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lilies bloomed under your carpet

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He’s the god of lilies and no one knows.

There’s no one speaking his name in awe, no one worshipping the ground beneath his feet. No epic tales, no prayers, no pictures or altars. He’s a god in the 21st century, and everyone is too busy to notice that his small apartment is full of lilies that shouldn’t survive in this kind of environment.

One of his flowers is always with him. He hides it into his palm, pushes it into the chest pocket of his shirt, ties it into his hair. No one can see it but it comforts him, makes this world a bit more his. Every day he leaves lilies on some random person’s grave in the cemetery close to his apartment. It makes him happy, and he can feel the dead resting in peace. Even when he’s just a small god, with limited power.

He studies biology, for the second year in a university, focused on the flora. A botanist, he thinks. It makes him feel human among these creatures that are nothing like him but treat him as one.

He likes it. Likes how easy it is, how normal he can pretend to be and how little it bothers him that no one believes in him. Or, at least, he can ignore how painful it is that no one knows his name or recognizes the love of his flowers.

He sits in the library, sipping bubble tea (vanilla and strawberry) and getting ready for a test he’s supposed to take in a few days. He plays with a flower in his hands - a goldband lily, one of his favorites - and when he looks up, he sees him.

He’s not a god, just a mere human, but he’s prettier than any of his lilies.

Peach colored hair, tanned skin, and brown eyes are a match made in heaven. He’s got a small bear toy tied to his bag and pictures of flowers in his jeans. Small ring twinkles in his ear as he walks. Taehyung wonders if he’s sensitive, likes it when others play with his ears. If that ring is there as a hint.

The boy fumbles with his bag, dropping a pen, and Taehyung watches how he pouts before bending down to retrieve his belongings. The boy’s got a friend; like sunshine and golden coins. He laughs, bumping gently into the boy’s shoulder when he gets up. A pair of dimples appears, soft and deep. Taehyung feels the warmth on his cheeks, and the lily in his hands grows new leaves.

He locks eyes with the boy’s friend and instantly knows that even if the boy himself is not a god, he’s definitely protected by one. He quickly looks away, cradles the lily between his fingers, and wants to know what does the god of sun do among people while his sunlight throne is maybe one of the most powerful things left on this earth. What does the sun want from this boy, an ordinary human?

Next morning, Taehyung sits on the same spot in the library, this time sipping on his hot chocolate and playing with a turban lily when the boy wanders in with another friend. He looks tired, hair messy and the hood of his jacket pulled up, a lollipop between his pretty lips. His friend has a paper cup of coffee in his hands and the eyes of a cat. They look serious while they quietly talk about something, the boy offering one of his earphones to his friend with a small smile. Taehyung wishes he could hear the music, not noticing how his lily suddenly switches its small black dots into notes, reading his mind.

Then the cat-eyed boy looks at him and Taehyung recognizes another god, the power evident in those dark eyes. The boy hisses. Taehyung looks away, burying his head into his book. He only looks up ten minutes later, and by then, both of the boys are gone.

After a week, he meets the boy again. This time it’s not in a library, not with a friend and from closer than Taehyung is mentally ready. He tries his best to hide the small Kelley’s lilies growing into his hair, cheeks a bit pink when he takes the cone of ice cream from the boy. The pretty dimples appear again when the boy smiles, and Taehyung thanks him with a nod.

“Do you like vanilla?” the boy suddenly asks, and Taehyung spins around, returns to him after almost leaving already. He stares at the boy, puzzled. The boy scratches his peach colored hair. “No one actually wants vanilla, not without something else. So I thought… You like it?”

“Yeah.”

The boy smiles again, and Taehyung feels like he’s ready to say anything to see that smile. “I like it, too.” The boy’s voice is soft and deep, much like Taehyung’s own, and it adds to the warmth Taehyung feels in his body. One more lily sprouts, behind his ear. The boy notices it.

“I like your flower,” he says, pointing. Taehyung lifts his fingers to gently touch the flower behind his ear, willing the others to stay hidden. He usually grows them for his own joy, and this is new, this inability to control when they bloom and who sees them. “Thank you,” he says and smiles, unsure. The ice cream melts slowly in his hands, dripping onto his fingers.

“Oh! I’m sorry!” the boy says, and then he’s even closer, fumbling with napkins and trying to wipe the ice cream off, and all Taehyung can smell is the sweetness of strawberries. His head spins, and a king’s lily grows in the pot near the ice cream kiosk. Then they stop to stare at each other, the boy still trying to wipe off the ice cream. “I’m sorry I kept you so long.”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s not! I almost ruined your ice cream! I’m so sorry I-”

“Go out with me?” Taehyung blurts out and then he slams his hand to his mouth, eyes widening. He wasn’t supposed to say that, they’ve only just met, spoken a few words and there’s no way the boy is going to come. There’s no way his friends are going to agree, and Taehyung doesn’t want the wrath of the god of sun and the god of cats upon him. Unlike him, they actually have power, greater than these people.

“Okay,” the boy still answers, despite all the odds. Taehyung coughs, feeling unsteady on his feet. He can’t believe his ears. But then the boy returns to his kiosk, pulls out a napkin and scribbles his number on it. That day Taehyung returns to his apartment with a buzzing body and lilies following his step. He’s glad the ice cream kiosks have opened early this year, the spring too warm for comfort.

Namjoon, as Taehyung learns the boy’s name is, joins him for a coffee a few days later. They’ve stayed up chatting the night before, talking about the universe and Namjoon’s favorite books and Taehyung’s favorite plants, but they’re both on a good mood. Namjoon doesn’t look as tired as he usually does, and when he tells Taehyung that he’s actually really inspired because of him (blushing but Taehyung doesn’t comment on it), Taehyung learns he studies music.

And soon after he realizes that Namjoon doesn’t just study music, he lives and breathes it.

He lets Taehyung in slowly, reluctant to show actual pieces he’s made himself. But after a while, Taehyung is reading his lyrics and listening to small snippets of melodies that Namjoon keeps playing in his head all day long. They are beautiful, just like Namjoon, and Taehyung doesn’t even realize he’s sprouting flowers to Namjoon’s bathroom floor before it’s too late. The lilies look happier than Taehyung has ever seen them, and it’s a shame he needs to flush them down the toilet to keep his secret.

They keep coming back to the same cafe they had their first “date” in (they haven’t talked about what they are yet), Namjoon always ordering an Americano while Taehyung enjoys his hot chocolate. There’s a nice barista which Namjoon seems to know, one with a smile brighter than the stars. His smile turns his eyes into crescents under his blonde, fluffy hair. He giggles to Namjoon’s jokes, looks fondly at Taehyung and sometimes when he brings them their order, there are extra cookies on a small plate.

Jimin is a human, and as Namjoon tells him, has Yoongi practically wrapped around his pinky finger.

Yoongi, the god of cats, is like a mentor to Namjoon. Mentor, best friend, and a roommate. They make music together, both in love with the same thing. It amuses Taehyung how fondly Namjoon talks about the grumpy cat god. It’s like they’re not even talking about the same person. “Yoongi’s shy, not much of a people person. But under that permanent scowl, he’s a lot softer than you think.”

And Taehyung believes him after talking with Jimin, after hearing about the sweet little things Yoongi does every day. Yoongi brings flowers, buys small gifts, leaves small notes on the table every morning. He’s a god but still helplessly in love with a human, and Taehyung wonders if people would look up to the gods the same way if they knew. If something so human would shatter the fragile front of being scary and bigger than most things.

It surprises Taehyung that Jimin knows. Jimin tells him that he figured Yoongi out a long time ago, that him loving a god is normal to him and worries him as much as love with another human would. He says Yoongi is worth anything, and him practically owning the god’s heart has bound them together. He’s the reason Yoongi’s memories of the old times awoke, the reason his reincarnation on this earth was completed. Jimin loves it, and never asks for a reason why.

“He’s mine, I’m his, and nothing else matters,” he says, dropping the topic when Namjoon gets closer and making Taehyung keep his secret, too. Namjoon is not to know, and sometimes Taehyung wonders why that is.

He’s afraid to open his mouth in case he angers some protective gods who Namjoon calls his best friends.

Jimin is fun, Taehyung likes him, and they become friends quicker than Taehyung thought possible. It’s relaxing that with Jimin, he doesn’t need to hide his lilies. Jimin even compliments them and keeps asking questions, wanting to know all of their names and what Taehyung feels when he grows them and if it hurts to look at them wilt. He laughs when Taehyung speaks fondly about Namjoon, mischievous stars in his crescent eyes, making Taehyung blush. He says that Taehyung makes Namjoon happy.

The first time he officially meets Yoongi, he’s known Namjoon (and Jimin) for over a month and the summer holiday has officially started. He’s sprawled out on Namjoon and Yoongi’s couch, waiting for Namjoon to pick up some stuff before heading out, when Yoongi walks in. He looks tired, beyond gloomy, and his eyes instantly squint at Taehyung. He huffs, and when Namjoon calls out he’s going to the bathroom, Taehyung is not surprised that Yoongi points to their kitchen.

“You’re a god but I can’t recognize you,” Yoongi starts and crosses his arms, leaning against the counter. His black eyes reflect the light like any feline eyes do. He sounds pissed. Taehyung shrugs. “I am,” he answers, leaving out the part that he has no recognition, no followers. No one to call him a god at all.

He knows he shouldn’t be alive but Yoongi doesn’t need to hear that.

“Even if you’re friends with him,” Yoongi hisses, pointing to the general direction of the bathroom, “I don’t trust you. Even if you’re friends with my boyfriend, I don’t trust you. They’re both under my protection and if you fuck their shit up, I fuck your shit up. Am I clear?” Taehyung nods. Then Namjoon returns from the bathroom, and Taehyung smiles brightly, hoping Yoongi can see the smile and read his heart in it.

He meets Hoseok, the god of the sun, a week later with some other people on the side. It’s Friday and Namjoon’s asked him to join them for a “family dinner”, as he calls it. Taehyung has no idea what to expect but nothing like this.

Yoongi drives them to an apartment on the south side of the city, the complex one of those fancy ones that looks expensive and stylish from the outside. They get to the seventh floor, Taehyung feeling Yoongi’s eyes on him the whole elevator ride, and then Namjoon knocks to a door. Hoseok comes to open it with his usual sunny smile and hair dyed fiery red.

“You two are late!” he announces, pulling them all inside and latching onto Yoongi like an octopus. Yoongi growls at him but the softness is evident in his eyes. Hoseok giggles, eyes flashing gold. “Hi, I’m Hoseok,” he chirps and offers his hand to Taehyung over Yoongi’s shoulder. Taehyung takes the hand, a bit puzzled. Namjoon gives him an encouraging smile. “Taehyung,” he answers and sees how a white lily starts sprouting beside Hoseok’s foot.

He winces when Hoseok puts it down with some scorching heat, the lily turning into ashes and ghost burning Taehyung’s palm. He can feel the meaning behind the action through the murderous stare Hoseok gives him. He’s considered a threat, and Hoseok is not hesitant to put him down. Taehyung has no idea how he could lay his heart more bare before them, tell them without words that his sole purpose here is to care about Namjoon, never hurt him.

He guesses there’s a long way to trust between them and hopes he could make it shorter.

Then Namjoon wanders further into the apartment, hugging Jimin on his way, before going to the younger looking boy curled into the armchair. “Hi, Jungkook-ah,” he says, ruffling the boy’s almond brown hair affectionately and smiling. Taehyung can feel a spike of jealousy, scowling at how stupid it is. Namjoon is not his, he has nothing to feel jealous about.

The boy in the armchair huffs at Namjoon and then breaks into a wide smile, front teeth poking out and making him look like a bunny. “Hi, hyung. I’m back.”

He figures out quite fast that the young boy, Jungkook, feels nothing but huge respect for Namjoon. He looks up to the elder one, to his life and passion and talent. His heart is completely bound to Hoseok, love evident in his eyes when the sun god returns to his side. Jungkook looks excited like a boy with his first crush, not able to keep his hands to himself. He’s more innocent and sweeter than his looks give away, still shy under the dark kohl lines around his eyes. He likes to hide behind Hoseok but then laugh loudly, making everyone stare at him.

They click immediately, bonding over their shared love for art. Jungkook tells Taehyung that he’s still in high school but wants to come to study photography into a university. He just returned from his exchange year abroad, all kinds of hyper and tumbling to his own words while trying to tell about all he learned and saw. Hoseok looks proud, praising his boyfriend until he’s a blushing mess. Taehyung’s half sure the young god of onyx is his long lost little brother.

Then a man with black hair and a handsome face emerges from the kitchen, a pink apron tied around his waist. “Joon-ah! Yoongs! I missed you two!” the man yells, hugging both of the boys to his chest with a crushing force. “You have been neglecting these dinners,” the man playfully scolds, and Taehyung can hear Hoseok snickering, delighted by the scene. Namjoon and Yoongi duck their heads, mumbling apologies.

Then the man turns to Taehyung. “You’re Taehyung, right? Joon has told us a lot about you, welcome.” The man offers his hand and Taehyung shakes it. And when he does, he feels a course of electricity running through his body, tingling his senses. He lets out a silent yelp.

The amount of power he feels is scary. It’s intimidating this close, now that he can recognize it, can tell that this is another god. He looks at the man’s dark eyes and tries to smile but feels greatly nervous before the god of all gods, the god of lightning. The reincarnation of Zeus.

“I’m Seokjin, Namjoon’s cousin.”

As it comes down, Seokjin is warmer and more accepting than Yoongi or Hoseok. He seems like he genuinely likes Taehyung, asking questions and smiling and ruffling his hair with his big hands. His jokes are bad and only Jimin laughs at them, but Taehyung can see how fond he is with all of the boys gathered around him. Somehow Taehyung feels like Seokjin’s bound to all of them through ties stronger than the universe itself.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, in some other life, ages ago, Seokjin made them all out of some fibers of the reality and space. Held them in his hands, like some newborn babies.

When they’re done eating, the food made by Seokjin possibly the best Taehyung has ever tasted, Taehyung offers to help clean up. He’s drying the plates while Seokjin hums beside him, hands in the warm soap water, scrubbing a plate. They’re comfortable together despite the silence. And that’s when Seokjin finally decides to speak.

“There’s a reason for him not knowing,” Seokjin says, offering a strained smile. “Namjoon was born as a human into a family full of great, powerful gods. There has always been a target painted to his back. As long as he doesn’t know, he’s a bit more safe.”

Taehyung understands. There are creatures, as powerful as gods but with dark dreams, wanting to rule the world. They would like to make the gods bow before them so that they could trick humans into believing they’ve been abandoned, staining that beautiful love and faith that keeps the gods alive. It would mean pain and suffering on earth. It would mean the end.

“He’s our weak point, Taehyung-ah. And we all have sworn to protect him with our lives,” Seokjin says, eyes pleading. Taehyung puts his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling. “Then I swear that too,” he says, Seokjin looking thankful. He’s not even surprised when the other god proceeds to call him with an ancient name left buried deep in Taehyung’s heart and then hugs him gently. The name is not fitted for the human mouth but Seokjin is not human and it sounds like rain coming from his lips. Taehyung knows he will never hear it again but only knowing it exists eases his heart.

After the dinner, Taehyung starts spending time with all of them. Mostly Jimin and Jungkook (and Namjoon, of course) but slowly with the others too. Some days he crashes Jungkook and Hoseok’s place, playing games with Jungkook and talking about art, avoiding Hoseok’s piercing eyes. They walk around town and take pictures of anything and everything, acting like five-year-olds drunk on summer’s heat. Taehyung realizes he likes making Jungkook laugh, and after a while, even Hoseok starts smiling at them both, eyes lighting up.

Hoseok’s still reluctant to let him hang around Namjoon too much, but his words start to become softer, hate turning into worry. He’s the one who always reminds Taehyung about the secret. “Don’t tell him if you value him,” he says and watches how Taehyung’s bulb lilies bloom on their kitchen table.

He gets to know that Hoseok chose to come down on earth after he became lonely in his home, beyond the sunlight throne. He’s thousands of years old, and even if Namjoon doesn’t know about it, he describes Hoseok as the oldest seven-year-old he’s ever met. “He had this look in his eyes, like he’d seen everything already. And then he ran around the schoolyard and screamed at birds,” Namjoon says chuckling, describing their first meeting on first grade. They’re lying on Namjoon’s bed reading books, and Taehyung thinks it fits Hoseok, being centuries old but still acting like a child.

Jungkook says he woke up to godhood at the age of fifteen, when he first met Hoseok, about three years ago. He’s always had a fascination for rocks and minerals, in addition to his love for art. When Hoseok had offered him an onyx ring in a tourist shop he used to work at, Jungkook had been delighted. Then he had recognized the sun god, and asked: “Are you still offering me my rocks, Ra?”

He couldn’t remember his past lives, couldn’t remember his original home, but somehow he had known Hoseok’s old name and known that they were tied. He had blinked, confused by his own words, and then Hoseok had hugged him, sobbing softly.

No one knew but millenniums ago, the god of the sun had been the lover of all jewels and picked onyx as his favorite.

Other days, Taehyung visits the cafe and waits for Jimin until his shift’s over. They walk around the mall and shop for pretty clothes and exotic candies. Sometimes they go to see a movie and then spend the night at Taehyung’s, eating more treats and talking. Jimin becomes Taehyung’s everything, and at one point, Jimin says he thinks they’re soulmates. “Even if you’re a god, Tae, and I’m a human, we share something I don’t share with the others.”

It’s maybe the best thing Taehyung has ever heard, right after Namjoon’s laugh, and he grows an Easter lily in his room for Jimin.

He’s a bit unsure about visiting Jimin’s apartment because Yoongi is often there, still staring at him with those black eyes and snarling. But Jimin makes him soft, and it makes getting under his cover a bit easier.

They don’t talk much, the cat god usually keeping to himself and sleeping or making music, but Yoongi becomes a comfortable presence in Taehyung’s life. It’s nice to know he’s there, his eyes on everyone and heart gentler than his bared teeth give away. His cats conquer the streets, and Taehyung starts associating cats with the word ‘safety’.

Jimin is not shy about his love and he tells in detail how he met Yoongi, how their meeting coaxed Yoongi out of his stupor. The cat god was trapped, as a punishment Yoongi himself can’t remember the reason of, into a human body. He was born as a human and when he awoke, controlling his powers was pure hell. The cats following him were annoying at best and the other things he could do scared him. He stayed away from Jimin for months, figuring himself out.

When he returned, one rainy evening soaked from head to toe, Jimin let him in and hid him from his parents. They started slowly from there, and Jimin got into the world of gods. He was young, only fourteen, but he never cared.

“He was so gentle with me, always making sure I was comfortable, always thinking about me first. I don’t know what bad he did as a god to be punished for it but I think he’s deserved forgiveness. He’s a good person, Tae,” Jimin says, curled up on his small couch and looking well loved. Taehyung can once again see the stars in his eyes. “If it wasn’t for him, I would have never become a music major. He told me he liked my voice and then it just clicked.”

Taehyung likes Jimin’s voice, too, adores it even. Yoongi uses it in his music a lot, writing beautiful pieces for Jimin, words filled with love. They work together like a dream, and Yoongi confesses his best works are always inspired by Jimin (though Taehyung doesn’t need to know what inspired some of the pieces, for the sake of his own sanity).

Taehyung tries not to blush too furiously, when Namjoon comes to him one day, holding a paper. It’s his first song he’s made for Taehyung, telling after a few test runs that Taehyung’s voice sounds like silk, that he’s more than perfect. The recording becomes Taehyung’s absolute favorite, and it has everything to do with the fact that they share their first kiss after it.

Namjoon is soft, gentle and a bit desperate. Taehyung is adoring, giggly and a bit sloppy. They both lose their breaths more often than not, and Taehyung soon learns how Namjoon’s smile feels against his lips and on his skin. He learns how Namjoon’s skin feels under his palms, how he shivers when Taehyung runs his fingers over his ribs. He learns that touching Namjoon makes Madonna lilies bloom under the carpet and that sharing a bed with him, sleeping cuddled together, grants him a Formosa lily every morning.

He learns that he loves kissing Namjoon, like he loves his lilies and watching them bloom.

They hold hands the next time they go to the family dinner. The summer has already turned to autumn and they’re together for a joined celebration of Jungkook and Namjoon’s birthdays. Seokjin smiles at them, squeezing Taehyung’s shoulder before squatting down at Namjoon’s feet. They have a conversation without words, and Taehyung watches how Namjoon’s dimples deepen, how Seokjin gets tears in his eyes. Seokjin gives Namjoon his gift - a few books older than time itself - and then kisses his cousin’s cheek before moving to Jungkook.

Jimin congratulates them, hugging Taehyung tightly and calling him his brother-in-law. Yoongi points out that Jimin and Namjoon are not related. Jimin slaps his boyfriend’s arm, pretending to be offended, and declares that he adopted Namjoon ages ago. Namjoon laughs, and Taehyung loves it.

Later, he sees Yoongi hugging Namjoon tightly in the kitchen and could swear the cat god’s eyes are shining.

They all are soft and sweet, and Taehyung feels like he’s starting to understand why they’re like a family to Namjoon. Namjoon relies on them a lot, and they rely on Namjoon. They’re lost without each other, and Taehyung’s happy that he has a spot among them now.

It feels strange to not be alone but it’s the good kind of strange. Taehyung has never felt as warm.

But he’s happy when he gets to take Namjoon home after that dinner, gets him all to himself. His present is a small silver chain to Namjoon’s ear and a bouquet of his favorite lilies (Namjoon loves the royal lilies dusted with baby blue). Taehyung has never seen him smile as brightly and his knees feel a little weak. They share a kiss softer than the clouds on the sky and warmer than the nights of summer.

Then their first time; it just happens. They’d come home from their date - a fancy dinner in a place Namjoon loves and Taehyung adores because of that - and they’d planned to watch a movie. They forget the movie when Namjoon moans slightly into the sweet kiss shared by the front door.

It’s perfect like that, both excited and a bit clumsy, fingers wandering on bare skin. They’ve seen and touched before but this is something completely new, getting this intimate. They kiss and kiss and kiss; on the lips and on collarbones and ribs and inner thighs. Taehyung learns that Namjoon definitely likes it when people play with his ears. That even if he’s not conscious about his earring choice, it’s there for a reason.

Taehyung loves it how Namjoon looks with pure bliss in his eyes. He loves to hear his sweet voice breaking and see him falling apart. And he loves putting him back together again, cuddle him against his chest and kiss his shoulder blades.

He’s pretty sure Namjoon had wings in his previous life, his voice laced with sleep when he says that. Namjoon laughs, calling Taehyung a fool. But next morning Taehyung can see the sunrise in his boyfriend’s eyes and there’s something heavenly about that. He kisses Namjoon’s smile and then softly rocks into him again, hips stuttering with pleasure.

Taehyung is in love, so madly in love, and he’s never been happier. His lilies look like they’re shining, vibrant and plump and colorful despite the autumn being grey and rainy and cold. They know, share Taehyung’s feelings, and it gives them strength. He brings goldband lilies to Namjoon every Thursday, and each time the other complains about the wasted money. Taehyung just smiles when Namjoon kisses his cheek and doesn’t say a word about not needing money for these flowers.

Sometimes Taehyung wonders if he could tell. If he should ask Seokjin for a permission to share his secret. It pains him to lie, more so because the lilies are such a great part of him, like an extra limb. He wants Namjoon to know. And he wants to ask Namjoon if he’s allowed to love him still.

Everything changes when one muddy October night, Taehyung comes home from a long day at the school’s library and realizes he’s not alone. He clicks the lights on in his apartment and after a few flickers, in front of his couch, he can see Yoongi’s hunched form. His shoulders are slightly shaking and he’s holding something, eyes shining and blood on his face. Taehyung’s heart breaks.

Jimin is cradled in Yoongi’s arms like he’s a child Yoongi’s trying to protect. His starry eyes are closed but Taehyung can see him breathing.

“Help us,” Yoongi whispers, and Taehyung rushes to the bathroom, snatching a first aid kit under the sink. He tries to ask about a hospital, some professional help but Yoongi just shakes his head, raindrops flying everywhere, and clutches Jimin even tighter. His eyes are wild and pained, and Taehyung gives up, his lilies slightly drooping. They turn away from the scene, too afraid to look.

While Taehyung is patching Jimin’s wounds, Yoongi rubs gently his boyfriend’s hand, mumbling incoherent words. Taehyung wants to at least call someone but Yoongi stops him. “I already called Seokjin. He knows,” he says and then looks at Jimin again.

“He got attacked. Because of me, because of who I am and who I know. They tried to take him, those black creatures. But he fought… Fuck, Jimin fought against them by himself and when I got there he was… He got scratched. I took him away before they could kill him.”

Taehyung has never seen Yoongi this shaken and he tries to comfort him, tries to say something. He finds nothing, awkwardly rubbing Yoongi’s back. The cat god just shivers in his soaked clothes and sobs quietly, tears never falling. Jimin looks pale before them, like he’s dead, and the thought squeezes Taehyung’s chest. They could’ve lost him, their precious Jimin. A defenseless human.

And then Taehyung realizes what’s really going on.

Those creatures tried to take Jimin because he was a human and bound to Yoongi. They tried to make him theirs. They knew, and that means -

“What about Namjoon?” Taehyung asks, fear rushing through his veins like ice, heart doubling its speed. Suddenly he feels like the world is spinning around him and he grips Jimin’s torn shirt between his fingers, holding on tightly. Yoongi looks back at him, still frozen. He sighs. “Don’t worry about Joon-ah, his apartment has a protection barrier. No one can find him when he’s there, Seokjin took care of that.”

But Taehyung can’t stop worrying. Namjoon is his everything and if he gets hurt, he will blame himself. There’s not much he can do, can’t fight against anything with his stupid lilies and it scares him. He’s powerless, too weak. A god without followers with a human to protect. He wishes he’d born stronger, that he was a god more than just physically. That his lilies had at least thorns.

The life continues on, not minding Taehyung’s worries. Jimin wakes up the next day and he’s mostly fine, just weak and in need of rest. Seokjin does his best to quicken the healing process, Yoongi does his best to apologize. Jimin mumbles he’s strong enough to take a few scratches, for Yoongi or for anyone. Taehyung is reassured by their love, knowing that they will both get over it. Knowing that even though Yoongi has lost something, he will gain it back.

No one tells Namjoon, and Taehyung feels the weight of his lies, struggles to keep Namjoon occupied. It feels horrible to keep him in the dark. But he can’t say no when Seokjin says that Namjoon’s smile is more important than him being a part of this. That his ignorance is bliss.

But then those lies come to their lives ends two months later, making it all feel even worse.

It’s a cold winter day, only a few days from Christmas. Seokjin tells him to keep Namjoon inside. “We’re going to go take care of the problem. Keep him in the apartment, don’t let him outside even for a second,” he says and stares at Taehyung with determination. Yoongi, Hoseok, and Jungkook are sitting in the car behind them, eyes dark and serious. There is certain anticipation in the air, predicting a fight. It starts snowing as they speak. Finally, Taehyung nods and then hurries back inside.

Namjoon doesn’t know. He just thinks that Taehyung is there to have a movie night with him, to celebrate Christmas before Namjoon leaves to visit his family. No one else is going to visit their families but Namjoon assumes they are. The sad truth is, most of them don’t have families to visit, because of their nature or because of their own choice.

Namjoon’s got popcorn on his lap and a lazy smile on his face when Taehyung returns inside, and Taehyung feels like he’s been stabbed. He slips behind Namjoon on the couch, Namjoon settling comfortably against his chest. Taehyung hides his face into the back of Namjoon’s neck, not wanting to show his fear.

They’ve watched two movies and are picking out the third when Namjoon says: “I want to go outside for a bit, I need some air.”

Taehyung panics. He pulls Namjoon back against his chest when he’s trying to leave and looks at him with his puppy eyes. He opens his mouth and tries to tell no with some words Namjoon could understand. Tries to say anything that would sound even partly logical reasoning. Nothing comes out. Namjoon struggles, and Taehyung tries to keep him still but feels himself slipping.

“I am a god, Namjoon-ah,” he finally blurts. It at least, makes Namjoon go still. His eyes are wide, big and beautiful, and then his brows start to furrow. Taehyung swallows, throat feeling tight.

He knows Namjoon won’t believe him. He always relies on logic but there’s nothing logical about gods, about magic. So Taehyung just pulls Namjoon’s hand between his own, begging for him to trust. Their eyes meet, and then a big Shirui lily starts blooming on Namjoon’s palm.

A quiet ‘oh’ falls from Namjoon’s open lips, his voice full of wonder. Taehyung holds his breath when Namjoon reaches out to touch the flower with his other hand. He’s gentle, and Taehyung can almost feel the caress on his own skin.

“How?” Namjoon asks, his voice quiet. Taehyung just shakes his head. He can’t explain how, can’t fathom what he is, what any of them are. He just is, and the flowers are just what he does. He closes Namjoon’s palm around the flower, and with one painful breath, the flower returns to dust.

“I can’t tell you my name because there is none. I can’t show you my story in some folklore or old book like others can. But I’m a god, born to a human body with the power to create life.” Taehyung smiles, touching Namjoon’s cheeks lightly with his fingers. He’s glad that Namjoon doesn’t pull away. At least he’s not scared. “Just like Seokjin and Hoseok came on this earth to walk among men as humans. Just like Jungkook and Yoongi were born again with souls of gods in their bodies.”

Namjoon’s eyes search, mouth opening and closing. He touches Taehyung’s neck like he’s not sure that Taehyung is real, running his thumb across Taehyung’s pulse point. He’s shaking, they both are. Taehyung closes his eyes and savors the warm touch. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I tried to keep you safe. We all tried,” he whispers and then looks at Namjoon again. He’s sure even his lilies would look apologetic right now if he could see them.

“So at this moment…” Namjoon says, thinking hard, “The others are not out there to just help my cousin with some extra stuff?”

Of course Namjoon is smart enough to connect the dots. Taehyung isn’t even surprised that Namjoon seems to know about Jimin even when they tried to keep it a secret, seems to know about their every secret and lie. He nods slowly, casting his eyes down, ashamed. He feels Namjoon’s hand retreating, and for some reason, he wants to cry. “They’re out there to fight, to protect us all,” he says quietly. Namjoon’s eyes burn his face, he can feel it. “There are creatures out there trying to hurt us all. They attacked Jimin. We’re all scared they will attack you.”

Namjoon doesn’t talk, doesn’t ask anything. It feels weird, looking how he goes down this easy, how he just gives up and retreats into his own head. They just sit there in silence, Namjoon staring the wall and Taehyung too scared to look at anything else but his own feet. They both jump when Taehyung’s phone buzzes. It’s two in the morning and Seokjin texts him to tell they’re done. Everybody is okay.

Namjoon is not okay. He steals the phone with his long fingers and texts back to Seokjin. Taehyung glances at the text after a minute.

Come over, it’s important

There’s nothing Taehyung can do. It won’t help even if he warned Seokjin that he’s not exactly coming over for smiles and sunshine. He can’t predict what Namjoon’s planning to do. There’s nothing anyone of them could do to stop the wrath of their beloved human, they just need to take it.

Taehyung knows Namjoon doesn’t hate them, he just feels betrayed. He’s mad that he never got to choose for himself. Taehyung would be mad too if this were about him. He would feel untrustworthy. Pushed aside. Belittled.

Seokjin looks at him with sad eyes when Namjoon leaves. The human didn’t shout but his voice was full of hurt and his eyes were stronger than any storms Seokjin would be able to raise. Taehyung tells Seokjin that he’s sorry, voice laced with tears. Seokjin says it’s okay, that it was bound to happen. He tells Taehyung he predicted a long time ago that Taehyung’s love would surpass his ability to hide. He says he wouldn’t have trusted Taehyung with his cousin’s heart if he had continued lying forever.

Taehyung wants to run into the night, to go look for Namjoon and scream his name under the snowfall but Seokjin doesn’t let him. Seokjin just holds him and says that Namjoon is going to return when it’s time. That the night and cold won’t be able to hurt him when even the claws of evil can’t. He explains that not one of those dark creatures were able to see Namjoon, that they don’t know, and Taehyung trusts it’s true.

Complete radio silence falls after that, and they all share the anxiety it causes together. They’re all worried, not liking being kept in the dark. Taehyung hears the other gods complaining about how easily Namjoon’s keeping them at bay, how easily he just vanished. They’re not used to feeling powerless and blind. Taehyung wonders if it’s the karma paying them back (in the name of Namjoon), making them taste their own medicine in secrets and lies.

Taehyung thinks it’s ironic that Namjoon now wants to disappear and be alone, while he seeks comfort from Namjoon’s family. That Namjoon wants what Taehyung had while Taehyung takes advantage of the things he got from Namjoon.

He’s not even surprised anymore when he ends up curling against Hoseok’s side at night, tears slowly drying on his cheeks. Or that Yoongi holds his hand when he breaks down under the weight of his stupidly misplaced guilt.

They’re all to blame, Taehyung knows that, not just him. But somehow it feels like he’s the one carrying the biggest part of the burden, scared to the bone that Namjoon will leave forever. That he’s not coming back.

Namjoon sends a text five days later, when Christmas is already over. He says nothing about the issue but tells that he’s going to be away for a while, tucked safely to some isolated cranny of the world. He says he’s left his parents’ place and taken that job opportunity he talked about with Yoongi. The cat god tells it’s somewhere far away, a great opportunity. A great place for an internship.

Taehyung keeps himself from replying something like ‘Please don’t leave me’ and ‘I’m sorry, I love you, come back’. Instead, he just says he’s glad Namjoon is okay and that he’s proud of him and happy for him, whatever he’s doing. That he’s waiting, no matter how long it will take. That they all are waiting, ready to welcome him back home.

He never gets a reply but takes the silence as more promising than definite ‘no’.

The waiting is excruciating. Taehyung has never been good at waiting and when there’s no end for it, he grows restless. He tries to take it one day at a time, tries to keep his life normal. He tries to keep his studies going, tries to go out and talk to Jimin and visit the library and the graves near his apartment. He tries really badly, so much that some days he tastes blood in his mouth.

He misses Namjoon like crazy, and it feels horrible that he can’t do anything. Sometimes it’s too much, and then he can only take life one hour at a time, one minute at a time.

The winter turns to spring and the grey skies start opening up. It’s still cold and there’s snow on the ground, Taehyung keeping his lilies strictly inside. They don’t pop out on random occasions anymore, and he knows it’s because Namjoon isn’t around to bring them to life. Some of them have lost their lives waiting for their heart to return home. Taehyung wonders if one day he will die because of that, too.

They celebrated Yoongi’s birthday a few days ago, without Namjoon. The cat god kept complaining, saying they didn’t need to celebrate his body turning older but they had insisted. They already had two immortal gods without birthdays, so it felt fun. And secretly, Yoongi had been pleased.

Taehyung had bought Yoongi a collection of his favorite albums as a present and had gotten a huge gummy smile as a thank you (he hadn’t expected it and had to grab Jungkook’s arm to keep himself from falling over). Seokjin had baked a cake, with different chocolates on top and Jungkook had eaten half of it by himself. Yoongi had let Hoseok cuddle him without fighting, and Jimin had giggled while hugging everyone, eyes almost completely gone because of his wide smile. He’d kissed Yoongi every five seconds, and Taehyung had needed to look away because they had looked so happy being in love.

No one had mentioned Namjoon’s absence but it had been there. In the way Jungkook kept looking outside, Hoseok’s arm wined a bit too tightly around his waist. How Seokjin kept picking on his piece of cake, not even finishing it wholly. How Jimin’s smile fell when no one was looking at him and how Yoongi gave him secret cheek kisses because of that.

They had all waited, and then the day had ended without their human coming back.

Now Taehyung is walking back from school, a shopping bag hugged against his chest and his bag slung over his shoulder. He’s pulled his hood far over his eyes, to keep his face from getting wet. It’s raining some kind of fog and it pushes through Taehyung’s coat, making him cold to the bone. The last bits of snow is gone, showing the brown and ugly ground underneath. Puddles gather on the streets, under his feet.

He’s thinking about his homework for tomorrow, hands lazily searching for his keys inside his pocket when he stops. Huddled in the alcove of the apartment complex Taehyung lives in stands a familiar figure. He’s still got the same long legs, looking even longer in his high-waisted pants. Same big hands, familiar parka coat. Taehyung’s heart stutters, and he’s about to drop his groceries.

Namjoon’s wet, pink hair is glued to his forehead when he looks up and smiles, corners of his mouth quivering. “Hi,” he says quietly. His voice is still the same, waking up memories in Taehyung’s head. Of dates and lazy mornings spent in bed, of long nights and conversations turned to heated kisses. Taehyung has forgotten what it sounds like but when he hears it, he knows this is it.

He feels like stone, unable to move. Suddenly the three months of missing, three months of waiting for this to happen, fearing for a text telling him this wouldn’t happen; it all crashes down on him like a mountain of shattered glass. He takes a deep breath and finally finds his keys.

“When did you return?” he asks, hugging his groceries tighter and pushing past Namjoon to get to the door. He gets a whiff of the man’s scent, and his fingers start shaking. Namjoon follows him to the elevator, eyes hidden under his lashes. “Yesterday. I didn’t want anyone to know.” Taehyung just nods, pretending he understands. Pretending he doesn’t want to just scream. Pretending his whole body doesn’t want to just mold into Namjoon’s and never separate from it again.

He flicks the lights on in his apartment and starts unpacking his groceries while Namjoon takes off his jacket and fumbles with his shoes. It’s quiet, a bit awkward. Taehyung can feel Namjoon’s eyes on his back but he doesn’t want to turn around. He has no idea what to say. The lines between them have blurred so much during Namjoon’s absence that blurting things out feels uncomfortable. He doesn’t know what they are anymore, who they are.

“I missed you,” Namjoon says, and Taehyung almost jumps out of his skin, startled by how close the voice comes. He whips around to face the look of Namjoon’s eyes, soft and gentle, like Mother Earth. Taehyung bites his lip. “I missed you, too,” he whispers. The word ‘missing’ doesn’t even come close to describing how much he wanted Namjoon back, how deeply he longed for him to return. How empty he has felt. And now that Namjoon stands only a few feet away from him, so familiar and reeking like home, Taehyung feels ready to cry.

He swallows his tears before they get to escape. There are so many things unsaid between them that Taehyung doesn’t know where to begin. (He doesn’t want to begin from the feelings, like Namjoon did. He’s not ready yet.)

“I don’t know what to say,” he confesses and plays with his sleeves, too long for his lanky arms. Namjoon smiles a little, reaching out but never touching. He seems so small for being so tall. “I don’t know either. Despite that I’m sorry. I’m really sorry, Taehyung-ah.”

“Don’t be, I understand. We did wrong when we hid things from you. I did wrong. You had the right to leave and… I just hope you found what you needed.”

Namjoon sighs and his eyes turn sad, apologetic. Taehyung is pretty sure he sounds like a wreck, broken and fragile. He’s been nurturing his guilt for months, feeding it his doubts strengthened by Namjoon’s silence. He shakes on his feet.

“My parents told me everything during Christmas, about me and gods and the secrets. I fought with them and shouted at them but I understood the reasons. I know why you all kept me in the dark, that it was for my safety and I think I’m even thankful about that on some level but… It was a lot to take in. It was so much that I felt like it was drowning me. You all being something so great, others getting hurt because of me… Heck, technically Jungkook is a couple centuries older than me and I have always treated him like a little brat.”

Taehyung giggles at that, the relief rushing out of him. It’s nice to hear Namjoon joking, see the smile on his face, easy and genuine. “He’s still a brat, however old his soul is.”

They laugh together in Taehyung’s tiny kitchen closet and it feels so right. He’s glad nothing has changed, that Namjoon doesn’t look at him any differently. That he hasn’t changed his love for them, that he’s just accepted all the new information as a part of them. Taehyung feels the squeeze around his heart letting go a bit.

“How are the others?” Namjoon asks, now leaning on the wall and looking fond. Taehyung leans on the counter behind himself, still smiling. “Good. Busy, with their studies mostly. Nothing has happened if you’re worried about that. Everything’s normal.” Namjoon nods, relaxing a bit. And then: “How are you?”

Taehyung goes silent. He really doesn’t know. He’s been pushing through, sometimes worse and sometimes better. He’s been getting forward but not over. He never stopped waiting, like he promised. But it also meant he carried this pain inside himself every day. And now he’s not sure how to let it go.

“I really don’t know,” he whispers, easily opening up to Namjoon like he’s used to doing (now that he knows that Namjoon is still Namjoon and that he’s still Taehyung to him). Namjoon’s face falls and he reaches out, taking Taehyung’s hand. The touch is like fire, and Taehyung gasps quietly, staring at the Tiger lily blooming between their fingers. Namjoon looks at it too, curiosity in his eyes. “I didn’t know if you were coming back. I was so scared and -.”

“I’d always come back for you, baby,” Namjoon says and his hold tightens. More lilies bloom in Taehyung’s hair, then under Namjoon’s feet. He feels vulnerable under Namjoon’s stare and thinks about all the flowers he lost, how many of them died while waiting. How he thought he would die like that, too. He feels the tears finally falling, slipping free from his steel hold.

“What are you going to do now then?” he asks, his voice small and wavering. He doesn’t want to let go of Namjoon’s hand, doesn’t want to let go of his love ever again. He needs Namjoon with him but he doesn’t know if Namjoon wants that, if he’s allowed to have that. He realizes he never even told Namjoon he loved him, too scared to say it out loud and thinking waiting would be right. Now he wonders if he ever gets to say it.

Namjoon looks at him, hand raising to stroke his cheek gently, catching the tears. “I’m going to stay and be with you. If you still want me.”

And so Namjoon stays because Taehyung will always want him, no matter what.

The first day, Taehyung keeps Namjoon to himself, not caring about the world wanting him back, too. They just laze around, cuddle together on Taehyung’s couch or bed, take a hot shower, kiss, laugh. Taehyung tells Namjoon that he loves him and Namjoon says it back, tears in his eyes. Taehyung tells him again. And again, and again, and again. And Namjoon says it right back, every time. Taehyung feels instantly lighter and a smile stretches his face like it’s going to stick.

The second day, Taehyung lets Seokjin know. Namjoon’s cousin shrieks when he gets to hear, Taehyung holding his phone away from his ear while Namjoon snickers beside him. Seokjin scolds them through the phone like a worried mother. And when he appears on their doorstep, he pulls Namjoon into a bone-crushing hug, like Namjoon had returned from a war. Maybe he has, from a war against his own heart. Taehyung smiles at them, making tiny lilies bloom in the lightning god’s collar.

The others come to see them on the third day, all at once. Jimin and Hoseok almost tackle Namjoon to the ground when they jump him, both smiling and screaming. Namjoon holds their hands and kisses their cheeks, accepts worried words with an embarrassed smile and apologizes to them quietly with his eyes. He also forgives and says he loves his friends. Jungkook cries, trying to hide the tears into his sleeves which Namjoon pries away from his face to look at the youngest of them fondly. Yoongi looks like he’s about to murder Namjoon but then he buries his head to Namjoon’s neck and doesn’t let go. Taehyung can hear him murmuring something like ‘don’t ever leave like that you stupid human’.

Taehyung doesn’t go to school the whole week. Namjoon feels bad about it, saying he can as well be alone if Taehyung needs to go but Taehyung shuts his mouth with a kiss. He says he can study from home. Which he does, curled onto Namjoon’s lap and the hand not holding his book playing with the human’s pink hair.

“I wanted change,” Namjoon says when Taehyung asks about the hair color. Taehyung nods, playing with the strands more. It makes sense, he thinks. Everything in Namjoon’s life has changed, everything he had in it different. Why not change himself, change his hair?

Taehyung smiles and gets closer to Namjoon, leaning his head onto the other’s shoulder. He closes his eyes and listens to the familiar heartbeat. It hasn’t changed.

When Taehyung is not studying, he tells stories to Namjoon. He tells about the gods, how they work, how they can see each other. They read mythology books together, searching for stories about their friends and their ancient lives. Namjoon stares at the photos of Zeus in some book and wonders, out loud, if Seokjin really would look like that in his 70s. Taehyung laughs and says that he’d prefer to know if Yoongi really was a woman in his previous lives and had the head of a cat. The uncontrollable giggles turn into hundreds of little kisses onto every piece of skin visible, and Taehyung gladly buries himself in his lover’s scent. Their bedroom smells like fresh lilies after that.

One day Namjoon asks about Taehyung’s lack of followers. How can he be sure, how would he know, what would the love of his subjects even feel like. Taehyung tries to describe it like he’s heard it: it’s warm and easy, like the pulse for humans, like the blood in their veins, like the oxygen in their lungs. He says it’s whispers in their ears and the world smiling at them. He says he wouldn’t know if it’s true because he never had anything but himself.

“Now you have me,” Namjoon says and kisses Taehyung’s bare chest under his cheek. “I’ll know your name. I’ll love you.”

Taehyung hums, playing with Namjoon’s long fingers. “And I’ll live for you. Always.”

These days he knows that it’s enough for him, being just him. He’s learned to be his own believer. But he’s glad Namjoon is there for him when he feels like not believing.

(Over a year later, when Taehyung has given Namjoon a ring (made of moonstone and silver, to serve as a promise) and they have celebrated Jimin and Yoongi’s wedding (small, pretty and full of love), Seokjin comes to Taehyung. His eyes look old and wise, deeper than they have ever been. He looks at Taehyung like he sees into his soul.

“I remembered you yesterday,” he says. “I’ve been thinking what happened when I made you. Who you were. And yesterday it finally came to me.”

Seokjin’s smile is warm when he wraps an arm around Taehyung’s shoulders, asking Taehyung to walk with him. They wander slowly through the park they often come to see, Seokjin fond of the scenery, Taehyung occupied with his lilies. It’s warm, like the summer Taehyung first met Namjoon, when he fell in love.

“You were always supposed to be just a small god. I was sick of all the big ones fighting over each other, fighting over their followers and the power they could have. I had lost a dozen of my creations and I was mad. All because of those petty humans. So I created you, an experiment. A god living without his subjects, just for the joy of them.”

Seokjin turns to look at him, eyes fond. They stop walking, and Seokjin caresses his cheek with his fingertips. “I tied your being to one human soul, your only life source. But the experiment failed. You died.” One stray tear slips out of the corner of Seokjin’s eyes. Taehyung feels his heart fluttering, like it would fly away if it was strong enough to break the bones confining it.

“I died?” he asks quietly, confused. He doesn’t understand but Seokjin nods like Taehyung dying is obvious. Like it’s just one more twist they all should’ve seen coming. “You were dead when I left you. I gave up on experimenting because I accepted that I was still controlled by the laws of nature. That even I, the creator of all, couldn’t fight against them. But apparently, you slipped away to the world of the living.”

Seokjin’s smile is blinding behind his tears. He looks genuinely happy, amazement in his eyes. He looks… proud. “I bet I left you among my unfinished work, unsupervised and vulnerable. The human soul must have pulled you with it to the bowl of souls not yet to born. And you lived because he lived.”

He?

And then, suddenly, everything makes sense. Taehyung never needed any humans to believe in him, to appreciate his doings, to see his creations. He never needed their love because he already had all the love he needed. “Namjoon,” he whispers and now he’s crying, too. Seokjin nods, his smile never faltering. “I think it explains why he was born among gods and why the evil can’t see him. He’s tied to you so he’s practically a god himself, he just doesn’t have the powers. Those are all for you. To make him happy.”

“So he would’ve fallen in love with me no matter what?”

There’s an expecting pause. Taehyung’s heart shatters while Seokjin stares into his eyes, questioning. His whole mind breaks while he thinks that he needs to tell Namjoon this: that they’re not real. That they were just made to be like this. But then the lightning god’s eyes widen, worried beyond belief.

“No,” Seokjin says emphatically and hugs Taehyung. “No, Taehyungie, that’s not it. He could’ve also been your brother or a friend or a distant relative. He could’ve been just a stranger you never got to meet. You just had to live at the same time.”

Taehyung trembles in Seokjin’s embrace, clutching at the older’s t-shirt between his fingers. He hiccups. Seokjin holds him tighter. “You two falling in love was not a given. You chose it yourselves. Namjoon chose to love you and you chose to love him. Even I wouldn’t be able to create something like that.”

“He truly loves you because of you,” Seokjin whispers and then smiles again. And this time Taehyung smiles back, the shattering inside his heart fixed. He thanks Seokjin for telling him, wiping the tears from his cheeks. A bit later they laugh together, warm and free.

And when Taehyung a few weeks later tells Namjoon the story, now proud that he finally has his own story to tell, Namjoon kisses him after the last words. “I’m glad we ended up falling in love then,” Namjoon says, eyes full of adoration. Taehyung never feels like he’s completely worthy of it all but he tries to be. Namjoon makes him better, and he thinks that out of all the options, he prefers ‘lover’ the most, too.

“At least I speak the truth when I say that I will love you until the day we die. Or that I can’t live without you.”

Namjoon smiles, dimples showing. He brushes his fingers through Taehyung’s hair and picks an Easter lily bud from behind his ear. “And I will love you even after that, baby, because we can’t be separated.”

Taehyung giggles and then drinks the matching laugh from Namjoon’s lips. He never thought how lonely he was in his life, how much he missed being with people. How much he wanted to be a part of everything, how much he wanted a past. But now he’s got everything: a past, a family, and the love of his life, right at his fingertips.

He feels whole, finally.)