The smoke coming out of the cauldron was so thick and heavy it could almost be swallowed. Taehyung was surprised that the air could hold it, but he wasn’t going to question the capacities of nature. He had learned that lesson very well; he wasn’t going to throw a potion at the sea ever again. His right hand still had bruises.
He adjusted the glasses that protected his eyes – the number one rule of his profession: to protect any sensible part of his body in case the potion went too badly... or too well – and approached the cauldron. The infusion bubbled placidly, the red edges slowly fading until they became transparent. A few more minutes and it would look like water. A few more minutes and he, Kim Taehyung, the self-proclaimed best Potions Maker in all of Dahlia, would be the first of his profession to have invented, prepared, and successfully completed the Most Powerful Love Potion Ever Created. If he were an Evil Potion Maker that would be the cue for a macabre laugh. But he was only Taehyung, so he jumped up and down all the way to his desk, taking advantage of the fact that Jungkook wasn’t there to judge him.
He opened his journal and quickly flipped the pages to his last entry. He re-read the ingredients again and again to make sure that he hadn’t forgotten any and smiled satisfied as he saw everything was in order.
The last step would undoubtedly be the most difficult to complete: find a Tester. Or, as the Potion Makers liked to say among themselves, their little guinea pig. Usually, Taehyung sneaked his potions into Jungkook's food without him knowing and then invited him to his favorite ice cream parlor to apologize and celebrate that the potion hadn’t made him combust. But Jungkook was on the road now and wouldn’t return for another three days, and Taehyung couldn’t wait so long.
He decided to call Namjoon – one of his favorite spice merchants – and ask him if he had someone good to recommend that could replace Jungkook. The last time he had spoken to him, the eldest hadn’t stopped talking about a certain Hoseok who, according to what Taehyung understood, was not only a Tester of Potions but a Tester of Everything, an Experimenter who liked the adventure, the dangers and was in need of a lot of healing herbs that Namjoon was more than happy to sell to him. His guinea pig, poor and innocent Jungkook, was cheap – he just needed a strawberry ice cream to have his forgiveness – compared to what Hoseok was asking for his services, but Taehyung was willing to pay the price. If the potion turned out well, two talents of gold would be nothing compared to all the money he would get in return.
The alarm startled him. He rummaged through the pile of scrolls and leftover ingredients scattered on his desk until he found his cell phone and turned off the loud noise. He had accidentally inhaled salamander scale dust two weeks before and ever since then he mustn’t forget to take a medicinal balm or his nose would start to burn like hot charcoal. He walked to his ramshackle kitchen and poured himself a glass of water and returned to the studio in search of the medicine. However, before he could even begin to look for it, his eyes fell on the cauldron and–
The potion was ready. He ran to his work table and made sure that no red streak was stuck to the edges of the cauldron before turning off the fire with a loud blow. He chuckled and grabbed one of his glass jars specially made to hold liquid magic. He watched fascinated as the substance fell seductively into the container. For any untrained eye, there would be no difference between the potion and simple water, but Taehyung was an expert Potion Maker and could see clearly how the potion fell more slowly as its contents were heavier than water. Not physically, but magically.
Nature itself was magic, in pure form, but in the rest of the artificial creations, magic was a weight that had to be supported. Humans weren’t able to contain large amounts of magic; they could mold and be affected by it, but they couldn’t use it in its purest form. At least, that was the case with humans who weren’t witches. Witches, on the other hand... well, that was another topic.
Witches frightened Taehyung, and every person in their right mind – well, except for the witch hunters. How Taehyung had ended up being friends with not only one but two witch hunters, it was still a mystery.
He put the flask filled with the potion on his desk and dipped his griffin feather – a gift from Jimin – into the inkwell. He spent the next two hours sketching a detailed drawing of the potion’s final shape along with an exhaustive description of the states it had passed through before being completely ready. It was only when his stomach growled with hunger and his nose began to release smoke that he realized he had really lost track of time.
He rose from his chair, sneezing smoke, and searched in his shelves for the healing balm. He blinked, a cloud of black smoke pouring into his eyes and blurring his sight, and swallowed the viscous substance. Instantly, his nose stopped smelling roasted, but the sticky sensation stayed on his tongue. He groped for the glass of water he'd left behind before the potion distracted him and emptied it in one gulp, sighing with relief.
He went to the kitchen and wiped his ink-stained hands clean before making himself a sandwich. He closed his eyes and leaned against the fridge, feeling happy. He had spent years researching on all the theories that had been made about love and its relationship with magic. At first the results had disappointed him: none agreed on what love was or what magic was, but everyone agreed that magic, no matter in what form or practice, could not replicate love. It was impossible. But Taehyung liked impossible things. So, there he was, after years and years of other Potion Makers telling him that his project would be a failure, just one step away from victory. Just one step away from having made possible the impossible. Well, he was only 30% sure that the potion would work. But still.
He devoured another sandwich and went back to the studio. The screen of his phone was glowing, indicating the entry of new Owls.
A witch cursed Hyung
We’re going back today
I don’t think it’s too bad tho
At least he didn’t die lol
Stupid witch hunters. Taehyung shook his head and sent him an angry Owl telling him just that before setting a second cauldron on the fire and filling it up with water. If Yoongi wasn’t dying then the curse probably wasn’t too bad, but a Shield Potion was still necessary. He should probably re-read the recipe before starting it, though, because it had been a while since he last prepared one. Yoongi was one of the best Hunters in Dahlia – probably even the whole world – and knew how to expertly avoid curses. Please, Taehyung knew he was head to toe covered in protective magic (a lot of it coming from Taehyung himself) so he didn’t understand how Yoongi could have fallen into a witch’s hands so easily.
Jiminie, do u have the Shield Potion recipe?
Lord of the Rings:
You know I do
SOMEONE WANTS TO BUY ONE OF YOUR POTIONS???
Yoongi hyung got cursed
Lord of the Rings:
Omg is he okay??
He set a slow fire and went back to his desk to continue working. He had finished the description and only had to retouch a little more his sketch. Some Potion Makers liked to leave that kind of work to someone else, but Taehyung actually enjoyed drawing. He was good at it – practice makes perfect, right? – and he found it relaxing after all the stress caused by the making process of the potion. Don’t get him wrong, he loved being a Potion Maker; potions were his first love, they were not only his job but also his passion, and he wouldn’t know what to do with his life without them. But making them took a lot of time and even more patience, and sometimes it was really tiring.
He let out a yawn and his eyes searched for the sample of the Love Potion, but before he could even find it, a loud knock on his door made him jump and diverted his attention to it instead.
“Password?” he said in a sing-song, making his way to the door.
“Open the fucking door, Kim Taehyung.” Yoongi’s voice was low and angry.
Well, he sounded just fine, in his opinion. Taehyung opened the door and rolled his eyes at the older.
“It’s not my fault your ass got cursed, Hyung.”
Yoongi’s eyes widened as he took a deep breath. Taehyung raised his eyebrows and looked at Jungkook, confused, but Jungkook’s eyes were as wide as Yoongi’s and his red face resembled a tomato.
“What?” he asked, bringing his hands to his face to check if his nose had caught fire for a second time.
Yoongi’s hand clutched Jungkook’s arm so hard Taehyung flinched.
“Please tell me I’m not the only one feeling this.”
Jungkook stuttered and took a step forward, cupping Taehyung’s face between his hands and rubbing their noses together.
“I love you.” Taehyung choked on his saliva and pushed him off so hard Jungkook fell to the ground. Jungkook pouted and then gave him a shy smile. “You look beautiful under those lights, Hyung.”
“WHAT THE FUCK.”
Yoongi’s face was a mixture of grossed out, amused and… was that love? Taehyung didn’t want to know. Luckily for him, Yoongi’s protective amulets started working and the older was able to stop Jungkook from trying to kiss Taehyung.
“What did you do?”
“I-I didn’t do anything! He was the one who attacked me!”
“But Hyung, I thought you loved me.”
Taehyung looked at Jungkook’s watery eyes with his mouth gaping.
“I-I do! But–” Jungkook’s bottom lip quivered and Taehyung wanted to dig a hole in the ground and bury himself alive.
Yoongi rolled his eyes and took Jungkook inside the house. A really confused Taehyung closed the door behind them and waited until Yoongi returned.
“Where’s Jungkook?” he asked then.
“I left him in the bathroom cleaning himself. He looked sick when he realized what he did.” Yoongi took his leather jacket off and slumped down into a chair. “So, what did you do?”
“I already told you! I didn’t do anything!”
“But I feel it too.” He wrinkled his nose and looked at Taehyung up and down. Taehyung felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment. “I’m wearing all kind of protective shit and still feel like I love you.”
“But you do love me!”
Yoongi let out a sigh and Taehyung knew that if he had been near him, Yoongi would have hit him in the head.
“I feel like I want to buy you that expensive lion cape you saw at the mall and then kiss the smile off your face. It feels like I’m in love with you, Taehyung-ah. So, what the fuck did you do?”
Taehyung opened his mouth to protest but a sudden realization washed over him. He hurried to his desk and took the vial of the potion. Except it wasn’t the potion.
Yoongi let out a low groan.
“Please tell me this isn’t permanent. I never found your hands attractive but you holding that glass flask is making me feel things and I don’t like it.” Taehyung let out a shriek that almost made Yoongi fall off his chair and started jumping up and down happily. “What the fuck is wrong with you??”
“It worked!” Taehyung cupped his face and smiled at him so bright Yoongi had to close his eyes as to not get blinded by it. “Hyung, my potion worked! I did it! I succeeded! I’m… I’m the first Potion Maker in history to make a Love Potion!”
“A love potion…” Yoongi repeated the words as if they were from a foreign language. Taehyung let go of his face and started searching for the real vial of the potion. “The potion you’ve been working on for more than three years? But that’s not possible, Tae.”
Taehyung finally found the almost empty little jar and let one drop of the substance roll into his palm. It moved like liquid mercury. He licked it – ignoring Yoongi’s exclamation of disbelief – and hummed, smiling like the Evil Potion Maker he wasn’t. The drop tasted like water, felt like it on his tongue. It wasn’t a surprise that he had drunk an entire vial of it without realizing it.
The door of the studio opened and Jungkook walked in, a little pale but a lot less loving. He took a sit beside Yoongi and glared at Taehyung.
“Why is it always me?”
“The idiot drank one of his own potions,” interrupted Yoongi, before Taehyung could start complaining. “A Love Potion.”
Jungkook’s eyebrows shot up and he looked at Taehyung with his mouth open.
“THE love potion?” Taehyung nodded, his smile growing wild. “But that’s not possible.”
“Well, thank you. I’m glad two of my favorite people believed in me and my project all this time.”
The Potion Maker stuck out his tongue at them and went to sit by his desk. He wet the pen in the inkwell and started a new entry on his journal.
“Shut up, Tae. We know you’re good. Excellent. A damn genius. The most beautiful and–” Jungkook choked on his own saliva and covered his mouth with both hands, sending a pleading gaze at Yoongi.
Yoongi rolled his eyes and let out a sigh.
“The kid is trying to say we appreciate your abilities, but everyone knows that love potions are not possible. They can’t be made.”
Taehyung snorted and pointed at them with the feathery end of the pen.
“He confessed and tried to kiss me less than fifty minutes ago.” The younger groaned and hid his face under the hood of his cape. “You are looking at me as if I created your precious double swords and then killed a couple of witches with them WHILE wearing a leather combat outfit.” Yoongi’s cheeks reddened. “In conclusion, I did it!”
“I take it back, you’re the worst Potion Maker on Earth.” Jungkook shook his head and then let out a shriek when Taehyung shot him a kiss.
Yoongi sighed – again – and rummaged through one of the little bags he carried around hanging from his belt until he found a mint leaf. He brought it to his mouth and began to chew it thoughtfully.
“Okay, let’s say you were successful. Now what?”
“The funny business, Hyung. I have to experiment with it! Write the effects it has on the Tester – that is me, which gives me a great advantage now that I think about it – and the effects it has on the rest of the people.”
He took his notepad and his pen and sat on the floor between the other two. He smiled his sweetest smile and tried not to laugh when Jungkook’s face turned red and his eyes sparkled. Yoongi was a little more collected – thanks to all the protective jewelry he was wearing – but Taehyung could still see how that simple gesture affected him. Oh boy, he was going to have so much fun.
He cleared his throat and put on a serious face. He was a professional.
“So, my boys...” Jungkook choked on his saliva again. Taehyung bated his eyelashes. “What do you feel?”
After one long hour riddling them with no ending questions – some of them completely professionals, some others with the sole purpose of making his friends uncomfortable – the Potion Maker began to describe the effects it had on himself. There weren’t a lot, if any. He just felt normal. Amused because Jungkook couldn’t look at him in the eye without blushing, but that was all.
Jungkook took a deep breath and silently counted to ten. Yoongi – half asleep in his chair – tried to muffle a laugh.
“The cauldron’s water is boiling.”
Taehyung frowned, confused.
“What wat-?” His eyes opened wide as he jumped to his feet. “Yoongi you are cursed!”
Taehyung ran to the cauldron and took it away from the fire. He searched among his ingredients and let a couple of dry laurel leaves fall into the hot water.
“Jungkookie, would you start with the basics while I go to Jimin’s shop?”
Jungkook nodded and started to fetch all the necessary ingredients. Taehyung gave him a couple of reminders about what he needed to do, but he knew Jungkook was good and would be able to do it alone. After all, Taehyung had taught him about the basic potions so he could put everything into action on field in case of necessity.
The first time they saw each other, Jungkook was 14 years old and Yoongi was carrying his fainted body in his arms. The image had managed to stay glued to Taehyung’s retinas ever since then. They came from Gosan, the nearest village to Unhwa, and – as far as they knew – they were the only survivors. Their village had been attacked by a coven of witches, but they somehow had managed to run away from the danger and stay alive. With no family nor friends, only each other as company and support. It had taken them a month to arrive at Unhwa, and when they did their state was more than deplorable. Jungkook had fallen sick two weeks before they put a foot on the village, his body was burning up with fever and starvation. Yoongi wasn’t any better, but he had pushed his limits and carried the younger boy to a safe place. The moment they reached the Healer’s house – Taehyung’s mom – he collapsed and didn’t regain consciousness until a week later. The first thing he said when he opened his eyes was Jungkook’s name, the second was “I’m going to kill them”.
It took Jungkook two years to leave the fear behind and join Yoongi in his hunting, and by that time, the older had already gained a strong reputation both among the hunters and among the enemy. When Jungkook turned 18, Yoongi’s name was whispered with fear.
Taehyung and Jimin – inseparable best friends since they were babies - were the ones who had helped the Healer take care of them until they were healthy again. The late hours, the long days, the secret tears and the almost claustrophobic room where they lay had united them. They became a family, their bond made of need. Of pain and hope.
“What did the witch say, Hyung? How powerful was the spell?” He took his old cloak and put it around his shoulders. The weather was beginning to get chilly and Taehyung hated feeling cold. “I need to know how strong I should make the potion. I don’t know if I have all the ingredients for it, maybe I should contact Namjoon.”
The Hunter shrugged.
““Karma is a Bitch” or something like that. There’s no need for you to stress about it.”
Jungkook slammed the knife he was using to cut a lemon against the work desk and glared at Yoongi before turning his gaze to Taehyung.
“The witch was a woman, an old one. Female witches are the most powerful, so his words carried a lot of magic.” Yoongi dismissed it with a flick of his hand but Taehyung knew better. He knew Yoongi tried to act tough when he was scared. “She said: “you will pay for everything you have done to my people, and just like me, you will suffer for every bad thing your people did to my loved ones.”
Yoongi chewed on his bottom lip, a shudder running down his spine, but put on a calm façade when he realized both Taehyung and Jungkook were watching him with scared eyes.
He stood up and put his leather jacket on.
“I doubt it was a real curse. It sounded more like a wish or what the villain says before dying in a movie. If that curse was real then I would probably be dead by now. But I’m good, right? Don’t worry.”
Jungkook’s face screamed that he was going to keep being worried for the rest of his life. Taehyung sighed, knowing that this was a losing battle, and walked towards the door. If Yoongi wanted to act like nothing was happening then it would be only his fault when the curse came to bite his stupid witch-hunter ass. The most Taehyung could do was preparing him a potion and pray that the older man was right about the curse not being real.
He raised an eyebrow when he saw Yoongi follow him to the door.
“What?” the Hunter crossed his arms defensibly. “I can’t let you go out alone after you drank an entire vial of Love Potion. What if someone tries to kidnap you?”
Taehyung let out a chuckle and caressed his hyung’s cheek.
Yoongi’s face seemed like it was about to explode and it was Jungkook’s turn to laugh. The Hunter stuttered a threat between his teeth and pushed Taehyung out of the house.
The air was fresh and a little raw and smelled like Dahlias. Taehyung took a deep breath and smiled, he had been locked in his studio for the past two days, obsessing over his potion, and his lungs felt heavy because of all the smoke and the mixed odors he had been trapped with. He was probably a little pale too, and he was sure Jimin would stare at him with that disapproving look that made Taehyung go weak in his knees and then force him to go hiking with him in the morning, but it was going to be totally worth it. Especially when the potion began to take effect on Jimin too.
He knew that the effect wouldn’t last long. It took Yoongi less than a minute to realize something was strange and Jimin knew him better than anyone, so maybe–– three seconds? Maybe five if he was distracted. It was okay. Those three seconds of Jimin looking at him as if he was truly in love with Taehyung would be enough.
The Potion Maker shook his head and started to walk down the street with Yoongi at his side. Taehyung watched him, still worried about the possible curse. The Hunter's boots, heavy to keep him firm and worn out by so much use, lifted the dust off the road with every step. There was one time Taehyung tried to wear the Hunter's entire suit and had been barely able to take a step before falling to the ground under the weight of leather bound with magic and steel. Yoongi looked fine, normal; the only thing out of place on him was the pendant around his neck. He was used to hide it behind layers and layers of clothing, glued to the skin of his chest to remind him that there were people at home who were waiting for him to come back alive.
Jimin had made four of these necklaces: an orange tiger for Taehyung, a wolf for Yoongi, a rabbit for Jungkook – the young man had complained about his animal until Jimin threatened to remove it and melt it in his forge. Jungkook never complained again – and a white tiger for himself. All the animals wore a tiny diamond engraved in the place where their heart should be. It was a reminder that they were not alone, no matter how far apart they were from each other. Taehyung had shared enough sleepless nights with Yoongi when Jungkook was hunting on his own to know that Yoongi, when worry flooded his heart, would take the necklace in his hands and squeeze it until his knuckles lost their color. It was confusing, however, because Yoongi only did that when he was frightened for the well-being of others, not for his own.
Taehyung looked away from his friend and smiled at the young florist staring at him, gaping, with a dusty red on his cheeks. The boy – his name was Hansol, if Taehyung remembered well – stuttered something to himself and held a hand up to greet him, still watching him in shock. Taehyung chuckled and waved back.
Yoongi grunted and gave Taehyung a gentle push so that they continued walking. Taehyung turned his attention to the Hunter and smirked at him.
"Don’t get jealous, Hyung, I'm all yours."
Yoongi hit him on the head but left his other hand on the lower back of the younger. The rest of the way passed similarly, with the few neighbors who had been walking the streets turning their stares to them and looking at Taehyung with amazement and bright eyes. When they reached the busy part of the village, Yoongi's grip tightened and Taehyung thanked him in silence. As much as he liked being the center of attention of so many looks, it was still a little overwhelming.
The tavern was already open and the sound of clinking glasses and voices screaming over the loud music reached their ears. The few people who were waiting at the door directed their eyes at Taehyung and their looks made him shudder. They were pirates; Unhwa was close enough to the sea for the place to be a preferred stop for that kind of people. Taehyung looked away and covered his face with his hood. Beside him, Yoongi showed them a glimpse of the steel of his double swords.
"So how does it work?"
“The potion, I mean. I can understand that some of the people we cross path with look at you like that. I know you’re friends with the whole damn town, but those pirates? The foreign travelers? That old lady that lives in the mountains and only comes here once a month? Is… is the potion really that strong?” His voice carried a tone of awe and pride that made Taehyung’s heart swell with affection.
"Yes, the potion is strong, but it’s not so simple.” He bit his bottom lip to try and stop his smile, but it was to no avail. He loved it when people asked him about his potions; it made him happy and excited, being given the opportunity to share all his knowledge with someone that wanted to listen to him. “It took me years to even think about how to make people close to the Tester fall in love with the person by the mere effect of the potion. And, well, the answer was obvious: with love.”
Yoongi frowned, confused.
“I don’t get it.”
“It’s one of the weak points that I couldn’t erase. To make a Love Potion you need to know Love. You need to… be in love.”
“Oh.” Yoongi looked at him with knowing eyes, but Taehyung ignored him.
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat and pulled on his hood to hide his red cheeks. “You have to think about your loved one in every stage of the preparation. The ingredients are kind of exotic too, but the hard step is the thinking part. It takes a lot of concentration and a lot of… emotional distress.” Yoongi’s hand caressed his back softly. “That way, what the potion actually does is increase the affection that another person already feels for you. Not abruptly, though, the idea is that it should be gradual. Natural, let's say. But then–”
He raised his hands dramatically, his eyes lost on the horizon like every other time he entered his beloved world of potions.
“I faced the same question that you just asked me. What if a client wants a complete stranger to fall in love with them? So I spent months thinking about how I could make that possible, how I could combine it with the natural effect of the potion. And then, I heard you and Jungkookie talk about a certain witch that liked to seduce his victims and then kept them as his slaves, and it occurred to me: aphrodisiacs.”
Yoongi whistled appreciatively.
The sun was beginning to set on the horizon, staining the town with a soft orange light. People began to close their stalls and shops, and the parents dragged their children home. Taehyung chuckled as he saw two little boys crouched behind a fruit stand, clearly hiding so that their parents couldn’t find them. He remembered having been in that situation more than once, strongly clinging to Jimin's hand and laughing softly against his best friend's hair.
He winked when one of the children made eye contact with him and the boy gave him a thumbs-up before sticking even more against his friend’s side. Taehyung wondered if one of them would end up buying his love potion when he was older, and if he would do so that his best friend would fall in love with him.
“So that's the reason why everyone looks at you as if you were the very Goddess of Love.”
Taehyung blushed, nodding somewhat shy.
“Yes, aphrodisiacs make strangers feel attraction to the Tester – and increase the physical attraction that people you know might feel for you. As the stranger and the Tester become acquainted, the natural effect of the Love Potion causes the good feelings of the stranger to increase little by little. That’s how they end up in love with the Tester.”
“But if the effect of infatuation is slow, why it affected Jungkook and me so bad?”
“Because you two love me too much.” Yoongi glared at him and Taehyung let out a deep laugh. “Don’t look at me like that! It’s true. The potion increases the love you already feel for me. You may not be in love with me but you love me, the potion not only increased that feeling but twisted it slightly to make you believe you’re in love.”
“Are you sure you’re not an Evil Potion Maker?”
Taehyung rolled his eyes, but couldn’t content the pride swelling in his chest.
“I think the fact that you know that you’re not really in love with me is another weakness. If the other person knows you too well, the potion doesn’t work a hundred percent well.”
“So Jimin…” He didn’t finish the sentence, but Taehyung nodded anyway, his smile fading imperceptibly. “Anyways, you did a great work, Taehyungie.”
The alluded let out a soft sigh and press his shoulder to Yoongi’s.
Jimin’s shop wasn’t so far away from the tavern. It was a small and old library that had been in the Park’s family for as long as Unhwa had existed. He and Jimin used to spend their mornings sitting between piles of scrolls and books older that both of them combined. It was one of Taehyung’s favorite pastimes; lying on the dusty floor with his head on Jimin’s thighs reading a potion book, Jimin’s hand caressing his hair while the boy tried to learn about magic amulets and how to create them. Even after he had bought his own forge and started his own jewelry business, Jimin still found time to take care of the library. When he had free time, Taehyung liked to go there and help Jimin with it.
The duo came to a stop and Taehyung stopped Yoongi before he could open the library’s door.
“Can you go and buy Jungkookie some ice cream? I feel kind of bad because of what happened earlier.” He knew Yoongi didn’t believe him – he wouldn’t either, with such a lame excuse – but the older man just nodded. Taehyung lent him a couple of silver talents and pointed across the street to Black Cat, Jungkook’s favorite ice cream parlor. “Tell Jin-hyung it’s for Jungkook and he’ll know what to give you.”
“The owner. He moved here a few months ago. You’d know him if you stayed more than a week at home.”
Yoongi rolled his eyes but Taehyung could see that he was sorry about that.
“I’ll meet you at the door. Don’t go home alone, I didn’t like the way those pirates looked at you.”
Taehyung watched him go and turned to face the blue door of the library. He took a couple of deep breaths, feeling a little nervous. He wasn’t even sure why he was nervous. It was just Jimin. His best friend. He opened the door and let out a content sigh when the familiar smell of ink, old books and dust hit his nose.
Jimin was sitting behind the counter, reading. His hair was a mess of dark locks, he was wearing his reading glasses that Taehyung loved and the black robe Jungkook had gifted him on his last birthday. Taehyung walked to him as quietly as he could. He wanted to be as near as possible so he could clearly see the exact moment the potion started working on him. Jimin must have felt his presence, however, because he lifted his head and smiled.
Taehyung waited. And waited. And waited. But nothing happened.
Jimin rounded the desk and approached him with worried eyes. He raised a hand and touched Taehyung’s forehead checking for a fever. The cold of his rings made the Potion Maker shudder. Or maybe it was something else. Jimin lowered his hand, clearly finding nothing out of place, and cocked his head in confusion.
Taehyung looked at him. Jimin's eyes didn’t shine as Yoongi's had. He didn’t blush like Hansol or tried to kiss him like Jungkook. He didn’t even look at him with the same lust as the pirates had. Jimin didn’t look at him like he was in love; he looked at him... as if he were just Taehyung. His best friend.
“Uh, Tae? Are you okay?”
“I- Yeah.” He cleared his throat and shook his head, smiling wide. “Sorry, I spaced out for a bit.”
Jimin raised an eyebrow but smiled softly at him. His eyes were so warm that just one look could probably melt glass.
“You’re so weird.” He leaned forward as if to tell him a secret. “Don’t worry, that’s why I like you.”
Taehyung laughed, ignoring the clench of his heart, and pushed him slightly.
“Do you have the Shield Potion’s book?”
Jimin hummed and he stood on his tiptoes to take the book from one of the highest shelves. Taehyung tried not to coo and failed – he also tried not to notice the way the robe hugged Jimin’s body in all the right places and also failed. When Jimin reached the book, he hit him on the head with it, his cheeks red and his eyes murderous.
“I didn’t say anything!”
Jimin returned to stand behind the counter and rested his chin on his palm. Taehyung's eyes traced each of his jewels out of sheer habit. On each finger of both hands he wore at least one ring engraved with runes and stones, each one with a different charm. The young silversmith only made rings when he was in a special mood. Like potions, making amulets carried a strong bond with the sentiments of the creator. The rings were Jimin's favorite amulets, they were special and only he used them. He never sold them. Taehyung could recognize each of them. Five were for daily use – balance, protection, defense, joy, the self. The other five were exchanged every now and then according to what Jimin needed to reinforce. Today was creativity, strength, magic, patience and love.
His gaze lingered on the last ring more than necessary, the red color of the tiny ruby bleeding over the silver strip like a broken heart.
“You know how he is.”
Jimin frowned. Taehyung wanted to hide under his blankets and repeat to himself he was a professional Potion Maker until he believed it.
“Are you sure you’re okay? You seem off.”
“I’m okay, Chim. Just tired. I… I’ll get going. Hyung needs to drink this before it’s too late.”
Jimin accompanied him to the door but held onto one of his wrists before Taehyung could open it.
“Hey, try not to lock yourself in for another week, yeah? I know your potion is important, but I miss you. Promise me that you will be hiking with me this week?”
Taehyung smiled, it was impossible not to, not when Jimin looked at him with that little pout that Taehyung couldn’t ignore nor resist.
“I promise.” He leaned down and laid a kiss on the older man's cheek. He didn’t know what made him do it, but it was too late to repent. Jimin’s eyes widened and his face flushed a beautiful pink. “See you tomorrow?”
The silversmith nodded, still a little stupefied at the sudden kiss. It wasn’t like it hadn’t happened before, but their kisses had stopped at some point after their teenage years. Jimin eyed him. There was something in his gaze that Taehyung couldn’t recognize. He smiled one last time and opened the door, not even bothering looking around for Yoongi. He pulled the hood of his cloak until it covered his face in shadows, and returned to his house with his head down.
Jungkook was playing games on his phone, the potion bubbling slowly and the room smelling of lemon and mint. Taehyung slammed the book on his work table, making Jungkook jump in surprise, and started to turn the pages with more force than necessary.
“Uhm, Tae?” He got up from his seat and approached him with caution as if he were a wild cat. “Where’s Yoongi-hyung?”
And as if he had being summoned, the door slammed open and an angry Yoongi with rosy cheeks stormed inside the room.
“I told you to wait for me!” He closed the book, ignoring Taehyung’s protest. “I saw a pirate crying on the floor outside the tavern. What the fuck happened?”
“I can take care of myself.”
Yoongi eyes softened when he saw Taehyung’s pout.
“I know that.”
The Potion Maker let out a sigh, he felt as if all the happy feelings he had felt less than a half hour ago had been sucked out of his system with a vacuum cleaner.
“He tried to kiss me. I kick him in the nuts. Maybe scream at him for a bit. That’s all.”
Jungkook snorted. Yoongi’s lips curved in a little smile but he shook his head.
“That’s not what I asked.”
Taehyung stared at the flare in the fireplace. There was something strangely fascinating about the way it moved, about its texture, its colors. It was hypnotizing, too beautiful, dancing almost innocently in front of him. If he looked at it long enough, he could even forget that it could burn, hurt, destroy.
Even before he began his research on love, he had read thousands upon thousands of manuscripts comparing love – any kind of love – with the heat of fire. In time, he had come to understand what they meant.
“The potion didn’t work.”
“You mean Jimin realized that–?”
“No, I mean it didn’t work. At all. Not even for a second,” he growled, folding his arms and glaring at the cauldron where the colorless Love Potion rested still. “After all these years... I thought I had finally succeeded, but of course not. Of course it had to have a bug.”
Yoongi sighed and took a sit on his favorite armchair, the one that was beside the fireplace. Jungkook pouted because–– well, he was Jungkook and couldn’t tolerate seeing one of his hyungs sad without feeling sad himself – and gently squeeze the Potion Maker’s arm.
“Let me continue with the Shield Potion.”
“No, I need to do this.”
“C’mon Tae, you know you’re not in the correct mood. The potion might explode if it catches a bit of your emotions.”
Taehyung wanted to insist on making the potion himself, but his rational side won in the end. He gave Jungkook the book and pointed out the potion he needed to prepare. It was over Jungkook’s potion maker capacities, but he just needed an hour or so to calm down, to shake that stupid feeling drowning his heart and be a professional once again. Besides, Jungkook’s eyes were glowing, clearly excited about making something new and prove himself to Taehyung, so it was okay.
The Potion Maker scratched under Jungkook’s chin, smiling softly as the younger man practically purred, and joined Yoongi by the side of the fire. He sat down on the floor at the Hunter's feet and rested his head against his knees. Yoongi stroked his hair affectionately.
“Can I ask you a question?” Taehyung nodded, his eyes once again fixed on the fire in front of him. “Are you disappointed because the potion didn’t work, or are you disappointed because it didn’t work on Jimin?”
Taehyung didn’t answer for a few minutes, and the hunter didn’t rush him. It was a sensitive subject, a secret shared in silence and never spoken.
“I just wanted to know what it feels like.” His voice was barely a whisper. “I wanted to know what it would feel like to see him looking at me like he was in love. Just for a moment, I wanted him to see me as I always saw him.” He closed his eyes and laughed a little. “That's not very professional of me, right?”
Yoongi caressed his cheek, smiling at him with that little smile of his, so soft that it could even make a witch fall in love with him.
“Don’t worry. You never really were a professional in the first place.”
Gogh was the name of Taehyung’s Potion Shop. It was stuck to the little hovel that he shared with Jungkook and connected to it through a door in his study – he had forced Jimin and Jungkook to build it there because Taehyung wasn’t above being a sloth, lazy enough to not want to walk out and away from his house to open his shop.
When Taehyung wasn’t in his study making potions, having a mental breakdown because of the careless Witch Hunters or spending time with Jimin, he was at his shop. It was small and old, like every other building in Unhwa, but Jimin had helped him remodel and redecorate it; he had even wrought the sign hanging at the entrance in the shape of a potion vial, made of copper with silver smoke.
From floor to ceiling, the walls were full of wooden shelves; the memory of finding them behind the tavern, clearly discarded and used to hold bottles of alcohol was still fresh in his mind. He and Jimin had taken them there from the town center, had them sanded and painted again. Now they were crammed with potions of different sizes and colors, some even bubbling.
The place was small, yes, but it was filled with everything he loved: potions and precious memories with Jimin.
He sighed and put up the "open" sign before settling behind the counter. According to his account book, Namjoon would be arriving today to deliver the order for new ingredients. Taehyung had met the spice merchant at the annual fair in Dahlia's capital when Namjoon nearly clashed his cart against Taehyung's potions stand. After a couple of glasses of wine shared in a bar, they had come to the agreement that Namjoon was going to keep bringing the most exotic spices for Taehyung as an apology for almost murdering his babies (the potions). Luckily for him, Namjoon was a nomad merchant so he knew what places to go to find where the strangest ingredients grew, he had traveled all over Dahlia and beyond, and always brought him the most unique spices, even after Taehyung had assured him that he didn’t need to continue doing it. Namjoon had told him that he had become a friend, one of the few he was able to continue to keep in contact with despite the lifestyle he had, and that was why Taehyung was special to him.
Namjoon was really sweet and always made sure to take care of his needs. Sometimes Taehyung wished he had fallen in love with him and not Jimin.
As if he had listened to his friend’s thoughts, the door opened and a smiling Jimin – his eyes and lips somewhat swollen because of sleep – entered the shop carrying the first rays of the sun with him. This time he was wearing a purple robe with intricate patterns embroidered in silver, his long hair tied up with a gold barrette.
The silversmith left the basket he was carrying with him on the counter and leaned in to press a kiss on his cheek. Taehyung's face warmed up with the simple touch and a part of his mind wondered if that was what Jimin had felt when Taehyung kissed him the night before, but he quickly dismissed such an idea. He had since long lost hope on his feelings being reciprocated.
"Did you sleep well? Are you still tired?"
Taehyung shook his head and helped him unpack breakfast. This had become a tradition of theirs: every morning Jimin brought breakfast to Gogh and kept Taehyung company until the sun was high in the center of the sky. Every night Taehyung went to the library or the forge – depending of what job Jimin was doing that day – with a basket full of dinner and a heart full of love. From time to time, Yoongi or Jungkook, or even both sometimes, joined them, but it was rare. These moments were theirs only.
“I saw Yoongi hyung on my way here. I tried to invite him but he was too distracted with a certain ice-cream man.” He giggled, reached for a plum and took a bite off it, humming in satisfaction at the rich flavor. A couple of drops of its juice ran down his chin and made Taehyung’s mouth go dry.
“You mean Seokjin?”
The Potion Maker took a couple of grapes into his mouth in an attempt to distract himself from Jimin's lips and the plum juice staining them red. It was nothing new for him to get lost in the curve of Jimin’s cupid bow, but it was too early to deal with thoughts of tracing it with his tongue.
“Maybe this is a good thing. Another reason for him to stay longer and travel less.”
“I hope so... Oh, Tae! I almost forgot.” The silversmith rummaged through the pockets of his tunic, taking out a little box and giving it to Taehyung with a big smile. “I- um. I made it for you.”
The Potion Maker let out an excited shriek (Jimin didn’t forge something just because, he always put a lot of sentiments into it) and opened it.
It was beautiful, but that was not a surprise. Jimin had always been a delicate craftsman, a perfectionist. You needed to be one when you made something as delicate as jewelry, and not any kind either, but special amulets. He took the barrette out of the box and examined it closely. It was made of silver – Jimin loved silver, and Taehyung loved silver because Jimin loved silver – and it was shaped like bindweed with a big blue opal in the center.
“Do you like it?” He bit his lip anxiously, always nervous when it came to showing his work to Taehyung.
“Of course I like it, Chim. It’s– wow. It's so beautiful.” Just like you, he wanted to say but didn't.
Jimin let out a sigh of relief.
“I'm glad. I stayed the entire night up just working on it.”
“Couldn't sleep because you were thinking about me?” He smiled cheekily and earned himself a hit in the head.
“Something like that.” Taehyung shrugged and started to accommodate the new potions on their respective shelves, ignoring the way his heart hammered against his ribcage. “I don't know, the moon was quite beautiful last night and I... I kept thinking about you after you left the library. I couldn't resist.” Taehyung turned his gaze to the ground, feeling suddenly shy and wanting nothing more than to make himself small enough to hide in the pockets of Jimin's robe and never come out again. “Besides, you really needed a new hairpin; the one you always wear is already too old. Can I tie your hair?”
The Potion Maker nodded and took off his old leather hairpin; his hair fell on his shoulders like a waterfall under the dusk lights. He bent down so the silversmith could reach his head. Jimin's fingers were gentle but firm, like the rest of him. He combed Taehyung’s hair and finally tied it up in a ponytail styled like the ones commonly seen in the capital. For a moment, Jimin’s eyes met his. Their faces were too close, the air was too warm, the room too small.
“You look like a prince.”
Taehyung blinked one, two times, his mouth falling open and his cheeks feeling hot. He cleared his throat and took a step back. The same thing he had seen in Jimin's eyes the previous night was there again, and he still didn’t know what it meant.
Before Jimin could say anything else, the door of the shop opened and Namjoon entered the room with a cute smile on his face and his arms full of bags of ingredients. Taehyung could see the exact moment the Potion started working on him: Namjoon’s eyes widened and his dimples appeared on full display. He wanted to laugh, but for some reason the sound got stuck in his throat.
The spice merchant let the bags fall to the ground and went to greet him with a hug. Jimin raised his eyebrows and stared at the floor for a few seconds before putting a big smile on his face and greeting Namjoon with a bow.
“Hi hyung, you came early.”
Namjoon let go of a startled Taehyung and nodded, reddening a little when he realized the mess he made with the ingredients.
“The snow began to fall two villages ago; the roads are mostly empty except for a couple of Experimenters.” The two boys helped Namjoon to pile the bags in a corner of the shop while they listened to his words. “As always, Unhwa seems to be the last place on Earth where winter comes.”
“Will you stay here for a couple of days?” Taehyung offered him an apple and Namjoon accepted it, a little shy. Jimin frowned and gave Taehyung a once over before looking at Namjoon with his head tilted. “Seungkwan's inn is always open for you to stay.”
“Sadly, I can’t, but maybe next time.”
“Do you have somewhere important to go?”
Namjoon diverted his eyes and gave the floor a little smile.
“Hoseok promised to meet me at the bottom of the Last Mountain.”
Jimin clapped excitedly.
“He's that Experimenter you talked about last time you came here, right? You're still in contact with him?”
“Not really, but the last time we saw each other he said he would be there if I wanted to see him again.”
Taehyung let out a whistle and shared an amused smile with his best friend.
“And you’re going to travel there in the middle of the almost winter just to see him? Without even knowing if he, in fact, will be there waiting for you?”
Namjoon's cheeks tinted red again, and Jimin couldn't help but coo at the sight.
“Gods, that's so romantic. I wish someone did things like that for me.”
Both Namjoon and Jimin’s heads snapped in Taehyung’s direction. It was his turn to blush. Why the fuck did he say that? He really needed to drink one of his Silent Potions. Lucky him, though, because his nose began to let out smoke in the same moment Jimin was about to speak.
“Be right back!” He ran to his house and ate the sticky health balm. He banged his head on his desk a couple of times and went back to the shop.
Jimin was talking with Namjoon about the roads and the prices of the jewelry on the capital. Taehyung looked at them with fondness and then proceeded to examine the new ingredients. There were little bags of aphrodisiacs he had never seen before. He took one out and looked at it closely; there was something about the smell that was particularly appealing. He was tempted to bite it but now was not the time to be sporting a boner in front of two of his friends, of which one was who Taehyung was in love with.
“Oh, I found that in a cave near the ruins of a witch coven, so be careful. They're strong.” Taehyung bit his bottom lip trying to contain his excitement. “Do you smell that? I consulted with a couple of others spice merchants; it emanates a magic scent or something that seems to be different for everyone who smells it. According to what I was told by a Witch Hunter that I met on the way here, it smells like what we like the most.”
Jimin approached him and leaned down to sniff at the little thing. Taehyung swallowed the knot in his throat, realizing that for him the aphrodisiacs smelled like Jimin. Like Jimin and smoke. The silversmith’s eyes widened a little and he nodded.
“Wow, it's true.”
“What do you smell?” Taehyung really needed to drink that Silent Potion.
“Grass. Burned wood. Grapes.”
Taehyung frowned and tilted his head. Namjoon rolled his eyes and sniffed the aphrodisiac too.
“Well, I smell mud. Mud and...” He looked at Taehyung and stuttered something under his breath, his face burning. Taehyung laughed and winked at him. “Anyways, I’m leaving.”
The Potion Maker took the bag with the money and tied it to the merchant's belt.
“Please don't lose it.” He walked Namjoon to the door and gave him a long hug; after all, he didn’t know when he would see him again. “Try to come back before winter ends.”
“And come with your new boyfriend!!” Added Jimin with a giggle.
Namjoon gave them a thumps up and got into his cart. Taehyung watched him until his silhouette got lost in the distance.
“Why is everyone finding a love interest? I thought spring was the season of love.” He didn't want to sound so grumpy, but his voice betrayed him.
Jimin fed him a couple of grapes.
“Love doesn’t have season, Taetae. Besides, winter is when you need someone to keep you warm, right?”
The Potion Maker hummed and continued to accommodate the potions in their shelves; he doubted any clients would come to his shop that day. Jimin went to the house and came back with a watering can to water the few plants Taehyung had hanging from the selling. He side-eyed Jimin. It was cute how he needed to stand on his tiptoes to reach the flowers, how his eyes sparkled and his throat let out small giggles every time a drop of water slid over a leaf and landed on his cheek. It was kind of pathetic to feel jealous of the way his best friend looked at the plants, but still, he was. Fuck them, he was prettier than that bluebell.
“Jimin.” He waited until the silversmith focused on him. “Do you love me?”
“Of course I love you, Tae. What kind of question is that?”
“But do you love love me?”
Jimin’s eyes widened. Taehyung’s heart sunk when he saw the panic flashing across his face. Was Jimin really so afraid of Taehyung being in love with him?
“I did it. The– um. The Love Potion.” He started to work once again, ignoring the sick feeling in his stomach. “And I drank it by accident. Jungkook even tried to kiss me yesterday.” His laugh came out weak. “That’s why Namjoon was acting a little weird.”
“Oh, yes, I noticed that.”
“Yeah, but you... don't you feel anything? Don't you feel like you want to, I don't know, kiss me at any moment just because?”
Jimin remained silent for a couple of seconds, looking at him intensely.
“I... don't, Tae. Sorry.” He shook his head and smiled that soft and affectionate smile that was reserved just for him. “But congrats on the potion! I knew you could do it!” He opened his arms and Taehyung let go of everything he was holding to go drown in between them. Despite feeling the same disappointment he had felt the night before, a part of him was warm because of Jimin's words. His best friend didn’t care about the logics of magic or love, he had believed in Taehyung even when he was going against the nature laws. “We should definitely celebrate! I'm sure Wonsik can reserve a table at the tavern for us!”
“Thanks, Chim, but I’m not really in the mood to celebrate.”
Jimin tried to look at him in the eye, but Taehyung hid his face in the other's neck.
“Hey, why not? You've been working on this potion since forever, this is huge!”
One of Jimin's hands rested on his hip while the other ran up and down his back, sometimes tugging at his hair playfully. Taehyung took a deep breath, Jimin’s natural smell filling his lungs. He could understand perfectly why aphrodisiacs were so powerful, so dangerous; Jimin's smell was addictive and he could easily get drunk on it.
“Yeah, but. It didn't work on you.” Jimin’s hug tightened. “That’s a fault. I have to keep working on it. “Perfection or an empty cauldron”, you know my profession’s motto.”
He took a step back, smiling when he saw Jimin’s pout.
“This is why you looked sad yesterday?” The Potion Maker nodded. Jimin caressed one of his cheeks and Taehyung instinctively leaned against the touch. “...sorry.”
He wrapped Jimin’s hand in his and shook his head.
“Don't worry. It was a mistake of mine. The potion’s not strong enough, I guess.”
Jimin closed his eyes for a second and sighed.
“Yeah... it's- it's probably that.”
Despite promising Jimin that he wouldn’t shut himself down and keep on working, Taehyung did exactly that. For some reason he didn’t understand, Jimin had accepted the fact with a simple frown and even promised that he would help. It took the Potions Maker two days to study how to make the effect stronger without altering the content, and after he successfully did it, he didn’t hesitate to drink a full bottle of the clear liquid. The next morning Jungkook had to excuse himself from breakfast and didn’t return to the house until late at night. That same day Jimin looked into his eyes for a long minute before shaking his head.
The same process was repeated four more times. Jungkook had decided to move temporarily to Yoongi’s house after having asked Taehyung “can I ride you?” when he saw him come out of the shower with only a towel tied around his waist.
Every day, Jimin went to his studio after work and saw Taehyung adding new types of aphrodisiacs, and every day he shook his head once Taehyung drank the new potion. No matter how long they looked into each other's eyes or how close they were to each other, the only thing that happened was that Taehyung had a headache – and heartache, but Jimin didn’t need to know that – and Jimin went home with his shoulders down and his eyes sad.
It was a matter of time before the Witch Hunters intervened. Indeed, Taehyung was surprised that they had left him alone for almost a week without implementing the Get Taehyung Out Of The Damn House, Jungkook, For Fuck’s Sake plan. Jungkook had entered his studio wearing a mask that covered his mouth – in Taehyung's opinion, it was an exaggeration; if he really smelled so good Jimin wouldn’t have reminded him that the shower existed hours before – and dragged him against his will to Black Cat, where Yoongi was waiting for them.
They sat down at one of the tables near the window, and Taehyung's eyes darted toward the bookstore across the street. It was closed, which meant that Jimin was in his forge. He exhaled a sigh and thanked Jin – the ice cream maker – when he left a large glass cup of ice cream in front of him. Jin watched him for a few seconds, a small smile playing on his lips, but that was all. Taehyung was too distracted thinking about how to get rid of his friends to think about what that meant.
Jungkook took a large mouthful of ice cream and grunted with satisfaction. Beside him, Yoongi watched him eat like a bear mom watching his new born baby.
“Why I am here?” Taehyung whined, pouting and bating his eyelashes. He knew how to act adorable.
Both Witch Hunters gave him an unimpressed look. Jungkook took out a long chain from under his robe. Every ring had an amulet with runes. Taehyung knew they weren’t Jimin’s because they weren’t as pretty and some of them were covered in dry blood.
“Not today, hyung, I’m prepared.”
Taehyung glared at Yoongi for ruining his only change of getting out of there. The Witch Hunter smiled at him triumphant.
He stabbed his ice cream with the spoon and began to eat. Knowing Jungkook, he would probably end his own ice cream and then try to eat Taehyung’s. Knowing himself, he would most likely give it to him because he was a weak man that couldn’t resist it when a pretty boy pouted at him. Even if that boy was Jungkook.
“Tae, we need to talk.” Taehyung shook his head no, his mouth full with ice cream and the spoon. Yoongi caught the end of the spoon and forced him to look into his eyes. “Don’t be a baby. This is going to end badly, and you know it.”
Taehyung frowned and snatched his spoon back.
“No, I don’t?” Jungkook rolled his eyes and sank his spoon into Yoongi’s mint ice cream. The Potion Maker crossed his arms and look at his friends with determination. “I appreciate that you’re concerned about my heart, but I’m sure you know this is not the first time it breaks, and it surely won’t be the last. It hurts, but I’ll survive. Besides, the potion really needs to be perfect; I can’t sell a potion that doesn’t work a hundred percent well.”
“That’s great, but we’re talking about Jimin-hyung.”
“He’s sad.” Jungkook pointed to the bookstore with his thumb. “He’s been at the forge for days. Yesterday I went to keep him company and lost count of how many love runes he drew. He wasn’t even making amulets, just a cup.”
“Maybe he thinks if I drink from that cup the potion will work?” He couldn’t believe it didn’t occur to him before. A lot of potions needed special recipients to work. He and Jimin used to spend all night talking about the possibilities of combining their works together and become The Power Couple of Dahlia. Without the dating part, of course.
“Or maybe you’re an idiot.” Jungkook let out a defeated sigh. “Honestly, I give up. Just… stop making the potion stronger, the last time I saw you without protective amulets I felt like my heart was going to explode. Yoongi-hyung, it’s your turn.”
Both boys turned to look at their hyung, but the Witch Hunter wasn’t even listening to them. His eyes were fixed on Jin behind the counter, his mouth slightly open. Taehyung couldn’t blame him, honestly. Jin was too beautiful to be real, with his full lips and his long pink hair that swayed to the cadence of the breeze, as if the wind was caressing it with loving hands.
On his first day in Unhwa, Jungkook had asked him if he was a dryad. Jin had smiled and invited them to his parlor for free ice-cream. Taehyung was surprised Jungkook didn’t fell in love in that instant.
“I guess my potion can't compete with real attraction, right, Hyung?” he smirked, watching as Yoongi’s ears tinted red.
“Are you going to tell us that you're watching him because you suspect he's a witch?”
Jungkook’s laugh resounded through the shop and attracted Jin's curious gaze.
“That excuse won't work on us again, Hyung.”
Yoongi smiled shyly at Jin and then proceeded to hit both of their heads when he looked away.
“Brats.” He gave Jin one last glance before turning to Taehyung. “You should listen to your own words, y’know? If your potion can’t compete with real attraction, then what do you think it means if it doesn’t work at all?”
“I–” His eyes traveled to the bookstore. Jimin was there, at the door, fighting with the rusty lock that refused to open. Taehyung’s fingertips tickled with the need to smooth his frown. He got up of his seat and left a couple of coins on the table. “I know you have good intentions but I don’t need false expectations, Hyung. See you later!”
He ran away before they could stop him. Jimin didn’t hear him coming and let out a loud giggle when Taehyung back-hugged him out of nowhere, leaning against his chest automatically.
“Want to hide behind the tavern’s counter with me?” He whispered against his ear, exactly like when they were kids.
Jimin’s head fell on his shoulder, his eyes glistening with mischief.
“Who are you running from?”
“The Witch Hunters tried to give me The Talk.”
Jimin laughed, the sound reverberating throughout his whole body and making Taehyung’s smile widen. It wasn’t like he hadn’t noticed Jimin had been acting weird for the last couple of days; he was his best friend, he didn’t need Jungkook to tell him when Jimin was sad. Although, he doubted Jimin’s sadness had anything to do with him and his potions.
“I’ll go, but only if you promise to hold my hand the entire time.”
“Do you think falling in love with your best friend is a bad thing?” Jimin looked at him, confused. Taehyung chewed on his bottom lip nervously. “I overheard Mingyu saying he loved Wonwoo. That’s why I’m asking.”
“Oh. I don’t know.” He scratched the back of his neck, frowning slightly at the book in his lap. They were in the Park’s bookstore, hiding behind the Alchemy shelf. “I wouldn’t say that it’s a bad thing. Feeling are feelings, you can’t control them. Maybe… is a little messy?”
“Messy.” The word sunk in his stomach like a rock reaching the bottom of the sea.
“Yeah, I mean. What if Wonwoo doesn’t love Mingyu like that? What if it makes their relationship awkward? If… if I were Mingyu and Wonwoo didn’t love me back, then… I don’t know. I wouldn’t want my best friend to feel pressured to love me or, on the contrary, guilty because he doesn’t love me like that.” They remained silent for a couple of minutes, a subtle tension floating around them. “What do you think?” Jimin’s voice came up weak, barely audible in the peace of the bookstore.
“I think love can hurt too much to be so beautiful.”
Taehyung wasn’t a morning person. Mornings were beautiful, yes; the sun waking up, the stars going to sleep, the sky painted blue and gold. But waking up early after spending a whole night working on his potion wasn’t cool, okay? It was not. No matter how many times Jimin tried to convince him otherwise.
“But Taetae, you promised me you’d go hiking with me!”
“How did you get into my house?”
Jimin snorted. He was sitting at the end of his bed, full dressed in his hiking clothes – a loose white shirt, old trousers and knee high boots. It was so uncommon for him to not wear a robe that Taehyung couldn’t help but appreciate it even though he was half asleep.
“Why do you always forget I’m a blacksmith and did the locks of half the town?” He wiggled his fingers in the air. “My hands can do more than just pretty things, y’know.”
Taehyung didn’t want to know what Jimin’s hands could do to him.
“People are always questioning if I’m an Evil Potion Maker, but you’re the real evil one here.” He got up, Jimin’s laugh echoing in his ears, and cracked opened the little window beside his bed. “What the fuck, Jimin! It hasn’t even dawned!”
The silversmith smiled at him, his eyes forming two little crescent moons.
Taehyung would burn cities and scale mountains just to see that smile all day.
“Fine. But you have to piggyback me till the sun comes out.”
Jimin had prepared a basket full of food and had forbidden him from eating any until they were in the woods. The hill wasn’t too high, but Taehyung legs hurt with only looking at it. Knowing Jimin, he wouldn’t stop until he reached the top, even if he had to drag Taehyung by his ear.
Taehyung was sure he had done something terrible in his past life to deserve this kind of torture.
True to his word, the silversmith carried his friend on his back the first twenty minutes of the trip. Something about the surroundings, something about the fresh air and the twinkling stars over their heads, the warmth of Jimin’s body under him and the smell of wild flowers made Taehyung feel like he was floating. It was an inexplicable sensation, similar to that feeling of falling asleep, when you find yourself in the limbo between consciousness and slumber, where reality and dreams coexist. His limbs felt heavy and his heart light. It was a beautiful feeling, and for twenty minutes, he and Jimin lived inside that little bubble that tasted like paradise.
When the first rays of the sun began to dye the tree barks of gold, Jimin let him down on his feet and they wandered until they found a little glade comfortable enough for them to settle and eat.
“Mingyu baked this bread especially for us. Careful, it’s still hot.”
Taehyung opened his mouth and let Jimin feed him. Around them, the forest began to wake up, the little animals running around from tree to tree. They stayed seated against a rock, sharing stories in murmurs so as not to disturb the calm. From time to time, little fairies descended from their homes and tugged at Jimin’s hair or let delicate kisses in his cheeks. Every time, Jimin giggled and greeted them with a small bow.
Taehyung was considering quitting his job as a Potion Maker and spend the rest of his life writing fairy tales.
Just before he could fall asleep under the soft sunlight streaming through the branches of the trees, Jimin decided it was time to really start the hiking. The track wasn’t steep enough for his thighs to burn, but enough to make it hard for him to breathe. Or maybe it was the perfect view of Jimin’s back side what took his breath away. It could be both.
The silversmith didn’t stop chatting all the way up, laughing every time he looked behind and saw Taehyung’s face was red and sweaty. Taehyung was too happy to even complain about his lungs being on fire. For a day, he just wanted to forget about the rest of the world, about his failed potion, or Yoongi’s curse, or his aching heart. For a day, he just wanted to be with his best friend.
“C’mon, Taetae, there’s a surprise at the top of the hill. I’m sure you’ll like it.”
Jimin took his hand and they walked the last couple of meters side by side. The sun was high in the sky when Jimin stopped and shushed him before Taehyung could ask what happened.
“Do you hear that?”
The Potions Maker sharpened his ear. At first he heard nothing new: the birds sang, the squirrels scampered among the trees, and the fairies flitted about, dropping fairy dust on their heads. He waited, and then he heard it.
Jimin smiled and started to run, quickly disappearing amidst the foliage. Taehyung laughed loudly and followed him. Jimin was too fast for him to catch up, but the silversmith was kind enough to let a trace of clothes for him to follow. First it was the shirt, then a boot, another boot, and there were his trousers. Taehyung’s mouth had gone dry at some point, his own clothes sticking to his overheated skin. The sound of the waterfall was a loud roar in his ears when he finally found Jimin’s underwear.
The owner of the pile of clothes in Taehyung’s arms was swimming placidly in the middle of the lagoon. The Potion Maker stared at him with his mouth agape and his heart hammering. If he hadn’t known him since he was three years old, he would’ve probably mistaken him for a nymph. His skin glistened like melted caramel, little drops of water clinging to his eyelashes, smile brighter that the sun over their heads, eyes more beautiful than the night sky.
“Do you like it?”
“Beautiful.” He shook his head and let his eyes wander around the glade, anywhere but Jimin and his chest, his rosy cheeks and red lips, his everything. “The waterfall. Yes. It’s beautiful. Were you keeping it a secret for yourself?”
He turned his back on him and dropped Jimin's clothes next to the food basket. Slowly, more slowly than strictly necessary, he began untying the knots of his shirt. Behind him, Jimin snorted.
“This place’s been here before Unhwa existed. The whole town knows about it. Maybe if you didn’t spend so much time enclosed with your potions you would also have known of its existence.”
Jimin’s gaze felt heavy on him. It wasn’t the fact that they were naked – Taehyung had seen him naked too many times for his own good – but the past week had been too stressful for him. He felt like all the feelings he had manage to restrain over the years were lying in the open now, written all over his face. He was nervous and he didn’t know why.
He was a mess. And Taehyung hated that fucking word, hate the memory of a 17 year old Jimin saying “maybe… is a little messy?” because he had been right.
“Hey.” Taehyung jumped. Jimin was right behind him. “Is everything okay?” Jimin’s hands rested on his hips and Taehyung had to resist the urge to lean back against his body.
“Yeah, sorry, I was thinking.”
“Don’t think.” Taehyung turned his head to look at him. Their faces were too close. So close he could taste Jimin’s breathe on his lips. “Just be with me. Okay?”
Jimin smiled softly.
“Want me to help you undress?” And Taehyung was confused. A little turned on. But mostly confused. So he just laughed and pushed Jimin away, that strange bubble that had surrounded them breaking instantly.
Jimin looked at him amused, but there was something dark – primal – about that look that Taehyung didn’t understand.
“Then hurry up. Winter’s going to freeze our asses anytime soon, better enjoy the lagoon while we still can.”
He then proceeded to jump into the water, splashing Taehyung with it. The Potion Maker shook his nerves away and let his clothes fall to the ground. The water was cold and made his entire body shiver, but he soon forgot about the temperature. Jimin smiled at him so bright he could almost see the happiness radiating from him like liquid sunlight, bathing Taehyung’s skin.
He approached him and the both of them looked at each other for long minutes.
“Bet I can go longer than you without breathing.”
He didn’t even wait for an answer. Jimin screamed and immerse into the water a second after him.
They lost track of time. Their laughter was loud, so much that even the noise of the waterfall couldn’t silence them, and echoed through the trees and rocks. At some point in the afternoon, the fairies had left their labors aside in favor of watching them play. The fairy dust fluttered around them, blue and gold, clinging to their damp skins and causing Taehyung to sneeze every few seconds. Jimin's long hair had leaves and flowers tangled in it, and Taehyung was sure some strange aquatic creature had bit his toe at some point, but none of that really mattered.
In the middle of the afternoon, they stopped to eat the last of their food before jumping into the water again. The sun fell from the sky slowly as if he wanted to delay their departure as much as possible, as if he wanted them to stay in that little paradise forever. But forever didn’t exist outside of fairy tales. Gradually, the sky turned orange and red, flashes of blue reflected in the water.
Jimin swam to one of the shorelines, his eyes fixed on the horizon where the sun waved them goodbye. Taehyung followed, hypnotized by the way his eyes reflected the evening light. The silversmith put an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close until their sides touched. He dropped his head on Taehyung's shoulder and let out a rather uneasy sigh. They stayed that way for who knows how long, their chests rising and falling to the rhythm of their breathing.
When Taehyung turned his head to look at Jimin, Jimin was already looking at him. Jimin's cheeks were dusted with a light pink that made Taehyung smile. He caressed the blush with one of his thumbs. Again, their faces were too close. Taehyung wanted nothing more than to lean in and feel his lips. He didn’t even need a long kiss, pressing his mouth against his best friend's just once would be enough to calm the craving he felt in the pit of his stomach.
Jimin was looking at him as if he were in love with him. He leaned forward, his mouth narrowing. The Potion Maker blinked once, twice. Jimin was looking at him as if his potion had worked.
“We should go.”
He looked away, his face burning with embarrassment.
“I–” Jimin took a deep breath and moved away slightly, running a hand through his hair, eyes lost. Taehyung missed his warmth instantly. “Uh. Okay… uh– yeah. Let’s go.”
The light of the stars was the only thing shining by the time they reached the center of town. The way back was passed in silence; not uncomfortable, just silence.
Taehyung's house was the first to appear in front of them. The Potion Maker played nervously with his lower lip. He didn’t want the day to end; he didn’t want to part from Jimin, not even for a few hours. The silversmith rummaged through his basket and pulled out a silk bag. He handed it to Taehyung with a slight smile. Taehyung took it with raised eyebrows and quickly opened and uncovered the contents.
“Oh.” It was the cup Jungkook had told him about. “Thank you.” Jimin nodded and went to step back but Taehyung grasped his arm to stop him. “You’ll come tomorrow night? To check if the new potion works on you.”
Jimin didn’t answer immediately; instead he looked at him with sad eyes, the moonlight flickering on them.
“You always look at the world with your Potion Maker eyes… and don't get me wrong, I love that about you. But sometimes– sometimes I wish you could at least look at me different.”
“Yeah. Forget it.” He left one last soft kiss on Taehyung’s cheek. “Goodnight, Taehyungie.”
Taehyung watched him go with a pout.
The next day dawned with the heavens crying on the wooden roofs of Unhwa. Taehyung woke up with Jungkook's hair tickling his nose. He embraced the younger boy and didn’t question when he had returned to the house, or why he was lying on his bed. The temperature had decended noticeably during the night, and both young men remained hugging each other under the sheets until well into the afternoon.
Eventually, their stomachs begged for something to eat, but neither seemed willing to leave Taehyung’s small room. The Potion Maker watched Jungkook play on his phone something called "Plants versus Trolls", Jimin’s words from the previous night flitting through his sleepy mind.
“Kook, do you think I see you with Potion Maker eyes?”
Jungkook paused the game and looked at him confused.
“What? What does that mean?”
Taehyung shrugged at the best he could, given the fact that he had a twenty year old Witch Hunter on top of him.
“I don’t know. Jimin said that last night. I didn't get it either. He said he wanted me to see him different.” Jungkook’s laugh was too loud for Taehyung’s ears. “What?”
“Nothing, it’s just– those words sound familiar.”
“Did Jimin tell you the same thing?”
“I– Are you really that dense?” Jungkook shook his head and stood up, walking towards the door. “Yoongi always says that I’m bad at feelings, but you two aren’t any better. Seriously, for someone who spent the last three years of his life studying love, you don’t know shit about it, Hyung.”
“Hey! Jungkookie! What are you talking about? Come back, you idiot! JUNGKOOKIE… I need new friends.”
Just before the sun disappeared from the sky, Yoongi has shown up and dragged Jungkook to Jin's ice cream parlor. Taehyung doubted that it was ice cream what Yoongi wanted to eat, but decided not to comment on the matter. He had spent the last two hours carefully measuring the ingredients to boost the potion, and the results had left him with a knot in his stomach. That would be the last chance. By the time he added the last aphrodisiacs, the potion would take its full potential; if he continued to add spices, it would stop being a Love Potion and would become something completely new.
It was the last chance for it to work and if it didn’t, Taehyung would have to start all over again. He wasn’t sure if the sick feeling that stirred his stomach was because he didn’t want his effort of years to go to waste, or because maybe he might never know the feeling of having Jimin in love with him.
Jimin knocked on his door just as he was about to add the last ingredient. Taehyung hurried to open it and invited him inside. The rain hadn’t stopped since the morning and Jimin was soaked from head to toe.
“Promise me that no matter the outcome you're not going to kick me out like a wet dog and then lock yourself for another week.” Taehyung chuckled and wrapped his body in a towel. Jimin let him guide him to the fireplace, but didn’t change his accusing expression. “I will destroy everything you love, Kim Taehyung.”
Taehyung poked his nose and smiled.
He returned to his potion and sighed; it bubbled peacefully, as if its creator wasn’t a mess of nerves at the very moment. Carefully, he took the aphrodisiacs and crushed them until they became dust.
He slowly dropped the dust into the cauldron, his brow furrowed in concentration. Jimin was the only thing in his mind. His warmth, his red cheeks, the brightness of his eyes, the shape of his lips, the traces of his laughter, the feeling of his hand holding Taehyung’s, never letting go. The last shred of aphrodisiac fell silently and the potion ceased to bubble instantly.
Taehyung let out the air he had been holding and looked up at his best friend. The silversmith looked at him nervously, his lower lip caught between his teeth. Taehyung reached for the cup Jimin had given him and filled it with Love Potion. He walked to Jimin, the sound of the rain hitting the roof drowned out by the strong beat of his heart.
Jimin swallowed hard, his eyes fixed on those of the Potion Maker’s, and nodded. Taehyung brought the glass to his lips and drank the contents in one long gulp.
They looked at each other, Taehyung’s knuckles going white with the force he was holding the cup. A minute passed. Then two. Jimin’s eyes were sad, so fucking sad that Taehyung couldn't bear looking at them without his heart hurting.
“Fuck.” He turned his back so that Jimin couldn’t see how his eyes filled with tears of despair, but Jimin cradled his face in his hands.
“Why don’t you feel anything?”
Jimin's lower lip trembled.
“You say it like it’s my fault.” The pain was palpable in his voice, but Taehyung was too frustrated to notice and care.
“You complicated everything! It was supposed to be– I wanted to– you should be looking at me as if I put the stars in the fucking sky!”
Regret overflowed him as soon as the words left his mouth, but it was too late. Jimin's eyes hardened and he pushed him away angrily.
“Fuck you, Taehyung.” The silversmith walked to the exit, ignoring Taehyung's pitiful apologies, but before opening the door he turned one last time. His eyes were filled with tears. “Maybe if you had looked at me, really looked at me, you would’ve realized that the reason why your stupid potion didn't work it's because I’m already in love with you!" His voice cracked, a sob slipping through his lips.
The door closed behind him then, leaving Taehyung cold and alone.
Taehyung locked himself in his room, covering his head with his blanket, and didn’t come out for a long, long time. For two days, actually. Before the clock could hit twelve o'clock and the third day of hiding from his feelings could begin, Yoongi had entered his room and dragged him out into the street.
“You need to talk to Jimin.”
Taehyung clung to the doorframe, no caring about how childish he was behaving.
“But, Hyung, I fucked it up.”
“I know. Why do you think I’m here? Jimin came crying to my house yesterday saying things like he was in love with an idiot that loved potions more than him. It was gross.”
Taehyung pouted, still refusing to move.
“I don’t love potions more than him. I love them equally.”
“And you need to tell him exactly that.” Yoongi pushed him out the house and caught him by the waist when Taehyung tried to run. “He confessed, Taehyung. He’s in love with you.” The Potion Maker stopped struggling and Yoongi took advantage of that to make him look at him in the eyes. “This isn’t one of those romantic novels Jungkook pretends not to read. This is you and Jimin. It’s not complicated.”
The Hunter let him go, but Taehyung didn’t try to hide again. He played with the frayed edge of his sleeve, biting his lip restlessly.
“What should I do?”
“Find him. Tell him you love him too. Then do us all a favor and kiss the hell out of him.”
Taehyung giggled, a little shy, and nodded.
Jimin's house was outside the village, just at the beginning of the forest. It was Taehyung's favorite place in the world, right after his studio. During their childhood it had been nothing but an abandoned place – there were rumors that it had once belonged to a witch – and during their teenage years it had been Jimin's dream to be its owner. Shortly after he turned eighteen, the silversmith took possession of the ruins and built them into a home. It was convenient, with his work and his changing schedules, that the house was far from the ears of the rest of the town.
Shortly after moving to the remodeled cabin, two tigers – one white and one orange – had appeared at the front door. Jimin, instead of being frightened as anyone in his right mind would be, offered them milk. After that, the tigers became part of the small, dysfunctional family they had created with the Witch Hunters. Jimin didn’t like to call them pets – after all, the tigers came and went from the forest to his house at their own will, like the wild and independent animals they were; for him, Luna and Polo were friends. In Yoongi's words, the tigers were possibly not just tigers, but magic had given them a somewhat higher intelligence. That or maybe Jimin's smile was irresistible even to animals.
During his walk there he tried to think of everything he wanted to say to his best friend, but he seemed to have forgotten all the words except for "I love you too." The smell of damp earth and the storm clouds swirling in the sky made his nerves calm down until they were nothing but a thud in a small corner of his mind. After all, it was just Jimin, his best friend.
Jimin was at his forge, but that didn’t surprise him. It was there he always went to when his feelings were too much and cut too deep. What was a surprise was the sound of the hammer striking against the iron again and again. Even after learning the art of blacksmithing, Jimin had preferred to devote himself to the creation of amulets, and it wasn’t often that he worked iron instead of silver.
Taehyung knew what image was waiting for him when he rounded the tree, but it still stole his breath away as soon as his eyes fell on his best friend. Jimin had rolled up his sleeves and his biceps were fully uncovered, the veins prominent each time he unloaded a hammer blow. He had tied his hair into a bun, but the constant movement had caused a few strands to slip out of its place, sticking to his sweaty face.
The Potion Maker swallowed and came closer, wishing inwardly that Jimin wasn’t imagining that the piece of iron was his face. He couldn’t blame him if that were the case, but it wasn’t a pretty picture.
“Like what you see?”
Jimin's arms had distracted him enough not to realize when he had noticed his presence. He looked away, feeling shy for the first time since he'd met him. When he looked up again, Jimin's cheeks were red.
“Can we talk?”
The silversmith nodded.
“Just let me finish this first.”
Taehyung watched him work in silence for a couple of hours. From time to time, their eyes met, but that was all. At some point in the night, Luna – the white tiger – appeared from the woods and snuggled against him. Luna didn’t do that with him often, her favorite people – besides Jimin, of course – was Yoongi; and Jungkook if she was feeling generous. Maybe she had sensed Taehyung’s anxiety.
Once his work was finished, Jimin cleaned up the place very slowly, frowning in concentration. Taehyung wanted to hug him and tell him to stop thinking and “just be with me, okay?” but he didn’t move from his spot. Instead, he waited until Jimin told him to follow him.
Inside the house, the fire was slowly sizzling in the fireplace. The Potion Maker took a sit in front of it while Jimin went to change clothes. Luna didn’t like being inside the house, but Polo was there waiting for them. The orange tiger purred and lay down over Taehyung’s legs. Taehyung hugged him and scratched his ears with affection; Polo always had liked him more than Luna.
Jimin came back dressed in a simple white shirt and worn out trousers and sat in front of him. He smiled at Polo and caressed his loin. Taehyung opened his mouth and closed it again when he realized Jimin was avoiding his eyes. He swallowed the lump in his throat and remembered Yoongi’s words: “This is you and Jimin. It’s not complicated”.
“I’m sorry. About the other night. I didn’t mean what I said.” Jimin nodded slightly, still not looking at him. “I… I was frustrated and angry and–” he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “I was hurt because I thought– I thought I would never know what it feels like to be loved – romantically loved – by you.” He opened one eye. Jimin was looking at him with his eyebrows frowned. “What I’m trying to say is… I’m in love with you, Chim.”
Jimin stared at Polo’s fur.
“You’re not saying that because you feel guilty, right?”
“What?! Of course not! I love you!” He took Jimin’s hands in his, his voice almost pleading. “I loved you since... forever? I really don’t know when I started, but I never stopped and I doubt I ever will. Please believe me.”
Jimin rose his head shyly, his bottom lip caught between his teeth.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Uh. I didn’t want to… make our relationship messy? I guess I did it anyways.”
“Messy.” His eyes widened. “You remember that? That was years ago…”
“Well, you kind of made my heart mincemeat that day so yeah, I remember.”
Jimin’s laugh was so beautiful it made all his body shiver.
“Oh Merlin, I was talking to myself that day. I can’t believe we just–” he rested his forehead against Taehyung’s. “Now I understand why Yoongi prefers to hunt Witches than be around us more than a week. We suck.” Taehyung chuckled, cupping the silversmith’s cheek with one hand. “You suck more than I do, though. A Love Potion, Tae? Really?”
“Shut up, it was a completely professional project that had nothing to do with you.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, pretty.”
Taehyung’s face turned red and there it was that dark amused look in Jimin’s eyes again, but this time Taehyung could understand what it meant. His breath quickened.
“Hyung told me to kiss you after confessing.” He tried to sound casual, but his voice came out deeper than usual.
Jimin smirked, one hand cupping the back of Taehyung’s neck and pulling him toward him until their noses were touching.
“Then what are you waiting for?”
Taehyung never imagined their first kiss to be that desperate, but it was. Jimin’s teeth sunk on his bottom lip and played with it until Taehyung was a babbling mess, his mouth open and red and ready for Jimin to claim. The silversmith buried a hand in his hair and kissed him like Taehyung’s mouth was the most delicious aphrodisiac he could dream of tasting.
Polo purred and licked the Potion Maker’s chin. Jimin’s laugh started small and ended up running throughout his whole body. Taehyung blinked a couple of times, feeling dumbstruck.
“What are you going to do with the potion?”
“Uh. I think… I’ll just throw it away.”
Jimin smiled and leaned in for another kiss.