Actions

Work Header

Jealous of the Stars

Work Text:

Jimin’s legs dangled on either side of a balustrade, calves aching from his day off work, spent dancing. It distracted him a bit as he murmured a prayer under his breath to the twin stars and the Protector, his gaze locked onto the moon. Part of him whispered that he should pray to the Spectre, the God of Travelers, but Jimin steered away from him, as he also governed death, and what if he confused his words? Many young men and women would be praying that night, and perhaps one of them would ask for death instead of safe travels. Maybe his famous temper would befall one of the lowly children daring to ask for his help.

So, instead, he prayed to the twins, the god of destiny and war and his partner, the goddess of peace, to balance him out. He wanted a peaceful destiny, and he prayed to the Night Star to balance her brother.

And, of course, he prayed to his patron God, the Protector—the God of wisdom.

Patron Gods would reveal themselves at the crux of the coming-of-age ceremony, but Jimin knew his from his date of birth, once his parents recounted the strange, beautiful blue hue to their moon on the night he came into the world. The moon; the earthly embodiment of the Protector, always watching, changed for his birth.

“A shame he didn’t give you more intelligence,” Jimin’s best friend, Taehyung, always teased when he spoke of the moon. Taehyung would begin his trek the next day, too, and Jimin cursed his luck, wishing they could travel together, like they dreamed of as small children. They could ride to the Origin together, but after tasting the water of the demons, they would have to find their individual paths.

“Watch over Tae, too,” he murmured. “As you know, he likes to get himself into trouble.”

--

His mother fussed with the ends of his shirt, grumbling about his promiscuous fashions as his father looked on with disapproval. Thankfully, his elder sister managed to visit that morning, Jimin’s nephew sleepy in her arms as she reminded her mother, “at least he’s wearing pants.” She shot him a wink and he beamed at her, chest twisting with sadness that he wouldn’t see Jinah for the months his journey would take.

Taehyung, when they met at the edge of town, whistled at his choice of tunic, the cut over the chest so low it showed off most of his chest.

“Your parents flip their shit?”

“Of course,” he snorted, easing up on his reins, so his horse would match pace with Taehyung’s, “but if I left in anything else, they would have had something to say there, too.”

Taehyung shook his head, a few pieces of hair coming loose from where he slicked his bangs back, and said, “Then there’s my parents who refused to ‘let me’ take my nicer surcoat and underclothes, because I’d ‘probably ruin them.’”

“Well, you probably would.” Jimin agreed, cackling when Taehyung kicked him and accidentally pushed his mare into a gallop.

--

They lived in the eastern-most city on their continent, so excepting those riding down from the rocky, northern-most city of Kaeulbam, their ride was the most difficult. Taehyung rode south once a year when his family’s income permitted to visit his aunt, so he guided them through Sokdaeyang.

Stopping at a tavern for lunch, then continuing, they camped out on the rocky cliff sides of their ocean a few hours south of Sokdaeyang, Taehyung curled to Jimin’s back, spooning him and cutting the harsh wind. They discussed this journey for years; and once they would pass the next city, the route would be new for Taehyung, too.

Each night they slept in the wilderness, horses tied to trees, and they would switch big and little spoon, Jimin finding that the cutting wind and chill nights prevented easy sleep, even with their bedrolls and the comfort of a familiar body pressed close.

Two more cities passed: one miniscule, another booming from their unexpected silkworm populations, and Taehyung chattered nonstop about the visions they would have at Chonguk, the tiny lake that was their ultimate destination.

“I don’t know if I’d rather see a God or my future,” Taehyung confessed. “They’re both kind of scary.”

“So long as you live a long time, your future is fine,” Jimin waved him off, “I’ll take care of you if anything happens.”

“My hero.”

“Shut up,” Jimin ran a hand up through his hair. “Imagine what the Spectre could tell you. Supposedly he’s beautiful.”

“They all are.” Taehyung blew his breath out in an imitation of his horse. “Even if they weren’t, they’d never let us think they were ugly. What would be the point of being a God, then?”

“That’s vain.”

“It’s true.” Taehyung tapped his temple twice, “I don’t believe for a second that beings who were supposedly powerful enough to create the world are somehow perfect and demure and humble. Wouldn’t we be that way, if that was the case?”

They rode another day before reaching Bwacheon, the city pinned between two rivers, divided into quadrants depending on which river God the people chose to worship, and finally joined the other children born in their year—there to begin their true coming-of-age journey.

Chatter filled the streets, vendors soliciting their wares to the eager, hungry faces of the youth, the nicknames of the Gods kissing the sandstone walls both pale and red, to suit the river the occupants mined the stone from.

Taehyung stuck close to Jimin despite knowing quite a few faces from the city his aunt lived in, and while Jimin enjoyed meeting new people, the anticipation for the next morning churned in his stomach. If they’d missed the original ceremony, they would have to take the journey under the cloud of disapproval. The Gods enjoyed tradition, the priests said, so poor planning might be forever, but disrespect, when the whole point of the journey was to pay their respects, couldn’t be tolerated.

That night Jimin and Taehyung camped out with the crowd, everyone saving their coin for food and electing to sleep out in the elements, though with so many bodies to huddle against, no one was cold that night. A gorgeous girl named Soohyun or Seolhyun or something curled to his front, as she lost her friend, and while Jimin wanted to whisper to Taehyung all night, he couldn’t in good conscience talk over the girl’s tears. He sympathized to an extent—if Taehyung abandoned him, so far from home, he’d probably be crying, too.

In the morning, she woke him when she rose to pee, and he clung to Taehyung, uncaring if she would have to huddle against his back. His best friend smelled of sweat and the minty weed he chewed most waking moments, and it relaxed him.

Muttering a quiet prayer to the Protector, Jimin slipped back to sleep for a few more hours.

--

When the time for the ceremony arrived, someone woke and began to shake those around them awake, the others mimicking him, until the crowd formed a single entity on that hillside, an army of the lost and young.

The priest of the Spectre would read the sacred words to begin their journey, her voice raised in a mournful wail that Jimin swore they used purely to select new priests. She would read the opening words, and then they would approach the beach, the portal to the realm of the Godless, and they would imbibe, drinking a single mouthful of beach water.

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Jimin reached into his pack for two strips of jerky, poking Taehyung’s face with his until he rose, following his nose.

“Breakfast?” His deep voice was husky from sleep, and it drew a fond smile from Jimin’s lips.

“Yeah; you gotta get up if you don’t want the Spectre to curse you.”

“All for little old me?” Taehyung sat up, his bedroll still wrapped around him, and smacked his lips. “Feed me.”

“Lazy.” But Jimin obeyed, feeding him bits, until Taehyung wriggled out from his cozy bindings, wrapping the roll up and strapping it to the bottom of his pack, like Jimin had already done.

Many people already left for the beach, so hard to reach on their side of the continent, with their high cliffs, but even more slept on, uncaring about the curse if they could wake whenever they chose. Those up as early as them wanted the spots by the beach’s edge, so they could drink and depart as soon as possible. Some, like Jimin, couldn’t stand waiting any longer, while others’ families needed them back home, so they wanted to take their journeys at a breakneck speed.

And yet others, like Taehyung, didn’t believe in the Gods, and so wanted to finish the cultural necessity as only a trial of strength.

(Jimin might have hidden a lucky rune within his bag, fearful of what the Gods might do to Taehyung, once he set out on their path with a disbelieving heart.)

Taking Taehyung’s hand, afraid despite everything, they followed the line of people down to the beach, their boots kicking up a cloud of dust so large it would float on the wind and settle over the town. Few people chatted or whispered, most focused on the lone figure in black robes, covering her body completely, standing in front of the line of damp sand. As the ocean waters contained the Godless creatures of the world, the priests refrained from touching it at all, claiming it drained or weakened them.

Everyone, including unbelievers, like Taehyung, halted in a spread fan in front of the priest, recognizing the importance of not touching the water until signaled. Today, despite the many people who swam in the ocean for leisure, the distaste for those that would defy the Gods was palpable in the air.

Finally, when Jimin’s skin began to burn from the intensity of the morning sun, the priest took a deep breath and began:

“Blessed are those that walk the path of the Gods.”

Her chin raised proudly, eyes flickering this way and that, to meet the eyes of every person she could. Priests of the Spectre tattooed their faces to match their fates, though this woman’s second pair of eyes beneath her first seemed to exist purely to frighten 19 year olds, as while her normal eyes shone with a fevered light, the second pair seemed to meet each person’s gaze at once.

“Blessed are we who are protected from the unconquerable, the evil of the world by our Gods. We honor their yearly sacrifice as the cold months draw to a close, as they fight for warmth and growth to return to the world.”

She nodded to the crowd. “We honor the battles they fight by tasting evil, honor the long, seemingly hopeless struggle with our solitary travels. We show them that their protection isn’t in vain—we show them that humans are good. This is as much the test of strangers as it is of you, my children. After today, you are no longer children.”

Gesturing to the sea, she commanded, “Taste the salt of evil and chase good.” Many people started forward, sinking to their knees on the damp sand, or marching further in, bending at the waist, to cup seawater in their hands and drink, gagging if they gulped too much down.

“Follow the heavenly stars to the portal between worlds; find your destinies by traveling the path the Gods took once, so long ago.”

Jimin’s hands shook at his sides and he followed after Taehyung, numb as his best friend leaned over to cup a handful of the water. The woman began reciting the true names of the Gods as mimicked Taehyung’s actions, cupping a handful of sea water to drink.

“In the names of the twin stars: Hoseok, the star of Day, and Eunbi, the star of Night.”

Drinking deeply, trying to calm himself when the names of the Gods caused him to shiver, he instead choked hard at the taste, only swallowing a little of his seawater.

“Jeongguk, the Spectre, Yerim, the Mother,”

As he forced air back into his lungs, Jimin could see Taehyung beside him, drinking without flinching, as if the seawater tasted like wine.

“Yoongi, the Benefactor, and Namjoon, the Protector.”

Jimin cringed at the name of his patron God, though hearing it always sent butterflies through him. His parents always worried that he would abandon the family to serve at a temple in his honor, but Jimin refused to put anything in stone until he had his vision at Chonguk. Somehow, he felt his future held more for him than praying all day or breeding horses.

“Let’s go,” Taehyung spoke, but his words were concealed beneath the sloshing of hundreds of feet through the water. Jimin read his lips and nodded, squeezing Taehyung’s hand when his friend took it.

They would part when they returned to their horses, left alone for fear of retribution from the Gods when they would reach Chonguk, and as they saddled up, Taehyung pleaded with him one last time: “Why can’t we just travel together? How stupid would it be to ride the same way and have to sleep on other sides of the fucking forest or something?”

“You’re not supposed to follow me,” Jimin huffed as they kicked their horses into motion, the shorter man directing his horse along the returning road to town. “I thought you were going to take the round-about route?”

“You think I’m going to abandon you to breaking your leg in the woods by yourself?”

“I’ll be fine, Tae,” he huffed. “If I die, it was meant to happen.”

“That doesn’t mean you should tempt the fates.” Taehyung’s features screwed up as if he’d stepped in horse shit, like it always did when Jimin mentioned fate and death in the same breath.

“I thought you didn’t believe in the fates?”

“Not the point. There comes a point where someone will give you death if you keep asking for it.”

Jimin sighed, eyes on the smear of darkness in the distance, the first chunk of the great forest that would eventually encompass the mountains.

“That’s sort of what you’re doing. Only desperate men go the direct way to Chonguk.”

“It’s the—”

“The way the Gods originally did it, blah, blah,” Taehyung bit out. “Jimin, listen; if you honestly think the Gods have a big plan for you, why are you testing it so much? What if their magical ‘keep Jimin alive’ mojo fails or runs out? If the Gods are all powerful, why do they fight—and lose—three months out of the year?”

“I don’t know,” Jimin cast him a frustrated look, this conversation a retread of the argument they’d been having since they could speak, yet so much more serious, “maybe it’s a pick and choose thing. But, I want to do this the original way—”

“And didn’t the Gods do this all together?”

“They didn’t help each other. They made the same journey together, but they couldn’t feed each other or help each other. The legends say they weren’t even aware of each other.”

“Fine,” Taehyung pulled ahead, stopping his horse in Jimin’s way, forcing him to look at him, “then I’ll travel with you, but you have to pay for or catch your own food. Or pay me. Whatever. We don’t have to spoon or anything, but there’s nothing in those legends that say we can’t ride together.”

Jimin sucked his cheeks in, prepared to rebuff him, but Taehyung finished, “And if you try to run ahead, I’ll just chase you. If my horse trips or throws a shoe, and I get hurt, it’ll be your fault.”

“That’s not fair,” he shot back, directing his horse around Taehyung’s, surprised when the man allowed it.

“I don’t care.” Taehyung shrugged. “I don’t have to be fair.”

His voice burned through Jimin and he urged his horse into a canter that Taehyung mimicked, the entire situation a split between his two realities, where he would fight for Taehyung, do anything for the man, yet wouldn’t allow the same for this journey, the greatest in their lives.

As they journeyed through the fertile farmlands, he would attempt to abandon his best friend thrice, and would only accomplish it once: By accident.

--

The fourth night into their journey, silver flickers of light began to shoot across the horizon, so the first ten minutes of the stars’ dance was first Taehyung swearing he saw multiple shooting stars, with Jimin calling him crazy, and then vice versa.

Finally, so many stars circled the Earth in unison that both witnessed it simultaneously, and their bickering fell silent, awed by the sight. In their lifetimes, the stars never danced before, though varying pieces of old art and literature vowed that the event happened more than once.

They camped on the higher ground of a river tributary, amongst crushed undergrowth that blocked the worst of the wind from them, so when they wandered down to the water for a better view, they could see the entire sky stretched out above them.

“A sign from the Protector, maybe,” Jimin murmured, cheeks flushing at the thought.

“What, you think this is for you?” Taehyung snorted, immediately backtracking when he realized how rude he sounded. “Shit, that’s not what I meant—”

But, it was; they both knew that deep down, Jimin thought he was special, thought he did have some connection with the God that manifested as the moon. It hurt that Taehyung could see the vanity and weakness in him, calling him out, but at the same time, Taehyung was there with him, by his side despite his best friend swearing he was Gods-blessed, when he believed in none of it himself.

Reaching to clasp Taehyung’s hand, needing something to ground him, Jimin nodded, features grave. “It is. It’s okay, though.”

After hesitating, Taehyung shifted closer, wrapping his arms around Jimin from behind, comforting him in his traditional way, the warmth of his body relaxing the shorter man.

“It’s beautiful,” he sighed, and Taehyung hummed, the noise of approval rather sleepy. Jimin nearly added that they should return to their bedrolls, until Taehyung cut him off:

“Do you…see that?”

“See what?”

They spent another few minutes squinting at the sky, Taehyung gesturing with vague directions to what he meant, until Jimin saw it: A single star, swelling in the center of the sky, rather than dancing back and forth across the horizon.

“Is that a star? It has to be, right?”

Taehyung’s body coiled against his back, stiff with tension. “It looks like it’s falling toward us.”

Before Jimin could reply, Taehyung wheeled around, hand a vice on his wrist as he yanked him through the undergrowth, straight past their campsite and horses.

“Tae?” He called his name with increasing alarm, watching their horses until his foot caught a stray tree root and he refocused on running.

“The horses won’t make it two meters without tripping in the dark,” Taehyung explained, panting, “we need to get away before it hits.”

Fear chilled Jimin’s blood and he stumbled after Taehyung’s lead, both tripping drunkenly through the woods until they found their road, debating which way would be safest to run, not noticing anything was awry until they could glance down the road in either direction and count the number of petals on flowering weeds. It was like the night of a full moon, with the clear, silvery light, yet as bright as dawn or dusk.

And growing brighter by the moment.

Facing the route they just carved out through the woods, curiosity thick in Jimin’s throat, he ventured back, slipping his wrist free of Taehyung’s grip, who yelled after him, voice thick with disbelief and dread.

Jimin raced along their trampled path, anticipating Taehyung would catch and tackle him at any moment, but he traversed the majority of the distance without fighting off his best friend.

Alone and confused by it, Jimin tried to regroup and plan for what he would do when he reached the river bank as he passed the horses, who watched him with wide, fear-filled eyes, but the light became so intense that most of his mental processing was dedicated to finishing his path to the river.

Nearly stumbling down the hillside, Jimin froze as the light forced his eyes shut, and then winked out as fast as it arrived, leaving his corneas burning as he opened them to the night, unable to see anything.

Worried the star blinded him, Jimin refused to move until he could read his own scratched name in the dirt—and only then did he notice the figure slumped on the banks of the little river, curled in on itself.

Still listening for the sound of Taehyung charging after him, Jimin shook his head and ventured forth on his own, swallowing the hurt as he approached the figure.

“Hello?” He called, voice soft. “Are you alright?”

No reaction; Jimin’s eyes traced the broad, firmness to the man’s shoulders, the smooth fabric of his robes clean even in the dirt, though it clung to his bare calves through the braids of his sandals. He would have blended into the ground if his robes had been a darker color, in the lacking light. Jimin glanced upward, searching for the clouds that covered his moon, wondering if he could count on them to disperse any time soon, but the sky was clear.

And there was no moon.

Panic swallowed his fear and compounded it, Jimin collapsing to his knees, hands shaking the stranger’s shoulder and waist, urging the man to awaken, that he would catch his death in such thin clothes if he slept next to the river.

A quiet moan met his words and Jimin shook him harder until the man croaked out: “I’m awake, I’m awake.”

Drawing back, Jimin’s folded hands fell into his lap as the man dragged himself from the dirt, unveiling his short hair, one side muddy and plastered to the side of his head, while the rest was as white and vibrant as bone, sticking out in odd directions, as if blown by violent winds.

It took the man a long beat to focus on Jimin, a hand rising to rub at his eyes, and he asked, mouth opening in a wide yawn, “Are you a new one of Yerim’s?”

Jimin’s mouth dropped open at the casual usage of the Mother’s name, scandalized, and despite the poor bastard’s dropping from the sky, he berated him, “How dare you speak her given name? Is that why someone tossed you into the river?”

Now the man gaped at him, his eyes wide and alarmed, and Jimin crossed his arms, refusing to be swayed by the attractive nature of the man’s features, as the dark prevented him from verifying said quality. Besides, if he was a heretic, Jimin would offer him nothing. Let him freeze to death in the wilderness, if he dared venture out during the months that the Gods fought to regain their lands.

“Tossed into the river?” The man stumbled to his feet, leaving Jimin staring up at him, annoyed by his height and long, toned legs. “Where am I?”

“You’re four days north of Bwacheon, probably two days east of Kaehwa, maybe two days south of Tamjeong?”

The stranger cut him off before he could add the distance to the eastern sea, the man wheeling fully around as he inspected the dark farmlands. “You mean I’m on Earth?”

He snorted. “Where else would you be?”

“Fighting the demons,” the stranger slumped. “Home, if they injured me.” Facing Jimin again, he asked, “So you’re really a human, then? Honestly?”

Beginning to mistrust the stranger who thought he was a God or something, Jimin cleared his throat and took a step backwards. “Yes? I’m a human. I’m on my pilgrimage now, actually.” Maybe that would scare him off, if he was an extremist.

His eyes brightened. “So, you’re a believer? You pray to the Gods?”

“I—yes, but what does that have to do with—?”

Closing his eyes, the stranger murmured under his breath, speaking up after: “You’re Park Jimin.”

Scrambling further away, heart rate spiking, he neither confirmed nor denied, and demanded, “Why would you try to guess my name?”

“I’m not guessing.” He smiled, eyes still closed. “You pray to the moon nearly every night, long past when most are sleeping.”

“How do you know that?”

Then, remarkably, the stranger’s robes and hair began glowing a pure, white light that settled at a comfortable intensity, not blinding him like the star’s light.

“Because I am the God of the moon. Namjoon, or the Protector, as humans prefer to call me.”

Jimin rubbed at his eyes, wondering if he’d died or hit his head in Taehyung’s desperate excursion through the woods. “So, you’re what fell from the sky?”

“I suppose so,” Namjoon patted his chest, hands slipping over the smooth folds of his robes, the rich color of his skin visible now that he exuded light. “I don’t feel any injuries, but I must have been cast down here. Or struck down, and my soul was sent here to heal.” He pursed his lips. “Perhaps both. This is unprecedented, but when Gods usually fall to enemies, they’re returned to Chonguk where they’re healed…or they pass on.”

Coldness surged through Jimin. “Pass on?”

Glancing around them, Namjoon let his light fade and murmured, “We are not safe; take me to your campsite and I can tell you more there.”

“Why would we be safer there?” He hissed, though he obliged, in no position to doubt the man, as he’d just performed a feat impossible to humans, as well as knew things about him that no normal human could pluck out of the air.

They picked through the brush until they returned to Jimin’s campsite, his heart splintering when he found only one horse, Taehyung’s things gone.

“What’s the matter?”

Jimin hadn’t realized he’d spoken aloud until Namjoon questioned him, concern glittering tight across his brow. Really, all the effigies of him didn’t do his handsomeness justice; and Jimin would fully appreciate the dramatic warmth of his face and long, toned lines of his body at another time, perhaps when recollecting the whole situation. Otherwise, his best friend abandoned him to a catastrophic event and presumed him dead, then left. If he told himself even an hour earlier that Taehyung would do such a thing, he wouldn’t believe it.

Even then, he tried to conjure an excuse to explain the man’s actions, but came up short.

“My friend was traveling with me, but when the star—you, I guess—fell from the sky, he tried to lead me away. I thought he would run after me when I came looking for the star, but he didn’t. And now he’s gone.”

Namjoon frowned. “Sounds like a coward. What’s his name?”

“Don’t call him that,” Jimin snapped, protective until the end. People made mistakes every day, and Taehyung was still his best friend. “He’s not a believer.”

“Oh.” Instead of anger, regret flickered across Namjoon’s features, and he ran a hand up through his hair, grimacing at the mud.

“Are you going to explain?” Jimin shifted to sit on his bed roll, considered offering Namjoon a seat, yet still daunted and overwhelmed at the concept that this man might be the God of Wisdom. His Protector.

“Yes.” Namjoon began picking the scraps of mud out of his hair as he talked. “There were a lot more of us when we created the separate world for humans. Originally, it was a world for us: A world that the demons couldn’t enter. And even though they could send their own creatures and curses, we were still mainly safe. But in safety, we created a new issue for ourselves: We created humans to maintain things for us, when we had to guard the gate. Many used their humans as full-time slaves, and despite your weaker constitutions, your determination rivals the Gods themselves.”

Sinking onto the ground, legs folding gracefully beneath him, Namjoon continued, “Humans found the gate to our old world and crossed through, then made deals with the demons, offering to drive us back to our world, if the demons left the humans this world, once we were gone.”

Enraptured, unable to hold onto his cynicism, Jimin whispered, “And?”

“Many of us died when the humans poisoned us, using demonic tactics and curses in their own bodies.” Namjoon’s eyes hovered a millennium in the past, lips curled downward. “We fled for the gate and began killing any humans that approached us until they returned to the cities.” He shrugged. “They destroyed everything that had anything to do with us and started over. We returned to our world and fought to push the demons back again.”

“That’s…horrible,” Jimin wilted, his faith trembling beneath the knowledge of the true past. “How do we even worship you now, if there was so much bad blood?”

Namjoon smiled at him then, dimples appearing in his cheeks, and it illuminated his whole face in a manner reminiscent of his moonlight. “Because the Gods continued to struggle, and the humans struggled on their own, without our technology, so a small band of humans returned to the gate a few decades later to speak to us. As human bodies can be vassals for spells, we formulated the current arrangement you see now: We leave them alone and gave them technology in return for them worshipping us.”

When he went quiet, Jimin spoke up, still feeling weak, “I don’t understand?”

“Well, the spell that we cast with the help of the humans empowers the Gods: The worship gives us the strength to fight off the demons for nine months out of the year. It was supposed to be enough for all twelve months, but with so many of us deceased after the years of fighting, there just weren’t enough of us.” Namjoon ruffled his hair, finishing his sloppy cleaning job. “So, the pilgrimage was born, to give us a large boost of strength, born from their tracing of the original humans’ path to speak with us. It was the original gesture of goodwill, so repeating it fostered the same power.”

Jimin slipped off his boots, untying them in twice the amount of usual time, as he refused to glance away from Namjoon, should he disappear and leave Jimin to his new delusions. His mind raced, the new stories meshing with the old so effortlessly that he couldn’t debate Namjoon, couldn’t question him. Perhaps that was the power of the God of wisdom.

“That’s…insane,” he murmured, kicking off his shoes. “This whole thing is.”

Namjoon hummed in agreement and wrapped his arms around his torso. “Millennia as a God doesn’t change the way the world can surprise you.”

“In what way?” Scowling, he settled under the top layer of his pallet, hating himself as he wished he could wake in the morning to Taehyung lying beside him, this encounter pegged as a dream, the sign his parents worried he would find to become a scholar, writing about his dreams and the “visions” the Gods sent him.

“I’m the strategist.” Namjoon continued to observe him, eyes skimming over his features, smiling shyly when Jimin narrowed his eyes at him. “I don’t go into the direct line of combat. Yet, I fell. Granted, it’s not like I’m the best at defending myself, but the fact that the demons were able to strike me down speaks to a betrayal or weakness in our foundations. The fact that I’m here, instead of reborn, well—only time will tell what that means.”

The delight in his voice, despite falling to Earth and the increasing power of his arch enemies, spoke to a love of knowledge so deep in his soul that he could find his own misfortune fascinating. It softened Jimin’s features, endeared the God to him, because in addition to Namjoon being twice as handsome as his effigies portrayed him, the wonders of the world still shook him to his core.

“Will you be cold?” He asked, coughing when his voice sounded too honeyed. “You can share my bedroll. It’ll be cramped, but I’m used to it.”

Namjoon considered him. “I’m not sure if the cold will kill me in this world or not, but I know I would not fit in your bedroll.”

“That’s why I’d lay the whole thing out as a blanket. We laid down dry leaves earlier to pad the ground, so we can lay on those.”

“Very astute.” Namjoon grinned. “Then I would like to take you up on that, yes.”

Shimmying out of his bed roll, Jimin stretched it out, wincing as he lost the thin layer of padding between himself and the ground, though the sensation of the God curling up against his side brought a rush of heat through him that partially compensated.

“If you’re going to be uncomfortable, you can lay your head on my chest,” Namjoon murmured, voice soothing, breath sweet like herbs.

Jimin blushed, but didn’t hesitate; he was used to such touches with Taehyung, and despite his idolization of the God, this man beneath him—the glowworm, the hyper-intelligent, gorgeous figure—felt warm beneath his fingers, had a heartbeat in his chest.

Namjoon, God or no, felt unbearably, heartbreakingly human, and rather than crush his beliefs, they bloomed within Jimin’s chest, urging him closer, because if Gods could feel so human, perhaps his idol wasn’t so far away from him. Perhaps the guidance and protection he craved could find him.

Had fallen right into his hands.

--

“You plan to take the original route?” Namjoon commented after a few hours of riding and idle talk, the God listening with arrested focus to Jimin describing his family’s horse-rearing business, ranting about his father and mother.

“Yes.” Jimin bit his lower lip, forcing his thoughts to the route ahead of them and the clothes he would need to procure for Namjoon, as he stuck out like a sore thumb. Any towns they passed through might not recognize him, but there was a temple dedicated to him in Tamjeong that would certainly help them after Namjoon proved himself.

“Any particular reason why?”

Squeezing his eyes shut, Jimin attempted to steady his breathing, to focus on the discomfort of riding two to the saddle, with Namjoon’s longer legs in the stirrups, instead of the fact that Namjoon’s body was crushed against his, the God’s front pressed flush to his back, crotch bumping his ass with each step of his horse’s gait. It had to be sacrilege to think of a God like this, right?

“I was born on a weird night,” he muttered, forcing a deep, solid breath into his lungs before continuing. “The moon turned blue. I kind of always saw it as a sign. I always…felt close to—you.” He nearly used Namjoon’s title, and he stumbled over it, unsure which epithet Namjoon preferred. “Perhaps that’s stupid, but that’s why I prayed to you.”

“It’s not stupid.” He could imagine the smile in Namjoon’s voice, the arms around his waist loosening a bit. “Eunbi and Yoongi both sensed that the day was important. I assumed they told everyone, but when I turned my moon blue, I found out I was the only one they told.” He sighed fondly. “Perhaps they foresaw you finding me.”

Chills pricked at the back of his neck, the fact that Gods could see so far into their futures, that they could mark them for life if they chose with less effort than it took Jimin to raise his arms.

“Did you really hear all of my prayers?”

“I hear everyone’s. It’s like a constant buzzing in the background, but I can focus on one at a time if I choose.” Then, nearly scaring the shit out of Jimin, he rested his chin on the human’s shoulder, sighing so that his breath fanned down the man’s neck. “I know I heard yours before. Your voice is familiar.”

Unable to repress a shiver, Jimin’s hands tightening on the reins, and the overwhelming fondness he could feel emanating from Namjoon swamped him, left him quivering in his boots, unsure how to handle the singular attention from a creature greater than he could ever be.

“We’ll enter Tamjeong soon,” he muttered, eyes on the gentle upward angle of the road.

If Namjoon recognized the geography of the land he once traversed or not, he gave no indication and instead hummed, not moving his chin from Jimin’s shoulder until the tip-tops of buildings arose from the horizon.

--

Relieving himself of his hat, he offered it to Namjoon once they spied a cart on the horizon set to pass their horse, and the God settled the brim low over his hair without a word passing between them.

Namjoon bowed his head to them when they stared, Jimin’s hands grasping the reins so hard that they cramped, and when the road cleared, he had to massage them to get the blood flowing again. Riding with a God didn’t change that neither of them were fighters—Namjoon fell because he wasn’t a warrior, and Jimin’s skills included mostly useless talents, as his father always said. Dancing, bartering, judging a scam or a deal too good to be true, and seducing men wouldn’t stop anyone from slitting his throat. The last one might, but the more Namjoon’s hands brushed against his stomach and sides, the less Jimin thought of his skills with men.

It was all fun and games when your idol wasn’t touching you—when your most secret dreams didn’t revolve around the one person you couldn’t abandon.

Jimin allowed Namjoon to guide his horse through town, the stares increasing in number, but not intensity, as the density of the crowd worked in their favor.

“It’s so different seeing it from street level,” Namjoon mused, gaze swinging from vendor to vendor.

Jimin’s stomach growled when he caught a whiff of roasting chicken, and he asked, “Do you need to eat?” He frowned. “Do you need to sleep?”

“I don’t need to sleep,” Namjoon answered. “When I’m injured, I need rest, but I do need to eat. I’m unsure how human food will sit with me, though.” Sensing the newfound tension in Jimin’s body, he elaborated, “I stayed with you last night to keep myself from freezing. I am vulnerable to the elements.”

Huffing, Jimin deigned not to reply, kicking his horse into a faster pace as the road cleared out, past the swell of the crowd, a skinny, stone obelisk visible overtop the roofs. Carved to withstand the elements and draw lightning away from the rest of the village, a cap of steel on the tip, with a vein running all the way to the ground, it was one of the oldest inventions credited specifically to visions from Namjoon.

They rode through the alleyways, and eerily enough, when they arrived at the, the building set back from the rest of town, men in robes lined the steps on either side.

Halting his horse at the foot of the stoop, unsure how to greet the men, Jimin clambered down and offered Namjoon a hand, flustered at the prying stares of the men. The most intelligent in the land, if their studies were any indication.

Once Namjoon stepped onto solid ground, mutters arose from the conglomerate, and he bowed his head to them.

“Hello, scholars.”

“Who are you?” One called, ignoring the disdainful frowns of the others, his features soft, still young.

Namjoon’s head cocked to the side, as if listening to a voice only he could hear, and he answered, “I think you know who I am. I think you all do, if I’m being fair. But, since I feel you’ll respond best to proof, I’m am the God of wisdom. The one called Namjoon by others of my kind, and the Protector by yours.”

Ferocious cries of dismay ripped through the crowd, yet instead of perturbed, Namjoon appeared satisfied by their blind devotion to wisdom, rather than a miraculous-looking person.

“If I had to guess, you all dreamed of my fall a few nights prior. In fact, you might know more about what struck me down than I do.” He chuckled, glancing at each man. “You are the temple of Candor, the most honorable of my followers: You exhume documents for falsehood, ensuring the unbiased version of events accompanies the biased, so people can see everything from every angle.”

Then, as he did for Jimin, he addressed the youngest scholar with a warm smile. “You are Choi Hansol. Your father is the one at the top of the steps, and you pray every night that people don’t ‘find out’ that you’re ‘really stupid.’” The young man’s cheeks flushed, but Namjoon continued, “However, you scored the best of all the applicants to my faith when you took your test, and thus were awarded the honor of appointment here. Not because of nepotism.”

 Jimin watched with arrested fascination as the God spoke to each man, recounting prayers or events that won over each, until they prostrated themselves on the ground, many in tears that they could look upon their (slightly muddy) God.

“My scholars, as you saw in your dreams, I need to reach Chonguk to take my place next to the others again.”

“Please, come in—” They tripped over themselves to usher him in, through the simple building, built well, but without luxury. In Jimin’s own visits to the temple by his home city, he knew the effigies of Namjoon were drawn by aspiring artists who wished to give back or practice. The beauty of Namjoon’s temples were that they supported both intellectual and creative intelligence, so often those that could paint well enough to bring a stoic adult to tears often returned to inscribe their image of their patron God.

At this temple, only very simple images adorned the walls, likely a mark of this temple’s focus on history, rather than art, like the one by Jimin’s home, but still, the drawings of a tall, smiling man in pure, flowing robes with hair to match aligned with the vision in front of them all. It must have appeared sacrilegious at first glance to the priests, a thought that caused Jimin to snicker until one of the elder priests shot him a frown.

“We don’t have guests’ quarters, but there are vacant rooms for our brothers that are currently on sabbatical. If you’d prefer anything else within our power, we will make it happen.”

Despite understanding how their sect of faith thought, Jimin listened with a sense of awe at how casually they spoke to Namjoon, believing in their souls that their moral compasses aligned to logic to fit their God. Most people would fear offending him, but they spoke in clear, eloquent sentences, and Namjoon indeed followed with a faint smile reminiscent of his statues.

They directed them to rooms, one central in the temple and warmer, while the other hugged the far wall, lit well with midday sun, though the wind wailed in the window panes.

“I’ll take this one,” Jimin spoke at the same time as Namjoon, the former laughing. “No, really,” he leaned in close to whisper to the God, “I think you’ll scare them if you take the worse of two rooms.”

“Very astute.” Namjoon’s eyes twinkled. “Very well, I’ll take the other room.”

The disciples bowed, and the head priest inquired if he would need food at that moment, then informing them of when they ate dinner.

“Tonight we’ll be having stew.” He bowed in an attempt to conceal his flustered features. “We always do that when we have excess produce to consume.”

“Logical.” Namjoon dipped his head. “If it doesn’t strain your resources, we will join you for dinner.”

Jimin repressed a snicker when a visible expression of relief followed the God’s acquiescence.

“It will be our honor,” he simpered, bowing again. “If you would care for someone to show you around, just let us know. Otherwise, you may do as you like for the extent of your stay.”

Namjoon inclined his head, thanked him, and then the man retreated, sweat shining along his reddened neck, shutting the wooden door with the gentlest touch.

Silence curled between them before Jimin broke it with an unfair, but plausible: “You could have made that man cry, if you wanted. Probably could have asked him and he would have just wept.”

Startling him, Namjoon laughed—a warm cackle, perfect in its perfunctory sound that curled within Jimin’s gut—and agreed, “It’s rather intimidating to meet your patron God out of the realm of agreed time.” At Jimin’s inquisitive look, he elaborated, “They all met me in the portal when they took their journey there.”

Jimin froze, body coiling like a cobra both about to strike and about to be eaten by a hawk. “All of the priests saw you in the pool?”

“Yes.”

“Would I have seen you?”

“That I do not know.” Namjoon’s gaze wandered, tracing the worn, comfortable wooden desk, armoire, and bed, with its thin mattress and warm, woolen blanket folded at the end. “I am not the God of destiny or fate, not that Yoongi knows any of the fate that he represents.”

Shaking his head at the casual use of the Gods’ true names, Jimin changed the subject, embarrassed his curiosity revealed another shade of his obsession. “You should probably see if the missing priest left you clothes that could fit. You’re a target in your robes.”

“I would rather not take clothes that aren’t mine without permission.” Namjoon pursed his lips, accepting the sidebar. “I think I will seek out a scholar again.” And, though the journey didn’t require Jimin’s accompaniment, he wished he could follow. Part of him still worried that the whole meeting was a dream or vivid hallucination, and that he would blink and find Taehyung standing there, complaining that couldn’t talk to him for days.

Sadness panged in his chest and he bowed his head to Namjoon. “I think I might explore while you do that.”

A smile flickered at the corners of the God’s mouth, and he only said, “If you ever wanted to talk to me about your faith, I would be more than willing. I’ve never gotten anything from concealing things from my followers.”

Unable to explain why he didn’t like being simplified to “a follower,” Jimin nodded, thanked him, and then ventured off in the opposite direction that Namjoon took, following the curving hallways and endless line of doors until he reached the second set of stairs down. It seemed Namjoon’s temples throughout the country were all built the same, in case of fire, so those trapped inside could escape.

Jimin walked, not retracing his steps once, sharp eyes catching the little carved moons hidden here and there in every room, a simple promise and reminder that Namjoon, God of the Heavens, watched always.

He dipped into the study rooms—enormous, high-ceilinged wings off the main worship hall stuffed to the brim with parchment and books, the air thick with both, and ink—but bowed out after perusing the titles and found such engaging titles as The Collective Migration History of Bees.

In the rear of the main building, Jimin finally discovered the worship room—the most familiar to him. The temple back home, despite being dedicated to the arts, and thus having incredible images painted everywhere, along with countless sweaty bodies of musicians and dancers, maintained peace and serenity in their worship room, light incense blowing away the reminder of others.

Stepping foot into the Candor worship space, Jimin closed his eyes and inhaled the light scent of eucalyptus and orange, both invigorating and calming, as if reenergizing him for the remainder of the day mentally and spiritually, that was the exact same as his home temple’s.

The dirt on his shoes crunched underfoot on the tile as he stepped forward, breath catching in his throat at the airy, open design, the light blues glowing from the light that broke through the small windows up by the ceiling.

Tension unknotting in him, Jimin regretted his lack of food or drink to offer, before remembering that the God he would sacrifice would meet him for dinner.

“Absurd,” he breathed, though that didn’t stop his mind from wandering, speaking at the God like he always did, though the words changed.

He spoke to Namjoon as a friend instead of a subject, commenting on the artwork, despite its unimpressive nature, knowing deep down that the time taken to create and shape the image meant more to the God than the actual image.

No flowers adorned the space and Jimin wondered if that stemmed from allergies or a later blooming season in the mountains. He missed their additional aromatic scents, but as he settled in front of the main shrine, two braziers burning blue at either side of the largest image of the man, a moon hanging over top, Jimin almost felt as if he could blink and find himself at home.

Closing his eyes, he sank to his knees in front of the dais and he prayed, throwing out his thoughts to the other Gods, too, asking for their guidance to aid Namjoon, to receive him with no complications. His thoughts caught on the memory of Namjoon mentioning that Gods could die and he prayed for Namjoon’s safety and longevity. It felt so stupid to pray for a God, but as the God stood beside him as a man, Jimin began to regard him as a companion, not quite his equal, yet no longer untouchable.

A touch to his shoulder roused him from his prostate state and he startled when he discovered it belonged to Namjoon, still unearthly even in drab, priest clothes, Jimin’s dapper cap still pulled low over his forehead.

“I knew you were one of my worshippers, but seeing you like this…” Namjoon glanced away, redness blooming in his cheeks.

Curiosity seized him anew and he asked, “Yes?”

“You believe in me most of all.” Namjoon leveled him with one look, but Jimin didn’t break eye contact with him as he rose to his feet. “Even as I stand here next to you, your feelings haven’t changed.”

Taking a steadying breath, feeling rather overwhelmed and unsure how to explain the situation, Jimin only said, “You’re a man next to me. A man and a God, but a man nonetheless, who needs rest and food.” He might respect him more for not being untouchable, for maintaining his scruples even in a time of crisis. “Is it close to dinner time?”

“It is,” Namjoon hummed, shifting his attention to the door they both entered through. “We should meet the others.”

Nodding, Jimin followed him out into the main hall, then left, into the kitchens, the tables on the far side, with the cooking supplies to his left. Hot food scented the air, Jimin’s stomach gurgling, and they hurried to join the priests, the group rising to greet them as they ventured in, Namjoon gesturing for them to sit.

“You do not need to wait for me,” he spoke to them initially. “Serve and eat as you normally would.”

The priests could imitate normalcy even if their feelings did not match, and the head priest led them in prayer to the Mother for the harvests to come, their dinner consisting of winter stores, foraged foods, eggs, and ale. Then, with a halting tone, the head priest began a prayer to Namjoon, thanking him for the opportunity for them to study in his name, the God responsible for their lifestyle.

Pausing after the spoken agreements of the other priests, watching Namjoon with expectant eyes, the God obliged, urging everyone to eat and pass their food around like normal. The pots of food circled, two to each table, chatter boisterous and friendly, the exact antithesis of everything the priests displayed to Jimin from the moment they entered the space. Perhaps the temples shared more in common besides the incense and images, after all.

After most of dinner was consumed, the priests, emboldened by ale, began plastering Namjoon with questions, their eyes wide and eager. They asked basic questions about eating and sleep, like Jimin, but surpassed that in a few minutes, then questioning about the season-long battle with the demons.

Enraptured, Jimin listened as Namjoon described the out-and-out battlefield with nightmare creatures, fought by creatures conjured and created by other Gods, and the offensive Gods—the Spectre darting through their flanks, his very touch enough to crumble the creatures to ashes; and the Night Star with her twin swords, wielded so fast that it was said no creature besides the Goddess herself could recount their details.

“Wait,” one priest stopped him, to the chagrin of the others, “you said the Night star is the one fighting? What about the Day star?”

Namjoon grinned, the expression so fond and open that Jimin felt himself melt in his seat, flagon of ale still in the air as he explained, “The stories were actually reversed a long time ago; the Day star is the God of marriage and peace, while the Night star is the God of destiny and war.”

“But how could that happen?” The young priest from before shot Namjoon an injured look. “Why wasn’t anyone informed?”

“The Day Star lost a bet, so the God of luck changed all the records. I didn’t talk to him for a good five years for altering irreplaceable documents.”

However, in the temple of Candor, the topic of deception didn’t sit well amongst the priests, who began muttering to themselves, clearly questioning why their God would allow such a transgression against his own domain.

Annoyed at the rudeness and eager to change the subject, Jimin asked about the landscape of Chonguk, assuming it would distract the priests, and it did, until a very drunk Hansol asked, “So, what about the tales of Gods taking human lovers and having demigod children?”

Quiet swallowed the dinner table so thoroughly that Jimin would have laughed, had the question not sent his heartbeat sprinting.

Namjoon’s gaze swung from person to person, but he saw the opportunity as one to regain the priests’ favor as well as Jimin did, so to Jimin’s damnation, he answered, “They’re true. The Gods that frequent with humans tend to copulate with them, though the Night Star’s children have never returned to the human realm.”

Questions exploded after that, and Jimin refused to voice his own question about same-sex coupling. Thank the Gods for the endlessly curious priests, as one did press, “What about the tales of the Night Star’s ventures with women?”

“They’re true,” Namjoon’s tone tightened, just a bit, warning the priests to contain their reactions. “Many of the Gods have laid with people of the same gender. It doesn’t matter to us the way it often does to humans.”

And despite the variety of interesting topics that would continue, the priests more at ease with their Godly companion after breaking bread and drinking ale with him, Jimin’s thoughts wandered again and again to same-gender sex, all emotions and opinions tripping as he considered it.

Later, when he could no longer contain his need to pee, he bid everyone a good night, went to the toilet to do his business, and then retired to his room, washing up and stripping to his underclothes.

Climbing into bed, Jimin passed into innocuous sleep, awoken what couldn’t have been more than an hour later by someone rapping at his door.

Grumbling to himself, Jimin called that he would be over in a moment and wriggled back into his pants, before answering the door.

A priest stood there, eyes downcast with nerves, reeking of sweat both his and not, and before Jimin could demand to know why he was woken, the man blurted out that in their quest for information, they’d asked Namjoon to—

“A prostitute.” Jimin repeated, voice dumb. “You brought the God of wisdom a whore.”

“Don’t speak of it like it’s some stupid thing,” the man snapped. “This is a topic we’ve got precious little of.”

“And you woke me to tell me about this, why?”

“He refused the woman.”

Jimin’s heart stopped, tongue feeling too big for his mouth, and he stammered out, “Oh. Maybe he wasn’t in the mood? Too much ale?”

Shooting him an annoyed frown, the man regaining some of his haughtiness after Jimin’s quips, he explained, “You were chosen to guide him to Chonguk. The significance of that isn’t lost upon us, even if we can’t understand why it was you. However, my brothers and I think that if anyone could breach that distance with him, that it would be you.”

Time stopped, Jimin’s lungs refusing to inhale, his body battered and bruised from jumping to pain and a strange jealousy to relief, and then to blind panic.

“You’re not suggesting what I think you’re suggesting.”

“Look,” the man stared him down, expression distasteful, “we don’t have the money for another wasted prostitute, and I’d like to remind you that we let you stay here and fed you for free.”

“You’re trying to blackmail me into sleeping with a God.”

“Call it what you will. Think of it as paying your depts. If you’re a Godly man at all, hopefully you’ll understand our interest in this. Serving a God is honorable, even if the methods or means might seem distasteful.”

“Fuck off,” Jimin hissed, embarrassed by how much he wanted now that that forbidden line was crossed even verbally. “Kick me out, see how your God feels about that.”

He slammed the door in the man’s face, staring out the dark window across the room, his cheeks flushed as he tried not to picture what the priest suggested, hands clenched into angry fists. They would dare threaten a normal person with—something like that. Aside from its natural taboo, he hated that the universe seemed to see right through him, to the quiet, lonely parts that yearned for someone to hold him and love him who looked like he did.

“You should go back to bed,” Jimin muttered to himself, gritting his teeth when his body didn’t move.

When he reached for his doorknob, he vowed that he was going to speak to Namjoon, to vent and try to abate some of the hollowness that returned at the memory of Taehyung from earlier, and the quiet, yet unintentional taunt toward his sexuality by the priests.

Striding down the empty hallway, stilling in front of the correct door, Jimin knocked three times, touch careful so as not to disturb others sleeping. At first, after considering how he’d been harassed that night, Jimin considered that Namjoon might not answer.

Yet, after a few long beats, the door cracked open, Namjoon clothed in a loose shirt and a pair of undershorts, the kind worn by the wealthy. His hair hung loose, dripping with water, around his face, and Jimin gulped, feeling like he might pass out when the God’s expression shifted from guarded curiosity to genuine surprise and a smile.

“Jimin. What can I do for you?”

“Can I come in?” He blurted out, feeling too exposed in the hallway.

“Of course.” Namjoon ushered him in, the room looking exactly as it had when they visited it hours before, minus the dip in the mattress and the water on the floor.

Jimin expected him to repeat his question, but Namjoon waited as Jimin situated himself over by the window, hands clasped behind his back like a solider going to war.

“I heard they brought you a prostitute.” He jumped straight away into the precipice looming at his feet. “But you turned her away.”

“You heard right.” Namjoon’s voice was feather soft, cautious. “Are you wondering why?”

“Of course not,” Jimin scoffed, bluffing. “She’s a whore; you’re a God. I can barely imagine you cavorting with humans to begin with, much less someone like that. Gods—sorry—but I can’t imagine you with any…”

Namjoon traced his steps as he babbled, but Jimin trailed off as the God’s hand rose to settle on his arm, his touch burning through him.

“Jimin,” he murmured, voice husky with would sound like nerves in anyone else.

Turning, eyes wide, Jimin asked, “Yes?”

Their gazes met as equals for a moment before Namjoon’s dipped to his lips, then back up. “I’ve laid with humans before.”

“Oh?”

“Only men.”

“…Oh.”

“I won’t sleep with you.”

Now Jimin broke their eye contact, shame burning through him that the God could read him so well, and likely now thought of him as a greedy pervert, not good enough—

Namjoon leaned forward amidst his degrading thoughts, lips brushing over Jimin’s, a warning to pay attention, before he kissed him in earnest, slow and deep and mind-melting.

Drawing back, hands shifting to press against Namjoon’s chest, caught in a mental tug-of-war whether to shove him away or yank him close, Jimin frowned, fear and exuberance ringing in his ears. “You said you won’t sleep with me.”

“I know they asked you. I don’t want you to feel burdened.”

“I’m not a God,” Jimin smiled with humor, his own audacity stunning him, but not stopping him. “I shouldn’t be kissing you.”

“Do you want to kiss me?” Namjoon poised, as if the answer could be that simple.

Jimin shrugged and Namjoon’s hands shifted to cradle the back of his neck, fingers tracing idle shapes, following up his question with another: “Do you want to sleep with a God? Because I am your patron, the shadow that watched over you? Because I’m a comfort, a craving, like a favorite childhood sweet?”

Yearning to yank away, he instead fired his words like arrows, meant to pierce and shake Namjoon off. “Of course not! Do you think I spent my time thinking about sleeping with you?”

“No,” his eyes twinkled with a knowing glint that Jimin resented and admired in equal parts, “but you did pray to learn how to erase the cravings you had for the baker’s boy. And the young lord that barters with your father, and…”

“Stop.” His voice broke, “Please.”

“There is solace for you,” Namjoon pressed closer to him, until Jimin’s lower back met the window’s ledge, “I am not a creature born of logic alone. Emotional intelligence is vital to living a fulfilling life.” His eyes burned with significance. “You so badly want to be loved, but you’re so afraid to allow it. I saw you dancing, so many times, and not because I checked on you excessively—but because you were always dancing, whenever you could be. You danced like you heart was breaking.”

Unwilling tears slid down Jimin’s cheeks. “I didn’t give you permission to see all of that.”

“I am the person you spoke to.” Namjoon stopped, a few centimeters between them. “I know it’s hard to view a God in a human’s skin, but you were created in our image. We are Gods because we’re connected to all of you, because we’re immortal if we’re smart, and because we can alter things humans could never dream of. That’s it—those are the three requirements. I dedicated myself to learning everything that I can, about everything.” His fingers stroked careful, soothing circles up through the man’s hair. “It sounds cliché, but every person born is unique, a new story to learn.”

“And what? I’m special?” Jimin scoffed, turning away from the touch. “Out of all of the humans, I was just so intriguing, so captivating you couldn’t resist?”

“No,” he answered simply, “you were the only one praying for me to abate your loneliness.”

Jimin flushed. “I know I’m not the only lonely person in this building, much less the one interesting enough to catch your attention.”

“You’re not; but you were the only one who specifically wanted me to change things.” Namjoon stepped closer, the air crackling as the space shrunk. “You didn’t want me to conjure a lover or legions of adoring fans from thin air—you imagined me there, despite belittling yourself, despite not feeling worthy, just sitting beside you to talk to you or offer you a shoulder.”

“And now?”

“Now,” Namjoon leaned in, a breath away from Jimin’s lips, offering, but not taking, “I see you here in front of me and I wish you would talk to me now the way you did then. I want to see you dance; I want to reach into you and ease the tension and loneliness.”

Chuckling, surprised at the sound even as it left his lips, Jimin teased, “It sounds like you want to be my friend.”

“I do.”

And, something in his tone—his complete lack of humor, the earnestness to his expression, the similarity to any other guy who wanted to go out for a few drinks until they were laughing at stupid stuff, leaning on each other, and everything glowed—broke Jimin. Leaning in, he closed the remaining distance and kissed Namjoon, hands rising to drag the God’s face down to his, so he wouldn’t have to rise onto his toes.

Namjoon’s arms circled his waist, drawing him up so their bodies could meet at an easier middle, lips parting as their kisses shifted from hard pressed to wet, slow glides, lasting for a long few beats, before Jimin turned his head and chuckled. “Do you kiss all your friends like this?”

“Only if I’m lucky.”

Namjoon caught Jimin’s answering laugh with another kiss, his tongue tracing over Jimin’s lower lip before delving in, hands firm on his lower back, not daring to dip any lower or higher, until Jimin grasped his hands. Sliding them lower to grip his ass, Jimin broke their kisses again, panting: “You can touch. I want you to touch.”

“Are you sure?” And Gods; Namjoon’s voice, thick and deeper with want, sent his knees trembling.

“Yes.”

Not allowing another instance of protesting, Jimin rolled Namjoon’s lower lip between his teeth before he sealed them together, moaning into their renewed lip lock when Namjoon squeezed his ass in response.

Doubting Namjoon’s ability to carry him, Jimin let their tongues dance for a moment longer, the headiness of their touches giving him a head rush that allowed him to shove the God back, smirking at the open surprise that elicited.

“On the bed.”

Namjoon’s lips parted into an incredulous smile, twice as beautiful as the serene, godly one he offered the priests, and he retorted, “I want you to lay on your back.”

“And I want you in the same position.” Jimin trailed after him, until the God stood in front of the mattress, staring down at him with defiance.

“Then I guess we have to compromise.”

Climbing up onto the bed, Namjoon offered Jimin a hand, who followed him there, too, into a soft, thankful kiss that ended with a surprised noise when Jimin’s hands fumbled for the hem of Namjoon’s shirt, pressing it up.

“No fair,” Namjoon complained, though he shed his shirt as bid, Jimin’s greedy hands roaming his bare chest.

“Not my fault you answered the door like this.”

Jimin’s fingers slipped over the definition of his pecs, over his ribs, grinning incredulously when the God shivered.

“You ticklish?” He leaned in, unable to resist, lips brushing the side of Namjoon’s chest, before shifting to his nipple.

“No,” his protest was interrupted with a quiet noise of pleasure, Namjoon’s eyes fluttering closed for a moment, a genuine moan escaping when Jimin sucked on the bud.

Sensitive, Jimin thought with a purr, his hand rising to roll the other nipple, playing with Namjoon’s chest with relish, shifting sides as he climbed into the God’s lap, overwhelming them both with his desire for the God. He’d had several excursions of this nature in the past—in rushed, panicked meetings in the dark, with the threat of exposure and humiliation hanging over them. He’d prayed to Namjoon after both, so while the God might not know the extent of his actions, he would know Jimin could take and give.

Lifting his mouth from Namjoon’s nipple, giving it a farewell lick, he breathed, shifting to the other, “I’m guessing you top when you sleep with men.”

“I’ve never let a man fuck me, no,” he laughed, teeth finding his lower lip when Jimin’s found his other nipple, “but not for a lack of trying. Eunbi has it easy, but a male God wants someone else inside him, and suddenly people begin fearing for their immortal souls.”

Jimin pinched the man’s slick nipple, sucking particularly hard on the one he turned his attention to, and listened with relish as Namjoon whimpered, the sound pulsing south and alerting Jimin to a growing problem.

Shifting his hips down, a burgeoning hardness pressing against his perineum, Jimin giggled against Namjoon’s chest as the God moaned his name.

“Do you want me to fuck you?” He kissed the side of Namjoon’s chest, feeling so powerful that he was still dressed, with the God almost nude under him. “Want a human to fill you until you cum?”

“Jimin—” His voice cracked, hands fumbling, devoid of strength, for the human’s waistband, and knowing that he couldn’t remove them from the position he’d taken up, Jimin stood up on the bed, legs trembling as he shucked off his leggings.

Namjoon’s eyes fixed on his loincloth, and Jimin’s blush felt so hot that he didn’t doubt his whole face was red.

“See something you like?” He bit out, in an attempt to disguise how flustered Namjoon was making him.

“Something like that,” Namjoon’s lips quirked up into a serene smile, and in a sudden desire to break that, Jimin shuffled forward, so that his loincloth was level with Namjoon’s face.

“Then take it off.”

“Take your tunic off, first,” he fired back, and oh; Jimin would oblige.

Tugging the wide collar to the right, revealing more skin, Jimin then raised his arms, flashing his muscular stomach as he grabbed the back of his shirt and yanked it up over his head, ruffling his hair, before he smoothed it back into place.

Namjoon watched the whole show with an air of appreciation, hands rising to rest on Jimin’s thighs, first to help him balance, and then to slide his underclothes off, revealing the half chub that the cloth barely concealed in the first place.

“You have a perfect body,” he commented, “it’s frightening.”

Jimin laughed, but his next words died on his tongue as Namjoon leaned in, one hand closing around his cock and drawing the foreskin back as he brought it to his lips, where he laved his tongue over the head, the tip flicking against the sensitive underside.

“Shit, N—shit.”

“You can say it,” he breathed, kissing down the shaft. “I want you to say it.”

“Namjoon,” Jimin whined, “it feels good.” His hands rose to clench in the God’s hair, grounding himself as Namjoon licked from the base to the tip again, testing for his most sensitive spots. He spent what felt like forever kissing over Jimin’s erection, lips careful as they trailed over the heated skin, exploring and smiling as he unleashed new sounds from the human’s bitten, sinful lips.

Finally, Jimin’s legs trembling, he took the human into his mouth, swallowing around him like he’d been starving for it, like having a cock in his mouth was a heavenly experience all its own, and Jimin moaned with abandon, uncaring that they might disturb their neighbors.

“That’s it,” he whimpered, “I’m gonna cum, Namjoon, please.”

Then, to no one’s surprise, the God withdrew, giving the head a goodbye kiss, before leaning back, palms planted against the bed, as he smiled up at Jimin.

“I don’t have anything to make the slide easier in my ass,” the human spoke, continuing despite the disbelieving snort of the God, “so we’re going to have to improvise tonight.”

“Just because you don’t doesn’t mean I don’t.” Namjoon gestured to a box atop his bedside table, so innocuous and small that Jimin’s eyes passed right over it when he inspected the room earlier. “They wanted me to have sex with the prostitute, so they left me a slew of things.”

“Ah,” Jimin swallowed thickly, sinking to his knees as Namjoon shifted to grab the box, removing his undershorts when he stretched, showing off his broad, flawless shoulders.

Within the box was a small, glass bottle, like a decanter except four times smaller, with a clear liquid within.

“They thought you would need lubricant with a girl?” He squinted. “Did they suggest anal or something?”

“Or something.” Namjoon shook his head, his expression way too fond for unwanted sexual intercourse. “My disciples are exactly what they should be, even with me.”

Jimin smiled, unable to stay unaffected next to the glow Namjoon emanated naturally, the human stretching out on the covers in preparation for them to stretch him.

“Give, unless you want to stretch me.”

“I know how to stretch people.” He shot Jimin an affronted pout. “I’ve only been alive for millennia.”

“Well then, get over here.” Jimin spread his legs, expression level, cocky, except for the blush that revealed his true nerves, his cock hard against his stomach, which was still tight from working the horses and dancing in his free time.

Namjoon clambered back onto the bed, bouncing Jimin a bit, and as the man laughed, he positioned himself between his legs and poured some of the liquid onto his left hand, warming it up.

“So, you are ambidextrous,” Jimin mused, tensing only a bit when the tip of a finger brushed his entrance, the slight pressure heady.

“It makes a lot of things easier,” Namjoon chuckled, pressing the finger in, allowing Jimin to settle before adding more lube and a second finger, flexing them within him.

He began to pump the fingers in and out, feeding in more lube, and while the long-missed stretch burned at first, Jimin quickly relaxed into it, sighing with pleasure as Namjoon worked his long fingers within him.

Stilling over a certain spot, Jimin didn’t notice that Namjoon found his prostate until his lower lip ached from how hard he’d been biting it, hips wiggling down to add more pressure to Namjoon’s stretching. Shaking his head at his own, unconscious want, he informed the God, “I’m good.”

“You’re good?” His fingers brushed over the spot, feather-light, and Jimin whined. “You want more?”

Pouting, Jimin answered, “yes,” and squirmed beneath him, one hand sliding up his own chest to toy with a nipple, while the other dropped to his cock, teeth digging into his lower lip once more. He craved more, craved Namjoon’s cock stuffing him full, and if he wouldn’t play, Jimin would find his own stimulation.

The fingers withdrawing, Jimin barely had time to whine before Namjoon snared both of his wrists and pinned them above his head, body moving over top the human’s so that their cocks brushed, both moaning at the slightly slick drag. Jimin bucked his hips up, cock sliding along Namjoon’s and conjuring another burst of want.

Instead of scolding him, the God moved both of Jimin’s wrists to one hand, while the other grappled for the lube. Dumping it straight onto his cock, Namjoon yelping at the temperature, Jimin cackled beneath him until it dripped onto his erection as well, and then he mewled, surprised by the cold, yet relishing the feather-light touch to his erection.

“Smooth,” he teased, falling silent when Namjoon ducked his head, capturing his lips in a brief kiss.

“Behave,” Namjoon murmured, tossing the bottle aside, uncaring that the remainder of it would puddle on the floor, and grasped his own hardness, pressing it to Jimin’s entrance and then into him in the span of a breath.

When Namjoon brushed against him, he felt large, but with his cock pressing into him, Jimin considered for a moment that he would be split him open, the pain blending beautifully into the pleasure.

“Please,” he whimpered, rocking his hips, needing Namjoon to fuck the pain away so he could relish having an unashamed partner—the beautiful God, his patron, that was always watching.

Unbidden, his thoughts drifted to the times he masturbated with the windows open, his bedroom high enough that he didn’t give a shit about passersby, though neighbors at the same height could see. He wondered if Namjoon ever saw him in those days, his fat cock in hand, throbbing at the thought of men bending him in half and taking until they both painted his chest with white.

“Fuck me.”

Namjoon groaned, and his hand still not holding Jimin’s hands down returned to his hip, grip harsh as he rolled his hips forward, then jerked them back in a shallow thrust that grew in intensity as he built up a rhythm.

Moaning at each push in, the head of Namjoon’s cock dragging over his prostate, Jimin squirmed beneath him, hands flailing above his head, back arching, legs wrapping up around Namjoon’s waist for a bit more leverage.

“Can you cum on my chest?” He begged while he had the breath and frame of mind to ask. It would be hard to clean up if Namjoon released in his ass, and he also rather enjoyed the sight of men jerking off, postured above him, cock in hand as they panted, chasing their releases. The thought caused his own hardness to throb against his stomach, resting in its own mess of spit and precum courtesy of the God pounding his ass.

“Yeah,” Namjoon laughed, a breathless, disbelieving sound, “I can do that.”

“Of course you can,” Jimin whimpered, the thrusts brutal enough to jolt his body, despite being pinned in place by Namjoon’s hands, “the question is, will you?”

“I will.” The hand on his hip wound its way down to Jimin’s thigh, guiding it up, over Namjoon’s shoulder, touch gentle, as if Jimin couldn’t bend that way, hadn’t been training his flexibility since he became a teenager. Then, he swapped hands, pinning the human’s hands with his other, and repeated the process with Jimin’s other thigh, driving into him at a new, brutal angle, Jimin’s cock rubbing against both of their stomachs.

“Fuck, fuck,” Jimin whimpered, eyes screwing up, “I’m gonna cum, I really can’t—”

The friction on his cock was perfect; the head catching against his own abs and Namjoon’s smooth stomach, leaving a trail of precum on both, and the thought of marking the God in such a way sent him over the edge the next time Namjoon’s cock brushed his prostate. Jimin released over both of their chests, marking the God with the eagerness he felt, how it hurt so good to have the God’s fat cock stretching him with each thrust, leaving him cumming untouched.

“Jimin,” Namjoon whispered, and whatever he would have said next was arrested by a moan, the human clenching around him as he lost himself in his orgasm, squeezing him just right, causing him to pull free.

Legs dropping back to the bed, exhaustion clinging to his limbs, Jimin blinked his eyes open lethargically, almost missing Namjoon jacking himself off overtop his chest, bent over to ensure it would mark him where he wanted, eyes glowing with fire as he pumped frantically.

Their eyes met and then Namjoon came, his eyes fluttering shut as he shot his load over Jimin’s upper chest, painting his defined pectorals and nipples with gobs of cum. Jimin moaned weakly at the sight, the God sinking back on his heels once he’d finished, chest heaving with breath.

Breaking eye contact to inspect his chest, Jimin’s hands slipped down from where Namjoon had pinned them to touch the cum, smearing it in small circles, too overstimulated to touch his nipples, though he did bring his pointer finger to his kiss-abused lips, slipping it past with substantial curiosity, tasting the release of a God.

Namjoon flushed at the sight, Jimin circling his nipple with his free hand, scooping up the cum, before he sucked that hand clean, too.

“You taste better than normal guys,” he finally said, blushing at the roughness to his own voice. “Still salty, but—I can’t put it into words.”

“I’m not sure I want to know.” Namjoon flashed him an embarrassed smile that sent butterflies scattering in Jimin’s stomach.

“I’ll wash up in a moment,” he sighed instead, basking in the afterglow, attributing his soft feelings to the mind-blowing sex he’d just participated in.

“Then I’ll go first.”

Jimin watched him putter around, and after his allotted time passed, he approached the washbasin with reluctance, scowling at his limp. However, no matter the aftereffects, he held no ill will toward Namjoon, who offered to share his bed with him for the night, both anticipating that Jimin would be pounced upon when he would leave.

Accepting graciously, Jimin settled back onto the thin mattress, sighing with relish that he would sleep on a bed again, though it would take him much longer than normal to fall asleep, mind too keyed-up on the warmth of the body next to him.

--

Namjoon understood both parties, yet he showed objective favoritism the next morning, refusing to leave Jimin alone with the priests, who bombarded him with questions even with the God beside him. The crude and vulgar meant very little to the priests, so while they controlled themselves once Jimin declared he’d talked about it enough, their questions pulled all the punches. So long as Jimin would answer, they would ask.

Leaving shortly after breakfast, therefore, felt like a blessing, and Namjoon thanked them again for their aid and taking their duties so seriously. To Jimin’s relief, they also loaned them a horse that he would return on his journey back, so the God wouldn’t have to ride pressed against him again.

Grateful to leave the nosy priests, Jimin didn’t consider the things that sex would alter with the God until they rode for a good hour, the silence after the incessant questions like a balm, Jimin’s gaze skyward—to the clear, brilliant blue of what would be a magnificent spring day. His own hometown on the cliffs was at a similar elevation, so the crisp, thinness to the air reassured him, though it would grow worse as they climbed higher.

At first, Jimin scrambled to talk about their night and came up short, embarrassed with himself for allowing the priests to influence him, but Namjoon treated him no differently. In fact, Jimin could interpret a bit more of the God’s habits and worried less about societal conventions. He asked Namjoon about his reservation once, who, as always, was happy to explain:

“When you’re the first one to spot trouble, people watch you like hawks. Every action you do might send them into a panic or might imply something that could spark a fight, so you learn to express the bare minimum.”

They chatted too easily for falling into bed the night prior, Jimin disconnected from the conversation on a level as he examined the pieces of Namjoon he could see, heart aching at how human he appeared with his snow-white hair covered, dressed in the priests’ simple, brown robes.

As the curves and roads up the mountains grew more treacherous, idle talk ceased, Jimin focused on not looking down, the cries of flying predators mixing with the howls of the wind to soundtrack their journey.

Bunking down in the mountains was the most uncomfortable night of sleep Jimin ever slept, unable to argue against cuddling up with Namjoon as the wind cut through them like a knife, snow from the mountaintops blowing over them, body heat their best chance of combatting the chill.

Several times, Jimin swore he spied a figure in the distance, standing on its lonesome, watching them, but when he voiced his thoughts to Namjoon, wondering if it was another person on their journey, Namjoon’s hum of agreement didn’t reassure him.

On their third day in the mountains, the slope of the landscape began leaning and dropping off, guiding them back toward the ground, Jimin dreaming of kissing the dirt when no precipices lurked around the corners. He thought he felt at home around crags and hundred-meter drops, but take them and add the threat of freezing to death, the sparseness of land, and the unknown of that person he hallucinated, and Jimin craved his sea cliffs, despised the mountains.

Regular trees appeared spattered across the sharp peaks, but when they passed clumps of them, warning of the forest to come, Jimin nearly cried in relief. His dreams the past few nights were of falling to his death in the dark, the godless wind whisking his cries away before they could reach Namjoon. Too afraid to sweat and freeze when it would dry, he and Namjoon maintained decorum while sharing the thicker pallets gifted to them from the priests.

Namjoon laid on the ground and Jimin would curl partially over him, his heart beating frantically until he could coax himself to sleep, both sleeping in their clothes to conserve warmth. Yet, despite the modesty, the proximity drove Jimin to consider touching, kissing. He wanted more of the man, couldn’t deny that his words were true—he felt so much less lonely with the God’s arms around him. Half the time, it stopped mattering who Namjoon was, as he focused only on how he made him feel.

And though Jimin waited for his chance to enter Chunguk for years, he dreaded his parting from Namjoon. Before they would reach it, he would have to breach the topic of what happened between them, if Namjoon wanted to make anything of it.

Trees the size of buildings obscured the watery sun the further they descended back to flat ground, cries of strange animals filling the air, and it all would have pricked the hairs on the back of his neck if Namjoon hadn’t removed his hat the moment the light disappeared, a sweet, blue light illuminating in a bubble around them. Within his light, Jimin couldn’t panic or consider anything a genuine threat.

Within Namjoon’s literal perimeter of serenity, he breached the subject: “So about the other night…what was that?”

“Our having sex?”

“Yes,” Jimin exhaled. “That.”

“What do you want it to be?”

“That’s not fair,” he retorted. “I’m the human. Relationships like these are looked down upon, even if it’s just for sex. Two men couldn’t—court each other.” Jimin glanced away. “We could be paramours if you were human, but you’re not.”

“So?”

“That was a one-time thing.” The words tasted bitter on his tongue. “You’re going home once you reach the portal.”

“Jimin—”

“I know you’ve been with hundreds of people over the years—”

“Jimin.”

“—it was stupid of me to think—”

Jimin.”

“—that we could ever—”

A body dropped through the gloom, suspended over them, their head hanging off their neck like a rag doll’s, the limbs limp. It floated, feet not touching the ground, and with no time for reaction beyond his mouth drying a bit, the head raised, showcasing Jimin’s missing best friend, a strange redness smudged around his eyes as he stared at them.

“Jimin,” he whispered, voice rasping.

“Taehyung?” His mouth gaped.

“Run.”

“What?” He urged his horse forward. “Tae, where have you—”

Namjoon kicked his horse, yelling for Jimin to follow, and before the human could cry out, the God’s horse ran just past Taehyung, the wind buffeting his clothes, but not harming him.

“You have to come, too,” Jimin begged, but against his will, his horse chased after Namjoon’s. “Tae, you have to come, too!”

“I’ll be okay,” he mumbled, sounding exhausted, and after his horse passed his friend, too quickly to reach out and touch, Jimin spun around in the saddle and found nothing in the path behind him.

Minus the glowing, red eyes at tree level.

Heart sinking, Jimin spun around and kicked his horse for good measure, trusting Namjoon could guide them both through these woods despite not having visited them himself in a millennium.

Whatever the creature was, instead of roaring, it cackled like a jackdaw, the sound half mad, and when it raced after him, the very earth beneath his horse shook, the animal maintaining its balance from some long-cultivated instinct to avoid predators.

Namjoon’s horse appeared up ahead, around a corner, the tree branches obscuring Jimin’s view, though he noted the road itself was rather well-tended for no permanent human settlements anywhere around. If the paths had been weathered even slightly, their horses would have stumbled at some point and the creature behind him, its laughter growing closer, would have caught them in its teeth.

“Can’t you do something?” He screamed to Namjoon, despite knowing the answer.

Perhaps, because of that, the God didn’t answer him, waving to draw Jimin’s attention, before veering right, kicking his horse as he began to turn.

Following his example, Jimin felt a suction of wind pass him, the creature swiping or biting where he had just been, as he followed Namjoon down the thinner passage, branches now swiping at him as they continued their breakneck pace. Somehow, he doubted that every adventurer encountered this beast and wondered, wry beneath his panic, if certain people would call him lucky for experiencing such a thing. No human alive had ever seen a demon.

An angry scream pierced the air, and the horrible crunch of decimated trees falling to the forest floor decided it for him: He would consider himself lucky if he survived.

Bouncing in the saddle as the path dipped down, a projectile whistled through the air, passing his right shoulder, and crashed into a tree further down, producing a frightened whimper that he would later cop to, unashamed that he feared for his life.

Another cry pierced the air and something wet and viscous dripped onto his forehead, burning where it touched skin, and he wiped it away frantically, thankful for the long sleeves of his jacket. This creature hissed, a bubbling, popping sound that sounded like it was dissolving its own mouth as it flew or darted from tree to tree—it was hard to tell when he refused to look.

Then, miraculously, a squat building appeared in the distance, and though Jimin didn’t know how it would protect them, he sensed that was Namjoon’s goal.

Another screech, and something dived out of the sky, talons catching his shoulder, cutting him, but Jimin wheeled and punched the thing, driving it off him, blood thundering through his veins with fear. Gods, he didn’t want to die—not so close to his goal, not without speaking to Namjoon about their night together. Not without finding out what happened to Taehyung.

A figure dropped from the trees, but rather than shy away from it, or rear back, his horse continued on, this figure garbed in an over-cloak with the hood up, still appearing like a doll.

“Taehyung?” He called, and one of the figure’s arms slipped out from the cloak, clutching a wicked, curved dagger that reflected light despite the deep darkness of the forest.

Jimin traced the tanned muscle, the metallic sheen on his black armguards, and the hints of an elaborate tattoo, thoughts whirring with the facts as he pieced them together.

“Get to the temple!” The man yelled, “You’ll be safe in there!”

“On my way!”

Chuckling, the man spun his knife, and then charged forward with a battle cry, Jimin marveling and then refusing his conclusion: One God in the mortal world was strange enough, and Namjoon admitted that they never returned after they split from the humans initially.

Hearing the laughter cut off, Jimin shivered and allowed his horse to lead him to the squat building, the door a large archway with no concrete “door” to shut.

Seeing Namjoon lurking beyond the entrywa, he slowed his horse and allowed it to enter, despite feeling rude to track dirt (and potentially animal dung) into the temple, until his eyes adjusted to Namjoon’s glowing and he spied the horse stalls.

“They have the animals stay in the temple?”

“It helps keep the place warm. The nights in the mountains can be rather unforgiving.” Namjoon had dismounted before Jimin arrived, and a twinge of resentment washed through the human.

Guiding his horse out of the way, he swung down from the saddle, feet barely on the ground before the questions poured out: “Who was that? Why did you just leave me? What is this place? And why did Taehyung tell us to run?”

“I can answer most of those,” a deep, familiar voice rang out, the tone just the slightest bit exhausted.

Taehyung descended the steps from the temple proper, hands folded into the gaudiest pair of pants Jimin ever laid eyes on: Slightly too large for him, the patterns were formed in someone’s opioid dream, with swirls of every color meeting, outlined in white.

Likely due to them, he allowed Taehyung to approach him without thinking it over, his friend coming to stop right in front of him, his eyes haunted and sad. Distantly, Jimin remembered that he was angry with him, hurt that Taehyung would leave without him when he insisted they stay together. Yet, whatever happened to him, it appeared karma returned that pain to him, as Taehyung’s openness and irreverence felt strangely subdued.

His eyes rose to meet his friend’s, and he once again studied the strange, red smudges at the corners of Taehyung’s eyes. It made him look like a fox, accentuated the angular shape of his face, and Jimin frowned at the design. “Are you wearing some type of kohl?”

“No,” he exhaled, shook his head, “it’s a tattoo.”

“Why?”

Taehyung exhaled, slumped, and then moved to take his hands, holding them with a desperate strength, as if he could ignore Namjoon so easily, when his aura—and light—touched everything in the room.

“Because that man you saw on the road, with the black overcoat, is the Spectre. The God of travelers.”

“The God of death.” Eyes widened, Jimin went to yank his hands free, but Taehyung’s tightened around his. “How is he here?”

“He can move freely between worlds, as his title suggests,” Namjoon input. “This is his temple.”

“The Whispering temple,” Taehyung’s expression hardened, like he would glare at Namjoon if he could, “there are no priests here, though. This is only for passersby. A transient place.” He took a deep breath. “And ‘I’ warned you to run because Jeon—the Spectre knew you would listen to me. Even if I looked wrong.”

“So, it wasn’t you out there?”

“No.” Taehyung’s eyes dropped. “I’ve been here.”

Anger seized him, violent now that Taehyung was in front of him, a God with a fighting chance battering the monsters back. “Where did you go, Tae? Why did you leave me?”

He ducked his head, shame bright in his eyes. “I—chased after you when you went back, but I wasn’t as fast as you. I don’t know. When I got back to the river, you were standing in front of—” Taehyung shot a glance at Namjoon, “this glowing, superhuman being. It felt like everything I knew was being called into question. I saw you start to come back this way, and I just ran back to camp, and I left.”

“I was scared it would find me and punish me for…traveling with you, not believing. I didn’t know how to reach you or help you without killing us both.”

The roars from outside quieted, and Taehyung slumped. “I’m so, so sorry, Chim. I never meant to abandon you.”

“But you did.” Jimin’s hands clenched into fists. “You know, before this, you’re the person I always wagered would have my side, would follow me into stupid, dangerous situations without a second thought, because I’d do it for you. You—”

“I had my entire way of thinking switched around in an instant!” Taehyung’s voice broke, “It wasn’t about going to you, I would have done that anyway. If there had been anything else down there but a God, I would have gone after you! But I was scared, okay? He could kill me, could have killed you because you associated with a nonbeliever. It’s not like we know anything about what these things actually are.”

“Well, they’re more human than you think.” Jimin’s voice was flat, “because he left me just now, too.”

Storming away from Taehyung, he asked the room, uncaring who answered, “Are there bedrooms in this temple?”

“There are.” A new voice answered, the figure intimidating in the doorway.

Jimin froze, eyes wide as he looked for a second time upon the God of death, the hood of his black over-coat drawn back now, revealing his surprisingly young face, eyes large and sweet, cheeks soft, next to a jawline that could cut glass and the muscular figure that Jimin identified in the road.

“Jimin,” Namjoon intercut softly, “this is Jeongguk, the God of travelers and death. Or, just travelers, as he prefers.”

Jeongguk dipped in head. “You must be the unfortunate soul who’s been babysitting Namjoon. And the lucky childhood best friend of my darling Taehyung.”

“Your—?” Forgetting his anger for a moment, his head whipped around to seek Taehyung out, losing the rest of his words when he noticed his friend was blushing, teeth grit.

“Ignore him, he likes to fuck with me,” Taehyung muttered, shoulders tensing like they did when his mother would call him her “baby” in public. “I can show you to a room?”

He felt Namjoon’s eyes on him, pleading for the chance to explain himself, but after their chase, Jimin craved rest and distance from both men whom he trusted and had let him down.

“Sure.” Ensuring that Taehyung didn’t misunderstand his feelings, he didn’t make eye contact with the man as he passed him. “Thank you for allowing us to stay here,” he addressed to Jeongguk instead.

“Of course,” the God’s arms crossed, “I look forward to speaking with you over dinner.”

Not replying, bolder after his long week journeying with Namjoon, Jimin climbed the few steps up into the temple proper, surprised yet not at the single-story accommodations, the rooms branching straight off the main chamber, which contained the dining table, the worship hall straight ahead, and the kitchen to the left.

Taehyung trailed after him, hands clasped behind his back like he always did when he was nervous, and he pointed to the unoccupied rooms, clearly itching to breach the subject of their fight, though he didn’t say anything besides “you don’t need a key, but it locks from the inside.”

“Thank you.” Dipping his head to his friend, unsure when or how they could reconcile, he marched into the room and settled down for a long, hearty scream into his pillow, before passing out on top of the covers.

--

The first thing he registered once he woke was the warmth: After three days in the mountains, and even more days sleeping outside, the coziness of the Whispering temple was almost enough to alleviate his bad mood at the repeated betrayals he suffered. Almost.

Grumbling and wiping the spit trail from his mouth, Jimin peeled off his coat, sweaty beneath it, and then shed his heaviest sweater, leaving only the low-cut tunic that he left home with. He ran a hand up through his hair, tousling it as he pushed it off his face, and stood up, stretching in the hopes that it would soothe his temper a bit while awakening his body.

After doing his full spread, fifteen minutes’ worth, he exited his room to the warm, delicious scent of baked bread and cooked meat, unable to restrain his curiosity as he eyed the men seated around the table, Taehyung at Jeongguk’s right, the two Gods chattering away.

Without breaking eye contact with Namjoon, Jeongguk greeted Jimin with, “I hope your nap was satisfactory?”

“It was, thank you.”

He took the seat on the other side of Jeongguk, to the mysticism of his friend and the other God, and a delighted grin from the God of death.

“Please, help yourself; we have beef, chicken, fresh greens, potatoes…” At Jimin’s hungry look of disbelief, he laughed, “Seasons don’t work for the Gods as they do for humans; our growing seasons are much longer, and Yewon’s a miracle worker. So, please, eat!”

Not needing to be told twice, Jimin reached for the potatoes, the buttery scent nearly bringing him to tears, and he spooned off a decent amount onto the plate, only holding back so he could take a helping of chicken and fresh salad greens.

“This is amazing,” he moaned, two bites in, and then didn’t speak again for lack of air.

Taehyung and Namjoon watched him with a sense of horror, while Jeongguk’s features stayed proud and amused, as if it took quite a bit to phase the God of death.

Finally, as Jimin’s chewing slowed, belly tight with how much he put into it, Jeongguk snapped his trap shut as he asked, “So, I see you’re involved with Namjoon?”

Choking on a bite of chicken, he grasped for his ale and coughed through his drink, eyes watering, before he could finally spit out, “What the hell?”

Jeongguk shrugged, stretching and showcasing his arms, Jimin catching a glimpse of a tattoo of a beautiful woman, expression fierce as she drove back an enormous shadow with a mask for a face. “We’ve been talking, I see how he talks about you, so I guessed, and I see I was right. You two have been intimate.”

“Jeongguk,” Namjoon’s cheeks flamed red, his voice a rough, disapproving tone just the sweeter side of anger, “don’t.”

“Why not?” He frowned, though Jimin could see the amusement lurking in the depths of his eyes. “It’s been so long since we’ve given anyone the Gift, and it appears you know this human fairly well—”

“Enough!” His voice was a roar, skin and hair glowing so bright that Jimin covered his eyes with his hands, the light painful in Namjoon’s anger.

After a beat, Jeongguk remarked mildly, “So it’s like that.”

A ragged breath met his words, the sound of a wooden chair scraping along the floor before Namjoon spoke again, “I’m going up to bed. I’ll be leaving come morning.”

The “I” pierced through Jimin, reminding him that they were not inclined to travel together aside from the protection in numbers—and if Jeongguk vanquished the creatures in the woods, they could suffer safe, individual trips. His rational mind reasoned that Namjoon might be adapting his plans to suit Jimin’s anger, but a deeper part of him, the one that still waited for an answer why Namjoon rode ahead, trembled at the thought of being left behind again.

Still, he said nothing as the God walked away, unable to keep his eyes off Namjoon until he disappeared into his room.

When he did, Jeongguk whistled, “You really must be something.”

“Stop,” Taehyung ground out, “you don’t need to do this now.”

Hoping to staunch the rather violent turn in the conversation, Jimin blurted out, “Do your tattoos really tell the history of the world?”

Jeongguk’s eyes glittered as he faced Jimin. “So, you really were a religious type. It’s funny hearing you talk to Namjoon so crudely, knowing that.” Jimin chose not to react, expression staying level, and the God sighed, “Yes, yes, it’s true—can you believe Taehyung didn’t know that?” He turned to shoot the other human a frown. “I thought he would be more excited when I told him, but he didn’t seem to care much.”

Knowing the God of death was trying to tweak the conversation to his liking, yet not understanding what it was, Jimin pressed, “How can the history of the entire world fit on just you? Or is it only visible when you’re in your God-form? Or—”

“Let me stop you there,” he hummed, “they change, constantly; I have control over what shows and what doesn’t, but it always moves to reflect what’s relevant when I’m not thinking about them.” Drawing an arm out of his over-coat, he pointed to the shoulder closest to Jimin. “This shows Sunmi, the Goddess of victory, the day we slayed our first demon.”

Jimin reached to brush his fingertips over the Goddess’s features, asking, “Why haven’t I ever heard of this Goddess?”

“Because she was killed,” his eyes darkened, “her energy returned to the world, and we’re such old stodges—there’s a million other things the Gods concern themselves with rather than creating new ones.”

“If Gods can die,” Jimin pushed away his new, other questions, “why did Namjoon fall to Earth instead of dying?”

“Because he was in danger. I saw it, so I sent him away.” Jeongguk shrugged. “Why he appeared in front of you and Taehyung, I cannot say. Perhaps I’ll ask Yoongi and Eunbi about it sometime.”

Shaking his head at the thought of casually talking to the Night Star and the God of Prosperity, Jimin pursed his lips, fighting himself over whether or not he should ask about Taehyung, still angry, yet very curious.

“How did you two meet?”

“He was crying,” Jeongguk began, repressing a smile when Taehyung intercut with an angry exclamation, “probably over you. I appeared in front of him and asked if I could help, he said he didn’t need my help, and I said, ‘Don’t you want to help your friend?’” Jimin shot a glance at Taehyung, who reversed their prior arrangement and refused to look at him.

“So?”

“Here we are.”

“That’s…is that really it?” Jimin poked at his salad, agitated.

“Are you saying your traveling with Namjoon would need a longer explanation?”

“I—” Jimin grit his teeth. “I suppose not.”

“Exactly.”

And there they let the topic rest, Namjoon’s anger shimmering in the air even with his body elsewhere, so the humans picked at their food, both refusing to speak to the other—one out of guilt, and the other out of confused, lingering anger that didn’t quite hold his thoughts hostage like in the moments after running to safety.

When he’d eaten his fill, he thanked Jeongguk in a begrudging tone, resentful of the God of death and everyone who played him like an instrument for this weird game he’d been caught in. As far as he was concerned, the Gods threw him to the wolves, and his best friend left him.

Jimin needed something stronger to drink than ale.

“Goodnight,” he said to no one in particular, venturing a guess that a temple wouldn’t offer good wine to get drunk on—at least, not for the humans.

Retiring from dinner, Jimin slipped into his room and cleaned himself, finding the scratches from the demon with a sense of astonishment, as he hadn’t felt them until his fingertips discovered the cuts.

Before dirtying the water, he stared at his reflection within, marking the hollows beneath his eyes before scrubbing at his face, angry with everyone, but mostly himself. He missed Taehyung—he could see it in the sad purse of his lips, like someone stole his dinner out from under him, instead of delivering him a feast.

Knowing he would depart in the morning with Namjoon, marking to talk to them both, Jimin finished washing up, sloughing the dirt from his skin and face, even running water through his hair, assuming Gods wouldn’t suffer if he spoiled himself a little.

Drying himself with a towel, he poked his stomach with a sense of chagrin, thinking about how he hadn’t danced in about three weeks, hoping he wouldn’t lose the definition. No matter what anyone else thought, he liked his body tight and well-oiled, like a horse cart, and could jerk off to the sight of his cock against his abs, thick thighs tight as he’d pose himself on his bed.

Really, it wasn’t too surprising that he’d never sought out lovers regularly.

Dressing, a decent portion of his resentment toward Jeongguk fading as he discovered fresh clothes, Jimin chose to talk to Taehyung first, as he assumed Namjoon would face him in Chonguk when he’d reach the lake, so if his talk with his best friend lasted all night, he could still confront the God at a later time.

Exiting his room, smoothing his new tunic—a warm, dark green with the same low cut as his last shirt—he ventured over to Taehyung’s room and knocked lightly, not wanting to disturb anyone else that might be staying at the temple.

After a few long seconds of nothing, he knocked again and swore he heard something, so he pressed his ear to the door, frowning to himself. If Taehyung yelled he was coming, he didn’t hear footsteps, just the creaking of a bed—

“Stop, stop, you’re being too loud—” A moan interrupted Taehyung’s words. “Jeongguk, fuck, right there.”

“Right there? You sure?” Jimin heard the God laugh.

“Yes, I’m fucking sure! Just—fuck, more, please—” his voice cracked on his last word and Jimin’s cheeks colored so darkly.

“What was that about being too loud?”

He stumbled back from the door before he could hear more, heart pounding wildly in his chest with some foreign bewilderment caught between hurt and complete shock.

Before he could think too hard about it or talk himself out of it, he found himself knocking at Namjoon’s door, frantic to unhear the sounds of his best friend fucking the God of death.

Within seconds, Namjoon wrenched open the door, eyes wide, hair mussed, as he asked, “What? Is something wrong?”

“I—Taehyung,” he stammered, not thinking before he used the God’s given name, “and Jeongguk.”

“What about them, are they okay?”

“They’re having sex.”

Namjoon paused. “What?”

“They’re. Currently. Having. Sex.”

“Oh,” Namjoon slumped against the door frame, head thunking back against the wood, “you scared me; I thought something was direly wrong.”

Jimin’s cheeks flamed brighter and he clenched his fists at his sides. “No; I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he watched the man with a mild sort of interest, as if he was trying to read his thoughts as he created them. “Are you okay?”

“No; not really.”

“Would you like to come in?”

Glancing in, spying a similar, utilitarian room to his own, Jimin found himself agreeing and stepping in, his bare feet meeting a throw rug as soft and heavenly as fresh Spring grass. He considered seating himself in the lone, wooden chair, but he felt too keyed-up to sit, and instead paced over to the window Namjoon’s room sported, pulling the curtains so the forest couldn’t watch them speak.

“Are you still afraid of the woods?”

“A bit.” He faced Namjoon after a long pause. “Will you leave without me in the morning?”

Namjoon sank down onto the edge of the bed, creasing the cover. “I assumed you wouldn’t want to travel together.” He shook his head. “And rightly so; I shouldn’t have ridden ahead.”

“So, why did you?”

Gentle pattering began to drum against the roof, and despite their location within the deep, demon-infested woods, a bubble of calm arose in the cozy building with the knowledge that they were out of the storm, instead of stuck out in the open. Jimin rolled his shoulders, attempting to ease tension out of them.

Namjoon copied the motion, hands planting behind him against the bed, and he explained, “I’m a God. If I die, there’s no one set up to take my place. I had to think of that ahead of you, even if I hate myself for it.”

“Oh.” The word came out flat and Jimin nodded to him. “Well, I can understand that.” But as he spoke, he began walking for the door, the anger and hurt cresting a new wave.

“Please don’t go.”

“And, why shouldn’t I?” Jimin spat, “I’m a human; you’re a God. We slept together, and it can’t mean anything because you will live until something kills you, and I’ll be lucky to get another few decades.”

His hand closed on the door handle, but then Namjoon was there, shoving the door closed, pressing flush against Jimin’s back.

“Let me go.”

Namjoon exhaled, his breath ruffling Jimin’s hair, and his arms closed around the human. “I don’t want to.”

“Well, that’s a shame.” Jimin wrenched to the side, growling in frustration when Namjoon held him still. “Let me go!”

“I don’t want to never see you again,” he finally released Jimin, and continued as the human stumbled to the side, “I can treat our sex as a one-night stand, but I don’t want to. I can ride off and let you die, but I swear to you, if anything threatens you again, I’ll throw myself in the way.”

“Why would you do that?” Jimin faced him with exasperation. “You already said it: You’re indispensable. The God of knowledge and the Heavens. If I didn’t know better, I’d accuse you of making it rain, because…” at the guilt tugging Namjoon’s gaze away, Jimin trailed off, “it’s my favorite weather… You knew that, didn’t you?”

“Perhaps,” he laughed sadly, “I know you sleep better when it’s raining.”

“Sleeping together doesn’t guarantee I’ll fall in love with you, you realize.”

Namjoon stepped away from the door, tracing Jimin’s steps with his own.  “You’ve been in love with me for a long time. Before you met me like this.”

“And didn’t you think it’s different? Having you here versus this image in my head?” Jimin stood his ground when Namjoon approached, toe-to-toe with him, body so close he could trace the rise and fall of his chest.

“I worried about that, once I realized who you are. I worried you might be obsessive, I worried you might demand things of me, but you were afraid. Reverential, at first, but you treated me like you treat Taehyung. You approached me because my priests asked. And I would wager that you like me now that I’m no longer an unknown.”

Jimin shook his head. “I am not in love with you.”

“Good; we have so much more to discover about each other.”

“Is that a line?” Jimin snorted, smiling against his own good sense.

They stared at each other for a long moment, before Namjoon finally said, “It wasn’t intended to be.”

A hand rose to touch Jimin’s chest, the human shivering at the casual care in the caress, Namjoon murmuring, “Now, this might be: I wish I had time to watch you dance while I’m here. You always grabbed my attention when I’d accidentally see pieces of it from my realm.”

“That’s definitely a line,” Jimin swallowed the emotion that threatened to drag him under, leaning into Namjoon’s touch, the God’s hand resting on his stomach, “Do you even deserve the right to ask?”

Namjoon sighed, the sound of a thousand birds taking flight, and Jimin was leaning up to kiss him before he could speak, lips meeting as his hands grabbed the God’s shoulders.

He breathed against his lips, leaning up on his toes, “You don’t. You have no right to ask. You’re a coward. You should be begging for my forgiveness.”

And Jimin’s anger cracked within his chest, twisting with a demand for more, the man yearning for Namjoon’s touch, the need physical beneath his skin. He craved retribution, and if both men wouldn’t fall to their knees for him, one would do. Their physical closeness, Namjoon’s concern—Jimin thirsted for it all, would possess it before Namjoon disappeared for a final time.

“Jimin—”

He kissed him again, licking past his lips, and Jimin crushed their bodies together, relishing the sensation of Namjoon wrapped around him, his arms hugging the human in turn, as if to shield him from the world with his body.

Jimin’s tongue slid along Namjoon’s, twisting with luxuriating knowledge, while his arms wrapped around the God’s neck, so Jimin could feel the hum of pleasure through the God’s body where they connected.

Namjoon broke the kiss this time, his eyes dark with want, and he whispered, “I don’t want to stop seeing you. I want an eternity with you; I want to get to know you, even if the sex stops, even if you fall for something or someone else now that you know me.”

Tensing under his fingertips, Namjoon considered him with a heartbreaking question that Jimin couldn’t identify, the human nipping his lower lip just to startle him and snap him out of the stress that arose.

“If you’re so worried,” Jimin breathed, kissing the corner of his mouth, “ask Jeongguk to tell you where my soul goes after I die. You can harass me as much as you want, until you find a spine under your books.  Nothing has to be the end.”

Laughing, Namjoon’s arms around him tightened, and the next thing Jimin knew, he was in the air, yelping in surprise, clinging to the God as he shifted them to the bed, Jimin shaking his head at the irony: He’d run from his best friend and his God, into the bed of this God.

Laying him down and hovering over him, Namjoon kissed him anew, his lips tasting of giddy, nervous hope, where he’d despaired in breaths prior, and while Jimin wanted to question him, couldn’t understand his mood swings, his thoughts scattered to the winds as a hand snuck south to press over his bulge.

“Do you want to?” Namjoon mumbled against his lips, hand sliding from his crotch to his hip, as if he worried Jimin might not want the touches he initiated. And to be frank, Jimin didn’t know what he wanted.

But he knew he could use sex as a weapon.

“I do,” his lips quirked up into a dark smile, salacious with promise, and he swept Namjoon into his lie, kissing him hard, body reacting where his mind wanted to weep.

Taehyung, Namjoon, Jeongguk, and himself: It was a puzzle of epic proportions, one linking to the other, and as he thought about Jeongguk’s mouth on his best friend, Taehyung wriggling under him, Jimin understood what he needed.

“On your back.”

Namjoon stilled against him, surprised, but he obeyed, rolling them over so that Jimin sprawled over top of him, their bodies so close that he could feel Namjoon’s half-hard cock pressing against his hip.

Crawling off him, his hand moved to Namjoon’s robes—the beautiful, white ones from the night they’d met, replenished by the other God—and he plucked the pin holding them closed effortlessly, stripping the God down to his undergarments.

“What are you doing?” Namjoon asked, despite both men knowing Jimin’s intentions.

Knowing he wanted to hear it out loud, Jimin told him: “I want to fuck you.” As if they were equals, as if their affections could meet in the middle without Jimin pouring his soul into the coupling, pain and anger a noxious cocktail for him alone to swallow.

“Then you shall have me,” Namjoon murmured, his eyes soft, so soft, as if in worship of his own.

At the God’s guidance, Jimin discovered lube next to the washbasin, a cheeky gift from Jeongguk, and Jimin uncorked the bottle with a vicious motion, chastising himself mentally for allowing Taehyung and his God to affect him. Whatever he felt toward them, their relationship didn’t touch his with Namjoon.

“Take off your underclothes,” he ordered as he returned to the bed, climbing up onto the softness without removing a single article of his own clothes. This was about control; this was about the unevenness of a human fucking a God—gaining a lover, but losing every moral compass that ever guided him.

Namjoon slipped them down his hips, the long, tanned lines of his body appearing once more, his legs not quite slender, but delectable all the same, and Jimin fantasized what they would look like slung around his waist, the God biting his own fist to repress his moans and whimpers. Jimin drank in the sight of his nude body, his chest firm, culminating in broad shoulders and a dramatic neck, the delectable muse for so many artists.

Jimin hated this man, for taking away his God.

Sensing their role reversal and the rather dramatic mood lurking beneath Jimin’s calm veneer, Namjoon bit his tongue, not teasing him about removing any clothes, and instead spread his legs when Jimin shuffled toward him.

Settling between his legs, Jimin only said, “Prop yourself up with a pillow.”

Frowning in thought, Namjoon shifted back, his whole body draped across the multitude of pillows, dark and simple, as befitting a temple for travelers, and sighed when the pads of Jimin’s fingers picked their way down from his belly button, to his cock, balls, and perineum, and then finally to his entrance.

Brushing the tips over the little hole, Jimin nodded in acquiescence. “I can work with this angle a lot better.”

Removing his hands from Namjoon, not touching him at all, he poured the lubricant into his hands to warm it, listening as the rapid sound of Namjoon’s breathing filled the room, the God finally breaking the silence, Jimin knowing without being told that the God disliked their silence. Disliked such brisk sex.

“I was scared you weren’t going to prepare me, for a moment.”

“I wouldn’t hurt you.” Jimin’s eyes flashed as they found Namjoon’s, a power residing in them, as the God calmed at the sight.

“I trust you.”

Jimin’s fingers traced their prior route to his entrance and he pressed one in with little ceremony, rendering words useless as he fucked one in, pressing it in and out, and then a second, with little, arrested noises slipping out as Jimin accidentally brushed Namjoon’s prostate and worked the sensitive rim of muscles.

Cock softening a bit from the stretching, Namjoon soon asked for more, the word a quiet plea, repeated louder, in a more broken voice when Jimin continued working, his free hand cupping and stroking over Namjoon’s testicles. As if the motions hurt, as if things operated on simple cause-effect: Namjoon speaks, it must hurt, therefore you must adjust.

But, after Namjoon repeated his words louder, the pleasure on his features having morphed to fear and longing, Jimin only said, “Flip over.”

Fingers pulling free, Jimin wiped them on his leather tights, pain thronging through him as Namjoon stared at him, lips curling down as he processed the words. The God only nodded and rolled himself over, taking a longer beat to pull his legs under him, ass swaying as it rose into the air, hands pressing into the mattress for the ideal position.

With Namjoon no longer watching him, the sharp emotions faded and Jimin’s hands rested on the God’s hips, the world splitting to leave Jimin staring at just another man’s butt. This might be a fine, lovely ass, but it didn’t belong to a God—it belonged to a man who fell into a strange world, a man who trusted him to help, a man who found him gorgeous and wanted to touch him even if it meant Jimin using him.

The finish was horribly human; heart-breaking in its inclinations, but Jimin loved the God that protected and watched over him, and now he cared for this human who would put his body at the mercy of the whims of a human whose actions were mired in resentment.

At least in his world, the line for good and evil was drawn in the sand, and good people couldn’t break others irreparably.

Jimin’s hands stroked over the skin, his eyes drifting over the expanse of Namjoon’s back, to the little moles speckled here and there, a veritable constellation of little kisses where the God could never see them. Leaning over, he placed a kiss over one on his upper back, feeling Namjoon shiver where his lips brushed.

“Is this hard for you?” Jimin asked, voice so low that he could barely distinguish the words himself. Seconds passed and he wondered if he dreamed them.

Reaching for his leggings, he tugged them down to his thighs, his tunic long enough that it concealed him still, his cock soft from the consternated thinking. Namjoon spoke as he grabbed for the bottle of lube again, spreading it over his length as he began to jerk himself to hardness. At first he focused on Namjoon, but the guilt of using the God drove him, against his will, to picture Taehyung pinned beneath Jeongguk on their bed.

The memory of Taehyung’s moans twisted in his gut, his teeth digging into his lower lip, each movement vicious and sharp, his touches only softening when he registered Namjoon’s words:

“It scared me at first. I thought you were doing this to satiate me, so I wouldn’t leave without you.” Namjoon let out a nervous laugh, “Until just now, when you kissed my back. Now, I’m just scared that this is some elaborate ruse.”

“Like I could fool you,” Jimin scoffed, his voice bitter as he chased the images of his best friend and the God of death from his mind.

“Being the God of wisdom doesn’t make you all knowing.” Namjoon laughed, the sound self-depricating, “I can hear you, back there—your hand on yourself. Like it’s a burden to do this with me, like you don’t—”

“Namjoon.”

“Emotions don’t make any more sense to someone who’s all-knowing. Explanations only go so far.”

“And what are you feeling?”

Exhaling, voice breaking, Namjoon craned his head to look back at him. “Hopeless. Like I had something in my future to look forward to, but I ruined it. I—wish I was human, when I look at you.”

Those words, more than any actions or visions he could impose upon himself, broke through his dreary reverie, and Jimin loosened his grip on himself, hands shifting back to Namjoon’s hips, stroking over the skin with a tender touch.

“You are human, right now—the most human I’ve ever seen you.”

He shifted to position himself at the God’s entrance, rubbing the head of his cock over the sensitive hole, smiling when Namjoon gasped, the puff of air soft. Feeling the warmth start to return, Jimin pushed in, groaning when he bottomed out, Namjoon’s arms shaking where they held him up. Holding the position, allowing the God to adjust, Jimin groaned when Namjoon pressed back, the God shaking beneath him as he steadied himself and fought not to tense up.

Instinct moving him, Jimin ran a hand down his back, nails pressing slightly, meant to pleasure in the way simple touch could brighten a day, and then his hand slipped around Namjoon to his cock, hand closing around it, fingers barely touching around him.

“You’re doing great,” he murmured, pumping him as he gave a test thrust of his hips, listening as a moan slipped free from Namjoon, so small that Jimin continued his ministrations, wanting to work him up and dismantle him.

To match the strokes of his hand, Jimin’s hips began swiveling, following the motions of dances he hadn’t touched in weeks, thrusting in and out of God, deeper on each push until he was fucking him in earnest, the air heady and slick with the sounds of their transgression.

Namjoon never moaned loudly; but he moaned like a dream, soft and pretty, like Jimin was showering him with kisses, whispering sweet nothings in his ears. His arms gave out halfway through, and with the new angle, he cried out, his only violent noise of the night, as he declared that Jimin found his prostate.

Encouraged, Jimin didn’t hold back and pistoned his cock into the God, watching with relish as his cock sank again and again into Namjoon’s tight ass, the heat and slick warmth driving him faster, harder. Namjoon whimpered against the covers, a soft “Jimin” here and there, coiling in his ribcage until Jimin couldn’t remember his anger or confusion or concern over the pure need to cum.

“It won’t be much longer,” he warned the God. “Can I cum in your ass? Or would you prefer somewhere else?”

“My ass,” Namjoon huffed, head turned slightly so Jimin could hear him better. “I want to feel it in me when you cum.”

Heat flushed up Jimin’s chest at the thought, his new tunic clinging to him with sweat, and he vowed, “You’re going to feel it. Gods, you feel so good.”

Laughing softly, Namjoon teased, voice hitching only a few times through, “Maybe don’t invoke the others while you’re fucking me.”

“Fuck ‘em, let them hear.” Jimin slowed his motions, hips rolling deliberately, Namjoon whining as his cock head brushed so slow over his sweet spot. “Let them hear how good a puny human can give it to you.”

“Puny?” Namjoon snorted, “It feels like you’re splitting me open.”

Jimin nearly stilled, concerned that meant it hurt, but Namjoon begged next, “Faster, please. I was so close.”

Imagining the pout on his features, Jimin chuckled and reinstituted his brutal pace, chasing the high of his own release, and rain pounded against the roof, the perfect soundtrack to obscure their shenanigans from others in the temple, as well as a decent mimicry to his brutal pace.

The bed frame shaking with the force of his thrusts, Jimin vindictively thought of Taehyung and Jeongguk again, his grip around his God tightening, until Namjoon shuddered, a complete loss of motor control, and gasped something into the covers. Jimin didn’t understand until the next pump of his hand found hot, sticky cum painting his fingers, and the human laughed, the sensation and knowledge so hot that his own orgasm rushed through him.

Dragging his dirtied fingers up Namjoon’s chest, he proffered them to the God, ordering for him to “suck” in a rasp, voice wrecked from physical and mental sensation, Jimin chasing the high looming on his horizon.

A timid, soft tongue brushed his fingers, and then he released deep within the God, moaning out his name high and pretty, it almost sounding as if he’d been the one getting fucked. And, as he fluttered down from his high, pulling free of Namjoon and watching his cum trickle down the insides of his thighs, a sense of calm relief drifted over him.

Panting, he allowed the man to suck on his fingers for another moment before pulling free, settling back on the bed, his tunic disgusting on him as he laid against the covers. Yanking it off, he tossed it to the floor, glancing over at Namjoon only then, lazy relief drying up at the soft, penetrating look in Namjoon’s eyes.

“What?”

Namjoon shrugged. “That was intense.”

“Did you like it?”

“I think so.” After a cautious glance, Namjoon rested his head on Jimin’s chest, eyes on the human’s upside down face. “Is this alright?”

“Yes, I think so.” Jimin reached to card a hand through Namjoon’s moon-white hair, the humid air of the room like a womb, fostering a beginning and a release that would lead to a whole new journey. “Make sure to wake me up when you’re ready to go tomorrow, alright?”

Jimin melted at Namjoon’s answering smile, deigning to return to his room that night.

--

Breakfast consisted of awkward glances sent from one side of the table to the other, the other guests of the temple seated as far from the Gods as they could be, as if they could sense the animosity liquidizing in the air like a thunderhead. Jimin seated himself beside Namjoon and cast few glances at Taehyung, unable to wipe the memory of his best friend’s moans from his mind as much as he wanted. As much as Namjoon’s hand on his thigh beneath the table sent his heart flying. Discovering a new favorite food and comparing it to a childhood favorite felt like attempting to speak and sing at the same time.

Taehyung’s eyes lingered on him for the entire meal, a fact he only learned when he returned to his room to pack and Namjoon informed him.

“And Jeongguk?”

“He was smiling, not really watching anyone.”

Namjoon treated his Godhood as a job, a profession to honor that mixed in with his daily life, but couldn’t change his foundations of humanity beneath the unconquerable being.  Jeongguk was an enigma—a small child who would smile as he burnt a spider to death with a magnifying glass. Perhaps he was stereotyping, but as he cloaked himself in his layers, he couldn’t find it in himself to miss this temple that belonged to the God of travelers.

He would be glad to reach home again.

When their doors opened, Taehyung’s did as well, and he shot out like a cannonball, his hair mussed, and Jimin swallowed the petty sneer that wanted to present itself to his best friend.

“Yes?”

“I want to travel the last leg of the journey with you two.” Taehyung’s eyes burned holes where they rested, the man all too aware that Jimin was refusing to look at him, a behavior Jimin practiced only when avoiding people. “We need to talk about what happened. We…just need to talk.”

More than anything, Jimin wanted to deny him; he wanted to grasp Namjoon’s hand and turn his nose up at his oldest friend, but he snuck a glance at the man and was lost. No one could best Taehyung’s pleading expressions, his eyes large and luminous, like you might just break his heart if you denied him.

“Fine.”

Striding past him, Jimin reclaimed his horse, rubbing his neck with a sense of exhaustion. “Soon, I’ll return you home, dear.”

Mounting and waiting for Namjoon and Taehyung to follow suit, they kicked their horses into motion, retracing their steps from the day before, as they would need to follow the main road to reach the lake.

Along the way, the scent of petrichor rich in the air, as it rained all night, Taehyung finally broke the stilted air between them.

“I’m so glad you’re alright.”

They both waited for his barbed “no thanks to you,” but Jimin bit his tongue, instead casting his friend a cool look. “I’m not totally incompetent on my own, and the God of knowledge is definitely handy to keep around.”

Taehyung snorted. “I suppose he would be.”

 “He was. Much less than the God of travelers would be for a journey, I presume?”

“Yes and no.” Taehyung glanced up at the canopy of leaves through his bangs, the red smudges beside his eyes catching Jimin’s attention again. “He made it easy to find food and lodgings, but he didn’t speak much at all for the first week.”

“Typical of Jeongguk,” Namjoon replied, not pretending to ignore their conversation, and Jimin nearly snickered, more amused than annoyed. “He’s shy when he first meets people.”

“Yeah, well,” shaking his head, Taehyung sighed, “we encountered a group of scammers a week in and we had to fight them off. Stupidly, I took a knife for him, thinking he wouldn’t see it coming, and he had to manage me and them after that. After that was over, he chewed me out and dressed the wound.” A smile played at the corners of his lips, spreading over his features like warm honey. “He was fussier than you’d expect.” He glanced up at Jimin, expression shy. “We argued about religion a lot.”

“And now you’re bound to him,” Jimin’s tone was cold, despite his best efforts. “I’ve never seen a red facial tattoo on Spectre priests before.”

Taehyung winced, the words hitting exactly where he expected, and he scrambled to defend himself, “I didn’t—I’m not pledged to him.”

Jimin watched Namjoon stiffen, hearing the same pleading that he did—like they were lovers, like he had to excuse an affair. Something deep-rooted ached, but Jimin otherwise ignored it.

“Then why are you tattooed?”

“Because…” Taehyung’s hand rose to brush over the mark by his right eye, “it’s a mark of favor. He asked to officially court me. Or, well, not court me, but see me again.” His eyes darted between him and Namjoon. “He likes me, he said. And I don’t care who he is: If he was human, I think this all would have gone the same way.”

His words echoed Jimin’s thoughts from the night before and he shook his head, as if trying to loose them free.

“Listen,” Taehyung swallowed, words trembling, as if the shake of head was to deny him, “when he talked in the beginning, it was about Namjoon and you. He was scared for Namjoon more than worried about me. He recognized that I would probably feel the same way about you—”

“And in that vulnerable state you told me you were in,” Jimin snapped, “isn’t it strange that he managed to seduce you when you were so afraid and confused? Felt like your whole world had been turned upside down, I think you said? You don’t think he took advantage of that at all?”

No replies came for a while, the hurt shimmering in the air like waves of heat, and Namjoon shot Jimin several panicked glances, as if he worried the accusation applied to him as well. But, they didn’t: Jimin had the presence of mind to know his feelings developed naturally for the earnest, sweet God, and that Namjoon hadn’t manipulated anything. Not when he breached the barrier from friends to lovers himself.

Too soon, a mist began curling around the floor of the forest, tendrils of it spreading upward until the forest embraced them, blocking their vision more than a couple meters ahead, the travelers slowing the pace of their horses so they wouldn’t trip. The sounds of insects and forest animals faded, as if muted by the mist, and soon even the sounds of his body felt deafening in the white blanket of fog.

Jimin felt as if he couldn’t talk—as if he spoke, the spell would break and he’d lose his chance, so despite feeling as if he’d go mad in the silence, he bit his tongue until the quiet lapping of lake water against soil reached his ears.

Holding his breath, the wet, loamy scent of lake mud reaching his nostrils, Jimin inhaled, attempting to forcibly slow his heart, and failed as his horse’s hooves squished into mud, the creature halting then, refusing to take another step forward.

Hands clenching around the reins, he dismounted, the power of the place washing over him like a winter breeze, whipping at the lapels of his overcoat, and Jimin knew to walk further was to descend into the water, pure and luminous, the edge of the world hazy in the very near distance.

“I think I need to go first,” Namjoon spoke, his voice too loud even as he whispered. “If I’m meant to receive you in my world, I need to be there.”

Sudden; their parting was too sudden.

Jimin’s eyes widened and he wheeled to face Namjoon, his boots squelching in the mud. “We’re going to see each other again; this isn’t the end.”

“Of course it isn’t,” Namjoon reassured him, and the God’s honesty was the thread holding the pieces of Jimin together.

Lips sealing, Jimin’s hands clenched into fists at his sides, resentment broiling hot within him that yet again, Namjoon would leave him to this new, shattered world. Gods might still disintegrate him with a single look, but after knowing Namjoon, touching him so intimately, Jimin had no idea how to fit back in the box of his religion.

Meanwhile, in a parallel to the beginning of the ritual, Namjoon strode out into the lake fully clothed, his glow swallowed by the fog as he finally submerged, head disappearing beneath the surface without so much as a blip in the level, glass-clear surface of the lake.

“How long until we can go in?” Taehyung asked, but both knew he expected no answer. “Do you want to go in next, or shall I?”

“You go,” Jimin couldn’t force himself to take that long-desired step now that he faced the lake, and sending Taehyung away would gratify some small, petty side of him. “Maybe Jeongguk will commit to making you a priest.”

The man scowled at him, Jimin sensing Taehyung’s anger like a suspension of his own, but instead of firing back, Taehyung stomped into the lake, his legs slowed by the water, yet no less clumsy and messy, sloshing the water around, as if forcing this portal to the Gods to concede something, if just in appearance and mood.

Unlike Namjoon, Taehyung gulped down a deep breath before descending, and when he didn’t float back up within a minute, Jimin resisted the instinct to search for him beneath the surface, knowing he might see things that human minds weren’t meant to comprehend.

Hours might have passed in the overcast gloom of the fog, Jimin yearning even for insect bites—some reassurance that he wasn’t alone—when a shadowed figure appeared at the edge of his vision, striding toward him out of the water.

Stiffening in anticipation, his tension eased when Taehyung’s features clarified, the fog peeling away from him.

“It’s your turn,” he said as soon as his boot touched solid ground, not a drop of water clinging to him.

Jimin nodded, scowling to himself as he strode forward, wishing he could scream or drive the fog out—or see the future, just for a second, to know what was coming.

When he passed Taehyung, the man’s hand rose as if to touch him, but he hesitated and Jimin flinched away, neither acknowledging it as Taehyung murmured, “I’ll wait for you here.”

His anxiety over being alone in this strange forest overrode his residual anger from his fight with the man, so Jimin took the middle ground and nodded to him. “Go back if I’m gone too long; you don’t want to starve.”

Then he was in the lake, the water the temperature of bathwater, warm and calming against his skin without dampening or weighing his clothes down. Jimin offhandedly wondered if anyone ever drowned in this lake before, as it seemed to urge him toward napping. A single mouthful might knock you out for a few hours.

As the banks sloped down, the effect increased as more water touched his skin, Jimin repressing a yawn as it closed around his waist, distracting him from the drop off, the man’s heart attempting to panic, though the water wouldn’t let him. Instead of scrambling back, his dulled reaction time allowed him to fall forward, disappearing beneath the surface with a blip, the man falling unconscious before his nose could submerge.

--

The toes of a boot found his side, nudging him, and he grumbled, swatting at whoever dared disturb him, muddled voices speaking above him, before someone hovered over his chest, long hair draping around his face. Hands found his cheeks, a sweet voice crooning something to him, before the hands grabbed, nails digging into his jaw, as the voice solidified into a booming, irritated, “Wake up!”

Blinking his eyes fully open, he stared up at a gorgeous woman, her eyebrows bunched together in the scowl of a lifetime—the kind that would send grown men blubbering home to their mothers.

“Who—what?”

“He’s awake,” she announced, withdrawing with a gracious nod. “Took longer than I would have expected for a stars-blessed child.”

“Maybe he was tired,” a kind voice replied, “it’s further than he’s ever traveled.”

“He was also busy last night,” a familiar voice chortled, “playing knight to Namjoon’s horse.”

“You’re disgusting.”

At the last voice, Jimin shot up from his position on the ground, eyes wide as he scanned the small group of people, settling on Namjoon, the man twice as glorious in the vast nothingness of the area they occupied: He wore a heavier robe than the first night they met, a braided golden belt holding a slender sword, Namjoon’s cheeks flushed with health.

“Namjoon,” he greeted, as if it’d been years, instead of a few hours. “You made it home safe.” Then, Jimin connected the dots, understanding where he was—and who the people were.

His easy relief fell from his features, eyes widening with fear as he scanned the five other people, mostly ignoring Jeongguk, who smirked at him from the end of the conglomerate.

“I’m in Chonguk,” he whispered, stilling when he noticed the thin, green creatures hovering around the shoulders of the shortest Goddess, her features bright and curious. “Oh, Gods.”

“Exactly,” Jeongguk grinned, spreading his arms wide, wrapping his right one around the shoulders of a shorter, grumpy-looking God bedecked in so much jewelry that walking around might exhaust the God on its own.

“And I get to meet all of you?”

“Because we have a proposal for you,” the tall, stone-hewn woman began, her beauty captivating, though her no-nonsense expression encouraged him to still his tongue. “This will be a briefer meeting than you deserve, Park Jimin, but the truth is—we can’t afford to flip flop on this issue any longer.” She cast an annoyed frown at Namjoon, who ignored her. “We are fewer than ever before. We need to make more of us.”

“Make?”

“All souls,” another man spoke up—and if Namjoon glowed, this man was blinding, his skin a rich gold that flickered, colors of the day sky passing over him as he explained, “are reborn when they die. Gods included. We cannot create more of ourselves—we can only elevate humans and give them the gifts of a God.”

“However, after certain mishaps,” this time, a dirty look was sent to the sleepy, shorter man, “we are more cautious with journeying into the human world. In some ways, it’s lucky Namjoon was sent there. He’s gotten to know you, vouched for your credentials, and we’ve decided immortality is yours, if you choose to take it.”

“Right now?” His stomach dropped into his heels, and he thought of Taehyung waiting for him at the lake, his parents and elder sister at home.

“No,” the tallest girl—the Night star to the kind man’s Day star, if he could guess—said, “the night of the summer equinox, when we’re at our most powerful. We can’t afford to use so much of our powers when we’re in the middle of battle. You have until then to explain to your families and friends or fake your own death.” She shrugged at his disgruntled expression, “How else would you explain the new Gods that look like you?”

“Gods, plural?” The pieces fell together and his gaze locked onto Jeongguk. “Not Taehyung, too?”

“Why, jealous he gets it, too?” Jeongguk smirked, but Namjoon spoke up then, warning Jeongguk in a low, dangerous tone that Jimin recalled from dinner the night prior.

“You don’t have to accept now,” the sweet Goddess with the green tendrils around her spoke—the Mother, if he had to guess. “We will visit you then to ask.”

“I—alright,” Jimin swallowed, thoughts on his family and friends. On Taehyung. “I’ll think about it.”

He caught Namjoon’s gaze, sensing their meeting was over, and just as he promised, “We will see each other then; don’t despair,” the only God that hadn’t spoken—Yoongi, the Benefactor, and God of luck—warned, “This will be the only offer we give you.”

Then, as he parted his lips to return Namjoon’s words, fog began to creep into his vision, blurring the Gods and the dramatic, green landscape behind them, his words muddling and becoming nonsensical. Taking a step forward, angry they were dismissing him, he found his foot slogging through water, Jimin’s body mid-step for the walk back to shore.

Taehyung was seated against a tree, chewing on a piece of bread they’d brought along from the temple, and Jimin greeted him with an accusing, “Did they ask you to be a God, too?”

Pausing, head craning to look up at Jimin, he answered, “I think you know they did.”

“I wanted to make sure they weren’t lying.” Jimin’s hands clenched into fists at the calm caution Taehyung used to study him. “Are you going to take it?”

“Are you?”

Taehyung rose after a long pause, hands lacing behind him as he arched and stretched his back, cracking it. “I think so. I mean, if you can’t beat them, join them, right?” At Jimin’s humorless frown, Taehyung sighed, “I mean, my choices are live this life the best that I can and be reborn—rinse and repeat. Or I can become immortal. I can fight the darkness that threatens both realms.” His eyes sparkled with determination. “It’s more purpose than I’ve ever had, Chim.”

“You can be with Jeongguk for eternity.” And Jimin didn’t know where his never-ending bitchiness toward the God of death originated from, the sensations resonating deep within him to the core parts that formed him, but he refused to shy away from them.

“Don’t tell me Namjoon isn’t part of the reason you’re considering it,” Taehyung snapped back. “You can’t be angry with me for wanting him when you want another God.”

Gesturing for them to retrieve their horses, Jimin scoffed, “You weren’t religious.”

“And then they appeared in front of me!” Taehyung stopped, the horses so close, yet out of reach, his magnetism such that Jimin couldn’t continue and mount his horse. “And so what if I take it? So what if I like Jeongguk? So what if he marked me? It’s not like I’m betraying who I am. I believed in real people around me. I believed in myself.”

He strode forward, a hand touching Jimin’s jaw, placing them close enough that they could feel each other breathing. “You’re Namjoon’s. What’s so bad about me being Jeongguk’s?”

A flash of understand passed through them and Jimin reached to touch the backs of Taehyung’s hands, murmuring, “I am not his—he is mine.”

Taehyung allowed Jimin to lower his hand, their eyes locked, and nearly two decades of knowledge pulsed between them, hot and wanting, the pair understanding each other without words, hating the situation, knowing that when the solace would come, they’d have only one choice.

They rode home together, taking the “long route” up and around, as that was closer to their home city, and each day they spent in the wild, huddling together to share body heat, their conversations and tones returned to the way they’d always been. The things they discovered about themselves, in each other, would remain buried under the debris of their respective faiths.

By the time they arrived back home, their friendship resumed where they’d left off, like time warped and the town compressed their old beliefs, smothered their old feelings toward men. Both waited to tell their families, knowing they would call them heretics at worst, or confused, until they would have proof. Taehyung, to his parents’ delight, revealed his secret when preparations for the summer equinox festival began—both thinking that meant he was chosen to serve the Gods.

Jimin waited until the day of, and received the tongue-lashing he expected, the pair assuming his delusions derived from extreme faith and augmented dancing, the only reprieve he had from his inner struggle, the man feeling as if he was casting himself off to awaken this new creature. Without his faith, he already felt like a different person.

“It’s good to love the Gods,” his mom groaned, “but my Gods, Jimin—you can’t just become a God.”

He stayed quiet and still while they ranted, hugging them both tight when they finished, telling them how much he appreciated and loved them, vowing that from that day forward he would do his best to make them proud. They muttered about their strange child, but both believed him, as Jimin wasn’t ever caught when he lied to them, and thus they took him at his words. Optimistic, his mother would tell his father before bed that night that maybe they got through to him—and he would work around the farm more now.

Instead, seated on his balcony, the clear night unveiling a waxing gibbous, Jimin craned his head back, acceptance heavy in his chest—he’d eaten over his brother-in-law’s house the night before and doted over his sister and her new baby, leaving her a note to open that day or the next. Saying goodbye hurt, but as a star winked beside the moon, trailing down from the sky, he wryly considered that he would have all the time in the world at his fingertips, and in all his family’s lives, current and reborn, he would be immortalized forever.

--

Eunbi stood in front of him, her robes long and dark, a navy so deep it appeared black, twinkling with stars, and she asked, “Park Jimin. Have you decided on what you will govern over as a newly inducted God?”

“Yes.” And instead of looking at Taehyung, his eyes found Namjoon, the stature he ached for over the past two months, watching with gentle pride. “I wish to be the God of love and lust.” His cheeks flushed, the second an addition from Taehyung that still embarrassed him, as his friend insisted that no one could better fit the image.

“Love and lust?” Her eyebrows quirked and Eunbi smiled, amused. “Very well. And you?” She turned to Taehyung, “What would you like to be the designated God of?”

Taehyung’s hands clenched into fists at his sides. “I would like to be the God of spring.”

The Gods stilled simultaneously, a sight that would liquefy Jimin’s insides if he wasn’t about to join them.

“I want to dedicate my Godhood to fighting the demons,” he explained to the stunned crowd, but especially to Yerim, who the growing season was especially important to. “I want to be hope for humans and Gods—I want to represent the bonds and ties between humans and Gods in more ways than just as a reborn human.”

Yerim beamed at him and the rest nodded their agreement.

“Alright.” Eunbi cast Taehyung a respectful nod and began presenting them to the universe, her words progressing until she was speaking a language that the stars understood, and felt familiar in Jimin’s blood, though his mind couldn’t articulate them. She raised her arms and a glowing kernel descended from the stars, splitting into two.

One by one, the Gods approached the glowing seeds and touched them, the colors morphing to reflect the personalities. Namjoon’s touch injected a blue so light, it still appeared white, and Jeongguk’s surprised Jimin with a cool, soft blue, the color of twilight blending into night.

When the last God touched the seeds, Yoongi’s morphing them a stormy gray-green that matched thunderheads perfectly, they settled: One turned a brilliant, ruby red, while the other bloomed a bright yellow-green, the first sinuous and passionate, while the second matched its passion with brightness.

Understanding instinctively which was which, Taehyung and Jimin approached the seeds in tandem, their right hands seeking and touching the kernels.

Until light was all there was.

--

When Jimin awoke, he found himself garbed in gauzy pink, sleeveless robes, the material gathering at his throat, tied to a gold choker, then splitting to reveal his chest down to his navel. It merged anew at his hips, ending midthigh, and just barely covered his nipples and dick, but when Jimin examined himself in a mirror for the first time, he couldn’t argue that it suited him.

Matching gold bands danced up his bare arms, a thin, gold chain of a belt slung across his hips, and the split in the robes showed his muscles, while the short skirt showed off his thighs. His hair was ruffled, as if he’d spent the last night in bed with Namjoon, rather than at the ceremony to turn him into a God, and his lips were bitten red.

Perhaps he should have just stuck to “love” without the lust.

He explored the large house, crafted from marble and trimmed with precious metals and stones he’d only ever seen the extent of in temples, but no other people seemed to inhabit it. Finally, he slipped downstairs and found Namjoon seated at a grand, wooden table that stretched from one end of the massive room to the other. On the walls hung a veritable gallery of beautiful faces, and at the forefront was Namjoon, sipping at something from a teacup.

Excitement leapt in his chest and he charged down the remaining steps, body moving faster than expected and causing him to trip himself, though he also regained his balance within a few seconds, marveling over it until he met Namjoon’s eyes.

A sensation in his gut tugged, like he was hungry and horny at the same time, and Jimin understood instinctively that this was his new territory: He could feel Namjoon’s emotions toward him.

Smiling, shy from their months apart, he approached him, greeting him with a gentle “hey” as Namjoon’s gaze roamed over his exposed skin.

“Hello.” The God’s arms slung around his waist and tugged him forward, down into his lap. “I would have been in your room, but I wanted to give you some privacy after the transformation.” His eyes darted every which way, and the tugging sensation in Jimin’s gut increased. “Look at you…”

Proud that he could read Namjoon and affect him so much after months away, he wrapped his arms up around the man’s neck and smiled. “What’s next?”

“Next?” Namjoon chuckled, hands settling on Jimin’s hips. “I think this.” He leaned in to press a delicate kiss to his lips.

Jimin allowed him, kissing him back until the tugging turned into a swirl of emotion, warning him to break the kiss, his lips gliding over Namjoon’s cheek. “Am I that hot, or do my new powers include influencing?”

“No way to know until you try.” Namjoon leaned back, sensing they would accomplish nothing if he lost himself in Jimin so early.

“Can we?”

“Of course,” Namjoon offered him a brilliant, excited grin. “I can’t wait to see what you can do.”

“We have eternity now, to find out.” And while that frightened Jimin on a smaller, human level, Namjoon’s arms were there, wrapping him up into an embrace.

“It won’t be an eternity alone; you have me, Taehyung, and all the others. You’ll love them.”

Jimin laughed at the unintentional pun. “More like they’ll love me.”

“They will,” Namjoon agreed, “love God or no, I think your place was always meant to be with us.”

The words, so simple, rang through him with the clarity of a bell’s chime—surely, he didn’t worship and lose it because he was meant to become one of his Gods? It made too much sense for him and Taehyung. He considered praying over it, only to remember that he could just ask Eunbi now.

Like Namjoon said, he had eternity to feel out his relationships—to learn and listen and love, and find himself in Namjoon’s arms again and again. Things might get confusing, but he was no longer helpless, and he had the very composition of the world to back him up. He could dance forever, frolic amongst the mortals—

But for now, he reached for Namjoon’s hands, lacing their fingers together. “I think so, too.”