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let the light in

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And though I’m paper skin,

I’m gonna love you, I’m gonna love you now...

 

_ _

 

There is magic in the world. And not metaphorically - believing in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus and miracles - but scientific, actually proven fact. There is magic in the world, flowing through it, seeping out of it - in the ground and the air and the currents of the sea. If you’re born with the right blood, or DNA, or something ( that scientists aren’t sure of yet) then you’ll be able to feel it. It’ll flow through you, too. You’ll hear it humming in the back of your mind, buzzing just beneath your skin, connecting you to everything else.

Sometimes, your body and bones will seem too small for all that power.

Because magic is powerful and it looks different for everyone, so the books say. There are the standard spells and practices, sure - the ones that technically anyone can learn from the right book or rune set, even if they don’t have enough raw power to put it into practice.  But deeper than that, woven into the very fabric of your being, is an ability that you were born with, that can’t be copied. You might be able to commune with the dead, or dream about the future, or talk to animals…

 Or, if you’re Jeon Jungkook, sense the emotions of people around you - sometimes so viscerally it’s as if they’re your own. Anger, fear, sadness, hope, joy, love all press against you, fill your lungs and your chest until you’re overflowing.

When he was a child, Jungkook reveled in it. The world felt so big and he was so connected to everything in it. To his parents, and his brother, and his friends at school - even the strangers passing by on the street. Sometimes, if he touched them, he could even hear the thoughts zipping through their minds: the grocery list his mother was trying not to forget, the notes of a song his father was humming, the victory shout when his friend got an A on an assignment. A brush against a grandmother in a shop revealed her excitement at seeing her grandchildren for the first time in several months. Meanwhile, the important looking man in the suit next to her was trying to compose a text to his wife, explaining that he would be late for dinner. Again.

It made Jungkook feel so alive, getting these amazing glimpses into other people’s worlds. But magic is powerful, and powerful things are often feared.

Even by those closest to you, who should understand but don’t. Can’t.

Never will.

 

_ _

 

The things Jeon Jungkook loves about New York City:

  • The grit of it, so different from the gleaming vastness of Seoul. Eight million people from all the corners of the globe piled on top of each other, trying to make a living.
  • The fact that if you stand in the middle of Canal Street on the Lower East Side, Chinatown will be on your right and Littly Italy on your left.
  • His studio apartment near the campus is tiny, but still bigger than the closet he was renting in Seoul.
  • He hears at least twenty-five different languages if he walks more than three blocks anywhere.
  • The hodge podge architecture, all slapped together without much unity. Gleaming skyscrapers and ritzy hotels right next to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and ancient apartment buildings.
  • The light on the floor of Grand Central Station early in the morning.
  • How well Central Park shuts out all the rush and noise of the city, making you feel like you’re actually hiking through a forest.
  • The rattle of the subway at night, lulling him into sleep on his way back to his apartment - just him in the empty car, barreling through the city.
  • He’s far enough away from his parents that they can’t constantly check in on him anymore.

 

And the things he hates:

  • The loneliness that followed him from Seoul, and still rattles around in his bones. Weighs heavy on his shoulders in the stillness of his studio at night and when he walks by himself through campus - unable to find a way to connect with anyone.
  • The East River isn’t an adequate substitute for the sea in Busan.
  • English is the most ridiculous language ever invented and even after nearly a year of speaking it all the time, he still trips up on a daily basis.
  • The biting cold that for some reason starts as early as late September, digging into his skin through his layers as he staggers his way up the subway steps onto the street, even though it makes wearing gloves easier - no strange looks like he always gets in the summer.
  • The business course that he’s currently failing, in spite of promising his family that NYU would be a better fit for him than Seoul National University.

 

He still can’t think about the test that’s crumpled in his backpack, so marked up with red ink that it looks like it’s bleeding. It’s three in the afternoon on a Tuesday and he just bombed his second major test of the semester. Tonight, he’s going to have to go home and tell his parents about it - weather their disappointment, their concern, their questions.

Is the city too much for you? Are you getting distracted again? I thought you had that under control, Jungkook.

Which. He does. He swears he does. He wears gloves and he’s careful, careful, careful not to touch anyone and he’s locked his magic up so tight - welded the box in the back of his mind shut - that he barely even gets impressions anymore. Sure, it feels a little like he can’t breathe, all the time. Or like there’s a hole in him, a vital piece that’s missing, but he understands. His “gift” is intrusive and unwelcome and dangerous, and he needs to keep it in check. For the sake of himself and everyone else.

But the fact that he bombed a second test has nothing to do with that and everything to do with how much he hates business. He isn’t smart enough for it, or aggressive enough for it, and most of his classes are so boring he wants to scream. There are so many other things he loves - dance, music, art, photography, video production - but none of them lead to practical careers, according to his parents, and so they’re a waste of time and money. And he won’t be able to cover tuition and rent by himself, if his parents cut him off, so two years and two universities later, he’s still battling his way through a business course.

It might all be a moot point, anyway, if he flunks out.

He pulls his scarf up a little higher, covering his nose, and shoves his hands in his pockets. He has no idea where he’s going, not even sure which stop he got off the subway at or what neighborhood he’s currently in. Somewhere down south, near the river. East Village, maybe? It doesn’t really matter. His current goals are a) avoid going home for as long as possible and b) avoid crying in the middle of the street.

The second goal is quickly slipping out of reach as he feels his eyes burning and his vision blurs. Shit. He ducks his head, turns down a side street. Definitely East Village. He recognizes the colorful shops, the graffiti murals on brick walls, the smells wafting from various Asian restaurants dotted around. He’s always liked it here, though it sometimes feels too infested with students from his university. He comes to draw sometimes, or take pictures of old, ivy-covered townhouses, and it’s not a surprise his feet carried him into the neighborhood without input from his brain.

He takes a deep breath and wipes at his eyes, which are still leaking. It’s 3:30 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon and he’s crying in the middle of the street.

Great. Fantastic. He loves his life.

He’s also managed to turn down a street he’s never explored before. It’s quieter than some of the main thoroughfares with their bars and clubs and restaurants - almost hushed, with ivy on the old buildings. He kind of wants to sit down on the curb and collect himself, but that might be more embarrassing than just accepting his fate and going back to his studio to have his breakdown in peace.

Right, he can make it home. A couple subway stops, a ten minute walk, and then he’ll have a few hours before he has to call his parents. Plenty of time for some crying and television bingeing and maybe a workout to stop himself from wallowing.

He’s almost to the end of the street when he feels it: a sharp tug in his chest, the corner he tries so hard to ignore. He turns his head and there, across the street, is a store. Plants and books visible through the front windows, a few stone steps leading up to the recessed door, no awning but a large sign: The Magic Shop in curling letters. Beneath it: Enchanted Items, Artifacts, and More.

He shouldn’t. He knows he shouldn't. He’s seen a few places like this in the city and always managed to avoid them - walked by them fast and with his head down until the hook-pull faded and he was empty again. But right now he’s tired, and still half-crying, and it feels so … warm.

The magic in the air around the shop is warm against the Fall chill and inviting and the next thing Jungkook knows, he’s up the steps and pushing open the door.

The warmth increases, washes over him like a flood, and he pauses just inside, trying to absorb it with suddenly weak knees. The shop is bigger than he expected, unfolding in an organized jumble past where he can see. The left wall is filled with books of all shapes and sizes - some looking older than time and a breath from falling apart, and some crisp and contemporary. The right wall is stacked with bottles and jars - most of them seem to be full of dried herbs, plants, and spices, but he also spots some liquid potions near the far end. On displays in the middle of the room are various artifacts and enchanted items (just like the sign promised). A  section of healing crystals, several intricate tarot decks, and dozens of other objects he can’t identify with his very limited magical knowledge. There are plants hanging from the ceiling, nestled on the shelves, and the whole place just feels…

He kind of wants to cry again, for a completely different reason.

There are footsteps from the back, approaching, and he expects someone wizened and elderly to emerge, not a boy his age in a fluffy sweater, sporting platinum blonde hair and a wide, bright smile.

“Hi!” he says in slightly accented English. “Welcome to The Magic Shop. Can I help you with anything?”

He’s small, and Jungkook isn’t sure if pixies are real, but he imagines that if they are, they’d look a lot like this kid. And even though he’s welded the box shut, closed all the doors, he can still sense traces of magic radiating from the boy.

“I’m,” he stammers. “I’m just looking.”

The boy nods. “Okay. Well my name’s Jimin, if you need anything.” He takes a step closer, the smile slipping to a frown. “Are you okay?”

Shit. His eyes must still be red-rimmed and he’s sure his face is puffy and pale beneath the protection of his scarf and hood.

“I’m fine,” he insists, though his voice wobbles in the middle, cutting his confidence off at the knees.

“Hang on,” Jimin says, heading back into the shop, “let me make you a cup of tea.”

What? Tea?

“You really don’t have to…” he tries to protest and Jimin makes a shushing motion.

“It’s fine. We offer tea to all our customers.”

He suspects that isn’t true, but he’s too polite to argue, and a few minutes later tea in a genuine china cup is being pressed into his hands. There’s even a saucer, like a Victorian period drama. He’s about to take a sip when he remembers that he’s in a magic shop and what if this isn’t normal tea? He’s already breaking so many of his own rules, he can’t actually consume something magical - what if his parents found out? What if he Skyped them later and they could just tell? What if-

“Relax,” Jimin says, sounding amused. “It’s just chamomile. I wouldn’t give you anything magical without your consent.”

Oh. His face flushes in embarrassment and he ducks his head to hide it, finally trying the tea. It is chamomile and it feels warm and soothing in his mouth. He might accidentally make a pleased noise, because Jimin’s face brightens again.

“It’s good, isn’t it? Hoseok-hyung makes the best tea. But don’t tell Jin-hyung I said that.”

He has no idea who Hoseok and Jin are and he’s too nervous to ask, so he nods instead. “It’s good. Thank you.”

Jimin tilts his head to the side. “You’re from Busan, aren’t you?”

All the warmth drains right out of him again. “I-how could you tell?”

“Your accent,” Jimin says. “And magic users from Busan always feel like the sea, even if their abilities don’t actually have anything to do with it.” He taps his chest. “I’m from Busan, too, and I always feel really connected to the ocean. My ability isn’t water-based, but I can feel the tides sometimes, especially if there’s a full moon. Do you ever get that? Like this magnetic pull in your stomach? One time, it was so strong, I took the train out to Coney Island because I needed to just, like, stand in the ocean for awhile.”

Jungkook isn’t sure his lungs are working properly right now. What Jimin said might make sense, if he gave himself time to examine it. To face the idea that the box isn’t welded shut as tightly as he wants and sometimes he feels twinges of something that he can’t ignore. Sometimes, the only thing that can calm him is the water. And once or twice, he’s found himself on the platform to Coney Island without really knowing why and ran all the way back home in a panic.

“You can sense my magic?” he asks in a very small voice - the only question he can get out around the familiar anxiety that’s rising, rising, rising.

Jimin frowns at him in confusion. “Of course I can. All magical beings can usually sense each other, right? Unless someone is purposefully masking. And, I mean, it is kind of hard to sense you? Kind of like you’ve muffled it somehow or shrunk it down, but it’s there. You definitely have the spark.”

Shit, shit, shit. He shouldn’t have come here, he knew this was a bad idea…

“Hey,” Jimin says, concern on his face now. “Hey, I’m sorry. Did I overstep? Namjoon always says I’m too nosy for my own good, but…”

“I have to go,” Jungkook says in a rush, setting the cup and saucer down on a nearby counter with a loud clatter. “Thank you for the tea, I’m sorry.”

And then he fucking bows like an idiot, and that’s just. Great. What the hell?

“Wait…” Jimin says but he’s already running. Out of the shop, down the steps into the cold, darkening evening, and through East Village’s crowded streets to the subway stop.

Back on the safety of the train, he presses his forehead to his knees, a hand over his jack-rabbiting heart and tells himself that it’s okay. It was a mistake and he won’t make it again. It doesn’t matter how warm and safe that place felt, he promised his parents, years ago, that he would stay away from that world.

He can’t go back.

 

_ _

 

He goes back.

He wasn’t planning on it. Really.

It’s just the Skype conversation with his parents didn’t go well, and he’s barely slept in a week trying write a paper for another class he’s struggling in, and he finally decided to go to East Village to take some pictures for sketch references, and now he’s standing in front of the shop again.

Fuck.

Walk away, he tries to tell himself, but the magic beckons. Like fresh air in the spring. The earth after rain. The crash of the sea. The hole in him aches.

A bell jangles when he enters - something he failed to notice before - and it isn’t Jimin sitting behind the counter. This boy has light red hair and a narrow, expressive face. When he smiles a greeting it’s kind of like opening the blinds in the morning and staring directly into the sun.

“Hi, welcome to The Magic Shop!” His accent - it isn’t as pronounced as Jimin’s, but he’s Korean, too. “Can I help you with anything?”

“Uh, I’m - is Jimin here?”

“No, Jimin has class on Thursdays. I’m Hoseok.” The name sounds vaguely familiar. “And you must be the kid from last week,” Hoseok continues.

This time, Jungkook doesn’t have a scarf to hide behind when his face flushes. “Jimin … Jimin mentioned me?”

Hoseok nods and actually jumps up to perch on the counter, legs dangling off the edge and kicking idly against the wood. Something tells Jungkook that Hoseok is not very good at sitting still for long periods of time. He just seems to radiate energy.

“Yeah, he felt really bad about the other day. Was hoping you’d come back so he could apologize.”

“Oh. Uh.” Jimin wanted to apologize? He’s never had anyone, well, care that much before. About upsetting him. “Please tell him it wasn’t his fault. And I forgive him. And my name’s Jungkook.”

Hoseok nods along with each point. Grins at the end. “Jungkook, got it. Nice to meet you. Want some tea?”

He’s thrown by the non-sequitur. Is tea actually a thing here? “Sure?”

The cup and saucer Hoseok hands him has vines painted on it in swirling, intricate patterns. The tea is a different flavor, this time. Something fruity and bright on his tongue. Hoseok hovers, watching him intently as he takes a second sip. “What do you think? Is it good? I’m trying out a new recipe.”

So I’m your guinea pig? Jungkook is too shy to ask.

“It’s good,” he says instead. “I like it.”

Hoseok beams at him. Mutters something like “take that, Jin” under his breath and then leaves him to finish his tea and poke around a little. He’s not brave enough to actually pick anything up, especially with his somewhat slippery gloves. But it’s fun to try to decipher the titles of the books. Many of them seem to be in foreign languages. He can make out Latin and French. Spanish. Maybe German?

“Stop by again sometime, Jungkook-ah,” Hoseok says when he finally says goodbye.

Jungkook doesn’t tell him that it seems inevitable at this point.

 

_ _

 

The heating breaks in his studio apartment, he’s a day late turning his paper in, and he realizes that he didn’t budget well this month so he’s going to be living off instant ramen for the next two weeks until his monthly allowance comes through.

(He wanted to work, but his parents insisted that he focus on his studies instead.)

On top of all of this, he still hasn’t managed to make any friends on campus. To most of them, he’s the weird, shy kid that sits in the back of class and wears gloves even indoors. Sometimes, he wishes he could just lock himself in his room like Elsa in Frozen, but the truth is that he still loves people too much to cut himself completely off from them.

He goes back to the shop instead.

And there is yet another boy behind the counter today. This one is tall and lanky, with light brown hair swept off his forehead and a serene air about him. His presence still throws Jungkook for enough of a loop that he blurts, “how many of you are there?”

Fortunately, Guy #3 just laughs, low and cackling. “You must be Jungkook. I’m Kim Namjoon.”

Another head pops up from behind a display case and Jungkook startles. Guy #4 is almost unfairly handsome - Jungkook would kill to be able to get his bangs to do an artful sweep across his forehead like that. “You’re Jungkook? Hang on.”

He disappears into the back of the shop and Najmoon shakes his head. “That’s Seokjin. Don’t mind him.” He beckons Jungkook further into the shop.

“How do you know about me?” Jungkook asks, fiddling nervously with the strap of his camera bag.

“Jimin and Hoseok,” Namjoon explains as Seokjin reemerges with a cup of tea cradled in his hands.

“Drink this,” he says, handing it to Jungkook. This mug is decorated with what looks like lavender blossoms and the tea in it is nearly as dark as coffee.

Jungkook eyes it dubiously, but, well, they haven’t poisoned him yet. He takes a tentative sip, bracing himself for something bitter. Instead it’s rich and sweet, with a hint of … chocolate? Is there chocolate in this tea? And orange?

“Whoa,” he says.

Jin is staring at him. “Is it good? Is it better than Hoseok’s?”

“Uh…” he doesn’t want to be impolite, and it is good, but in a completely different way, and Hoseok gave him tea first so he feels a weird loyalty even though….

“Just say yes,” Namjoon advises from behind the counter.

“Yes,” he echoes and Seokjin makes a sound of triumph.

“Ha, magic can’t beat good old-fashioned practice.”

Jungkook is very confused, but this tea is good and Seokjin doesn’t really seem to need or want his input anyway, so he stays where he is and keeps drinking until Jin has returned to whatever he was doing before and the cup is empty. Namjoon is calm and personable - a nice contrast to Hoseok and Jimin’s energy - and from him Jungkook learns that there are six of them who run the shop, though Namjoon, Hoseok, and someone named Yoongi are the official owners. They all live together, too, in an old townhouse near the top of the neighborhood - a few blocks from here. And they’re all magical, which Jungkook figured.

Namjoon thankfully doesn’t ask any questions about Jungkook’s magic, and Jungkook leaves feeling far less stressed than before.

 

_ _

 

“Jungkook!”

It’s actually good to see Jimin again, bounding towards him from the back of the shop. His blonde hair is a little messier than normal, hanging in his eyes, and he’s wearing … some kind of coat? It’s long, hanging past Jimin’s knees, and made of a very shiny silver material that looks almost metallic.

Jungkook doesn’t have time to ask about it because Jimin has grabbed his hand (he panics for a moment before he remembers that yes, his gloves are firmly in place) and drags him towards the counter, where Boy #5 is perched on a stool with a mouthful of pins. He’s got silver hair that he’s pushed back from his face with a headband and sharp features.

“Don’t run in it, Jimin,” he says through the pins, voice much lower than Jungkook expected.

Jimin ignores him. “This is Jungkook.” He pushes Jungkook forward a step like he’s presenting a prize. “I told you about him, remember? Jungkook, this is Taehyung.”

Taehyung looks up at him, brow furrowed. Then he stands and moves out from behind the counter. Jungkook, rapidly getting used to baffling behavior, holds himself still as Taehyung seems to measure his height and then points to the coat Jimin’s wearing. “Can you put that on?”

He glances at Jimin, just to make sure this isn’t an insult, but Jimin is already shrugging out of the coat with a muttered, “thank God,” and passing it over.

Which is how Jungkook a) spends an afternoon getting measured and poked with needles and b) learns that Taehyung is a senior at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology and Jimin is a dance major at fucking Juilliard.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Jimin says, sheepish.

“They only let in twenty-four students a year, ” Jungkook points out. Taehyung makes a noise of agreement from his spot on the floor.

“Jimin’s amazing,” he says, easy. “You should see him dance sometime.”

“Ah, I mean, I’m okay …”

“You’re top of your class, shut up,” Taehyung says and Jimin throws what looks like a handful of incense at his head.

He ducks, sqawks, and jabs a needle into Jungkook’s leg.

“Ow,” Jungkook grumbles and Jimin looks guilty.

“You were supposed to block that, asshole.”

How ?” Taehyung asks, patting Jungkook’s leg in apology. “You know I’m not good at defensive magic.”

Jungkook stiffens at the mention of magic (even though he’s standing in the middle of a fucking magic shop, thank you, yes, he’s aware), but neither Taehyung nor Jimin seem to notice, too caught up in bickering like an old married couple.

All in all, it’s not a bad afternoon.

 

_ _

 

He goes back. And back. And back.

At first, he limits himself to just once a week, but that quickly multiplies to three times a week and then almost every other day. None of the boys seem to mind (except for the mysterious Yoongi, who Jungkook still hasn’t managed to encounter and is starting to suspect isn’t actually real) and the atmosphere of the shop is just so … soothing.

(“I know,” Jimin says one day, when Jungkook finally works up the nerve to mention it. “It’s why I always come here to do homework.”)

He starts lugging his backpack over and sitting behind the counter to study. Sometimes, Taehyung or Jimin joins him and sometimes Namjoon, who seemingly knows everything, will peer over his shoulder and gently point out his mistakes. They’re rarely all in the shop together and it becomes a game of sorts, comparing their different interactions:

  • Jimin usually practices choreography while he works, muttering beats to himself and doing perfectly executed spins in the open space by the counter.
  • Hoseok buzzes around like a cheerful bee, cleaning this, dusting that, reorganizing all the jars by category because, according to him, Taehyung is always messing them up.
  • Namjoon stays behind the counter (“for everyone’s safety,” Seokjin explains, cackling when Namjoon hits him on the shoulder) unless a customer needs help and usually either composes songs under his breath or drags Jungkook into a discussion about some random topic - art or history or a debate over whether Pluto really shouldn’t be a planet anymore.
  • Seokjin always insists on feeding him - has a seemingly endless supply of home cooked snacks that are all the best thing Jungkook’s ever tasted - and charms the pants off anyone that comes in, both with his vast array of knowledge that rivals Namjoon’s and his ridiculous jokes that disarm even the most nervous customer.
  • Taehyung is scatterbrained, to put it mildly. Never puts anything back in the right place, sometimes doesn’t hear someone come in until Jungkook quietly points it out to him, and has a habit of trailing off mid-sentence. He’s always got some project he’s working on, which might be part of it, and after a month Jungkook as modeled two coats, three shirts, a vest, and numerous hats. (He still fled when Taehyung approached him with a pair of pants, though.)

He likes spending time with them, likes that they don’t pry into his life too much and that they’re fine with him suddenly crashing into theirs. He’s not sure, but he thinks he might have finally made friends.

Just not ones he can ever tell his parents about.

 

_ _

 

He learns that Hoseok, Namjoon, and the mysterious-possibly-not-real Yoongi all met in college and decided to go into business together after graduating. (Other things happened, back then - bad things that spread shadows across their faces and they refuse to talk about, but Jungkook understands and doesn’t push.) They’ve been in America for nearly seven years and have no plans to go back to Korea, even though they miss their families.

 Seokjin moved to the States when he was in high school and met Namjoon a year after Namjoon graduated from college. The rest is history and now he apparently spends his free time cooking and getting master’s degrees, just for the hell of it. (He's on his second one, already, in film studies.)

Jimin and Taehyung are the newest additions to the group. Came here for school three years ago and haven’t looked back.

Hoseok’s favorite color is green and Taehyung secretly hates coffee but drinks it for the caffeine. Namjoon can rap as well as Eminem (in Jungkook’s humble opinion) and Jimin once dyed his hair bright orange on a drunken dare and nearly got kicked out of his junior showcase as a result. Seokjin originally majored in theatre in undergrad and apparently still does the occasional community production.

Jungkook stores up all these little details in another box in his mind, to be taken out when his studio seems too empty or he has a bad day. He gives out information sparingly to them, uncertain of how to put into words his upbringing and his closed off magic and the fact that college is drowning him, little by little. That he wakes up every day and can feel the water a few inches closer to his lungs.

Maybe they sense it, maybe they don’t care. Either way, they never punish him for it. Just make him endless cups of tea and chatter on the days he can’t talk well and make his whole life better without even trying.

He hopes, desperately, that he gets to keep them.

 

_ _

 

He thinks about what it would be like to open the box, let all his magic out for the first time in over a decade. What it would be like to experience their happiness, their sadness - help shoulder their stress and frustrations. Connect to them, like he used to do with his family when he was a child. Truly belong, with his magic full and flowing through him as easy as breathing.

 The thought makes him terrified, makes his whole chest ache, so he shoves it away. Into the box with his magic, never to be looked at again.

 

_ _

 

“Jungkook,” Taehyung says one afternoon as Jungkook’s getting ready to leave, “you should come back tomorrow.”

Jungkook stops in the middle of shrugging on his backpack, frowning. “What?”

“You should come back tomorrow,” Taehyung repeats without looking up from his sketchbook. He’s got a design showcase coming up next month and he’s been frantically drawing for the last two weeks - the wastebasket next to him is full of dramatically crumpled papers.

Tomorrow is Wednesday, and he has a class that lasts until four p.m., then he was planning on forcing himself to really study because he’s pretty sure he’s going to fail the next test at the rate he’s going, and that means failing the class.

“I-”

“You should listen to him,” Jimin says, passing by with an armful of books in need of shelving. “At least about this.”

“Is something happening tomorrow?” Jungkook asks, confused.

Jimin pauses, a hesitant look crossing his face. “Tae is…”

“I’m a seer,” Taehyung murmurs, still mostly focused on his drawing. “Or a precog, is another word for it.”

Oh. They’ve never discussed their abilities around him - probably sensing the panic that rises in him whenever the topic of magic is brought up - and that’s … “you can see the future?”

Taehyung shrugs. “Not really. I just get … impressions.”

“Yeah, super vague ones,” Jimin grumbles.

Taehyung, still without looking up, lobs a paper ball at Jimin’s head. It’s a perfect hit and Jungkook bites his lip to hide a grin at Jimin’s outraged glare.

“I was going to say that you’re usually right, though,” he huffs. “Asshole.” He turns back to Jungkook. “So you should come back tomorrow.”

“Why?” Jungkook presses. He really, desperately needs to study.

“Dunno,” Taehyung says. “Just that you should.”

“See what I mean?” Jimin stage whispers to him. Another paper ball comes sailing.

“Okay,” Jungkook agrees, mostly to prevent Jimin from starting an argument. “I’ll try, hyung.”

Taehyung lifts a hand in an absent wave and Jungkook, still confused, bids them both goodnight.

 

_ _

 

Wednesday is shit. Two hours in, he wants to crawl back into bed and start over. First, he woke up late and, in his rush, forgot his gloves, which left him in a panic all morning until he could go back to his apartment and retrieve them. The panic also forced him to keep an even tighter hold on the box, which caused a migraine that made it difficult to focus in class. When one of his professors called on him, he didn’t know the answer at all and everyone looked at him with a mixture of amusement and pity and he still wants to die just remembering it.

He forgot his textbook for a different class and had to share with someone. Kept his hands jammed in his pockets so that he didn’t accidentally touch her and bit his lip at the weirded out looks she kept sending him. He didn’t have enough money for lunch so he wandered around campus for an hour until his next class and tried to ignore the growling of his stomach.

Then, in his third class, the professor pulled him aside to express concern about his steadily tanking grade and recommend a visit to the school counselor, which. Great. Good to know that everyone can see him drowning.

By the time 4 p.m. rolls arounds it’s started to pour and he naturally doesn’t have an umbrella and he just spent ten minutes having a mini-breakdown in the rec center bathroom.

So fuck it, he goes back to the shop. Maybe Taehyung will be able to cheer him up, or one of the others.

He’s drenched by the time he’s walked the ten blocks to The Magic Shop and half-frozen all the way down to his bones. He can hear his teeth chattering as he pushes open the door, wincing at the puddle of water that immediately starts forming on the hardwood floor.

“Taehyung?” he calls into the surprisingly quiet store. Usually, no matter who’s running the shop, there is noise: Jimin’s shoes scuffing against the floor, Taehyung and Seokjin’s absent-minded humming, Hoseok clattering around in a whirlwind of productivity, Namjoon drumming against the counter with his fingers or a pencil, trying to work out a beat.

Today, it’s still enough that he double checks the sign. It says OPEN in big block letters.

“Taehyung?” he tries again, shivering. Even the warmth of the shop isn’t enough. Maybe Tae’s in the back and hasn’t heard him? That’s happened before.

Footsteps, but it isn’t Taehyung that rounds the corner. The rest of Jungkook’s words die in his throat as he comes face to face with a stranger who must be the mysterious-potentially-not-real Min Yoongi. He’s not really at all like Jungkook imagined - smaller and slighter than even Jimin, practically swimming in his baggy hoodie, with sharp eyes and very unimpressed look on his (shit, handsome) face.

And his magic, holy shit. Maybe it’s because Jungkook is exhausted and freezing and his normal walls are full of holes, but he can feel it like a storm. It expands Min Yoongi’s presence out into the whole room and it’s … overwhelming. Raw. So, so different from the brief flashes he’s gotten of the others. He quickly slams his walls back up as high as they go.

Well, fuck.

“Hi,” Jungkook says, dizzy and soaked and still kind of wanting to cry. “I’m sorry to barge in like this and for dripping water all over your floor, it’s just that Taehyung said I should come back today and Jimin-hyung said he’s usually right about this kind of stuff and I had, possibly, the shittest day I’ve had in the last six months so I thought that - I don’t know what I thought, I’m sorry, I’ll shut up now.”

He slams his mouth closed with effort, swallowing back the rest of the word vomit trying to escape. God, he’s an embarrassment. He should go outside and pray a bolt of lightning puts him out of his misery. And Yoongi still hasn’t said anything - is just watching him with a raised eyebrow and a slight smile of what Jungkook thinks is amusement.

Can lightning strike indoors?

He almost misses Yoongi beckoning him further into the shop because he’s busy burying his face in his hands and fighting the urge to scream. But Yoongi beckons and he follows, shoes squeaking and clothes sloshing. There is water everywhere.

At the register, Yoongi points to a typed out sign that’s now perched at the edge of the counter: I’m mute. Thank you for your patience while I respond.

Oh. Oh. Fuck.

“Oh, god, I’m sorry,” he babbles. Maybe he can just crush his own skull with one of the tomes? They look like they’d do the job. “I didn’t realize. I mean, none of the others said anything and …”

Yoongi holds up a hand and yep, that’s definitely amusement. He makes a wait here motion and vanishes into the backroom. Jungkook picks nervously at the hem of his sopping hoodie and tries to figure out which book is the heaviest. Before he can decide, Yoongi returns with an armful of fluffy towels and a cup of tea.

“Oh, you don’t have to-” The towels get shoved into his arms and the cup of tea goes on the counter. Then, Yoongi fishes around in the pocket of his ripped jeans for his phone. Types rapidly in what looks like the notes app.

After a moment, he holds it up for Jungkook to read. Take off your sweatshirt. And pants.

Jungkook immediately feels his face turn the color of a tomato. “W-what?”

Yoongi rolls his eyes. Just do it. You’re shaking and you’re getting water everywhere.

He leaves Jungkook spluttering by the register and goes to flip the closed sign on the door. Pull the blinds down over the front windows to give them some privacy. It’s raining so hard, it sounds like drums beating against the roof and Jungkook gets a glimpse of the street outside, steadily transforming into a rushing river.

Right, looks like he doesn’t have a choice. He takes a deep breath and starts peeling off his layers. First his hoodie, then his shirt, then, after a moment of consideration, his gloves. He toes off his boots and wet socks and watches Yoongi collect each item and drape it over one of the radiators scattered around the shop.

Pants, too. Come on, kid.

“I got it,” Jungkook grumbles mutinously and takes another fortifying breath before carefully working his jeans over his hips and down his legs, leaving him shivering in thankfully black boxers instead of the Iron Man ones he debated putting on this morning.

Small mercies.

Yoongi has also averted his eyes and brought over an ancient-looking quilt in addition to the towels that Jungkook is currently using to dry his hair.

“Thank you,” Jungkook says, immediately wrapping himself up in it like a sad burrito and trying not to sigh audibly at the warmth. This also reduces the risk of skin contact, so win-win.

Yoongi dips his head in a nod and passes Jungkook the tea that he had completely forgotten about. He worms a hand free from his blanket burrito and takes it, making sure his fingers don’t brush against Yoongi’s slender ones as he does. It’s simple green tea, none of the flair that Hoseok’s or Seokjin’s usually have, but it’s still good. And warm. And good.

He blinks up at Yoongi who is now sitting cross-legged on the counter and probably texting on his phone. Takes him in again - his dark, messy hair and smooth features and shit, he isn’t Jin levels of handsome but he’s cute and his magic is like a storm and he’s just … a lot. This all a lot.

Damn Taehyung.

“I’m sorry about all this, Yoongi-ssi.” he says again and then winces as he realizes that maybe he isn’t supposed to know Yoongi’s name? Does Yoongi even know who he is?

Typing.

It’s fine. Relax, Jungkook.

So that answers one question.

And if you call Jimin ‘hyung’, you can call me that, too.

Jungkook snorts before he can stop himself and is rewarded with a warmer smile from Yoongi. One that drags the whole right side of his mouth up. “Okay, hyung.”

Yoongi points to the cup still in Jungkook’s hand and makes an insistent drinking motion. Damn, he’s bossy. And somehow, Jungkook doubts he was the author of the sign sitting next to him on the counter. He’s only known Yoongi for about ten minutes, but it already feels too polite.

“I’m drinking, I’m drinking,” he says and proves it by taking another large gulp of the now lukewarm tea.

Yoongi watches him like a hawk until he finishes the whole cup and hands it over. He feels ridiculous, sitting on the floor of the shop in his boxers and a quilt. Curls the blanket tighter around himself as he watches Yoongi check his clothes. He can’t see much through the cracks in the blinds, but it looks like it’s almost dark outside. And still pouring.

Yoongi probably wants to go home, not sit here and babysit him until his clothes dry. And he’s just going to get soaked all over again on his way home, so this is just delaying the inevitable.

“I can go now, hyung,” he says, standing on still-wobbly legs. The tea and the warmth of the shop is helping, but he’s definitely not all the way defrosted yet. “I don’t have an umbrella so it’s pointless to wait until my clothes dry out.”

 Which he probably should have said at the beginning of all this, thinking back. Maybe he just didn’t want to face the idea of going back to his empty apartment and eating shitty $1 ramen from a styrofoam cup all by himself. He still doesn’t, but he’s not a baby. He won’t inconvenience Yoongi any further just because he’s feeling lonely and sad and clingy.

Yoongi is frowning at him, he realizes, and typing on his phone again.

Come to dinner.

“Is that an order?” Jungkook asks, off-balance.

From Jimin, yes. And Jin-hyung.

“Oh. You-you told them I was here?”

And looking like a half-drowned puppy.

He chokes. Yoongi’s eyes are dancing with mischief. And God, he   really doesn’t want to go back to his apartment. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll come.”

Yoongi closes out the notes app and pulls up what looks like a group chat. After he types something in, he waits a moment then huffs what Jungkook thinks is a laugh and shows him.

 

Brat #1 [5:14 pm]

YESSSS. TELL HIM WE HAVE DRY CLOTHES HE CAN BORROW AND JIN-HYUNG IS MAKING BULGOGI. HE WON’T REGRET THIS.

 

Brat #2 [5:14 pm]

we’ll also make sure to move all the carnivorous plants out of the living room.

 

Hobi [5:15 pm]

there are no carnivorous plants in the living room.

 

Joonie [5:15 pm]

are you sure about that? I think one is looking at me.

 

Hobi [5:16 pm]

i said no CARNIVOROUS plants.

 

Joonie [5:17 pm]

what the fuck does THAT mean?

 

Mother Kim [5:17 pm]

someone who isn’t namjoon come help me in the kitchen, please.

 

Jungkook claps a hand over his mouth to stifle his laughter as Yoongi types: we’re heading over soon, pull yourselves together.

He’s aching, though, beneath the humor, because they all sound like such a family and he wants that so badly that sometimes he thinks he’d sell an actual piece of his soul to get it. Even just for a little while.

A tap on his shoulder, startling him. Yoongi is holding his semi-dry clothes in a black bundle and mouths, “ready?” when Jungkook’s gaze snaps to his face.

He nods, grateful when Yoongi leaves him to get dressed again, puttering around the shop turning off lights and locking up the register. His hoodie is still a damp, cold mess, but the rest of the clothes are mostly dry. He wonders, suddenly, if there is a spell for this, like in the Harry Potter books, and if Yoongi didn’t perform it because the message Jungkook is nervous around magic, even though he’s fucking magical got passed down to him.

He’d rather not know, he decides.

It’s still raining, but Yoongi has a giant umbrella hooked over one arm. He hands it to Jungkook as they step outside and Jungkook takes the cue to open it, watching Yoongi lock the front door and then hold up a hand. He traces a symbol in the air with his finger and something shimmers, rippling across the exterior of the shop in a near translucent blue wave before vanishing again. Jungkook’s mouth must be open in surprise because Yoongi holds up his phone.

Protective wards.

“Oh.”

Better than locks.

Curiosity overrides his trepidation. “What happens if someone tries to get past them?”

Yoongi makes a faint bzzt sound and mimes someone getting electrocuted.

“Oh. Wow.” Definitely better than locks. He takes a step back, just in case, and Yoongi smirks at him.

Come on.

 

_ _

 

The house is only a few blocks away, tucked away on another quiet, tree-lined street. It’s four stories, in the middle of the row, and it’s brick front is nearly completely covered with ivy. Like something out of a movie, really. Awed, Jungkook follows Yoongi up the steps and through the large red front door. It feels like the shop, he realizes as soon as he steps into the entryway: warm and inviting and laced with magic.

There is a towering rack stacked with various shoes and a long line of pegs for coats. He toes his boots off, setting them carefully next to Yoongi’s on the floor. Keeps his gloves and hoodie on.

Two seconds after straightening up, Jimin is skidding to a stop in front of him, beaming. “Jungkookie!” He’s got on potentially the fluffiest blue sweater in existence and Jungkook, still cold, is deeply envious. “Come in, come in. Welcome. Let’s get you out of those wet clothes. I stole some of Jin-hyung’s for you to borrow because you're such a muscle pig, I think he’s the only one whose stuff won’t be too small.”

Jungkook glances back at Yoongi, in the process of hanging up his long green coat on one of the pegs. He catches Jungkook looking and smiles. Makes a shooing motion with one hand.

“Oh,” Jimin says, pausing in the middle of dragging Jungkook further down the hall by his sleeve, “I think Jin-hyung might need some help in the kitchen, Yoongi-hyung. He banned me, Tae, and Hoseok.”

Yoongi signs something that must be a joke because Jimin laughs and says, “exactly,” then continues with his apparent mission to get Jungkook dry clothes. Jungkook can’t help looking around, trying to take everything in as Jimin pulls him along. The house is old - he can almost feel the weight of its history, even if it wasn’t evident from the crown molding and worn floorboards. The paint on the walls is all fresh, though. Even some of the wallpaper looks like it’s been restored.

Almost none of the furniture matches, but nor does any one piece seem out of place. The jumble of a blue couch and red armchair and yellow loveseat somehow work together, as do the floral curtains and the massive brown rug. Just like the shop there are plants everywhere - in all the windowsills and tucked in every corner and perched on top of every bookcase. Ferns and flowers and miniature trees and something that looks like it’s shifting to watch him and Jimin as they cross the room.

Creepy.

He can hear clattering in the kitchen, Seokjin’s familiar voice, though he can’t see much through the open archway. He lets Jimin push him onto the sofa, taking in the healing crystals and clothing sketches scattered across the coffee table. The whole house feels big, but lived in - a sweater hung over the back of a dining room chair, a dog-eared book lying on the armchair, an empty mug that Jimin snatches off a side table with a sheepish smile.

This feels … like a home.

(His chest is aching again.)

Hoseok appears in the doorway, toweling his hair dry, grin as bright as always. “Good to see you, Jungkook.”

“What happened to you?” Jimin asks.

“Had to check on the plants in the greenhouse,” Hoseok replies, slinging the towel around his neck. “Fergie gets scared during storms.”

“Fergie…?” Jungkook ventures.

Hoseok opens his mouth, but Jimin cuts him off. “Trust me, you don’t want to know.”

“Oi, don’t insult my plants.”

“They’re terrifying, hyung, and one of them is going to eat my face in my sleep.”

“They’re adorable and none of them have legs, Jimin.”

“That you know about,” Jimin grumbles.

Hoseok rolls his eyes and smacks Jimin with the towel, eliciting an outraged squeak. Fortunately, Taehyung arrives with clothes before a fight can break out.

“Here you go, Jungkookie,” he says, handing them over and point the way to the bathroom.

The clothes fit, thankfully, even if he’s never been big on pink. When he passes his own clothes over to Jimin, he gets an arched eyebrow and a pointed look at his hands. “Are you going to leave your gloves on?” He glances down in uneasy panic then back up to Jimin’s face, the gentle expression he’s wearing. “Because nothing bad is going to happen if you want to take them off.”

Nothing bad, ha. Jimin doesn’t know, so he can’t say that, even if he’s magical, too. Jungkook’s power is different, invasive, and … “I’m okay. I’ll keep them on, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course not,” Jimin says and squeezes his shoulder. “C’mon, help me stop Namjoon from setting the table.”

“Why?”

“His nickname is the God of Destruction.”

"Really?”

“We lost two plates and my favorite cup last week.”

“Ouch.”

“It was devastating,” Jimin says solemnly and passes Jungkook’s clothes off to a protesting Hoseok.

Jungkook shoots him an apologetic look as he’s once again dragged away, but Hoseok is smiling.

 

_ _

 

Dinner is … chaotic is the first word that comes to mind. Or at least, it is while everyone gets settled. There is lots of passing food and pointing at things and protesting, in English and Korean, over portion sizes, and then, suddenly, a hush descends. It takes Jungkook a moment to realize that it’s for Yoongi’s benefit - that the others orient themselves towards him.

“How was the store?” Namjoon asks, in English. Because, according to Jimin, Wednesdays are strictly enforced “English Only” days, along with Mondays and Fridays “so we don’t get rusty and have a chance to practice in a safe environment.”

Yoongi shoves a large bite of bulgogi into his mouth with his chopsticks and then starts signing, fingers nimble and lightning quick.

“Good,” Jimin translates for him in a whisper. “But pretty quiet. The rain kept people away.”

“Any customers at all?” Hoseok asks, signing along with his words.

(They’ve all learned, Jungkook realizes with a strange lurch in his chest. They’ve all learned sign language for Yoongi.)

Yoongi holds up three fingers. Then four, and points at Jungkook.

“Ah, Jungkookie’s not a customer,” Jimin says, reaching up to ruffle Jungkook’s hair. Jungkook tries not to flinch, or let anyone hear the hitch in his breath at the contact. 

“Of course he isn’t,” Namjoon says, teasing, “he never buys anything.”

Everyone laughs, but it isn’t mean. Like he’s part of the joke instead of the butt of it.

He feels warm all the way down to his bones and his chest aches, aches, aches.

 

_ _

 

He’s not allowed to help with the washing up so he perches on the sofa with Yoongi and wonders if he should ask for his clothes back. It’s after eleven and he really should head home, even though he’s pleasantly full and kind of just wants to sink into the cushions and sleep right here.

That would probably be rude, though.

His eyes are still drifting closed, heavy, when a finger pokes his shoulder. He blinks up at Taehyung. “You should stay the night.”

“Is that another one of your … impressions?”

“No,” Taehyung says, looking amused. “That’s it’s-still-raining-literal-buckets-outside-I-think-we-might-in-the-middle-of-a-hurricane-so-you-should-stay-here-and-be-safe.”

“...oh.”

Taehyung nods and straightens. “Jungkook’s staying the night!”

“Good!” Seokjin calls from the kitchen. “We have an air mattress somewhere or he can just take the couch!”

“The-the couch is fine,” Jungkook stammers, slightly mortified at being such a potential inconvenience.

Yoongi holds up his phone. I’ll get blankets.

“And a pair of Jin-hyung’s pajamas,” Taehyung instructs.

From the kitchen: “Hey! Yours will fit him, brat!”

Taehyung turns back to Yoongi and signs what Jungkook can only assume is and a pair of Jin-hyung’s pajamas, judging by the amused look on Yoongi’s face and the thumbs up he gives.

“I can just sleep in these,” Jungkook tries to insist, but Taehyung shushes him.

 

_ _

 

Twenty minutes later, he’s back on the couch with freshly brushed teeth and a pair of Jin-hyung’s pajamas, buried under a literal mountain of blankets.

(“The heating in the house can get a little spotty,” Jimin explained, adding another blanket to the pile. “So better safe than sorry, right?”)

His mind is buzzing and his chest is overflowing and he can still feel the low hum of magic in the air. Maybe, just this once. Just for a moment. That would be okay, right?

He lowers his walls all the way down and lets in the flood. Namjoon and Hoseok one floor up, radiating quiet contentment as they settle down for the night. Brilliant excitement from Jimin next door, echoing amusement from Taehyung, and a deep undercurrent of affection running between them in an endless loop. Buzzing restlessness from Yoongi on the top floor, almost like a hum that Jungkook can feel against his skin. And next to him, the contrast of Seokjin’s slowly fading happiness over a good night, as he sinks into sleep.

Jungkook rolls onto his back and drinks them in for another moment, two, three - greedy for this connection, this wholeness. Raising the walls back up is almost agony, but he does it eventually, trying not to dwell on the ensuing emptiness. The tear opening in him again as he welds the box shut once more.

It’s a long time before he falls asleep.