It’s an almost-warm morning in spring and Jungkook decides that today, going to the gardens is a good idea. He has an itch under his skin to go and do, and he lands decisively on flowers. Flowers are good — good to look at, good to smell, good to draw. Good to fill the currently mostly-ignored pages of his newest sketchbook, good to practice using his new artist set of colored pencils with.
It’s the kind of day Jungkook likes, where he decides for himself exactly what he’s going to do and then he does it. He’s new to having this much freedom, honestly; at home, his parents hovered over him carefully, especially in the past year. Out here, his aunt keeps a distance that he’s always appreciated, content to let him do as he pleases, and Jungkook’s appreciative. It’s been a quiet few weeks so far, with Jungkook exploring mostly on his own and his aunt making polite conversation when he gets home.
So today, Jungkook’s decided, is for flowers. He sets himself up in an unoccupied bench in the gardens that live only a 15-minute bus ride from his aunt’s house, sketchbook in his lap, pencil case next to him, and gets to work shading in illustrated wildflowers on the paper in front of him. His still life has never been all that great, but it’s fun sometimes, to try to capture all the details in one particular thing. It comforts him, taking that much time on something so small — lets him detach from all the very big things happening around him. It’s how he got started with art in the first place, that desire to take something beautiful and make it for himself, bit by bit, and it’s still a nice feeling to come back to.
He blends yellows and reds to make the petals of the flowers in front of him, flowers he doesn’t know the name of but likes the smell of. He’s focused, brow furrowed, and when he first sees the cat, he’s almost annoyed that his concentration was broken.
Jungkook blinks. The cat is just sitting there next to the flowers, tail swishing like it’s considering them. It’s interesting-looking, as cats go; it’s big and svelte with long, graceful-looking limbs, and ears that look a little too big for its body. Its gray fur is short and sleek, and when it turns in Jungkook’s direction, he notices that its eyes are a striking kind of green. He wishes, distantly, that cats would sit still for portrait drawings, because this one deserves it.
The cat’s still looking at him, Jungkook notes. He feels judged somehow, and it’s hard to look away from its gaze. Jungkook’s never been very good with cats — or, he guesses, they’ve never been very good with him. He remembers following them around in his neighborhood as a kid, determined to befriend all of them, but never succeeding. Still, the same urge tugs at him now. He shoves his sketchbook and pencil case into his backpack, slinging it over a shoulder as he walks slowly, cautiously over to the cat.
“Hi,” he mutters, voice soft. “You’re so weird and pretty. Did you come to see the flowers?”
The cat is still looking at him, considering him carefully, before it suddenly turns back to the flowers. It leans forward to bite the stems on a bunch of the red wildflowers, finally severing them after a few bites, and holds them carefully in its mouth. Jungkook stills, looking at the cat with a furrowed brow.
“I guess you came to pick the flowers,” Jungkook says, mostly to himself with his voice this quiet. The cat gives him one last glance before walking off, through a gap in the trees into the thicker part of the surrounding woods. Jungkook pauses before following after it without much thought.
It’s not trotting quickly, not running; it’s just sort of walking, like Jungkook disturbed its usual routine. He can almost walk in step with it, looking down at the cat next to him as he walks.
“Where are you going?” He wonders aloud, stepping over branches as the cat walks deeper through the thickets of trees. Damyang always seemed a little fairytale to Jungkook, with all the nature and forests; he remembers being a kid visiting his aunt and being mystified by all the trees, big and plentiful enough to get their own little parks. These trees are different but still fairytale-esque to Jungkook, who’s still more used to mountains and the sea, and following a cat through them seems particularly fairytale-esque.
They walk for a while, long enough that Jungkook starts to feel silly, but he would feel sillier turning back now. It’s five minutes or so before Jungkook realizes they’re beginning to approach an odd little house. The house is small and unassuming, sat in the middle of a clearing, and Jungkook looks at it with interest.
He suddenly realizes that he doesn’t have an end-game here; if this is where the cat lives, now he’s just a weirdo standing outside a weird little house in the middle of some woods. If he walks away, then he’s a weirdo who looks like he’s trying to steal something, or stalk whoever’s living there, or...something. There’s no winning, and all because Jungkook wanted to see a nice cat a little closer and maybe pet it.
Figuring he’s committed enough, he resignedly follows behind the cat, who walks up to the front door like it can push it open. Just when Jungkook’s wondering if maybe it can, with how purposeful it seems, the cat drops the flowers on the doormat and takes a sharp left, running around the house and out of view.
Jungkook sighs. Typical, he figures. He steps forward and crouches down to pick up the flowers, figuring he’ll set them on the mailbox or something where at least they won’t get stepped on, but as soon as he’s kneeled down he hears the telltale creak of a door opening. Goddamn it.
“Nabi?” A voice asks, and then there are shoes in view. Goddamn it.
Jungkook looks up cautiously, apologetically, and is met with the sight of the legs of a boy (man?) in a pair of loose shorts, short enough that Jungkook blushes. Wow, thighs, Jungkook thinks, and as he looks up at the man’s eyes widening in surprise, Jungkook realizes he said that out loud. He yearns for death.
“You’re not Nabi,” the man says, sounding confused.
“Um,” Jungkook replies eloquently. He’s waiting for something to come to him, some ability to speak and communicate resurfacing from his brain, but he’s failing.
The man (boy?) just keeps looking down at him, and fuck, Jungkook forgot to stand back up. He propels himself upward so that he’s standing on eye level with the — the person, and he thinks Wow, again, though this one he manages to keep inside his head. He’s cute, taller than Jungkook, and he looks soft and sleepy like he just woke up.
“Did you bring me those flowers?” The boy asks, looking down in confusion at Jungkook’s hand. It seems like a weird detail to focus on, but Jungkook is a little thankful that’s his first question instead of a much more incensed ‘What are you doing at my house?’
“No, um...the cat,” Jungkook manages, finally. It’s not great, but it’s a start. Why do handsome boys always do this to him?
The boy looks at him for a moment, like he’s thinking him over. “Gray cat? Gangly and intimidating?”
“Yes,” Jungkook answers confidently. Though, to be honest, gangly and intimidating is a pretty good description of the boy standing in front of him as well. “I was, um, sitting in a garden? Drawing, because, um, I draw, and then the cat came and — I just wanted to pet her, but then she started walking.”
The boy looks him over again. “And you followed her.”
Jungkook blushes. “I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to...to end up here...I’ll just go.”
“No, don’t go,” the boy says automatically, shaking his head. “It’s a good thing that you followed her.”
“Is it?” Jungkook asks, confused.
The boy standing in the doorway smiles for the first time, and it’s ten times more endearing than his neutral face. Jungkook’s worried his motor functions will start to disappear. “Yeah. It means you’re interesting. Do you want some coffee?”
Jungkook hesitates. He’s standing at the door of a weird forest cottage in front of a boy who hasn’t even given his name, holding some flowers that his cat delivered to his door. Jungkook might as well be in Alice in Wonderland at this point, and he was just invited in to the damn tea party. He should leave, is what he should do, and remember in the future that apparently in Jeolla-do, there are weird hideouts in the middle of the woods full of handsome men that exist only to fluster Jungkook into oblivion.
He should leave.
But then, the boy tilts his head like he’s disappointed in Jungkook’s silence, and it’s enough to make Jungkook blurt out, “Okay.”
(The boy smiles bigger and Jungkook nearly faints.)
The inside of the house is strange, because it seems like there’s much more room than there should be. From the outside, it’s barely the size of a shed, but there are at least five rooms visible as he steps inside. The other thing Jungkook notices is the clutter covering most surfaces — some normal things, like books and papers, but then some weird glass jars full of unidentifiable things labelled in English. Jungkook looks around, slightly mystified by the house, and almost bumps into the boy when he stops short.
“I’m Namjoon, by the way,” he offers suddenly, like he just realized he hadn’t mentioned it yet.
“Do you want regular coffee or...this vanilla flavor?” Namjoon asks him, like this is a normal conversation that they’re having.
“Vanilla,” Jungkook responds a little disinterestedly, because he just realized there’s an actual crystal ball on a coffee table in the living room.
“We don’t usually have a lot of unknown visitors, so sorry for the mess,” Namjoon apologizes, noticing Jungkook looking around and mistaking his confusion for judgment on cleanliness.
“No, it’s — it’s fine,” Jungkook mutters in response. “Is that a...cauldron?”
“Mhm,” Namjoon responds easily as he puts a kettle on to boil. He walks over and has a seat at the cramped kitchen table, in front of one of the four place settings. “You can sit, if you want.”
Jungkook does, though a little nervously. The table’s just as cluttered as everything else, mostly just with papers.
“So you’re an artist?” Namjoon asks, sounding interested.
Jungkook blushes. “No, not at all. I mean, I study art. I mean, not yet, officially, but —”
“So you’re an artist,” Namjoon repeats, as a statement instead of a question this time. He sounds very sure of himself and it makes Jungkook feel flustered again. “That’s amazing. I always wanted to be an artist.”
“Me too,” Jungkook says with a little smile, and Namjoon laughs. It’s a rush, to make him laugh, and Jungkook has trouble tearing his eyes away from Namjoon’s dimples.
“What do you, um...do?” Jungkook asks, looking around again at the mess.
Namjoon hums. “I’m kind of like an herbalist.”
“Oh,” Jungkook says. “Interesting.”
“I make potions,” Namjoon says with a shrug.
Jungkook gives him a smile. “What, like the magic kind?”
Namjoon smiles back. “Yes.”
Jungkook furrows his eyebrows. Namjoon laughs a little. “Sorry, just. Your face.”
The coffee maker stops bubbling, so Namjoon gets up, busying himself with mugs. “Do you want sugar?”
“No,” Jungkook mutters, looking around again. Magic potions. Magic potions? “You’re kidding, right? About the magic?”
“What do you think?” Namjoon asks.
“I think you’re either kidding or you’re crazy,” Jungkook tells him with a scoff.
Namjoon laughs again, loud and a little startling in the quiet house. “You can think that if you want. I don’t mind.”
He comes back to the table and hands Jungkook a chipped mug with different phases of the moon on it, and holds a mug with Pororo’s face on it for himself.
“So what, you’re a…you’re a wizard or something?” Jungkook asks, feeling like he is completely out of his depth. He shouldn’t be surprised that a man who lives in the middle of the woods is a total weirdo, but he’s allowed to be disappointed, given how handsome the man is.
Namjoon wrinkles his nose. “Witch.”
“I thought that was for girls.”
“Gender is a social construct,” Namjoon answers simply.
Jungkook’s trying to think of something to say to that one, but his thoughts are interrupted when a door opens and closes somewhere down the hall, and another boy walks into view. He’s similarly sleep-rumpled, his ashy brown hair mussed and sticking up. He’s just in baggy sleep clothes, but Jungkook still feels overwhelmed with the way he looks; he’s a little ethereal, and for a moment he believes Namjoon’s story about magic.
“Morning,” Namjoon calls.
The boy hums and mumbles something in response, but doesn’t give any other reaction as he walks past them to look in the fridge. It takes him a moment, but eventually he turns back with a confused look at the kitchen table, eyes landing on Jungkook.
“You’re new,” he says, then turns to Namjoon. “Who’s he?”
“His name is Jungkook, he’s an artist who followed Nabi from the gardens,” Namjoon says succinctly.
“Mm,” Taehyung acknowledges. “He gonna stick around?”
Namjoon looks at him with half a smile. “I’m not sure.”
“Well, I’m Taehyung, for what it’s worth,” the boy tells him before turning back to the fridge and pulling out an entire container of juice, unscrewing the cap, and taking a large gulp.
Taehyung turns back to them, studying Jungkook for a moment. “Your aura is interesting.”
“My aura?” Jungkook asks, bewildered.
Taehyung seems unfazed. “Yeah, your aura. It’s very warm. Makes sense for an artist, I guess. Reminds me of...hm.”
Jungkook furrows his eyebrows. “Auras? Potions? Are you guys for real?”
“Oh,” Taehyung mutters, sounding a little sad. “He really doesn’t believe us, huh.”
“What, can you read minds, too?” Jungkook asks with a flustered laugh.
“No, emotions,” Taehyung answers seriously.
Jungkook laughs again. “Oh, of course. What emotions am I feeling, then?”
“Confused. A little scared. A little attraction, too, by the way,” Taehyung answers with a smirk. “Not sure if that’s for me or Namjoon, but thank you regardless.”
Jungkook goes red. “That’s — I mean — you’re just making things up.”
Taehyung giggles. “Aw, you’re so embarrassed. Cute. I hope he comes around, Joonie, I like him,” Taehyung says sincerely, stepping forward and resting a hand in Namjoon’s hair. Namjoon tips his head back with a smile at Taehyung.
“He won’t if you stand here picking him apart like that,” Namjoon says softly. There’s something about their voices when they speak to each other that makes Jungkook feel like he’s interrupting something private.
Taehyung moves his hand to tap underneath Namjoon’s chin and hums again. “You’re probably right.”
Jungkook clears his throat, and they both turn to him with matching interested expressions. “I should go.”
Taehyung raises his eyebrows. “You don’t want to, though.”
Jungkook feels himself blush again. “Yes, I do.”
“No, you don’t,” Taehyung argues with a smile. Namjoon rolls his eyes.
“Stop doing that,” Namjoon tells him, swatting at his hip.
“So you’re an artist?” Taehyung asks instead of responding to him.
That again. “I’m an art student. Starting, um, next week.”
Taehyung smiles. “Oh, fun. You’re nervous, though.”
A new voice floats over from an open door down the hallway. “Taehyung-ah, how many times do I have to tell you, don’t tell people how they feel. It’s so unsettling.”
“How many of you are there?” Jungkook asks, furrowing his eyebrows as he turns toward the voice. It’s another boy, smaller and shorter but just as distractingly good-looking, though he looks a little more put together than Taehyung and Namjoon. He’s in real clothes, for one, with his hair styled and a pair of glasses sitting on his nose.
The new boy laughs. “Only those two. I’m just passing through.”
“Work?” Namjoon asks after finishing his coffee.
The new boy nods. “And then I have plans. Are you coming around tonight?”
“Mm, I think I have stuff I need to do tonight. The moon, you know?” Namjoon says, waving his hand like that explains things.
“Sure. Tae?” He asks, turning to Taehyung.
The boy smiles, and Jungkook feels a telltale flutter in his stomach. Taehyung turns to look at him knowingly with a smirk, and Jungkook’s eyes widen. Taehyung just shakes his head and turns back to the boy. “See you tonight, then.”
The boy turns to Jungkook with a gentle smile that makes Jungkook feel more at ease, somehow. “Hi, by the way. Hope I’ll see you around.” He turns back to Taehyung and steps forward until they connect in a kiss that surprises Jungkook. What surprises him more is when the boy leans down and does the same to Namjoon, smiling as he stands back up.
“Bye, Jiminnie,” Taehyung calls as the boy (Jimin?) moves toward the front door, laughing with a wave as he leaves.
Jungkook blinks. “Is this normal?” He feels a little frantic about it, because maybe this is normal. Maybe this is just a normal part of the world that Jungkook is too sheltered to know about. Is this why his mom didn’t want him to move to Jeolla-do? Because it’s full of gay witches?
“What do you mean?” Namjoon asks, sounding genuinely curious. Taehyung has wandered back over to the fridge with his juice, rifling through cabinets now.
“You — the three of you, and then...magic? And…” Jungkook trails off. “I’m not from around here. Is this normal?”
“No,” Namjoon answers simply with a smile. “Not very normal at all.” Jungkook nods, not sure if he feels relieved by that or not.
“It’s pretty good, though,” Taehyung adds, looking over at Jungkook happily.
“You can go if you want,” Namjoon offers. “I just thought you seemed interesting. People who like Nabi are usually interesting.”
“The cat?” Jungkook asks.
Namjoon nods. “Most people can’t see her very well. I mean, they see a cat, but, you know. Their eyes just kind of gloss over her, I guess?”
“Most people can’t see the house, either,” Taehyung says. His mouth is full now, and he’s holding a cereal box in one hand. “Means you’re sensitive to this kind of stuff.”
“How can I be sensitive to something that isn’t real?” Jungkook asks.
Taehyung and Namjoon are both smiling at him knowingly, and it’s a little frustrating. He feels like he’s being condescended to for not hopping aboard the magic train. “Don’t look at me like that. You guys are the weirdos here.”
“That’s true,” Taehyung agrees easily. He hops up so that he’s sitting on the counter, still smiling. “But there are lots more of us out there in the world. Magic weirdos, I mean. And such a diverse spectrum of magic weirdos. Aren’t you a little bit curious?”
Yes, Jungkook’s brain answers instantly. But that seems like a distinctly dangerous option. What if this is all an elaborate prank? What if they’re a cult?
“I should go,” Jungkook says out loud again. Maybe he’s imagining it, but he thinks he sees disappointment on Namjoon’s face, and then he feels guilty. But...he can’t. He just can’t do this right now. He has enough going on without handsome witch boys inviting him into their home.
“Alright,” Namjoon says. “If you ever want to come back, um...well, you know where we are,” he goes on, and Jungkook swears he can hear some nervousness in his voice, sees it in Namjoon’s sheepish smile.
“Nice meeting you,” Taehyung tells him, mouth still a little full of cereal. “You’ll do well at school. Don’t be so nervous.”
Jungkook pauses. “Do you know the future or something? Is that...something you can do?”
“Sort of,” Taehyung answers, shrugging. “I dabble in divination.”
“But at the moment, I think he’s just being nice,” Namjoon tells him with a smile.
“Oh,” Jungkook says, feeling dumb. “Thanks.”
It feels odder walking out than it did walking in, with the two of them staring at him cryptically. There’s a strange feeling taking over him as he closes the door, like he just had an elaborate fever dream. Part of him wants to open it again and see if Taehyung and Namjoon are still sitting there in their pajamas, looking otherworldly and confusing, but he shakes his head and just starts his walk back to the gardens.
That night, he eats dinner quietly with his aunt, prints an extra copy of his class schedule, watches some TV; normal things.
That night, he turns the page in his sketchbook from his half-finished flowers to start something new, and finds himself sketching handsome boys in baggy clothes with magic wands.