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rhapsody in raindrops

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The summer rains come early, riding a heat wave at the beginning of June. Jeongguk can feel the storm building all afternoon—humidity presses down on him like a physical weight, sticky in his lungs and heavy on his limbs. The storm doesn’t break until close to sunset, when roiling black clouds race across the sky and blot out the last of the light. A gust of wind blasts through the window, knocking papers from Jeongguk’s desk.

Jeongguk doesn’t close the window. Instead, he launches himself from his bed and dashes into the hallway. Runs down the stairs two at a time. Throws the front door open and skids out onto his tiny porch. Thunder booms in the distance. The wind whips around him, pulling at his hair and clothes. It smells like the ocean and tastes like lightning.

Magic crackles in the atmosphere as the sky lights up, and Jeongguk feels alive with it. His skin tingles; the storm blessings he murmurs dissolve into sparks as they leave his lips. They’re the same minor blessings as always. Safety for himself and his house, stability for the ships in the nearby harbor. Small workings that most other weather witches wouldn’t even bother with. Today they thrum with power, feeding off the magic of the storm.

All storms are at least a little magical, but this storm blazes with it.

Jeongguk’s heart pounds wildly in his chest, equal parts fear and excitement. There’s something about this storm, something important, and he’s known it ever since the winds changed at noon. This isn’t just the first storm of the summer. It’s bringing something with it. Jeongguk just wishes he knew what.

Rain hammers against the roof. The gutters overflow and rivers cascade down. Jeongguk finishes his blessings. He takes a deep breath, then steps out into the downpour. He tips his head back and lets the wind and rain buffet him. Lightning flashes, close enough that Jeongguk startles. He opens his eyes, and that’s when he sees it: something hurtling out of the sky, toward the earth.

Somehow Jeongguk knows. Knows that this is the important thing that the storm was bringing, knows where it will land, knows that he needs to help. Without even realizing it, he begins to run.

Jeongguk’s house is a little outdated. It shows in the narrow staircase, in the kitchen appliances that have need an upgrade for years, in the floral wallpaper in the living room that has started to peel at the edges. It’s homey. Drawings Jeongguk made as a kid are still taped to the fridge. Stacks of books, his mother’s novels and his father’s maps, are crammed in anywhere they’ll fit. Jeongguk loves this house, with its water stains and creaking floors, with his whole heart.

It’s unsettling to see someone unfamiliar in the middle of all the familiarity. Every time Jeongguk catches sight of the stranger lying on the living room couch he startles. He’s been on edge ever since he found the man lying, naked and without a single scratch, at the edge of the sand dunes during last night’s storm.

Jeongguk doesn’t feel unsafe with the man here. A storm, especially a magical one, would never bring him anything dangerous. But he’s nervous. Unsure if he’s more scared that the man will never wake up, or that he eventually will.

Jeongguk sighs and puts the kettle on to boil. He spent the night in an armchair, unwilling to leave the man alone and go to his own bed. When he first got them back home he had considered trying to get the man up the stairs to his room, but had dismissed the idea quickly. His arms were shaking already from carrying the man all the way from the beach, and the stairs seemed like a gargantuan task. Instead, Jeongguk had settled for putting the man on the couch, drying him off with towels and covering him in quilts before collapsing into the chair.

It’s still raining outside. It’s a gentler rain now, free of the wild magic that had electrified the clouds before. Jeongguk takes comfort in the quiet pitter-patter against the window. He wraps his arms tightly around himself, burying his fingers into the soft fabric of his t-shirt, and waits for the water to boil.

There’s rustling and a groan from the living room, just before the tea kettle starts whistling. Jeongguk curses quietly, rushing to move the pot from the burner and turn the heat off. He hurries into the living room, only to stop dead in his tracks. The man is sitting up, holding his head in his hands. His skin is still faintly glowing with the magic from last night, a gentle shimmer whenever he moves. His hair is the gray of clouds low on the horizon. It’s also soft—Jeongguk knows, because he had gently combed through it last night while checking for injuries.

(The man had been uninjured, somehow, despite literally falling from the sky. Jeongguk uneasily tries not to think of the sheer amount of power that entails.)

Jeongguk clears his throat. Shifts his weight and says, “Hello?”

The man looks up and Jeongguk lets out a soft gasp. He’s into eyes that are the heart of a tempest, swirling with a million shades of black and flecked through with gold. Then the man blinks, and it’s gone.

“Hey,” he says, low and gravelly. “Where am I?”

“My house,” Jeongguk says automatically, then mentally kicks himself. “Um, the western coast. South of Golden Harbor.”

The man nods slowly, then closes his eyes, puts his head back into his hands, and quietly says, “Fuck.”

“Do you— are you hurt?” Jeongguk asks. “Do you need anything? I can get you painkillers, or—”

“No, it’s fine. I’m fine.” The man presses his fingers into his temples before letting his hands fall away and looking up again. “What’s your name?”

And Jeongguk knows better than to give his true name to anything magical but—

The storm brought him to me, Jeongguk reminds himself. And storms have always been my friend. Besides, Jeongguk feels safe. He trusts his gut more than anything, and there are no alarm bells. He doesn’t feel the taint of malicious magic.

“Jeongguk,” he says. “What’s yours?”

The man hesitates. Not as if he’s unwilling to respond in kind, but more like he’s thinking. Recalling.

“Yoongi,” he says eventually.

Yoongi, Jeongguk mouths, and tastes magic on his tongue. He says, “It’s, um, nice to meet you.”

Yoongi nods, but doesn’t offer anything else. The room descends into heavy silence. Jeongguk scrambles for something more to say, before remembering—

“Oh! I just boiled water. Would you like some tea? Here, I’ll make you some.” He goes to leave.

“No, it’s fine, I can—” Yoongi stands. The quilts slide from his lap onto the floor.

Jeongguk squeaks and fixes his eyes on the space over Yoongi’s left shoulder. Yoongi gives him a confused look and Jeongguk flushes. “I left clothes for you,” he says by way of explanation, “they’re at the end of the couch.” He waves a hand in that general direction, eyes still firmly on the wall.

Yoongi furrows his eyebrows before looking down at himself. “Oh,” he murmurs. “Bastards even took my clothes.” His voice is deadly calm in a way that speaks to deep anger, the rush of cold air before a thunderstorm.

Jeongguk shivers.

The moment breaks. Yoongi looks up at Jeongguk, takes in his flaming red face, and his mouth twitches with what might be a smile.

“Go ahead and make some tea,” he says. “I’ll get dressed.”

Jeongguk doesn’t need to be told twice. He scampers to the kitchen and takes his time making two cups of jasmine tea. When he comes back he finds Yoongi sitting on the couch, looking a little lost in the t-shirt and sweats Jeongguk had left for him. He’s glancing around the room, taking in the mismatched furniture, the art hanging on the walls, the old TV and the haphazard stack of DVDs next to it.

Jeongguk hesitates for a second before mentally shrugging and sitting next to Yoongi on the couch. He holds out one of the cups and Yoongi takes it. It’s slightly too hot out for tea to be truly comfortable, but Yoongi wraps his hands around the mug anyway, as if taking comfort from the warmth.

“I don’t know how strong you like it, so I just left the teabag in, I hope that’s okay.” Jeongguk is rambling, but Yoongi doesn’t seem to mind, lifting the tea and breathing in deeply.

“I know you,” Yoongi says into the steam.

Jeongguk startles, nearly sloshing his own tea over his hand.

Yoongi looks up, pinning him with that intense stare again, and says, “I thought I recognized you but… your voice. I know your voice. You’re the weather witch who always sends up blessings.”

Jeongguk can only stare, clutching his own tea like a lifeline. The storm is back in Yoongi’s eyes, and Jeongguk gasps as he makes the connection.

“You’re the local storm deity,” he says with quiet awe.

Yoongi’s lips flatten into a line. “I did a little more than that but yeah, I was.” He sighs and frees one hand from his mug to ruffle it through his hair. He seems to shrink into himself, shoulders hunching forward.

The room goes quiet. Rain continues to tap gently against the window. Jeongguk breathes in, breathes out. Tries to rationalize in his head that the deity he communes with, who commands the storms and sometimes grants Jeongguk’s requests, is this same person sitting on the couch with him. That he’s talking to a god. And then Yoongi’s words sink in and—

“Was?” Jeongguk asks before he can stop himself.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says. His frown deepens. “I had a... disagreement with one of the Higher Gods. They decided to toss me down here as punishment, to live out the rest of this life as a mortal.” He scoffs, sharp and disparaging. “Because being a mortal is the worst thing they can imagine. Because they see the people they’re supposed to protect as nothing more than toys.” Yoongi stops himself. He bites his lip and stares hard at the mug of tea in his hands.

His words are blasphemy and Jeongguk waits, heart in his throat, half convinced that the sky will open to smite them, and Jeongguk’s entire house will be disintegrated on the spot. But one beat passes, then two, and nothing happens.

“I was lucky,” Yoongi finally says, voice much softer now. “I couldn’t control where the storm took me, but it brought me here anyway.” He smiles, just the slightest upturn of his lips, and dips his head so his bangs fall over his eyes. “I always liked you the best of the weather witches around here.”

“Me?” Jeongguk squeaks. “But I can’t— I’m not even very good at magic. Why me?”

Yoongi shrugs, keeping his eyes down. “The other witches— you know how it works. They set up their crystals and their damn candles and make demands. But you’re the only one who talked to me, who took the time to send blessings and thanks, and it… it really meant a lot.”

Yoongi’s voice is gruff, the tips of his ears pink, and Jeongguk watches in wonder. He believes in the gods, of course, in an abstract sort of way. He had always imagined them to be some sort of supernatural force, a stronger version of the magic streams deep in the earth that his father studies. Jeongguk says the words because he’s thankful; because it feels like the right thing to do. Speaking to the storm deity always brought him a sense of peace.

It had never crossed his mind that the god might be something corporeal; that when he spoke someone might actually be listening.

“I’m glad,” Jeongguk says. “I’m glad that I sent those blessings, and I’m glad that the storm brought you here. I can… if you want, when the rain stops I can take you into town and help you find a place to stay? But if you want to stay here, I—” Jeongguk stops and licks his lips nervously. “I wouldn’t mind.”

Yoongi looks up through his bangs. His smile is genuine, if shy, when he says, “I’d like to stay here.”

Jeongguk smiles back. “Okay,” he says. “I’d like that too.”

“Do you live here by yourself?” Yoongi asks, hours later, as they’re preparing dinner.

He’s frowning down at a cutting board, slicing up carrot with concentrated precision. It’s been a strange day. Jeongguk gave Yoongi a brief tour of the house, showed him how to work the TV, and then apologetically left him to entertain himself while he submitted some homework for his online classes. He had meant to take Yoongi to the beach, but another thunderstorm rolled in around lunch. When Jeongguk came downstairs, homework safely turned in, he found Yoongi curled up on the couch, staring out the window with an unreadable look on his face. Jeongguk had left him there and gone to reheat some lunch for them.

It kind of feels like a strange dream. Like Jeongguk will wake up to the wind rattling the doors and his laptop keyboard imprinted onto his cheek. But when he looks up from the chicken he’s cooking, Yoongi is still there. Still real, tongue peaking out from the corner of his mouth as he cuts the carrot with utmost care.

(Yoongi had been the one to offer to help with dinner. He had followed Jeongguk out to the kitchen and asked, Is there anything I can do? And Jeongguk, despite usually preferring to work alone in the kitchen, had set him to work chopping.)

“No,” Jeongguk says after a beat. “I mean, no, technically I don’t. My parents live here too. But they’re gone traveling a lot these days. My mom’s a writer, so she likes going places to find inspiration. And my dad—” Jeongguk pauses, smiling at the chicken. “Dad likes being where my mom is. Can you pass me those carrots?”

Yoongi hands the cutting board over, a thoughtful look on his face. Jeongguk dumps the chicken onto a waiting plate and replaces it with the carrots. He adds the other vegetables Yoongi prepared to the pan, too, and seasonings. Starts to stir, gives Yoongi time to think.

“They wouldn’t mind me being here?” Yoongi asks as the veggies sizzle.

“Hm? Oh, no. My parents are both witches, they’d understand.”

“Oh?” Curiosity again, made to sound casual. Like Yoongi wants to know, but is reluctant to pry too deep.

“Yeah, my mom’s a charms witch, and my dad’s got a bit of weather affinity, like me. But mostly he’s interested in magic ley lines. All those maps in the living room are his.”

“Ley lines?” Yoongi’s voice pitches up in surprise. “Mortals are interested in things like that?”

Jeongguk snorts. “Well, yeah,” he says. “We live on the Earth. We’re kind of invested in learning about the magic running beneath our feet.”

He squints at the pan, decides that it’s probably done, and moves it off the heat. When he turns to look, Yoongi is staring at him with his mouth slightly open. Jeongguk catches his eye and Yoongi blinks.

“Huh,” Yoongi says softly, more like he’s speaking to himself. “Guess I was a god for too long. Those fuckers in the Upper Realms really rubbed off on me. I forgot what it’s like for humans.”

Jeongguk wants to ask: How long were you a god?

Wants to ask: Were you human before? Will you be a god again?

He swallows those words down, and instead says, “Dinner’s ready. Could you get down plates? They’re in the cupboard to the left of the sink.”

Yoongi goes. He opens the cupboard and stands on tiptoes to reach the plates, muttering ley lines under his breath.

The rain clouds clear the next day, leaving behind a sky the deep blue of forget-me-nots. It’s hot, weather more suited for the end of July than the middle of June. The only saving grace is a strong breeze off the ocean.

The contents of the fridge have dwindled woefully. A single serving of leftovers, a couple of eggs, half a jug of orange juice, and some veggie odds and ends. Jeongguk sighs, surveying the sparse selection on the shelves, and then shuts the door. He leans back far enough to see into the living room. Yoongi is curled up on the couch, and the faint sound of the TV floats through the house.

“Yoongi?” Jeongguk says. It still feels weird to say his name. Humans aren’t supposed to know the names of the gods—but Yoongi’s not a god anymore. He’s just himself, sitting on Jeongguk’s couch watching a daytime drama. It’s hard for Jeongguk to wrap his head around.

Yoongi looks up. He’s in more of Jeongguk’s clothes, hair is still damp from the shower. He tilts his head slightly in question when Jeongguk doesn’t immediately continue.

Jeongguk swallows and says, “I have to go into town today to pick up some groceries. Wanna come?”

Yoongi perks up. “Sure,” he says.

“We could get you some, like, clothes and stuff,” Jeongguk says. He worries at his lip for a second before continuing, “We could also stop by the office of public records, if you want. You’re probably going to need an ID eventually. I mean, we don’t have to do that right away if you don’t want. I don’t even know what we’re going to tell them—”

“That’s a really good idea,” Yoongi cuts in. “I’m going to need that for like, getting jobs and stuff, right?”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk trails off, giving Yoongi a hard look. “You really seem to know a lot about how the human world works. I thought— I kind of figured the gods were more… aloof.” Then again, he hadn’t considered that the gods themselves were similar to humans, but he isn’t about to tell Yoongi that.

“I paid attention,” Yoongi says with a shrug. “Anyway, when I got sent down here it should have… shifted reality a bit. The Higher Gods can do that, fucking with destiny and shit. So hopefully things will have changed to accomodate me.”

“Ah,” Jeongguk says. He chews on his lip again, letting that sink in. Yoongi speaks with such casual confidence that Jeongguk can’t help but find himself believing him. “Okay then. Let’s head out after lunch.”

Yoongi eyes the bicycle with trepidation when Jeongguk rolls it out into the driveway.

“We can walk, if you’d rather,” Jeongguk says, catching his look. “It’ll just take longer.”

“No, it’s fine,” Yoongi says, still but looks wary as Jeongguk climbs on.

Maybe he’s never ridden a bike before, Jeongguk realizes, and his stomach lurches. “You can sit sideways behind me,” he says. “You might want to hold onto my waist, though. The road is a little bumpy.”

Yoongi nods slowly before settling behind Jeongguk on the bike. Hands rest hesitantly on Jeongguk’s waist, just barely pressing into the fabric of his t-shirt.

“All right,” Jeongguk says, kicking off. “Here we go.”

As soon as they start moving, Yoongi’s hands grab Jeongguk more tightly. It’s been a while since Jeongguk has ridden double with anyone, and they get off to a bit of a wobbly start before Jeongguk finds their balance. It’s a bit of a strain, especially under the unforgiving afternoon sun, but it’s not that horribly far into town, so Jeongguk is fairly certain he’ll be fine. Although he’s never been more thankful for the charm bracelet on his wrist that will keep him from soaking his shirt through with sweat.

They make it down the driveway and onto the winding road that connects the houses along this part of the coastline, and then Jeongguk hits the first bump in the pavement.

Yoongi doesn’t scream, not exactly. But he makes a sound somewhere between a yell and a strangled yelp, and the hands that had previously been loose on Jeongguk’s hips are suddenly wrapped tightly around his waist. And Jeongguk knows he shouldn’t laugh, he really shouldn’t, but a giggle escapes him anyway.

“Sorry!” he calls back. “Hold on tight!”

Any reply Yoongi may have intended to make is lost as Jeongguk pedals harder, bringing them to the crest of a hill. A panoramic view of the ocean unfurls before them, and Jeongguk doesn’t so much hear Yoongi gasp as feel it.

Jeongguk grins. This is his favorite part of the ride into town. While the view from the beach is also nice, the small change in elevation seems to make everything more impressive. The ocean glimmers in the sunlight, stretching as far as the eye can see. Water bleeds into sky, blue blending with blue to create infinity.

Jeongguk inhales deeply. He exhales, and feels the lingering stress and unsettled feelings from Yoongi’s arrival get whisked away on the salty breeze.

“It’s beautiful,” Yoongi says, just a little too loudly, into Jeongguk’s ear.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk replies. “It really is.”

Then they hit another bump and Yoongi lets out a sound that sounds vaguely like grahhhh, and this time Jeongguk doesn’t hold back. He laughs, carefree and happy, as they coast down the hill.

Yoongi is in the system at the public records office, just like he predicted. He spins a story about losing his wallet to the bored employee and she nods vaguely as she takes down his information. Then Yoongi joins Jeongguk on the hard plastic seats, and they wait.

And wait.

And wait.

At last Yoongi is called back up. He’s issued a temporary ID and tersely informed that he can come back to pick up his official ID in ten business days. Jeongguk pays with his debit card and then they’re free, escaping the dry, chilled office and emerging into the sun.

Jeongguk shudders as his body acclimates to the change in temperatures. He had originally been planning to hit a clothing store next, but a glance at Yoongi has him changing course for a nearby park instead. Yoongi looks overwhelmed. He’s pale, hands shaking slightly as he sneaks glances at the ID print out.

Jeongguk leads them into the park and finds a shady bench near the fountain. As soon as they’re sitting Yoongi points to the location listed as his birthplace and looks up at Jeongguk with unreadable eyes.

“Can you find where this is?” he asks.

One of the things that had fascinated Yoongi the most the day before was Jeongguk’s ability to find just about anything using his phone. Even now he watches, rapt, as Jeongguk unlocks his phone and pulls up the map app to type in the city name.

It turns out to be a small town about an hour and a half inland. Jeongguk zooms out enough to show its location on the map, then holds the phone out. Yoongi takes it with careful hands and stares intently at the screen.

“So that is it,” he murmurs. “The name changed.” He touches the screen and it jumps into a magnified mode. Yoongi startles and hurriedly hands the phone back over.

“Changed?” Jeongguk asks.

Yoongi hums, eyes fixed on his feet now. He’s wearing a pair of Jeongguk’s sneakers, laced up tight. He scuffs the toe against the grass.

A pair of seagulls squawk in the distance, and a kid runs past with a dog. Around them the park is in motion, but their corner feels hushed, a separate little world. Eventually, still frowning at his shoes, Yoongi speaks.

“All of the minor and local deities used to be human,” he says. “Did you know that?”

Jeongguk startles. No one knows much at all about the gods, really. Just that they’re there. There’s some information on the Higher Gods, but the minor deities are a complete enigma. The silence stretches on for too long before Jeongguk remembers himself and says, “Ah, no. I didn’t.”

Yoongi nods, as if he expected that. “The Higher Gods look for humans who die selfless, noble deaths and then scoop them up and give them minor godhood. They make it out to be some kind of reward, but in reality they just want people to do all the hard, menial work for them.” He snorts, short and derisive. “I enjoyed being a storm deity but it’s… Sometimes it was really lonely.”

The kid runs past again, dog barking ecstatically at her heels. Jeongguk barely even notices them. He’s too lost in Yoongi’s words, unsure what to feel. Jeongguk may hardly know anything about Yoongi, but he can tell that Yoongi deciding trust him like this is a big deal, that Yoongi’s trust is both precious and heavy. Jeongguk can feel the weight of it settling into his chest.

“I don’t remember much about before,” Yoongi continues with a shrug, carefully indifferent, even as his fingers clutch at the temporary ID hard enough to crinkle the paper. “My name was Min Yoongi. I lived in that town”—he gestures at the phone—“but it had a different name. I had a brother, I think.”

He seems tired, worn down, perhaps a little scared. His shoulders slump forward, protecting himself from some unknown threat.

“It’s easy to forget.” The words come out with a stronger rasp, as if they stuck in his throat. Yoongi closes his eyes. “Time passes weirdly in the gods’ realms. I feel like I was there since the fucking dawn of time, but it was probably only a couple hundred of your years. I took care of my duties and I saw things changing but I didn’t really feel the change, you know? Now I’m here and it’s…” A shaky breath. “Different. Everything is different.”

He opens his eyes and glances up at Jeongguk. Lost, Jeongguk thinks with an ache in his chest. Yoongi looks lost.

Without thinking Jeongguk starts to reach out. He’s not good at words but he wants to help, to show Yoongi that he’s here, but at the last second he remembers himself and pulls his hand back. Yoongi is… he’s a god, and Jeongguk might make him uncomfortable or angry or—

“It’s okay,” Yoongi says quietly, eyes flickering to Jeongguk’s hand. “You don’t have to be so careful. I’m just a normal person now.” He glances back down at the paper in his hands. “Just Min Yoongi.”

Jeongguk bites his lip. He doesn’t think there’s much normal or just about Yoongi, but that isn’t really his judgment to make. He bridges the last tiny gap and touches Yoongi’s shoulder. He squeezes once, and Yoongi’s lips pull up into a hint of a smile.

Jeongguk struggles to think of something, anything to say, but he can’t think of any words that will be comforting and not trite. So he settles on the one thing he’s found works for cheering most people up, almost without fail.

“Do you wanna get ice cream?”

Yoongi’s smile turns into something real, wide and gummy.

“Yeah,” he says. “I’d like that.”

The ice cream shop is busy, as can be expected on a hot, sunny day at the end of June. Jeongguk cuts through the families crowding the counter with the ease of years of practice. He’s been coming here for as long as he can remember—the shop is owned by his best friend’s family, and when they were little, he and Jimin would huddle at the table closest to the counter to color or play games.

Now, Jimin is behind the counter with his blinding customer service smile in place. Until he notices Jeongguk, that is, and then he wrinkles his nose.

“I’ll get your banana milkshake monstrosity started,” he teases as Jeongguk grins.

Yoongi stares at the display of ice cream, jaw slackening in awe of the rainbow of flavors. Jeongguk helps him decide on getting a scoop of the espresso chip, based on Yoongi’s affinity for coffee. Jeongguk isn’t big on coffee, but he had dusted off coffee machine in the kitchen and offered some to Yoongi, just to be polite. Yoongi had taken to the beverage like a fish to water.

Jimin gives Yoongi a curious look, but doesn’t thankfully doesn’t comment on the fact that this is the first time Jeongguk has brought anyone by in almost a year. Instead, he tells Jeongguk, “I’m on break in twenty, if you wanna grab a seat outside and wait.”

Jeongguk and Yoongi snag a table under a large pink-and-white striped umbrella. Jeongguk sips his milkshake and watches as Yoongi licks experimentally at his ice cream. He initially jerks back, shocked at the cold, before the flavor sets in and his eyes widen.

Jeongguk chuckles. “Good, right?”

“Yeah, it’s really good,” Yoongi says. He takes another lick, more enthusiastic this time. His expression is somewhere between surprised and delighted, and Jeongguk hides a smile by taking another drink of his milkshake.

“So I was thinking we could go clothes shopping next,” Jeongguk says a while later, when his milkshake is about halfway gone. “Then we can swing by the grocery store before heading home.”

Yoongi hums a sort of confirmation. He’s preoccupied with trying to stop some melted ice cream from dripping all over his hand.

Jeongguk leans back in his seat and worries at his straw while he thinks over his next words. He doesn’t want to be overbearing, but—

“Jimin is my best friend,” he settles on saying.

Yoongi looks up—he’s reached the cone now and is crunching it delicately—and Jeongguk offers what he hopes is a warm smile.

“I’ve known him pretty much forever,” he continues, nerves making the words come out too quickly. “And I trust him. You can tell him whatever or however much you’re comfortable with. He has the Sight, and his family are all witches, so he’ll understand.”

Yoongi regards Jeongguk for a moment, then nods slowly. “Okay,” he says. “Thanks for telling me.”

Jeongguk nods back, words spent and unsure how else to respond. Luckily he’s saved by Jimin coming out the door of the shop and waving enthusiastically as he crosses the patio.

“Hey,” Jimin says, plopping into the chair next to Jeongguk. “Sorry that took so long. The heat is great for business, but the crowds are killing me.”

He pouts, but it only lasts for a second before he’s smiling again and leaning around Jeongguk to look at Yoongi.

“Hey,” he says. “I’m Jimin, it’s nice to meet you.” His customer service smile is gone now, replaced with a genuine Jimin smile. Which is to say, sunshine and sparkles and everything nice. Yoongi seems slightly dazzled.

“Um, hey,” he replies. “I’m Yoongi. I’m, um, Jeongguk’s friend.”

“Cool,” Jimin says. His smile turns cheeky. “That’s something we have in common, then.”

Jeongguk groans and elbows Jimin in the ribs. “Stop being embarrassing,” he whines.

You’re embarrassing,” Jimin shoots back. “I die a little inside every time I have to make your triple caramel banana cavity concoction.”

Jeongguk sniffs dramatically. “You just have no taste.”

“Obviously, since I’m friends with you.”

Jeongguk and Jimin dissolve into bickering. Yoongi watches them, crumpling and uncrumpling the paper that had been around his ice cream cone. Jimin’s eyes slide over to him from time to time—he’s being subtle about it, but Jeongguk still notices. So does Yoongi. After a little while Yoongi clears his throat.

“You can ask,” he says, interrupting a heated discussion about chocolate versus vanilla ice cream. Both Jeongguk and Jimin turn to look at him. Yoongi crumples the paper in his fist again, but continues to look at Jimin. “Whatever you’re wondering, you can ask. I— it’s fine, I don’t mind.”

“Oh.” Jimin blinks a couple times, obviously taken aback. He recovers quickly, though, and sends Yoongi an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. It’s just… what kind of being are you? I’ve never seen an aura like yours before.”

Yoongi’s eyes widen slightly in surprise. “Being?”

“Yeah, like. When I saw you in the shop I thought you might be an elemental witch or something, but your aura is a little bit different from that? Elemental witches tend to be kind of like, sparkly and electric, but your aura is this pastel lavender color, kind of swirly? It’s really pretty.”

There’s a moment of heavy silence and then—

“I’m a god,” Yoongi says quietly. His eyes are sharp on Jimin, careful but curious. “Was. I was a god, a local deity.”

It’s Jimin’s turn to look surprised, although he recovers quickly. “Yeah?” he asks, breaking into a giant smile. “That’s so cool! No wonder I didn’t recognize your aura then. I’ve never met a god before.”

Jeongguk watches as Jimin coaxes Yoongi in to conversation, asking questions and easily accepting whatever answers Yoongi is comfortable enough to give. Jeongguk chews on his straw. His milkshake is long gone, but he continues to hold his cup so he has something to do with his hands. He fails to hide his blush when Yoongi mentions receiving Jeongguk’s blessings as a god, and stubbornly ignores the sidelong look Jimin gives him.

Sometime later, when Yoongi tentatively mentions that he wants to find a job and Jimin enthusiastically offers a position at the ice cream shop, Jeongguk is hit with a thought.

“Hey Jimin,” he says. “Do you still have your old bike, or did you sell it when you bought your car?”

Jimin raises an eyebrow. “I still have it. Why?”

“Could we borrow it for a while? Yoongi’s gonna need a way to get into town on the days I have my internship.”

“Oh! Yeah, sure. I think my brother’s at home, I’ll call him and ask him to bring it over.”

Yoongi’s eyes flicker between the two of them. He looks like he wants to retreat back into his shell, but instead he says, “Thank you.” It comes out slightly raspy, and the tips of his ears turn pink.

“Hey, it’s no problem,” Jimin says with that easy, reassuring way Jeongguk has always envied. “You’re our friend now, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, and there’s a smile tucked into the corners of his mouth.

Jeongguk spends the trip home teaching Yoongi how to ride a bike. They make slow progress. Yoongi is on Jimin’s old bike, wobbling along and shrieking every time the bike starts to tilt. Jeongguk is beside him, his own bike loaded down with grocery bags, trying to shout out instructions.

By the time they reach Jeongguk’s house they’re both out of breath—not from the exertion, but from laughter.

The summer weather settles into a pattern of interspersed thunderstorms and sunshine, and Jeongguk and Yoongi settle into their own pattern of living together.

It’s easy, for the most part. They’re both pretty low maintenance—okay with talking, but also okay with doing their own thing. Jeongguk finishes up his first summer term courses and continues to go to his internship in the big city three days a week. Yoongi takes up Jimin’s offer and starts working at the ice cream shop. They do rock paper scissors to decide on things like cooking and chores.

On the sunny days they go to the beach and wade through the waves. On the rainy, humid days they huddle in front of the fan in the living room, eating watermelon and making fun of shitty sitcoms on TV.

Jeongguk has never minded living alone. He doesn’t feel particularly lonely when his parents are gone. But he finds that he enjoys having Yoongi around, and enjoys the time they spend together. Yoongi is a pretty great roommate—and a pretty great friend, too.

Yoongi is also, as Jeongguk is increasingly less able to ignore, cute.

He’s always known how attractive Yoongi is. It’s impossible not to notice, with his cat eyes and soft pink mouth and the dusting of freckles across his cheeks. But the longer Jeongguk spends with Yoongi—the more he begins to see him as Yoongi the man, not Yoongi the former god—the easier it is see the soft, sweet person he is beneath his cool exterior.

And as Jeongguk get to know the guy who gives kids extra-large scoops of ice cream at work and quietly restocks Jeongguk’s favorite snacks in the cupboard, the harder it becomes to squish down the warmth that is growing, slowly but surely, beneath his breastbone.

Jeongguk is pedaling up the hill just outside of town, heading home after staying overtime at his internship, when the skies open up with a whoosh.

Jeongguk pedals faster, cursing. Of course this would happen today of all days, when his rain repelling charm had caught on the zipper of his backpack and broken. He should have called Jimin and asked for a ride home from the bus station, but he had thought he could make it. Had looked at the skies, read the magic, and guessed wrong.

It’s late. The sun had already almost completely set even before the rain came in. Jeongguk tosses his head to shake his hair out of his eyes. He can barely see the road in front of him through the rain. He grits his teeth, chants a couple blessings through them, and pedals.

Jeongguk is just stepping through the front door of the house, dripping everywhere, when the first peal of thunder sounds out. He stands in the entryway for a moment, catching his breath and listening to the storm outside. It’s not often that he’s wrong about the weather, not often that he miscalculates. He’s mad at himself and exhausted—both from the long work day and his ride through the rain. He breathes in deeply. In, out. Lets the annoyance fall away with the water dripping to the ground. Stays a second longer, then heads to the first floor bathroom.

Jeongguk cleans up as best he can. He wrings most of the excess water from his shirt and pants, grabs a towel to mop up the entryway floor. The hall light is on but the kitchen and living room are dark, so Yoongi must be upstairs. He’s been staying in Jeongguk’s room, while Jeongguk sleeps in his parents’ room. It’s not the most convenient arrangement, but he felt weird giving Yoongi his parents’ room, and there was no way he was subjecting him to the pull-out couch.

It’s only a little after ten, earlier than either of them usually sleep, but Jeongguk creeps up the stairs anyway. Yoongi’s been known to keep odd hours, staying up until dawn some days and crashing out after dinner on others. The door to Jeongguk’s room is open, the lamp on his bedside table turned on, but sure enough Yoongi is asleep. He’s curled up on top of the covers, one of Jeongguk’s mom’s books lying beside him.

Jeongguk bites back a smile, his earlier frustration easing a bit at the sight. He cautiously enters the room and makes his way to the closet mostly through muscle memory. Another roll of thunder shakes the house. Jeongguk has just managed to grab a shirt and pair of boxers when there’s rustling from the bed and a quiet, “‘Guk?”

Jeongguk turns and finds Yoongi sitting up in bed. “Sorry,” Jeongguk says. “Didn’t mean to wake you. I’ll be outta here soon, just needed to grab some clothes.”

“Why?” Yoongi asks groggily, voice husky with sleep, as he rubs at his eyes. Something flutters deep in Jeongguk’s stomach.

“Because I got soaked?” Jeongguk replies with a small laugh. “My rain repelling charm broke, I’m absolutely drenched.”

Yoongi shakes his head, squinting and frowning. “No, why do you keep doing that?”

Jeongguk giggles again. Yoongi’s cute when he’s sleepy. “What, breaking charms?”

“Leaving.”

Immediately Jeongguk turns to ice. Yoongi pulls his legs to his chest and wraps his arms around them. He rests his cheek against his knee. He looks oddly small like this, sitting in the middle of Jeongguk’s bed.

“This is your room,” Yoongi says. “This is your bed. It’s more than big enough for both of us, but you always leave.”

“Oh.” A flash of lightning through the window. Jeongguk fidgets with the clothes in his hands. “I just… I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

Yoongi breaks eye contact and looks down. “You wouldn’t,” he says to the blankets. Then, more quietly, “I don’t like to be alone.”

It’s the first time he’s said anything like that. He’s been incredibly stoic about his new life, stubborn about figuring things out on his own. Usually it’s fine, although every now and then it leads to incidents, like when he ran the dishwasher with too much soap and filled the kitchen with bubbles. Jeongguk tries to let Yoongi work at his own pace and not to hover too much, but he worries a lot. Yoongi never talks about his old life as a god, never expresses any emotional needs.

Right now, though, he’s letting himself be vulnerable. He’s baring his heart, and trusting Jeongguk with it.

Jeongguk’s chest goes tight.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay, I’m— I need to go change and dry off, but I’ll be right back. I’ll stay.”

Yoongi nods and mumbles, “Thank you.”

Jeongguk all but dashes for the bathroom takes the fastest shower of his life. He does a half-assed job of blow drying his hair and rushes through brushing his teeth. He leaves his wet clothes hanging in the shower and tugs on the t-shirt and boxers he grabbed out of the closet.

When he gets back to the room Yoongi is still sitting on the bed, but he’s scooted over toward the window. The sheets are pooled by his feet, and the book he’d been reading is sitting on the bedside table. The lamp is turned off. Yoongi is staring out the window, even though it’s too dark to see anything except rain hitting the glass.

Jeongguk climbs carefully onto the bed. Hesitates for a moment. Thunder rumbles. Yoongi glances over at Jeongguk and gives him a small smile, and Jeongguk crawls over to sit beside him.

“Do you miss it?”

Jeongguk doesn’t know where the words come from. They spill out unbidden, and he gasps and covers his mouth. It’s not his place to ask, and he knows that. What if he overstepped? What if Yoongi gets upset? What if—

“Yeah.” Yoongi wraps his arms more tightly around his knees. “I miss it a lot.” He sounds tired to his very bones.

“Aren’t you angry?” Jeongguk asks, heart in his throat.

“Absolutely,” Yoongi says. “I hate that the fuckers in the Upper Realms think they can do whatever they want. That they think they can use mortals as pawns and then laugh at the consequences. And I hate that they cast out anyone who speaks against them. It’s wrong, and it makes me fucking furious.”

Lightning flashes nearby, illuminating the room. The last remnants of magic have long since faded from his skin, but like this, lit up by lighting, Yoongi looks ethereal. As quickly as it came the light disappears. Thunder booms so loudly that the walls shake and Jeongguk jumps. Yoongi places a comforting hand on his knee.

“I don’t regret it, though,” Yoongi says, once the room has settled back into silence. “I don’t regret standing up for what I believe in and speaking out against that Higher God, and I don’t regret coming here. I’m glad I met you.”

Jeongguk’s heart is racing. From the thunder, maybe, or from Yoongi’s words. He swallows. I’m glad, too, he wants to say, but instead he puts a hand over Yoongi’s and squeezes. Yoongi smiles again, just barely visible in the low light.

“Can you tell me about what it was like, controlling the storms?” Jeongguk asks.

Yoongi’s smile widens. Thunder booms and rain lashes the window, and Yoongi, with Jeongguk curled up beside him, murmurs about the laughter of the wind and the song of the rain and the way thunder and lightning dance, his voice full of longing and delight.

The study in Jeongguk’s house is small and cramped, a concentration of the eclectic clutter in the living room. A plastic organizer sits against one wall, full of the materials Jeongguk’s mother uses for making charms. It’s flanked by bookcases, one which is overflowing with maps and ley line theory books. Jeongguk has slowly filled the other bookcase over the years, stocking it with crystals and sticks of incense and packets of half-used chalk.

The rest of the space in the room is taken up by a giant wooden work table, scuffed with age and use. That’s where Jeongguk is currently standing, hunched over with his hands dusted in chalk. His diagrams are already drawn, candles set at the right junctures. The proper incense is burning and the proper flowers laid out.

It’s a simple enough working. A standard, seasonal thing. A thank you for the rains. All Jeongguk has left to do is place four pieces of quartz just right on the cardinal marks. But the alignment is a fidgety thing to start with, requiring endless tweaking, and it’s downright exasperating when Jeongguk can’t see.

He knows he should have cut his hair weeks ago. He’s been putting it off, procrastinating, and now it’s biting him in the ass. His bangs keep falling into his face, obscuring his line of vision. And he doesn’t dare take his hands off this last piece of quartz, now that the other three are finally aligned. Leaving a working half-done is dangerous, anyway, so he huffs and tries, one more time, to blow his hair out of the way.

It doesn’t work.

He bites back a curse, then gives up and calls out, “Yoongi?”

There’s a moment of silence, followed by footsteps in the hallway which halt just outside the open doorway. “Yeah?” Yoongi asks.

“Can you help me out for a second?” Jeongguk risks turning to look at him, wrinkling his face with his bangs poke him in the eye. Again.

Yoongi blinks, then cautiously steps into the room. “Sure,” he says. “What do you need?”

“There should be, um, rubber bands or something in the top drawer of that organizer,” Jeongguk says, nodding toward his mom’s crafting supplies. “Can you grab one and just… tie my bangs back? They keep getting in the way and I can’t see.” The last part comes out petulantly and Yoongi chuckles.

“Jimin did tell you to get a haircut,” he points out as he opens the drawer and carefully rummages through it.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jeongguk says, scrunching up his face again. “He can gloat at me about it later.”

Yoongi pulls a rubber band out holds it up in question.

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah, that should work.”

Yoongi shuts the drawer and moves over to Jeongguk, pausing with his hand just short of Jeongguk’s hair. “Should I just…?”

“Yeah, just go ahead and do whatever. As long as it gets my bangs out of my face.”

Yoongi reaches out, runs his fingers through Jeongguk’s bangs and gently pulls them back.

The second Yoongi’s fingers touch Jeongguk’s skin, the quartz pieces burst into light.

Jeongguk gasps and lets go of the piece he’s holding. It shifts into alignment and thrums with energy. Jeongguk has done this same working every summer for almost ten years now, but he has never seen the quartz burn with such intensity. He just barely has the presence of mind to speak the proper blessing, and then it’s over. The candles snuff out. The flowers are gone, leaving a heady undertone of water lily beneath the incense.

Jeongguk stares at the table, brain furiously trying to process what just happened. There’s a thrumming in his veins, like the bass part of a song when it’s so low you can only feel it. It’s not a bad feeling. Fuzzy, almost heady. He turns to ask if Yoongi feels it too.

Yoongi is staring at Jeongguk much like how Jeongguk had been staring at the table, expression a mixture of awe and surprise. His hand is still in Jeongguk’s hair. As soon as they make eye contact he blinks and seems to come back to himself, then quickly snatches his hand away.

The second their skin breaks contact, the thrumming abruptly cuts off.

“What—” Jeongguk starts to say.

“Fucking hell,” Yoongi mutters.

“I thought you lost your magic?” Jeongguk says, glancing between Yoongi and the table. Smoke rises from the candle wicks.

“I— I did.” Yoongi’s eyes are wide, wild. “I tried so many times, but it’s gone, it’s all gone.”

They stand there in silence, staring at each other.

“I’ve never done a working that strong,” Jeongguk says after a moment. “Never, in my whole life.” He’s always been better at weather sense, a psychic connection that lets him feel what the weather will do. His physical workings, anything meant to control the weather, turn out fragile at best.

He casts around the room, looking for anything, anything that could offer an explanation. Glances over the table and the plastic organizer before his eyes land on his dad’s bookshelf. A half memory of words suddenly flashing through his mind. Something about ley lines and amplification and channels.

“Yoongi,” he says slowly. “Do you think you might be a conduit?”

He reaches out. Yoongi flinches, before relaxing and letting Jeongguk touch his arm. There’s no thrumming, no electric current like there had been during the working. Just the soft press of skin against skin.

Yoongi frowns. “I—” he starts to say, then gulps and looks at Jeongguk with eyes round and uncertain. “I don’t know.”

“Definitely a conduit,” Jimin’s dad says with a kind smile.

They’re sitting in Jeongguk’s living room with glasses of iced tea. Jeongguk had panicked and ended up calling the most experienced witch he could think of. Jimin’s dad had driven up not fifteen minutes later, bringing calm words and some equipment for testing magical disposition with him.

Yoongi still looks a little wild, and his fingers tap nervously against his leg.

“It’s a rare talent, son,” Jimin’s dad says. “You’ve got a true gift.”

“A gift,” Yoongi repeats, and Jeongguk watches the nervous bob of his throat.

“Sure. A lot of witches would pay good money to work with a conduit.” Jimin’s dad turns his gaze to Jeongguk. “I bet your dad has some connections on the ley line projects who could get Yoongi set up with a job.”

Yoongi’s tongue darts nervously across his lips. “I think I’ll stick with the ice cream shop for now,” he says.

Jimin’s dad chuckles. “Well, we’re more than happy to keep you.” He stands and pats Yoongi reassuringly on the shoulder. “I’m going to head out now. You two make sure to eat a big dinner, alright? You did a pretty big working earlier, even if it was accidental.”

They help him pack up, then send him off. Once his truck is just a cloud of dust down the road, Jeongguk turns to Yoongi.

“How are you feeling?” he asks.

“Okay,” Yoongi says. “Not bad, just kind of… weird. Like I was missing something, but I didn’t even realize until I found it.”

“A gift,” Jeongguk says.

“I’m not sure about that yet,” Yoongi says, rubbing at his neck. “But yeah, maybe.”

It’s a delight to watch Yoongi work. He’s mastered the customer service smile now, and he moves behind the counter with ease and efficiency. Behind the professionalism, though, lies a giant marshmallow: a gummy smile that appears when small children ask for samples, and extra large servings for anyone who seems like they might need it. Yoongi is every bit as sweet as the ice cream he serves, and sometimes Jeongguk’s heart feels so full he doesn’t know what to do with himself.

Yoongi hands over a sample spoon to a toddler held in her mother’s arms. Jeongguk watches from one of the tables, his backpack sitting on the opposite chair. It’s a Thursday evening, just at the end of the after-dinner ice cream rush. Jeongguk stopped by on his way back from his internship, and once Yoongi is off they’re planning to grab a late dinner together.

The daughter and mother settle on strawberry and cookie dough, respectively. Yoongi rings them up with one last smile, then clocks himself out once they’re gone. He sends a grin in Jeongguk’s direction before taking his apron off and disappearing into the back.

Jeongguk stands and stretches. He loves the work he gets to help with at the meteorological research center, but sitting all day leaves his back stiff. He groans, and stretches further. He’s slinging his backpack over his shoulder when Yoongi comes out from behind the counter.

“You hungry?” Yoongi asks as he draws even with Jeongguk.

“Yeah. I was thinking of getting fish and chips from that one place on the pier, if that sounds okay?”

“Sure,” Yoongi says. “As long as we get extra fries. You always steal mine.”

Jeongguk sticks his tongue out at him. They push through the ice cream shop doors and out into the warm evening. A brief storm had blown through earlier in the afternoon, leaving a refreshing breeze in its wake. The boardwalk, when they step onto it, is busy but not overly crowded. Couples out for a walk after dinner, tourists snapping photos of the sunset, kids begging their parents for sweets.

Their chatter mixes with the soft crash of waves beneath the wooden planks, creating a cheerful sort of white noise that has Jeongguk humming happily to himself as they walk.

It’s not terribly far to the fish and chips restaurant, but by the time they’re halfway there Jeongguk can tell that something’s up with Yoongi. He’s quiet, not regaling Jeongguk with stories like he usually does after a shift at work, and his eyes are darting here and there—looking all around, but never at Jeongguk.

Jeongguk watches him sidelong, unsure if he should speak up or wait for Yoongi to say whatever’s on his mind. Eventually Yoongi coughs lightly. His eyes are fixed on the boardwalk.

“Can we,” he asks quietly, “do that, too?” He gestures vaguely around them with one hand.

Jeongguk furrows his brow and looks around. There’s a couple in front of them, another couple to their left, and a family. On their right, two high school girls take a selfie with the sunset in the background.

“Take a photo together?” he hazards.

“No, um.” Yoongi rubs at the back of his neck; his cheeks are the same pink as the sky. “Hold hands.”

Oh. Now that Jeongguk looks closely, all the people around them are holding hands. The couples, the family, the high school girls. Jeongguk blinks. That’s not what he was expecting, but it’s not like he’s opposed. Not at all, actually.

“Sure,” he says. He stretches his hand out, palm up. Yoongi stares at it for a second as if it’s a wild animal that might bite him, then gingerly reaches out. His palm is warm against Jeongguk’s, and their fingers lace together tightly. Jeongguk gives a tentative squeeze. Yoongi stiffens, before all the tension drains from his shoulders at once.

Jeongguk smiles. He’s pretty sure his face is as red as Yoongi’s is. “Better?” he asks.

Yoongi coughs. “Yeah,” he says. A second later he squeezes back, just the briefest moment of pressure. “Let’s go, I’m starving.”

Jeongguk’s heart sings.

It turns out Yoongi is a hand-holding fiend. He’s shy about it at first, linking their pinkies together while staring into the distance, but he gets more confident as time goes on. He takes to holding Jeongguk’s hand whenever he can. In the supermarket, wave-hopping at the beach, sitting on the couch together watching a movie.

And Jeongguk, well. Jeongguk doesn’t mind in the least.

“Hey, Yoongi? Can I ask you something?”

They’re at the beach, sitting on a blanket under the shade of an umbrella. It’s humid out, but not unbearably so. The tide is creeping steadily closer to their toes.

“Sure.”

Yoongi is wearing a gaudy pair of swim trunks, zig-zagging stripes in bright colors. He’s slathered in sunscreen, even though they’re in the shade. The freckles on his cheeks have gotten darker since he first arrived. They stretch all the way across his cheekbones and up over the bridge of his nose.

“What did you do to get… you know… made into a god?” Jeongguk asks. He picks at a loose thread along the edge of the blanket. There’s a moment of silence broken only by the crashing of waves and seagulls in the distance. And then—

“I saved the crown prince from a tiger.”

Yoongi looks so serious that Jeongguk almost, almost falls for it. He gawks at Yoongi for a full second. Then it sinks slowly sinks in: Yoongi’s face is too blank, voice too even. Jeongguk’s bullshit meter skyrockets.

“Oh come on,” he whines. “I’m being serious!”

“So am I!” Yoongi draws himself up, the picture of righteous indignation. “The tiger was coming right for him, and I threw myself between them. Wrestled the thing with my own bare hands!”

“You’re the worst,” Jeongguk complains, but it’s ruined by his giggles.

“They made a song about me. It was a hit across the kingdom.”

Yoongi—

“The prince proposed to me, but of course I turned him down—”

“You’re so full of it.”

You’re full of it.”

Their resulting tussle ends with Jeongguk getting sand down his shorts, but he manages to throw a shrieking Yoongi into the water, so he figures it’s worth it.

Jeongguk shimmies as he stirs the fried rice. He had lost the heated game of rock paper scissors for who would be stuck making dinner, and had declared that if he was cooking he was also in control of the music. Now a top 40 playlist is blasting from his laptop on the counter. Jeongguk has been singing along to each song, dancing as he cooks.

The current song is one of his favorites of the moment, an upbeat post-breakup anthem. He sings along with the songstress, following a run before hitting the high note with his spatula held up in victory. He does a twirl as well, just to be extra, and ends it all off by sending finger guns in Yoongi’s direction.

Yoongi isn’t laughing, like Jeongguk had expected, or even filming on his phone to show Jimin later. He’s sitting at the kitchen table, chin propped on his hand, just… watching Jeongguk with this smile on his face. Not a smirk, but there’s some emotion there, something Jeongguk can’t quite put his finger on.

“What?” Jeongguk asks.

“Nothing,” Yoongi says, still smiling. “You’re just cute.”

Fond, Jeongguk’s brain supplies. Yoongi looks fond.

Jeongguk’s neck and ears go hot. “Gross,” he says as he hurriedly turns back to the rice. “You’ve been spending too much time around Jimin. His grossness is rubbing off.”

“I don’t need Jimin to teach me how to tell when someone is cute,” Yoongi drawls. Jeongguk doesn’t need to look to know he’s raising an eyebrow.

“Stop, I’m not cute,” Jeongguk grumbles. He jabs at the rice with the spatula.

“Mm,” Yoongi hums, as if considering. “Nope, definitely cute.”

Jeongguk gives the rice another jab, then grabs a serving spoon. He scoops up some of the rice and goes to taste it before changing his mind. He takes the spoon and crosses the kitchen, holding it out to Yoongi.

“Here, lemme know what you think,” he says.

Yoongi reaches out and places a hand lightly over Jeongguk’s fingers, stabilizing the spoon. His touch is oddly cool despite the weather. Goosebumps race along Jeongguk’s spine. Before Jeongguk can think too deeply about it, though, Yoongi is leaning forward and taking a bite of rice. He chews thoughtfully, tilting his head to the side.

“S’good,” Yoongi says after swallowing. His tongue darts out to swipe across his lips. Jeongguk’s eyes unconsciously follows the action and his brain vaguely takes note of the fact that Yoongi’s lips shine in the light. Jeongguk jerks his gaze back up and finds Yoongi staring at him again—except this time there’s an intensity in his eyes that Jeongguk can’t look away from.

The room suddenly seems to be charged with electricity. Not the kind that passes between them when Jeongguk is working magic, but the kind that build quickly, filling the air during a thunderstorm. Except there are no storms in the forecast today, not even a cloud in the sky.

Jeongguk’s skin tingles where Yoongi’s fingers still press lightly against his own. He wants to press closer, to see what Yoongi’s fingers feel like on his arm, his shoulder, his cheek.

The thought has Jeongguk jolting, jumping backward and accidentally knocking the rest of the rice from the spoon onto the table. Yoongi’s hand slips away from Jeongguk’s.

“Well,” Jeongguk says, too loudly. His face is on fire. “Okay, that’s good to know, I think it’ll be done soon. And then we can eat? ‘Cause… ‘cause it will be done soon.”

“You said that already,” Yoongi says, voice rich with amusement. Although Yoongi’s cheeks are also tinged pink, Jeongguk is gratified to see.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says. “Yeah, I did.” He then hurries back to the stove, hoping to save the rice from burning while also salvaging the last shreds of his dignity.

He thinks he hears Yoongi say, “Cute,” from behind him, but it’s hard to tell over the sizzling of the rice.

August rolls in with an unprecedented dry spell. Humidity sits heavy in the air, but day after day after day the rains refuse to come. Jeongguk and Yoongi take to sleeping in the living room, only braving the sweltering heat of the upper floor when absolutely necessary.

After a solid week of unbearable heat Jeongguk sets up a spell to beg for some relief, any relief from the heat, even if it’s just a small breeze. Yoongi hovers beside him, a hand placed carefully on Jeongguk’s waist. His fingers are beneath Jeongguk’s shirt, skin to skin.

The touch is distracting, burning into Jeongguk’s conscious along with the low hum of magic. But during their cautious experiments with smaller workings, they’ve found this method works best. Using Jeongguk’s arms or shoulders as the contact point just causes confusion as they try to maneuver around each other. So Jeongguk quells his traitorous heart and does his best to focus on the magic.

Jeongguk whispers his blessings. The crystals blaze and the candles go out, and Jeongguk and Yoongi are left standing in the hazy room.

“Well,” Yoongi says after a moment. “I guess we can’t expect anything immediate. The weather moves on its own time.”

He pulls his hand away, and despite the heat Jeongguk finds himself missing the touch.

A few hours later, shortly after dinner, a wind starts blowing in off the ocean. They open all the doors and windows to try to catch a cross-breeze, and the windchime made of shells that Yoongi picked up in town a while back tinkles softly from the front porch.

Jeongguk is sprawled out on the living room floor, belly-down and doing his best to melt into the hardwood. His hair just barely ruffles every time the standing fan rotates in his direction. He lets out a groan, long and dramatic.

“Why can’t the spell move more quickly?” he whines. “It’s supposed to be raining by now. Where is the rain? It’s so humid I’m gonna die.”

Yoongi isn’t in much better state. He’s on the floor too, sitting with his back against the couch. He’s fanning himself with a magazine, looking every bit as disgruntled as Jeongguk feels.

“Whoever they replaced me with doesn’t know how to do their fucking job,” Yoongi grumbles. “They’ve gotten the blessings by now, for sure. Damn amateur.”

That gets a giggle out of Jeongguk. He rolls onto his back and looks at Yoongi, upside down. Yoongi has on his displeased face, the one he gets when he’s grumpy but not actually mad, where his mouth presses into a straight line and then turns down sharply at the ends. It makes him look kind of like a grouchy cat, or maybe a frog. It’s cute, and Jeongguk giggles again. Yoongi wrinkles his nose.

A breeze drifts through the house and Yoongi turns his face into it, expression relaxing. From Jeongguk’s angle he gets a good view of the slope of Yoongi’s jaw, the line of his throat. That same something he’s become so familiar with flutters in Jeongguk’s chest—the feeling that has been building over the past months like a wave forming beneath the ocean’s surface. His chest holds the heart of a growing storm, affection and attraction swirling together and swelling until he can’t hold it in anymore.

“Yoongi,” Jeongguk blurts out, still staring at him upside down from the living room floor. “Can I kiss you?”

Yoongi freezes, then turns his head slowly to look at Jeongguk. Blinks. “Can you what?”

“Kiss you,” Jeongguk says. “I like you a lot, and I really wanna kiss you right now.”

Yoongi regards Jeongguk for a long moment, expression unreadable. Jeongguk hadn’t felt any anxiety before, hadn’t worried about his words because they felt right and he didn’t want to keep them inside anymore, but now he starts to second guess himself. Desperation rises in his chest and he opens his mouth to let it out, to say sorry and try to fix things, but just then Yoongi’s expression softens.

“Gonna be awfully hard to kiss me from all the way over there.”

For a second all Jeongguk can do is stare. Then Yoongi pouts, and in an instant Jeongguk is rolling over, righting himself so that he scramble to Yoongi’s side. Yoongi chuckles, dry and low, and reaches out with gentle hands to fix Jeongguk’s hair.

“There,” he says, brushing mussed bangs away from Jeongguk’s forehead. “Much better, yeah?”

Jeongguk doesn’t know if Yoongi’s talking about the distance between them or Jeongguk’s messy hair, but he nods anyway. They’re so close and it’s so damn hot, and all Jeongguk can focus on is the ocean in Yoongi’s eyes and the freckles that span his cheeks. Yoongi’s fingers in his hair. I like you a lot, Jeongguk thinks.

“I like you a lot,” Jeongguk says.

Yoongi smiles, gummy and bright, eyes crinkling. “So you said,” he teases. His hand stills in Jeongguk’s hair and for a second his expression turns unsure. Vulnerable. He swallows nervously.

“I like you too,” Yoongi says.

“A lot?” Jeongguk asks. Partly to be an ass, partly because he needs to know.

“Yeah, a lot.” Yoongi rolls his eyes but his voice is fond.

“Good,” Jeongguk says with a grin.

They lean in at the same time. Hesitant, figuring out how to fit together. And then—

Then they’re kissing.

Yoongi’s lips are slightly chapped but they feel nice moving against Jeongguk’s—especially when Yoongi lets out a quiet sigh and grazes his teeth lightly across Jeongguk’s bottom lip. Jeongguk’s hands find their way to Yoongi’s face, cradling his jaw. The fingers in Jeongguk’s hair tighten slightly, pulling him closer until Jeongguk is sprawled halfway into Yoongi’s lap.

Jeongguk leans in, closer, closer, losing himself in Yoongi’s touch.

The storm breaks with clash of thunder and the roar of rain.

It beats out a symphony against the roof, violin winds and cello rain followed by thunder percussion. Jeongguk hardly hears it. It seems far away, like Jeongguk is wrapped in a dream. Everything is surreal in a way that Jeongguk never wants to wake from.

He pulls back to breathe and Yoongi chases after him. They kiss open-mouthed, messy in a way that is leisurely rather than desperate. Yoongi is so warm beneath him when Jeongguk crawls the rest of his way onto his lap, and Jeongguk feels like he might melt.

He doesn’t think he wouldn’t particularly mind if he did.

“‘Guk,” Yoongi finally whines. “‘M really hot.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says without thinking, his brain still lost somewhere in the storm clouds. “You are.”

Yoongi whines and pulls back, smacking lightly at Jeongguk’s shoulder. The action brings Jeongguk back to the present, and Yoongi’s words and his own reply finally sink in. Jeongguk giggles.

“What?” he asks when Yoongi pushes his shoulder again. “It’s not like I lied.”

“Brat,” Yoongi says. His cheeks are flushed a pretty pink. He bites his lip and looks away, nodding toward the window. “Look,” he says, “the weather finally broke.”

Jeongguk laughs, but obligingly leans back. He takes in the sounds of the storm, the lighting flashing outside the window. He should probably get up and go shut the windows and doors, but for the moment he decides to throw caution to the wind and hope that mom’s charms against water damage will hold strong.

He disentangles himself the rest of the way from Yoongi and flops backward onto the floor. The storm brought cooler winds, but the house still feels unbearably muggy. The hardwood floor is a slight relief, although it doesn’t do much to stop the way his heart is thudding, loud and happy, in his chest.

Yoongi lies down beside him. A second later he bumps their hands together and links his pinky with Jeongguk’s. Jeongguk grins. They lay in silence, listening to the storm. It’s in full swing, washing away the sticky heat bit by bit.

“You want ice cream?” Yoongi suddenly asks, around a peal of thunder.

Jeongguk snorts. “You just worked all day in an ice cream shop. You sure you want more?”

“Just because I work there doesn’t mean I eat ice cream all day.” Jeongguk can hear the pout in Yoongi’s voice.

“That’s a lie, I know you sneak samples all the time.”

Yoongi huffs, but it sounds suspiciously like a laugh. “Yeah, well. This is different. It’s different when it’s together with you.”

Jeongguk’s heart does a flip. He pulls Yoongi’s hand closer and laces their fingers together. Their palms are still too warm and kind of clammy, but Jeongguk doesn’t care.

“Alright,” he says over the clamor of the storm. “Let’s close up the windows, and then have some ice cream.”

The rest of August passes in a torrent of heat, and before Jeongguk knows it the last storm of summer is rolling in. Jeongguk can feel it the same way he felt the first one building, and he knows with certainty that this is the last thunderstorm they will get. Summer’s last farewell before giving way to autumn.

When he was little he used to hate the last storm of summer. He knew that it meant vacation was over, that soon playdates on the beach with Jimin would be replaced with school hallways plastered with overly-bright ‘WELCOME BACK!’ posters. But by the time he reached high school the peachy glow of an idealized summer had already dimmed, and he found himself welcoming the last rains, celebrating the freedom from humidity and heat.

Jeongguk feels a little bit like he had when he was little as he curls up on the far end of the couch, listening to rain lash against the window. It’s the middle of the afternoon, but the storm clouds are dark and thick enough that it feels more like dusk. A comic book lies forgotten on the side table. His arms are wrapped around his knees, fingers digging into flesh as if that will help remind him that this is all real.

He’s being stupid, he knows he is. But he can’t shake the feeling that this is it. That summer is ending, and so is everything it brought with it. That the past three months have been a dream, and when the last of the rain passes he’ll wake up.

Thunder rolls, but it’s in the distance. It’s still far off. There’s still time.

The stairs creak and groan as Yoongi comes down them. Twelve muffled thumps of bare feet on wood, and then shuffling in the hallway.

“Hey, so for dinner I was thinking—”

Yoongi rounds the corner and stops dead when he sees Jeongguk. Jeongguk curls more tightly into himself. He feels dumb, like some kid sulking that summer is ending. But Jeongguk isn’t sulking, he’s just scared. Stupidly, irrationally, scared.

“Hey,” Yoongi says again, voice gone low and gentle. He crosses the room and sits next to Jeongguk on the couch. Not so close as to invade Jeongguk’s space, but close enough to show that he’s there, if Jeongguk wants.

Jeongguk does want. He scoots closer, tucking himself under Yoongi’s arm. Yoongi smells clean and fresh, like soap and generic shampoo. His hair is still damp from the shower he just took.

“What’s wrong?” Yoongi asks into Jeongguk’s hair. He wraps his arms around Jeongguk, holding him close.

“It’s nothing, really,” Jeongguk says. “Just… this is the last storm of summer.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Rain continues to hit the window. Pitter-pat, pitter-pat, an echo of Jeongguk’s heartbeat. He doesn’t say any more, doesn’t elaborate, but he doesn’t have to.

Yoongi gets it.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Yoongi says. “You know that, right?”

“I know,” Jeongguk replies, voice muffled against Yoongi’s shoulder. “It’s just— you’re really important to me. I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t.” Yoongi’s fingers run lightly up and down Jeongguk’s spine, the softness a contrast to the conviction in his voice. “I’ll be right here.”

Jeongguk breathes deep, grounds himself.

Says, “Okay. Thank you.”

Yoongi hums. “I was thinking of making pasta for dinner,” he says. “Wanna help?”

They make the pasta. Yoongi cooks, while Jeongguk sits on the counter and sings along softly to the music Yoongi put on. After dinner they play a boardgame. Yoongi cheats, but he looks so cute pretending to be sly that Jeongguk lets him get away with it. And when Jeongguk gets out of the shower later, Yoongi is already sitting in bed, propped up against his pillow with a book in hand.

The thunder is directly overhead now, booming so loudly that the house shakes. Jeongguk crawls into bed and fits himself right up against Yoongi’s side. Throws an arm across his waist, nuzzles his face into Yoongi’s shirt.

“Feeling sleepy?” Yoongi asks. Lightning flashes, followed immediately by thunder. The rain has turned into hail, and it clatters against the roof.

“A little bit,” Jeongguk says. “Read to me?”

So Yoongi reads, voice deep and raspy. And Jeongguk means to listen, he really does, but soon enough Yoongi’s voice lulls him into sleep.

In the morning the storm has passed. Jeongguk wakes from a dream, blinking into the golden light of just-past-dawn. He’s sprawled out with Yoongi halfway on top of him. The room is chillier than it had been the night before. Jeongguk reaches down to grab a discarded blanket.

The movement disturbs Yoongi, who sighs and scrunches his face in his sleep. Jeongguk smiles sleepily, swallowing a chuckle. His searching fingers find a blanket, and he pulls it up over them. Yoongi sighs again. The arm he has flung across Jeongguk’s waist tightens its grip. Jeongguk closes his eyes and lets himself drift back into sleep.

Summer is gone, and Yoongi is here with him.

Jeongguk’s heart is calm.