person closest to him had decided he didn’t want Yoongi in his life. But even before that, he hadn’t been okay. Better than now, but…

What the fuck was his problem? Seokjin had asked why Yoongi couldn’t just let him try to be happy.

Yoongi was wondering the same thing.

Why the fuck couldn’t he just accept that Seokjin was courting, or thinking about courting, Nayoung? There wasn’t anything wrong with her, as far as he knew. He didn’t even know her. And yet, just thinking about her had his hackles rising.

When had everything gotten so fucked up? Why did things have to change?

Yoongi wished he could go back to before everything had been ruined.

Pausing, he could practically see the two of them curled up together just a few moon cycles ago- like a faint veil shimmering over Seokjin’s favorite place to lay. What he wouldn’t give to just go back there. Maybe he could convince Seokjin to just stay out in the clearing forever so nothing would have to change. They could just stay in a state of contentment forever and none of this- Nayoung, Yoongi being poison, Seokjin walking away- would even have happened.

Back then, he hadn't known that he and Seokjin didn't have forever. It had seemed like it would always be the two of them. Yoongi hadn't known to appreciate the time they spent together. He hadn't thought it would end.

Now that it had, Yoongi just found himself wishing he could have done something to change this outcome that now seemed so inevitable.

All he wanted was Seokjin in his life. He just wanted forever with him like he’d foolishly assumed he had. He wanted-

Yoongi stopped in his tracks, breeze blowing against his muzzle as he felt his heart start to pound with the realization settling over him.

He wanted Seokjin forever. He wanted Seokjin for himself. He’d always known that but-

But he hadn't processed what that meant.

It was so obvious, though. So obvious, and yet somehow, it had never occurred to Yoongi that he wanted Seokjin as his mate.

How could he never have seen? Seokjin was the most important person to him. It had never even been a question. From the moment he’d barrelled into Yoongi’s life, he had become the most treasured. He’d just snapped into place like that was where he was supposed to be.

Everything felt right when he and Seokjin were together, and now everything felt completely wrong.

How fucking stupid was he? All this time, and he’d never thought what it might mean that, only in presence of Seokjin, he could completely be himself. The majority of his happiest memories involved Seokjin. He’d had seasons upon seasons to ask Seokjin to stay with him, and yet here he was: alone in their clearing, not even speaking with Seokjin, and knowing Seokjin was considering Nayoung as a mate.

A growl rumbled in Yoongi’s throat with that thought. His animosity toward Nayoung made more sense in this context, made even worse by the fact that she was an alpha. If it was an alpha Seokjin wanted, it should have been Yoongi.

Maybe it could have been, too, if Yoongi had known what he’d wanted before it was too late.

That almost made it worse.

What would have happened if he’d gotten his shit together sooner and asked Seokjin to be his mate? They could have been here together, probably napping- Seokjin curled around him and head resting heavy on Yoongi’s chest, or shoulder, or head, or arm, or-

Seokjin was not there. He probably would never be there again.

Had he been in his human form, Yoongi suspected he might have been crying, but as a wolf, all he could manage was a pathetic sounding whimper before his stomach turned with the weight of his reality, and he put his head down as he emptied his stomach of the breakfast he’d managed to take down.

He’d fucked up. He’d fucked up so badly. He was living in his own worst nightmare and he had only himself to blame.

 

---

 

Yoongi might have left himself to rot in the clearing, but there was one thought that he kept clinging to.

Seokjin wasn’t mated yet. Wasn't even officially courting Nayoung.

And okay, he wouldn't have actually let himself wither away, but the reminder that nothing was set in stone was what he got himself up off the ground with.

As he’d moseyed back to camp, in no hurry to have to pretend he was okay, something else crept into his consciousness.

When Namjoon had been chiding him for losing his temper, he’d been insistent about Yoongi talking to Seokjin. Namjoon had told him to figure out what he wanted, and to talk to Seokjin.

Well, he’d figured out what he wanted. Had Namjoon known what that was all along?

Would Seokjin even listen?

He had to talk to Namjoon. That was the thought at the forefront of his mind when he woke up the next day. Maybe he was clinging to false hope, but he had to know. And if Namjoon had some insight, Yoongi wanted to know what it was.

“Mornin’,” Hoseok greeted when Yoongi made it to the center of camp, smells of fresh meat greeting him and making his stomach growl. But food wasn't his main concern right then as he scented the air for Namjoon.

“Have you seen Namjoon?” he asked, nose still in the air and eyes scanning over the faces gathered by the food.

“Uh-uh,” Hoseok replied around her breakfast. “Maybe he's with Jimin?”

“Where though?” Yoongi demanded, looking over to see Hoseok regarding him with surprise. Yoongi was not usually so awake in the morning. Typically, he’d be grunting out a response if coerced, not wide awake and demanding things.

Shrugging, Hoseok was still looking at him like he’d lost his mind. “Maybe near the omega hut?”

Yoongi knew it had been a random guess, but he didn’t have any better ideas, so he took off in that direction at a clipped pace, leaving Hoseok staring at him with bulging cheeks and wide eyes.

“Yoongi!” was called out as soon as Yoongi was within sight of the omega hut.

Not Namjoon's voice though.

Jeongguk, a young omega, was grinning and coming toward him.

He’d gotten to know her when he’d been in charge of teaching the younger kids to hunt. Jeongguk had taken a liking to him for whatever reason, and she was too cute not to have a soft spot for.

“Have you seen Namjoon?” Yoongi asked, too single minded in his pursuit to think to greet her.

Head tilting and brows scrunching together, Jeongguk made a thoughtful sound. “Not this morning. I saw Jimin earlier, but that was awhile ago…”

“Okay, thanks,” Yoongi replied, mind already scrambling for another idea of where to look. “I’ll see you later.”

“Wait!” Jeongguk called, jogging to fall into step with him as Yoongi headed back toward the alpha hut. “Have you have breakfast yet?”

“No time,” Yoongi explained, sniffing the air and getting momentarily distracted by a tiny whiff of Seokjin. But he had to find Namjoon first.

“No fun,” Jeongguk complained, sticking her tongue out at him before pivoting toward the center of camp, presumably to get her breakfast.

When he was less distracted, he’d have to make a point to catch up with her. But right then, Yoongi had his nose in the air, trying to get any whiff of Namjoon as he walked.

Eventually, he ended up back by the alpha hut, standing still and cursing under his breath in frustration. He could talk to Namjoon later, but the longer he went without talking to Seokjin, if that was what he should do, the less likely he’d be able to rectify the situation. It was unlikely he could salvage anything as it was, but if there was any chance, he needed to do something soon.

Should he just try talking to Seokjin? But what if he somehow made it worse? What if it would just burden Seokjin with his feelings? What if the hope he was trying to pull from Namjoon’s advice was just as baseless as he’d first thought Namjoon's suggestions were? Maybe they were baseless, after all. Maybe-

“What are you doing?”

Blinking past his own indecision, Yoongi found Joohyun staring at him with raised brows and a look on her face that said she thought he might be crazy. And considering Yoongi was pretty certain he’d been muttering to himself, she wasn’t far off base.

“Looking...for Namjoon,” he got out, giving a cursory glance to the area around them as though he might have missed Namjoon’s scent.

Joohyun quirked a brow. “Why?”

“Have to talk to him about something,” Yoongi told her, getting antsy to get moving again. He didn’t have much hope that he’d find him before they had to tend to the crops, but at least walking around was helping to burn up the nervous energy that was trembling down to the tips of his fingers. Maybe he could get Namjoon alone while they were working so he could-

“Are you...okay?” Joohyun asked, just a touch on the judgmental side of concerned, which seemed appropriate given how he’d been behaving lately.

Unsure of how to answer, Yoongi found himself just staring back at her while her brows crept closer to her hairline.

“Come here,” she finally said, beckoning Yoongi to follow her. And since Yoongi had pretty much given up hope of finding Namjoon that morning and didn’t know what to do with himself, he just followed.

She led him away from the alpha hut and to the edge of the trees where they weren’t as likely to be overheard.

“What’s going on?” Joohyun asked, arms crossed over her chest but brows dipping with worry. Yoongi almost felt like he was being questioned by his mother, but quickly realized that that would have been much worse. Because he’d rather not lie to her, and he might be able to get away unscathed from this interrogation.

“It’s complicated,” Yoongi hedged, hoping that Joohyun would drop it. They’d never been close enough to share secrets, and even telling Namjoon what he was dealing with seemed kind of terrifying. “I’m working on it.”

“Not hard enough, apparently,” Joohyun remarked with a frown. “You’ve been stalking around like you’re ready to leap at someone’s throat and you smell all...weird.”

“I smell weird?” Yoongi asked, eyebrows furrowing in confusion. It was harder to smell himself than to smell others, but sometimes when he was sick, he noticed his scent changed a bit. Lately, though, he hadn’t smelled anything unusual.

Joohyun inhaled thoughtfully before she looked back at him.

“I guess you just don’t smell like Seokjin anymore,” she finally said, regarding him carefully as that sunk in.

It took Yoongi a second as that washed over him, his lungs feeling blocked up and his stomach seizing. He’d smelled like Seokjin? Of course, it wouldn’t have smelled like they were mated, but part of Yoongi felt a possessive satisfaction to know that he’d had Seokjin’s scent on him, and that Seokjin had probably smelled like him too. But it felt like a yawning chasm had opened up in his chest to know that he no longer did.

“I…” Yoongi started before trailing off. Because he didn’t know to respond to that.

Worse, he could feel the tightness in his throat from knowing just how much his reality had changed. Even his scent was different now that Seokjin was out of his life. Something about such a tangible difference just made it seem more real. He wasn’t going to wake up and find that it had all been one, big nightmare. Seokjin really wanted nothing to do with him. He’d lost the most important person to him. This was all real and happening, and there was likely nothing Yoongi could do.

“What happened with you guys?” Joohyun asked when Yoongi didn’t continue his thought. She spoke more gently, seeming to know that Seokjin was at the root of everything that was wrong.

Yoongi shrugged, trying to swallow down his urge to just start crying.

“He’s thinking of courting Nayoung,” he told her, trying for light and sounding breathlessly tense instead.

“Please,” Joohyun said with a roll of her eyes. “A little birdie told me that Nayoung has her eye on an omega who isn’t of mating age this season. No way is Seokjin going to actually court her.”

That was...more of a relief than Yoongi wanted to admit. But it was only temporary, he knew. If it wasn’t Nayoung, it would be someone else. The real issue was that Seokjin didn’t want anything to do with Yoongi. Nayoung wasn’t the cause of that.

“Well, either way…” Yoongi tried, shaking his head and hoping that Joohyun wasn’t going to point out that he wasn’t really making sense.

No such luck.

“Either way what?” she asked, arms crossed again and voice taking on a sterner tone. “Why are you just sulking about him spending time with Nayoung when you could do something about it?”

Yoongi didn’t like that Joohyun seemed to have seen right through him. Moreover, there was a lot more to it than just Nayoung. Seokjin had told him he was poison. Why would he want to be mates with someone who was poisoning him? Unless…

“I don’t know if he wan-”

“If you think for a second that Seokjin is any happier than you are right now, you’d be mistaken,” Joohyun interrupted. “He’s miserable, too. He misses you, and don’t try to argue,” she added when Yoongi had opened his mouth to contradict what she was saying. “No, I didn’t ask him, but I didn’t have to. I don’t know what you think you have to talk to Namjoon about that’s so urgent, but it can’t be more important than what you have to talk to Seokjin about. So talk to him.”

Yoongi was speechless. Somehow, he’d ended up getting pretty much exactly the opinion he’d been looking for, but he certainly hadn’t expected to get it unprompted from Joohyun. And maybe she didn’t have as much insight into Yoongi’s and Seokjin’s relationship as Namjoon might, but Yoongi was going to take her advice as some sort of approval he had been seeking.

Maybe Seokjin really didn’t want to talk to him. Maybe Yoongi really was poison. And if that was the case, he would never bother Seokjin again, as much as even thinking that hurt him. But it was unlikely that things could get worse between them, and he had to try.

Nodding, Yoongi blew out a breath before he met Joohyun’s steady and expectant gaze.

“Okay,” he agreed, feeling a weight lift at just having made that decision.

Joohyun smiled, seeming relieved herself.

Determination settling in his gut where indecision had been swirling, Yoongi nodded again. “I will.”

 

---

 

“Can we talk?”

Yoongi was quiet when he asked, not wanting to draw any attention in case Seokjin completely rejected his request.

Trying to focus while carting water from the river to the vegetable field had been a struggle, distracted by Seokjin’s scent floating on the air and by all the things he wanted to say. Even more distracting was knowing that he was going to try to talk to Seokjin as soon as they were finished working. It felt sudden and too soon for Yoongi’s mind, which was still just trying to get a handle on everything, but on the other hand, it was so, so overdue. He needed to do this now.

So before Seokjin could disappear like he had been, Yoongi had cornered him and asked to speak with him. And now Seokjin was staring at him with uneasy eyes and twitching hands like he wanted to get away. That hurt so fucking bad, but Yoongi forced himself to stay resolute. If Seokjin wanted nothing to do with him after this, then Yoongi would never bother him again.

“Please,” he said softly when Seokjin was still hesitating.

Just standing this close to Seokjin was heady- his scent overwhelming Yoongi’s senses and making his head spin, but he forced himself to focus on holding eye contact. Seokjin had to know that he was serious and that this was important.

Finally, after what felt like an entire moon cycle, Seokjin nodded, swallowing and blinking hard as he followed Yoongi to the treeline.

It was such a familiar situation, and yet nothing about it felt comfortable. The tension was palpable as they both shifted and started off in the direction they always took. Yoongi had never said specifically that he wanted to talk in the clearing, but of course that’s what he’d had in mind. He hadn't had to say it.

Even though his heart was pounding and he felt unsteady in both his mind and body, just following Seokjin through the trees gave him comfort he hadn't felt in what seemed like ages. Seokjin’s scent dancing in front of him and his light brown tail bobbing in Yoongi's line of sight had a somewhat guilty happiness blooming in Yoongi’s chest that he almost didn't want to let himself enjoy. But Yoongi let himself fall into the rhythm of the run, mind blanking as his paws hit the ground and the wind blew through his fur. He nearly forgot what his purpose was, but as they arrived at the clearing, their clearing, Yoongi felt the gravity of the situation bear down on him again, and he had to take a deep breath as he shifted and watched Seokjin do the same.

They were both quiet for a moment, just staring at one another. Yoongi knew that this would be the last time the two of them would be here together if all hope was truly lost, but he couldn't focus on that when he had so much to say.

“What did you want to talk about?” Seokjin asked, making no move to sit down or get comfortable- instead watching Yoongi warily from a few paces away that seemed almost insurmountably far.

Taking another deep breath, Yoongi readied himself to speak. These might be the most important words he would ever say, so he didn't want to mess them up.

“Remember when we were kids and we’d first found this place?” Yoongi began, not wanting his proclamation to seem sudden or insincere. “I told you that I never wanted to go back to camp. You said we had to go back and that I hadn’t thought it through. You said I didn't really want to stay here with just you forever. But I really meant it then. And that hasn’t changed.”

Pausing to try to gauge Seokjin’s reaction, Yoongi forced himself to meet Seokjin’s eyes even though he was terrified of what he’d find there. Anger? Shock? Horror?

He wasn’t met with anything so dramatic- just confusion. And that was better than derision or disgust, so Yoongi pushed on.

“I’ve been...incredibly stupid all this time,” Yoongi continued, scrubbing a hand over the back of his neck. “I didn’t think about what I wanted. I was just...content. Because you were always there, and when I’m with you, I’m happy. It didn’t even occur to me to think about what that meant, because why analyze something that seems so simple and obvious?”

Seokjin’s brows had furrowed a little, but not in anger. It was like he was studying Yoongi and parsing every word that left his mouth.

Yoongi kept going.

“I guess I never let myself think about a reality without you, because not having you in my life scared the shit out of me. Even considering you going off and mating with someone made me feel sick, so I just didn’t consider it...until I had to.”

Blowing out a breath through his nose, Yoongi took a couple steps to the right, just so his nervous energy wouldn’t incinerate his insides, before walking back to stand directly in front of Seokjin again.

“Before, I didn’t want to believe that I could lose you because the thought of that was too awful,” Yoongi went on, heart still thudding hard enough that he felt like his ribs were vibrating inside of him and voice wavering just slightly even though he was trying to remain steady. “And then I did lose you, and it was even more devastating than I thought it would be. I know you said I’m poison, but I-”

“I didn’t say you were poison,” Seokjin cut in, startling Yoongi into halting mid-sentence. It was the first thing Seokjin had said since Yoongi had started in on his speech, and Yoongi was nearly holding his breath as he waited for Seokjin to finish his thought. “I said you were poisoning me. Not that you were poison. Just that, by being near you-”

Seokjin stopped, blinking and looking down at the ground before meeting Yoongi’s eyes again. He seemed unsure, and Yoongi didn’t know what to make of it.

“Finish what you were saying,” Seokjin requested quietly, and it took Yoongi a moment to even remember what he had been saying. Adrenaline was making him a little dizzy, and now that he’d paused, he barely remembered where he’d stopped.

“I, um,” he began again, feeling even more self conscious now, “I realized how much you mean to me after you weren’t there anymore. I mean, I knew, but I really thought about it, and I realized…”

This was it. This was what was going to make Seokjin stay with him or leave for good.

“I realized that I want you as my mate. I want to be with you forever,” Yoongi said on a breath, having to look down in case Seokjin was looking at him like he wanted to run away. “Just like I said when we were kids. I meant it.”

The silence while Yoongi waited for Seokjin to say something felt like it was something living in the air that was squeezing around his lungs and crushing them.

Finally, when Yoongi was afraid that Seokjin was just never going to say anything at all in response, he looked back up, and was shocked to see tears streaking down Seokjin’s cheeks. He wanted to do something- ask if he was okay, give him a hug, something- but he was frozen, just staring dumbly as Seokjin sniffled and wiped the back of his hand over his cheeks.

“Really?” Seokjin finally asked, voice thick with tears and nose red as he sniffed again.

Nodding, Yoongi still felt like he couldn’t breathe- waiting for Seokjin to agree or leave or tell him off or…

Seokjin seemed to collapse in on himself with a sob- hands coming up to cover his face and shoulders shaking. Yoongi wanted to put a comforting hand on his back but...should he?

Standing still in indecision, Yoongi was nearly knocked off his feet when Seokjin suddenly surged forward to tackle Yoongi in a hug and press his wet face against the side of Yoongi’s neck.

Movements still unsure, Yoongi carefully wrapped his arms around Seokjin’s middle as Seokjin cried into his shoulder.

“I’ve-” Seokjin hiccuped next to his ear, fingers digging in hard to Yoongi’s back like he might get ripped away. “I’ve been waiting for you to say that for so long.”

Relief and happiness so potent they nearly had Yoongi’s knees giving out washed over him, and he found himself clutching onto Seokjin just as tightly.

“I did say it,” he couldn’t help but argue, voice thin as he tried not to become a crying mess. “When we were kids. I said I wanted to spend forever with you.”

Laughing wetly against his neck, Seokjin lightly hit him on the back. “You didn’t say you wanted to be my mate.”

“I thought it was implied,” Yoongi teased, unable to stop the grin when Seokjin pulled back enough to laugh at that.

He was smiling too, even as a couple of tears slipped down his cheeks. But his expression turned serious the next moment, his eyes locking with Yoongi’s as he gripped Yoongi’s shoulders.

“Are you really sure?” he asked, gaze searching and intense enough that Yoongi felt like Seokjin must have actually been able to see right down into his soul.

“Yes,” Yoongi said, holding eye contact and hoping that his sincerity was reflected on his face. “You are the only one I want to spend my life with. That is never going to change.”

Yoongi was expecting another hug or maybe a fresh wave of tears. But instead he got Seokjin’s lips, wet and puffy from crying, pressed against his own.

And that was the answer he’d been looking for.

That was the answer he’d always been looking for.

 

---

 

“Is this really happening?” Seokjin laughed breathlessly, chin digging into Yoongi’s chest as they reclined on the patch of ground that Seokjin insisted was the softest.

They were still in the clearing, basking in their newfound reality. After a few more kisses that had left Yoongi reeling, Seokjin had pulled Yoongi over to his favorite spot, and they’d been lying curled together like they used to ever since.

“Seems like it,” Yoongi chuckled, grinning fondly as Seokjin expressed extreme disbelief and happiness with his face before breaking down in giggles.

“We’re doing this,” Seokjin reiterated, eyes searching Yoongi's as he nodded. “Mating season ends in a few days though…”

Yoongi had thought of that. It was one of the reasons he’d wanted to talk to Seokjin immediately. On the off chance he accepted Yoongi's proposal…

“We don't have to if you don't want to,” Yoongi said, “but I was thinking we could mate before it ends? I mean, it's not like I’m going to suddenly get sick of you and change my mind.”

Seokjin snorted, and poked Yoongi in the side- laughing happily at the put upon glare Yoongi shot him.

“What about...the day after tomorrow?” Seokjin ventured, brows tilting like Yoongi might tell him no.

“Okay,” Yoongi agreed, stomach swooping and heart pounding- lips stretching into a giddy smile even though he could hardly comprehend that Seokjin had really agreed to be his mate. Just that morning, they hadn't even been speaking. And now…

Yoongi inclined his head when Seokjin dipped to kiss him, hand reaching out to tentatively press to the side of Seokjin’s neck- so warm under his fingers.

The meeting of lips was so soft and simple, but it felt like answer to every question Yoongi had ever had.

Seokjin pulled back to laugh, head tipping forward so his hair was tickling against Yoongi's chin and his high pitched laughter rung out around them.

Had he not known Seokjin as well as he did, he might have been offended, but he knew how it was when Seokjin got the giggles. And these were clearly happy, overwhelmed giggles, not commentary on Yoongi's kissing skills.

“We’re gonna be mates,” Seokjin offered when he’d caught his breath, dissolving into laughter again at the statement.

“We are,” Yoongi agreed, smiling indulgently as he watched his future mate giggle against his chest. He wasn't sure anyone was allowed to be this happy.

“Hey,” Seokjin suddenly said, head popping up to look Yoongi in the face. “You’re courting me now. For the next day and a half.”

“Uh-huh…”

Technically, they were in an official courting phase until they mated now that Yoongi had asked and Seokjin had agreed.

“You should be courting me,” he reiterated, making to look stern even as his lips were twitching almost violently toward a smile. “Win me over!”

Raising his brows, Yoongi chuckled as Seokjin attempted to convince him with widened eyes and a gesticulating hand.

“Make it worth my while!” Seokjin cajoled, leaning down to nip Yoongi’s shoulder.

Yoongi dug his toes into Seokjin’s calf, face placid with innocence when Seokjin dramatically gaped at him like he’d been betrayed.

“Come on,” Seokjin whined, quickly back to trying to get Yoongi to woo him. “I want to get courted! Are you really going to deny me that?”

Sighing like he was more put upon than he was, Yoongi leveled Seokjin with a look.

“I suppose I can do that,” he offered, snorting out a laugh when Seokjin threw his hands into the air in victory before flopping down onto his back in the grass.

They were quiet for a few heartbeats- lying shoulder to shoulder in the grass and just breathing.

The sun was starting to go down, a peachy hue spilling over the blue sky beyond the lightly rustling leaves, and Yoongi was fairly certain that they were going to miss dinner entirely. But that was okay. Because there would be plenty of dinners. And they would get to share them.

“Are you really sure?” Seokjin asked softly, voice nearly getting lost on the breath of the breeze.

Turning his head, Yoongi met Seokjin’s eyes- worried and open and vulnerable.

“I’m really sure,” Yoongi told him, rolling onto his side and propping himself up so he could keep eye contact.

His kiss was easily met, eyes falling closed and fingers moving across Seokjin’s chest to hold onto his ribs.

“I’m really fuckin’ sure,” he murmured against Seokjin’s lips, and felt the puff of air that was acknowledgement and maybe half a laugh at his choice of words.

But then Seokjin’s hand was on the back of his neck, pulling him in and kissing him like Yoongi was his air.

Yoongi had never been more sure of anything in his life.

 

---

 

Yoongi wasn't exactly known for rising early. He usually rolled over and went back to sleep when he heard others starting to stir. But that day he had to make sure he was up with the dawn.

Problem was that he didn't trust himself to actually wake up. His anxiety about oversleeping led Yoongi to wake multiple times during the night, unnaturally alert as he listened to try and discern the time.

When he woke and saw that the light coming in around the edges of the entrance flap was a pale grey instead of a silvery cast from the moon, he decided that he ought to just get up.

There was a slight chill in the air without the warming sun despite how close it was to summer, and Yoongi was grateful for the refreshing breeze. His stomach was jittering with nerves even though the task at hand wasn't anything out of the ordinary. It was the why that had his heart thrumming too quickly in his chest. It wasn’t dread he was feeling, but anticipation.

There were a few wolves up and stirring, tending to fires and preparing to go out hunting. But Yoongi wasn't concerned about them. Shedding his covering at the edge of camp, he shifted and trotted into the forest with his nose in the air.

Almost immediately, he caught the scent of a rabbit, and his instincts kicked in.

It was easy to forget his anxiousness as he stalked his prey, crouching low as he waited for the right moment to strike.

Pouncing forward, it took one snap of his teeth and he had what he had come into the forest for.

With his kill held in his mouth, Yoongi made his way back to camp. The sun was creeping up now, and there were more wolves moving about than when he had set out. He couldn’t smell Seokjin up and about yet, though. So after shifting back, he picked up the rabbit he’d caught and walked over to the beta hut to wait.

Rabbit at his feet, Yoongi tried not to fidget. Seokjin was more of an early riser than he was normally, but it still felt like half a day had gone by as he waited. It didn't help that his nerves were jangling as he anticipated Seokjin’s reaction. He knew he didn't have reason to be nervous. It wasn’t as though he was going to get rejected.

He and Seokjin were literally going to be mated the following day at sundown- they’d asked permission from their Alpha the night before. But that didn't mean that it had sunken in yet. It was all still new, and the knots in Yoongi’s stomach were evidence of that.

Standing outside the beta hut with a rabbit wasn't exactly inconspicuous. It was surely obvious to everyone who exited the building or walked past what he was doing. He got a few looks, but he didn’t acknowledge any of them. He was there for a purpose, and the curious glances were only amping up his nerves.

Nose so sensitive to Seokjin’s scent, Yoongi could smell the moment Seokjin started moving around inside- scent starting to waft through the air and have Yoongi’s heart start to thrum heavily in his chest.

It was so stupid to be nervous. It was Seokjin, who’d been the one to beg to be courted. It wasn’t like-

Seokjin’s eyes locked with his as soon as he walked outside. His steps halted, mouth opening in surprise as he regarded Yoongi waiting for him.

A few quick paces and he was in front of Yoongi, gaze moving between Yoongi’s face and the rabbit at his feet like he thought he might be seeing things.

“What...is this?” he asked, nearly gaping at the small breakfast Yoongi had brought for him.

“What do you think?” Yoongi complained, self conscious with Seokjin looking at him like that.

“But-”

“I thought you wanted me to court you,” Yoongi griped, stomach twisting and heart fluttering. “Do you or don’t you?”

“I do!” Seokjin was quick to assure him, taking another step closer so Yoongi had to tilt his head up to look at him. “I do. I just...didn’t think you really would…”

It was close to wonderment on his face as he stared into Yoongi’s eyes, his proximity and the intensity of his gaze making warmth wash over Yoongi’s skin. But for as much as Yoongi wanted to list forward and maybe meet Seokjin’s lips in a kiss, he could sense the eyes of others on them, and he wasn’t too keen on becoming a spectacle.

“Come on,” he said, breaking the silence they’d lapsed into. “Let’s go cook your breakfast. Unless you want to shift and eat it now. I don’t-”

“Yeah,” Seokjin agreed, the awe on his face making way for a smile. “We can cook it and get something for you too.”

“You’re not gonna share?” Yoongi groused, even though he hadn’t really expected him to.

“It’s not that big,” Seokjin defended, bending down to pick up the rabbit before starting off toward the fire pit. “And I’m hungry!”

“I see how it is,” Yoongi teased, falling into step with Seokjin and feeling a smile trying to tug at his lips. “You’re more concerned about your stomach than me.”

“Yep,” Seokjin agreed, cackling when Yoongi attempted a wounded look in his direction.

It was Seokjin’s loud laughter at his own joke that was drawing attention then, but it was hard to focus on that when Seokjin kept nudging into his side and bursting into fresh peals of giggles.

One more regular day, and then they’d be preparing to be mated.

Seokjin, who was still laughing at his own joke, was going to be Yoongi’s mate by sunset the following day.

Yoongi couldn’t wait.

 

---

 

Staring up at the sky, Yoongi still couldn’t fathom that this was the last evening he and Seokjin would spend together before they were officially mated. Would they even feel the need to come out to their clearing anymore after they had a home of their own? Maybe not every single day, but it was home in its own way, so Yoongi couldn’t imagine abandoning it entirely.

Having only one day to court Seokjin, Yoongi had really tried to show Seokjin that he was taking it seriously and that he meant a lot to him. Of course, Seokjin had also taken great joy in basking in the attention and teasing that Yoongi needed to impress him.

Ironically, they’d been on building rotation that day, and though the hut they were helping to complete wasn’t the one they’d be moving into the following evening, it kind of felt like they were working on their own home.

“My hands are so tired from mixing this chinking!” Seokjin had whined at one point over a trough of clay and dried grass, making Yoongi look up from where he’d been cutting a piece of wood. “I could really use a hand massage.”

Glancing around at the others, Yoongi had worried that they wouldn’t approve of the two of them taking a break from working, but Hoseok was snickering and Namjoon had offered up a you heard him with an encouraging nod and barely held back laughter.

Which was how Yoongi had ended up kneading his thumbs into Seokjin’s palms while Seokjin preened and made a big fuss acting like the most pampered and privileged wolf there was. Yoongi had huffed and rolled his eyes a little at the show Seokjin was putting on, but he had actually just enjoyed being able to ease the cramps in Seokjin’s hands and just being close.

“Mixing chinking sucks,” Yoongi had quietly commiserated when the others had stopped laughing at Seokjin’s spectacle and gone back to work. He could feel the tension in Seokjin’s muscles. “We can switch if you want.”

“Nah, it’s okay,” Seokjin had told him with a smile. “I’m imagining that I’m building our house, so it’s not that bad.”

Their house. They were going to have their very own hut that was just theirs.

The reminder of that had buoyed Yoongi through the rest of the afternoon, especially when he glanced over and knew that Seokjin was thinking about it too.

Seeing Seokjin light up when Yoongi gave him the dried fish he’d brought for a snack had also been a highlight.

And now they were in their clearing for the last time as unmated wolves, the late spring, evening air still just a tad cool as the sun started to sink in the sky.

“Tomorrow at this time…” Seokjin began, voice near Yoongi’s right ear as Yoongi let his eyes drift closed.

He didn’t finish the sentence, but he didn’t need to. They both knew that they would be beginning their mating ceremony at this time the following day.

Yoongi hummed in agreement, reaching out and letting his fingers close around Seokjin’s wrist.

Another few breaths of silence before Seokjin spoke again.

“I know I said I’d stop asking, but just once more...are you really sure about this?”

He had asked so many times the night before that Yoongi had banned him from inquiring about how sure he was. But he could understand Seokjin’s disbelief. Yoongi couldn’t believe this was happening either. Everything he’d never realized he wanted, suddenly his.

Turning onto his side and propping himself up on his elbow, Yoongi made sure Seokjin was looking at him before he answered.

“I’m sure,” he repeated, holding eye contact. “It’s always been you. Even if I was too stupid to see it. You’re the only one I want to spend my life with. It’s been you since you stopped me from killing those assholes who interrupted my ant hunt. I’m sure.”

A slow smile spread over Seokjin’s face, his chin tilting up in what Yoongi recognized as a request for a kiss. Dipping his head, Yoongi happily complied- unable to help the way his lips turned up as Seokjin’s mouth met his.

When he pulled back, Seokjin was still smiling- gaze moving between Yoongi’s eyes and his lips.

“Kill, though? Really?” Seokjin asked, a tease in his voice.

It took Yoongi a second to figure out what Seokjin was referring to.

“You weren’t going to kill them,” he went on with an amused chuckle. “You were the size of a rabbit.”

Yoongi gaped at the insult, scowling as he rolled over so he was straddling Seokjin’s hips and pinning his wrists over his head with his weight.

“Say that again,” he challenged, watching Seokjin’s face go from surprised at having Yoongi suddenly on top of him to playful.

Eyes shining with mischief, Seokjin held Yoongi’s gaze as he repeated, “You were the size of a rabbit.”

Yoongi could tell that Seokjin was a couple of inhales away from starting to laugh. He let the growl waiting in his throat rumble out as he leaned down and caught Seokjin’s lips in a kiss that was as much a challenge as it was an act of affection. And Seokjin wasn’t slow to respond with just as much fervor as Yoongi was putting into it.

Hands still pinned, he couldn’t do anything to pull Yoongi closer, but he arched up underneath him, lifting his head and meeting Yoongi kiss for kiss. Unlike the kisses they’d traded up until then, this didn’t have the slight air of caution that the others did. Their lips met hard, and Yoongi could only imagine that they would both end up with puffy mouths that would leave no question as to what they’d been doing.

A nip against Seokjin’s lower lip got him a whine and Seokjin’s teeth latching onto his lower lip and tugging so that it nearly hurt. But it just had the fire that had started in his gut burning brighter, another growl sounding from his throat as he opened his mouth for Seokjin’s tongue that had begun to lave at the places he’d bitten.

Yoongi nibbled at the tip of Seokjin’s tongue before he sucked it into his mouth and felt a shiver of arousal go through him at the groan muffled against his lips. Teeth clashing, Seokjin chased his mouth when he moved back slightly to readjust, and Yoongi didn’t ever want to stop this kiss.

However, the rock of Seokjin’s hips under him had Yoongi noticing just how much his own body was responding, and they were going to be in danger of forming a partial physical bond before their ceremony, which was frowned upon. And also impossible to hide considering they’d reek of one another.

With all the willpower he could gather, Yoongi pulled back with a greedy gulp of air and a shudder, having to fight against all his instincts to dip back down when he saw how red and abused Seokjin’s mouth looked. Fuck. He’d done that, and he knew the evidence was just as apparent from the state of his own lips- tender and swollen as he licked over them.

“Come on, don’t stop,” Seokjin requested roughly, head lifting and arms straining against Yoongi’s hold.

“We have to stop,” Yoongi gusted out, taking a deep breath and trying to calm down. “We’re gonna get ourselves in trouble.”

“Not yet,” Seokjin argued, brows pinched as he arched up into Yoongi and ran his tongue over his puffy lower lip. “We can stop before we go too far. Come on.”

“If it’s this hard to stop now, do you think we’re going to have the presence of mind to later?” Yoongi reasoned, even though he wanted to give into Seokjin’s pleading so fucking badly.

Sighing deeply, Seokjin stopped fighting against Yoongi’s weight holding him down and relaxed against the grass.

Hard is a good word to describe it,” Seokjin added after a moment of silence, his eyes shining with the pun he’d made even as he looked between them and raised a knowing brow.

Groaning in complaint, Yoongi rolled off him and back onto the grass.

“Thank you for that,” he said, scrubbing his hands over his face. “That was like a dip in the river in the winter.”

“Hey!” Seokjin protested, affronted at the slight even though Yoongi was clearly just as aroused as he’d been before the terrible wordplay. Nearly, anyway.

“That wasn’t your best,” Yoongi pointed out, lips pulling into a smirk as Seokjin continued to pout at him. “Admit it.”

“My wits have been compromised at the moment,” Seokjin defended, shooting Yoongi a heavy look. “Give me a break.”

“Fine, fine,” Yoongi relented, closing his eyes and holding out and arm in invitation for Seokjin to lay against his side.

Seokjin’s warmth against him still had Yoongi’s body prickling with sensitivity, but he was cooling down a little.

“Good thing we’re mating tomorrow,” Seokjin said around a yawn, “or else we’d be in trouble.”

Yoongi snorted out a laugh, forcing himself not to think too much about that or else he’d be back where he was moments ago.

Tomorrow suddenly seemed a lot further away than it had earlier.

“Good thing,” he agreed, melting a little at the contented hum as Seokjin got settled against him.

One more day.

 

---

 

The assault of Seokjin’s scent on Yoongi’s senses left him feeling dizzy as he made his way up to the altar at which their Alpha stood. Incense was burning nearby and sandalwood hung thick in the air, but all Yoongi could focus on was Seokjin and how close he had to be.

All day, they had been kept apart, as was tradition.

In the morning, Yoongi had been awoken by one of the Alpha’s council and taken to a sweat lodge near the river. Inside, there had been rocks heated up by the fire outside and doused with water, so the inside of the tent filled with steam. Yoongi had sat inside, dripping with sweat, until nearly the time the sun had hit its apex. Traditionally, it was a time of contemplation and reflection. He was meant to be considering his future with Seokjin- if mating with Seokjin was what he wanted, how he could better himself as a mate, how they could work together to help their pack.

Yoongi hadn’t needed to consider if he truly wanted Seokjin as a mate. He’d done enough contemplation on the topic prior to asking Seokjin to be his. Instead, he had found himself going over memories he had of Seokjin, and feeling lucky that he was going to spend the rest of his life with him. His thoughts were getting too sappy for him to handle, so it had been a relief when he’d been summoned and told to shift in order to catch his own lunch.

That was something he could do with no problem, and little chance he was going to get choked up remembering how Seokjin had sat with him until dawn the night his grandmother had died. The challenge was that in addition to catching something land dwelling for himself, he was also supposed to catch a fish. And fishing was...not Yoongi’s favorite. He always ended up getting splashed no matter how careful he was, and he just didn’t enjoy eating his food with a soggy coat. But that was what he had ended up doing, knowing that there was a reason for all of it and that he would get to complain to Seokjin later, even though Seokjin would probably just laugh at him.

It was his parents who scrubbed him down in the river with silt after he’d eaten- a sending off of sorts, even though Yoongi hadn’t lived with them for four full season cycles. He’d felt guilty when he’d gone to tell them that he and Seokjin were planning to be mated. Not because they didn’t like Seokjin or that they’d be unhappy, but because he had been avoiding them ever since things between him and Seokjin had started to go downhill. He knew his parents would know that something was wrong, and he hadn’t wanted to have to explain it, especially since he hadn’t fully understood it at the time.

“We were wondering what you’d been up to lately,” his mother had said, a slight tease in her voice. “Apparently, you were off making big life decisions.”

“Always independent,” his father had added fondly. “You’ve always pulled away when something big was on your mind.”

But they’d been happy for him when he gave them the news, albeit as unsurprised that he and Seokjin had chosen each other as everyone else who had found out- Nayoung included, apparently.

The night before, after Seokjin had retired to the beta hut, and Yoongi had been wandering through camp, trying to burn off his nerves before trying to sleep, he had run into Nayoung near the dying fire. He must have balked, because her serious resting face split into a smile as she’d chuckled.

“I’m not going to attack you,” she’d assured him, lips quirking.

Yoongi hadn’t known what to say, mumbling out something akin to I know in response.

“I’m not mad at you,” she’d gone on. “Seokjin and I were never going to actually become anything. It was just something our parents were excited about. I actually had no idea why he was even half entertaining the idea when he had you, but I didn’t ask him about it. I wasn’t my business.”

She’d shrugged then, and Yoongi had felt like an absolute asshole for disliking her so vehemently.

“I...thanks,” Yoongi managed, grateful to know that his happiness wasn’t causing someone else’s heartache, but still unsure of what exactly he should say.

But she’d left him, then, with a see ya and a smile, and that hadn’t been so bad.

His parents had provided anecdotes from their early days of being mated as well as some words of advice for how to adapt to being part of a unit as they’d scrubbed at him until his skin had glowed pink.

After a hug from both his parents, Yoongi had been sent to a rock along the shore that was hit directly by the late afternoon sun. It was another chance for meditation, his parents had told him. He was meant to let the sun dry him as he considered the sunrises and sunsets that he would encounter as a mated wolf.

Yoongi had been mostly anxious at that point- eager to see Seokjin and nervous about the ceremony itself. Anticipating what would come after.

He had been more than ready when he’d been fetched by the same wolf who had woken him that morning and led to a hut near the council building to be draped in the traditional mating robes.

All Yoongi could think of was Seokjin pretending to be a spirit guide by draping hides over himself when they were in the storage tent as kids. Getting the giggles during the ceremony was probably frowned upon.

And now, finally, Seokjin was emerging from a different hut than Yoongi had been in, walking toward him with the same robes Yoongi was wearing.

This was truly happening.

Seokjin’s lips were twitching as they looked at each other, like Seokjin wanted to burst into disbelieving laughter, but knew that he shouldn’t. Yoongi was afraid he might start laughing and set them both off, but their Alpha had stepped forward to begin the ceremony, so there was no time for a staring contest that would undoubtedly end in both of them trying to swallow down giggles. Or Seokjin chuckling while Yoongi watched him judgmentally, if Yoongi was lucky.

Though even as Boa began the ceremony by reciting a sacred text, written by their ancestors, Yoongi wasn’t paying attention to anything but Seokjin- the serious tilt of his brows as he listened, the nervous way he licked his lips, the little glance in Yoongi’s direction that had him startling to have Yoongi watching him so closely.

“Like roots of two trees that have grown entwined beneath the dirt, your bond is deeper than what we can see with our eyes. Two trees that appear to grow separately, but underneath, they are tied together for all of time. From this moment on, you will share each day, provide and support one another until the sun ceases to rise again,” the Alpha said.

Seokjin’s eyes looked suspiciously shiny, and Yoongi watched as he blinked rapidly to try to dispel the tears. He would get to tease him for that later. In many moons, Yoongi could tell their children that Seokjin had gotten teared up at their mating ceremony and they could tease him for it, too.

And then that thought sunk in- how much time they had together, the potential for children- and Yoongi’s heart was beating even faster, his own throat feeling somewhat tight. But he couldn’t cry or else his whole fantasy of teasing Seokjin would be moot. Besides, if he started, Seokjin wouldn’t be able to hold back, and they still had to drink the elixir.

“As a symbol of your bloodline yet to come,” their Alpha said, turning to the spirit guide beside her and taking the clay bowl from her, “you will both drink this elixir and seal your tie to one another and to this pack.”

It was handed to Yoongi first, the juice a deep purple that appeared almost black. Bringing the bowl to his lips, Yoongi took a sip. It was sweet and herbal, sage and blackberries obviously present.

Yoongi passed the bowl to Seokjin and watched as he solemnly took a drink before giving it back to the spirit guide who had stepped forward to collect it.

“In the eyes of our ancestors and this pack, you are now mated for life,” their Alpha told them, somber expression breaking as she smiled warmly at them both. “On behalf of the pack, I wish you happiness and health. You may go to your new home together.”

For the first time, going home.

Yoongi made it two steps beyond the spirit guides’ hut before he burst into tears, sobs wracking his body as he stopped in his tracks and just cried.

The true gravity of the ceremony hit him all at once, and he was paralyzed with so much emotion, he felt like he couldn’t hold it all. After all this time, he and Seokjin were bound together officially. They’d chosen each other and he was as much Seokjin’s as Seokjin was his.

There were tears clouding his vision when he pulled his hands away from his face at the touch of Seokjin’s hand on his back.

Sucking in a hiccupping breath, Yoongi managed a shut up, just in case Seokjin was thinking of teasing.

He heard a wet chuckle before Seokjin was wrapped around him and Yoongi’s tear streaked face was pressed into Seokjin’s shoulder.

Seokjin was crying a little too, Yoongi could tell from his breathing, and just having Seokjin there and holding him had even more emotion welling up until Yoongi gave up trying to stop crying and just sobbed into Seokjin’s chest.

He knew that Seokjin would tease him for it later and that he’d fire back with accusations of Seokjin getting teary during the ceremony, but that was fine. Because they were in this together and they had the rest of their lives to mock each other for crying.

Yoongi wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

---

 

Arriving at their new home for the first time left Yoongi a little breathless, watching Seokjin practically bounce inside- throwing his arms out and turning in a circle with a grin on his face.

There were too many emotions to process at once- dried tears still making his skin feel tight, his heart feeling too big for his chest to see Seokjin in their home, the stirring of interest in his gut at what he knew came next. It was overwhelming, but it was wonderful, and Yoongi didn’t hesitate to close the distance between them and pull Seokjin down into a kiss.

Seokjin was chuckling against his mouth as Yoongi smiled into the kiss. This was the start of their life together. The official start, anyway. The unofficial start had been when Seokjin had plopped down next to a grumpy, digging pup, and unknowingly changed both of their worlds forever.

The kiss stayed sweet as long as Seokjin still had the giggles, but it didn’t take much for it to slide into something deeper, needier. It wasn’t as harsh or desperate as the kiss they’d shared in the clearing the night before, but right then, it didn’t need to be because they both knew where this was headed and that they had as much time to enjoy each other as they needed.

Not that Yoongi suspected either of them had the patience to draw it out much this first time, but it was nice to know they could.

Hands holding onto the sides of Yoongi’s face, Seokjin had Yoongi’s head tilted back so he could lean down into him and kiss him like he wanted to inhale him. Yoongi shuddered as he moved forward so he was pressed to Seokjin’s front, feeling Seokjin’s interest brush against his hip. He groaned, fingers gripping Seokjin’s arms even tighter, kissing him more insistently, and pushing his hips forward so Seokjin could feel how much he wanted this, too.

“Off,” Seokjin barely got out between kisses, fingers of one hand pressing against the hide at Yoongi’s waist. “Why’re we still...wearing things…”

Yoongi managed a half chuckle at Seokjin’s complaints, lips still seeking out Seokjin’s and hands busy trying to shove off his covering. It was difficult to keep their mouths connected as Seokjin started fussing with his own clothing, but they finally managed to shed their hides without having to stop kissing entirely.

The press of Seokjin’s body against his then, all skin and warmth and arousal, had Yoongi shivering as his hips twitched forward on their own volition.

“Lay down,” Yoongi requested, voice raspy and lips still touching Seokjin’s as he spoke.

With one more knee-weakening kiss, Seokjin pulled back and shuffled over to the pallet that had been prepared for them- soft looking furs and hide pillows just waiting to be slept on. But sleeping wasn’t the first thing they were going to do there.

Seokjin eased himself onto the furs, the desire clouding his gaze seeming to lift for a moment as his lips quirked and he stretched out dramatically, hand resting on his hip as he looked up at Yoongi with laughter dancing in his eyes.

“What,” Yoongi sighed, kneeling at the edge of the pallet, “are you doing?”

“Being enticing,” Seokjin informed him, waggling his eyebrows and making Yoongi sigh again, even more deeply this time.

“Is that so,” Yoongi deadpanned, positioning himself on top of Seokjin’s thighs and not hesitating to drink in all of him. They’d spent half their lives naked in their clearing, it seemed, but this, aroused and ready to mate, was a completely different thing. “Here’s a tip- you don’t have to pose to accomplish that. In fact, you shouldn’t.”

“But-” Seokjin started to protest only to cut himself off with a gasp when Yoongi wrapped his fingers around Seokjin’s length.

“I’m already enticed,” Yoongi murmured against Seokjin’s lips, leaning forward and loosening his grip in order to hold his arousal together with Seokjin’s in his hand.

Letting out a shaky breath and nearly going cross eyed trying to look at him, Seokjin’s lips parted at the slide of Yoongi’s palm around both of them. The little sound Seokjin let out along with the friction from his own hand had Yoongi throbbing and huffing out a breath.

Yoongi dipped his head to reconnect their lips, sucking hungrily on Seokjin’s tongue as he rutted into his own grip and felt every twitch of Seokjin in his hand. He could also feel the faint beginnings of his knot, just starting to swell.

When he pulled back, Seokjin’s eyes were wet with arousal- his lips puffy and red from kissing. He was so gorgeous, and somehow, all for Yoongi. That in itself was heady, not to mention Seokjin’s arousal pressed against his own and the desperate, short little breaths Seokjin was taking every time he moved.

“If you want me to knot you, we’re gonna have to do that now,” Yoongi warned, voice already gravelly with his desire. “I can feel it starting.”

“If?” Seokjin managed to chuckle. “If? Try, yes, definitely. If you don’t knot me tonight, I’m going to go ask the Alpha if I can choose a new-”

Seokjin broke off in a wheeze when Yoongi readjusted his grip and gave them both a tight stoke.

“Okay, gimme a sec,” Yoongi requested, happy to have gotten Seokjin to stop babbling about finding a new mate, but so turned on that he was having trouble getting his head together.

As a beta, Seokjin’s body would naturally produce lubrication, but not as much as an omega’s would. It might be enough, but Yoongi didn’t want to take any chances. There should have been oil around there somewhere. It was customary for a pot of oil to be given to mated pairs in case they-

His hand closed around the little pot, having been placed up by the wall near the top of the pallet. Taking off the lid, he was relieved to see it was filled with oil- more than they’d need that night, that was for sure.

Scooting back and pressing Seokjin’s thighs open, Yoongi dipped a finger in the oil and made eye contact with Seokjin who immediately nodded and spread his thighs wider. One finger slid in easily, Seokjin’s body clenching around the intrusion and a more spilling from his lips. Yoongi added a second digit, and then a third shortly thereafter at Seokjin’s urging.

Getting to watch Seokjin take his fingers in and getting to feel the way he was tightening around them...Yoongi might have liked to have enjoyed that all a bit more, but it was all only serving to turn him on more, and he could feel his knot swelling. It was still only a tenth of the size it would get to, but Yoongi didn’t want to wait too long and risk hurting Seokjin.

“Is this-?” he started, twisting his fingers and watching with fascination as Seokjin’s body squeezed around them.

Yes,” Seokjin gasped out before he could even finish his question. Yoongi’s gaze snapped up to Seokjin’s face- cheeks flushed, eyes dark, hair starting to stick to his temples with sweat. “Please, Yoongi. Give me your knot.”

Want shot through him so fast, it left Yoongi dizzy. Carefully pulling out his fingers, he dipped into the jar once more and slicked up his length. He wiped the excess oil on his stomach and moved so Seokjin’s thighs were bracketing his hips, one hand holding his weight over Seokjin’s shoulder and the other guiding his length as he pressed the tip to Seokjin’s body.

“Come on,” Seokjin urged, heels pressing to the backs of Yoongi’s thighs.

The feeling of Seokjin’s body giving around him as he slid in had Yoongi’s stomach muscles tightening and his eyes nearly crossing as he tried to will himself to calm down a little. Even though he’d been concerned, his knot slipped right in, and Seokjin let out a tremulous moan when Yoongi was as far in as he was going to get.

“Is it okay?” Yoongi asked, voice strained and entire body tense as he tried not to give into instinct and move.

“Yes,” Seokjin breathed, holding tight to Yoongi’s shoulders and tilting his chin up for a kiss. Yoongi obliged, lips pressing to Seokjin’s as he brought his hips back slowly before pushing back in.

Seokjin’s head tipped back, breaking the kiss, as he groaned. Hissing with how amazing it felt to have Seokjin’s heat gripping him, Yoongi made another careful thrust.

Yoongi,” Seokjin gasped, legs wrapping around Yoongi’s hips as he settled into a rhythm.

His head was buzzing as he slid into Seokjin over and over. The pressure around his length, his knot, was enough to make him wonder how he hadn’t come yet, it was so good. But maybe even better than that was watching pleasure play across Seokjin’s face and hearing the sounds he made with every thrust of Yoongi’s hips.To know that he was the one making Seokjin feel good... To know that Seokjin was the reason why he could feel his knot swelling…

They were each other’s and they were racing together toward release- the cause for each other’s pleasure, now and from now on.

Yoongi could feel how much his knot had swelled as it became harder to pull out and push back in. He knew Seokjin could feel it, too- his brows pinching and his mouth dropping open each time it pressed back inside him.

“Not gonna be able to pull out soon,” Yoongi warned, tips of his hair wet with sweat and breath coming fast. “Not gonna last much longer.”

“Me neither,” Seokjin told him breathlessly, voice unsteady and raspy from moaning.

Seokjin reached between them, hand closing around his arousal and body going so tight at the stimulation. Choking on his breath, it took Yoongi a moment to blink past the haze of pleasure to give a warning growl and bat Seokjin’s hand away. When Seokjin came, it was going to be because of Yoongi- all because of him.

Dropping to an elbow, Yoongi ground forward and reached between them to get a hand around Seokjin’s length.

With the way Seokjin was clamping down so hard with every stroke of his hand, Yoongi couldn’t pull his knot out any longer. Seokjin was arching up into him and crying out with each tiny thrust forward as he ground his knot inside of him, muscles fluttering around him and making his vision tunnel with how amazing it felt.

“I’m close,” he grated out, tilting his head so he could get his lips against Seokjin’s neck.

He’d almost forgotten about claiming him. Almost.

Yoongi’s orgasm was mounting, shimmering behind his eyes and trembling in his gut. Just as he felt himself pulse inside of Seokjin, climax shaking through his body and forcing a grunted breath through his mouth, Yoongi bit down on the skin of Seokjin’s neck to claim him- skin just barely breaking under his teeth.

Hips pumping and grinding forward as he rode out his release, Yoongi moaned in surprise when Seokjin suddenly tightened around him even more as his length pulsed in Yoongi’s hand and spattered his release between them.

His pleasure was drawn out by Seokjin’s orgasm, body sensitive and throbbing as Seokjin’s muscles contracted around him and had bright sparks dancing in front of his eyes. Yoongi didn’t even know if his eyes were open or closed anymore, just that his entire body was somewhere between on fire and blessedly loose as he finally began to relax.

Inhaling against Seokjin’s neck, he could already smell the change in him- the familiar scent of Seokjin but altered just slightly by Yoongi’s claiming bite and by what they’d just shared. He smelled like Yoongi’s mate, and Yoongi would have smiled if he had the energy.

“Wow,” Seokjin gusted, body shaking under Yoongi as he chuckled. “That was incredible. We should have mated ages ago.”

“Probably true,” Yoongi agreed, shifting so he could more comfortably rest against Seokjin’s chest and making them both hiss when his knot moved inside of Seokjin.

Fingertips pressed against Yoongi's shoulder blades, Seokjin blew out a shaky breath.

“Comfy?” Yoongi asked, trying to lay so all of his weight wasn’t resting on Seokjin. “We’re gonna be here for a bit.”

“The comfiest!” Seokjin exclaimed, smacking a palm against Yoongi’s shoulder and making him grunt.

Lifting his head, Yoongi looked at Seokjin with raised brows.

“I’m fine,” Seokjin laughed, trailing his fingers so lightly over Yoongi's back that it nearly tickled.

“I dreamt about this once,” Yoongi murmured after a moment, lulled by Seokjin’s warmth and the patterns he was drawing against his skin. “That we were kissing, and I wanted to knot you so badly.”

“Only once?” was Seokjin’s reply, though Yoongi felt the shiver and the flutter of Seokjin’s muscles around him at the statement. “I had a lot of dreams.”

“Yeah?” Yoongi asked, lips quirking at how proud Seokjin seemed of that.

“Mmm,” Seokjin hummed in confirmation. “Maybe I’ll tell you about all of them someday.”

“Only maybe?” Yoongi teased.

“Probably,” Seokjin amended. “But you’ll have to earn them.”

At that, Seokjin started laughing, which had his body clenching around Yoongi’s softening knot, and his laughter broke off into a whimpered gasp.

“Yeah, you can’t do that when I’m still inside you if you ever want me to be able to pull out,” Yoongi told him. “Unless you just want me hard forever.”

“Doesn't sound like the worst thing,” Seokjin said cheekily.

Yoongi snorted against his neck, lightly pinching Seokjin’s waist, and chuckling at the big fuss Seokjin made even though he had to have barely even felt it.

Of course, that led to more tightening of muscles and a sharp inhale from Yoongi.

They were gonna be there for a while. But like Seokjin said, there were worse things.

 

---

 

There was a tickle against his cheek, against his nose. Sleep falling away from him, Yoongi squinted against the sunlight spilling in around their door flap.

The tickle again, right at the tip of his nose. Sleep addled brain imagining a bug, Yoongi tossed his arm up in an attempt to swat it away. But instead of hitting against an insect, Yoongi's hand hit something more solid. Something that yelped loudly enough that Yoongi nearly jumped out of his own skin.

Eyes snapping open, Yoongi was expecting Seokjin looking at him with a scowl as he rubbed against his cheek.

That yelp had given away the identity of the “bug.”

“Why were you touching my face?” Yoongi rumbled, voice rusty from sleep and throat especially scratchy after the moaning he’d done when Seokjin had decided, after they’d been dozing after Yoongi had claimed him, that he wanted to get Yoongi off with his mouth.

It had been a late night.

“Because I like your face,” Seokjin offered, smiling sleepily before pouting again. “Though I like it a little less after you hit me.”

“Didn’t mean to,” Yoongi mumbled, rolling onto his side and into Seokjin’s chest so he could notch his head under Seokjin’s chin.

“I can't complain properly if you’re going to be all sleepy and adorable!” Seokjin...complained, arm instinctively looping over Yoongi's shoulders and pulling him in.

“Mmm,” Yoongi hummed, feeling himself starting to doze again. “Good.”

Seokjin huffed out something, but his arm around Yoongi just tightened, breath ruffling the hair by Yoongi’s ear.

Content didn’t even start to cover it, and the fact that this was how he would get to wake up every morning… Well, hopefully he wouldn’t hit Seokjin in the face every morning, but close enough.

This was the life that Yoongi wanted. And it was all his.

 

---

 

Light brown fur, disappearing into the leaves. Yoongi pushed off hard on his next stride, bounding after Seokjin and trying not to let him get too far ahead. Heart racing and wind in his coat, Yoongi inhaled the scent of his mate in the air, and it only pushed him to run faster.

Seokjin wasn’t trying too hard to outpace him because, as always, he wasn’t actually trying to lose him. He just wanted Yoongi to chase him, and that was something Yoongi would always do.

Bursting out of the trees, Seokjin sped up since it was obvious where he was headed.

Yoongi let out a bark at the increase in speed, and knew that Seokjin was probably laughing to himself.

When Yoongi nosed his way through the entrance flap of their hut, Seokjin was panting happily and seeming pretty pleased with himself.

Playful growl rumbling in his throat, Yoongi pounced and knocked Seokjin to the floor. Struggling a little, Seokjin ended up going lax under Yoongi's weight as Yoongi snapped his teeth next to Seokjin’s throat to signify that he’d won.

But Seokjin didn’t seem to care since, as soon as Yoongi relaxed, he was licking over Yoongi's muzzle and then his ear when he turned his head.

Climbing off of Seokjin, Yoongi stepped back and shifted into his human form as he watched Seokjin stand up to do the same.

“We were supposed to be out catching dinner,” Yoongi groused, letting Seokjin pull him in by the wrist to press a kiss to his lips and steer him toward their pallet.

“But I caught something much better,” Seokjin tried to leer as he pushed Yoongi so he landed on his back on the furs, a laugh attempting to escape from his own line.

“You caught something better?” Yoongi protested, pushing himself up on his elbows to frown as Seokjin lowered himself down. “I was chasing you.”

“That was my whole plan,” Seokjin informed him gleefully as he straddled Yoongi’s hips. “I lured your to my lair to have my way with you.”

“Hmm,” Yoongi hummed, doing his best to remain disgruntled, but having a harder and harder time as Seokjin dragged his hands over his chest and started kissing along his neck. “I guess that's-”

Seokjin pulled back to grin teasingly in response to the gasp Yoongi had let out when Seokjin had rocked his hips forward.

“We have to go get dinner after this!” Yoongi insisted even as he let Seokjin push his torso back so he was flat on his back with Seokjin leaving a trail of nips along his sternum.

“Mmhmm,” Seokjin agreed, not seeming concerned in the least about food. For once.

And Yoongi wasn't really either, to be honest. He had everything he needed right there.

No matter where Seokjin ran, Yoongi would always chase him. Just as Seokjin wanted.