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(like the moon) my heart is tilting

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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.

“Jungkook.”

“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.

“Yeah, sure.”

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.

Chapter Text

Jungkook's parents told him that if he took a year off from school, he’d lose all his good habits. Honestly, Jungkook hadn’t believed them, but a week into spring semester and he’s ready to admit there might have been some truth there. Well, maybe it’s more that Jungkook never had that many good habits to begin with; school was never his strong suit, anyway.

But now that he’s back in it, he’s finding that he needs to run before he can walk. Everything’s moving so fast, and Jungkook’s enjoying his courses so far, but he can already tell that he’ll have to put more diligence into this than he’s had to use in a while. It’s not a bad thing, but it does mean that he’s busy. Busy enough that for two weeks, he doesn’t have time to think about strange handsome boys in the woods. And honestly, he’s not complaining. Better than those first few days, when he was so fixated that he was having trouble concentrating on anything else.

Of course, nothing good can last, and that’s why Jungkook finds himself frozen in spot in front of a bookstore employee who he just realized, a moment after calling for his attention, is the third boy from the cottage that morning. Jimin? A quick glance at his nametag confirms it, and Jungkook really would love if the Earth swallowed him whole.

“Yes?” Jimin asks, glancing back at Jungkook and then stopping to furrow his brows, like he’s trying to place him. “Oh! You’re that boy.”

Jungkook swallows. “Am I?”

“That boy from Namjoon and Taehyung’s, right?” Jimin asks, offering a small grin. “Jungkook? Is that your name?”

“I...don’t remember telling you it,” Jungkook mutters.

Jimin is still smiling at him, and it’s as overwhelming as ever. “Taehyung and Namjoon still talk about you.”

That feels like an overwhelming thing to learn. Jungkook swallows again. “Oh.”

“Hi,” Jimin offers. He seems so nice, it makes it even harder for Jungkook to face him out here in the real world, caught off-guard. “Did you need help with something?”

“I was, um. Looking for this book? For my class?” Jungkook says nervously. “It’s this art theory book, and —”

“Oh, right! You’re the artist!” Jimin says happily, sounding excited. “Which art theory book? I know a few of them.”

“It’s about Dansaekhwa? And other, like, minimalist movements in the 20th century,” Jungkook offers, and he’s about to find the name on his phone when Jimin claps his hands decisively.

“Oh, I know that book. Yeah, we have it, but I also just have a copy of it, if you want...to borrow it?” Jimin says, giving him an unsure smile.

“You own random art theory books?” Jungkook asks, a little surprised.

Jimin smiles sheepishly. “I have a degree in art history.”

“Oh,” Jungkook says, and feels a little silly for saying it so often. Why is he so bad at talking? “That’s...really cool.”

Jimin snorts. “I mean, it affords me such opportunities as working in this pretentious bookstore.”

Jungkook cracks a smile. “I like this bookstore.”

“Thanks,” Jimin says. “I’m a manager now, so. It’s very important work.”

They stay looking at each other for a moment, Jungkook feeling slightly spellbound by the cute way Jimin smiles when he’s making fun of himself. It’s all very trying.

“I was serious about the book, though. You can just borrow it.”

Jungkook swallows. “You’d just let me do that? You don’t even know me.”

“I’ve been wanting to, if that counts,” Jimin tells him earnestly.

Jungkook doesn’t even know how to deal with that, so he just stands there, frozen. Jimin laughs almost instantly, loud and bright.

“You’re cute,” Jimin tells him easily with a hint of a smirk, and Jungkook feels his face go completely red.

“You’re...embarrassing me,” Jungkook mutters under his breath, face still red. Jimin just laughs again.

“Yeah, sure. Are you free right now? My shift is about to end,” Jimin tells him, glancing at his watch. “Like in five minutes, actually.”

Jungkook’s heart thrums, and he feels reckless. Jimin is so...much. Jungkook barely knows him, but he can tell. “Yeah,” he agrees despite his heart rate, despite the nervous way Jimin makes him feel. “I’m free.”

It makes Jimin smile, and Jungkook has trouble regretting it.

★★

“Is this just how boys out here are?” Jungkook asks on their walk to Jimin’s apartment. (“It’s close,” Jimin had told him with that weird intimidating smirk-smile. Jungkook felt powerless to do anything except follow him.)

Jimin laughs, loud and surprised. “Where are you from?”

“Busan,” Jungkook answers, surprised a little that saying it makes him feel kind of homesick.

Jimin turns to him with a smile, a real one this time. Soft and small. “No kidding. Me too.”

“Oh,” Jungkook says. “Cool.”

“Yeah,” Jimin agrees quietly, still smiling. “But you should know all about boys in Jeolla-do, growing up in Busan.”

Jungkook shrugs. He knows there’s a rivalry, but he never got exposed to much of it. “We have family out here. I used to visit a lot as a kid. I’m staying with my aunt, while I’m going to school out here.”

“That’s cute,” Jimin tells him. “The boys out here are...they’re good,” Jimin laughs.

“Does that include you?” Jungkook asks nervously.

Jimin smirks again. “You’ll just have to find out, huh?”

Jimin’s apartment is small and in organized disarray. It’s clear someone tries to clean, but they’re being overwhelmed by mess. Still, it’s cute. There’s books and school supplies everywhere, clearly a student apartment, and a well-loved living room that looks cozy. It’s the kind of place you imagine when you’re young and think about being a grown-up university student one day.

“Yah!” Jimin yells when he walks in, and looks around like he’s waiting for some response. None comes, so Jimin shrugs, glancing at Jungkook. “I have roommates. Sometimes they don’t realize when there are strangers here and they shouldn’t walk around in their underwear.” He says the last part louder, like a back-up measure to alert the rest of the apartment, and Jungkook smiles.

“Seems like we’re safe.”

“See, you think that, but then I turn a corner and they’re making out in the kitchen,” Jimin says with a sigh. He sets down his bag and kicks his shoes off, ignoring the neatly arranged shoe rack. Jungkook follows behind him (though he manages to line his own shoes up neatly on the floor), and feels rapidly uncertain about what he’s supposed to be doing here. It’s like he’s posing for a photo and has suddenly forgotten everything he usually does with his hands.

Jimin walks over purposefully to the big bookshelf in the corner, a jumble of things, and looks through it carefully. Jungkook, uncertain of where to be, just kind of stands behind him in the middle of the room, looking around. There’s a lot of pictures up, some framed and some printed on polaroids, of Jimin and two other boys posed together.

“Are those your roommates?” Jungkook asks, curious, pointing at the pictures. Jimin glances back at him and nods.

“The two and only. Seokjin and Hoseok. They’re like, disgustingly in love,” Jimin says, rolling his eyes exaggeratedly. “But the rent’s a lot cheaper for three people in a two-bedroom.”

Jungkook nods. “They look happy.” They really do — in all their pictures, they’re smiling at each other big and unapologetic. In some, they’re kissing one another’s cheeks, the other person always looking pleased. It’s romantic in the kind of way that makes Jungkook ache a little.

“They’ve been together for like a million years,” Jimin says, waving his hand flippantly. “It’s ridiculous.”

“How long have uh...you and Taehyung and Namjoon…been...” Jungkook trails off awkwardly, not sure how to construct the sentence.

Jimin’s laugh sounds again. He emerges from the bookshelf, a hardcover book in hand, which he gives to Jungkook. “Here’s your book. It’s like fifty-thousand won in our store, so you’re welcome.”

He keeps walking, moving to the couch and plopping himself down. He sits curled in on himself, hugging his knees to his chest, and moves his chin to beckon Jungkook over. So Jungkook follows, sitting a little awkwardly at the other end of the couch. “We’ve been together for...about a year now, I guess,” Jimin says, looking like he’s trying to remember.

Jungkook raises his eyebrows. “Wow.”

Jimin smiles a little, looking fond. “Yeah.”

They’re quiet for a moment, and then Jimin asks, “Do you believe them? About the magic stuff?” He looks curious, interested, and Jungkook swallows nervously. (Something about Jimin and the permanent glimmer in his eye makes Jungkook very nervous.)

“I don’t know,” Jungkook answers honestly. “It can’t be true, right?”

Jimin looks at him thoughtfully. “You stop thinking that way when you’re around them for long enough.”

“So you believe in it?” Jungkook asks. The question itself makes him feel a little excited, that scared kind of thrill you get on the way up a rollercoaster.

Jimin nods. “I didn’t at first. I met Taehyung at some random little shop, he was giving tarot readings. And I thought, wow, this guy is completely full of it. Which, to be fair, he was,” Jimin says with a grin. “All his fortune-telling is bullshit, he just uses it to make money. But then he looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘You’ve been sad for a long time,’ and it stopped me in my tracks. Because, y’know, he was right.”

Jungkook blinks owlishly at Jimin, wondering what possibly made him sad, but he nods. “And that’s all you needed?”

“No,” Jimin says with a shake of his head. “I was still skeptical, you know? But it’s hard to keep up any skepticism when you’re around them. It’s just...real. You can just tell.”

Jungkook considers this. “It felt real,” he admits. The way Taehyung could see right through him felt real. Namjoon’s collections of ingredients felt real.

Jimin smiles at him. “Yeah? So why’d you leave?”

“I was scared,” Jungkook admits. He feels unable to hide anything in front of Jimin, who’s treating him so gently. “It was...a lot.”

“It is a lot,” Jimin agrees. “Taehyung and Namjoon in general are just a lot. They’re good, though. They liked you.”

“Is that why you invited me over?” Jungkook asks. He’s not sure if he wants the answer.

“No,” Jimin says easily. “I invited you over because you looked at me like I was a ghost, and it was kind of cute.”

Jungkook feels his entire face go red, and Jimin smirks at him. “Yeah, you’re cute.”

“Stop it,” Jungkook mutters nervously.

It makes Jimin laugh. “Do you really want me to?”

Jungkook can’t manage to do anything besides blush harder, and Jimin laughs again. “I didn’t think so.”

He stops eventually, going back to just looking over at Jungkook with something between a sweet grin and a smirk, and says, “I’m headed over there soon. Do you want to come with me?”

Jungkook should say no. He really should. He has homework, and a project due already in a week or so. But one glance at Jimin’s face shows him it would be impossible to say no, so ne nods gently. It makes Jimin smile bigger, and Jungkook’s brain celebrates the fact. He’s truly hopeless, he thinks.

“So,” Jungkook starts as they start their walk from the bus stop to the gardens. “You’re not...magic, then?”

Jimin laughs a little. “I’m completely normal.”

“Last time, they said...they said I’m receptive to this stuff? Because I could see the house, and the cat?” Jungkook says, still confused on what that means. “Are you like that?”

“Actually, no,” Jimin tells him. “You saw Nabi and the house right away, so...I guess you’re a little more magic than me. I couldn’t see the house until Taehyung told me it was there. It was like — I could see a shed or something? But my eyes couldn’t focus on it. Then Taehyung described it, and...it was there. But you didn’t need any of that.”

“Why?” Jungkook asks, furrowing his eyebrows. “I’ve never...I mean, this has never happened to me before.”

“That you know of,” Jimin says, turning around to look at him. “Who knows what weird crap you’ve seen without realizing that no one else could?”

“Weird,” Jungkook mutters, looking down at his feet while they walk. They’re in the gardens now, going the same way that Jungkook went to find a nice spot to sit in, those weeks ago. “And their house, why is it so big inside?”

Jimin just shrugs. “You should ask Namjoon, it’s his house.”

“You’ve never asked?” Jungkook asks, perplexed.

Jimin turns and gives him a look. “Look, if I decided to ask about every weird thing about their lives, I wouldn’t have any free time left. But you should ask them. They’re very willing to answer, I’m sure.”

Jungkook nods. He guesses that Jimin is used to this stuff by now, but Jungkook doesn’t know how someone could ever get used to it. It’s magic.

They go through the same path through the trees that the cat went, and sure enough in a few minutes they end up outside the little cottage. It looks smaller than he remembers, and he notices all the little details now; the cluster of windchimes hanging outside the kitchen window, a collection of potted plants lined up along the side of the house. Things that make it look homey.

He feels nervous again as they walk up to the door, but Jimin is completely unfazed. He doesn’t even bother knocking as he walks in, simply opening the door and calling out, “Hello!”

Jungkook follows after him, slipping his shoes off at the door and looking around again at the home. It’s exactly the same as it was before, except this time it’s easier for Jungkook to take in; it feels less like a dream this time.

There’s a hum of acknowledgement from deeper inside in response to Jimin’s greeting. Jimin keeps walking in, calling, “Guess who I ran into today?”

Jungkook walks down the hallway, not hearing a response if it comes, and emerges into the kitchen to face Namjoon again. “Hi,” Jungkook says quietly.

“Oh!” Namjoon says, sounding startled but looking pleased. “Hi! I’m...I’m glad to see you.”

Jungkook goes a little pink at that and he can see Jimin smirking at him again. Jungkook wishes Jimin would stop smirking, just in general.

Namjoon’s standing in front of that cauldron in the corner, a small flame lit underneath it coming from seemingly nowhere. It’s the kind of things that witches in movies do, except they would be wearing cloaks or something; Namjoon is standing there in a pair of baggy cropped pants and an extremely long sweater, over what looks like a different turtleneck. He look sort of like he got dressed in the dark, but it looks good on him, with his glasses and his messy hair.

“You too,” Jungkook murmurs, because it’s true.

Now that he’s here, though, he’s not sure what he’s supposed to do with himself. Jimin looks completely at ease, immediately walking over to the cabinet and sitting at the kitchen table with a bag of chips. He seems unfazed by Namjoon standing in front of a literal cauldron, munching on his chips happily.

“You can sit down, Jungkook-ah,” Jimin tells him, not unkindly. It’s a nice gesture to put him out of his misery, and he takes it, sitting at the seat across from Jimin.

“What brings you back?” Namjoon asks, sounding curious and smiling a little at Jungkook. “Hopefully not just Jimin’s powers of persuasion.”

“Hey, don’t make me sound shady,” Jimin complains.

“You’re not shady, you’re just like, horrifically charming. Awful,” Namjoon says, shaking his head. He smiles properly at Jungkook, inviting him in on the joke, and Jungkook can’t help but smile back.

“I came because I...was curious,” Jungkook says honestly. The truth is, he wants to know more. He wants to know everything, because like, apparently magic exists. Or at least it certainly seems to. He hesitates, though, biting his lip to keep a hundred questions from spilling out.

Namjoon looks at him, tilts his head. “You can ask questions,” he says, and Jungkook raises his eyebrows.

“Can you read minds too?” Jungkook asks.

“No, not at all,” Namjoon laughs. “You’re just kind of easy to read.”

“Oh,” Jungkook mutters, feeling embarrassed.

“Taehyung can’t read minds either, for the record,” Jimin tells him. “Just like, your feelings? Basically whatever the people around him are feeling, he feels a little of too. Sometimes he can control it, a little.”

“Control other people's’ emotions?” Jungkook asks, furrowing his eyebrows. “Isn’t that kind of...immoral?”

“Maybe if someone else had the power. Taehyung doesn’t have the capacity to do anything immoral. He won’t even kill centipedes. The most Taehyung does is make you feel better if you’re sad, that kind of stuff,” Jimin says with a shrug. “It’s nice.”

Namjoon hums in agreement, stirring his cauldron with a long metal ladle. Nabi, the cat, stalks out from some other room of the house, making its way over toward Jungkook and Jimin at the table. Jungkook glances at it with half a smile, but it walks right past him, going to circle around Jimin’s legs instead.

“And you...make potions, right?” Jungkook asks, looking away from Nabi. “Is that it? Do you do spells and stuff? Does Taehyung?”

Namjoon looks up at him, smiling. God, his dimples are cute, Jungkook thinks helplessly. “The thing about magic is that it comes in a lot of different forms. Making potions is one of them. Casting spells is another. The kind of stuff Taehyung does, empathy magic, that’s different too. Then there’s magic that revolves around time and space, healing magic, precognition, divination. It’s this big, weird spectrum. Some people can do more than one thing, and some things intersect, but most people just specialize.”

“Specialize,” Jungkook repeats quietly. “Like a major.”

“Sort of,” Namjoon agrees. “Some of it is genetic but some of it is passed down through your family. My dad’s whole side of the family are potion brewers, so that’s how I was raised. My mom knows some spells, and tried to teach me the useful ones, but I’m not very good at it. A little too clumsy,” he says sheepishly. “Some people have more ability, some people have less. There are some people who have to study extensively and some people who just need to snap their fingers.”

“Which are you?” Jungkook asks, curious.

“Somewhere in the middle,” Namjoon tells him.

“He’s full of it,” Jimin interjects. “He’s a genius.” Nabi has jumped into his lap now, sitting peacefully while Jimin keeps eating chips.

Namjoon looks a little embarrassed at that. “I’m not a genius. There’s no such thing as being a genius at magic.”

“You like, invent potions. Seems pretty genius-y,” Jimin says definitively.

“I can make new potions because I studied it for years. Years and years and years. Studying ingredients and how they interact with each other, the reactions it causes. It’s kind of like chemistry, really,” Namjoon says. He sounds like he’s genuinely pleased to talk about it, and Jungkook is glad. For one, because he really wants to hear about it, and for two, because Namjoon looks endearingly excited.

“I know,” Jimin says, nodding. “Which you’re also a genius at.”

“I’m...a fast learner,” Namjoon admits, looking a little embarrassed at the praise. Jimin looks pleased about it.

“So do you just make potions? Like...for a living?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon nods. “Yeah, basically. I sell them, mail order.”

Jungkook furrows his eyebrows. “How? To who?”

“You just need to know the right channels. Mostly other people in the magic community, but sometimes outsiders who just know the right person. They’re mostly medicinal in some way, but sometimes I get special orders for other stuff. Luck potions, potions that improve your mood, potions that let you meditate easier. All kinds of weird stuff.” Namjoon shrugs, stirring the potion in front of him again.

“I can’t believe health potions are real. I thought herbal medicine and potions and stuff were just for video games and...grandmas,” Jungkook says, shaking his head.

“They both took it from real magic-users,” Namjoon says with a grin. “All herbal medicine is based in magical principles. Most of it doesn’t really work; you need magic to make it work. But for thousands of years there have been people like me, selling herbal potions, and after a while people caught on to some of the ingredients.”

“And no one knows about this,” Jungkook says, feeling a little awed.

“I mean, some people do. Jimin does. You do. The lady at the post office who doesn’t ask about my packages does. Enough people know to make books and movies and TV shows about magic and witches. It’s just that most people don’t think they’re based on any truth,” Namjoon says calmly. Jungkook likes the way he explains things, slow and steady. He thinks Namjoon would make a good teacher.

“Sorry I have so many questions,” Jungkook says, feeling a little embarrassed that he’s been pestering Namjoon, who looks busy with the cauldron in front of him.

But Namjoon just looks at him with a smile. “Questions are good. I like questions.”

Jungkook smiles back, trying to ignore just how much he likes Namjoon’s smile. “I have one more, then. What are you making?”

“A calming potion. Helps people with shock and anxiety. I make them for my friend Yoongi, he helps run this community center sort of thing? For magical kids with non-magical families, or just like, no families. They need this kind of thing a lot.” Namjoon keeps stirring, sounding calm and focused, but Jungkook feels a little awed. There’s a whole world of this, existing parallel to his own, that he’s never known about.

“That’s really cool,” Jungkook says quietly.

Namjoon smiles. “Yeah, it’s a really cool place. It’s up in Seoul. If you’re ever up there, you should visit.”

Jungkook nods; he was only half-referring to the community center, but it was charitable of Namjoon to assume so. “Yeah, maybe.” He keeps his eyes on Namjoon, watching him check a recipe in front of him before switching the direction of his spoon, stirring in the opposite direction.

“You want to help?” Namjoon asks. He’s not looking up at Jungkook, but he must be able to feel his gaze.

“If you say yes, you’ll be forever in his service,” Jimin warns with a smile, chewing on a bite of potato chips. His fingers are moving softly over the cat’s head while he talks.

But that doesn’t quite deter Jungkook as much as it sends a little wave of excitement through him. He loves being useful, and he’s itching to learn more; he’s nodding before Jimin even finishes speaking. “Yeah, sure.”

“Come here,” Namjoon requests, ushering him over. Jungkook follows eagerly, walking carefully around the piles of clutter on every visible surface.

It’s warmer near the cauldron, Jungkook notes as he looks down at the recipe Namjoon is following. He glances at the inside of the cauldron and finds a dark purplish liquid, sort of shiny and thick-looking. Magic, his brain reminds him. Real magic.

“I mostly grow everything I need,” Namjoon tells him in a voice that Jungkook thinks is softer than it has any right to be. “There’s a garden out back. Anything else, Nabi usually collects for me.”

Jungkook glances over at the cat, curled up asleep in Jimin’s lap.

“She’s my familiar,” Namjoon explains with a grin when he notices Jungkook’s confusion.

Jungkook just turns his gaze from Nabi to Namjoon. “Sure,” he says.

Namjoon laughs, and right here up close it’s a lot to take in. His dimples...Jungkook wants to sigh a little. “Some witches have animals that are familiars. As in, they’re magical and...help us with our magic, usually. There’s different ways to get them, but sometimes they just...show up. That’s how Nabi was, when I moved here.”

“So Nabi’s magic? She’s a magic cat?” Jungkook asks, looking again at where she’s curled up letting Jimin pet her.

Namjoon nods. “Yep.”

Jungkook feels his jaw go a little slack. “Is anything normal, about your life?”

Namjoon laughs again, loud and surprised. “Not really, I guess.”

“Nah, he’s super weird,” Jimin adds with a smirk. Namjoon rolls his eyes.

“I can’t believe you have a magical cat sidekick,” Jungkook says quietly. “Just like in Sailor Moon.”

“I wouldn’t call her my sidekick,” Namjoon mutters. “Nabi kind of hates me.”

“All animals kind of hate you, Joonie-hyung,” Jimin chimes in.

Namjoon looks kind of glum, so Jungkook jumps in trying to help. “I’m sure that’s not true.”

“No, it kind of is,” Namjoon says sheepishly. “I don’t know why. But Nabi still helps me with collecting ingredients.”

“She likes me the best,” Jimin says, like he’s gloating.

Namjoon just gives him a fond smile. “Of course she does. Who wouldn’t?” It seems to Jungkook like blatant flattery, but it makes Jimin smile happily. Jungkook blushes faintly, watching them flirt.

“Anyway,” Namjoon says after a moment, looking a little embarrassed. “If you wanted to help, you could go out to the garden and grab a couple things for me?”

Jungkook is nodding before he even registers it. “Sure.”

Jimin snickers a little from the table. “He’s cute, right hyung?”

Jungkook blushes again, almost instantly.

“Stop it, Jiminnie,” Namjoon chides him gently, but Jimin is still smirking.

“Here, I’ll show you the garden,” Jimin offers, standing up and displacing Nabi, though she doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I just need Chamomile and Passionflower. About a handful of each,” Namjoon tells them as Jungkook follows Jimin to the backdoor. Jimin offers Namjoon a little mock salute, and Namjoon rolls his eyes.

When they step outside, Jimin says, “It’s cool, right?”

Jungkook looks around, taking the garden in. “Yeah,” he breathes. “Very cool.”

There’s plants everywhere; when Namjoon had said garden, he was expecting some neat rows in divided-off plots, but instead, it looks like something...well, out of a children’s book about witches. It’s a little wild and unkempt, but beautiful. He sees little plant markers with pictures on them, like they have at garden stores, which strikes Jungkook as a little funny. It all strikes Jungkook as a little funny, really, so he lets out a little laugh.

Jimin smiles at him. “Yeah, I know the feeling.”

Jimin points him over to the plants he needs, the little yellow Chamomile flowers and strange purple Passionflowers. “So,” Jungkook says, trying to be casual as he picks the (brightly blooming, despite the early spring chill) flowers carefully. “Does Taehyung-ssi live here too?”

“Taehyung-ssi,” Jimin repeats with a little laugh. “You don’t need to be so formal. Yeah, he does. He’s at work, probably?”

Jungkook blinks. “Huh. He...has a job?”

“Kind of,” Jimin says with a shrug. Jimin has elected to sit on the little concrete bench by the backdoor, mostly just watching Jungkook work. “He does fortune telling, tarot reading, that kind of stuff. At events, if he gets hired, or in little shops downtown. Bookstores, anywhere that sells like, crystals and shit.” Jimin scoffs as he says it, and Jungkook smiles over at him. “Why, is it surprising that he has a job?”

Jungkook goes pink. “No, no, it’s just…he looks so…” Jungkook doesn’t know how to finish the sentence, makes a vague gesture with his hands. Ethereal? Like some sort of weird otherworldly prince? But neither of those things would be...uh, normal, to say at the moment, so he just sort of pauses, reaching for a word.

But Jimin smiles, apparently understanding what he means. “Yeah, he does, doesn’t he. Like, imagine him working in an office.”

They share a smile, and Jungkook goes back to picking flowers. He does his job quickly and quietly, listening to Jimin hum under his breath and greet the cat quietly after Jungkook hears the cat flap move.

“Is this enough?” Jungkook asks, holding up the handfuls of flowers to Jimin.

Jimin smiles at him, that same bright grin that makes Jungkook feel immensely flustered. Is that all Jimin does, fluster boys? Is that his job? “I don’t know. Go ask hyung.”

Jungkook nods, walking back into the house and stopping short in the doorway. Taehyung, as if summoned by Jungkook’s mind wandering to him, is standing next to Namjoon’s cauldron, holding his face gently with a happy little grin of someone who’s recently been kissed. Jungkook doesn’t think he made any noise, but Taehyung turns to him instantly, smile turning serene.

“Hello,” Taehyung sing-songs at Jungkook. “Pretty flowers.”

“Namjoon-um-hyung, here,” Jungkook says awkwardly, holding the flowers out. He notes distantly that he wants to lie in the bottom of a hole and remove himself from society, but Namjoon just smiles.

“Thank you,” Namjoon says sincerely, taking them from his outstretched hands.

Taehyung’s looking at Jungkook in that way he has, where Jungkook knows he can see right through him, but he figures that’s just a constant. It doesn’t stop it from stressing him out a little, but Jungkook figures that’s also just a constant.

Taehyung smiles at him, smaller and more sincere. “Am I making you nervous? Or are you just like that?”

“I’m a little bit just like that,” Jungkook tells him honestly.

Taehyung laughs easily. “That’s fine, then.”

Jimin trails in behind Jungkook, smiling when he sees Taehyung.

“Taehyung-ah,” he hums, stepping forward and kissing Taehyung easily.

It’s overwhelming, is what it is. Jungkook feels distinctly overwhelmed. And then he feels nervous again, because he knows Taehyung can feel him feeling overwhelmed, and that’s so embarrassing —

“Jungkookie,” Taehyung says, turning to Jungkook. “You really feel a lot, huh?”

Jungkook blushes red. “Um,” he manages.

Jimin and Namjoon don’t seem to pay Taehyung’s comment any mind, Jimin instead making some benign comment to Namjoon, which Jungkook is grateful for. Taehyung, for his part, seems to have said it only as a casual observation.

“I’m glad to see you,” Taehyung tells him quietly. “I heard Jiminnie dragged you along.”

“Dragged is a strong word,” Jungkook says, feeling a little defensive.

“But you know how he is,” Taehyung offers, rolling his eyes with a grin.

Jungkook isn’t sure what that means, but he does feel like he agrees, so he returns the smile.

Being in their house feels a little warm and chaotic. It’s easy to follow along as Taehyung starts talking about his day, easy to follow Jimin’s lead and sit neatly on their little sofa, crammed into the corner, and listen to Namjoon hum and comment along. He stays quiet, mostly, unless they ask him something (which they do a few times, asking about how his semester has been so far, which strikes him as a little touching), and it’s...nice. Jungkook usually gets kind of anxious around people he doesn’t know very well, but there’s something about the three of them that makes him feel...comfortable? It’s weird, but Jungkook’s trying not to question it.

He spends his afternoon there, sitting on the couch and laughing along with the three of them; when they go quiet, off to their own activities, Jungkook grabs the book Jimin gave him from his backpack and reads quietly. Jimin asks him some questions about art, and Jungkook wishes he wasn’t attracted to Jimin’s art history degree. At some point, Taehyung grabs his phone, programs their numbers into it, making Jungkook feel a little flustered, which makes Taehyung smile at him prettily.

Taehyung’s still holding his phone when it vibrates with a notification, and he scans it before he looks up at Jungkook. “Your aunt asked if you’ll be home for dinner.”

“Oh,” Jungkook says. “Right. I forgot...it was that late.”

Taehyung hands him his phone, and Jungkook sends a quick yes back to his aunt. Something about actually getting up and announcing that he’s leaving makes him nervous — this whole afternoon has felt so...insulated. He’s worried the second he leaves, they’ll all disappear.

“Go home,” Taehyung tells him kindly, with a smile. “We’ll see you again soon. Right?”

Jungkook nods. “Right.” He’s sure that it’s true, since Taehyung said it. Not because of any real magic, just because of how Taehyung is, how he makes Jungkook want to prove him right. He stands up from the couch, clearing his throat and making Namjoon and Jimin look over from where they’re both reading at the kitchen table.

“Leaving?” Jimin asks with a sweet grin.

“Yeah,” Jungkook says with a nod. “I’m gonna head home. Thanks, um, for having me.”

The three of them offer him smiles, warm and welcoming and overwhelming (again), and Jungkook offers a shy smile in return. “I’ll see you around, I’m sure,” Jimin tells him.

“Come back soon,” Namjoon says, nodding.

It’s strange — walking out of the house feels something similar to when he did it weeks ago, that same strange thought that maybe, it was all an elaborate dream. That same urge to check. But two minutes after he closes the front door, he gets a notification on his phone from the contact name “Taehyungie hyung”, and finds a picture of Nabi sleeping on her back in a big bed.

she’s cute right???, the next text he gets reads, and Jungkook smiles. Definitely real, then.

He gets home to find his aunt putting rice on the table, their two place settings already done up, and smiles and waves at her. During dinner, when she asks, “Have you been making friends?” Jungkook smiles down at his plate and nods.

“Yeah. I have, actually,” he tells her, and takes another bite of dinner to ignore the nervous thump of his heartbeat.

Chapter Text

If Jungkook is being honest with himself, making friends never came naturally to him. It’s not that he was unfriendly — just a little too awkward, a little too shy, a little too...well, something, he guesses. He had friends, a small group of them that followed from middle school to high school, They just weren’t anything that deep. They were a group of people to do homework and after-school clubs with, and then they all went home and maybe sometimes saw each other on weekends. He and his brother were always close, but then Junghyun moved up to Seoul for work. Jungkook’s never minded much, not having many friends; he likes being by himself, doesn’t take it personally.

So it’s strange, to suddenly be surrounded by a group of people so suddenly and without any warning.

Jungkook will admit that part of it is his own doing. Jimin’s bookshop isn’t quite on campus, but it isn’t too far out of the way, and Jungkook finds it hard to walk by, especially since he knows Jimin works most of the mid-day shifts during the week (because Jimin always complains about it.)

So he's the one who walks into the bookshop first, on a Wednesday after he's done with class, and looks around curiously, feeling kind of silly now that he's here. Jimin probably isn't here, what if he's on a break or something, and he probably doesn't want to be bothered at work --

His thoughts are interrupted by a happy yell of, "Jungkookie!"

Jungkook turns around, startled, to find Jimin standing there with a big grin on his face. "Hi, hyung."

"Hi yourself. What are you doing here?" Jimin asks.

The truth is, Jungkook came to see Jimin. He hasn't seen any of them in a week or so, busy with his first round of projects due for all his classes, and when he walked by the bookshop he gave in to the urge. But that feels embarrassing to say, so Jungkook tries to successfully think quickly for the first time in his life.

"Um," he lands on, "I...just wanted to see you." And fails. And blushes.

Jimin looks delighted, though, beaming at him. "Oh, wow, that's sweet."

Jungkook is still red, and doesn't know how to respond to that, so he just nods. Why is he so bad at this? Because he's cute, his brain supplies, and Jungkook wants to sigh.

"I'm training someone on register right now, actually, so I don't have a lot of time to talk, but Tae is here too?" Jimin offers, ending in a question mark. Jungkook raises his eyebrows. That wasn't quite what he expected, but he can't lie to himself and say he's disappointed.

"Sometimes he comes by and we get lunch together when I'm off, which is in...an hour," Jimin tells him, checking his watch, "If you want to wait, you could come?"

Jungkook nods without really thinking about it much, and Jimin smiles again. Jungkook thinks distantly that it's so incredibly nice to make Jimin smile. "Tae is back there, by the couches. See you in a bit," he says sweetly, giving a little wave as he walks back over to the register.

Sure enough, when Jungkook turns the corner, headed to the little area with sofas he saw the last time he was here, he sees Taehyung. It's kind of weird to see him out in the world, a real person interacting with real objects, outside of the surreal setting of the house in the garden.

"Jungkook-ah," Taehyung says calmly, smiling at him a little serenely, in that way Taehyung has, "I thought that was you."

Jungkook furrows his eyebrows, and Taehyung explains, "I could feel you walk in."

"Am I that full of...feelings? I disturbed the force?" Jungkook asks, feeling his cheeks go pink as he sits down on the couch a respectable distance from Taehyung.

Taehyung considers. "Well, you are full of feelings. But it's more that once I spend some time with people, their like, energies? Feel familiar?"

"Oh," Jungkook says. "What...what does my energy feel like?" He asks on a whim, and he watches Taehyung's expression become amused.

"Sorry, is that a weird question? I shouldn't have --" He starts, embarrassed, but Taehyung waves a hand.

"It's not a weird question. I like it. I'm not very good at putting these things into words, but I'll give it a shot," Taehyung tells him, smiling again with that calm little smile. He looks Jungkook over, considering, and Jungkook tries not to squirm nervously.

"Namjoon's energy is like dark water. Still, you know. Calm. Jimin is brighter? His aura is always yellow, so I associate him...with yellowness. He feels yellow. You're..." Taehyung wiggles his fingers, like he can't land on the right words. "You're kind of jumbled. Your head's always going a mile a minute, which, I should talk to you about meditating because it seems stressful to cycle through emotions that fast. But you're like...you feel like a puppy who's trying to run really fast across a slick floor."

Jungkook blinks. "So I'm a mess."

"Well, kind of, but it's a sweet kind of feeling," Taehyung tells him with a laugh. "You're not a mess in a bad way. You just have a lot going on right now, I think."

Taehyung isn't wrong. Jungkook nods, still feeling a little embarrassed. "Namjoon and Jimin sound nice to have in your head, I sound distracting. Sorry," he offers with half a smile.

Taehyung shakes his head. "No, you're not distracting. I like having you around, you feel...I don't know. You just feel good."

"Oh. Thank you," Jungkook mutters, flustered. Taehyung smiles at him. "Can you turn it off?"

Taehyung laughs. There was a book open in his laugh, and he closes it, bringing his legs up to sit criss-cross applesauce on the couch. "Not really, no. I tried to, for a long time. I can sort of...dull it, if I really try. I usually only do that if I'm somewhere big with a lot of people, it can get really overwhelming."

"It sounds overwhelming," Jungkook hums. He can barely handle having himself in his head, let alone feel what the nearest twenty people are feeling.

"It's not too bad, usually," Taehyung says with a shrug. "I like it. People are interesting. It would be worse if I could hear what they were thinking or something, that would be unbearable. I just kind of wade through their strong emotions, see them for who they are."

"Auras," Jungkook mutters, nodding. Taehyung nods back, looking pleased like he's impressed with Jungkook's knowledge.

"But anyway," Taehyung says, waving his hand with a goofy expression, self-deprecating. "It's good to see you."

Jungkook nods. "You too."

"We've missed you," Taehyung tells him, the corner of his mouth lifted into a little smile as Jungkook's heart stutters. Then Taehyung giggles again. "It seems really unfair that I can tell when the things I say fluster you."

Jungkook goes red instantly, making Taehyung laugh again. "It really is," Jungkook agrees, wishing the Earth would swallow him whole.

"I'm not trying to fluster you," Taehyung says, as if to defend himself.

Jungkook buries his face in his hands for a moment. "Well," he says, with no real end to that sentence.

Taehyung laughs quietly again. "Sorry."

"No, it's fine," Jungkook insists, voice strained.

"Things like this make it hard for me to make friends," Taehyung tells him, and Jungkook looks up to find Taehyung smiling a little sadly. "People don't really like when you're in their head."

"I don't mind it," Jungkook tells him. "Sometimes it's, um. Embarrassing, I guess. But I don't really mind. It's really cool."

Taehyung's expression brightens. "Oh. Cool."

The truth is, Taehyung is easy to spend time with. There's a sort of unflappable air about him, like he's always ready to go along with whatever, and he makes conversation flow easily. The two of them sit there on the bookshop sofa, discussing anything, sitting quietly while Jungkook goes through his phone and Taehyung picks the book he was reading back up. It takes about ten minutes of looking at the novel’s cover for Jungkook to realize that it’s a young adult novel about werewolves, and he blinks.

“Hyung,” Jungkook starts. Taehyung looks over at him. “Maybe this is a stupid question. But, um...are werewolves real?”

Taehyung barely glances at him before he says, “Yup,” and goes back to his book.

Jungkook stares at Taehyung. “You can’t just say yup like that’s enough of an answer.”

Taehyung looks back at him. “What else should I say?”

“I don’t know! More than yup!” Jungkook tells him, feeling only slightly frantic over this information.

“They’re pretty cool. I know some werewolves, they’re nice girls,” Taehyung says mildly, like this is all unimpressive. “I don’t really know a lot about it, though. I think one of them is a vegetarian? Typical lesbians.” Taehyung waves his hand.

“Why the hell are you reading that book if werewolves are real?”

“It’s funny,” Taehyung says with a shrug.

Jungkook keeps staring. “Taehyung, are vampires real?” He asks, voice serious.

“Yeah,” Taehyung answers, flipping the page of his book.

“Jesus christ,” Jungkook mutters.

“Namjoon knows more about like, the history of magic stuff, but in general, if there’s lots and lots of stories about something magical, they’re probably based on something,” Taehyung says simply with a shrug.

Jimin walks over to find Jungkook still sitting there staring blankly at Taehyung, who’s gone back to leafing through the novel.

“Are you still reading that?” Jimin asks, wrinkling his nose with a laugh at Taehyung’s book.

“It’s a best-seller for a reason, Jiminnie,” Taehyung tells him with a smirk, and Jimin rolls his eyes.

“Lunch?” Jimin asks, turning to Jungkook brightly, and Jungkook nods.

“Lunch,” he agrees, standing up. “Did you know werewolves are real?”

“Oh my god, I know, right?” Jimin responds, and Jungkook wants to sigh in relief.

 

 

It becomes a routine. Jungkook goes by the shop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when he knows Jimin is working, and most of the time Taehyung is there too, waiting around for him. They get lunch, Jungkook tries to get more information on various mythical (but not mythical at all, it turns out) creatures, they talk about Jungkook’s semester and Taehyung’s weird jobs and Jimin’s coworkers, and it’s...nice. It’s really nice, Jungkook thinks. Afterward, sometimes they’ll all go to Namjoon’s house (it’s Namjoon’s and Taehyung’s, but even Taehyung calls it Namjoon’s house, and Jungkook isn’t sure what else to call it), and Jungkook will do his homework curled up on the couch or sitting in the warm back garden with Nabi.

After a few weeks, Jungkook realizes he spends half his time at Namjoon’s anymore, but he isn’t upset about it. He feels good; the three of them make him feel good. When he’s not working, sometimes he watches Namjoon work, because Namjoon is always working on something. Sometimes it’s potions, and Jungkook offers to gather things from the garden; he’s gotten good at finding the ingredients, and he likes the quiet carefulness of it.

Other times he’s reading, writing, and whenever Jungkook asks what he’s doing it’s some impressive personal project. Once, he asked what Namjoon was doing and Namjoon distractedly replied, “I’ve kind of been working on my own, uh, pharmacopeia of sorts? Just keeping track of what combinations of ingredients do what. There are other books, but I wanted to add some stuff I found myself.” Jungkook just nodded, feeling impressed and useless.

One afternoon, Jungkook opened the fridge and found a few condiments, a bottle of orange juice, and...almost nothing else. “What do you even eat?” Jungkook asked incredulously. “Like, witches still need to eat, right?”

Namjoon laughed from behind him, and Jungkook turned around to find him looking sheepish. “Um, we’re just really bad at cooking. We mostly get take-out, or eat instant food.”

And that’s when Jungkook started bringing by groceries and cooking for them. It’s not like he’s a fantastic cook, but he’s certainly better than Namjoon, who stares at him in awe every time he chops something, or Taehyung, who doesn’t seem to have eaten anything other than ramen or cheap delivery in a year.

“You let them live like this?” Jungkook asks Jimin one night as he stands in the little kitchen, making soup. He’s watched his mother make it a hundred times, helped out at least fifty, and he feels confident as he carefully cuts a soft block of tofu.

Jimin shrugs. “They seem fine.”

“They’re going to die early deaths from too much sodium,” Jungkook chides.

“Last week I watched you eat three containers of ramen in one meal because Taehyung said you couldn’t,” Jimin says with raised eyebrows.

Jungkook hums, not managing to muster up any shame for that one. “Okay, you got me there.”

After a couple weeks Jungkook starts leaving grocery lists at their house, and stops having to borrow them from his aunt’s kitchen (though she looked a little fond when he told her he was making food for his friends, which made Jungkook feel a little flustered over it.)

“It’s nice, though. That you’re concerned,” Jimin tells him with a smile. “Do you usually start cooking for boys you’ve known for a month?”

“I’ve known you for more than a month. Like, a month and a week, I think,” Jungkook says, grinning at Jimin.

“And it’s that extra week that really pushes you into domesticity, I’m sure,” Jimin says with a smirk, making Jungkook laugh.

Jungkook likes cooking for them. He likes cooking, he realizes slowly over the course of a few weeks. And it makes him feel nice when the three of them compliment him on his food, which is a perk.

It’s over dinner one night when Taehyung says to the group at large, crowded with too many people around the small kitchen table, “Jeonghan is throwing a party next week.”

“Who’s Jeonghan again?” Jimin asks with his mouth half-full.

“The one who lives with Jisoo. They’re our age,” Taehyung says, and Jimin nods in recognition, but Jungkook stays in the dark.

“Oh, right, the pretty ones,” Jimin says.

Namjoon notices Jungkook looking between them curiously and supplies, “A witch we know. Well, that Taehyung knows, mostly.”

“I honestly know Jisoo better,” Taehyung says with a shrug. “But yes, they’re both very pretty.”

“It’s honestly intimidating,” Namjoon agrees.

Jungkook snorts. “This is coming from you three.”

He doesn’t really realize what he said until he looks up and finds them all staring at him. Jungkook blushes.

“That’s really sweet and everything, but you haven’t seen them,” Jimin replies, reaching for another spoonful of soup and seeming unfazed. Namjoon is just looking at him funny, and Taehyung looks amused.

“My point was, I’m dragging you along with me,” Taehyung says.

Namjoon groans. “Taehyung-ah, you always know everyone at these parties and I have to sit alone in the corner.”

“You have me,” Jimin says comfortingly, reaching out to pat Namjoon’s arm.

Namjoon makes a face. “No I don’t, you always get drunk and wander.”

“You know, you could just try to make friends,” Taehyung tells Namjoon in a voice that’s teasing, but gentle, looking at him fondly through his ashy grey bangs.

Namjoon pulls another face. “You know I’m bad at that.”

Jungkook keeps eating, feeling only a little left out, until Taehyung says, “Well, this time you’ll have Kookie. He doesn’t know anyone either. You two can sit in a corner and you can fill him in.”

Jungkook raises his eyebrows. “I’m invited?”

Taehyung looks at him like he’s being silly. “Yeah, of course.”

And there’s something about that, about of course, about being assumed to be a part of something (even something as small as an invitation to a party), that makes Jungkook feel entirely too warm and cared for.

Taehyung smiles at him kindly. “Oh, wow, that made you so happy. That felt so nice.”

It’s less startling now, now that he’s a little more used to Taehyung just occasionally broadcasting his feelings, so Jungkook isn’t quite as embarrassed as he was when they first met. Still, he feels his cheeks go pink.

“Yeah, it did,” he says quietly, and he sees Namjoon and Jimin smiling at him too, between smiling at each other, which is only slightly overwhelming. “Um, it sounds fun. A side question, is everyone you know magic?”

“No,” Taehyung says, shaking his head. “I mean, you and Jimin exist.”

“Observant,” Jimin comments, and Namjoon laughs. “Taehyung’s just friends with everyone, honestly.”

“I like people,” Taehyung says in explanation. “But the first people I met here were magic, and then I met people through those people, so,” Taehyung shrugs, “I know a lot of magic people.”

It occurs to Jungkook that he doesn’t actually know where Taehyung is from. He’s made a few comments before that alluded to moving, but it’s never seemed like the right time to ask before. “Where did you move from?” Jungkook asks.

“Oh, Daegu,” Taehyung answers.

“So Namjoon is the only one here who’s actually from Jeolla-do?” Jungkook asks, curious.

Namjoon is shaking his head, though. “No, I moved here from Ilsan.”

“Oh, I just figured...the house,” Jungkook says in explanation. “Can I ask why?”

“Well, traditionally, witches move away from home when they come of age. Go off on their own, hone their skills, pick a craft to focus on, start a business. And my family’s pretty traditional,” Namjoon says with a smile. “So I moved here. Gwangju’s big for magic, and my uncle had this old house out here, and...now it’s my home.”

“Wait, big for magic? Is that a thing?” Jungkook asks, eyebrows furrowed.

“You know how some cities are gayer than others?” Taehyung asks. Jungkook nods, because he does know. “It’s kind of like that. There’s a big magic community in Gwangju. You know, lots of woods and stuff, it’s great for people like Namjoon who grow things or anyone with any weird forest magic.” Taehyung always manages to sound so casual when he says these things, like Jungkook’s entire worldview hasn’t just been thrown on its axis, but Jungkook tries to just nod calmly.

“Different places attract different kinds of magic-users,” Namjoon explains, apparently noticing Jungkook’s surprise. “There’s a pretty decent magic scene in Busan, too, just different. Water elementals, that kind of thing.”

“That kind of thing,” Jungkook repeats. “Sure.”

“Seoul’s big for everyone, obviously, because it’s Seoul,” Taehyung goes on. “But I’ve never really been a city person.”

Jungkook nods. Jeolla-do makes sense then, if Taehyung doesn’t like cities.

“I just moved here because I knew it would piss off my parents,” Jimin offers with a smirk, and Jungkook laughs.

“Yeah, I can relate to that,” he agrees.

“Rebellious art gays,” Taehyung comments, blowing on his spoon. “Groundbreaking stuff.”

Jimin laughs. “Oh, shut up.”

“Go paint each other, why don’t you,” Taehyung says, laughing at his own joke. Namjoon rolls his eyes next to him, but he’s laughing too.

“Oh, I don’t paint, I just write papers about people who do,” Jimin explains, and Namjoon laughs louder. “It’s a really marketable skill.”

“Another choice your parents love, I’m sure,” Jungkook says, smirking.

That makes Jimin laugh, loud and surprised. “Of course. You would know, right?”

Jungkook nods around a bite of dinner, rolling his eyes and feeling self-deprecating. And it’s hard to shake that feeling of warmth, that feeling of being wanted and understood here. Jimin’s right, he’s known them all for barely a month, but it’s different than his groups of friends have been before. Quicker, easier, deeper. Taehyung has all these friends, Jimin has his roommates, but Jungkook is the one who got invited in the doors, the one who they’ve chosen to spend half their time for weeks with. It’s strange, the three of them being so nice to him, making him feel welcome, and Jungkook feels like he’s gotten a taste for something warm and sweet he’s never been given before.

“So,” Jungkook asks when their laughter passes. “What does one wear to a witch’s party?”

★★

“Your room is cute,” Taehyung tells him with a smile, sitting languidly on Jungkook’s little twin-sized bed. He looks so unbelievably out of place with his silver hair and fashionable baggy clothes on Jungkook’s neat and orderly bed, next to his neat and orderly desk, inside his aunt’s neat and orderly house.

“Uh,” Jungkook says with half a laugh, walking over to his closet. “Thanks.”

When Taehyung suggested coming over before they went out, it sounded like a good idea to Jungkook. He’s never been good at putting himself together, and he’s never really been to a party before. Not a real one, like as an adult, and definitely not one without some form of family present, even if it’s just his brother. The whole thing was making him kind of nervous, so Jungkook took Taehyung up on it. The reality of Taehyung in his house, though, hadn’t occurred to him. It’s a little surreal, these two things that Jungkook has kept separate coming together.

“I don’t really have a lot of clothes,” he says sheepishly as he opens his closet door.

“Wow,” Taehyung says. “Monochromatic.”

“Wearing colors stresses me out,” Jungkook says with his nose wrinkled.

Taehyung chuckles softly. “That’s okay. We can work in the constructs of shades of black and white.”

“That sounded very deep, for you talking about picking out a t-shirt for me to wear,” Jungkook tells him.

Taehyung gives him a serious look as he stands up and walks over. “I’m very deep.”

They manage to look at each other for thirty seconds or so before they burst out laughing.

“You have so many jeans,” Taehyung says thoughtfully as he leafs through Jungkook’s closet. “Yet you wear the same pair of joggers three days a week.”

“Is it better or worse if I tell you they’re not the same pair?” Jungkook asks. Taehyung looks at him questioningly and Jungkook takes a step over to his dresser, opens the middle drawer to show six pairs of the same pair of joggers.

“Now that’s commitment to a look,” Taehyung says, sounding impressed. “I’m making you wear jeans, though.”

Taehyung pushes hangers to the side, making considering noises before he pulls out a pair of jeans Jungkook never wears with holes in the knees and a nondescript black t-shirt, handing them over to Jungkook. Then he reaches further back and makes a delighted little noise when he emerges with a leather jacket.

“Jungkook-ah!” Taehyung exclaims, wiggling the jacket around. “Look at this! Real clothes!”

Jungkook blushes. “My brother got it for me. I don’t really think it looks good on me, though.”

Taehyung looks at him incredulously. “You’re wrong,” he says, waving a hand dismissively. “Wear this.”

Jungkook shifts awkwardly on his feet. “You think?”

“Put it on,” Taehyung instructs easily, sitting back down on Jungkook’s bed now that his work is done.

Jungkook holds the clothes awkwardly, looking around the room. “Are you just gonna watch me change?”

Taehyung chuckles. “Maybe,” he says, before flopping down onto his back on Jungkook’s bed. “My eyes are closed.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes and changes, wincing at how tight the jeans are (there’s a reason he doesn’t wear this pair very often), tucking the front of the shirt in to his waist. The jacket fits him well; it used to be too big for him, but apparently in the couple years it’s been since he’s tried it on, he’s grown into it. “I don’t know,” Jungkook voices, looking down at himself, and prompting Taehyung to sit back up and open his eyes.

“Oh,” Taehyung mutters, looking Jungkook up and down, and Jungkook feels self-conscious. “No, you look good,” Taehyung follows up with quickly, ebbing a little of Jungkook’s embarrassment.

Jungkook looks up, and Taehyung’s looking at him with his eyes a little wide, like he’s surprised. “Wow, Jungkook-ah.”

“What?” Jungkook asks, feeling his cheeks go pink.

Taehyung shakes his head, giving Jungkook a cheeky smile. “You should wear those jeans more.”

That really does make Jungkook blush, and he reaches out and shoves Taehyung’s shoulder. “Leave me alone.”

Apparently delighted by how much that ruffles him, Taehyung giggles. “Your legs look so nice.”

Stop it,” Jungkook whines. “Should I wear this?”

“You should absolutely wear it,” Taehyung says decisively, standing up from the bed and looking at Jungkook with something like a smirk. Jungkook feels a little nervous, eyes flickering down to Taehyung’s lips momentarily, out of his control, and Taehyung just raises an eyebrow before walking past him. “C’mon, you’re ready, right? Let’s go.” And Jungkook feels a little helpless to do anything besides follow behind him.

 

 

Jimin and Namjoon are waiting for them outside, Jimin looking effortlessly cool and handsome in a fashionable outfit and Namjoon looking more normal than Jungkook’s ever seen him. Ordinarily, Namjoon sticks to baggy clothes that are always cropped a little strangely, or entirely too long. Jungkook has exclusively seen him in avant-garde minimalist clothing or some form of pajamas if he’s at his house early enough, and both are considerably different than the structured outfit he’s wearing tonight. The bomber jacket over his t-shirt makes his shoulders look broad, and wearing his shirt tucked into his (only slightly too short) jeans makes his waist look small. Together, Namjoon and Jimin look wholly unapproachable, and Jungkook is a little thrown aback by the fact that he’s there with them.

“Jungkook-ah,” Jimin coos when he sees them, reaching out to rest a hand on Jungkook’s hip. “You look nice.”

Namjoon looks him over too, offering him a comforting smile. “You do.”

“Thanks to my guidance,” Taehyung says with a goofy little bow.

“Of course,” Jimin agrees, moving to kiss him quickly in greeting. Jungkook is with the three of them a lot, he sees them kiss pretty often, but every time it’s still a little distracting and ignites something in him. Something small and warm, a little spark of want that he tries his best to ignore.

Namjoon puts an arm around Taehyung’s shoulders and they turn to walk into the apartment building where, apparently, Taehyung’s magic friends are throwing a party.

“Namjoon-hyung,” Jungkook says, and Namjoon turns toward him. “No offense, but it’s so weird seeing you dressed like a regular person.”

Taehyung and Jimin burst into laughter, and Namjoon goes a little pink. “It’s weird to see Namjoonie out of the house at all,” Jimin adds.

“Hey!” Namjoon says defensively, pouting a little, and Jungkook wishes he didn’t find it so completely endearing. “I leave the house.”

Taehyung gives him a disbelieving look. Jimin laughs again.

“I do! I go to the post office every couple weeks, and I spend time in the gardens,” Namjoon lists, then looks like he’s run out of steam. “I’m a very busy man.”

“You are,” Jimin says, reaching up to pinch at Namjoon’s cheek just to tease him as Taehyung presses the buzzer for an apartment.

The first thing Jungkook thinks after they walk upstairs and the door to the apartment is opened is Wow, he really is pretty. The man standing in the doorway has sharp cheekbones, silvery shoulder-length hair, and a sort of perma-smirk on his face — and wow, he’s really pretty.

“Taehyungie!” The man shouts, leaning forward to wrap Taehyung in a half-hug. “And your boys. Is there a new one?”

“Yoon Jeonghan, Jeon Jungkook,” Taehyung answers, gesturing between them.

“Cute,” Jeonghan comments, offering a little wave. “Hi, Namjoon-ssi. Look at you, at a party and everything.” Jungkook thinks he’s just teasing, from how light his voice is, but Namjoon looks a little embarrassed.

“Don’t make fun of him for taking his work seriously,” Taehyung says to Jeonghan with a snort. “Just because you’ve never taken anything seriously in your life.”

Jeonghan answers with a laugh, stepping back and letting them in. “Fair,” he responds. “Jisoo is around somewhere.” He gestures vaguely to the apartment at large (which is nicer and more spacious than Jungkook had anticipated, and now he feels slightly intimidated) before he wanders back over to another conversation, leaving the four of them standing there.

“I’m going to get drinks,” Taehyung declares easily. “Jungkook-ah, come with me to get drinks.”

Jungkook just nods, always willing enough to follow directions, and leaves Jimin to cling to Namjoon a little, like he’s trying to ease him into just being here.

“I think Jeonghan-ssi made Namjoon uncomfortable,” Jungkook notes quietly, glancing back at them.

Taehyung hums. “Jeonghan knows Namjoon, kind of. Most witches around here know each other. I think Jeonghan makes Namjoon nervous.”

Jungkook furrows his eyebrows. Namjoon is one of the most reassuring people he’s ever met; he’s always kind, and thoughtful, and everything he does is so cool. Why would someone make him nervous? “That’s weird.”

“You know how people talk about old money and new money?” Taehyung asks. They’ve been winding through the party guests, over to a side table that’s been covered with a cheap-looking tablecloth, assorted liquor sat on top of it. “Witches are kind of like that, sometimes.”

“Rich?” Jungkook asks, confused. He grabs two of the plastic cups sitting off to the side and starts by making his own drink.

Taehyung laughs a little. “No.” He shakes his head and pours more liquor than Jungkook was expecting into his own cup, following it with a little of the soda sitting on the table. “Witches usually come from magic families, and some are more traditional than others. He’s like, old magic.”

Jungkook remembers Namjoon calling his family traditional and wondering what that meant, when it came to magic families. He nods. “So I’m guessing Jeonghan is the opposite.”

Taehyung chuckles. “Yeah, you could say that. I think Namjoon gets embarrassed sometimes, being around witches who live a little more...modern than he does.”

Jungkook thinks that’s silly, thinks the way Namjoon lives is fascinating and seems so nice. He focuses on pouring another drink, not sure how strong to make it. He catches Taehyung’s eye, and Taehyung says, “Make Jimin a drink. He likes them strong.” He says it with a wrinkle in his nose, and walks back toward where they left Jimin and Namjoon. Feeling only slightly concerned about being all by himself now, Jungkook hurries up and pours out a drink for Jimin, trying to follow behind him a moment later but finding it futile. The apartment is busy, and when Jungkook makes it back to where Namjoon and Jimin were, he doesn’t find any of them.

Jungkook furrows his eyebrows and looks around, trying to spot any of them. He finds Jimin first, smiling at a boy next to the sofa, and when Jimin sees him he waves Jungkook over.

“I have a drink for you,” Jungkook says, holding it out, and Jimin giggles, letting his hand linger on Jungkook’s as he grabs it.

“Thank you,” he says sweetly, then turns back to the boy in front of him. “This is Taemin-hyung. Hyung, this is Jungkookie.”

Jungkook waves with his free hand, feeling only a little awkward. Whoever Taemin is, he’s also very pretty. Why is he constantly surrounded by handsome, intimidating men? When Jeon Jungkook was born, did God realize he was gay and plan his life as a series of intricate torture scenarios? Luckily this one ends fairly quickly, because after a short bout of small-talk about being non-magical at a very magical party, Taemin gets pulled away by someone else and he’s just left with Jimin.

“Do you know where Taehyung and Namjoon went?” Jungkook asks. Specifically, he wants to find Namjoon, since the two were supposed to be bonding over being anxious just being at a party.

Jimin shrugs, turning around and squinting in various directions. “Oh, I found Tae,” he says, pointing, and Jungkook follows his line of sight to find Taehyung wrapped around a boy who looks downright ethereal, the two of them smiling at each other. “That’s Jisoo, Jeonghan’s boyfriend.”

The more Jungkook looks at him, the more he knows his appearance isn’t just good looks. He’s devastatingly beautiful, and his skin is almost glowing; not in a good skincare routine way, in a literal luminescent way. “Why...does he look like that?” Jungkook asks quietly.

“I think he’s part fairy,” Jimin answers simply.

Jungkook blinks. “What?”

“I know,” Jimin says mildly. “I know.”

Jungkook keeps looking, because it’s impossible to look away, at the way Jisoo laughs and smiles, the way his eyes literally sparkle. Then he keeps watching, only to see Taehyung lean in and kiss him.

Jungkook’s eyes go wide, feeling frozen, scared to look at Jimin and see his reaction. Scared to do much of anything besides continuing to watch as the two of them smile into each other, one of Jisoo’s hands cupping Taehyung’s face. He finally gets the strength to turn slightly, to glance at Jimin, and instead of the expression he was expecting (upset? Angry?) he just finds him smirking a little.

“Taetae,” he says with a little laugh, shaking his head.

“Is this…” Jungkook trails off, unsure how to continue, how to broach the subject, “Is this okay?”

Jimin shrugs. “Sure. Taehyung likes kissing people, apparently Jisoo likes kissing him too. Nice to watch too, hm?”

Jungkook goes red at the implication, and Jimin’s smirk deepens before he takes a drink. “How do you...how do you three work?”

Jimin laughs quietly. “I was wondering when you’d ask.”

“Well,” Jungkook says with a shrug, feeling a little embarrassed. “It’s not so weird, the idea of a couple, but...three of you. That seems normal. I thought that was all it was, though.”

Jimin leans back against the wall they’re standing near, taking another drink. “It is, mostly. Taehyung just...likes kissing people,” he says again, smiling. “That’s all it is. If it were more than that he’d tell us.”

“What about you and Namjoon?” Jungkook asks, overcoming his deep embarrassment at asking about something so personal (and something he personally has spent a lot of time wondering about) to take advantage of this opportunity.

Jimin looks thoughtful. “Neither of us ever dated multiple people before this. Namjoon and Taehyung were dating years before I met them, and I think Taehyung would date around sometimes, but Namjoon wasn’t involved in any of that. Then me and Taehyung started dating, and...I met Namjoon, too, and I liked him.”

Jungkook nods. “Does Taehyung still date other people?”

Jimin hums. “He hasn’t, since we’ve all been together. Fools around with people at parties sometimes,” he says, gesturing to where Taehyung and Jisoo are still kissing in the middle of the room, “but nothing more serious.”

“It’s interesting,” Jungkook mutters after a moment. Jimin looks at him, waits for him to continue, but he takes a minute to compose his thoughts. “I never...I just never realized any of this was an option.”

“Yeah,” Jimin agrees. “Me either, really, before a couple years ago. But then, when I watched dramas as a kid, I was always the one who wondered why the protagonist didn’t date both the love interests.”

Jungkook laughs. “It does seem easier, yeah.”

“I bet you always wanted the sweet neighbor to win her heart,” Jimin tells him with a smirk.

“Oh no, I was a sucker for the mean bad boys, always,” Jungkook answers easily, taking a drink.

“They always treat her like shit though,” Jimin argues with a smile.

“Yeah, but they’re hot, and I’m an idiot,” Jungkook says. Jimin laughs at him, leaning forward and resting his forehead on Jungkook’s shoulder.

“You’re a very smart boy,” Jimin tells him, smiling up at him a little, face so close, and Jungkook feels flustered by the proximity. It would be easy, physically, to lean forward and kiss him; emotionally, mentally, it’s much more difficult, so Jungkook stays put and just lets himself appreciate the brightness of Jimin’s smile, lets himself burn with it just a little.

“Thanks, but I’m in art school, so how smart could I be, really?” Jungkook offers and Jimin laughs again, this time reaching out to wrap an arm around his middle.

“Kookie, I’m really glad I met you,” Jimin says, and Jungkook can’t handle the warm look Jimin gives him, hugging him a little tighter before he backs away.

“Me too,” Jungkook manages. He wants to bring a hand to touch Jimin’s shoulder, his jaw, his hair, anything, but again, these things are difficult. So instead he just smiles at him, trying to match the warmth of Jimin’s own smile and knowing he can’t.

“I need to go get another drink,” Jimin tells him, and Jungkook wonders when he found time to finish his first drink. “You should go find hyung.” Jungkook nods, giving Jimin a little salute, and Jimin’s laugh is audible as Jungkook walks off.

Namjoon, it turns out, is easy enough to find, because, true to his own word, he’s sitting by himself in a corner armchair, sort of vaguely people-watching. He looks pleased to see Jungkook, and Jungkook offers a little wave as he ambles over. “You look lonesome, hyung,” he says, and Namjoon smiles at him.

“No, not lonesome. Just...sitting,” Namjoon says with a little flourish of his hands. “Wanna join me?”

Jungkook could offer a myriad of too-enthusiastic responses, but he settles on nodding and perching himself on the arm of the chair that Namjoon is sitting in.

“I’m no good at these things,” Namjoon tells him after a moment of quiet. The quiet is something he appreciates about Namjoon — the way they never have to scramble to fill periods of silence. It’s comfortable, even surrounded by people having loud conversations.

“Me either, really,” Jungkook tells him with a smile. “I’m bad at people.”

Namjoon nods, understanding. “Have you met anyone?”

“I talked to Jimin’s friend Taemin for a minute?” Jungkook answers. “And I, uh. Saw Jisoo.”

Namjoon nods again. “It’s hard not to see Jisoo.”

“Jimin said he’s a fairy?” Jungkook asks, suddenly needing an explanation behind that one

“Not quite,” Namjoon says with a chuckle. “I think he’s half-fae. If he was a fairy he would have...wings, for one.”

“Sure,” Jungkook mutters, taking a drink. Namjoon laughs again.

“It’s fun, telling you about magic stuff. I haven’t gotten to see anyone new experience it since...well, since Jimin first came around, I guess. But he didn’t react nearly as much. I guess if you’re in love with Taehyung, not much will shock you.” Namjoon says with a smile.

Jungkook smiles back from his perch on the arm of the chair. “Tell me more, then. Who else do you know here and what’s their deal?”

Namjoon hums, scanning the crowd. “See those girls over there?”

Jungkook looks over to find four girls gathered around each other, one with a big heart-shaped smile. Jungkook kind of wants immediately to protect her, which is a weird urge he doesn’t get often. “Mhm,” he agrees.

“Werewolves,” Namjoon tells him simply. Jungkook’s eyes widen and Namjoon giggles.

“Are they the werewolves Taehyung is friends with? He mentioned them to me once,” Jungkook says. His voice has gone down to a hushed whisper, like they’ll disappear if he talks too loud.

“Probably, he’s friends with everyone around here,” Namjoon says with a shrug. “They’re nice, though. Sooyoung is intimidating, but Jiwoo is so cute, and sometimes Hyejoo hangs around with me at stuff like this and we can be silent and awkward together.”

“You’re like a foot taller than her,” Jungkook says with a snort. He’s assuming Sooyoung is the tall one, with her arm around the shorter smiling one; none of the rest of them look too intimidating, even the dark-haired girl with a displeased triangle-shaped pout.

“She’s just really pretty…” Namjoon mutters, trailing off. “I find most werewolves pretty intimidating, for obvious reasons.”

“Do they like…” Jungkook trails off, feeling silly, but Namjoon is looking at him all open and earnest, so Jungkook goes on. “Eat people?”

Jungkook braces himself for the laugh, but it doesn’t come. Namjoon just shakes his head calmly. “No, they hunt animals in the woods. They get a bad rap in media, they’re in control of themselves completely I think. Jiwoo’s a vegetarian, though, so I don’t know what she does.”

“Huh,” Jungkook notes. Jiwoo apparently notices them staring and waves in their direction, half her face taken up by her big grin. Namjoon smiles and waves back, and Jungkook is glad that he’s undeterred by Sooyoung giving him a smirk. Jungkook waves too, after a moment, because he finds it difficult to resist.

Namjoon spends the next hour pointing out various people across the party, giving Jungkook a little summary of their abilities and letting him ask all the questions he wants without a laugh or judging stare.. (“Do vampires eat people?” “Oh definitely not, they have some weird deal with blood donation.” “Are mermaids real?” “Yeah, there are a lot near Busan and Jeju.”) They make their way through a few more drinks in the process, and occasionally see Taehyung and Jimin flitting back and forth between friends (in Taehyung’s case) and acquaintances (in Jimin’s.)

“They’re both so good at this kind of thing,” Namjoon notes at some point, sighing but not unhappily as he looks over at Taehyung and Jimin leaning against each other on the far wall, laughing close to each other.

Jungkook nods. “I’ve never been good at people.”

“Me either,” Namjoon agrees. “I’m good at...well, my job, and not much else,” Namjoon says with a little laugh, rolling his eyes.

Jungkook furrows his eyebrows. “Hyung, that’s not true.”

Namjoon gives him a questioning look, eyebrows raised, and Jungkook goes on, encouraged by the drinks he’s had so far. “You’re so smart, not just in a good at your job way, like...the way you see the world. And you’re so — you always make me feel welcome, and...and comfortable. Like I know you’ll never make fun of me for sounding dumb, or anything like that. I think you’re really kind.”

Namjoon is just looking at him, the faintest pink on his cheeks, and it makes Jungkook feel shy retroactively. But all Namjoon says is, “Thank you, Jungkookie.” He reaches out and puts a hand on Jungkook’s knee, squeezing it for a moment and letting it stay there.

Jungkook nods decisively. “I mean it. You’re really cool, hyung.”

Namjoon laughs, and maybe it’s because of the drinks that he leans over with the force of it, head leaned against Jungkook’s chest. Jungkook goes a little pink, and maybe it’s because of the drinks that his hand moves to the back of Namjoon’s neck, resting there warm and solid. “You’re so sweet,” Namjoon tells him, voice muffled. Jungkook can feel the vibration of his voice against his chest and it makes him feel flushed all over, the intimacy of it. Neither of them move away, so they just sit there like that, Jungkook trying to resist the urge to play with Namjoon’s hair.

“Oh, look, Namjoonie’s drunk,” Jungkook hears, and when he looks up he finds Taehyung and Jimin standing there, looking amused.

Namjoon whines, sitting back up, and Jungkook already misses the point of contact. He avoids Taehyung’s eye, is too used to the feeling of Taehyung looking at him knowingly, and instead smiles at Namjoon.

“Only a little,” Namjoon insists.

“Does that mean you’re having fun?” Taehyung asks, sounding excited at the possibility.

Namjoon smiles up at him, big and bright. “I’m having a little fun.”

Taehyung whoops, and Jimin giggles at him.

“Jungkookie is fun,” Namjoon goes on, and Jungkook smiles shyly at him.

“That’s true,” Taehyung agrees, reaching out to tap underneath Jungkook’s chin and make him blush. “Jiminnie is even drunker than you, maybe we should go.”

“I’m fun drunk,” Jimin insists, giving a confident little ‘OK’ sign and stumbling on his feet a little. “You wanna go to a bar? Let’s go out, I’m having fun.”

Taehyung laughs, turning to Jimin and cupping his jaw in his hands. “Jiminnie, I love you, but I definitely do not want to go out.”

Jimin whines, and Taehyung leans in and kisses him quiet, slow and sweet in a way that has Jungkook mesmerized. Lowered inhibitions means he can feel the arousal he tries to keep at bay come to the forefront of his mind, and he can’t even find it in himself to be embarrassed that Taehyung can probably tell.

“I would go out to a bar for Jiminnie,” Namjoon says with a sigh, leaning sideways against Jungkook again.

Jimin pulls away from Taehyung with a smile. “The fact that you phrase it like you’re risking your life is why I would never make you. Thank you, though,” he says, pitching forward to sit in Namjoon’s lap. He leans up to kiss at Namjoon’s jaw and Jungkook feels his face go hot at the sheer proximity of Jimin’s drunken affections.

“Alright, Jiminnie. Time to go home,” Taehyung mutters, gently tugging at Jimin’s arm.

“I don’t wanna go home,” Jimin pouts, and Taehyung snorts.

“No, we’re not playing Jimin’s drunk aegyo game,” Taehyung says, not letting up on his attempt to detach Jimin from Namjoon.

“I like that game,” Namjoon mutters, “Cute Jiminnie.”

“Weak,” Taehyung accuses, catching Jungkook’s eye to make a face. “Completely weak. Ridiculous. Come on, hyung, sorry you have to go home with me instead of cute Jiminnie. Cute Jiminnie, go home.” He says it sweetly, pressing another kiss to Jimin’s temple, but Jimin still looks displeased.

Taehyung looks at Jungkook. “What about you? How drunk are you?” Jimin and Namjoon aren’t paying them any attention, all wrapped up in each other even though they’re barely a foot away.

The answer is “fairly”, but Jungkook shrugs. “I’m fine,” he says.

Taehyung looks uncertain, but shrugs back. “Can you help Jiminnie get back to his apartment?

“Isn’t he going home with you?” Jungkook asks. Taehyung eyes Jimin, finally standing, but still leaning heavily on Namjoon while they giggle at each other.

“He should go home, Seokjin-hyung and Hoseokie-hyung will baby him tomorrow. I have my own baby to deal with,” Taehyung says, grabbing Namjoon’s hand.

“What?” Namjoon asks, eyebrows furrowed. “Why are you calling me baby to Jungkook?”

“Because you’re my baby,” Taehyung says to him smoothly, leaning over to kiss his cheek, and Namjoon blushes, smiling sweetly and reaching up to cover his face with his hands. Taehyung gives Jungkook a look, like see? and Jungkook nods. He also can tell that Jimin won’t go home by himself quietly, so Jungkook wracks his somewhat intoxicated brain.

“Jiminnie-hyung,” Jungkook says, cutting off Jimin before he can whine to Taehyung about something else. “I don’t know that I can get all the way home by myself. You live close, right?”

Jungkook isn’t Jimin, doesn’t have a natural aura around him that radiates you know you would do anything for me, but he knows he can make himself look helpless if he tries. He makes his eyes wide and sweet, looking over at Jimin, set on beating him at his own game of sweetly manipulating people into going a little out of their way for him.

“Oh, Jungkookie. Sure, come home with me. Let hyung take care of you,” Jimin offers in a sickly-sweet voice, reaching his arms out to rest his hands on Jungkook’s shoulders. Taehyung looks over at Jungkook, impressed, and Jungkook grins at him.

“Come on, Namjoonie, Jeonghan can get us home,” Taehyung tells Jimin.

Jungkook gives Taehyung a questioning look, and Taehyung goes, “Oh, right. Jeonghan is good at apparition magic.”

Jungkook looks at him blankly. “What does that mean?”

Taehyung hums thoughtfully. “It’s kind of like teleporting.”

What?” Jungkook says. Taehyung just laughs, waving as he turns to leave.

“I know,” Jimin intones.

“Bye Jiminnie, bye Jungkookie,” Taehyung calls behind himself, Namjoon echoing weakly.

Jungkook stands there, mouth open in surprise, until Jimin pulls at his hand. “Come on Jungookie, hyung’s gonna take you home.”

“Teleporting?” Jungkook grumbles. “Who just casually mentions that their friend can teleport them?”

“Taehyung,” Jimin answers with a giggle. He pulls Jungkook along until they’re slowly, carefully traversing down the stairs, walking outside in the coolish late spring night.

Jimin’s apartment isn’t far; they both live in a student-y area of downtown, similar buildings (though Jeonghan’s is nicer.) Jungkook spends the walk making sure that Jimin is walking straight on the sidewalk, and after the third time Jungkook grabs Jimin’s hand so that he avoids stepping off the curb, Jimin just laces their fingers together while they walk.

Jimin keeps shushing him as they walk through the door, but the noise is louder than anything Jungkook is doing. Jungkook smiles at Jimin’s antics, following behind him as he tiptoes through his crowded living room into his bedroom, where Jungkook’s never actually been before. There’s a bookshelf in the corner, one whole shelf taken up by what looks like manga, and there’s a print of a Gustav Klimt painting on one wall. Jungkook smiles to himself, looking around.

Jimin sits down on his bed heavily with a loud sigh, leaning back against the sheets. “I’m tired, Jungkookie. Kookie, kookie, Jungkookie,” Jimin repeats his name in a sing-songy little voice and Jungkook tries not to feel painfully endeared.

“Then you should go to sleep, hyung,” Jungkook tells him softly. “Probably not in that outfit, though.”

“What’s wrong with my outfit?” Jimin asks, looking over at Jungkook innocently. He’s spread back on the bed, looking up at Jungkook with something almost like a smirk, and Jungkook knows that Jimin knows what he’s doing. He’s even more dangerous with his inhibitions lowered, apparently. Jimin giggles after a moment of Jungkook’s quiet, closes his eyes.

“Let me get you some clothes,” Jungkook says, rolling his eyes. Jimin hums. “My pajamas are in the bottom drawer. Get yourself something, too.”

Jungkook extracts a baggy long-sleeve shirt and some soft pajama pants for himself and another set for Jimin, closing the drawer and handing them over to him, causing Jimin to blink at them like it’s the first time he’s ever seen pajamas in his life. “You need to change, hyung,” Jungkook reminds him, and Jimin nods, standing unsteadily.

Jungkook looks away, focusing on changing his own clothes; it turns out skinny jeans are hard to take off when you’re drunk. He’s halfway through changing when he hears Jimin chuckle and mutter, “Ooh, Jungkook-ah,” and when he turns to Jimin, he finds him looking him up and down with an eyebrow raised.

Jungkook blushes, rolling his eyes and ignoring Jimin teasing, “What did Jungkookie do to get all those muscles?”

“Change your fucking clothes, hyung,” Jungkook mutters, pulling on the sleep shirt, trying not to smile at Jimin’s giggle.

Finally, Jimin crawls back into bed, appropriately dressed, and Jungkook doesn’t resist the urge to pull the blanket over him just to see the content look on Jimin’s face. Unwilling to just walk away, he sits down at the edge of Jimin’s bed, fingers playing with loose threads on the blanket.

“See, hyung brought you home safe and sound,” Jimin tells him, eyes closed and voice soft. “C’mere, Jungkookie, it’s warm in here.”

“I should go to sleep on the couch,” Jungkook murmurs, but all he can look at is how pretty Jimin’s face is when it’s relaxed, eyes closed and expression calm.

Jimin opens his eyes at that, looking at Jungkook in a way that’s hard for him to interpret. He suddenly wishes he was Taehyung, wishes he could feel what Jimin was feeling. “Do you really want to go?” Jimin asks quietly. And maybe if his tone was different, Jungkook would think that he’s teasing, but this soft-spoken, he sounds uncertain. There’s a bigger question in there, but Jungkook can’t for the life of him figure out what it is. He just knows that he doesn’t want Jimin to feel rejected, so he climbs under the covers.

Jimin hums in a way that sounds happy, reaching out to intertwine their fingers under the blankets, and Jungkook wills his heart to stop pounding. He’ll just stay until Jimin falls asleep, he tells himself, and then go out to the couch.

(And that really is his plan, until he falls asleep by accident.)

★★

Jungkook startles awake the next morning, awoken suddenly by something that happened in a dream. He was running? Maybe it was a nightmare. Luckily he doesn’t actually remember much of it, but now he’s faced with blearily taking in his surroundings at a time that seems entirely too early.

He locks eyes with a Gustav Klimt print and blinks. Right. Jimin’s room. Jimin’s room in Jimin’s apartment. He’s in Jimin’s bed. And sure enough, when he turns his head, he finds Jimin, curled up in a ball on the other side of the bed, fast asleep.

It’s overwhelming. It’s nine in the morning and Jungkook is overwhelmed. His first instinct is to get up, because what is he going to do, just awkwardly stare at Jimin until his own bad luck catches up with him and Jimin wakes up? Jungkook remembers how soft Jimin looked last night falling asleep, and he doesn’t think he can deal with Jimin waking up. So he tries to shimmy out of bed without disturbing Jimin, and manages to escape with Jimin only voicing a small noise of confusion.

His plan is, first and foremost, to drink a bunch of water and maybe try to find some coffee in Jimin’s kitchen. He’s not hungover, but he’s a little lightheaded, and he’s in the middle of wondering if he’s allowed to cook himself breakfast when he freezes in the hallway, startled by the presence of other human beings directly ahead of him.

Jungkook’s never met Jimin’s roommates — he’s only been in this apartment a handful of times, and never for very long. So it’s a little odd to first meet them at nine in the morning on a Saturday, calmly eating breakfast in their pajamas and staring at him with raised eyebrows.

“Hello,” one of them calls out cheerfully. He has a bright smile, offering Jungkook a little wave.

“You want breakfast?” The other taller, broader man asks.

“Uh,” Jungkook says. “I — I’m fine, thanks. Sorry.”

The taller man snorts. “Why are you apologizing? For walking in our hallway? Come eat breakfast.”

He has a demanding sort of tone and Jungkook is finding it difficult to say no to him. “He won’t let up,” the other man tells him kindly. “It’s easier just to give in now.”

“I’m relentless,” the tall man says around a big bite of rice. Jungkook cracks a smile.

“Alright,” he agrees quietly, walking toward them feeling a little skittish. “Thanks.”

“I’m Seokjin, this is Hoseok, you look like a baby so I’m assuming we’re hyungs. Take this,” Seokjin says, handing him a bowl of rice and pushing a plate of kimchi toward him. “You want an egg?”

“I don’t need an egg, it’s fine,” Jungkook says, waving his hand, but Seokjin shakes his head.

“Hoseok-ah, make him an egg. Make me one too,” Seokjin aims at Hoseok, smiling prettily.

Hoseok laughs, shaking his head. “I’ll make him an egg. Why should I make you one?” He walks behind Seokjin, pausing like he’s waiting for a response, and Seokjin leans back to smile at him.

“Because you love me,” he says simply, making Hoseok laugh.

“You’re right,” Hoseok answers, reaching down to fix Seokjin’s hair before walking over to the stove.

“So you must be Jungkook,” Seokjin says, righting himself to sit leaned forward at the table, chin resting on his hand. He looks a little too delighted to examine Jungkook closely, like he can tell Jungkook is nervous and he enjoys it.

“Yes,” Jungkook says, taking a bite of rice.

Seokjin hums. “We’ve heard about you.”

“Stop being weird,” Hoseok calls over to him with a laugh.

Seokjin rolls his eyes to Jungkook. “Jimin says nice things about you,” he says, like he’s been defeated.

“Oh,” Jungkook says, fighting the blush threatening to bloom on his cheeks. “That’s nice of him, then.”

“Is he asleep?” Hoseok asks, walking over with a frying pan in his hand, nudging a fried egg out of the pan onto Jungkook’s rice and another onto Seokjin’s half-empty portion.

Jungkook nods, taking another bite gratefully. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was when he woke up.

“It’s funny, it’s usually Taehyung who mooches off our breakfast,” Hoseok says. His smile is almost a permanent fixture, and it’s so reassuring that Jungkook almost wants to smile back. “He’s shameless about it now.”

“Yeah, but that’s the fun thing about living with Jiminnie. He has a cute little revolving door of boyfriends,” Seokjin says with a smirk.

Jungkook chokes on his egg, and the other two look at him with concern for a moment. “I’m not — his boyfriend,” Jungkook manages through a cough.

“Oh,” Hoseok says. Seokjin looks unconvinced.

“We’re friends,” Jungkook insists. “I’m his friend.”

“So you were sleeping in his bed because…?” Seokjin asks, head tilted.

“He got too drunk and, um. We just fell asleep.” Out loud, Jungkook realizes, it doesn’t sound overly platonic. But that’s just how Jimin is, right? He holds your hand and uses his sweetest voice to win favors and affection. He watches Jimin do it all the time.

To his boyfriends, a voice in his head supplies, but he shakes the thought from his head.

“He’s a brat, wow,” Seokjin says with a laugh, and that makes Jungkook feel a little better about his theory.

Over the sound of Seokjin’s laugh, Jungkook hears Jimin’s door open, and the sound of feet padding.

“What?” Jimin asks, maybe to himself, when he sees the three of them at the kitchen table. “What’s happening?”

“This is called morning, Jiminnie. It’s when the sun wakes up and shines on us all,” Seokjin answers, making Hoseok laugh under his breath.

“There’s food,” Hoseok says, gesturing to the stove. Jimin nods, still looking a little sleepy and bewildered, and makes his way over into the kitchen.

“Don’t bully Jungkookie,” Jimin says, voice husky from sleep, as he passes.

“Oh, who would we ever bully?” Hoseok asks.

“It’s Seokjin who does the bullying. You’re just an accomplice,” Jimin tells him with narrowed eyes. “Good morning, Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook waves, mouth full, and Jimin smiles at him. “You got very drunk last night,” Jungkook informs him, and Jimin’s expression drops a little, almost a wince.

“Sounds like Jiminnie,” Seokjin says.

Jimin whines. “My head hurts.”

Seokjin stands up from the table, walking over to him and wrapping him in a backhug. “Aw, poor thing. This is why you should only drink with hyung, so I can tell you when to quit.”

Jimin groans but he’s smiling, and Hoseok comes to hug him from the front, making a screeching noise that Jungkook is sure Jimin’s headache doesn’t appreciate. Jungkook remembers Taehyung saying Jimin should go home so Seokjin and Hoseok could baby him, and Jungkook figures this is what he meant; Seokjin makes Jimin a serving of breakfast, petting his hair as he hands it over.

“They’re the worst,” Jimin complains to Jungkook when he sits down, but he giggles as Hoseok tickles his side.

“They seem very nice to me,” Jungkook says, making Seokjin give a proud little “Ha!” Jimin rolls his eyes.

They finish eating breakfast a little more calmly, Hoseok eventually migrating to sit on the couch with his laptop, and Seokjin following after him a little aimlessly.

“Why’d you wake up so early?” Jimin asks him.

Jungkook shrugs. “I think I had a bad dream.”

Jimin frowns. “Aw, I’m sorry. I’m still tired. You wanna take a nap after we eat?”

There’s something very different about last night, Jimin’s soft questioning voice convincing him to stay, and Jimin flat-out inviting him to his bed right now. Though, there’s something about the offer that puts Jungkook at ease; it sounds nice, taking a nap in Jimin’s bed, and he is still tired.

So he stops thinking so hard about it, running it over in his mind with Seokjin’s disbelieving expression playing in the background. He follows Jimin back to bed instead, lets himself close his eyes feeling comfortable and warm from the covers and from Jimin’s heat so near him. It doesn’t matter what Jimin’s roommates think — he knows what he’s doing.

(Or at least, he hopes so.)

Chapter Text

All in all, Jungkook thinks to himself as he sits on the dusty floor behind Namjoon’s cauldron (cauldron — he refuses to normalize that one), it’s been kind of a strange summer.

“Hyung,” Jungkook calls to the rest of the house, just sort of hoping someone will respond.

Namjoon responds, a muttered, “Hm?” That Jungkook assumes he’s giving without paying any attention. He’s good at that.

“Namjoon-hyung,” Jungkook says again, hoping it’ll make him actually look at Jungkook.

“What’s up?” Namjoon asks, walking over and peering down at him. He’s wearing his reading glasses, looking more sleep-rumpled than he has any right to at two in the afternoon on a Wednesday. But Jungkook being here means he “can’t work”, so he’s in his pajamas still, some sort of protest.

Jungkook had enough. He had just had enough. So today, on a too-hot day in late August, Jungkook woke up and decided it was time to finally make good on his threats and organize Namjoon’s house.

“Don’t overreact, the mice are normal,” Taehyung told him last week when Jungkook was sitting on the couch and a mouse crawled across his lap. Jungkook stared at him incredulously, and Taehyung just shrugged.

“Nabi used to hunt them, but it made Taehyung sad, so she stopped,” Namjoon explained from the kitchen.

“She’s so smart,” Taehyung said sweetly, reaching out to pet her head.

“Well, she’s a cat created from unknowable ancient magic binding witches to the natural world, so,” Namjoon said around a pickle he ate right from the container (Jungkook didn’t even have time to process this, what with the mouse situation), “Yeah, she’s pretty smart.”

“This is why she doesn’t like you,” Jimin pointed out.

Jungkook cannot overlook the mouse situation. If Taehyung wants pet mice, he should get pet mice, but the house is so chaotic, they’re just inviting pests. And germs. And also it takes Namjoon like half an hour to find anything he needs.

So Jungkook showed up on his day off, with rubber gloves, trash bags, a roll of masking tape for labels and an assortment of plastic bins. Namjoon was still asleep when he got here, which made easy work of the kitchen, and he woke up to find Jungkook carefully arranging his scattered potion ingredients into rough categories.

“This is literally just an unlabeled wine bottle full of goo,” Jungkook says, holding the bottle up to Namjoon.

Namjoon squints at it for a moment. “It’s Hyacinth nectar.”

“Sure,” Jungkook mutters, a piece of masking tape and a permanent marker at the ready. “Just spell it for me.”

“Here,” Namjoon says, reaching and grabbing the bottle and marker out of his hand. He writes the name out carefully on the label before handing the bottle back to Jungkook.

“Are you helping now?” Jungkook asks, giving Namjoon an amused glance.

Namjoon shrugs, moving over to the other side of the low bookshelf that separates the kitchen from Namjoon’s little potion-making nook. “It would be nice for everything to be organized.”

Yes, hyung. It would,” Jungkook replies emphatically.

“I also need to know how everything is organized,” Namjoon mumbles. He sits down on the chair near Jungkook, looking around.

“Over there are flowers,” Jungkook says, pointing to the very full grouping of bins and bottles, all neatly labelled. “I’m doing all the...liquids now.”

“Don’t say liquids like that.”

“They’re all unlabeled and weird, hyung. I don’t like them,” Jungkook tells him with a grimace. Namjoon just smiles a little, rolling his eyes.

The months of summer have gone by oddly quickly, Jungkook thinks. His mother sounded surprised when he called her in June and told her he was staying in Gwangju for his break, but didn’t ask many questions; it just seemed like the right choice for Jungkook to make. He didn’t have much of anyone back home, except his parents but they’ve never been very close. Any friends from high school have moved out of his life, gone off to university in Jungkook’s gap year. Here, he has Jimin, Taehyung, and Namjoon; he has his aunt, who treats him warmly and is teaching him how to cook; he has Minghao, a friend in his classes, and since then he’s befriended Minghao’s boyfriend, too. He has friends, like a whole bunch of them, and that seems like something he should continue to surround himself with even when he’s not in school.

(There’s also a part of him, a little anxious part, that worries if he leaves, he won’t have anyone to come back to after his break in classes. He doesn’t put too much weight in that particular train of thought, but it’s in the back of his mind nonetheless.)

So that’s how he spent his summer. Working at the market a few blocks from his aunt’s house, helping bag groceries and stock shelves, to make enough money to stay in Gwangju for the summer. Laying around Namjoon’s house, watching Namjoon sweat over his cauldron, listening to Jimin and Taehyung bicker and laugh, helping with the gardening in Namjoon’s garden. Going out with Minghao and Mingyu, doing normal college student things like drinking and karaoke and some less-normal art student things (like weighing the pros and cons of different sets of pens in an art supplies store for nearly half an hour) that they drag Mingyu along to. It’s been nice. He’s...happy.

“Yoongi-hyung says I’m a bad Virgo,” Namjoon tells Jungkook. Namjoon mentions Yoongi every once in a while, one of the only people Jungkook really hears him talk about on a regular basis (besides Taehyung and Jimin.)

“Your friend in Seoul,” Jungkook says in recognition. Namjoon nods. “You are a bad Virgo, I think. I don’t know that much about astrology, but I know we’re supposed to be organized, right?”

“I have no idea, to be fair,” Namjoon says mildly, scrawling a label on a bottle. Jungkook snorts quietly.

“Taehyung would know,” Jungkook says, and Namjoon giggles.

They work quietly like that, making little comments and passing things back and forth. Jungkook likes how quiet Namjoon is, in these little moments. Sometimes he gets excited about things, a wide variety of things, and he’ll talk fast and gesture with his hands and stare at you like you’re the only person in the room. And Jungkook likes that side of Namjoon, too, but sometimes he’s content to lapse into quiet with Jungkook, and it’s nice.

It’s nice to watch him work, the way he gets concentrated on things. It’s nice to be able to tell that he’s thinking hard about something, the funny look he gets on his face. Jungkook, in all honesty, always likes the way Namjoon’s face looks.

But he’s really, really trying not to fixate too hard on that. On the pretty pout he gets sometimes, or just how much it catches him off-guard when Namjoon smiles. He’s really, really trying.

Jungkook ignores the blush he knows is on his face from the thought, just the thought of Namjoon smiling, god, and goes back to work. It’s another day of his summer, spent much like all the ones before it, and all the ones that would follow, too.

★★

His classes keep getting harder. He knew they would, logically, but it’s still a lot to keep up with on the second week of the new semester. It’s hard to transition from the easiness of summer break, the calm little sequence of his day filled with friends and easy part-time work, to his school schedule, and it’s jarring to go weeks without finding himself in Namjoon’s house.

On the Friday of the third week of classes, Jungkook finds a message that just reads We miss you, from Namjoon. Getting a message from Namjoon is startling itself, since he rarely uses his cell phone, and it makes Jungkook’s heart hurt a little bit to read it.

“You look like you accidentally swallowed a bee,” Mingyu tells him. He’s sitting in the library, because Mingyu is working on an essay, and Minghao invited him along so they can work on a graphic design project together and bounce ideas off each other. Jungkook, still getting used to how to maintain friendships with people who seem much cooler and more put-together than him, and still trying to balance the four separate projects he needs to work on already, agreed hastily.

Jungkook looks up at him and blinks. “That’s a really descriptive metaphor.”

“Simile,” Mingyu corrects.

“Okay,” Jungkook says.

“Leave him alone, let him react to his texts,” Minghao mutters, not bothering to look up. Which begs the question of how he knew what Jungkook was reacting to, but Minghao seems to be observant and intelligent to the point that Jungkook wouldn’t be surprised if he was magic, too.

“I was concerned,” Mingyu says.

“I’m fine,” Jungkook assures them. “I just…” He pauses, not sure how to explain the next part. I just got a text from this boy I have some amount of hard-to-decipher feelings for, from him and his two serious boyfriends, who I also have some sort of feelings for doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

“Yeah, we get it. There’s a boy, right? That’s a text from a boy face. You’re always off with some boy,” Minghao says, still looking distracted.

Jungkook freezes, unaware that he was so easy to read, and Minghao finally does look up at that.

“Oh. Are you not gay? I just assumed,” Minghao asks, eyebrows furrowed.

“Jesus,” Mingyu mutters with a snort.

“I am gay,” Jungkook says stiffly. “Yes. Gay. Good to know that’s...apparent.”

“It’s not, he’s just like that,” Mingyu tells him. “He knew I was gay before I did.”

“You’re just so clean,” Minghao tells him with a serious look. “And you cuffed your jeans back then.”

“It’s true, I wore my jeans in a pretty gay way,” Mingyu agrees with a nod.

“There’s not a boy,” Jungkook says in a stuttering kind of voice. He’s not sure why it makes him nervous.

“Oh,” Minghao says, and it’s obvious he doesn’t believe Jungkook. “My mistake, then. Sorry.” Minghao drops it, looking back to his work, and Jungkook is grateful.

Mingyu takes his lead, giving Jungkook a reassuring half-smile and nothing else, leaving Jungkook alone with an uncomfortable feeling. The uncomfortable realization that he acts like he has a boyfriend, apparently.

Jungkook looks back down at his computer. He needs to get working on this, so he does the responsible thing and stares at his computer screen.

While he’s staring, his mind wonders, did Namjoon send the text? Jungkook has never really seen Namjoon send a text, but there are other things he never sees in the world that must happen. The alternative is that Jimin or Taehyung took Namjoon’s phone to do it, and that doesn’t seem plausible. His imagination creates a little scene in his mind, the three of them sitting together on that big plush bed in the master bedroom of the house, a room Jungkook has only seen in passing because it makes him feel weird to look at it for too long. He tries very very hard to control his thoughts about most things at most times, but if Jungkook stares at the big bed for too long he gets stuck on the thought That’s where sex happens.

Which is childish. But there’s three of them, and they’re very physically affectionate, and honestly, Jungkook is doing his best to keep it the furthest thing from his mind at almost all times, so he really can’t handle the reminder.

Anyway, maybe they were all sitting in the big bed, very clothed but delicately draped over each other like they get sometimes, mumbling quiet in that way they have sometimes, maybe they started talking about him, maybe they all thought of him in that moment, and Jimin grabbed Namjoon’s phone, and —

“You can go, if you want to,” Minghao’s voice interrupts Jungkook’s thoughts.

Jungkook goes red instantly, eyes a little wide as he looks at Minghao. Minghao’s smiling at him a little, at Jungkook’s face probably. Jungkook feels even more embarrassed.

“You just look distracted, is all,” Minghao goes on, smile going kind of smirky.

“I’m —” Jungkook starts, then pauses. He sighs a little. “Yeah. I’m distracted.”

“Go be distracted, then. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Minghao says kindly. Minghao is just a kind person, which initially surprised Jungkook because of how intimidatingly cool he is, and it seems so unfair that there are so many kind, pretty men in this world when Jungkook is this gay.

“If you ever want to talk about...anything. Boys, for instance, maybe. You can talk to us about it,” Mingyu offers. “You know, just in the case that you don’t have anyone to talk about...anything with.”

“Mingyu,” Minghao mutters in a quiet voice, almost a scolding but softer, one eyebrow raised at him.

“I’m just offering,” Mingyu says a little defensively, but he’s smiling at Minghao. Minghao rolls his eyes in that way he has, where you can tell he’s fond. Jungkook feels a pang of loneliness, looking between them, and hates it as soon as he realizes.

“I’m gonna head out,” he says, closing his laptop with an apologetic smile. “Thanks. For the invite, and for, uh, the talk. I’ll see you in a couple days.”

Minghao waves with a smile, pushing his big wire frame glasses up before he looks back at his computer, and Mingyu does the same. They’re a good couple, Jungkook thinks, and ignores that lonely feeling in his gut as he puts his backpack on and leaves with a wave.

 

He doesn’t knock before he walks into the house, because he lost the habit months ago. He’s their only visitor, he’s pretty sure (unless you count Jimin), so it never felt necessary. But it means that when he opens the door, he’s met with the honest and genuine sound of the three of them together; Namjoon and Jimin are talking in quiet voices that still manage to carry to the doorway, Taehyung is hum-singing a slow song, and it smells like food. The lights are dim in the way they always are, because they like the warmth of it, and Jungkook smiles instantly.

“Hi,” he calls out, a little cautious, as he takes his shoes off.

Taehyung’s head pops around the corner of the entryway automatically, and when he sees Jungkook he beams. “Jungkookie!”

Jungkook can hear Namjoon and Jimin say, in a little chorus, “Jungkookie?” As Taehyung bounds forward to wrap Jungkook in a hug. It’s tight, and Jungkook laughs as Taehyung squeezes his middle, the two of them pressed so close. All Jungkook can think about is how Taehyung smells like cinnamon, and when Taehyung pulls back to look at Jungkook, smile still big, all Jungkook can think about is how nice it would be to kiss him. They’re close enough for it. In the right position for it.

“Your hair’s brown,” Jungkook mutters instead of kissing him.

Taehyung nods with a giggle. “Yep.”

It was silver when they met, silver for the past six months or so. Jungkook so rarely saw his roots grow in that he was half-convinced it grew out of his head that way until Jungkook helped him touch it up in July. With silver hair, Taehyung was ethereal in a sort of untouchable way. Like maybe he wasn’t even real, like if you touched him your hand would go through his shoulder. He was beautiful, objectively. With brown hair, Taehyung looks uncomfortably real — he looks approachable and warm and god, it would be so nice to kiss him.

“You look — it, um. It looks nice,” Jungkook says, embarrassed on his slip.

Taehyung just smiles at him, though. “Thank you, Jungkookie.”

Jimin and Namjoon finally make their way to the now-crowded entryway, both smiling from behind Taehyung.

“Hey, stranger,” Jimin says with a little laugh. His smile is arresting, like it always is. Namjoon is smiling, too, and Jungkook feels that same overwhelmed feeling as usual. It’s been barely two weeks since he’s seen any of them properly, but with the weight of their eyes on him, it feels like months.

“Hi,” Jungkook says again.

“Taehyung, let him go so we can move,” Namjoon says, shaking his head and smiling at Jungkook.

Taehyung gives a little laugh, stepping backwards but letting his gaze linger on Jungkook, and boy, Jungkook sure does feel overwhelmed. Not in a bad way — he feels warm and fond. Just in a way that he’d kind of forgotten they could make him feel, since he’d grown so used to them over the summer. It’s been a while since the three of them looked at him with kindness and Jungkook felt himself choke in surprise.

“Can we move now?” Jungkook asks with a sheepish smile, and the three of them back away to make room for Jungkook to step into the house proper. Jungkook glances over at Namjoon’s little witch office, and smiles when he sees Namjoon has kept up with the organization. Everything is stored neatly, and Jungkook feels proud.

“I’m so glad you came by,” Jimin tells him, in that earnest Jimin voice that makes Jungkook feel buttered up and flattered.

“Me too,” Jungkook says, grinning, before he sits down on one end of the couch. Namjoon takes the other, Jimin fitting messily in his lap, and Taehyung sits on the floor, all three of them with their eyes on Jungkook. “I just, um. Saw hyung’s text, and thought I should come over.”

“Which hyung? Namjoon-hyung?” Jimin asks incredulously, and if Jungkook didn’t know any better, he would swear Namjoon maybe went a little pink at the question.

“I just…” Namjoon starts, and he’s definitely pink when Taehyung starts laughing.

“I text you all the time, you never come running for me,” Jimin pouts, and Jungkook has that familiar urge to give Jimin the clothes off his back if he needs them.

“Namjoon must have mastered summoning magic,” Taehyung says with a little smirk, raising his eyebrows at Jungkook. “I mean, you don’t need a lot of it, when you look like hyung.”

“No, of course,” Jimin agrees, turning to Namjoon to run a hand up his neck, cupping his jaw. “What with the dimples.”

“And the legs.”

“And the lips.”

Stop,” Namjoon manages, sounding flustered, face splotchy with a deep blush. “Stop it. Stop.”

Jimin just gives a little tinkling cackle, and Taehyung hums like he’s satisfied. Jungkook looks between the three of them and swallows nervously, hopes it doesn’t come across as attracted as he feels. But then, he realizes as Taehyung keeps smirking at him, it doesn’t matter what he looks like when Taehyung’s in his head. It’s been a while. He forgot, a little. Not that knowing would make any difference — Taehyung’s felt what Jungkook’s felt for months, every beat, every shift, because Jungkook could not for the life of him try to hide anything. He’s no good at it, and anyway, it feels like lying.

“No magic. I just missed you. All of you,” Jungkook tells them, interrupting the tension Jimin and Taehyung managed to weave in only a few short seconds.

“We missed you too,” Jimin tells him kindly with a smile. “We got used to you.”

“It gets so gross when you’re not here,” Taehyung tells him emphatically. “And we haven’t eaten real food in weeks.”

Jimin reaches out to slap at Jimin’s shoulder. “Taehyung-ah. I meant we got used to him. Like as a person. He’s not your maid.”

“Of course, I love Jungkook as a person. He has a good aura. He just also has a good recipe for kimchi jjigae,” Taehyung tells Jimin diplomatically.

Jungkook laughs. “Thanks, hyung.”

They catch up a little; they ask him about school, classes, his friends, and Jungkook has his own questions about Nabi, Taehyung’s new part-time job at the little earthy souvenir shop where he’s reading tarot for people, the garden.

“The garden’s been terrible, actually,” Namjoon says with a furrowed brow. “Everything grew so well over the summer, and now it’s barely growing. I propagated some new violets a couple weeks ago, but they’re barely even sprouts.”

“Well, it is fall,” Jungkook says, confused. “Things slow down, right?”

“It’s a magic garden,” Namjoon says, shaking his head. “Things should always be growing. The soil’s enchanted.”

“Wow. Magic dirt,” Jungkook mutters. “I didn’t know.”

“It’s a very good house,” Taehyung says, and Jungkook smiles.

“I did know that, actually.”

“So why’s the magic dirt not working?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon opens his mouth, then closes it again, like he’s trying to pick the right words. “I have some theories. But they’re boring.”

Usually, when Namjoon says something is boring, he means he doesn’t have it completely worked out yet, so if he brought it up, he’d talk circles around himself. Jungkook is used to the routine, so he just nods. “Sure.”

“Wasn’t it pouring outside earlier?” Taehyung asks, changing the subject. “How are you not wet?”

Jungkook shrugs. “I missed it, I guess.”

Taehyung laughs. “You didn’t even bring an umbrella. It’s been storming all day. Dummy, you’ll get caught in the rain on the way home.”

Jungkook can hear the storm outside now. He’s been too distracted with the boys in front of him to pay it any mind before, but it does sound loud. He shrugs again. “Hopefully it’ll clear up.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Ugh, your Leo moon is showing.”

“Sure,” Jungkook agrees, looking at Namjoon to make a face. Namjoon smiles, but he looks like he’s thinking.

“So our plans for the evening were to open this bottle of wine Seokjin gave me and watch Ring, because Namjoon has never seen it. Do you want to join?”

“You’ve never seen Ring?” Jungkook asks Namjoon with a furrowed brow. “How?”

“My parents are witches, okay?” Namjoon says defensively. “I didn’t have sleepovers and watch scary movies.”

“That’s why we need to make up for lost time,” Taehyung tells him with a grin. “Are you staying, Kook-ah?”

“Oh, definitely. I love scary movies,” Jungkook says, settling in deeper on the couch.

“Of course you do. Leo moon,” Taehyung says, waving his hand dismissively.

Jimin goes to open the wine, and Taehyung takes his spot in Namjoon’s lap. When Jimin returns with four mismatched cups (one small jar, one mug, one souvenir cup from a zoo, and a pink plastic cup, all full of red wine), he pouts for a moment at the loss of his spot before he settles in the small space left between Taehyung and Jungkook. It means their legs are touching, with Jimin leaning his weight against Jungkook’s side, but that’s fine. They’re friends, after all. They hug all the time. They’ve slept in the same bed. It’s fine.

The wine is decent, and the movie is the same as Jungkook remembers it. It’s been about ten years since he watched it, but it’s familiar, anyway. The same cannot be said for the other three, who jump every time something even remotely scary happens. Jungkook laughs quietly, and Jimin turns to glare at him.

“Shut up,” he mutters, elbowing Jungkook in the side, and Jungkook just giggles a little louder.

“Hyung, you’re an adult.”

“Adults get scared, Jungkookie!” Jimin defends himself hastily, finishing his wine. Jungkook keeps snickering every time Jimin jumps, and it’s all very funny until Jungkook realizes that Jimin keeps scooting closer into Jungkook’s space, their bodies flush against each other by the time they get an hour into the movie.

He’s trying not to think about it, but it’s hard not to think about it when Jimin is just right there, in his little jeans with the hole right above his knee, breathing loud near Jungkook’s ear. He tries to focus instead on looking over at Namjoon, who has disappeared mostly underneath a blanket except for the hand that Taehyung is holding.

“How’s hyung doing?” Jungkook asks down the couch, and Taehyung and Namjoon look at him with two very different expressions. Namjoon looks unamused, but Taehyung looks delighted.

“Oh, great,” Taehyung answers brightly. “I’ll need a healing potion to fix up the bones in my hand afterward, but that’s life for you.”

“This is a bad movie,” Namjoon tells him, voice muffled behind the blanket.

“This is a bad movie,” Jimin agrees with a whine in his voice.

“You wanted to watch it!” Namjoon says incredulously at Jimin.

“I forgot how scary it is,” Jimin says, pouting. “And Kookie keeps making fun of me.”

“He’d never,” Taehyung says in a scandalized voice. “Jungkookie is an angel, and he’s never done anything wrong.”

“God, did he drug you?” Jimin asks with a groan.

“No, he’s right, I’m an angel,” Jungkook tells Jimin with a big smile, making his eyes wider than usual. It makes Jimin laugh, reaching over to hit his shoulder.

“Shh, you’re talking over a good part,” Taehyung tells them.

“There are no good parts,” Namjoon mopes.

“Shh!”

It isn’t until late in the movie that Jimin’s hand grabs Jungkook’s knee, grip tight as his eyes stay trained on the screen. Jungkook looks down at his hand, and glances down the couch at Taehyung and Namjoon curled up, the way Namjoon is grasping at Taehyung’s hands.

Is it smart? No, but fuck it. Jungkook grabs Jimin’s hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze.

Jimin pulls his gaze away from the screen to glance at Jungkook, and Jungkook has trouble reading his expression. A little surprised, maybe. But it gives way easily to a small smile, almost shy, and Jungkook returns it easily.

“Thanks,” Jimin whispers, face so close to Jungkook. Jungkook nods, feeling kind of dazed. It would be nice, Jungkook thinks, to kiss him. He’s so pretty this close up, lips pink and inviting, hair softly mussed, and Jungkook burns a little bit with the desire to lean in and kiss him the way he deserves to be kissed.

Then Namjoon yelps at the screen, and the moment ends, both of them turned back to the television in front of them with pink cheeks. Their hands are still clasped together, and Jungkook doesn’t pull away as the movie winds down. He doesn’t pull away until the credits are rolling, and Taehyung is talking about the themes or whatever and Namjoon grouses about horror movies as he turns the lamp on. That’s when Jungkook pulls his hand away, rubs his sweaty palm on his thigh and purposefully avoids Taehyung’s eye. His mind must be a mess tonight.

“Does anyone want more wine?” Jimin asks the room at large as he stands up. When he stretches, his t-shirt rides up, the bottom of his stomach exposed, and Jungkook tries very hard not to stare.

“No thanks,” he mumbles, looking down at his phone in his hand.

Everyone is moving around now, apparently stagnant for too long, but Jungkook stays curled up against the arm of the couch. He’s comfortable here, enjoying being around them and soaking up a little bit of their energy. It feels nice enough that he doesn’t really notice Taehyung coming to sit with him until he’s there, plopping down on the couch next to Jungkook. Kind of ridiculously next to Jungkook, when you consider there’s a whole open couch, but that’s Taehyung. The same Taehyung who once confessed to Jungkook, apropos of nothing as they sat together in the garden, that he can’t fall asleep for a second if he’s alone.

“I’m really glad you’re here. You know?” Taehyung asks him, leaned back against the couch to stare at Jungkook. He asks it in that way Taehyung has, where he sounds very serious and stoic, where Jungkook doesn’t really know how to respond to him. “You are too. I can tell.”

“Right,” Jungkook says with a smile. “Of course you can. Yeah, I’m glad I’m here. I love being here.” It’s true, and he never feels a reason to conceal the truth with Taehyung. Not when it makes him smile like that, big and wide. He’s wearing his glasses, the big gold wire frame ones, and they make him look sort of like a fashion model became a librarian. It’s very endearing, because everything Taehyung does is endearing. Jungkook keeps smiling at him.

“We love having you,” Taehyung says simply, leaning over to hug Jungkook and lean his head against Jungkook’s shoulder in the process. “I mean it.”

“I know,” Jungkook whispers. And he really does. They’re the first friends he’s ever made who made Jungkook feel like that, so sure that he’s wanted. He feels bad, for the weeks he let pass without seeing them.

“It’s okay. Don’t feel guilty. You were busy,” Taehyung tells him. Jungkook cracks a small smile.

“That will never get less weird,” Jungkook tells him quietly.

“Sure it will,” Taehyung assures him, picking his head up to smile wide at Jungkook. And then Jungkook has to remember that Taehyung is beautiful, and then he has to try very hard not to think about it too loudly.

“I should go home soon,” Jungkook says.

Taehyung’s face falls slightly. “Sad.”

“Tragic, really,” Jungkook agrees with a smirk. “What will you do without me?”

“Dream of nicer dongsaengs, maybe,” Taehyung says with a snort. “Less bratty ones.”

“I thought I was an angel.” Jungkook bats his eyes a couple times just to make Taehyung giggle.

“I must have confused you with someone else,” Taehyung offers in explanation. “Sorry about that.” He’s sitting nearly in Jungkook’s lap, their faces still close, and Jungkook thinks in the back of his mind that maybe, maybe this might be flirting. The thought alone is enough to make Jungkook feel a little out of control of the situation, and he tries not to panic about what to do now.

But Taehyung's voice interrupts his thoughts, as he looks at Jungkook thoughtfully and asks, “Can I give you something?”

Jungkook, taken off-guard, responds, “Um, sure?”

Taehyung nods before reaching a hand out to rest on Jungkook's cheek. Oh god, Jungkook thinks. A kiss? Is it a kiss?

But Taehyung doesn't do anything besides rest his hand there lightly. Jungkook is about to ask what exactly he's getting when he feels it: a rush of calm washing over his mind, pushing out his nervousness.

“Don't worry so much, Kook-ah. Okay?” Taehyung asks him, pulling his hand away. Jungkook misses the point of contact instantly, but he just nods.

“Okay,” Jungkook says. He doesn’t intend to whisper it, but that’s how it comes out. Barely more than a breath.

Taehyung smiles at him, brings a hand up again to run through Jungkook’s hair, and Jungkook smiles back. It’s hard not to, really.

“The rain’s cleared up, Jungkookie,” Namjoon says from across the room, looking out the window.

“I guess that’s my cue, then,” Jungkook responds, smiling apologetically. “I should get home.”

“Or, um. You could stay here?” Namjoon offers, sounding unsure as he says it. Taehyung turns to look at him with an eyebrow raised. “I just thought...it’s supposed to storm all night. I don’t want you to get caught in it. And tomorrow’s Saturday, so I thought maybe...you were free.”

Namjoon, overall, sounds nervous. It’s kind of a strange, honestly, and it makes Jungkook nervous too.

“Your desperate energy is stressing him out,” Taehyung says simply.

“I am not desperate, what the fuck,” Namjoon says, but his face is going red.

“First you text him, text him, like with your real actual hands, and now you beg him to spend the night? What are you playing at, Kim Namjoon?” Taehyung asks, smiling as he teases Namjoon.

“Namjoon-hyung has never texted me,” Jimin laments from the kitchen table. “He’s written me letters, though.”

“God, really? That’s insane. The mail carriers don’t even come out here, did you go to the post office to send Jimin a letter?” Taehyung asks Namjoon.

Namjoon looks between them, something like a pout on his still-blushing face. “I really feel like I’m under a lot of scrutiny right now.”

Jungkook smiles at Namjoon. “I can stay. I don’t really want to walk through the mud anyway. Thanks for offering.”

Namjoon, despite Jimin and Taehyung still muttering about him, smiles at Jungkook. “Oh! Good. That’ll be nice. For you, I mean. It’ll be nice to not have to walk home in the mud, and at night. Not that it’ll be so nice staying here. I mean, not that the couch is uncomfortable, but —”

“Namjoon-hyung,” Jimin interrupts him gently. “He gets it, it’s fine.”

Taehyung looks like he’s holding back laughter, but kindly does not let it out. Jungkook just nods. “Thanks again.”

Namjoon just nods, mouth half-open like he wants to keep talking before he shuts it decisively.

“Well, I’m going to sleep,” Jimin announces loudly, standing up to do another big stretch. “I had to haul in a bunch of boxes of books today at work, and I’m just not used to that level of physical exertion.”

“You’re so delicate,” Taehyung agrees with a hum. “A fragile little flower.”

Jimin poses while Taehyung says it, making himself look pitiful until he can’t hold back his laughter anymore. “You’ll have to come with me, though. Might be too scared from the movie to be able to sleep,” Jimin says to Taehyung, a little smirk on his face.

“Can’t have that,” Taehyung says, standing up and walking over to him. He wraps his arms around Jimin’s back automatically, looking at him with an expression that feels too intimate for Jungkook to really be looking at it. That’s how Jimin and Taehyung are, Jungkook knows; painfully in love, suffocatingly fond of each other. They hold it back sometimes, for the sake of the people around them, but it’s late and Jimin’s been drinking.

Namjoon is looking over at them fondly, a smile on his face, and instead of feeling that lonely feeling he got looking at Mingyu and Minghao earlier, Jungkook feels...he’s not sure, warm? Endeared?

“Goodnight,” he calls to them, breaking them out of the reverie they were hanging in, staring into each others’ eyes in the middle of the living room.

“Goodnight, Kookie,” Jimin says, walking over and leaning over the back of the couch to give him half a hug. Jungkook can feel Jimin’s cheek squished against his head and laughs, leaning his head back to look up at him. “See you tomorrow morning.”

“You coming to bed soon?” Taehyung asks, turning his head to look at Namjoon as he leaves the room.

Namjoon hums. “I’m not really tired.”

Taehyung nods. “Alright. Love you.”

“Love you too,” Namjoon offers easily, smiling at Taehyung. Jungkook has seen them kiss, seen them hang off of each others’ shoulders, but he sees this less often. That sort of honest domestic affection that comes with nightly I love you’s. Jungkook isn’t usually here for this and it feels a little strange for him, but if the other two are thinking about it, they don’t let on.

Namjoon settles on the couch after Taehyung walks out, the sound of Taehyung and Jimin talking quietly drifting out of the bedroom as background noise

“They’re ridiculous,” Namjoon mutters, shaking his head with a smile at the sound of their conversation.

“Of course they are,” Jungkook agrees easily. Namjoon laughs quietly. He’s sitting curled up, holding his legs against his chest.

“You know,” Jungkook starts. “I didn’t know it was so earth-shattering for you to send me a text.”

Namjoon looks up at him, face embarrassed. “I only really use my phone to call my mom and my sister. That’s why they were making fun of me.”

“So why did you send me that text?” Jungkook asks, curious.

Namjoon shrugs, looking like he’s trying to find the right words. “I was just thinking about you. And I thought I should tell you that we missed you, since...we did. I just wanted you to know we were thinking about you.”

“Oh,” Jungkook says quietly.

“I’m not as good at psychoanalyzing things as Taehyung is, for obvious reasons, but. I think you doubt yourself a lot,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook raises his eyebrows. He didn’t quite expect that.

“I don’t mean that in a mean way, just. I think I can tell, because I do too,” Namjoon goes on, looking sheepish. “And you hadn’t been around in a while, and I just wanted you to know we wanted you to come back. Sometimes if it’s too easy to disappear you don’t reappear again.”

Jungkook nods. “That’s really nice. I promise I was just busy with school, though. Maybe this sounds dumb, but I don’t doubt you want me around. I doubt a lot of other things, but I don’t doubt you.”

“It’s not dumb,” Namjoon tells him with a smile. “I’m glad.”

“What did you disappear from?” Jungkook asks quietly. He’s not sure what makes him ask it, except that Namjoon sounded sad before, and Jungkook knows so little about him, in the grand scheme of things.

Namjoon looks a little surprised, but covers it with a little laugh, looking down at his lap. “Oh, lots of things.”

“You don’t really talk about yourself a lot,” Jungkook notes.

Namjoon looks up at him. “You don’t either.”

Jungkook laughs. “I guess that’s fair.”

“I’m kind of a...reclusive sort of person, I guess, so I’m not really used to it,” Namjoon offers.

“It’s funny for someone with two boyfriends to call himself reclusive.”

That makes Namjoon laugh for real, big and loud and curling in on himself. Jungkook smiles at the image. “Those kinds of things don’t happen on purpose, “ Namjoon defends himself. “Taehyung was a real accident.”

“How did you meet?” Jungkook asks. He’s always wondered, knowing what he knows about the two of them.

“Oh, you know,” Namjoon says, leaning back against the arm of the couch. “In classic Taehyung fashion, we ran bodily into each other, then he looked at me and told me he thought I had beautiful energy.”

“That’s...yeah, that’s Taehyung for you,” Jungkook says with a snicker. “Let me guess, you blushed and apologized and let yourself get talked into a date?”

“And you said you didn’t know me very well,” Namjoon says, a self-deprecating smile on his face. “He’s very convincing, you know that.”

“I do,” Jungkook agrees.

They’re quiet for a moment, then Namjoon looks up at him. “Wanna trade a story? Why did you move out here?”

“I thought I’d told you that before,” Jungkook says.

“No, you just make jokes about it sometimes.”

“Well, it’s not that much of a story. There just wasn’t anything really keeping me at home. My parents and I have never been very close, and my brother moved to Seoul. I never, uh. Had a lot of friends or anything, really. I don’t know, I took a year off after high school, just because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I worked, and I had a lot of time to myself, and I realized I just wanted to start over somewhere. And I’ve always really loved it out here, and there was an art program, and…” Jungkook waves his hands, like the rest is obvious. “Here I am.”

“Sometimes it’s nice to start over,” Namjoon says.

“I’ve liked it,” Jungkook tells Namjoon with a smile. “How old were you when you moved out here?”

Namjoon looks up, like he’s trying to remember. “Seventeen?”

“Holy shit,” Jungkook mutters. Namjoon laughs. “Sorry, that just gave me secondhand anxiety.”

“Oh, definitely,” Namjoon agrees with a smile. “It’s weird, knowing you’re going to leave home for years. I was ready for it, I guess, but you can’t ever really be ready for it. But I managed.”

“You made a nice life for yourself,” Jungkook says quietly. He settles back into the couch, so he’s almost lying down. He keeps his eyes on Namjoon, though, the way he looks flattered.

“That’s nice to say. Truthfully, most of it happened by chance, so I don’t know that I can really take a lot of credit for it.”

“You don’t need to underplay your role in your own life, Namjoon-hyung,” Jungkook says with a smile. “You can take ownership of it, you know.”

Namjoon smiles at him. “We’re really similar, I think.”

Jungkook nods. “Both Virgos.”

That makes Namjoon laugh loud again, and Jungkook joins him.

“Yeah, that’s it.”

Taehyung and Jimin aren’t talking anymore, and the house is quiet. The two of them are both near-lying down, their feet almost touching in the middle of the couch, and Jungkook is glad that Namjoon doesn’t seem to notice Jungkook staring at him a little bit.

“Are you gonna tell me what you disappeared from?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon looks over at him, amused. “Still thinking about it?”

“It’s just such a mysterious thing to say and not give an explanation,” Jungkook says, smiling a little. “You don’t have to, though.”

Namjoon seems to think about it for a moment, and then he says, “There was a boy, once.”

“Ah,” Jungkook notes.

“He wanted to see the world, and I...was eighteen,” Namjoon says with a laugh. “And scared shitless of almost everything. So he left and I stayed here.”

“Then he disappeared, not you,” Jungkook says.

Namjoon shakes his head. “You know when you convince yourself that things will be easier if you just pull back entirely?”

“Yes,” Jungkook answers easily. “Very much.”

“I didn’t end things well. I was trying to protect myself, but I think it ended up a little cruel. And then when he never reached out again, I was hurt. But of course he didn’t reach out to someone who gave up, you know?” Namjoon says, shaking his head. “It was a long time ago, anyway. It doesn’t really matter anymore. But I thought of that, and. I don’t know. I just didn’t want you to think, you know, that we didn’t care you weren’t around.”

Jungkook hums. “Luckily, I do not think that.”

“Good,” Namjoon says with a smile.

Jungkook yawns involuntarily, and the noise makes Namjoon sit up. “Sorry, let me get you a pillow and a blanket.”

“Oh. Thanks, yeah,” Jungkook mutters. He glances at his phone and discovers that it’s after midnight already. He’s not sure how long he and Namjoon have been out here sitting together, but it hasn’t felt like very long.

When Namjoon returns with bedding, Jungkook helps him set up the couch, the two of them working quietly.

“You know, it started raining again,” Namjoon says quietly, straightening the pillow.

“Yeah,” Jungkook replies, standing up fully to look at him. Namjoon stands up too, the two of them standing close in the low light. “Good thing I stayed.”

Namjoon nods. “Good thing.” He bites at his lip like it’s a nervous tick, and Jungkook’s eyes get stuck there for a moment. The lips, Jungkook remembers Jimin saying earlier. Wanting to kiss Namjoon is not a new feeling for Jungkook, but it’s maybe not the best time to remember it, with Namjoon’s eyes trained on him so close-up.

Jungkook has wanted to kiss Namjoon a lot of times, in a lot of ways. He’d never thought of this one, though. Standing in the lamp light so late at night, feeling a little transparent and vulnerable.

The moment ends, because of course it does. Because that’s the only rational course of action here, even though Namjoon looks like everything Jungkook wants in this moment in time. Even though Namjoon’s looking at him like that, serious and thoughtful. It ends, because Jungkook looks away, because Jungkook wants to protect himself. He has to protect himself, in situations like this.

“Goodnight, hyung,” Jungkook says quietly, climbing into his makeshift bed in his joggers and t-shirt.

“Goodnight, Kookie,” Namjoon says, giving him a smile over his shoulder as he walks over to turn the light off.

(Jungkook has a hard time falling asleep that night.)

★★

“Jungkook-ah,” Namjoon says. He’s eating a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table, wearing a t-shirt long enough that it covers his shorts almost entirely and his reading glasses, because there’s a book open in front of him.

Jungkook, curled into a ball covered in blankets on the couch, staring blearily at his phone, looks over at Namjoon. “Yeah?”

“Do you remember this summer, when there was that heat wave? And it was supposed to last two weeks, but it ended up winding down after only a few days,” Namjoon says. Jimin, sitting on the other end of the couch, looks over at Namjoon with a raised eyebrow.

“Why do you have an encyclopedic memory of the weather?” Taehyung asks him.

“I don’t,” Namjoon answers him simply. “I’ve just been noticing some patterns.”

“What’s the pattern?” Jungkook asks. It’s ten in the morning, all of them are still sleep-rumpled, and Jungkook is having trouble following this line of thought.

“After a few days of the heat wave, you told me how much you hated the weather. It went down ten degrees the next day,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook blinks. “Okay.”

“Have you ever gotten caught in a storm, Jungkook?” Namjoon asks him.

“I feel like I’m being interrogated about weather crime,” Jungkook says. Namjoon gives him half a smile.

“Sorry. You’re not. I’m just...trying to see something.”

“Not that I can remember, no. Usually I make it inside right as it starts really storming,” Jungkook tells him.

“My violets have grown two inches overnight,” Namjoon says. “And the lavender nearly doubled in size.”

“Lavender is my favorite,” Jungkook notes quietly. Then he looks at Namjoon, brow furrowed. “Hyung, what is your train of thought here exactly?”

“You saw the house right away. You saw Nabi. Nabi brought you here,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook blinks. “Uh-huh.”

Namjoon sighs. “Jungkookie, I don’t know the right way to tell you this, but I think...I think you have magic.”

Jungkook freezes. “What?”

“I don’t know what kind, or how it works, but I’ve just noticed a lot of...a lot of patterns,” Namjoon says quietly, like he’s trying to be gentle.

“No, I don’t...what?” Jungkook repeats. His brow is furrowed, because he doesn’t understand. “What do you mean?”

Jimin and Taehyung have gone still, neither of them interrupting. Jungkook looks at them for some help, like maybe they’ll tell Namjoon he’s being crazy, but they stay quiet.

“I think it’s subtle enough that you’ve never noticed before,” Namjoon says. “But I think maybe it’s some kind of elementalism, control over the natural world?”

Jungkook doesn’t say anything, just keeps looking between the three of them. “If I had magic, I would have known, right?”

“Not necessarily,” Taehyung finally chimes in. “Some people don’t know until way later in life. Especially if they don’t have abilities that show themselves in daily life, or weren’t given any instruction from their families like Joonie.”

“It makes sense,” Jimin says quietly. “Like Namjoon said, no one else who isn’t magic has ever been able to see the house before. Right?”

Namjoon shakes his head. “Not that I’ve ever known of. At first I thought maybe you just had some latent magic in your blood or something, to make you more perceptive. But my plants have never grown like they have this spring and summer, since you first started helping me with the garden. It’s like they like you.”

“Well, who wouldn’t like him?” Taehyung asks quietly, taking a sip of his coffee. Jimin glares at him, as if to say This isn’t the time.

Jungkook splutters, ignoring Taehyung entirely. “When did you...why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”

“I wasn’t sure,” Namjoon says, looking apologetic. “I figured if you were going to get a big shock, I should at least be sure it’s true.”

“And now you’re sure?” Jungkook asks.

“Pretty sure,” Namjoon answers. “Ninety percent, I would say. There’s a ten percent chance that your presence making my plants grow, your willing the temperature lower and the rain to stop and start is all a big coincidence.”

“This is so classic Jungkook. He goes from not even having magic to being so magic that he can change the whole earth,” Jimin complains. Namjoon gives him a look.

“He’s always had magic. It’s just harder to see. And I’m betting there’s a lot of limits to his abilities...but still, yes, very Jungkook,” Namjoon says with a grin. “The elements of the earth are bending themselves backwards to do you a favor.”

Jungkook is quiet for a minute, considering things. It’s true that sometimes, as soon as he finds himself about to complain about the weather, it changes. It’s true that he always thought he had kind of a knack for plants; he’s had several cactuses that he’s forgotten to upkeep for months at a time, but been able to keep them all alive. He blinks down at his lap. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Well, right now, you don’t have to do anything with it. Actually, you never have to do anything with it. But it’s a part of you, and you deserve to know about it,” Namjoon says kindly. “If you want, I can try to research it a little more. I don’t know that much about elemental magic, but I have some books I can search through a little.”

Jungkook nods. If there’s anyone he can trust to find information, to help him parse this, it’s Namjoon. “Yeah. That would be nice.”

“The thing about magic is that more practice means stronger abilities, no matter what your powers. If you wanted more control over your magic, I could try to help you practice,” Namjoon offers.

Jungkook isn’t sure about that. “I don’t know that I want to practice anything yet,” he says quietly.

“That’s okay. You don’t have to. This can be as involved as you ever are with magic, and that’s fine.” Namjoon has the tone of a very patient teacher, and Jungkook appreciates it infinitely. “It’s a lot. I know it’s a lot, and I’m sorry to spring it on you. I just thought you should know.”

“Thank you,” Jungkook says quietly. “For telling me, and for helping.”

It’s quiet for a minute, and then Jimin mutters, “It’s not fair.”

Taehyung snorts. “It can’t always be about you.”

“That’s one of the meanest things you’ve ever said to me,” Jimin tells him. Namjoon laughs quietly.

“There’s still time, Jiminnie, maybe we’ll find out you’re part siren or something,” Namjoon says with a grin.

“I’m not a very good singer though,” Jimin says with a sigh.

“I think you’re a good singer,” Jungkook says, trying to join everyone else back in the fun lighthearted zone, like he didn’t just have a big life revelation.

Jimin looks at him for a moment before he says very seriously, “Jungkookie, don’t tell the others, but you’re my favorite one.”

Jungkook smiles. “I would never tell the others.”

“Jimin would make a beautiful mermaid,” Taehyung says wistfully.

“Jimin would make a beautiful anything,” Namjoon agrees with a nod.

“Alright, I’m not upset about not being magic anymore,” Jimin says, preening under the attention.

“Oh, good. I get so worried about your feelings,” Taehyung says, walking over to kiss the top of his head.

“I’m very delicate,” Jimin says haughtily, and Namjoon laughs from his seat at the kitchen table.

 

 

Jungkook stays until early afternoon, and before he leaves, he walks out to the garden. He looks around at the plants, the wide variety of flowers and herbs in various stages of growth. Sure enough, the new little violets are starting to flower already. Barely sprouts, Namjoon had said last night. Jungkook crouches down to rub carefully at the not-yet-flowered bud.

“You like me,” he mutters to himself. “I like you too. Will that help you grow even more?”

He hears the backdoor of the house open, and doesn’t bother turning around to figure out who it is. He’s still looking at the little bud that he made grow, and doesn’t really want to look away from it.

“Is magic always inherited?” Jungkook asks.

There’s a hum, and Jungkook already knows it’s Namjoon behind him. “As far as I know,” he answers.

“Does it have to be from your parents?”

“No,” Namjoon says quickly. “Most often it’s inherited from someone one or two generations above you. But sometimes it’s further back than that, and it stays dormant until a later generation. It’s hard to predict where it comes from, really.”

“I wonder who mine is from,” Jungkook says softly, reaching out to stroke the flower bud again.

Namjoon goes quiet for a moment, then he asks, “Are you upset?”

“No,” Jungkook answers easily. “Not upset. Definitely not upset with you. It’s just strange, is all.”

“It is strange,” Namjoon agrees. “But if anyone was going to be magic, it should be you, I think.”

Jungkook turns around at that. “What do you mean?”

Namjoon seems surprised at the question, or maybe surprised at what he said. “I just mean...you’re special.”

Jungkook snorts, embarrassed. “Hyung, that’s such an embarrassing thing to say to me.”

“I know,” Namjoon mutters, head hanging down. “I’m embarrassed about saying it.”

Jungkook smiles, carefully stepping through the rows of plants to walk over to Namjoon. “Thank you for saying it.” He wants to say, Thank you for being so kind to me. Thank you for being gentle when you know I need you to. He doesn’t, though.

“I need to go home. You think you can scrounge up some information for me by Wednesday? My classes end early that day,” Jungkook says.

“I’ll do my best,” Namjoon tells him. They stand there looking at each other for a moment before Namjoon, somewhat awkwardly, reaches forward to hug Jungkook.

Jungkook has hugged Taehyung and Jimin countless times. Hundreds, probably. He’s hugged Namjoon maybe twice, and both times he had been drinking. Namjoon isn’t handsy and affectionate like Taehyung and Jimin, and that’s never bothered him, really. So the sudden physical contact is surprising, but not exactly unwanted. Jungkook leans into the hug, wrapping his arms around Namjoon’s back.

Namjoon smells like herbs, because he permanently smells like herbs. He’s solid and warm and a few centimeters taller than Jungkook, and for some reason Jungkook finds himself fixated on that.

“If you want to talk about anything before Wednesday, you can call. I mean, you could call Taehyung too, or Jimin, or —”

“I got it, hyung, don’t worry,” Jungkook says with a little laugh. “I’m gonna go say goodbye to them. I’ll see you soon, okay?”

Namjoon nods. “Okay.” He smiles as he pulls away from Jungkook, and it’s such a nice smile to see up-close.

Jungkook pulls himself back, grounds himself on the earth below his feet instead of spinning aimlessly thinking about Namjoon’s smile, about magic, about how he isn’t sure who he is or what he wants, really, and this is just an added Jenga block on top of his already unsteady tower. He thinks about the grass under his feet and some other objective features of the world around him, like the breeze making him chilly under his sweatshirt and the loud carry of Taehyung’s voice from an open window.

“You alright?” Namjoon asks, voice soft.

Jungkook nods. “I’m alright.”

Even if he’s not sure it’s true at the moment, he’s convinced he can make it true if he tries hard enough.

★★

“You know, if you have a girlfriend, you can just tell me.”

Jungkook startles from where he was standing in front of the fridge, letting out a quiet yelp before turning around with a hand on his heart.

“You scared me,” he mutters, twisting open the lid on a bottle of Gatorade. Ever since he moved in, bottles of Gatorade keep showing up in the fridge, like it’s his aunt’s way of trying to provide for a twenty-year-old boy.

His aunt is leaning against the doorway to the kitchen, looking kind of amused. Sometimes it’s startling how much she looks like Jungkook’s mother, and now is one of those times. He feels a little scolded under her gaze, even though his aunt has never really scolded him for much.

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” he says, finally catching up to her.

His aunt just raises an eyebrow, disbelieving. “Boyfriend? You can tell me if you have one of those, too.”

Jungkook blushes. That transparent feeling again. “I don’t have a boyfriend, either.”

“I mean, you stayed out all night and your clothes look all slept-in. I just assumed, I guess,” his aunt shrugs. “I’d rather know where you are than worry about it. I won’t tell your mom,” she says with a little smirk.

Jungkook always liked staying with his aunt. Jungkook and Junghyun spent summers out here when they were really young, too young for Jungkook to really remember, but he remembers enough. Jungkook loves his parents, but they’ve never been...close. It was always different in Gwangju, outside of their watchful eye. He remembers feeling more himself, even when he was five years old. Especially when he got older, spent a month out here when he was twelve and Junghyun was seventeen. Maybe it’s why he came out here — that small feeling of freedom. His aunt doesn’t have children, and she always sort of treated Jungkook like a small adult. It was refreshing, and made him feel like a real person when he was an idiot preteen with emo hair. He has a similar feeling now, embarrassed under her teasing expression, but amused, too. She’s a friend, more than a guardian, and Jungkook appreciates it.

“I was at my friends’ house,” Jungkook tells her. “I was there late and I didn’t want to get caught in the rain coming home, so they let me sleep on their couch.”

“Are these the friends you cook dinner and buy groceries for?” His aunt asks. Jungkook nods. “I can tell why you spend so much time with them, no cooking skills and a free couch?”

Jungkook snorts. “They’re nice people.”

His aunt smiles. “You’re a nice kid, so I’m sure they are. You’re always over there, and I don’t even know their names. Your mom would be disappointed in me.”

Jungkook hums, sitting down at the kitchen table with his Gatorade. “It’s Namjoon’s house, inherited from family? He’s really young, you know, to have a house, but. Taehyung lives there with him, and Jimin is around a lot, too.”

His aunt sits down across from him. “Do they go to school with you?”

Jungkook tries to think of a good answer to that one. “No,” he lands on. “I just kind of...met them.”

“But they live outside the city,” His aunt says.

Jungkook nods. “Jimin lives in the city, though. He works at a bookstore on campus.”

“And the other two?”

“Taehyung does like,” Jungkook thinks, furrowing his eyebrows. “Odd jobs. Namjoon, um...he studies plants.”

“Interesting job,” his aunt comments.

Jungkook nods, busying himself with his Gatorade. He’s not lying, per se, but it doesn’t feel great. It’s one thing when he lies to his parents, he’s used to that and he knows it’s the easier way to do things with them. Lying to his aunt makes him feel incredibly guilty; after all, it’s not like she really pries or cares about most of the things Jungkook does. He keeps thinking about her asking him if he has a boyfriend, the casual way she asked it, like it wasn’t a big deal.

Jungkook, in his effort to avoid his aunt’s gaze, looks over at the kitchen windowsill. There’s a row of plants there, in little terra cotta pots, and he tries not to think of those rapidly-blooming sprouts in Namjoon’s garden. He looks instead at the tall houseplant by the door, the tear-shaped blooms familiar. He’s inadvertently learned a lot about gardening in the past few months, which strikes him as ironic now.

“What kind of plant is that, imo?” Jungkook asks, mostly just to distract himself. He’s not sure why houseplants are his first instinct for distraction, but he supposes it’s another side effect of being Namjoon’s gardener.

His aunt glances at the pot. “A peace lily. I got it years ago, and it still blooms year-round,” he says fondly, smiling at it.

Jungkook hums in response. Then he furrows his eyebrows, thinking. Namjoon grows peace lilies in his garden, he remembers picking the flowers in the summer; Namjoon uses them for calming potions, Jungkook thinks, but he kept complaining about how they’re a difficult ingredient because of how few flowers they produce. “Are they supposed to bloom year-round?”

His aunt glances at him. “I have two very green thumbs.”

Jungkook looks at her for a moment, blank. “Imo,” he starts slowly. “Have you ever been stuck in a rainstorm?”

She looks at him, blinking. “That’s a really weird question, you know that, right?”

Jungkook doesn’t react. “I’ve never been stuck in a rainstorm. Isn’t that funny?”

“It’s hilarious,” she responds. Her eyebrow’s raised again, but Jungkook can tell her skeptical expression is insincere.

“Imo,” he starts again, some kind of boldness springing up in him, some curiosity he needs satisfied. “Did I get it from you?” He feels frozen as he asks it slowly, holding his breath waiting for a reaction. Maybe he’ll get a confused look, or a sarcastic joke, and he’ll be able to retain some sense of normalcy in a day that’s insisted on taking those from him. Maybe he’d prefer that, honestly, but...but he had to ask. Always inherited, his mind thinks traitorously as he searches his aunt’s face.

She stays blank, not reacting to the question for a moment. Then she sighs around half a smile. “How long have you known?”

Jungkook feels a funny sensation in his chest; he’s not sure if it’s his heart sinking or swooping, but it’s certainly a feeling. He blinks. “About three hours.”

“Oh, Jesus,” his aunt mutters with a laugh, groaning.

“Yeah,” Jungkook agrees with a nod. “How...how long have you known?”

“About myself? Since I was little. About you? About ten years,” his aunt answers simply.

Jungkook definitely feels his heart sink at that one. He frowns. “And you never told me?”

His aunt sighs again, but there’s no smile this time. “Your mother…” She waves his hand. “She never really believed in this kind of thing. She always thought it was stupid family gossip, and the fact that I believed it pushed us apart, years ago. She was always hesitant about sending you boys out here to stay with me, probably afraid I’d turn you as crazy as she thinks I am.” She’s smiling, but it looks a little sad, and Jungkook frowns.

“Not to speak ill of my sister. I love her, and you do too. But, you know...how she is,” she says with a shrug.

Jungkook laughs, looking down. “I do know.” Stubborn, traditional, easily concerned, argumentative. It’s easy to see how the conflict would have happened.

“So I never told you. I didn’t...I don’t know, I didn’t want to cause even more of a rift. We’re on good terms these days. And your powers were never strong enough to hurt anyone, or yourself, so I figured maybe you’d never realize. Which made me a little sad, I’ll admit,” his aunt explains, smiling at him again. “But you did.”

“Well,” Jungkook says, still feeling a little shaken. “To be fair, I didn’t. My friends…”

“God, of course they’re magic. And here I was trying to be maternal and invite them for dinner,” his aunt says with a loud laugh, like the whole situation is a little hysterical. Which, to be fair, it is.

“Namjoon is a witch. I help him, uh, garden? For fun. I don’t know, it just kind of happened. But the plants…” Jungkook trails off. He’s not sure how to explain it, because he still doesn’t really know what it is.

“They grow for you?” His aunt guesses. Jungkook nods. Right, she knows what it is.

“Is that what it is? Is that what...the power is?” Jungkook asks. He feels slightly foolish, but he can’t help asking for more information. Some sort of rule book for his life to fit into, a guideline, instead of just being a suddenly and mysteriously magical being.

“It’s a lot of things,” she answers enigmatically. “I don’t know, the legend passed down is that our Jeon line is descended from powerful elementals.”

She smiles fondly, looking down at her hands on the table. “These days, I don’t know how powerful I’d call us, but we have a few tricks. It’s subtle control over the elements, really, but the thing is that the world is made of magic, so our magic plays off that. Plants love elementals,” she says with another smile. “They want us to help them grow. If we give them attention, they bloom for us.”

Jungkook doesn’t know what to say. He shakes his head. “This is unreal.”

“Isn’t it?” His aunt asks. “Oh, I’m so happy. I’m so proud of you, is that strange?”

Jungkook blushes at the question, smiling at her. “Most of this is pretty strange. But thank you.”

A thought occurs to Jungkook as he plays with the cap of the stupid Gatorade bottle in front of him, and he looks at his aunt with a furrowed brow. “Is Junghyun magic?”

His aunt hums. “I don’t know, really. I didn’t really know that you were magic, but I had suspicions. I never saw anything from Junghyun that made me think he was, though. But you’ve always been trying to show him up,” she says with a teasing grin, repeating Junghyun’s long-running joke.

“Not funny, Imo,” Jungkook grumbles, fighting his own smile. “Hey, do you think...I don’t know, really, how any of this stuff works, but could you help me with it? Like figuring out how it works?”

“I’m not sure,” she answers. “It’s a personal thing, really, learning how to communicate with it.”

Jungkook’s face falls, but his aunt shakes her head, like she’s trying to backtrack. “I can try, though! I know more about these powers than anybody still alive, I suppose. And I’d like to help you through it.”

Jungkook nods, lips turning up in a small grin. “I would like it too.”

She nods decisively, like her mind’s been made up. “Okay. It’s the least I can do for my second-favorite nephew,” she says with a smirk, laughing when Jungkook pouts.

“You always win everything, I have to give Junghyun something,” she tells him, reaching out to ruffle his hair.

Jungkook smiles begrudgingly and takes his Gatorade as he stands up from the table. “Well, I have...a design project to work on, which feels kind of surreal. So...I guess we’ll put magic training on hold?”

“Oh, don’t call it that. I don’t know how to train anything. I’ll be your guide in self-reflection, Jungkookie,” his aunt tells him.

Jungkook snorts. “I think you would like Namjoon-hyung.”

“Bring him by sometime and we’ll see, hm?” She says, teasing him a little.

Jungkook feels himself go pink and rolls his eyes. “Sure, Imo.”

On his way out of the kitchen, walking upstairs to go back to his mundane life as a mundane art student, he runs his fingers over the leaves of the peace lily by the door. “This is really weird, you know,” he says, not bothering to turn around and look at his aunt.

“I know, Jungkook-ah. But you’re doing well,” she says, and it makes Jungkook smile. He’ll choose to believe her.

★★

“Another cow,” Jimin mutters, pointing out the window, and Jungkook glances up to get a glimpse of it.

“That’s fifty-eight cows,” Jungkook tells him.

“God, your memory’s too good,” Jimin complains. Jungkook snorts.

It’s hour two on the bus ride from Gwangju to Busan. Jimin has a book open in his lap and Jungkook has his sketchbook, but the two of them have been staring out the window for half an hour instead.

Jungkook hasn’t been home since February. There’s a kind of heaviness to that, Jungkook thinks. But his mother said she missed him, and when Jimin said they could take the bus together it sounded like a great idea, because Jimin makes everything sound like a great idea.

It’s not like it was a bad idea. Jungkook doesn’t mind riding the bus home, and Jimin is good company. Still, there’s a strange feeling in his stomach as he rides closer to home.

“When’s the last time you saw your family, hyung?” Jungkook asks quietly.

Jimin laughs. “Last Chuseok.”

Jungkook looks at him out of the corner of his eye. Jimin makes a lot of jokes about his family, about being estranged, but he goes home every Chuseok. Jungkook wonders to himself, about things that are none of his business, until —

“You can ask, you know. We’re at that level,” Jimin says with a smirk.

“I never want to assume what level I’m at with anyone,” Jungkook tells him, smiling.

Jimin smiles at him, his smirk gone sweet and earnest. “You’re one of my best friends, Jungkookie.”

Jungkook sputters. Jimin laughs. “God, it’s too easy with you.”

“I — that was mean,” Jungkook grumbles, looking back out the window.

“You are, though, really. I promise,” Jimin tells him, reaching a hand out to squeeze his knee. Jungkook looks down at it, like that will make it easier to deal with, and wishes distantly that he didn’t think Jimin’s hands were pretty. But he does, because he’s a gay moron.

“You’re one of my best friends, too,” Jungkook tells him. He looks up from Jimin’s hand to Jimin’s face (also pretty.) “What’s up with you and your family?”

“There’s not much of a story, really. I’ve always been gay and they’ve never cared for that, so I left, and they seem happier for it,” Jimin says, smiling a little bitterly. “I come home for Chuseok and we all try to ignore it and then I leave again, and it’s fine.”

Jungkook looks at him quietly. “Is it?”

Jimin sighs. “It is what it is. You know? They love me, but they hate everything I do with my life, so once a year we pretend I’m not doing any of it and once every few months my mom calls and tells me to make sure I’m eating well.”

“You have a brother too, right?” Jungkook asks, curious.

“Yeah, a younger brother. He likes me more than my parents, but I haven’t been around for the last four years, really, so,” Jimin shrugs. “How close can you be, I guess?”

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook tells Jimin, frowning. “About all of that.”

Jimin shrugs again, clearly a practiced reaction when his family comes up. “It’s alright. I’ve come to terms with it. To be honest, I always assumed you had a similar situation.”

“Sort of,” Jungkook says. “Me and my parents don’t...talk about things, so. It’s not like they’ve said they disapprove of anything. Except art school, they definitely disapprove of art school,” Jungkook corrects himself, and Jimin laughs. “My last year of high school, I had a...well, it would be generous to call him a boyfriend, but. You know.”

“I do,” Jimin agrees.

“My dad caught us, once,” Jungkook says with a wince at the memory. “Just kissing, thank god, but that wasn’t...great. We never spoke about it, but...you know.”

Jimin smiles. “I do,” he says again.

“After that, it’s like there’s this distance. And I never tried to cross it and neither did they.” Jungkook shrugs, looking back out the window. “It’s weird, I love them and everything but it’s so tense, being in that house. I lived there all last year when I wasn’t in school, and every time I was alone with them I was just so…”

“Stressed?” Jimin guesses. “You seem stressed, right now.”

Jungkook laughs. “I’m a little stressed.”

“It’ll be okay. It sounds like they love you, they just don’t know how,” Jimin tells him. His hand is still on Jungkook’s knee, and he squeezes again, comforting. “What about your brother? Is he coming home?”

Jungkook shakes his head. “No, he’s in Japan right now? He has some like, fancy adult business job, I don’t know. Seems important.”

Jimin smirks. “Sad. I wanted to meet him, he’s cuter than you.”

Jungkook makes an offended noise in the back of his throat. “Mean,” he mutters.

Jimin cackles softly, and it’s fucked up that the sound is comforting to Jungkook. “I’m only kidding, Jungkook-ah. How could anyone be cuter than you?” Jimin asks, bringing his hands up to squish Jungkook’s cheeks together and move his head around with the force of it. Jungkook squirms away, and Jimin grabs at Jungkook’s ear lobe, brings his fingers down to tickle Jungkook’s neck, laughing the whole time.

Jungkook squirms away, whining, and Jimin just keeps laughing before he leans his head to rest against Jungkook’s shoulder.

“You wanna meet my brother?” Jimin asks quietly, when the laughter has faded. “You’d like him, I think. He’s your age.”

Jungkook feels warm at the suggestion. “Yeah, hyung. That would be nice.”

“We always go to Haeundae and get expensive ice cream from that shop —”

“The one that has liquid nitrogen or whatever?” Jungkook asks, laughing. “Why?”

“I don’t know, we started doing it when I was like sixteen and it made us feel like adults. We never stopped, I guess.”

“I’ll go to Haeundae with you,” Jungkook says easily. He reaches down and puts his hand on top of Jimin’s, lets Jimin flip his own hand over and intertwine their fingers loosely. It makes Jungkook’s stomach tingle nervously, but he ignores the feeling in favor of paying attention to how Jimin feels warm against him, how the air between them feels delicate and vulnerable.

Jimin sighs softly, turning his head so that his nose is against the fabric of Jungkook’s sweatshirt. “It’s nice having someone to go home with.”

Jungkook nods. “Yeah, it is.”

They spend the last hour of their trip like that, quiet and tucked into each other, and if they’re nervous, they don’t mention it out loud.

 

 

His mother tells him he looks thin, runs a thumb under his cheekbones like he’s gone gaunt (which he hasn’t, thanks.) His father gives him stiff nods and a stiff hug and stiff questions about his schoolwork, tells him some information about the business program at Pukyong, like Jungkook will see the error in his ways and move back home.

His parents are easier to talk to when he hasn’t talked to them much in months — it gives them plenty of topics to cover, all safely non-personal. His parents are pleased to hear he has friends, something that always concerned them when he was younger, and pleased that he’s working.

“You seem happy,” his mother tells him while he helps wash dishes. “That’s nice to see, Jungkook-ah.”

“Thank you,” Jungkook tells her, keeping his quiet smile to himself, because he feels happy, too.

His aunts and uncles on his father’s side come by on Chuseok itself, and they eat food and play games in the small backyard. He’s never been close with the cousins that are his age, but he likes playing with his younger cousins, giving them all piggyback rides until he’s falling down from the effort. It’s strange, being part of this all again, feeling a little out of the loop after missing nearly a year of family parties.

During a game of tug of war between two groups of uncles and cousins, Jungkook’s phone vibrates in his pocket. Jiminnie-hyung~~~, his phone screen reads, and Jungkook takes the call.

“Jungkook-ah,” Jimin says, sounding less than cheery. “Are you busy tonight?”

Jungkook looks around. His family will stay over until late, if every other year of Chuseok is anything to go off of. His uncles will get drunk in the basement and play cards and invite him in, pester him with questions about girlfriends while his father prickles uncomfortably.

“No,” he says decisively.

“Great. Text me your address, I’ll be there at eight.”

 

Jimin is smoking a cigarette in the car when Jungkook walks up to it, shoulders hunched in the cold wind.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” Jungkook tells him quietly, closing the door of the little Kia car that Jimin’s driving. “Or that you could drive.”

“I’m full of surprises, Jungkookie,” Jimin tells him, voice devoid of it’s usual brightness. “I wanna sit somewhere quiet, tell me where to drive.”

“There’s a park a couple blocks away, take a left at the end of the street.”

They’re quiet for a few moments, Jungkook only speaking to give Jimin directions.

“I only smoke when I’m at home,” Jimin tells him as he pulls into the little park that Jungkook used to visit as a kid.

“Ah,” Jungkook mutters. He’s honestly not entirely sure how to handle Jimin like this, quiet and serious and seemingly upset. He’s seen Jimin a lot of ways, but no matter what mood he’s in, Jimin’s collected, put-together, sometimes frustratingly so. Jungkook has seen Jimin drunk and angry but he still managed to tip the cab driver and say thank you. He’s always in control. He doesn’t seem in control tonight.

“I can’t stand being here,” Jimin says quietly. The car is stopped, parked, and there’s no music playing. Just the sound of their breathing in the cold night air. The sound of Jimin inhaling and exhaling smoke.

“I thought you said it was fine,” Jungkook says, looking at Jimin.

“I lied,” Jimin says around a cloud of smoke. “I hate it.”

Jimin opens the driver’s side door and steps out of the car, and Jungkook follows him quietly. Jimin’s walking purposefully over to the merry-go-round on the playground. It looks a little silly, but under the circumstances, Jungkook has a hard time finding it amusing. Jimin sits, leaning back so that his back is against the cold metal and his head is facing up toward the quickly darkening night sky. Jungkook sits down next to him, digging his foot into the dirt below to spin them gently. He doesn’t speak, wanting to give Jimin as much room as he wants.

Jimin sighs. “I hate all the silence. It’s suffocating, trying to pretend I’m the same person I was when I was seventeen.”

Jungkook nods, spinning them harder.

“I always forget how much I hate it until I’m here and I realize that my family doesn’t even know me. I have to play this weird good son role and I’m fucking bad at it. Maybe I’m just a bad son,” Jimin says, laughing humorlessly.

Jungkook frowns. “No, you’re not. Why would being yourself make you a bad son? Maybe they’re bad parents.”

Another sigh. Another drag from the dwindling cigarette.

“I miss Tae and Joon-hyung,” Jimin says quietly.

“They miss you too,” Jungkook tells Jimin. He wants to reach out and touch Jimin’s hair where it’s fanned out against the red metal of the merry-go-round, but he twitches his fingers back, not sure this is the right time.

“It’s strange, feeling like you belong somewhere else,” Jimin mutters. He closes his eyes. Jungkook spins the merry-go-round.

“It really is,” Jungkook agrees.

Jimin opens an eye. “Do you feel like you belong with us?”

Jungkook looks at him, then looks away. “I feel like I belong in Gwangju.”

“That was noncommittal,” Jimin says with a soft laugh. “I feel like you belong with us.”

Jungkook swallows, something hard and complicated lodged in his chest, making his breathing more difficult. He doesn’t know what to say.

“You’re not good at saying things like that. I know. It’s okay,” Jimin tells him. “I just mean...well, you know what I mean.”

Jungkook does know what he means. It’s the same familiar brand of warm, nice things that Jimin says to him that he never asks for clarification on, because he doesn’t need it. Jimin’s right, Jungkook’s not good at saying the warm, nice, messy things that live in his chest, but Jimin seems to know how he feels, and that’s comforting.

“I’ve never had friends like you before,” Jungkook says. This time he does reach out, brush his finger delicately over the soft strands of Jimin’s hair. It’s cold, his hands are cold, but he does it anyway.

“Taehyung and Namjoon are like that,” Jimin tells him, a little smile on his face as his eyes slip closed again.

“You are too. You’re like them, kind and warm and...you’re like them, too,” Jungkook says. He doesn’t mean to say all that really, and his face goes warm, but Jimin just stays with his eyes closed contently, his little smile still showing.

“I don’t feel kind and warm when I’m in Busan,” Jimin tells him.

“You are. You’re the same person no matter where you are, even if your family makes you feel different. You’re not. You’re good,” Jungkook says. His voice is quiet, because he feels vulnerable and honest and if he speaks too loudly, he’ll shatter this whole moment.

“Jungkook-ah,” Jimin starts, then pauses, hesitating.

“Yeah?” Jungkook asks.

Jimin doesn’t speak for a moment. Then, “Thank you.”

“Anytime, hyung,” Jungkook mutters. He feels kind of like he was let out to drift offshore, uncertain and wobbly. But he’s telling the truth: he’d do this anytime for Jimin.

Jimin sits up next to him, leans over so that his head is rested on Jungkook’s shoulder, like they were on the bus. He takes one of Jungkook’s hands between his, runs his small fingers over Jungkook’s knuckles, and looks up at Jungkook with something in his eyes. That same hesitation from before, Jungkook can see it now.

“Hyung?” Jungkook asks in a whisper.

Jimin keeps looking at him for a moment, then he shakes his head. “Nothing, Jungkookie.”

The wind blows at them, hard enough that Jimin flinches closer to Jungkook and Jungkook shivers. Jungkook closes his eyes, thinking, trying not to feel foolish as he visualizes the wind, what it would look like if he could see it. Thinks about it dissipating into calm, still air, and smiles in a satisfied kind of way when it follows suit.

“Was that you?” Jimin asks, sounding amazed. Jungkook opens his eyes again to find Jimin looking at him like he’s something special, and it warms Jungkook up right away. Jungkook just nods, and Jimin smiles widely at him.

“You’re so impressive, Jungkookie. You’re doing so well,” Jimin tells him sweetly. It’s only been a couple weeks of talking to his aunt, talking to Namjoon, of practice. But they both say he’s a quick study, and it feels good, to have some control over it. It feels good for Jimin to compliment him on it, too, but that’s a different kind of feeling.

Jungkook nods. “Thanks, hyung.” I just wanted you not to shiver, he thinks but doesn’t say.

Jimin’s looking at him again, that way that he usually doesn’t get looked at. It’s making Jungkook’s heart beat noisily, and he’s not sure what he’s supposed to do, so he just looks at Jimin back. It seems to stretch on ages before Jimin clears his throat and looks away, running a hand through his hair.

“We should probably both go home,” Jimin says.

Jungkook frowns. “It’s 8:30. I don’t think it’s urgent.”

“Isn’t your family missing you?” Jimin asks. He’s looking down at his lap, at his hands that are so far from Jungkook, considering the warmth they’d been leaking into Jungkook’s fingers for the past few minutes.

“They were ecstatic that I had a friend to see,” Jungkook says with a little laugh. Jimin gives him a grin, but doesn’t say anything. For whatever reason, Jungkook is desperate for this not to end. Maybe it’s because Jimin still looks sad around the edges; he’s back to being in control, but he’s sad, and Jungkook hates to see it.

“We could go get that ice cream. With your brother, right?” Jungkook offers.

“He’s been busy every free second we’ve had,” Jimin says with a little snort. “With his girlfriend. Who said he could get a girlfriend?”

“Well, we could just get ice cream,” Jungkook amends.

“It’s cold out,” Jimin argues.

“Jimin-hyung,” Jungkook says, quietly enough and seriously enough that Jimin looks at him.

“Jungkookie,” Jimin says back, the corner of his lips turning up in a smile. “You’re being really sweet, but I need to go, alright?”

He must notice the way Jungkook frowns, because he shakes his head. “Not because of you, or anything. I just want to be by myself for a little while. I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s fine. Sorry. I just wanted...to make you feel better, I guess,” Jungkook tells him.

“Oh,” Jimin says softly, leaning back into Jungkook’s space, grabbing his hand again. He holds Jungkook’s hand between his own, pressed tight, and brings it up close to his face. For a moment, Jungkook thinks Jimin’s going to kiss Jungkook’s finger, and the thought alone makes him want to take off running, but Jimin doesn’t. He just holds it for a moment, before dropping it back down Jungkook’s lap. “You’re so sweet, Jungkook-ah.”

No, Jungkook thinks foolishly. You were the one who was sweet to me, all those times, all those months ago. I am trying to repay you. I am trying to care for you the way you care for me. He doesn’t say any of it, because he doesn’t say most of the things he thinks about Jimin. He just says, “I try to be, hyung,” and watches the smile bloom on Jimin’s face.

“Let’s get ice cream tomorrow, before our bus. Okay?”

Jungkook nods. “Yeah.”

Jimin’s hands leave his again, and he reacquaints himself with the cool night air on his fingers. He’s in something of a daze as he follows Jimin back to the car, directs him back to Jungkook’s house, where the lights are still on and he can hear the uncles downstairs as soon as he enters the door.

He walks up to his bedroom, waving at the aunts at the kitchen table, and changes into pajamas, sitting down on his bed still feeling fuzzy.

How do you know if you’re in love? Jungkook thinks, and when he blinks, he thinks his eyes are a little wet. It’s the kind of question he might ask Taehyung, if the situation were different. But the situation is not different, and here Jungkook is in Busan, wondering how to spread his emotions out in front of them and sort through until he’s sure.

He swallows. He thinks about the way Jimin looked at him in the moonlight.

He goes to bed.

(He doesn’t fall asleep for two hours.)

Chapter Text

Autumn seems to pass in a flash of frosted-over mornings, deadlines, and messy spun-sugar feelings threatening to melt in the heat of Jungkook’s chest. He thinks he manages to breathe twice during the whole season.

Here are the highlights: he can make the frost on the grass melt if he concentrates hard enough. Taehyung brings him hot chocolate in the library twice, and stays with him to offer comments and a shoulder for Jungkook to lean on and sigh. Nabi has taken to falling asleep in Jungkook’s lap when he sits in one spot too long at Namjoon’s house. He gets a perfect score on his digital art midterm project. He’s a little in love, he thinks.

(He knows.)

He knows, but he doesn’t have time for that. He doesn’t have the energy to unpack something that heavy and cumbersome.

(Those are excuses.)

(The truth is that he doesn’t know what to do with the heavy boxes once he unpacks them, because he’s not sure whether or not he wants to open them.)

(The truth is he doesn’t want to make the choice either way — to open them or haul them bodily to the curb, where they’ll sit and rot and make him feel awful.)

Jungkook lets the weather freeze over. He lets his spun-sugar feelings crystallize as best as he can, too afraid of the mess he’ll get stuck in if he lets them drip and dissolve.

Autumn races by, and when the snow starts falling, Jungkook appreciates the way the world gets a blank slate. The way the snow piles on empty branches, like it’s trying to keep them covered and protected. He tries to do the same with himself.

★★

“Hey,” Namjoon aims at him one night, “I’ve been thinking.”

“You’re always thinking,” Taehyung notes from the kitchen table, where he’s eating a late lunch.

Jungkook looks up from his sketchbook, eyeing Namjoon curiously. He’s sitting on the floor in front of their coffee table, sketchbook and charcoal pencils on one side, a daffodil bloom sitting in front of him. His latest assignment in his fundamental drawing class asked him to draw an everyday object zoomed in on intricate details, and his first reaction was to raid Namjoon’s garden for the most artistically interesting flower. “What have you been thinking about, hyung?” Jungkook asks him.

“I’m going up to Seoul in a couple weeks, to bring Yoongi-hyung some supplies. I was wondering if...you wanted to come with me?” Namjoon asks. He looks almost nervous about it, which is both surprising and endearing to Jungkook.

Taehyung, from behind Namjoon, is looking on with an interested expression. Jungkook glances at him before looking at Namjoon.

“Oh,” Jungkook says. He’s about to go on, but Namjoon starts talking again.

“I just think, um, I don’t know. I thought maybe you would like it. It’s a really cool place, it’s kind of like a youth community center for magic kids, and I just...thought you might like to see it,” Namjoon goes on. He does look nervous now that he’s babbled a little, and Jungkook smiles.

“Sure, hyung,” Jungkook says easily. “Sounds fun. Is everyone going?”

“No,” Taehyung answers. “I’m going home to see my family that weekend, it’s my mom’s birthday, and Jiminnie’s coming with me.”

“That’s nice,” Jungkook says quietly. After going home with Jimin, he hadn’t considered that Taehyung and Namjoon’s families might know about their relationship. That must be nice, he thinks idly.

The realization hits Jungkook that Namjoon is asking him and only him to accompany him to Seoul, and he feels a little nervous himself, belatedly matching Namjoon’s energy.

“Well, great,” Namjoon tells Jungkook with a smile, still looking a little shy, and Jungkook smiles back.

“Yeah, great.”

 

It doesn’t occur to Jungkook until he’s standing at the bus station waiting for Namjoon that this weekend will be the longest period of time they’ve ever spent together. It’s only a two-hour bus ride, but they’re staying overnight at the center, and Jungkook has his overnight backpack slung over his shoulder. He hasn’t had much time for it to occur to him — he’s been busy working on final projects for the past two weeks, speeding toward the end of fall semester, and he’s barely had time to breathe. He’s been spending more and more nights on Namjoon’s couch, setting up his art equipment and finding an easier time creating things than he does in his stark bedroom at his aunt’s house.

(His aunt, for her part, has mostly just been gently teasing him about never seeing him anymore — Jungkook promised to make her a nice dinner when he got back from Seoul, to start his winter break off well.)

Standing here now, he thinks about spending the better portion of forty-eight hours with Namjoon, in extremely close proximity, with no one else, and it’s...odd. Makes him feel nervous and warm even in the late December chill of the morning. He stays at the house often now, but there’s almost always a rotating cast of characters. Namjoon’s usually there, and Taehyung and Jimin filter in and out, buffering them. Jungkook never really got all the way over the way Namjoon puts butterflies in his stomach, the way his smile makes Jungkook blush, and...well, maybe Jungkook hadn’t thought this all the way through.

As he sits there, thinking about and trying to avoid thinking about Namjoon, he hears a familiar voice say, “Oh, there you are.”

Jungkook turns in his little bench seat to see Namjoon walking up to him, bundled up in a long pea coat and a scarf tied cozily around his neck. His cheeks are still pink from walking outside, and he has a big canvas bag slung across his body, hanging at his hip. He’s toting a suitcase too, full of potions and supplies for Yoongi, Jungkook bets.

“Hi, hyung,” Jungkook says, smiling easily at Namjoon looking so sweet and warm. He’s glad, not for the first time, that Taehyung isn’t here to feel this particular wave of emotion emanating off of him. “You found me.”

The Gwangju bus terminal is enormous, and Jungkook had been slightly worried about meeting Namjoon there, for all that he seems avoidant of large crowded spaces. But he made it, and he sits down next to Jungkook with a smile.

“You know, I forgot that tomorrow’s Christmas eve,” Namjoon tells Jungkook. “Seoul is interesting at Christmastime, it should be fun.”

Jungkook hums, nodding. “Do you go there a lot?”

“Only a few times a year, to bring things to hyung, but I like it.”

Jungkook raises his eyebrows. “I didn’t think you were a city person.”

“I could never live there,” Namjoon says, laughing. “But visiting is nice. There’s so many parks, and I really like the Han River. In the summer, you can rent bicycles —”

There’s an announcement on the PA, a man reading their bus number, and Namjoon stops talking (though Jungkook misses it immediately, wishing there was more time for Namjoon to speak reverently about bicycles.)

“Time to board,” Jungkook says, standing up and rearranging his bulky backpack.

“Right,” Namjoon agrees, following Jungkook out to the doors.

The bus ride passes quietly, comfortably. Jungkook and Namjoon are used to being quiet in each other’s space, after all. Namjoon pulls out a laughably thick book from his bag and cracks it open in his lap, craning his neck to read, and Jungkook watches him with a little smile.

Jungkook, on the other hand, didn’t bring much to occupy his time on the bus; he’s done with schoolwork for a couple months, and ran out of books he was reading for fun some long forgotten time ago, when he still had free time to do things. Instead, he watches Namjoon quietly, and finally can’t help himself from bothering him.

“So what do you bring to Yoongi?” Jungkook asks curiously.

The nice thing about Namjoon is that he’s never really bothered by things like this. Jungkook learned that a long time ago, when Namjoon told him to stop apologizing for making him look up from whatever book he’s reading. (“The words are printed, I can come back to them whenever I’d like. You’re here in front of me,” he had told Jungkook, and Jungkook blushed very dark and took a moment to recover from that.)

“Mostly calming potions. Yoongi and the people who run the center work a lot with kids who’ve been kicked out, or don’t understand what’s happening to them. Kids from non-magic families, you know. And then some other stuff, like minor healing potions and sleeping potions. Things to make their lives a little easier,” Namjoon tells him. His voice is quiet on the bus, surrounded by people who shouldn’t hear these things, but Jungkook has learned that non-magical people have an easy time ignoring this stuff. Namjoon tried to explain it once, the way that magic protects itself from being heard by unwanted ears, but most of it went over his head back then.

“That’s really nice, that they do that,” Jungkook says. “That would be scary.”

Namjoon nods. “Especially for young vampires or werewolves or any other creature who doesn’t understand what’s happening to them. Anyway, I think a lot of the people who run the center were in similar situations, and they want to try to prevent it. It’s really admirable.”

“How do you know Yoongi?” Jungkook asks.

“Oh,” Namjoon says, waving a hand. “Uh, he used to live in Gwangju. We ran in the same circles, way back when.”

Jungkook looks at him carefully, notices the faint blush on his cheeks, but doesn’t say anything. “Cool. What are you reading?”

It’s always a good play, with Namjoon, and true to form Namjoon brightens, smiling and beginning to explain something about the study of how the evolution of plants over time created different potions, and Jungkook smiles as he starts to get really into it.

The two hour bus ride passes quicker than Jungkook expected.

★★

From the outside, the building looks sort of like a storefront, with an apartment complex upstairs. It’s unmarked, just kind of a nondescript dark building, but as they get closer Jungkook can see a small flier in the window.

If you need help, please knock., it reads in big letters, and in smaller text,Magic friendly, creature friendly, here to help.

Namjoon knocks confidently, and Jungkook stands behind him not sure what to expect. He certainly doesn’t expect the shortish, smallish man who opens it, looking sort of bored until he sees Namjoon; he certainly doesn’t expect Namjoon to immediately lean forward to hug him, smiling widely. Yoongi, Jungkook infers, as the man being hugged says, “Namjoon-ah, I forgot you were coming.”

“Hi, hyung,” Namjoon says just loud enough for Jungkook to hear it, murmured into Yoongi’s hair.

“Hi,” Yoongi says back, pulling away and holding Namjoon by the elbows at arm’s length, looking him over.

And immediately, Jungkook knows. He can tell from the softness in Yoongi’s eyes, the sheepish blush on Namjoon’s cheeks, how they really knew each other all those years ago. There was a boy once, Namjoon had said that first rainy night he spent at the house. A boy who wanted to go see the world, a boy who scared Namjoon, a boy Namjoon let leave without him.

From what Namjoon said, Jungkook assumed he hadn’t spoken to the boy since. But Yoongi, standing there looking so fond of Namjoon, must be him. He thinks about how often Namjoon says his name, speaks of him warmly, and just to hurt his own feelings, wonders if Namjoon still loves him.

“You brought a new friend,” Jungkook hears Yoongi say, and Jungkook shakes himself out of his own head enough to act like a normal person.

“Oh, well,” Namjoon says, looking embarrassed. Of him, Jungkook wonders? That probably isn’t right, Namjoon isn’t like that, but...he wonders. “Yes. This is Jeon Jungkook. Jungkookie, this is Min Yoongi.”

“Jungkookie,” Yoongi mutters under his breath with a little laugh, and Jungkook blinks.

“Yeah. Hi,” he says, feeling awkward. He hates to feel like that, like an intruder into someone else’s conversation, and for the first time in Namjoon’s presence, he feels kind of uncomfortable. Distantly, he wishes Taehyung were here. At least Taehyung would know how Jungkook felt and...well, knowing Taehyung, probably do whatever he could to make Jungkook feel better. Namjoon’s still smiling at Yoongi, oblivious, and Jungkook kind of wishes he wasn’t here.

“Well, come inside, we can talk more there,” Yoongi says, ushering them in. Namjoon follows behind him and Jungkook, feeling conflicted, joins the procession.

Like Namjoon’s house, the inside is bigger than the outside. He doesn’t know how common that is, but the effect is the same — it’s shocking and impressive the sheer volume of people and things can be housed all at once. As Jungkook looks around, it’s hard not to be impressed in general, just because he’s never seen this much magic all put together.

There’s a little lounge area with a large television, and a group of teenaged-looking people are sitting in front of it, one of them lifting popcorn to their mouth with a wave of their hand. Next to them is a ping pong table where a man with light purple skin and little horns curling back from his temples is playing against a tall, handsome man. Jungkook’s eyes widen, looking at them.

“Namjoon-ah brought supplies,” Yoongi calls out to the men playing ping-pong, making the tall man miss the ball when he turns to glance at Yoongi. He cries out, frustrated.

“Kibum-ah! That wasn’t fair!” He says in an angry voice, turning back to the man with horns.

“When will you learn that I never play fair?” Kibum answers with a smirk. “Hi, Namjoon-ah. Thanks for the potions.”

“No problem,” Namjoon answers sweetly. Jungkook continues looking on at the scene, wide-eyed.

“Every time you come, you bring a new cute boy,” Kibum says, walking away from the ping pong table and eyeing Jungkook over. “This one looks like a bunny rabbit.”

“Stop, you’re making him nervous,” The tall man fusses, frowning at Kibum.

“I make everyone nervous,” Kibum defends himself. “It’s the horns.”

Yoongi looks unimpressed, rolling his eyes. “Jungkook-ah, this is Kibum. He’s a demon, and my boss. That’s Minho, he’s also my boss.”

“A demon?” Jungkook asks, sounding as surprised as he feels.

Kibum laughs. “Only half a demon! Yoongi always leaves that part out.”

“Stop calling us your bosses, we’re a community, and —” Minho starts, looking at Yoongi sternly.

“Yes, yes, okay. Don’t give me the Amber speech. Kibum and Minho helped set this place up, before I ever got here,” Yoongi says to Jungkook. “And we are all equals in the brotherhood of man, or whatever.” He’s smiling at Jungkook now, and it’s kind, so Jungkook smiles a little back.

“Enjoy your stay at the magic motel,” Kibum says with a wave as Yoongi directs them forward, and Jungkook nods nervously.

“You’re magic,” Yoongi says to Jungkook. Not a question, just a statement. He turns around slightly from leading them down a hallway to glance at Jungkook as he says it.

“Yes?” Jungkook answers.

“But new to it, I’m guessing.”

“How do you know?” Jungkook asks, furrowing his eyebrows.

Yoongi laughs a little. They’re walking through a corridor that leads first to a large communal kitchen, and then back to a door that opens up into a big pantry. Yoongi walks down a few shelves before stopping at one with the label Potions, and turns to Namjoon with a smirk. “Thank you for your services, please stock our shelves for us.” Namjoon salues and unzips his big suitcase, getting to work.

Turning back to Jungkook, Yoongi says, “I’m not a mind-reader or anything. I’ve just been doing this job for a while, and I have a pretty good sense for it. You don’t seem like you’ve met many magic-users or magical creatures.”

“No,” Jungkook agrees, shaking his head. Yoongi has a calm sort of confidence that makes it easy for Jungkook to talk to him, more reassuring than Jungkook assumed he’d be from their meeting outside. “No, pretty much just Namjoon-hyung and Taehyung-hyung.”

Yoongi snickers. “Funny, hearing someone call Taehyung hyung.

“You know Taehyung?” Jungkook asks. He should have figured, from Kibum mentioning Namjoon bringing boys. Taehyung and Jimin must usually come along.

“We’ve met a few times, yeah,” Yoongi says, glancing at Namjoon with a smirk. Namjoon stays diligent in his stacking of bottles on the shelf, though it seems a little pointed to Jungkook. Jungkook wills himself to not think about what that means. “Anyway. What kind of magic do you do?”

“He’s an earth elemental, isn’t that cool?” Namjoon interjects before Jungkook can speak for himself. He sounds excited as he goes on, “He has a really interesting set of abilities, hyung. He’s powerful.”

Jungkook blushes. “I’m not really that powerful. I can just kind of change the weather and stuff.”

Yoongi raises his eyebrows. “That sounds pretty powerful to me. Minho’s a fire elemental, but I don’t think we have any earth elementals here...don’t know that I’ve met any before, actually. That is cool,” he says with a smile at Jungkook.

“Can I...can I ask what kind of magic do you?” Jungkook aims at Yoongi. He’s painfully curious, as he always finds himself when there’s magic around.

Yoongi wiggles his fingers and little blue sparks dance across his fingers, then disappear when he closes his palm on them. “Illusion magic,” he says simply, opening his palm to reveal his empty hand.

Namjoon snorts. “Show-off.” It makes Yoongi laugh, loud in the little storage closet.

“Yeah, you know me. Always showing off,” he says, rolling his eyes at Namjoon.

“Like...magic tricks?” Jungkook asks, confused and feeling kind of like it’s a very stupid question.

But Yoongi just shakes his head, smiling amicably at Jungkook. “Not quite, though witches generally are good at them. More like making things that aren’t really there. I’m good at disguises. I’ve gotten decent at illusory buildings, too. The whole bigger-on-the-inside thing we’ve got going here? That was me.”

“Wow,” Jungkook says. “Cool.”

Yoongi smiles bigger, looking satisfied. “Thanks. Are you done, Joon-ah?”

Jungkook’s never heard anyone call him Joon-ah before, and he feels that same feeling, like he’s watching in on something personal he’s not a part of. Namjoon finishes organizing his last few bottles and nods at Yoongi, gesturing to the shelf. “Your stores have been replenished.”

“Thanks. We appreciate it, you know,” Yoongi says earnestly.

“Of course,” Namjoon tells him, looking sheepish.

“Now we can get out of here and I can give Jungkook-ah a tour,” Yoongi says, turning to smile at Jungkook.

Jungkook, embarrassed to be acknowledged, nods. “Right, yeah.”

“Joon-ah, take your bags to room 11. It’s open for the next couple days.” Yoongi reaches out to Jungkook, and Jungkook stares at him for a moment before realizing Yoongi’s asking for his bag.

“Oh. Sure,” Namjoon says, taking Jungkook’s backpack as it’s passed down between them. “Right. Okay. See you later, Kookie.” He looks kind of quietly surprised at Yoongi, but doesn’t argue as he heads back into the kitchen and disappears from sight.

“Namjoon doesn’t need a tour,” Yoongi tells Jungkook in explanation, smiling at him, before he says, “So this is the least interesting room. It’s a pantry. You’ve probably figured that out.”

Jungkook smiles and follows him back into the kitchen, where there’s now two teenage girls standing in front of the counter.

“Oppa, people are putting regular food in the vampire fridge again,” one of the girls says to Yoongi as they pass.

“Better than the other way around,” Yoongi tells her, but she looks unamused. “I’ll put a new sign up. Stop glaring at me, Yerim-ah.”

“Vampires live here too?” Jungkook asks quietly as the girls walk out.

“Just one small coven. They got kicked out of the house they were living in, so they’ve been staying here for a few months,” Yoongi says. “They’re very nice girls. This is the kitchen, by the way. Help yourself to whatever, we multiply most of the food we use anyway.”

“You can multiply food?” Jungkook asks.

“Really powerful witches good at evocation can, and Amber is one of them. Oh, you’ll meet Amber in a minute,” Yoongi says, noticing Jungkook’s confused expression. “Come on.”

They continue walking through the community center, Yoongi stopping when people ask him questions or want to talk to him for a moment. Jungkook’s seen at least twenty or thirty people who are apparently staying here, and Jungkook thinks it’s amazing, the sheer scale of that. The way they all seem comfortable and happy here. They walk back through the lounge, where the teenagers are still watching a cooking show on TV, and Yoongi points out the little reading nook in the corner and calls it the library. There’s a little exercise room down the hallway, a few pieces of gym equipment, a boy and a girl using two of the treadmills as they poke their heads in.

“Hi Daniel, hi Wonyoung” Yoongi says to them. Daniel doesn’t seem to notice them, but Wonyoung gives a breathless wave in their direction.

“Werewolves are always full of energy this close to the full moon. Need a good way to burn it off,” Yoongi says to Jungkook as they step back out.

Across from the exercise room is what Jungkook can best describe as a computer lab with a few desktops in it, and then the hallway ends at a closed door.

“Amber and Sunyoung’s office. Well, technically Kibum and Minho’s office too, but they’re never in there. Here, you can meet them,” Yoongi tells Jungkook before knocking.

“Yeah?” Comes a voice from inside, and Yoongi pokes his head in.

“Hey noona, hey Sunyoung. Namjoon’s visiting and brought a friend. Want to meet him?”

Amber must say yes, because the door opens all the way and Yoongi leads Jungkook in. There’s four desks in the office, each of them with their own computers, like a normal office. There’s two women scrunched together behind one of the monitors, one with long brown hair and a beautiful kind face and another covered in tattoos with a short blue haircut.

“Hi,” the long-haired woman says, smiling brightly. “Welcome.”

“Good to meet you,” the short-haired woman says with a matching smile.

“Amber and Sunyoung opened the community center,” Yoongi tells Jungkook, gesturing to them as he says their names. “They’re kind of in charge around here.”

“It’s really great,” Jungkook tells them honestly. “It seems really nice.”

“Thanks,” Amber says, looking pleased. “I like to think so.”

“Thanks for letting me stay,” Jungkook says, feeling nervous the longer two beautiful women smile at him.

“It’s what we’re here for!” Sunyoung assures him. There’s something about her that radiates warmth.

“Yoongi-yah, meet with us later about the windows, okay?” Amber aims at Yoongi, and Yoongi nods before waving goodbye to them and leading Jungkook back out.

“Why are you meeting with them about windows?” Jungkook asks, curious.

“We’re putting some more in, so there’s one in every room, and they need illusory magic to do it. Since, you know, you can’t see all those windows from the outside.”

Jungkook nods, following Yoongi as they backtrack and head up a flight of stairs that lead off the lounge. “Upstairs is all bedrooms. Most of them are shared,” he says as they walk up the stairs. The hallway does look like a hotel hallway, Jungkook thinks, looking at the numbered doors. It’s mostly quiet up here in the early afternoon, and they walk until Yoongi stops in front of the door marked eleven. When he opens the door, they find Namjoon sitting on one of the twin beds, his big book open.

“Figures,” Yoongi says with a smile. “Hey, I brought your boy back.”

“He’s not mine,” Namjoon says at the same time Jungkook says, “I’m not his.”

“I just assumed, since you have so many,” Yoongi says to Namjoon with another smirk. Namjoon snorts and rolls his eyes, but he’s blushing a little. “If you’re around later tonight, let me know, hyung will make you dinner.”

“I think we’re going to go out. Jungkook’s never been to Seoul,” Namjoon says in explanation.

“Oh. Okay, have fun, then. I have some work to do, so,” Yoongi says, smiling faintly. “Nice to meet you, Jungkook-ah. See you, Joonie.”

Jungkook waves, and Namjoon offers a goodbye with a smile as Yoongi walks out. Jungkook stands there, looking at Namjoon as he goes back to reading, and has a hundred questions in his mind. He’s not sure what they all are exactly, but he knows he shouldn’t ask most of them. Again, Jungkook wishes Taehyung was there — Taehyung’s always been so easy for Jungkook to talk to, so open and so hard to surprise. It helps that he always knows what Jungkook is thinking, is so ready to meet Jungkook halfway. Jungkook’s never found Namjoon particularly hard to talk to with the way he treats Jungkook so kindly, but Jungkook’s just never been very good at talking in general. He wants to ask Namjoon about Yoongi, but he doesn’t know how, and he’s convinced that even if he did, it wouldn’t be any of his business. It’s strange the way the whole thing makes him feel alienated, almost jealous, and he doesn’t like it. First of all, if anything did happen, it was years ago, second of all Namjoon isn’t Jungkook’s to feel jealous over, and third of all Jungkook watches him interact with the two men he is dating on a constant basis. So why now?

Because Jimin and Taehyung are yours too, says a voice in his mind as he sits down on the twin bed on the other side of the room. That’s not right either, none of them are his, they belong to each other and not in any way to Jungkook, but...but that’s how it feels, isn’t it? It’s different seeing Jimin, Taehyung and Namjoon together because they’re all his, they all exist in that warm soft place for him, they all let him in and smile at him warmly and let him be a part of their lives. Yoongi exists outside of that, in a different world, and it’s strange to see Namjoon be cared for by someone else.

“You’re thinking really hard,” Namjoon observes from the other bed. “You okay?”

Jungkook is brought back to reality, turning his head to see Namjoon looking at him with a slightly concerned expression. Jungkook shakes his head. “I’m fine. I’ve just never met this many magic people and...not people before. I was just thinking about it.”

It’s a lie, but Taehyung isn’t here to catch it, so Jungkook gets away with it. Namjoon smiles. “Yeah, it’s really crazy, right? That’s why I wanted you to come. It’s a really cool place to see.”

“Demons. No one ever told me about demons,” Jungkook notes faintly.

Namjoon closes his book, looking interested. “It’s really rare to encounter anyone with demon in their blood. It’s tough for them, you know, looking the way they do. They usually have pretty sad lives, Kibum’s told me,” Namjoon says. “They rely a lot on illusion magic and illusory potions, and —”

Namjoon goes on, talking about it a little more, and Jungkook feels some of his anxiousness wane as things feel more normal. Namjoon explaining things excitedly as Jungkook watches makes him feel normal, he realizes. Comfortable, even, and he’s not quite sure what that says about him.

They leave the community center sometime mid-afternoon, bundled back up in coats and hats to avoid the chill outside, though Jungkook has fun trying to redirect the soft gentle snow that’s falling away from them as they walk. Jungkook lets Namjoon lead, lets him direct Jungkook onto the metro and through busy streets full of shops. It’s bustling, this close to Christmas, and they stick tight together to avoid losing each other in crowds. Namjoon’s nose and cheeks get red in the cold just above where his scarf is bundled around his face, and Jungkook finds it so cute that he’s having trouble looking at Namjoon with a straight face.

They shop and explore aimlessly, ducking into shops to warm up every so often, Namjoon looking at racks of fashionable clothes and skincare products with the same expression of curious interest. In a store that sells plush toys and little journals and sticker sets, Namjoon buys a notebook with a cartoon bear on the front, and Jungkook smiles at him as he passes it to the cashier.

“I think it’s cute,” Namjoon explains, sounding a little embarrassed.

“It is cute, hyung,” Jungkook tells him, only half talking about the notebook.

They wander until dinnertime, when they find a restaurant and each order a big bowl of hot stew, barely talking as they wait for it to cool down. There’s something about sitting there together, quiet, eating hungrily and trying to warm themselves up, that feels private even though they’re in public. It feels like it’s just them, and that’s — that’s stupid, Jungkook knows, but. It’s nice. He holds it close to himself, wills himself to remember how it feels to be still and thaw yourself out in front of a boy you fell for a long time ago.

They walk back to the metro station with shopping bags and the streets are so crowded that they almost get split by a large group of tourists speaking loud English. Namjoon grabs his hand like it’s an instinct, pulling Jungkook toward him to avoid them, and then looks down at their clasped hands with some amount of embarrassment. It’s hard to tell, really, because his cheeks are already flushed from the cold, but he looks embarrassed. Jungkook, so used to physical affection from Taehyung and Jimin but not used to this at all, is a little embarrassed too, but he decides to cover it for Namjoon’s sake.

“Come on, hyung, we have the signal,” Jungkook says, gesturing to the crosswalk they’re walking toward, pulling Namjoon by the hand and keeping them connected. Their fingers, cold even underneath their gloves, stay twined together the entire ride home.

★★

Namjoon really does snore. Jungkook knew this, anecdotally, and had even overheard it a few times, but never from across the same room.

“You get used to it,” Taehyung said once when Namjoon was sleeping uncharacteristically late, his snores trailing into the living room in the late morning, and Jimin hummed in agreement.

“It’s kind of cute, isn’t it?” Jimin asked.

“Oh wow, you really love him, huh?” Taehyung asked back sympathetically. Jimin fussed with a laugh and hit Taehyung on the arm.

At the moment, Jungkook doesn’t find it particularly cute. He sits up in bed with a sigh, deciding that getting up to get a snack or something is more productive than lying here, unable to sleep. The way Namjoon is curled up, limbs wrapped around an extra pillow is cute, he notes on his way out of the room, but it’s too late to think too hard about that.

Jungkook makes his way down the hallway to the staircase carefully, trying to tread quietly as he heads down the staircase and across the common area. As he approaches the kitchen, he realizes there’s a dim light still on, and when he gets to the doorway, he realizes why.

Yoongi is sitting at the island in the kitchen, eating from a bowl of something. He looks up when he sees Jungkook, gives him a half-hearted wave as he swallows his bite.

“Hey,” Yoongi says. “Can’t sleep?”

“Hyung snores,” Jungkook says, startled into honesty. Yoongi huffs a laugh, stirring his bowl of food (something resembling bibimbap, Jungkook can tell now.)

“He sure does,” Yoongi replies. “You want some food? I made too much.”

Jungkook hesitates, but can’t really think of a reason to say no. “Sure,” he says, sitting down at the island. Yoongi started to stand before Jungkook even agreed, and Jungkook thinks maybe at this point he’s hard-wired to take care of random kids who stumble into the kitchen at one in the morning.

He makes Jungkook a bowl, vegetables and meat layered neatly over rice, and places it in front of him unceremoniously. They eat in quiet, theoretically similar but diametrically different than the meal he ate with Namjoon earlier.

Between bites, Jungkook hazards glances at the way Yoongi looks down at his bowl, hair falling into his eyes. Earlier he was in ripped jeans and a big black t-shirt, but he’s traded the jeans out for plaid pajama pants now, giving him a strangely soft look.

He’s not sure what makes him say it. Maybe he’s just too tired, worn out from a day of traveling and a day of trying to keep himself in check, his filters down. “Did you and Namjoon-hyung used to date?” He asks, surprising Yoongi and surprising himself.

Yoongi finishes chewing his bite, looking at Jungkook thoughtfully. He sets his chopsticks down and asks, “Shouldn’t you ask Namjoon that?”

Jungkook flushes instantly, looking down at his food instead of Yoongi, any nerve he had gone. But Yoongi huffs out another quiet laugh, and Jungkook looks back up, curious.

“God, you’re a sweet thing, aren’t you?” Yoongi asks him, making Jungkook feel embarrassed all over again.

“I — what —” Jungkook stutters, and Yoongi smiles at him.

“You really seem like a good kid. I thought Namjoon only went for cocky brats these days,” Yoongi tells him.

Jungkook furrows his eyebrows, but — well, Yoongi had a bit of a point. Taehyung and Jimin could certainly have that air when they wanted to. Jungkook wasn’t sure how anyone could see Taehyung’s honesty and confidence as cockiness really, but he wasn’t here to defend Taehyung’s character. But really, what was he here for? Wait, did Yoongi imply that Namjoon was “going for” Jungkook?

“We used to date,” Yoongi says, interrupting Jungkook’s spiraling thoughts. “Yeah. A long time ago.”

“And you left,” Jungkook says, piecing together what Namjoon told him those months ago.

Yoongi raises his eyebrows. “Yeah. I left. I asked him to come too, but, you know. He didn’t. Neither of us handled it very well.”

Yoongi seems to think about that for a moment, before going on, “He’s always been more of a steady person than me. Settled. Not in a bad way, just...it’s how he is. He grows roots easily, I think. I’ve never been like that.”

“It looks like you grew roots here,” Jungkook tells him quietly.

Yoongi smiles a little. “That’s true. This place has done a lot for me. I’ve never really...I don’t know, belonged somewhere. I was one of these kids once, a really long time ago. So it felt like a good place to stop moving.”

“He talks about you a lot, you know,” Jungkook says, looking down at his food.

“You’re worried he still loves me.” It’s not a question, just an observation. Yoongi looks like he’s considering the idea. “I don’t think so. Or, I mean, maybe in some way, but not like he loves Taehyung and Jimin. Or you, for that matter.”

Jungkook sputters, a grain of rice shooting from his mouth and landing on the counter in front of him. Yoongi gives a proper laugh at that one, wiping it away with a paper towel, to Jungkook’s embarrassment.

“I’m not...that’s not how it is,” Jungkook defends once he catches his breath, furrowing his eyebrows at Yoongi as he gets a glass of water.

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “You two are sickening together, just so you know. Like, cotton candy sweet. Not my place to put words in Joon’s mouth or anything, but if he’s going to be so loud about how much he likes you, I figure he’s not trying to hide much.”

Jungkook has never blushed this hard, he thinks. He doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know whether he should deny it or ask if Yoongi’s sure. Both seem bad, he thinks, as he puzzles over it.

“Do you still love him?” Jungkook asks instead, in a bold move that takes Yoongi off-guard entirely, the smug expression he had sliding from his face.

“No,” Yoongi answers easily enough. “Not like that. I mean you know him, you know what he’s like — it’s so hard not to love him. But I’m not in love with him.”

Jungkook nods. “He told me he didn’t end things well.”

Yoongi gives a half-hearted laugh. “Well, no, he didn’t. But we were kids, and he grew up and apologized.”

Jungkook nods, pushing his chopsticks around his bowl idly. There’s the hum of the refrigerator, an errant floorboard creaking overhead.

“It’s scary, loving someone,” Yoongi tells him quietly.

Jungkook doesn’t say anything, but he nods.

Yoongi sighs a little, but he looks at Jungkook with a weary smile. “I bet it’ll work out for you.”

“I don’t know about that. But you’re really nice, hyung,” Jungkook says, because it’s been a weird conversation and he thinks Yoongi should hear it.

“I’ve gotten pretty good at it, out here,” Yoongi says, voice still quiet. “Good luck getting to sleep, Jungkook-ah.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook says, stopping Yoongi in his tracks. “Sorry for...I’m really tired, sorry if I —”

“Don’t worry about it,” Yoongi tells him kindly. “Really. Don’t worry about it. Good luck, okay?”

Jungkook gets the sense that Yoongi is talking about more than just falling asleep tonight.

★★

Jungkook shows up to the fancy cafe in Gangnam that his brother sent him the address to, and is unsurprised to find that even though he’s ten minutes early, Junghyun is already sitting at a table with his laptop in front of him.

Junghyun is wearing neat, well-tailored pants and a button-up shirt even though it’s a Sunday, and Jungkook feels entirely out of place in his black jeans and tucked in t-shirt (he dressed up!) But Junghyun just waves with a wide smile on his face, ushering Jungkook over when he catches sight of him. He stands up, and when Jungkook gets close enough, he embraces Jungkook in a big hug. Jungkook smiles against his brother’s shoulder, closing his eyes and laughing at the way Junghyun squeezes him.

“Stop, you’re embarrassing,” Jungkook says with a giggle as Junghyun lets him go.

“That’s the point!” Junghyun says, reaching over to muss Jungkook’s hair completely out of place.

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines, and Junghyun laughs loudly.

He missed his brother. They text every so often, but they’ve both been busy, and it’s been a while since they really talked. Junghyun tells him about his job, something in marketing and sales that Jungkook doesn’t really follow, but it’s allowed Junghyun an apartment in Gangnam and the extra money to buy a ten thousand won coffee for Jungkook, so he figures it’s a pretty good job. He tells Jungkook about how he wants to get a dog (Jungkook is jealous, but concerned about apartment living for a dog), about getting used to Seoul, about missing home.

Jungkook commiserates, telling Junghyun about Gwangju, about Aunt Miyoung, about school. He tells him about projects he’s proud of, and that he’s made good friends.

“You’re in Seoul with your friend, right?” Junghyun asks, sipping at his Americano.

Jungkook nods, and Junghyun asks, “Why didn’t you bring him?”

Jungkook almost offered, is the thing. He almost extended the invitation. But then Yoongi poked his head into their room this morning and said, “Joon-ah, do you have plans today? There’s some kids who want to learn more about potions, I thought maybe you could talk to them.” And Namjoon had looked excited, and Jungkook didn’t want to ruin it for him.

“He was busy, he has friends up here he wanted to see,” Jungkook says, which is true.

“Yah, I can’t believe you’re in college doing all these adult things. You’re not allowed to be an adult,” Junghyun tells him scornfully. “You’re a baby.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes. “I’m not really an adult.”

“Too close for my liking,” Junghyun says with a smile. “Speaking of being an adult, are you seeing anyone?”

Jungkook flushes immediately. Junghyun gives a satisfied little hum. “Oh, you are, aren’t you!”

“No,” Jungkook says emphatically. “I’m not seeing anyone.”

“I’m not gonna tattle on you, I just wanted to know,” Junghyun teases. “You’re acting like you like someone. Tell me about her! We never get to talk about this stuff. We’re brothers, I feel like we’re supposed to.”

Junghyun’s right, they never really do. Junghyun was kind of a late bloomer and didn’t start having girlfriends, no matter how juvenile of a relationship it was, until late high school, when he had cooler, more experienced people to talk to about it than Jungkook. Jungkook, well…his romantic interests stayed locked up tight against his ribcage for a long time. They still are, he figures.

Sitting here with his brother, feeling cared for and sentimental for how much he misses him, how much he’s always loved him, Jungkook swallows. This is bad timing, he thinks. He knows. He knows it’s bad timing. And maybe he’s gotten too bold and brave, living isolated in a supportive bubble in Gwangju. Maybe he’s a little detached from reality these days. Maybe this is a stupid thing to do. But in the moment, Jungkook decides he wants to do it anyway, and he asks quietly, “What if it’s not a girl?”

Junghyun pauses, looks at Jungkook like he’s thinking. “Oh. Okay.” He doesn’t say anything for a moment, then he says again, less teasing and more kind, “Tell me about him, then.”

Jungkook looks at him. “That’s it?”

Junghyun makes a face. “I mean...it makes sense.”

Jungkook blushes, asks, “Does it?”

“When you were five, a girl down the street had a crush on you and kissed you, and you came home furious,” Junghyun points out.

“Isn’t that normal when you’re five?” Jungkook asks, embarrassed.

“Well, but then every girl in middle school liked you? And you just kind of...didn’t,” Junghyun says, making a face with raised eyebrows, like ‘you see?’ Jungkook doesn’t see.

“Girls in middle school liked me?” Jungkook asks, baffled. “How do you even know?”

“Because their older sisters would ask me why you wouldn’t go out with them!” Junghyun says with a laugh. “So, yeah, it makes sense.”

Jungkook nods, still embarrassed. “Okay,” he says quietly. “And that’s okay?”

“Of course it’s okay,” Junghyun tells him, eyebrows furrowed. “Are you happy?”

“Yeah,” Jungkook tells him, giving half a smile. “I’m happy.”

“Then why wouldn’t it be okay?” Junghyun asks, like it’s that simple. Like their parents hadn’t avoided speaking to Jungkook about his personal life since high school because they knew. Like Jimin’s parents hadn’t made him feel like he didn’t belong in their house. Like there isn’t any risk involved.

But he ignores that and looks at his brother, looking for some sign of dishonesty or discomfort. He doesn’t find it. “Okay. Thanks, hyung.”

Junghyun shakes his head. “Nothing to thank me for.”

Jungkook busies himself with the straw in his iced coffee, then decides he’s already done a cannonball into the deep end and you can only get so wet, and asks, “Have you ever liked more than one person at once?”

Junghyun smirks, giving a teasing little hum. “Jungkookie’s getting wild on his own, huh?”

“Stop,” Jungkook whines, pouting. “I’m serious. Just...have you?”

“No,” Junghyun tells him a little more seriously. “I don’t think so.”

“I know these three people in a relationship, um, together,” Jungkook explains, waits for Junghyun’s reaction.

“Um,” Junghyun starts. “I don’t know a lot about this stuff, is that...a normal gay thing?”

Jesus,” Jungkook breathes with a laugh. “No, asshole. Well, I mean, I don’t know a lot about gay stuff either, so. I don’t know. But in my experience, no.”

“I didn’t think so, I just, I don’t know,” Junghyun mumbles at him, sounding embarrassed. Then he gives Jungkook a questioning look. “Wait, your experience? You’ve had...boyfriends?”

Jungkook waves his hand. “A couple boys in high school, but we weren’t...dating, really. Just...kind of…” he trails off, blushing and not knowing how to complete that sentence to his older brother.

Jungkookie,” Junghyun says, sounding scandalized. “Jungkookie!”

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines again.

“I can’t believe I was the good one!” Junghyun exclaims. “I wish I could brag about it.”

“Please don’t,” Jungkook tells him.

Junghyun shakes his head ruefully, but seems to get back on task. “But you were talking about your friends. In the relationship.”

“Yeah. Yeah. I...I don’t know, they’re just really nice to me, and...I really like them,” Jungkook admits, blushing again and staring down at his coffee.

“All of them?” Junghyun asks, eyebrows raised.

Jungkook just nods, stirring the ice cubes around his plastic cup.

“Jeez. That sounds terrible. It’s awful enough having feelings for one person,” Junghyun tells him.

“Are you a sociopath?” Jungkook asks him, giving him a look.

“I didn’t know you were such a romantic, Jungkookie,” Junghyun tells him with a laugh. “This is all really adding up, though. How you used to follow me and my friends around all the time. Do you just fall in love with everyone?”

“Hey!” Jungkook says, defensive.

“Are you telling me you didn’t have crushes on my friends?” Junghyun asks, raising an eyebrow. “I thought that before I even knew you were gay.”

“Not...all of them!” Jungkook says. Junghyun keeps looking at him. Jungkook sighs. “Okay, fine, all of them.”

“See, this is a lifelong habit,” Junghyun says.

“You’re the worst,” Jungkook grumbles.

“Hey, do you think being gay is the reason you loved Titanic so much?” Junghyun asks him suddenly.

Jungkook blinks. “That movie’s about a straight couple.”

“You loved Titanic, Jungkookie.”

“I don’t understand your point. It’s a perfect movie. It’s the perfect romance movie.”

“This feels like a gay thing,” Junghyun says, looking unconvinced.

“Do not blame your bad taste on your heterosexuality,” Jungkook says with a glare. Then he thinks about that. “Well, actually,” he starts, but Junghyun cuts him off.

“Have you talked to them? Your friends? Actually, can I like, know their names? Do you have pictures? This feels weird, referring to them as like nameless faceless — ah, there we go, thanks,” he says as Jungkook pulls up a picture on his phone. He scoots around to the side of the table so Junghyun can look at it. It’s a picture he took a couple weeks ago. They were out ice skating, because Jimin said he wanted to go ice skating; Namjoon almost broke his tailbone, but that was to be expected, and Jungkook sat with him and watched Taehyung and Jimin play on the ice after he fell. In the picture, they’re all squished together in the frame, Namjoon’s long arm holding the camera at length to fit them all in, and they’re smiling together. It’s a cute picture, Jungkook thinks, and Junghyun smiles as he looks at it.

“That’s Namjoon, holding the camera. Taehyung’s back there, and that’s Jimin,” Jungkook says, pointing to them.

“They’re handsome,” Junghyun tells him, giving him a smile. “You look nice together.”

Jungkook blushes. “Thanks.”

“They’re happy together? The three of them?” Junghyun asks.

Jungkook nods. “Really happy. They fit together so perfectly, it’s like...I don’t know, destiny, or something.”

Junghyun’s smiling again. “That’s sweet.” He finishes his Americano, tipping the cup back to get the last sip, and then looks at Jungkook. “I have some advice, but you’re not gonna like it. You should talk to them.”

“You’re right, I hate it,” Jungkook tells him plainly.

Junghyun laughs. “I know. But I think you need to, Jungkookie.”

Jungkook nods. “I know I do. I’m just...scared, I guess.”

“Why? Are you worried they don’t like you?”

“I don’t know,” Jungkook answers, voice quiet. “I don’t know what I’m scared of happening. I’m scared of all of it, every possible outcome.”

“I mean, it sounds like you want to be with them,” Junghyun says, eyebrows furrowed. “Don’t you?”

“They’re my best friends,” Jungkook says. “What if I ruin it? What if I ruin them?”

Junghyun sighs. “I don’t think you can do that.”

Jungkook shakes his head. “I don’t know.”

They’re both quiet for a moment, and then Jungkook says, “Hey, um. Thanks for talking about this with me.”

“Of course, Jungkookie. What are hyungs for?”

“I don’t think most people would say they’re for talking to their little brother about his gay crushes on multiple men, but,” Jungkook says with a laugh, “Sure, hyung.”

Junghyun laughs too. “Okay, maybe not. But it’s what I’m for.” As he’s talking, his phone buzzes on the table, the screen lighting up with a text notification from a contact named jagiya.

“Hey!” Jungkook exclaims, pointing at the phone. “You have a girlfriend and you didn’t mention it?”

Then it’s Junghyun’s turn to look sheepish as he says, “Well, I was going to.”

He shows Jungkook a picture, tells him that her name is Chunja and smiles as he talks about her. It’s sweet, and only makes Jungkook a little tiny bit jealous. They talk about other things, like their parents, and the fact that one of their cousins is getting married next year. They talk in a way that Jungkook misses, has missed for the last couple years since Junghyun left. As they finish their drinks and the little pastries that Junghyun convinces Jungkook to order, as they stall leaving, Junghyun looks at Jungkook and says. “You know, you could stay in Seoul longer. You could stay with me, if you wanted.”

Jungkook shakes his head. “I already bought my ticket home. But I’ll come back soon.”

“You better,” Junghyun says in a voice that’s trying to be threatening. Then, softer, “I miss you.”

“I miss you too,” Jungkook says with a little smile.

They say goodbye with a hug outside in the cold and Junghyun pressing a tiny kiss to the side of his head, in a way that makes him homesick in a way he hasn’t been in a long time. Or maybe it’s not homesickness, maybe it’s the sense of loss that comes with growing up and growing apart from your older brother, your stupid big brother who you love.

“Do well,” Junghyun tells him, and doesn’t clarify on what.

“I will,” Jungkook says back, trying to be more confident than he really feels.

★★

Namjoon and Jungkook’s bus back to Gwangju is at one o’clock on Monday, and they wake up around eight.

“I want to take you to the Han River,” Namjoon tells Jungkook, and Jungkook, who can’t fathom denying Namjoon anything he wants, nods agreeably.

It’s still cold out but it’s sunny today, and the sun warms everything up. They bundle up carefully, a couple of borrowed blankets shoved into Jungkook’s backpack and their trek (to the bus stop, about fifteen minutes across town, then the journey from the bus stop to the calm of the Han River) passes quietly. Namjoon hums a song that Jungkook has heard Taehyung singing lately, and Jungkook wants so badly to hold his hand again, but he shoves his hands in his pocket instead.

Jungkook knows that the river, and the park that surrounds it, must be prettier when the trees have leaves and the grass is green. Still, he likes it. It’s peaceful, mostly empty, which seems extraordinarily rare in Seoul these days. They walk up to a set of benches in front of the water, and Namjoon spreads the blankets so they can sit on them and cover their legs, too.

They sit close together, their thighs sharing warmth, and Namjoon stares out at the water and says, “Jungkook-ah, I have feelings for you.”

Jungkook feels his crystallized mess of emotions, frozen in the cold, go hot and warm and scary.

He doesn’t know what to say, so he says, “Hyung.”

“I don’t know if this is the right time to tell you. I’m no good at these things. But I have feelings for you, and I think you have them back.”

Namjoon is turned to look at him now, but Jungkook feels flushed and nervous, and he stays looking at the water. He nods.

“Please say it,” Namjoon says quietly, voice changing from well-managed calmness to something a little bit desperate. “I know it’s hard to say, but this is one of those times when you need —”

“I do have feelings for you,” Jungkook interrupts, tilting his head down to look at his lap.

“Oh, Jungkook-ah,” Namjoon says softly. Jungkook sees the steam from his breath in his peripheral vision. “Jungkook-ah, come here, look at me.”

Jungkook picks his head up and turns finally, to look at Namjoon properly. There’s a sudden rush of emotion, a weird feeling of free-falling after days and weeks and months of trying to keep himself from saying that out loud.

“It’s okay. You know it’s okay, right?” Namjoon asks him, hand reaching out toward his cheek, but stopping before it gets there. He rests it on Jungkook’s shoulder instead.

“It’s scary. It’s really scary, hyung,” Jungkook tells him, and he can feel his throat get tighter as he says it, his voice wavering.

“Please don’t cry, Jungkook-ah, I don’t want to make you cry,” Namjoon tells him, voice soft and sweet. His gloved hand finally comes up to rest on Jungkook’s cold cheek, thumb stroking his face softly, and Jungkook swallows, blinking and looking up at the light of the sun, because once he read that it gets rid of the tears from your eyes.

“Taehyung told us to wait to talk to you about it, to wait till you came to us, but —”

“Oh god,” Jungkook says, giving a hysterical little laugh-cry. “You all just talk about how I like you? This is so embarrassing.”

Namjoon makes a wounded little noise, and Jungkook feels vaguely bad for doing this to him. Neither of them know how to handle emotions, they’re bad at talking about things like this. Jungkook knows, because he’s seen Namjoon get embarrassed to talk about his feelings with his own boyfriends.

“It’s not,” Namjoon assures Jungkook. “It’s not embarrassing. We don’t — we’re not trying to embarrass you. We really like you, Jungkook. We really, really like you.”

And that’s — that’s surreal to hear. Jungkook doesn’t know how to process it, even, doesn’t know how to respond.

Namjoon sighs and rubs his face with his other gloved hand. “I’m sorry. I’m doing this all wrong. It should be all of us together talking. I just...it’s been really nice, being with you this weekend, Jungkookie. I really like being with you.”

Jungkook nods, turning to Namjoon again now that he feels...well, not more under control, but sort of like he’s having an out of body experience, and less connected to the well threatening to overflow somewhere just behind his eyes. “I really like being with you, hyung.”

“You’re so cute in the mornings,” Namjoon tells him, voice so quiet that Jungkook can barely hear him. “You’re so — I wanted to kiss you so badly.”

Jungkook’s face heats up through the cold air, and a little gasp escapes his mouth before he can hold it back. “I — I —” he stutters, feeling like a deer in headlights. I wanted to kiss you too, I’ve thought about kissing you so much, I’ve thought about everything with you, he thinks feverishly, but he can’t get the words to come out.

“It’s okay,” Namjoon says. “It’s okay. When — when we get home, we can talk about it. Together. We can all talk about it together, okay?”

Jungkook takes in a harsh breath, cold air filling his lungs, and he shakes his head. “I don’t know what I want, hyung.”

“That’s okay,” Namjoon tells him, voice still soft and calming. “That’s okay, Jungkookie. Whatever you want is okay, and if you don’t want anything, that’s okay, and — we’ll wait, until you know what you want. We’re not going anywhere.”

Jungkook nods, still feeling overwhelmed and exposed, completely exposed. He’s worked so hard to keep this quiet, to tamp it down, to make it smaller, but here it is in the cold winter air. Loud and tall, the booming in his chest echoing nervously.

“You like me,” he repeats, just to confirm. Just to get confirmation. “You all like me. Like me, like…”

“Like want to kiss you, and hold your hands, and...like that kind of liking you,” Namjoon tells him with an embarrassed little smile. “Of course we do, Jungkookie. How could we not?”

Jungkook can think of many ways they could not, he’s thought of all of them for months now. All the discrete ways the three of them could reject him. But this — this is scarier, he thinks. This is a big looming question mark in front of him, it’s a million little question marks, it’s a dreadful blanket of uncertainty and self-doubt.

“Can I take some time?” Jungkook asks Namjoon. “I think I should take some time. To think about things, by myself I guess.”

“Oh,” Namjoon says. “Yeah. Of course, Jungkookie. You can take all the time. We’ll be there.”

“I think maybe I’ll stay here with my brother for a couple days,” Jungkook says quietly. “He asked me to stay, and I — I just want some space for a little bit.”

“Sure. That sounds nice, Kookie. That sounds good. Just a couple days, right?” Namjoon asks with a little smile. “We’ll miss you if you’re away for any longer.”

It’s so sweet, so good and sweet, and it makes Jungkook want to cry again. He wants to say I’m sorry, or maybe even, I love you, but he says neither. He just leans over, rests his head on Namjoon’s shoulder, and lets Namjoon put an arm around the back of his neck.

 

Namjoon leaves, eventually. They both leave, but Namjoon leaves first, since he needs to go catch his bus home. He stands and Jungkook stands with him, looking at him nervously. Namjoon gives him a smile, the little kind where his lips turn up and his eyes crinkle from it, where his dimples show. Jungkook wants to kiss him.

“I’ll see you soon, right?” Namjoon asks.

“Of course, hyung,” Jungkook answers quietly.

Namjoon nods, then does it again a little more decisively, and then leans in and presses a kiss to Jungkook’s cheek, barely there but enough to make sirens go off in Jungkook’s mind. His eyes go wide, and when Namjoon pulls back he cringes.

“Sorry. Sorry, I should have asked if that was okay. I wasn’t thinking,” Namjoon mutters, blushing pink.

Jungkook shakes his head. “No, it’s okay. It’s fine,” he says, heart stammering in his chest.

“Okay,” Namjoon says, a smile blooming on his face. “Then can I do it again?”

Jungkook nods, and Namjoon leans in to his other cheek, pressing a kiss there more decisively. He barely pulls away, their faces close as they look at each other, and they both stand there contemplating what it would be like to kiss properly. He can’t read minds, but he can tell, because Namjoon keeps looking at his lips. It’s silly, really, the whole thing, but. The moment is tense and warm, and Jungkook’s mind is hazy.

Namjoon pulls back first, clearing his throat, and he takes a step back. His eyes seem to catch something, and he glances down at the ground with a surprised expression.

“Oh,” he says, sounding awestruck. “Jungkookie, look.”

Jungkook looks down at his feet and sees under his feet, in the middle of the yellow-brown field of frozen-over winter grass, a patch of green grass shoots directly below him. Warm and alive, just like him. Because of him. Because of Namjoon. Because of his heart beat-beat-beating in his chest, because of all the big tall feelings that melted in his chest today. He looks back up at Namjoon with wonder on his face, and Namjoon smiles at him big and sweet.

“You really are amazing, Jungkookie,” Namjoon tells him. (And Jungkook thinks he could melt the whole river with that one.)

Chapter Text

Jungkook spends two days moping on Junghyun’s couch.

It’s a very nice couch. It’s made of leather, and fits in well with his refined decor. It’s all very grown-up. Jungkook lies upside down, legs over the back of the couch and head hanging over the edge, in the same pair of sweatpants he’s worn for two days, and tries to ruin that. He lets out a deep, loud sigh.

“Jungkook-ah,” Junghyun calls from the kitchen, where he’s making dinner. “Will you knock it off?”

“No,” Jungkook says petulantly.

“Oh my god, you’re so annoying,” Junghyun tells him, but there’s no heat in his voice.

He showed up on Monday kind of out of it, grateful that Junghyun was working from home, and took a forty-minute long shower before he explained much of anything.

“I just want to be away for a little bit,” Jungkook told him, feeling small, and Junghyun didn’t pry much more. He got the whole story out of Jungkook eventually, told in bits over that night, but kept assuring Jungkook that of course he could stay, it was no problem.

But Jungkook is restless. Junghyun, like an adult, has to go to work every day, and it leaves Jungkook in his apartment alone, with not much to do besides binge watch television and avoid thinking about his problems.

The main thing he’s avoiding thinking about is how it’s only been two days out here by himself, and he misses Namjoon, Taehyung and Jimin terribly. He’s here to get space, to get perspective, but all he’s gotten is the sinking realization that he doesn’t know how to be by himself anymore. And he doesn’t know how to feel about that.

His head starts to hurt from all the blood rushing to it, so he sighs, flopping himself sideways onto the couch like a normal person.

“I don’t know what to do,” Jungkook whines, for probably the tenth time today.

Junghyun sighs. “You have two options, Kookie.”

“I don’t know what to do, though,” Jungkook whines again.

“Alright. Let’s look at both options. Option one, you tell them you want to stay friends.” Junghyun is talking while he chops vegetables, calling across the apartment to Jungkook, and Jungkook, whiny as he is, is grateful for it. The patience, and the willingness to put up with this dumb shit.

“Okay. I’m sad, because I like them, and our friendship would probably get really messed up, because it would hurt all of us to pretend nothing happened,” Jungkook replies.

“Option two, you tell them you want a relationship.”

“I’m an anxious wreck, I screw up the relationship in three days flat, and they end up breaking up because of it,” Jungkook says.

Junghyun looks up from his vegetables to glare at him. “Right. This is a group of three people who are good enough at navigating relationships that they’ve managed to be together for — how long?”

“Almost three years with all three of them,” Jungkook fills in.

“Almost three years, but your presence is what fucks it up.”

“I think I have that capability,” Jungkook says, nodding at his brother.

Junghyun groans. “You’re being fucking stupid.”

“I know! I know I am!” Jungkook says back, closing his eyes and leaning into the couch further, hoping it swallows him whole.

Junghyun sets down his knife and comes over to the couch, lifting Jungkook’s legs roughly so he can sit down. Jungkook puts them back down in Junghyun’s lap.

“Jungkook-ah,” Junghyun starts. “I know you’re being dramatic, but...what are you really afraid of?”

Jungkook sighs again. “I don’t know how to do any of this, hyung. I’ve never...I’ve never been someone’s boyfriend. I can barely even deal with myself, let alone another person, let alone three other people.”

“Relationships help you grow, Kookie. They’d help you grow,” Junghyun tells him.

Jungkook whines. “Hyung, this is too sappy to talk about with you.”

Junghyun looks at him and makes an offended noise. “Fuck you, if you’re going to sleep on my couch, we’re going to talk about your fear of emotional risks!”

“I’m not afraid of emotional risks,” Jungkook grumbles.

“Really? You’re not scared of being in a different kind of relationship, of things getting harder? Things changing with them?” Junghyun asks him, sounding unimpressed.

Jungkook doesn’t answer, just turns from his back onto his side. Junghyun flicks his leg.

“Ow,” Jungkook complains, turning to glare at him.

“You’ve been miserable here without them,” Junghyun says. “I can tell, you know. You just sit here turning your phone screen off and on, like you want to call them but you won’t.”

Jungkook keeps glaring.

Junghyun drops the stern big brother voice, and goes back to something softer. “Jungkookie, you have three people who treat you well, who care for you, who like you, waiting for you back in Gwangju. And you know you want to be there with them.”

“I just don’t think I…” Jungkook trails off, feeling embarrassed. Because maybe, under all his fear of a relationship, all his anxiety, it’s something else. Maybe sitting here on his ass for two days, he’s had enough time to consider the real issue at hand, the real roadblock that makes him so reluctant to jump into this. “I’m worried I’m not good enough for them.”

It’s a pitiful thing to say out loud, this thing that has only lived in the back of his mind, and Junghyun makes a sympathetic kind of noise on the other end of the couch. Jungkook doesn’t look at him.

“Jungkook-ah, you have to talk to them. You know that,” Junghyun tells him.

“Yeah,” Jungkook agrees quietly. “I know. But I’m gonna put it off for just a little bit longer.”

Junghyun chuckles quietly. “Okay. Let me go make you dinner, then. Spoiled brat.”

“Thanks, hyung,” Jungkook says, voice stil sincere, and Junghyun gives him a soft smile.

“Sure, Kookie,” he says. He pats Jungkook’s leg before he lifts them again, and ruffles his hair before he walks away.

It’s after dinner, after Junghyun’s already gone to bed, that Jungkook finds Titanic on one of Junghyun’s streaming services, and presses play as he cuddles into the bed. It’s a perfect movie, and he hasn’t seen it in five years, and he’s very excited to watch it until he remembers how sad it makes him. He should have foreseen this — it’s a sad movie — but his crying takes him by surprise. It’s different than his usual crying at Titanic, though, because...because well, underneath his surface sadness, he thinks about being in love, thinks about how much it hurts when it ends. It’s stupid and overdramatic, but he has himself worked up in his own mind as he watches the movie, and he barely even registers that his phone starts buzzing in his pocket.

Jungkook sniffs, silly tears over a melodramatic plot in a movie he’s seen fifty times falling on his cheeks, and furrows his eyebrows as he digs for his phone. He’s not sure who he’s expecting it to be at nearly one in the morning, but he’s surprised as he reads Taehyung’s name on the screen. Hesitantly, he answers.

“Hello?” He says. He’s embarrassed at the waver in his voice, especially since he’s upset from watching fucking Titanic.

“Kook-ah,” Taehyung mutters. “Are you okay?”

Jungkook pauses. “Yeah, hyung. I’m fine. What’s...why’d you call?”

Taehyung sighs. “I kind of...felt that you were upset. I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“You can feel from that far away?” Jungkook asks, feeling confused and a little in awe.

“Not with most people,” Taehyung answers. “But if I spend a lot of time with someone, there’s like...I don’t know why, but we have a link, kind of? I can only feel their really strong emotions if we’re not in the same room, and I only have it with a few people.”

Jungkook doesn’t know if he can process right now that he’s one of the closest people to Taehyung’s mind. “Wow,” he says instead. He doesn’t know what else to say, wasn’t prepared to talk to Taehyung tonight.

“But you’re okay? Because you felt really sad and upset, and I was worried,” Taehyung says in a quiet voice. Jungkook imagines him, sitting curled up on the couch in Namjoon’s house, talking quietly on the phone so he doesn’t wake anyone. Hair mussed from lying down, face open and kind and pretty like always. It makes Jungkook ache a little.

“I’m, um. Just watching a sad movie, hyung,” Jungkook says. It’s more or less the truth, anyway.

“Oh,” Taehyung says. “Then I overreacted.” He gives a little chuckle, embarrassed maybe (and that’s a rare mood on Taehyung.)

The line goes quiet for a moment, Jungkook not sure what else to say, not sure if Taehyung wants to speak any more.

“Jungkook-ah?” Taehyung asks. His voice is still quiet.

“Yeah?” Jungkook replies. He fidgets nervously with a loose string on the blanket he’s covered with.

“I really miss you. We all — we all miss you.”

Jungkook feels it like a punch to the gut, and counts himself lucky that he doesn’t start crying again on the spot. “I miss you too, hyung.”

“Come home, Jungkookie.” Taehyung says it in a soft voice, and Jungkook closes his eyes, feels his whole chest constrict.

“Okay, hyung,” he answers. “Okay. I’ll come home.”

★★

Taehyung is waiting for him at the bus stop closest to his house, just like Jungkook (in an uncharacteristic fit of bravery, or maybe a more characteristic fit of desperation) asked him to.

Jungkook schleps his bag off of the bus, grinning despite himself at the sight of Taehyung’s floppy brown hair, oversized winter coat, and pleased smile.

“Hyung,” Jungkook says a little breathlessly, stepping toward him like an automatic response. Taehyung pulls him in like a magnet, and Jungkook steps into his open arms, lets himself be hugged warm and tight standing out here in the cold.

“Hi, Kook-ah,” Taehyung says quietly, muffled against Jungkook’s coat.

Jungkook, who has been trying so hard to not miss Taehyung, Jimin and Namjoon for three entire days, wants to cry almost immediately.

“Oh, Kookie,” Taehyung goes on, must feel the swell of sadness and confusion and loneliness emanating from Jungkook’s mind. “Kookie, let’s go, let’s get you home, then we can talk.”

Jungkook nods against Taehyung’s shoulder, but he stays there for a moment, lets himself sink into Taehyung just a little bit, ignores the part of him that doesn’t want to move again.

The walk to Jungkook’s house is quiet, kind of unusually quiet for Taehyung, but Jungkook kind of gets it. They’re in unfamiliar territory, neither of them sure how to act with each other, really, since everything’s been laid out bare on the table in front of them. Jungkook has to confront the fact that he misses the warm cadence of Taehyung’s voice filling in the quiet places, misses his hand on Jungkook’s now that it hasn’t found his automatically. It’s a little strange, a little hard for him to think about as they walk through the dusting of snow on the sidewalk, the short walk to Jungkook’s aunt’s house.

When he walks in the door, he calls out to his aunt as he holds the door open for Taehyung to walk in behind him. She calls back from upstairs, and then the floorboards creak as she makes her way down to them.

“Jungkook-ah! You’re home,” she says warmly from the landing, looking down at them. “And with a guest.”

“This is Taehyung,” Jungkook says. “He’s one of my friends.”

“One of the magic ones,” she assumes, giving Taehyung a little smile.

“Well, yes, but what if he wasn’t?” Jungkook asks with wide eyes, feeling panicked at the very thought.

His aunt laughs. “I would hope you’d be able to bluff over it, but I can see that’s unlikely.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “He’s all pure of heart and stuff. Terrible liar.”

Jungkook blushes as Taehyung and his aunt share a smile. “I’m fine at lying,” he grumbles, hanging his coat off and stacking his shoes neatly by the door.

“Good to meet you, Taehyung-ah,” his aunt aims at Taehyung. “Are you staying for dinner? You’re welcome to.”

“I’m not sure,” Taehyung answers, shooting Jungkook a look. “But thank you for the offer, imo.”

Jungkook’s aunt smiles, looking pleased, before heading back upstairs.

“She likes me,” Taehyung says simply, looking proud of himself.

Jungkook snorts. “Of course she does.” He shakes his head, grabbing his backpack and moving toward the stairs. “Come upstairs with me.”

Taehyung follows him to his bedroom, and it’s sort of familiar, but it’s different. Taehyung’s been here a few times, but the air between them is still uncertain, and it makes everything feel a little nerve-wracking.

Jungkook sets his bag down on his desk chair when he gets in his bedroom, and flops down onto his bed unceremoniously. Taehyung, seemingly unfazed, follows him, sitting cross-legged next to where Jungkook is sprawled.

“So,” Taehyung starts.

“Uh-huh,” Jungkook responds.

“Your head’s a mess.”

Jungkook musters a laugh, bringing his hands up to cover his face. “Yeah. That’s...yeah, it is.”

Taehyung sighs, and moves so that he’s not sitting anymore, lies down next to Jungkook and wraps an arm around his waist. “Is this okay?” He asks.

Jungkook nods, because it is. Taehyung warm and gentle against him is more than okay, even if he feels all muddled about it. They lie there together, Taehyung’s fingers warm on Jungkook’s side, even through his t-shirt.

“I don’t know what to say,” Taehyung admits after a moment.

“Me either,” Jungkook says with a sigh. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Taehyung sounds genuinely confused, and for some reason, it makes Jungkook feel worse.

“For...I don’t know, not knowing what I want.”

Taehyung picks himself up on an elbow, looks down at Jungkook with furrowed eyebrows. “Jungkook-ah.”

“What?” Jungkook

Taehyung pauses, seems to think his words over. He opens his mouth, closes it again, and sighs. “You’re allowed to not know what you want. That’s — that’s probably how you should be feeling. If anything, I’m sorry.”

Now it’s Jungkook’s turn to furrow his eyebrows. “Why would you be sorry?”

Taehyung sighs again, collapses back down on the bed, cheek squished against Jungkook’s shoulder. “Sometimes it’s really hard, knowing how everyone feels all the time.”

Jungkook makes a sympathetic noise, kind of wants to touch Taehyung in a way that’s comforting, but...but he’s not sure about that, about how much they’re supposed to be touching right now. “Yeah,” he says instead, “I bet it is.”

Taehyung gives a dull kind of laugh. “I think it’s made me more patient. More understanding, you know. I’m good at waiting, because I already know at least a little bit of the outcome. But if it was anyone else, this wouldn’t have...I don’t know, maybe things would be better. Without me meddling. Jimin wanted to talk to you months ago, has wanted you for so long, and I told them both to wait, because I knew that you…” He trails off. Hesitates. “Well, I’ve known you were attracted to us from day one. Knew you weren’t confused over that, even though you felt bad about it all the time. I just wanted to give you some time. See how you felt later on. But that’s...I don’t know. It makes me feel bad, now.”

Jungkook takes all that in, thinks it over. “So what, you think if you weren’t part of the equation, I would be...we would be together? Or something? You think you made it harder?”

“I’m very good at alienating people.” Taehyung’s voice comes out small, smaller than Jungkook’s ever heard it, and a little part of him aches. “I have — I mean, I have power over people. They can’t really lie to me, and people, historically, don’t like that. Namjoon was the first person I didn’t, ah, chase away. I think I’ve gotten better at how I navigate relationships now, but...it’s just hard. For me to figure out what I should do and how I should handle things with people when I know their feelings.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook says, eyebrows furrowed. He tries to figure out how to word this, how to tell Taehyung that without his gentle reassurance, his openness, and the comfort of the fact that Jungkook couldn’t hide anything from him, none of this may have happened. He may have gotten too scared, too consumed with his own feelings. He might have pulled back entirely. He’s no good at talking, especially not talking about things like this, and it takes him a moment to think about. Taehyung’s looking up at him, face hard to read, and Jungkook finally lands on, “Hyung, I think you’re amazing.”

Taehyung looks surprised, and a little flattered, maybe, and Jungkook feels embarrassed almost immediately. “Not that it’s not hard, I just. I really think you’re an amazing person, and you’ve treated me so well, and...if you weren’t a part of them I don’t know that I would have stuck around this long. You make me less afraid of this stuff.”

“What stuff, feeling?” Taehyung asks with a little laugh.

“All of it,” Jungkook answers. He knows his cheeks are pink but he stays looking at Taehyung steadily, the gentle little tilt of Taehyung’s lips into a smile, the freckle on his lower lip that Jungkook always glances at for too long.

“Jungkook-ah,” Taehyung sings in a little hum, breaking their eye contact by snuggling in closer to Jungkook’s side. “You’re so sweet.”

Jungkook frowns. “I’m telling you the truth, I’m not just being nice.”

“I know you’re telling the truth,” Taehyung says, sounding amused. He looks up at Jungkook and points to the side of his head. “Remember?”

Right. Jungkook nods, shuffling closer to Taehyung in return, resting his chin on top of Taehyung’s head.

“Most of my life I didn’t think I’d get to have any of this, you know,” Taehyung tells him, voice quiet. “I thought...I don’t know, that I’d be alone forever.”

“Your family love you,” Jungkook says. He knows relatively little about Taehyung’s family, except that they still live in Daegu and he goes to visit them often, speaks of them warmly. Still, he’s willing to make this safe bet, because he finds it hard to believe anyone could not love Taehyung.

Taehyung nods, motion limited against Jungkook’s chest. “They do. But I don’t mean that kind of alone. It’s hard for me to make friends, harder to keep them, and romantic relationships have always kind of been a nightmare.”

“But everyone loves you,” Jungkook says, incredulous. “You’re friends with everyone.”

Taehyung hums. “I’m good at being friendly with people. But a lot of times, those kinds of things don’t last long for me. I’m usually just kind of a fun novelty, good for party tricks and good sex. I mean I am good for both of those things, but sometimes a guy wants more, you know?” He’s joking, the laugh audible in his voice, but Jungkook wonders how much he’s really joking.

“Ha, I made you think about sex,” Taehyung tacks on after a moment of silence. Jungkook blushes despite himself, but rolls his eyes, getting back to the matter at hand (and trying to stop think about sex.)

“I’m not good at making friends either, but not because of any real reason. I’m just awkward, I think.”

“I don’t think you’re awkward,” Taehyung tells him. “I think you’re a really great person.”

“I’m better with you,” Jungkook says quietly, deciding that Taehyung deserves that honesty. “All of you, but...you, specifically.”

“That’s really nice, Jungkookie. I’m really glad you feel like that,” Taehyung says softly. Jungkook looks down at him, the way he’s wrapped around Jungkook, piled up on his chest. He’s looking right back up at Jungkook, and Jungkook thinks for the hundredth time that it would be so nice to kiss him.

“That feeling,” Taehyung says, voice whisper-quiet. “That feeling, what is that from? It’s some kind of desire, right? Stuff like that is harder for me to pin down, and I’ve wondered.”

Jungkook looks at him. Thinks about lying. Remembers he can’t. “It’s from thinking about kissing you.”

“Oh,” Taehyung replies quietly. “Oh, you’ve felt it a lot.”

Jungkook nods, cheeks flushed. “Yeah.”

“Feels fair to tell you that I have too,” Taehyung says, giving him a sheepish grin. And just when Jungkook is about to lean in, just when he’s about to convince himself he can have this, Taehyung sits up.

“I can wait a little longer, though. Until you know what you want,” Taehyung tells him, smiling apologetically at the way Jungkook is hanging there, feeling (and probably looking) a little dumbstruck. “Don’t take it personally. Just...I really like you, and I’d rather not start something you don’t want to finish.”

“Right,” Jungkook says, sitting up, trying not to show his blush. “Yeah. Um. Yeah.”

Taehyung isn’t fooled, smile turning teasing. “Does it make you flustered when I tell you I like you? God, just wait until you hear it from Jimin, he’s a nightmare.”

“A nightmare?” Jungkook asks nervously, nervous at the whole situation. Nervous at the truth of what Taehyung’s saying, the reminder he needs to talk to Jimin. He probably should have already talked to Jimin. Shit.

Taehyung sighs, looking a little wistful. “He’s just so beautiful and his voice is so soft and he makes you want to jump through a river of flames to give him anything he wants. You know?”

“Oh,” Jungkook says, nodding. “Yeah, I get that.” He’s considering asking Taehyung how Jimin is, if Jimin’s mad at him, because suddenly he can’t stop thinking about how he hasn’t spoken to Jimin since any of this happened, how that’s probably insensitive, but Taehyung cuts him off.

“Hey,” he says, looking at Jungkook. “Stop thinking so hard. It’s okay.”

Jungkook fidgets nervously, having trouble believing him. “It’s okay?”

“It’s okay,” Taehyung repeats again with a nod. “Everything’s okay.”

Jungkook nods, looking down at his lap. “Okay. Do you want to stay for dinner?”

Taehyung smiles at him, big and bright and charming. “Absolutely.”

 

Taehyung, who had always been impressed and complimentary to Jungkook’s cooking, really puts on a show for his aunt.

“This is amazing,” he says in a grateful voice as he gets another big spoonful of stew.

“I like him, keep him around,” Jungkook’s aunt aims down the table at Jungkook.

She asks him how Junghyun is doing, and Jungkook tells her happily, excited to gossip about his girlfriend.

“And your mother doesn’t know?” She asks Jungkook. Jungkook shakes his head through a bite of stew. “Oh, scandalous.”

Taehyung looks between them, a fond kind of look on his face, but it changes to a genuine smile when Jungkook’s aunt puts her attention on him.

“So,” she says, “Are you the empath or the witch?”

“The empath!” Taehyung says excitedly.

“That’s exciting. I’ve only met a few empaths in my life.”

“You have a really warm aura,” Taehyung tells her kindly.

Jungkook’s aunt looks pleased. “And that’s a good thing, right?”

“Of course,” he answers with a smile. “Jungkookie’s is too. Warm, I mean.”

Jungkook remembers Taehyung telling him that once, ages ago. Before he thought any of this was real. “You said Jimin’s is yellow, right? What color is mine?”

Taehyung tilts his head, looking at Jungkook. “You’re mostly red, with some gold. But you’ve been more and more pink lately.”

“Do you read the colors? Like a tea leaves sort of thing?” Jungkook’s aunt asks curiously. “Or like palms, I guess.”

“I’m not that good at reading palms,” Taehyung says. “Traditional divination isn’t really in my wheelhouse. I’ve been trying to learn, though.” He pauses for a moment, then seems to realize he forgot to answer the actual question. “Oh! The colors. They all have a meaning, yeah. I learned them all when I was really little. My grandmother taught me. She was always the strongest, deepest, prettiest blue. For powerful clairvoyance.” He looks sort of wistful at the memory, a little smile on his lips.

“So tell me mine, then,” Jungkook’s aunt says, smiling at Taehyung. She seems charmed by him, which Jungkook thinks is unsurprising.

“You’re really orange, which usually means you’re feeling fulfilled in your life, and that you’re...a vibrant person, I guess? And it means your health is good. You know, very vital,” Taehyung explains in his meandering way, nodding at her sincerely.

“I’ll take it,” she says with a laugh, going back to her dinner.

“What about me?” Jungkook asks, curious.

“The red is your strongest color,” Taehyung comments, looking carefully at him again. “And that’s passionate, energetic, competitive.”

“That tracks,” Jungkook’s aunt comments, and Jungkook pouts at her.

“And then there’s some gold, which is pretty rare, actually. Gold can be read a few different ways, but I think the most appropriate would be that your gold means you’re inspired, maybe you're a perfectionist. It’s also really connected to artistry,” Taehyung says. His voice is gentle and kind, and it makes Jungkook feel flustered to have the full force of his attention.

“And pink, you said,” Jungkook says, trying to maintain normalcy, trying not to melt in a puddle at his aunt’s dining room table, her eyes on them.

“Yeah,” Taehyung agrees, looking away from Jungkook and back down at his food. He’s smiling a little, looking pleased. “More and more pink lately. Which generally means, um,” he glances at Jungkook’s aunt, who’s looking on with interest, “Well, it generally means that you’re falling in love.”

Jungkook swallows. His aunt averts her eyes, though she looks a little amused. Jungkook feels a blush taking over his face, his skin hot.

“Oh,” he says quietly. “Um. Interesting.”

“Interesting,” Taehyung agrees, before he takes another big spoonful of soup.

★★

He should have called first. Or texted, or...anything. But he was too nervous, so he just kind of marched himself on over here. Now he feels stupid, standing here in the entryway of Jimin’s apartment building, finger hesitating before it presses the buzzer for Jimin’s apartment.

Maybe he should just call. Or — or see him at Namjoon’s. Or —

His agonizing is interrupted when the door opens behind him, letting a rush of cold air and two bickering voices into the small entryway.

“I am not going ice skating, why do we have to do this every winter?”

“Ice skating is cute! I’ll protect you, you won’t get hurt.”

“You are one hundred chaotic impulses bound together into a human body, and I love you, but I do not trust you to protect me, and —”

“Oh. Hey. Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook turns, and finds himself face-to-face with Jimin’s roommates, bundled up with pink cheeks and looking mildly surprised to see him. “Oh. Hi,” he says awkwardly, retracting his hovering hand from the buzzer, not sure what to do next.

“Are you here to see Jiminnie?” Hoseok asks, head tilting to the side with the question.

Jungkook nods. “Yeah, um. Yeah.”

“Let’s not ask,” Seokjin stage-whispers to Hoseok. “Here, Jungkook-ah,” he says as he unlocks the door, letting Jungkook in.

They ride the elevator together, Hoseok filling the silence by showing Seokjin pictures on his phone (of a dog, Jungkook thinks? But it seems unclear, and it’s hard to understand Hoseok’s baby-talk voice.)

It’s awkward, probably mostly because Jungkook knows he’s emitting extremely intense awkward energy, but it’s not nearly as awkward as Jungkook feels when Seokjin lets them all into the apartment, and calls out, “Jiminnie! There was a stray outside begging for you, so I let him in!”

For a moment, Jungkook has a fear that Jimin isn’t even home, and that will be triply awkward, but then there’s a call of, “Um, what?” and Jimin emerges from his bedroom.

He stops when he sees Jungkook, face transforming from confusion into surprise. “Oh. Jungkookie. Hi.”

“Kids these days,” Seokjin says, shaking his head and hanging up his coat.

“Shut up,” Jimin snipes at Seokjin. “Go away. Shoo, get out.”

Seokjin squawks, offended. “How dare you!” He yells in a loud, shrill voice. Hoseok is laughing, but he pulls Seokjin away.

“Leave them alone, hyung,” Hoseok says, dragging Seokjin off.

“Park Jimin! How dare you!” Seokjin yells as Hoseok pulls him down the hallway, laughing all the way. Jimin, for his part, just kind of steps around them like he’s in a little bit of a daze.

“Hyung,” Jungkook starts, but he’s not sure what else to say as Jimin keeps walking toward him. “Hyung, I…”

Jimin doesn’t stop until he’s right in front of Jungkook, wrapping him in a hug. Jungkook feels the telltale flutter of butterflies in his stomach, nerves making him go tense, but then he hugs Jimin back.

“You what, Jungkook-ah?” Jimin asks, voice close to Jungkook’s ear.

“I missed you,” Jungkook finishes.

Jimin laughs, bright and warm and maybe Jungkook’s favorite sound.

“You were gone for five days,” Jimin says.

“I still missed you.”

Jimin pulls back, face a few inches from Jungkook’s, looking up at him so sweetly. “I missed you too, Kookie.”

“I wanted to talk to you,” Jungkook blurts out. “About — um. About everything.”

Jimin’s expression fades a little, and Jungkook wants to correct course, wants the smile back. “Not in a bad way. Just...I just wanted to talk to you about it.”

“You’re nervous,” Jimin comments.

“Who are you, Taehyung?” Jungkook asks, feeling himself pout a little at the accusation.

Jimin laughs again, and Jungkook feels better immediately. “I don’t need to be psychic to know that you’re nervous. Come on, let’s go to my room. I don’t trust that Hoseok will keep Seokjin corralled for very long.”

Jungkook sits on Jimin’s bed, looking across at where Jimin’s sitting in his desk chair, unsure where to start. What to say.

Jimin looks at him expectantly, looking amused when Jungkook doesn’t speak. “Thought you wanted to talk.”

“Yeah. I do. I do, but I’m, um. Having trouble,” Jungkook manages, grimacing at his words, at how awful he is at this. “I’m so bad at this, hyung.”

“Want me to start?” Jimin asks, still looking a little amused.

Jungkook nods.

“That night in Busan,” Jimin says, looking at Jungkook like — like — like Jungkook can’t even say how. Like every romance movie and drama prepared Jungkook for someone to look at him, but it’s real and it’s terrifying. “You really shook me up.”

Jungkook swallows, asks, “What do you mean?” just to have something to do with himself.

“I’ve been with a handful of people before, and...well, I’m with a handful of people now,” Jimin says, looking down at his laugh and chuckling. “But I’ve never...I mean, that night was different. It was like out of a book or a movie or something, how badly I wanted you.”

The words wanted you rattle around in Jungkook’s mind, reverberating off the walls and echoing back to him. Wanted you, wanted you, wanted you.

“I like to try and protect myself,” Jimin tells him. “It’s scary to...to put yourself out there, and I try to avoid it as best I can. But god, it’s been killing me not to tell you that I’m in love with you.”

It hits Jungkook like a sucker punch, knocking the air out of him. Jimin must see it, must see the shock and panic on his face, because he gives Jungkook a sad kind of smile.

“I know. Sorry. I shouldn’t be saying all this, you needed time. I just...I needed to. You don’t have to say anything back, or — or even feel the same way. It’s fine. I promise. I just needed to tell you,” he says softly, an extended apology for being in love. Jungkook doesn't say anything right away, looks down at his lap and picks at his hangnails nervously.

“Hyung,” Jungkook says, having trouble looking directly at Jimin. “When you started out, with Taehyung and Namjoon. Were you scared?”

Jimin looks surprised by the question, but recovers well. “Hm,” he mutters. He leans back against his desk chair, and Jungkook tries not to stare at the line of his neck, all the lines of him that fit together so beautifully, that give Jungkook the errant desire to paint. “A little bit, yeah,” he decides.

Part of Jungkook was hoping Jimin would say yes, terrified, and Jungkook could spill his guts, could get advice from the one person who might know what he’s thinking. He tries not to feel let down by the knowledge that Jimin had a much easier time with things, apparently. “Oh,” he says, trying not to sound disappointed.

Jimin looks at him carefully. “It was different,” he says quietly. “It was really different, in a lot of ways. I mean, I was only with Taehyung, at first.”

“Oh,” Jungkook says again, this time in surprise. “I didn’t know that.”

Jimin gives him half of a smile. “I met Taehyung when he was reading tarot cards.”

“You told me, once,” Jungkook says quietly.

Jimin’s still smiling. “Parts of it, yeah. He was reading tarot cards in this little shop downtown.” Jimin rolls his eyes. “You know, whatever. I got a reading because my friend did, and Taehyung was doing all his spooky mystical shit that he pulls out for those jobs, and I was sure it was all bullshit until he looked at me really hard, like he could see through me completely.”

“I know that feeling,” Jungkook agrees, smiling a little at Jimin.

Jimin nods, smiling back. “I know you do. But it was different, it was really intense. And then he just said to me in this quiet voice, we’re going to be very important to each other.” Jimin laughs, shaking his head. “It was the weirdest thing, but he looked so goddamn serious, I suddenly believed him. According to Taehyung, it was one of like three times in his entire life he actually had — I don’t know, a premonition, a vision. And it was me and him, a supercut of us together, years of little moments. You know, growing old together, the whole thing.”

“Wow,” Jungkook says softly.

Jimin shrugs, runs a hand through his hair. “So yeah, I was a little scared, especially when Taehyung told me about Namjoon. I was worried about how it would work, if I would get jealous, dating someone who was dating someone else. I was worried even when I realized I liked Namjoon, too. But it was like — I understood that this was what I was supposed to be doing. It wasn’t as scary, because apparently the whole world was aligned for me to be with this weird boy.”

“God,” Jungkook mutters, letting himself fall backward, his back bouncing against Jimin’s bed. “How do any of you expect someone to keep up with you?”

Jimin laughs a little, but he walks over, perches himself on the bed next to Jungkook. “What do you mean?”

“What do I mean?” Jungkook asks incredulously. “I mean — I mean you and Taehyung are apparently fated to be together, and I mean that Namjoon is the kindest person alive and I mean you’re all so good all the time, and it’s like — you’re all so perfect, and I’m...not.”

“Kookie,” Jimin says softly. Jungkook’s not looking at him, staring resolutely at the ceiling, but that doesn’t stop Jimin from reaching out to grab Jungkook’s hand, holding it gently. “We’re not perfect.”

“You seem perfect to me. You’ve always seemed so perfect to me. You’re so nice to me, you treat me so well, you treat each other so well. You’re all so special, just these incredibly special people, and I don’t think I can keep up,” Jungkook admits, embarrassed to be saying it on Jimin’s bed, holding his hand.

“You don’t think you deserve it,” Jimin comments quietly, sadly.

Jungkook sighs. “Well — well, no. I kind of don’t.”

“You should have led with that, because that one I can relate to. Was I scared? A little. But did I feel inadequate? Definitely,” Jimin says with a laugh that doesn’t sound very amused. He’s still holding Jungkook’s hand, fingertips rubbing at Jungkook’s knuckles.

Jungkook props himself up to look at Jimin, eyebrows furrowed. “That’s stupid. You’re — you’re you.”

“I am me, yeah,” Jimin agrees. “And I’m completely unremarkable.”

Jungkook sits all the way up. “That’s not true.”

“So I’ve been told,” Jimin says with a shrug. “But it’s how I felt. I mean, I still do, sometimes. My boyfriends have fucking superpowers. I’m nobody.”

Jungkook doesn’t know how to say that Jimin’s not nobody, that he’s all the good things he could list, that he’s like something out of Jungkook’s ten-year-old gay fantasies, this perfect beautiful boy who loves him so sweetly.

“You want to argue with me, right?” Jimin asks him, looking amused now. “I want to argue with you, too. If you think we’re good people, you have to trust that we’re sure about you.”

Jungkook feels distinctly like he’s been tricked. “That wasn’t fair.”

Jimin laughs, squeezes Jungkook’s hand. “I know it’s hard. If anyone knows that it’s hard, it’s me. But sometimes you need to believe that what other people see in you is true.”

Jungkook swallows. Nods. “That’s...okay. I’ll...yeah. I’ll think about that.”

One more squeeze to Jungkook’s hand. “Please do,” Jimin says with a bright little laugh.

“Tomorrow night. Is everybody free tomorrow night?” Jungkook asks, mostly on impulse. He hadn’t planned it, he just — he thinks maybe he needs a deadline, to stop himself from thinking in circles over this. Trust that we’re sure about you, Jimin said, and he needs a discrete period of time to mull that over, to stop torturing himself.

“Sure,” Jimin says easily.

“Okay. I want to, um, talk to everyone, tomorrow night. At Namjoon’s,” Jungkook tells him.

Jungkook can tell that Jimin is trying hard to keep his face neutral, to look impartial; it’s only mostly working. He looks a little concerned, in slight ways that Jungkook doesn’t know if he’d be able to see if he hadn’t spent so much time in the last eight months studying him, committing him to memory.

“Can I ask you something?” Jungkook asks, heart rate spiking as he walks out onto a ledge, feels himself look over the edge.

“Yeah,” Jimin says, giving him another little halfway-there smile.

“Would it be okay if you kissed me?”

It’s stupid. It’s so stupid, he knows, especially since his mind is still turning over everything, but he just — he just wants to be kissed by a boy who loves him. He just wants it once.

Jimin’s cheeks go pink, a rarity, and he catches Jimin’s eyes travel down to Jungkook’s lips for a moment.

“Depends on what you mean by okay,” Jimin answers, voice quiet.

“I mean okay with you, but also...I, um. I don’t want to exclude anyone,” Jungkook says, feeling embarrassed even as he says it.

Jimin smiles at that. “How sweet.”

“Don’t make fun of me,” Jungkook mutters through his strong blush.

Jimin shakes his head, brings up a hand to rest against Jungkook’s cheek. The touch startles him, and Jungkook wonders if he’s blushing even harder, now. “I’m not, I’m not. I just think you’re cute. You’re not excluding anyone, Kookie. We’ve, ah...we’ve talked about this.”

“Oh,” Jungkook mutters. His brain is struggling with the idea of Jimin, Taehyung and Namjoon just sitting around talking about the etiquette of kissing him. “That’s...alright.”

“So yes,” Jimin says. “It would be okay.”

“Great,” Jungkook breathes.

“Mhm,” Jimin agrees, leaning toward him with the trace of a smile still on his lips. God, his lips are pretty.

“Oka—”

Jungkook is cut off when Jimin finally connects with him, their lips pressed together cautiously, carefully. Jungkook feels himself exhale hard, but it’s like he’s not totally in control of it, it’s like all he can focus on is leaning forward, leaning into the kiss, leaning into Jimin. It’s a desperate sort of thing clawing at him, months and months of want pushed down and kept hidden, and it’s all bubbling out and Jungkook wants — wants everything.

“Oh, god,” he mutters when Jimin pulls away a moment later, their foreheads still pressed together.

Jimin closes his eyes, huffs a laugh. “I would love to keep doing that.”

“I — yes,” Jungkook manages. “Please.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” Jimin breathes, hand slipping down from Jungkook’s cheek to his neck, fingers gripped into Jungkook’s t-shirt. “I shouldn’t.”

Jungkook presses his lips together, ignoring the little thrill he gets from Jimin calling him sweetheart, nods slightly. “Right.” He backs away, allowing them a few inches of space. “Right,” he repeats again.

Jimin looks conflicted, biting his lip as he looks at Jungkook. “God, you’re pretty.”

It takes Jungkook out of the tension of the moment, makes him make an embarrassing little surprised whine. “I’m — you — thank you?”

Jimin laughs, leans forward and kisses Jungkook’s cheek, so much like the way Namjoon did in Seoul.

“Oh, I like you so much,” Jimin says, sounding fond. “You need to leave before I make you stay forever.”

It doesn’t sound like such a bad deal to Jungkook, but he nods. “I need to leave anyway. I need to go — um, go think.”

Jimin nods, smile fading a little. “Go think. Whatever you want to do, we’ll be okay. We’re still your friends, Kookie.”

Jungkook looks at him skeptically. Jimin gives another little humorless laugh. “Don’t you kiss your other friends like that?”

“I’ve never kissed anyone like that,” Jungkook admits. Jimin looks up at him, something sad in his expression.

“I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry,” Jimin says.

Jungkook shakes his head. “I asked you to.”

Jimin sighs. “I mean it, you know. Whatever you want to do. We love you — not, like, I mean, just as a person. We love you a lot. We’ll do whatever you want.”

Jungkook looks down at his lap. “Yeah. I know.”

“Good,” Jimin says. He finds Jungkook’s hand, squeezes it one last time. “Good.”

Jungkook leaves in a daze. Hoseok and Seokjin are curled up at opposite ends of the sofa in the living room, and they offer goodbyes as Jungkook leaves, but he thinks he mostly comes off as vacant. He has trouble caring.

He stays in a daze for the entire bus ride home, unable to think about much of anything very clearly. He’s still out of it when he walks inside, hangs his coat up and puts his shoes away on instinct, and he yells in surprise when he turns and finds his aunt right next to him.

She looks at him funny, eyeing him over. “Funny way to say hello.”

He should probably just laugh it off, apologize and go up to his room to continue to wallow in all the fuzzy thoughts going through his brain. But something (maybe the self-imposed deadline looming at him from the back of his mind) makes him say instead, “Imo, I think I’m in love.”

She raises her eyebrows. “That makes sense,” she says after a moment. “Go make some tea.”

Jungkook nods blankly, walks into the kitchen. Fills the kettle, flips the switch, finds the canister of the sweet green tea that his aunt likes best (and Jungkook likes best, too.) As he waits for water to boil, he grabs mugs from the cabinet, stares blankly down at them until he can pour them each a cup.

His aunt is sitting at the table, looking down at an opened book but not seeming to pay much attention to it as he sets her mug down first.

“Sit down, Jungkook-ah,” she tells him, voice kind, and waits for him to be seated before she says, “He was a very nice boy.”

Jungkook looks up from his mug at her, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Who was?”

“Taehyung,” she tells him simply. “I liked him.”

“He’s very likeable,” he agrees, still not sure of the connection.

His aunt is staring at him, seemingly expecting something, and then she sighs. “Jungkook, I’m old but I’m not stupid. You’re in love with Taehyung, right?”

Jungkook feels his face go hot in a blush again, and wonders if this is just his permanent state now. “I’m — well. Kind of.”

His aunt raises her eyebrows.

“I’m gay, by the way,” Jungkook says. “I feel like that part should go first.”

“Well, me too,” she says mildly. “I thought we just weren’t going to speak about it, to be honest with you.”

Jungkook blinks at her. “What?”

“Oh my god,” his aunt actually laughs. Laughs at him when he’s this pitiful. Cruel. “Jungkook-ah, had you never put that together? I live alone on the other side of the country from my family. I never got married, or had children. Come on, you’re supposed to be able to read between the lines.”

“I never — imo,” he stutters, looking at her incredulously. “You — this is —”

She laughs again, takes a sip of her tea. “Oh, this is funny. We can talk about it another time, Jungkook-ah, don’t worry. It’s not changing anytime soon. But yes, alright, you’re gay. Congratulations, I’m very proud. Go on.”

Jungkook blinks at her. “I have a magical lesbian aunt and you want me to move on to my stupid feelings?”

“Oh, when you put it that way, I sound incredibly charismatic. But yes, I do. They aren’t stupid, dear.”

Jungkook whimpers. His aunt laughs again. “You said kind of. What else is on your mind?”

“All of them,” he says all at once, figuring at this point in the conversation that the act of subtlety is useless. “I’m in love with all of them. I’m in love with three people.”

“Oh,” she says, eyebrows raised as she takes a sip of tea. “Well, that’s ambitious.”

He groans, letting his head drop onto the table.

“My heterosexual nephew would never resort to these dramatics,” she comments.

“Imo!” Jungkook wails, laughing despite himself. “This isn’t funny!”

“I’m sorry, I’m enjoying myself a little bit. Tell me more. I need some details here,” she says, reaching out to pat his head comfortingly.

Jungkook lets out a big sigh. “Alright. Quick version, they’re dating, they like me, Jimin just told me he loves me, I...think I love them, too.”

His aunt looks at him. Sips her tea. “I see. You’re in requited, reciprocal love. I understand the hysterics now.”

Jungkook glares at her, cheeks flushed again. “Everyone keeps acting like this is easy. It’s not easy.”

At that, she makes a sympathetic noise, patting his head again. “Have you been in love before?”

Jungkook looks down, embarrassed at the question. “No,” he says quietly. He’s had crushes, sure, on a lot of different people (and maybe Junghyun was right, maybe he does have a problem with getting attached to anyone and everyone.) But love? No. He only had the idea of love, what it looked like in movies. When he was really little, he would put himself to sleep writing grand romances in his head, following the plot of movies and plugging himself in for the male lead. Except, when it never felt right with the female lead, even the ones he thought were pretty — well, that’s how he started figuring things out.

“I don’t know how to do this,” he says in a quiet whine, still looking down instead of at her.

“No one does, Jungkook-ah,” she says. “No one knows how to do it right. It’s just about trusting yourself and trusting someone else, and...trying, together. People who are good at it aren’t more knowledgeable, they don’t know any more than you, they’ve just tried more.”

He bites his lip. “What if I’m bad at it? Being — being with someone.”

“Three someones,” she corrects.

“Yeah.” Another blush.

His aunt shrugs. “Well, then you’re bad at it. I’ve been bad at it lots of times. Sometimes, the other person understood, and we talked about how to be better at it. Sometimes I was really bad at it, and the other person still understood, because she loved me. No one’s good at it all the time, Jungkook-ah.”

The she sticks out to Jungkook’s ears, makes him feel comforted. He drinks his tea, thinking.

“So I should do it, right?” He asks.

“Do what?” His aunt asks him back, sounding amused again.

“Date them. Be...with them,” Jungkook explains, feeling a little bit like a thirteen-year-old about all of this.

“Well, Jungkook-ah, it depends on what you think you —”

“I really need someone tell me to do it,” Jungkook interrupts, voice sounding as nervous as he feels.

His aunt pauses, looks him over. “Then do it.”

Jungkook nods. “Thank you.”

His aunt smiles at him . “You know, I’m really glad you’re here, Jungkookie.”

Jungkook turns to her, lets a small grin slip onto his expression. “Me too.”

“I’m proud of you,” she says, more sincere than Jungkook is used to her being. It makes Jungkook a little emotional, the way she says it, the way she’s looking at him. “Just...for everything. You’re growing so well.”

“Thank you,” Jungkook says again, voice soft.

“Aish,” she says, standing from the table with a groan. She walks over, puts her hand on his cheek and squeezes it a little. “Be happy. Go be happy. Okay?”

Jungkook nods, looking up at her. “Okay.” He doesn’t know how to say thank you the right way, doesn’t know how to convey the kind of gratitude he feels. So he hugs her instead, reaching his arms out to wrap around her torso as he sits in front of her.

His aunt laughs, wraps her arms around his shoulders, pats his head again.

“You’re a good kid,” she tells him.

“You’re a good aunt,” Jungkook says right back, voice a little muffled against her sweater. She laughs again.

“Now you’re a kiss-ass. Go soak the rice for dinner.”

Jungkook nods, standing dutifully and taking the mugs back to the kitchen as he goes.

“Three boyfriends,” he hears her mutter. “I let this kid stay in my home and he gets three boyfriends. I swear...”

Jungkook laughs to himself, shaking his head, and gets to work.

★★

Jungkook has not felt this nervous with Namjoon, Taehyung and Jimin since the first day he accidentally stumbled into the house.

It’s hard not to feel nervous, when the three of them are staring at him expectantly, even though Jungkook can tell they’re trying to play it down. It’s still a lot of eyes, a decent amount of pressure. He’s curled up small on one end of the couch, looking between Jimin on the other end, Taehyung on the floor with his head leaned against Jimin’s thigh, and Namjoon in the armchair. They had offered him food, tea, but he had turned it down, concentrated on getting his job here done. He licks his lips, looks down at his lap and then looks back up at them all.

“I need to know the rules.”

Taehyung nods. Jimin blinks. Namjoon tilts his head to the side like a dog.

“The rules?” Namjoon asks. His voice is still as gentle as it was when he answered the door, looking shy when Jungkook leaned in to hug him. It’s killing Jungkook, a little tiny bit, that gentleness in his voice, but he is coping somehow. He has some business to get out of the way.

Jungkook nods decisively. “The rules. For dating three different people.”

Jimin hums. “We’re...exclusive, if that’s what you’re asking. I mean, it’s just the three of us. Until, you know, you showed up.”

“Well, to be fair, I sleep around a little,” Taehyung adds casually. Jungkook inhales too quickly and chokes on his spit, making him cough, and Taehyung laughs lightly. “Sorry. That was kind of abrupt, I guess.”

“Yah,” Jimin chides, flicking his arm. “Tone it down a little.”

Jungkook, recovered from his embarrassing coughing fit, looks between the three of them. “So how does that work? What are the rules?”

“They’re not rules. They’re just things we’re talked about and agreed on, based on what we’re comfortable with,” Namjoon says quietly. “Jimin and I are both comfortable with Taehyung seeing people outside of us, uh, casually —”

“Physically,” Taehyung corrects. Namjoon blushes a little, but doesn’t give any other acknowledgement of Taehyung’s words.

“— but not romantically,” Namjoon finishes. “If he developed feelings for someone else, that would be something we had to talk about.”

“And we did talk about it,” Jimin says. “When we had feelings for you.” Jungkook nods, though he feels a little embarrassed, as usual, at the very idea that the three of them talk about having feelings for him.

“But if you’re not comfortable with that, that’s fine. I’m very flexible on the matter,” Taehyung says to Jungkook, smiling a little.

Jungkook furrows his eyebrows, considering that. “I’m not sure if I am or not.”

“That’s fine,” Taehyung says. “I’ll manage to refrain.”

“What a sacrifice,” Jimin says in a mocking voice, quiet enough that Jungkook can tell it’s only meant for Namjoon. He smirks when Taehyung glares at him.

“And we can always talk about it again,” Taehyung goes on, looking back toward Jungkook. “I mean, that’s how pretty much everything works with us. We talk about something, we see how it goes, we talk about it again if we need to.”

“I’m worried I...won’t know how to talk about it,” Jungkook voices, feeling silly for saying it. “About anything.”

“Don’t be embarrassed about that,” Taehyung tells him firmly, and Jungkook feels a little grateful that Taehyung can see the inside of his mind. “That’s okay. It’s a hard thing to learn how to do. I mean, I can help you, but ultimately I’m going to let you speak for yourself.”

Jungkook nods. “Okay.”

“What else?” Jimin asks.

“Um...do you do everything together? Do you feel excluded if everyone’s not doing something?” Jungkook asks. Another little wave of embarrassment passes over him, and Taehyung furrows his eyebrows.

“Hey. How many times do I have to tell you not to be embarrassed? None of us think you’re dumb for asking anything.”

“Yeah, if we didn’t think you were dumb for all the other stuff you’ve done, we’re not gonna start now,” Jimin says.

“Hey,” Jungkook says.

“To answer your question,” Namjoon butts in with a little half-smile. “No, we don’t do everything together.”

“The scheduling alone would be a nightmare,” Jimin says with a small sigh. “The thing is, we have a relationship together, the three of us, but we have individual relationships, too. Sometimes you need that time with just one other person, and that’s fine. Namjoonie and I have a different relationship than Taehyungie and I, and I have to be an active part of both of those relationships.”

“And you don’t get jealous?” Jungkook asks. “You don’t — you don’t feel bad, because you don’t live here too?”

“Well, I didn’t say that. No, I don’t feel bad, but yeah, I’m jealous sometimes.”

“It’s because Jiminnie is very delicate, and needs a lot of attention,” Taehyung says matter-of-factly.

“And what about it?” Jimin asks coolly, raising an eyebrow. Taehyung laughs.

“But you know, there’s time I have to spend with either one of them that they don’t have with each other. We try to balance that out as best we can.” Jimin looks between Namjoon and Taehyung like he’s looking for approval, so Namjoon nods.

“And sometimes one of us will be jealous, and we kind of had to learn how to voice that without feeling...I don’t know, like you’re being petty, I guess,” Namjoon says with a laugh.

“Which is also hard,” Jimin says, making an apologetic face at Jungkook. “There are just some things that are kind of hard, about balancing this many people.”

“It’s worth it, though?” Jungkook asks in a small voice.

“Yeah,” Namjoon tells him, smile spreading on his face slow as he glances between Jimin and Taehyung. “Yeah, it’s really worth it.”

“Alright,” Jungkook says with a nod. “Okay. Let’s get it.”

“What?” Namjoon asks, looking confused.

“I...want to date you,” Jungkook corrects awkwardly.

“Oh,” Namjoon says. He looks a little dumbstruck. Meanwhile, a smile blooms on Taehyung’s face, warm and sunny, and Jimin’s looking at him cautiously, like he wants to ask if he heard right.

“Really,” Jungkook aims at Jimin. “Really, I’m sure.”

“Jungkook-ah,” Jimin says in a happy little sigh, and then he’s there, shuffling over from the other end of the couch, pressing himself into Jungkook’s space to wrap his arms around him messily, clumsily.

Jungkook laughs softly, lets his face press into Jimin’s hair, comforted by the cologne smell Jimin likes in his soap and shampoo. But then Jimin lifts his head, face close to Jungkook’s, and the combination of the smell and his smile and the pretty way his eyes curve up and the pink of his lips is — it’s a lot. Jimin laughs a little, maybe at the wideness of Jungkook’s eyes, maybe at everything, and then he whispers, “Can I kiss —” and Jungkook doesn’t wait for the rest, just leans in and presses their lips together. And there’s still the nervous pounding of his heart, but some of the edge of his desperation seems to have faded, and now he can focus on — on the little sighing noise Jimin makes, the grip of his hand on Jungkook’s shoulder. On the noise of their mouths, slightly gross but fascinating to him.

They kiss, and it’s different than in Jimin’s bedroom, none of their anxiety pulling them apart. They kiss, and they don’t have a reason to stop, their lips pressing together again and again until Jungkook hears Taehyung’s voice prod gently.

“Hey,” he says, and it does its job, Jimin pulling away to find him. He’s still sat on the floor, but he’s underneath them, looking up at them with his eyes slightly wide. “Jimin-ah, give the rest of us a chance.”

Jimin giggles, leaning into Jungkook’s shoulder again, and Taehyung smiles up at them. “Get off the floor, then.”

“Trade you,” Taehyung says, standing and laughing when Jimin lets out a big, loud laugh.

“Stupid,” Jimin tells him, but he scoots away from Jungkook on the couch, shakes his head at Taehyung. But Taehyung leans down to Jimin first, both of them smiling as Taehyung tilts Jimin’s chin up and presses a soft kiss to his lips. It sparks something warm in Jungkook, a switch turned on, and he starts to feel guilty about it before he remembers that he’s allowed — he’s allowed to want them now. Taehyung turns, catches his eye, smiles big at Jungkook.

“Your aura’s real pink right now, just so you know,” Taehyung says.

“No idea why,” Jungkook replies easily, smiling because he can’t help from doing it.

“It’s a mystery,” Taehyung agrees, and then he finds his way into Jungkook’s lap, heavy and solid above him. There’s a shift of weight when Jimin stands, and Jungkook catches him walking over to Namjoon from out of the corner of his eye. But he’s having trouble focusing on anything but Taehyung, perched in his lap sweetly, looking down at him like he’s the most important person in the world. It makes him feel overly warm, looking back up at Taehyung.

“I’m so glad,” Taehyung tells him quietly.

“About what?” Jungkook asks, dazed.

“About you,” Taehyung says, another big smile taking over his pretty face, and then he leans down and kisses Jungkook. It’s different from Jimin — Taehyung’s big hands are cupping his jaw, his body pressed against Jungkook’s, and where Jimin was careful, Taehyung is more insistent. More enthusiastic, more teasing, his teeth grazing Jungkook’s lower lip, laughing when Jungkook sighs a little at the feeling. He thinks he’d be fine to do this for hours, nothing more than this, Taehyung’s fingertips resting lightly on his neck, his lips pressed against Jungkook. But it does end, because Taehyung turns around and looks at Jimin and Namjoon where they’re sitting together on the armchair, Jimin perched on the arm with his head resting against Namjoon’s, their hands clasped as they look toward Taehyung and Jungkook.

Jungkook is breathing heavy, body leaned forward automatically when Taehyung pulls away, and when Taehyung turns back to him, he’s smirking a little. “You really liked that,” he says softly to Jungkook, soft enough that only he can hear.

Jungkook just nods, missing the feeling of Taehyung’s hands on him.

“No one ever wants to kiss for as long as I do,” Taehyung says, sighing a little, and that one’s a little louder with a teasing glance over his shoulder. “I think I’ve finally met my match.”

I’ll kiss you forever, Jungkook wants to say, doesn’t say. There’s honest communication and there’s embarrassing himself, and he’s only just now getting comfortable with the former. “Maybe,” he says instead.

“Joonie-hyung,” Taehyung says, still looking at Jungkook. “You’re radiating some really powerful energy over there.”

Namjoon lets out a little whine, audible over Jimin’s giggle. “Don’t embarrass me. You always try to embarrass me.”

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Taehyung says. He’s smiling down at Jungkook like they’re sharing a joke, and he brings his hand up again to rest against Jungkook’s cheek. “Who wouldn’t want to kiss him?”

Jungkook blushes at that, first just for Taehyung to see, and then on display to everyone when Taehyung rolls off of his lap. “Go kiss him, Kookie,” Taehyung says softly, the smile still in his voice.

“You’re making it weird,” Jungkook tells him.

“God, you two,” Taehyung says, rolling his eyes. “This is the set-up to a joke. Two virgos who are attracted to each other try to initiate a kiss, and —”

“Some people get nervous about things,” Jimin says, like he’s explaining a very basic concept to Taehyung.

“Oh, what do you know about being nervous?” Taehyung asks, and then they’re bickering, caught up in fussing at each other. Jungkook is looking at Namjoon, the two of them sharing a sheepish grin. They stand at the same time, and then pause, like they weren’t expecting that. Taehyung and Jimin are still teasing each other, voices lilting, but Jungkook has trouble focusing on it as he walks toward Namjoon.

“Hi,” he says quietly. He is nervous, he realizes, which is silly. But Namjoon gets him like that sometimes, like a kid with a crush.

“Hi,” Namjoon says back, voice deep and comforting. Jungkook feels a swell of infatuation at the sound. Silly, he thinks again. Namjoon has such a beautiful smile on his face, and Jungkook wants so badly to kiss him, but — but this feels meaningful, this moment. There’s a twitch in Namjoon’s fingertips like maybe he wants to reach forward and touch Jungkook, but he stops himself.

Jungkook steps forward, brings them closer together, feels himself blush as he brings his hands to Namjoon’s waist. “Is this okay?” He asks.

Namjoon nods, looking at Jungkook seriously, his smile replaced with a dusting of pink on his cheeks, his lips parted slightly. “I’m worse at this than them,” Namjoon says quietly, then pulls himself back a little, looking embarrassed. “Not kissing, I mean, um. I don’t think. I mean, uh — I was talking about...I don’t know, this is easier for them.”

Jungkook nods, endeared by Namjoon’s babbling, but understanding immediately. “It’s not as easy for me either.”

“Taehyung’s right, we are the set-up to a joke,” Namjoon says with a little smile, eyes flickering down to Jungkook’s lips for a moment. Jungkook tightens his grip on Namjoon’s waist, smiles back slightly

“I really like you,” Jungkook tells him. Love you, his mind says, but this doesn’t seem like the time for that. It’s too much all at once, and anyway, there’s no rush. “I’m gonna kiss you now.”

And Namjoon’s breathing out a laugh until he’s not, until Jungkook interrupts them. It’s gentle, slow, and Jungkook’s heart stops a little when Namjoon kisses him back. Stupid, so stupid, but Jungkook feels so brand new every time one of them kisses him, like he’s never kissed anyone before. His breath hitches when Namjoon puts his hands on Jungkook’s waist, pulls him in closer, and Jungkook is filled with a single-minded sort of want, his mind already pleading not to let this end. When Namjoon goes to pull back, Jungkook presses forward again, not ready to resurface, and Namjoon breathes a laugh between kisses but lets them stay together. Namjoon’s hands find Jungkook’s, and he laces their fingers together when he finally pulls away.

Namjoon’s smiling, eyes looking over Jungkook’s face, and Jungkook exhales, looking right back.

“Wow,” Taehyung mutters softly from behind them. Jungkook doesn’t turn, but Namjoon glances at him, still smiling.

Jungkook should probably react to one of them in some way, but Namjoon is still holding his hands, and Jungkook kind of just wants to stay exactly here for several hours. It’s alright, though — he doesn’t need to react, to move, because the others come to him. Jimin wraps his arms around Jungkook’s middle, presses his chest to Jungkook’s back, presses a kiss to the nape of Jungkook’s neck. Taehyung stands next to them, first leaning up to kiss Namjoon’s cheek and then Jungkook’s. (And then, when Jimin whines, he scoots around to kiss Jimin’s cheek, too.)

Jungkook feels steady on his feet between the three of them, and sends a little thank you out to the universe, for aligning just right this time.

★★

The winter goes like this:

Jungkook holds Taehyung’s hand as they shuffle down the snowy street, trying not to stare at the way snowflakes get caught in his hair (dark and longer, now, shaggy over his eyes and the back of his neck.) Namjoon has trouble working when Jungkook’s watching, claiming that he gets too distracted, and he says it with a blush every time, cheeks still pink when Jungkook kisses him, laughing. Jungkook spends nights at Jimin’s apartment on a regular enough basis that Hoseok makes him coffee in the morning with the right amount of sugar every time.

He tells Namjoon he loves him, a quiet afternoon when he’s lying with his head in Namjoon’s lap, watching him from below, the furrow in his brow as he reads. He can’t help from saying it, and Namjoon almost drops the book right in Jungkook’s face.

He tells Jimin he loves him, late at night in a whisper, when Jimin hands him a mug of tea he made for Jungkook’s sore throat. Jimin just smiles, slow and sweet, and sets the tea down on the nightstand before he kisses Jungkook through a smile. He gets Jungkook’s cold and doesn’t complain once.

With Taehyung he doesn’t need to say anything at all, knows how strong Taehyung must feel it, and every time Jungkook feels a particularly heart-stricken pang of affection, Taehyung comes and kisses his temple.

The three of them come around for dinner at Jungkook’s aunt’s house every week or so, and they all offer to help cook, but Jungkook only lets Jimin help. Though his aunt is teaching Namjoon knife skills, slowly and surely, off to the side while Jungkook cooks dinner. She tells him that she likes them every time they leave, even though she makes fun of him for kissing them goodnight outside with the front door closed. Junghyun calls him on Sundays, tells him he’s visiting in the summer, and Jungkook promises to make introductions, promises to show Junghyun all the ways he’s made a new home.

The winter goes like this:

The four of them tucked together messily on Namjoon’s couch, Jimin whining that they never let him pick the movie, Taehyung sprawled heavily on top of all of them somehow. Three kisses goodnight, Jungkook tucked in the middle of them in Namjoon’s big bed, in soft clothes in the soft sheets, soft feelings threatening to melt. Warm mornings spent pressed together with their eyes still closed, not willing to get up yet — but when they do, they share the lazy warmth of the house, the smell of coffee and breakfast and Namjoon’s flowers, ever-present.

The winter goes like this:

Busy, quickly, and in love.

★★

In the spring, the plants grow faster than Namjoon knows what to do with them, faster than they’ve ever grown before. They shoot up from the earth with grace, with joy, and Jungkook can’t help but feel the same way.