jeongguk inspects the little wound on his finger, frowning as a tiny spot of blood rises to the surface and out out out of his skin. he tuts—more to himself than anything—and then presses a cloth to the wound, making sure to keep a little pressure. it’s not big or deep, but it’s still a bite and the last thing he needs is for annoying little germs to get into his bloodstream through it. he wipes away the few spots of blood, inspecting the few tiny puncture marks in his finger—just on the side of his index finger, and he knows he only has himself to blame for him.
there’s a tug at the hem of his pants, but he ignores it as he grabs a plaster and fits it over the puncture marks, wrapping it tight and patting it a little before he deems himself thoroughly healed.
there’s another tug.
“yes,” says jeongguk, a little exasperatedly, and then turns around to peer down at the little creature attached to his pant leg. she’s upset that he’s not paying attention to her, but considering she’s the one who did this to him, he supposes it would only be right for him to ignore her for a while. he knows about training animals—he’s meant to reprimand them as soon as they do something wrong, not later, or it won’t have any affect on the next time they do something naughty.
but—jeongguk finds himself pouting as he looks down at the little thing clambering onto his shoe and poking her head up at him, like she’s asking a question, trying to beg for his forgiveness. there can’t be any real way for her to know exactly what she’s done, at least when she’s this young, but. her eyes are so big. jeongguk feels it tug at his heartstrings, knowing he can’t possibly punish her when he’s got such a soft spot for her.
with a sigh, he squats down and picks up the creature: the dragon. she’s only a month old, just big enough to fit into the palm of his hand. she’s teething, which is why she bit him in the first place—the baby dragons are prone to nipping at his fingers or just holding onto them when they don’t have teeth, which is harmless, so once they do have teeth, they aren’t out of the habit. accidents happen. it’s not the worst injury jeongguk has gotten through working with dragons, but that’s why he only works with the babies now—although that’s a different story.
“opal,” he says with a sigh, bringing the baby dragon close to his face. he’d named her that because her head and flank are studded with the gems—and yeah, he’s not supposed to name the dragons, something about not getting attached considering this is just a job and he’s not allowed to keep them, has to give them back to their mothers and owners once they’re old enough, but he can’t help it. how is he supposed to spend months, sometimes years with these dragons, if he’s just thinking of them as numbers?
the dragon, in any case, leans forward and nuzzles her little head into jeongguk’s cheek. she knows he’s got a soft spot for her, the little shit. “opal,” he tries again, pulling her a few inches away. “you can’t bite me anymore. you have teeth now and it’ll hurt me a lot if you try doing that. that was a very naughty thing you did. see, now i’ve got to heal myself.” he shifts her into one hand, holding up his other so she can see the plaster on his index finger.
opal eyes it for a moment, tilting her head, and then licks his finger.
“yes, very good,” giggles jeongguk. “that’ll make it better. i know you’re sorry. now, how about you go play with the others while i feed some of the newborns?”
he sets her down on the ground, giving her bum a little push so that she’ll go scampering across the workshop. and she does, happily, leaving him behind as she runs over to the playpen on the other side of the massive room—it’s filled with four or five other dragons, all around her age. they’re at the age when they like to play and be rowdy but are just leaning how to breathe out smoke or, on the rare occasion, fire. which means he has to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn each other to a crisp or, god forbid, burn the sanctuary down.
once he hears the little squeaks of happiness from the playpen, he heads toward the nests instead. the village has been entrusting him with their baby dragons for years now, ever since he was a teenager and realized that his talents didn’t lie in riding them but taming them. he’s always had a big heart for animals, and being able to help raise the dragons has always been more exciting than trying to get on one.
and maybe—it has something to do with his fear of heights. maybe.
jeongguk is quiet as he approaches the nests, peering into the massive beds of straw to see a few of the newborns sleeping soundly. they’re even tinier than opal, some as big as one of his fingers. those ones do a lot of sleeping and eating and that’s about it, so he’s extra careful with them. he likes when they’re just old enough to be playful and he can start carrying them around on his shoulders or in his pockets, where they’re happy.
one of the little dragons—helios, named after the greek god of the sun because he’s a startling god colour—yawns and then flops over before shaking awake with a tiny mewl. jeongguk lets out a little sigh, happy to watch the dragons before he reaches in and brushes a finger down helios’ back.
“hello, little guy,” he says. “are you hungry?”
with that, he scoops the newborn dragon into his hand, marvelling at just how small he is—but he knows that it’ll only take a few years and the dragon will be fully grown, with wings that can span tens of feet and an ability to burn down an entire house with just a sneeze. he likes to imagine what the dragons will be like when they grow—if they’ll be used for defense or in recreation or just as pets. the possibilities are endless.
for now, though—helios snuggles into jeongguk’s hand, apparently content to go right back to sleep, and the human giggles before he grabs one of the bottles on the side of the nest. he sits down himself, crossing his legs before he nudges the nipple of the bottle into helios’ mouth and waits for him to begin drinking.
it’s tedious work sometimes, having to be a mother to all of the dragons, especially when they get needy. it would be easier if the dragons’ mothers were the ones that did this, but that’s not how the village operates, and besides, the quiet times like this are nice. he’s content to just sit and watch little helios eat and listen to the sounds of the older dragons playing, and some of the even older ones practice their flying overhead, thankfully not needing as much attention as the younger ones.
the door bangs open, startling jeongguk so badly that he almost tosses helios right out of his hand. thankfully, he recovers in time to keep the dragon safe, but the little hiccup has the dragon squirming anyway, unhappy. jeongguk shushes the creature, stroking down his back to calm him before he thinks to look over to see who interrupted him in the first place.
“oh, yoongi-ssi!” exclaims jeongguk upon seeing the older man standing in the doorway. he looks as awkward as ever in the workshop—it’s clear that yoongi isn’t used to dealing with baby dragons. as a dragon rider who has tamed full grown dragons, jeongguk supposes it’s no surprise that yoongi doesn’t know what to do with anything smaller than him.
“hello,” says yoongi from the door, giving jeongguk a small wave. “i’m, uh—here to see the babies?”
jeongguk grins, then, gently setting helios back in the nest before he gets up and brushes himself off—he’s perpetually covered in dirt and honestly a bit of spit from the dragons, usually with a bruise or cut from trying to deal with the little things. they’re finicky, not quite sure how to control their feet or wings or fire breathing abilities. it’s just a hazard of the job.
he makes his way over, reaching out for yoongi’s wrist before tugging him toward the nests. he likes yoongi—likes most of the people in the village, of course, but there’s something more about yoongi. it’s not often that jeongguk goes to see the races, because he doesn’t like the idea of any of the dragons being overworked when they’re such gentle and caring creatures, but when he does, it’s always for one of yoongi’s races. yoongi’s good at it—not the best, but he could be if he worked his dragon a little harder.
the thing is, he doesn’t. yoongi’s dragon is a vipertooth, making her one of the smaller dragon breeds, although one of the most dangerous; she’s fast, but because of the size of her wings, she has to work harder than large dragons to move as far. other dragon riders might put her through more rings, train her harder, push her further so that she could overcome that obstacle.
but jeongguk sees the way yoongi treats his dragon when they’re not racing. yoongi is gentle with her—he cares for her the way jeongguk cares for the babies, with soft words and softer hands. for most dragon riders, the dragons are just their tool for winning, but yoongi’s dragon is like… a friend.
so yoongi is different, and jeongguk notices it. jeongguk likes it. he thinks maybe they feel the same way about dragons, maybe they understand the dragons the same way. the only difference is that jeongguk is a little afraid of the adult dragons and yoongi is a little afraid of the baby ones. they make a funny pair.
and anyway—yoongi’s dragon had laid three eggs not long ago, and yoongi had called the sanctuary in a panic about what to do. it was normal for a first time dragon grandparent (as jeongguk liked to call them) to not have the first clue about baby dragons, but it was jeongguk’s speciality. they’re now two weeks old and have been in jeongguk’s care the entire time. yoongi has been coming by almost every day for the two weeks.
not that he has to. most dragon grandparents only come by once a week, sometimes not until the sanctuary lets them know that they’re free to take the dragons back. and maybe jeongguk told yoongi that he should come by as often as possible for bonding purposes, but maybe that just has more to do with the fact that jeongguk has been a little (a lot) infatuated with yoongi for two years and finally has an excuse to talk to him.
“i was just feeding helios,” says jeongguk as they reach the nest, and he keeps his hold on yoongi’s wrist for a second longer than necessary before he squats down beside the nest. yoongi follows him.
“helios?” asks yoongi, and—oh.
jeongguk flushes. “i kind of named them,” he admits. “it’s just—it’s easier for me to take care of them if they have names, you know? so helios,” he points to the little gold dragon he’d been feeding when yoongi came in, “and iris,” he points to the sleeping dragon beside the first, her red and white scales shimmering a little, “and nyx,” he points to one in the corner, black as night. jeongguk flushes again, keeping his eyes away from yoongi as he adds, “they’re all named after greek gods and goddesses. i thought it fit.”
yoongi—chuckles. “i like them,” he says. “they’re creative. probably better than anything i would have named them.”
“considering you named your dragon grimfang, i’d have to agree.”
“what’s wrong with grimfang?” asks yoongi, and jeongguk glances over to see the man as an absolutely appalled look on his face.
jeongguk can’t help it—he bursts into giggles. “really?” he asks. “it’s so—medieval. all of you dragon riders have the weirdest names for your dragons. stormseeker and wildbeast and death song. they’re just animals.”
“they’re dragons,” replies yoongi, indignant.
“well,” says jeongguk, turning back to the nest and reaching over to scoop up helios again. “i call your dragon fae anyway, because it’s much nicer and doesn’t sound like she’s going to try to eat me.”
yoongi probably means to keep arguing—jeongguk understands the sentiment behind naming your dragon something ferocious, probably all about intimidation techniques, but he knows that dragons aren’t terrifying beasts that cause only destruction. maybe it’s because he seems like this: gummy little creatures still trying to learn how to walk, blinking up at him with all of that wonder in their eyes. hardly a night terror or screaming death kind of dragon.
“here,” says jeongguk before yoongi can say anything, holding helios out. and yoongi practically flinches, leaning back as he frowns down at the dragon. “c’mon, just take him. he’s not going to bite.”
“what’s that on your finger, then?” asls yoongi, and—oh. he noticed that jeongguk is injured. which probably shouldn’t mean as much as it does, but jeongguk’s heart does a funny thing anyway.
“that’s from one of the older dragons,” he explains. “newborns don’t have teeth yet, yoongi-ssi. i promise he’s not going to hurt you. if anything, he’ll just try to cuddle your hand.”
somehow, that’s also the wrong thing to say. yoongi makes a face, so disgusted that jeongguk lets out another giggle, but he snatches yoongi’s wrist anyway, forcing his hand out before he slides helios into it. yoongi holds the dragon at arm’s length, staring at it like he’s never seen a dragon in his entire life, and jeongguk giggles again, muffling it with a hand over his mouth before it shouldn’t be funny, but it is.
min yoongi, the fearless dragon rider, winner of several championships and owner of the ferocious grimfang—terrified of a dragon that fits in his hand and can’t do anything but make a few noises. yoongi has plenty of scars himself from training accidents, crashes, run ins with dragons that don’t like him. but he can’t hold a baby.
“stop laughing at me,” yoongi says finally, sending a glare to jeongguk, who only laughs harder. “it’s—stop it! it’s weird, i don’t like it. it’s so small, how do i know it won’t just like, take a shit in my hand? or try to eat my finger?”
“i can’t believe you’re afraid of a baby,” he finally says, reaching over to pick up iris, too. she’s woken now, probably still bleary eyed, but jeongguk holds her in both palms and shoves her right into yoongi’s face.
the dragon rider lets out a shriek, toppling backwards with helios still in his hand, and jeongguk crows with laughter, especially when he looks up to see that helios has somehow landed on yoongi’s face and is now licking him and nuzzling into his cheek like it’s a good place to fall asleep.
“aw, he likes you,” says jeongguk. “he knows you’re family.”
“get it off of me,” protests yoongi, lying stock still. helios curls up on top of yoongi’s face, swishing his tail back and forth before closing his eyes.
jeongguk giggles again before he finally takes mercy—he’s not quite in the mood to see yoongi start crying—and plucks the dragon off of yoongi. he replaces helios in the nest and instead moves to sit beside yoongi with iris still in his hands.
“sorry,” he admits. “i just find it funny that you’re a dragon rider but you’re scared of baby dragons.”
“i’m not scared,” protests yoongi, pulling himself up and straightening himself out as though he wasn’t just on the verge of tears over a dragon sitting on his face. “they’re just—unfamiliar.”
“that’s why you’re here,” says jeongguk. “if you spend more time with them, you’ll be less scared. here, i’ll help you feed iris and maybe you’ll see it’s not so scary?”
yoongi still looks apprehensive, but after a moment he gives a small nod. it’s nice seeing yoongi like this—he has a reputation in the village, one that jeongguk tries to ignore as best as he can. all of the riders are sort of celebrities, considering how much entertainment they bring as well as honour when they travel to other villages or countries to complete in bigger races. yoongi in particular is seen as the ruthless one, a sort of bad boy because he doesn’t give into the silly fangirls who want his autograph or to pet his dragon (no innuendo intended).
but this yoongi, the one that jeongguk has been able to see for the past two weeks, is so very different. he’s the one that is gentle with his dragon, the one that always makes sure to thank the race organizers thrice over. he’s softer on the inside than he looks, and jeongguk feels something warm bubble up in him knowing that he’s the one who gets to witness it.
jeongguk hands him one of the bottles from the side of the nest, keeping iris in his own hand. “you just put the nipple of it into her mouth,” he explains. “and she’ll start drinking on her own. they know that at much, and then you just have to sit here and wait until she’s done.”
he watches as yoongi does as he’s told—with precision and concentration, eyebrows furrowing and his mouth open a little as he tries to stick the nipple into the dragon’s mouth. it’s not very difficult, but jeongguk grins as he watches anyway, knowing that yoongi is trying to get this right without being afraid that iris is going to bite his finger off.
“i like to talk to them when they’re feeding, too,” adds jeongguk quietly. “or sing. i think they like lullabies although that might just be my imagination. and—i pet them, too. they need comfort and care like that if they’re going to be responsive to humans when they’re older.”
yoongi keeps the bottle steady but doesn’t touch the dragon otherwise—not that jeongguk is surprised, so he uses his free hand to stroke down iris’ back and tail.
“it’s hard,” adds jeongguk suddenly, “without their real mothers. i mean—i guess i’m their mother. they learn a lot of stuff instinctively or from the older dragons, just by example. but the stuff like this… i dunno, they need attention and proper love. i read somewhere that the reason dragons turn into the dragons of the myths—the ones that hoard treasures and hurt people—is because they’re never taught how to love.” it might be silly—and maybe some dragons are just born like that, maybe it’s because they don’t interact with humans. but jeongguk still likes the idea that by doing this, he’s teaching the dragons how be kind and good. how to be happy.
yoongi lifts his face suddenly, looking up at jeongguk, and the tamer only now realizes just how close their faces are. he flushes again, averting his gaze to the dragon to keep himself in check.
“that’s really nice,” says yoongi. “i—i mean, taking care of them like this and giving them so much attention. i think some other tamers would just try to get them to grow as fast as possible so they can have a quicker turn out and make more money.”
“yeah,” says jeongguk with a frown. “that’s why i try to take as many as possible without overworking myself. i know i can care for the dragons the way they deserve.” it’s the truth—he’s always loved dragons, and although everyone in the village grows up around them, they all have different opinions. some don’t even see their lives as valuable, not the way jeongguk does. they might as well be other people to him, even if they can’t talk. but they feel things, and they can communicate with him, and they love him. he can feel it.
iris gives a hiccup, suddenly, spitting the nipple of the bottle out to show that she’s finished with feeding. it breaks the little spell—thankfully, because jeongguk could feel a sort of heat and tension he wasn’t prepared to deal with—and he grins as he holds the dragon up to his face.
“all done?” he asks her, to which she ambles up to his face and nips his nose with her gums, making jeongguk giggle. “i guess so. do you want to hold her now, yoongi-ssi?”
he lowers iris to see yoongi staring at him—sort of funny, like he’s starstruck. jeongguk feels himself flush again and then clears his throat, successfully breaking yoongi out of his reverie.
“sorry, what?” asks yoongi after he’s shaken his head.
“i asked if you wanted to hold her,” repeats jeongguk, chewing on his bottom lip as he holds iris out.
“oh,” says yoongi. “i, uh—” he doesn’t get a chance to finish, though, before there’s a particularly loud squeal from behind him and jeongguk realizes that he’s spent far too much time with the newborns and hasn’t paid any attention to the other needy dragons. namely opal and her friends, who tend to get fussy when he doesn’t at least pop his head into their playpen or give them fresh food once in a while.
he looks over his shoulder in time to see a small stampede of dragons breaking out of the playpen and heading right for him, which—would be fine, of course, because jeongguk is fine with playing with five miniature dragons at once.
and then he remembers yoongi.
“oh my god, what is that,” deadpans the dragon rider, and jeongguk can only open his mouth before the first dragon pounces on him. he lets out a shriek instead, tumbling forward with the weight of it, and then there’s another dragon jumping on his legs, crawling over him and somehow managing to wiggle under his shirt. jeongguk’s laughing too hard—all of them are ‘attacking’ him, apparently having decided to take matters into their own hands, and yoongi is making these distressed noises beside him.
“sorry!” hollers jeongguk as he snatches one of the baby dragons from his face and cuddles her to his chest. “sorry, they just—they like playing!” he’s covered in them, one of them swatting him in the face with its wing, and he giggles again before he manages to scoop up two more dragons and sit up. opal bounces up his chest until she can curl up on his shoulder, another two snuggled into his arms, and jeongguk grins at yoongi where the rider is still sitting a foot away.
with iris in his hands.
“oh, hey,” says jeongguk. “you’re holding her!”
yoongi looks down at his hands and then gasps, as though he didn’t realize that he was. he must have snatched the dragon from jeongguk’s hands at the last second, but. but.
iris has attached herself to yoongi’s thumb, practically curling her entire body around it protectively. she’s gone right back to sleep too, satisfied with her feeding and the warmth of yoongi’s hand. jeongguk’s about to say something—to laugh, to say i told you so, but then he sees the way yoongi is looking at her. it’s something akin to how he looks at his own dragon, iris’ mother, like there’s so much potential and hope and like he can love her, too.
and jeongguk decides to keep silent, just reaching over to pet the dragon nuzzling his thigh. it shouldn’t make him like yoongi more, but—it does. it really, really does.
it’s a peaceful moment, and then one of the older dragons hops out of jeongguk’s arms and stops in front of yoongi, looking up at the rider for a moment before he gives a little sneeze, complete with sparks. yoongi’s pant leg starts on fire, making him shriek again, and jeongguk can’t stop giggling even as he fixes it.
yoongi ends up staying a little longer than he usually does, now that he’s less afraid of the dragons. he won’t admit it when jeongguk finally manages to corral the older dragons back into their own nests, promising to come back and take care of them when he’s done with the newborns. they cling to him anyway, so by the time he comes back to the newborn nest, yoongi has already scooped up nyx, the last dragon in his batch, and is feeding him carefully. jeongguk watches, just until yoongi notices him, and then joins him, offering some advice and knowledge on what nyx will eat once he’s gotten old enough to consume solids.
the man has come by every day for two weeks, but this time, when he leaves, he pauses at the door and turns back to look at jeongguk, worrying at his bottom lip.
“you can call me hyung, by the way,” he says. “just—you know. since i’ll be here a lot. it’s just—easier.” jeongguk swears he sees yoongi’s cheeks turn pink, and he tries to keep his own grin and heart in check.
“right,” says jeongguk. “because you’ll be here a lot.”
yoongi nods—ducks his head a little. says a quiet goodbye and then leaves the sanctuary. jeongguk stares after him for a moment before he gives a great sigh, heading over to the grassy pen with the eldest dragons in them. one of them—frost, a whole six months old, almost ready to go back home once he masters the art of flying—comes swooping toward him off of a rock, flapping his wings madly before he loses momentum and goes flopping to the ground halfway to jeongguk.
the dragon pops back up, though, ambling over him to him and reaching up to lick his face in greeting.
jeongguk sighs. “i wish dealing with crushes was as easy as raising dragons,” he says. “what should i do?”
frost looks at him—tilting his head a little, like he’s thinking—and then flops over again, belly up, waiting for a rub there. jeongguk snorts, reaching over to give the dragon what he wants and says, “sure. i’ll try that the next time he’s here.” frost makes a content noise, wiggling a little as jeongguk rubs his belly. if only.
yoongi doesn’t come back for a few days—not that jeongguk is counting—because he has a race on the weekend that he has to prepare for. he’s been with grimfang for three years already, since she was just old enough to be ridden, but they still require plenty of practice in order to rise and stay at the top. jeongguk spends those days focusing on the dragons and not thinking about how lonely it is in the sanctuary when his co-worker seokjin is only on night shifts, or wondering if yoongi will personally ask him to attend the race. it’s a bad idea to get distracted like that, after all.
the newborns continue to grow as they do, little by little each day, and jeongguk hopes that now that yoongi is less afraid to help take care of them, the three little dragons will get attached to him, too. he has no idea what yoongi intends to do with helios, iris, and nyx once they’re released into his care, but maybe he’ll want to keep one. or three. they’ll be good racing dragons, considering who their mother is, but jeongguk always likes to hear about baby dragons that end up just being pets or are used for other purposes that don’t require so much training and hard work.
in any case—all of the dragons have to learn to fly and breathe fire, as it’s in their very nature. after making sure the newborns are satisfied with their feeding and leaving them a few toys to play with, jeongguk heads for the back of the sanctuary, situated outside and used as a larger area for the older dragons to spend time in. it’s designed specifically to help with flying and fire-breathing, which means it’s thankfully away from anything that can catch on fire or cause the little dragons to get stuck high in the air.
“good morning, darlings,” he calls as he makes his way outside, grinning as the two eldest dragons rush toward him from where they were sunbathing on some of the rocks in the pen. jeongguk squats down, petting their heads as they nuzzle into him. “are we ready for some practicing today? i think we should work on fire breathing, hm?”
he stands up, grabbing the few supplies he needs—mostly safety equipment, including fire-proof pads for his legs and arms, and other material to fit over the rest of his outfit. then he grabs the bucket of reward snacks for the dragons and a few targets, figuring they’ll start off slow.
before they begin, he checks on the sleeping dragon in his hood—one of the month-old babies had absolutely refused to let go of him when he’d turned up in the morning, so he figured it didn’t hurt to let her sleep there. she’s still thankfully asleep, so he turns back to the older dragons.
“alright, clover, you’re up!” he calls to the first dragon, setting up the first target against one of the rocks. he stands behind the rock, holding up a piece of raw meat as an incentive. “you know what to do.” he watches the dragon watch him, wiggling his tail and flapping his wings a few times before he gives a cough. it’s always a little funny watching the young dragons try to control their fire, but he’s prepared for any accident.
clover takes a step closer to the target, staring it down. and then he opens his mouth and out shoots a tiny stream of flames, hitting the center of the target.
“good job!” exclaims jeongguk with a beaming smile, waiting for clover to finish before he tosses the piece of meat to him. the next dragon hurries forward, wanting a piece too, and jeongguk raises his eyebrows at him. “okay, your turn, pigeon.”
he grabs another piece of meat, waving it a little as he watches the next dragon prepare to hit the target, and the moment he opens his mouth to let out a stream of fire, there’s a call of, “jeongguk!” from inside the sanctuary.
the tamer’s head turns toward the door, but he’s not the only one who does, and jeongguk gasps when he looks down to see that pigeon is running off toward the door while still breathing a stream of fire out of his mouth—he’s had a bit of trouble with that, not knowing when to stop, and jeongguk can see the accident waiting to happen.
“pigeon!” he yells as he takes off for the baby dragon, but the creature is fast and is almost at the door by the time jeongguk is only halfway across the pen. he changes tactics—“hyung, stop!”
he can see into the workshop, can see yoongi nearly at the door, and jeongguk picks up the speed, watching as pigeon, still spewing fire out of his mouth, runs up the rock nearest to the door and dives off of it, wings spreading wide. it seems to happen in slow motion—pigeon soaring through the air toward the door, yoongi stepping through the open door with his eyes on jeongguk and then, a second later, his eyes on the flaming dragon heading his way.
jeongguk doesn’t make it in time. he watches as pigeon collides with yoongi, knocking both of them off of their feet, and jeongguk shrieks again as he bolts the rest of the way and reaches out to snatch pigeon off of the dragon rider. he doesn’t even think, just (gently) tosses pigeon sideways before he turns the other way and goes for yoongi, sliding onto his knees beside the other.
“oh my god, are you okay?” he gasps, hands already aggressively patting down yoongi’s chest, then his arms, then up to his face. “did you get burned? are you hurt? oh my god, hyung, i’m so sorry, you can kill me if you want, that was so dangerous—”
“gukkie,” says yoongi, but jeongguk isn’t listening.
“i should have left a note that said i was back here with the dragons,” he rambles, still patting down yoongi’s face in fear of being on fire, “and that you shouldn’t come back here; you don’t even have the protective clothing on—”
“jeongguk,” yoongi tries again and this time, he grabs both of jeongguk’s wrists, holding them a few inches away from his face. jeongguk finally stops, taking a breath and actually looking at yoongi only to see that… oh. he’s not fire. and it doesn’t look like he ever was.
“yoongi-hyung,” he breathes.
“i’m fine,” says yoongi, and he sits up now, making jeongguk jerk back a little when he sees how close they are. “he wasn’t even breathing fire when he jumped at me.”
“are you sure?” asks jeongguk, the guilt still eating at him. he feels something nudging his leg and looks down to see pigeon butting his head against jeongguk’s thigh, like he’s asking for forgiveness. at the moment, the human is a little preoccupied. “i feel so bad. he could have burned your face off!”
“but he didn’t,” says yoongi. “besides, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing a dragon as ever done to me. you know, grim once started my entire arm on fire? and i was fine. mostly. so a little steam from a baby dragon is nothing.”
jeongguk takes a deep breath, trying to convince himself that what yoongi is saying is true. he never wants the other man to get hurt by any means, even if it’s just a little scratch from the dragons, but he has to remember that yoongi has a point: he does work with a grown dragon every day, and accidents can happen. pigeon singeing his eyebrows off isn’t going to keep yoongi away.
finally, after yoongi has stared at him for long enough and jeongguk realizes that the other is still holding onto his wrists, jeongguk mumbles, “okay. i still feel bad.”
“then you can make it up to me,” says yoongi, and jeongguk finds himself flushing. then—“oh, wow.”
“what?” asks jeongguk, eyes widening as he realizes yoongi is looking past his shoulder. the tamer turns, not seeing anything, and then turns back to see yoongi reaching up past his head. his hands come away with a little dragon in them, and jeongguk only then remembers he’d had one sleeping in his hood this whole time—even with all the running and jumping and panic.
the dragon is still sleeping.
“so tiny,” mumbles yoongi as he holds the dragon to his chest, and jeongguk takes a moment to remember the last time yoongi had been here, when he’d still been afraid to even touch the newborns. now he’s willingly holding some of them. jeongguk’s entire heart clenches.
“we can go play with some of the younger ones if you want,” suggests jeongguk. “they won’t try to light you on fire.”
“i wouldn’t mind you showing me how you work with these older ones,” admits yoongi, nodding toward pigeon, who is still trying to nuzzle with jeongguk’s thigh. “but maybe i’ll stay over here for a little bit, so they don’t try to burn my face off?”
jeongguk giggles. “good plan,” he says, and then gets to his feet, holding out a hand for yoongi to take. once they’re both up, he takes a moment to wipe himself down and fix his clothing. “are you sure you’re okay? you don’t have to pretend to be tough around me, you know, i know you’re super soft on the inside.”
“excuse me?” asks yoongi. “i don’t pretend to be tough.”
“c’mon, hyung,” giggles jeongguk. “i know you’re not as badass as everyone thinks you are.”
“it’s not my fault they think that!” protests the rider. “that’s just what happens when you’re the best dragon rider in the entire country.”
jeongguk just giggles again, reaching down to scoop up pigeon so he can bring the other dragon back to their targets.
“why are you laughing?” yoongi calls after him, and jeongguk just laughs louder, not even bothering to look over his shoulder. he thinks he hears yoongi muttering something about him being a brat, but he pays no mind as he corrals both clover and pigeon back toward the other side of the pen for more training.
(yoongi wins the race on the weekend. jeongguk attends, front row, and screams himself hoarse.)
two weeks later, jeongguk officially meets yoongi’s dragon for the first time.
with yoongi coming over to the sanctuary as often as possible to not only help with his granddragons but with the other dragons as well, jeongguk knows that it’s only fair that they switch roles for once. besides, he’s taking care of grimfang’s children for the next few months, so it only makes sense that he should meet her, too. even if he is kind of terrified of adult dragons, although he’ll never admit that to yoongi.
yoongi has been dropping hints for days that he wants to bring grimfang around to the sanctuary for jeongguk to meet—and for her babies to meet if possible, now that they’re a month old and have much better control of walking and playing with each other. still, it’s a bit of a surprise when yoongi shows up in full racing gear, knocking on the sanctuary door with a massive grin on his face.
jeongguk greets him with furrowed brows, although he can’t help but return the grin. “what’s going on?” he asks, gesturing to yoongi’s riding boots, and (quite frankly, too tight) outfit.
the rider wiggles his brows. “come with me,” he says, taking a step back.
jeongguk glances back into the sanctuary. “i can’t just leave.”
“five minutes,” says yoongi, and jeongguk worries at his bottom lip. he really shouldn’t leave the dragons even for that long, because so much could go wrong in that time, but—yoongi is taking another step back, eyebrows still high on his forehead, and then he holds out his hand. and jeongguk curses his stupid heart for leaping at that, knowing that he’s already going to say yes to whatever yoongi wants him to do. because it’s yoongi.
“fine,” groans jeongguk. “but if we come back and the sanctuary has been burned down, i’m going to charge you for the damages.”
“sure,” says yoongi as jeongguk slips out of the door and approaches him, shyly taking his hand before yoongi is taking off, tugging him down the little path that leads to a more forested area around the sanctuary. the best part of where he works, aside from all of the baby dragons, is the fact that it’s a good ten minute walk away from the rest of the village. the point of having a sanctuary to raise the baby dragons in is to keep them away from all of the noise and hustle and bustle of the rest of the village, so they built it far enough away that they wouldn’t have to worry about a lot of foot traffic but wasn’t so far out of the way that jeongguk couldn’t be part of the village if he needed to run and grab something.
yoongi leads him down the path and through the trees, keeping mum about what’s going on until he suddenly stops near a particularly dense patch of trees.
“so you know how i’ve been saying you should meet grim,” begins yoongi and jeongguk gasps, snatching his hand out of yoongi’s. “hey, don’t run away. i know you don’t like them—”
“i do like them!”
“okay, i know you’re scared of them, but she’s really gentle. and i’m here, so you don’t have to worry.”
jeongguk still pouts a little. he could have prepared better for this, but then he would have overthought everything, even what he was wearing, as though that would even matter to an adult dragon. it’s already feeling oddly reminiscent of the first time jeongguk forced yoongi into helping him take care of the babies, and now yoongi has no problem with holding them and feeding them or playing with them, even recognizing some of the signs of a dragon in need before jeongguk does, or when jeongguk is distracted with another dragon. which means that after this, he’ll probably be much more comfortable around adult dragons.
but for now—“do i have to?” whines jeongguk, and yoongi rolls his eyes, reaching out to snatch his wrist again.
“c’mon, you’ll like her,” says yoongi, tugging jeongguk forward. jeongguk knows the dragon is just around that patch of trees and with every step, he feels himself tensing up even more. yoongi gives a whistle—some sort of call, probably—and there’s a responding little growl from the other side of the trees.
jeongguk scampers forward until he’s hiding behind yoongi, fisting both of his hands into the back of the rider’s shirt and ducking his head a little, considering he’s taller than yoongi. and yoongi giggles, reaching around to pat jeongguk—ends up being his butt, which makes jeongguk flush a little—before yoongi leads them around the edge of the trees and.
there she is. it’s not the first time jeongguk has seen grimfang—but this is the first time he’s seen her so close, or seen her when she’s not racing. in all honesty, jeongguk can’t deny that the dragon is beautiful; she’s a deep red, scales shimmering at the right angle—must be where iris got it from—and the horns on her head and the sides of her face are as black as night. there’s something about her that is so majestic, even from the way she’s sitting, wings folded neatly at her side. jeongguk feels like he’s not breathing, even just for a second, as he stares at the dragon, and then yoongi whistles again, and she stands up.
this time, jeongguk does cower—not that he thinks she’s going to attack him—but then he understands why she does so well in races. she’s small compared to other dragons, maybe only ten feet tall when she stands upright, but she’s like yoongi in that even if she’s smaller than others, she demands much more attention in how she holds herself. her wings expand outward, seeming to show jeongguk just how easily she could flick him right into the sea before she folds them behind her and lowers her head toward them.
jeongguk’s hands tighten in yoongi’s shirt.
“hey girlie,” says yoongi, reaching his hand out in a clear indication that the dragon should come closer.
“no!” gasps jeongguk, panicking and hiding his face in yoongi’s neck.
“no what?” asks yoongi.
“don’t make her come closer! what if she eats me?”
there’s a moment—and then yoongi lets out a laugh; jeongguk can feel his cheeks burning, but he still refuses to look up, even though he can hear the dragon breathing right in front of him. she could easily reach over and bite his head off if she wanted. and even though he’s of the firm belief that dragons don’t just do that, it’s much easier to believe that when he’s working with dragons who don’t have big enough mouths for it.
“guk-ah,” starts yoongi softly, pulling away and jeongguk panics again, wrapping both of his arms around the rider and hugging him to jeongguk’s chest.
“don’t leave me,” he says. “what if she eats me? or burns me to a crisp? what if she doesn’t like that i’m raising her children and decides to get rid of me?”
yoongi laughs again—the bastard—and gently pries jeongguk’s arms off of him, turning around. jeongguk finally has the courage to open his eyes—which turns out to be a bad idea, because he can see the dragon directly behind yoongi’s head, staring him down with her lizard eyes. he tries to listen to what yoongi says, anyway, since it’s probably important—“remember what you said when i was scared of the baby ones? how they’re not going to hurt me because dragons don’t do that? and how you take such good care of them so that they’ll be responsive to humans in the future?”
jeongguk does remember saying something like that. he’s still staring at grimfang staring at him, though, and doesn’t even reply.
“this is like that,” says yoongi anyway. he takes jeongguk’s face into his hands, forcing the tamer to look at him properly. “grim was raised by a really amazing dragon tamer like you and she’s honestly one of the kindest dragons i’ve ever met. besides, she’s mine and if i tell her not to hurt you, she won’t. if anything, she’ll smell her babies on you and think that you’re one of them.”
this time, jeongguk forces himself to look at yoongi properly, at the way the rider is looking back at him so earnestly. he can tell that yoongi really wants this to go well, and that he has the confidence that it will. and if yoongi did his best to get over his apprehension toward the baby dragons, then surely jeongguk can get over his fear of adult dragons.
“okay,” he breathes a little shakily, and a broad grin curls on yoongi’s lips.
“i’m here the whole time,” says yoongi, dropping his hands. jeongguk, not wanting the rider to stray too far, reaches out and curls their fingers together anyway, ignoring the slight flush on his cheeks as he does. even though he does want to hold yoongi’s hand normally, this is purely for safety and comfort reasons.
then he peers around the other toward the dragon, who has been watching the whole time. yoongi steps to the side and then forward, bringing jeongguk with him until they’re right in front of the dragon.
“jeongguk,” says yoongi, “this is grimfang. grimfang, this is my friend, jeonggukkie. be nice to him, okay?” the rider reaches up and runs a hand over the dragon’s snout, rubbing it with a grin before he looks over at jeongguk.
the tamer swallows tightly. “um,” he begins. “h-hello. it’s nice to meet you.” he tenses as the dragon dips her head even lower, prepared for the worst, but—grimfang just sniffs him once.
“you can touch her,” says yoongi. “if you pet her snout, it’s a good place.”
jeongguk does—he raises his free hand, trembling a little as he puts it on the dragon’s snout. unsurprisingly, it feels just like a baby dragon, just with bigger scales. he just holds it there, waiting for something more to happen, and then grimfang huffs out and nuzzles into his hand a little. and—oh. that’s what the baby dragons do, too.
but that makes sense, doesn’t it? even if grimfang is about ten times as big as the biggest dragons that jeongguk works with, they’re all still dragons. they all had the same start, and all of them react the same way to humans that are kind to them. grimfang just has bigger wings and bigger teeth and can kill him, but she’s not going to, because if yoongi is right, she has no reason to.
he feels some of his anxiety begin to bleed away, relaxing as he rubs his hand over the dragon’s snout a little.
“you’re very pretty,” he tells the dragon, letting his hand wander a little as she nuzzles into it even more. “i can see where your babies get it from. nice eyes.” he grins as grimfang turns her head as though to show him, letting him rub the underside of her jaw, where he admires from her black horns. he takes his time with it, running his hands over the parts of her face carefully as she sits there and lets him, not showing any signs of discomfort or desire to eat him.
after a few minutes, jeongguk glances over yoongi and notices that the rider is kind of just. looking at him. with this fond grin on his face, something proud and happy, and they’re still holding hands even though they don’t need to, and jeongguk’s cheeks turn as red as grimfang’s scales, just like that.
“i guess you were right,” says jeongguk quickly. “it’s not that bad.”
“i said she wasn’t going to eat you,” says yoongi, stepping forward now and rubbing under the dragon’s jaw, too. “she’s just like one of your dragons, just bigger. if anything, she’s less likely to hurt you because she has perfect control over her limbs and fire.”
jeongguk flushes, remembering when pigeon had almost burned yoongi’s face off. at least he doesn’t have to worry about grimfang accidentally starting him on fire.
“i like her,” jeongguk decides. “i still can’t help being a little worried that she’ll squish me, even by accident, but maybe i don’t need to be so scared.”
then yoongi says the worst possible thing—“wanna go for a ride?”
jeongguk blanches. “you said five minutes!”
“it’s only been three.”
“i think this is enough for now,” jeongguk flushes. the idea of getting on grimfang and riding through the air is even more terrifying than just meeting the dragon, so he’s glad when yoongi doesn’t seem like he’s going to push it. “maybe another time,” he adds as an afterthought.
it turns out to be a mistake when yoongi grins at him and says, “i’ll hold you to it.”
“i should probably get back to the sanctuary anyway,” says jeongguk. “i really don’t want any of them to burn anything down.”
maybe he imagines how disappointed yoongi looks—although it makes his heart flip anyway—and the tamer turns back to grimfang. “it was nice to meet you,” he says. “i have to go back and take care of your kids, but maybe i’ll see you again soon. thank you for not eating me and i promise to make sure your babies are the best dragon babies in the whole village, okay?”
he’s not sure grimfang understands any of it, but the dragon opens her mouth and licks his face anyway. jeongguk sputters as he stumbles backward at the force of it, listening to yoongi begin laughing beside him when he realizes the side of his face (and most of his hair) is now slick with spit. he swears he can hear grimfang laughing too, in her own dragon way, and jeongguk spends the next half an hour scrubbing his face in the sink in an attempt to rid himself of the feeling.
jeongguk does see grimfang more often after that—yoongi can’t just bring her to the sanctuary considering how big she is, but he does once in a while so that jeongguk can get used to being around her. he goes as far as sitting on her back while she’s on the ground, yoongi explaining some of the techniques of racing and what it feels like, but jeongguk gets lightheaded just from that so he forbids yoongi from ever taking him in the air, at least until he’s sure he won’t throw up in the middle of it.
they let helios, iris, and nyx meet her, too—taking them out into the outer part of the sanctuary while grimfang sits in the trees just outside of it. the baby dragons continue to grow, teething as they do so, and jeongguk begins to see their personalities more as he trains them to be able to begin using their wings. as they’re a smaller breed of dragon than others, they grow faster and therefore won’t need to be in the sanctuary for as long as others—which, jeongguk begins to realize, isn’t something he’s necessarily happy about.
the babies begin to learn more, explore more, and jeongguk takes special care to make sure that they’re growing as they should and eating like they should. not only does he know how to care for them like this, but he has to make sure that they’re healthy. he’s not a vet, but he knows the basic things that don’t require him to call on the town vet, who has to deal with all of the adult dragons, as well.
still—sickness does happen. with so many dragons in one sanctuary, some germs are bound to get in and spread, and although they limit the amount of outside contact, it’s impossible to keep them completely isolated.
so it shouldn’t be a surprise when jeongguk, on night shift with the baby dragons while seokjin spends the night in the village, checks on the dragons to find that one of them looks wrong.
jeongguk has dealt with plenty of problems over the past years of being a dragon tamer, but his heart still lodges itself in his throat as he rakes his eyes over the sleeping dragons and notices that there are bright spots on nyx’s scales—almost like pox. he stops, staring down at the little creature before he leans closer, trying to get a better look. it’s not something that he thinks he’s ever seen before, which means—he doesn’t know how to deal with it.
the smart thing to do would be to calm down, to find some of the manuals and procedures they have one what to do if something goes wrong. he should contact the other tamers in the village to find out if they know anything about the illness, and he should contact the vet to get nyx inspected and healed if it’s something that can be healed.
the smart thing to do is not to pull on his coat, scoop the sleeping dragon into his arms, and run out of the door. but that’s what jeongguk does anyway.
he doesn’t realize where he’s going until he’s already there, after running down the path toward the village. it takes him only a few minutes because of the speed, the desperation he feels to make sure that nyx is okay, and then he’s there. he’s only been to the little house a few times; it’s on the edge of the village nearest to the sanctuary, a massive backyard with enough room for a fully grown dragon to live.
it’s yoongi’s house.
jeongguk knocks on the door frantically, already feeling tears in his eyes as he looks down at the dragon in his arms. nyx is only two months old, and he’s the smallest of his siblings, which means he fits in the crook of jeongguk’s arm perfectly. he’s still sleeping, seemingly unaware of what’s wrong with him even though the red spots look angry and dangerous.
when there is no answer, jeongguk knocks again, panic welling up inside of him. “hyung!” he calls, sniffing as the first tear spills over. “yoongi-hyung, please!”
it’s only once he hears movement inside and the door opens that jeongguk realizes yoongi isn’t going to know the first thing about what to do with a sick baby dragon. but it was still jeongguk’s first thought. going to a vet will help take care of nyx, but in that moment, as he sees yoongi standing in the doorway with a sleepy look on his face and some ridiculous striped pajamas on, jeongguk realizes he didn’t come here to take care of nyx. he came here to take care of himself.
“guk?” asks yoongi groggily, rubbing at his eyes.
“hyung,” says jeongguk, voice watery. “sorry, i—i didn’t mean to wake you up, i know this is totally inappropriate and rude and i should just—”
“guk,” says yoongi again, shaking his head. “what’s wrong?”
jeongguk sniffs again, looking down at the little black dragon in his eyes. yoongi seems to notice him then, too, making a strange noise. “he’s sick,” says jeongguk. “i don’t know what to do.”
“oh,” says yoongi. “oh… shit. hey, c’mere. it’s cold out, come inside.”
jeongguk does, happily, wiping at his eyes pathetically as he steps into yoongi’s house. the other man turns on a light, finally, and jeongguk is careful not to jostle the sleeping dragon as he takes off his shoes and enters. nyx should have woken up by now, is the thing—the movement and change of temperature couldn’t keep him sleeping, for one thing, but maybe it’s a symptom of the illness not to notice his surroundings like this.
either way, jeongguk carefully follows yoongi into the dining room and sits at the table where yoongi gestures, still watching the dragon as yoongi pulls a chair up.
“what’s wrong with him?” asks yoongi.
“i don’t know,” whispers jeongguk. there are still tears in his eyes. “i just found him like this, with these—these spots, and i’ve never seen it before.”
“has he been eating normally the past few days?” asks yoongi. “and getting enough hydration and being as active as normal?”
“i—i think so,” sniffs jeongguk. “i’ve been on the night shift for the past few days so i don’t really deal with them unless they’re awake, but my co-worker didn’t say there were any problems with him. do you think he could have caught it from another dragon?”
“maybe,” says yoongi. “we should get the vet, though. they’ll know what to do.”
jeongguk nods—that should have been his first course of action, but he didn’t want to be alone in doing that. still, he doesn’t get up from the table, just keeps staring down at the dragon in his arms. the tears come heavier now, suddenly, as he thinks about it—the possibilities. he doesn’t think that nyx will die from this, but it’s possible, isn’t it? and the idea is enough to make jeongguk let out a choked sob, terrified of it. he loves the dragons, loves each of them like they’re his own. he sees them from when they’re just eggs, when they’re born. he’s the one who feeds them and bathes them and helps them grow into the dragons that they become when they go back to their families.
and the idea of losing one—even the idea of one being sick, of him not being able to take care of it the way it needs to be taken care of—is too much for him.
“jeonggukkie,” says yoongi softly, and jeongguk closes his eyes, shakes his head. the tears come anyway, and they only come faster when he feels yoongi wipe at his cheeks, then think better of it and just pulls jeongguk into a hug with the dragon between them.
yoongi is warm, safe. solid against jeongguk, holding the back of his neck and thumbing into the hair at his nape, a comfort. “it’s gonna be okay,” whispers yoongi. “he’s gonna be okay. dragons get sick and injured sometimes just like humans, but they heal. we heal. and the vets know how to take care of sick dragons, so they’ll take good care of nyx.”
“he sh-shouldn’t have gotten sick in the first place,” cries jeongguk. “this is all my fault. i didn’t take good enough care of him.”
“that’s not true,” says yoongi. “sometimes they get sick even when we do everything to take good care of them. you can’t always escape it.”
“what kind of dragon tamer am i if i can’t even take care of them properly?”
“jeongguk,” says yoongi, firmer this time. he pulls away, taking jeongguk’s face into his hands. there’s something fierce in his eyes—something that won’t let jeongguk argue, even though jeongguk wants to. still, he just sniffs again, trying to stop himself from crying on the already sick dragon. “jeongguk, you are the best dragon tamer i’ve ever met in my life. you’re one of the best people i’ve ever met in my life. you are so caring and kind and loving and—and you always know what these dragons need. you can’t beat yourself up for something that you can’t control. and just think—all of the rest of the dragons are perfectly healthy, so isn’t that a sign that you’re doing something right?”
jeongguk sniffs again. “i don’t know.”
“it is,” says yoongi firmly. “you’re not a bad dragon tamer, gukkie. you’re a wonderful person and tamer, and we’re so lucky to have you. the dragons are so lucky. i’m so lucky.”
he thinks about it—they’ve been friends and seeing each other almost every day for two months. yoongi helps with the baby dragons most days, even if it’s just playing with them for half an hour while he and jeongguk talk. jeongguk comes over to be with grimfang sometimes, telling her about her babies even if she can’t quite understand. even though all of their interactions have revolved solely around the dragons, that doesn’t mean that their relationship hasn’t blossomed into something more in the meantime.
jeongguk came here. he came here because he likes yoongi as more than just a friend, but it’s not just about yoongi being the cool dragon rider anymore. it’s not just about a crush. it’s about yoongi being a comfort for him, a constant part of his life. it’s about knowing that even if yoongi doesn’t know what to do, he’ll always try and he’ll always be there to lead jeongguk through it. it’s yoongi being able to calm him, to cheer him up, to reason with him.
just like he’s doing now.
jeongguk sniffs again, using his free hand to wipe at his tears. “okay,” he says, although he doesn’t know what he’s agreeing to anymore. “i’m sorry for waking you up and crying on you.”
“it’s okay,” says yoongi. “i’d rather you come to me than have a breakdown on your own. let’s go to the vet, okay? they’ll be able to take care of nyx.” the rider pulls back, turning to the dragon in jeongguk’s arms and running a hand down his back for a moment. jeongguk can see it, then—the worry in his eyes, too. nyx is yoongi’s, too, and he’s been there for so long much of the milestones and growth. even if he’s worried and scared, though, he’s doing his best not to show it, because he knows that it’s only going to scare jeongguk more.
and for that, jeongguk is grateful, too.
they go to the vet’s house after yoongi puts on real clothes, and even though jeongguk is still sort of shaking with tears in his eyes, he feels… better. calmer, safer—knowing that yoongi is there with him. and yoongi holds onto his waist the whole time, keeping them close together, even as they stand outside of the vet’s house and explain the situation to the woman. she takes nyx, offering them a cup of tea, and jeongguk doesn’t complain when yoongi pulls him half into his lap by the table. it feels like nyx is their child. maybe it’s not so far off.
nyx is fine, in the end—some sort of pox, like jeongguk had suspected, but all he needs is some medicine to combat the illness and to be placed in isolation for a few weeks to ensure that he doesn’t pass the illness to the other dragons. jeongguk is diligent in monitoring the others, watching for signs, and in giving nyx enough care and love to make sure he can nursed back to full health in no time.
and yoongi doesn’t stop touching him, a new development since that night—he’ll randomly touch jeongguk’s arm or leg, sometimes holding onto his waist when they’re standing beside each other or focusing on the same dragons. and jeongguk blushes, blushes, blushes every time, but he’s not complaining. and maybe something good can come from sick dragons, after all.
“c’mon, hyung, we need to get a good seat!” crows jeongguk, latching onto namjoon’s arm—one of his few friends in the village, a family friend. he’s always liked the baby dragons more than the adult ones, too, even going so far as to foster a few when it was needed.
“why can’t we watch from the back?” complains namjoon, but jeongguk is relentless as he pulls his friend through the thickening crowd toward the wooden stands. “it literally makes no difference where we sit.”
“we have to be in the front,” says jeongguk, squeezing past a few other spectators and finally getting to the steps, hurrying up them and spotting a few empty seats in the front row. he beams, pulling namjoon over until they get to the empty seats and he claims them.
after a moment, namjoon sighs and sits down. “he’ll be able to see you no matter where you sit, guk-ah,” says the other man. “he probably only looks for you, anyway.”
jeongguk’s face warms, but he doesn’t even look at namjoon as he says, “who? i have no idea what you’re talking about. i just love watching dragon racing.”
he can tell that namjoon is rolling his eyes, but jeongguk just gets comfortable before pulling out his bag of snacks. they’ve come early, so he didn’t get a chance to have lunch yet.
“you used to hate dragon racing,” says namjoon. “always complaining that it wasn’t fair for the dragons, that they shouldn’t be worked like this—”
“but then as soon as min yoongi starts paying attention to you, you’re showing up early to every race just to get a good spot, claiming it’s just because you can appreciate racing? and not because you just want to see your rider kick everyone’s butt?”
“he’s not mine,” protests jeongguk, shrinking a little as he shoves some food into his mouth. the thing is, namjoon is right. jeongguk has been showing up to all of yoongi’s races and trying to get good spots to wave at yoongi from. he isn’t a fan of how some of the riders treat their dragons, but he knows that yoongi treats grimfang right and he does want to see yoongi win. they’ve been proper friends for three months now, and the international dragon racing competitions will be starting soon, with yoongi sitting neck and neck with hoseok, another rider. they’ll both be advancing, of course, but the one who comes out on top right out of the gate will be the one that the whole village will be keeping their eye on.
and as much as jeongguk likes hoseok, for all of the two conversations they’ve had, he of course wants yoongi to do well. because they’re friends. obviously.
namjoon seems to give up with the arguing, just sighing and snatching some of the snacks from jeongguk. “i’m going for hoseok-ssi, anyway,” says namjoon. “just to spite you.”
“i hope you’re ready to have him get his ass handed to him by yoongi-hyung, then,” says jeongguk. “i won’t hold it against you for cheering for the wrong person, though.”
they sit and wait for the next half hour as the rest of the spectators take their seats. they won’t be able to see much from here, only the beginning of the race and laps—the race goes over the entire village and island, so they won’t really know who is doing well until they make it back to the starting line, but there’s nothing better than watching as it all starts.
soon enough, the announcers take to their positions—park jimin and kim taehyung, known for their terrible commentary and inability to keep comments about the prettiest dragons and riders to themselves, although jeongguk loves them just for that.
“welcome, ladies, gents, everyone in between, and of course, dragons, to today’s race!” jimin’s voice sounds over the group of spectators, and jeongguk joins in with the others as they cheer. “today is a very important race, as it’s one of the last before our best and most ferocious riders head off for international competitions! whoever wins this race will likely have a leg up in the competition as the number one rider representing us, and at the top of the leader board are jung hoseok and min yoongi!”
jeongguk screams—as he normally does—for yoongi, hearing his voice crack a little in the middle before he looks over and sees the look namjoon is giving him.
“shut up,” he mutters as taehyung begins to announce the riders as they head out from the stables beside the stands. “i’m just here supporting my friend.”
“if he wins, will you run at each other and kiss in celebration?” deadpans namjoon.
jeongguk—blushes, of course. “i have no idea what you mean,” he says, turning back to the front. “it’s not like that.” (even if he wishes it was. but that’s a different matter entirely—he can’t worry about feelings when he’s trying to watch dragon racing.)
he pays attention to the announcers just in time for them to yell yoongi’s name and jeongguk jumps up, screaming wildly he sees yoongi and grimfang make their way out of the stables and up to the starting line. jeongguk can’t stop the dumb smile on his lips as he sees yoongi waving at the crowd, that customary smirk on his lips—he’s back to being dragon rider min yoongi, so mysterious and relentless when it comes to winning races. jeongguk is reminded of the yoongi he knows, and feels all the more special for it as yoongi catches his eye and gives him a wink.
“he winked at me!” someone behind jeongguk yells. “did you see that? he totally winked at me.”
jeongguk looks at namjoon again, who is still staring at him with a deadpan expression. jeongguk shrugs. then he turns back to the racers and shouts, “c’mon yoongi-hyung! you can do it!”
the rider and dragons prepare for the race, the cheering of the crowd quietening as they’re beckoned by the announcers, and then, after a short countdown, a shrill whistle sounds. and just like that, the dragons are off.
the crowd instantly erupts in cheers as the dragons take off, and jeongguk screams for yoongi as he sees what he thinks is grimfang head toward the front; they’re so fast and off so far that he can’t actually see from here. they’ll be back in a few minutes as they lap, and the race only last ten laps, anyway. in the meantime, he’s happy to keep cheering, eating his snacks, and ignoring the way namjoon keeps asking him pointed questions about yoongi.
after the first lap, hoseok is in the lead, with yoongi not far behind, and namjoon just laughs.
“shut up, it’s only the first lap,” says jeongguk, giving the older man a shove. “that doesn’t mean hoseok-ssi is going to win. if anything, yoongi-hyung is just letting him get confident before he beats him.”
except after the second, third, and fourth laps, hoseok is still in the lead. jeongguk begins to get nervous.
“what was that about yoongi-ssi just letting hoseok-ssi get confident?” asks namjoon as the dragons streak past them for the fifth time and hoseok is still in the lead—in fact, yoongi has fallen into third, and looks like he’s trying his hardest not to fall any further behind.
“there’s still half the race left,” says jeongguk, although even he has to admit that things don’t look the best; hoseok keeps gaining ground, and unless something goes terribly wrong, he’s not going to fall back that much.
after the sixth and seventh laps, yoongi gets back into second, but hoseok is so far ahead that jeongguk begins praying for a miracle. namjoon is having a field day.
after the eighth and ninth laps, yoongi has gained enough to give him hope, and jeongguk feels his heart in his throat as the horn sounds for the last lap.
“he’s going to do it!” yells jeongguk, shaking namjoon as he watches the red streak of fae and the blue streak of hoseok’s dragon make their way off into the distance. “he’s going to beat him!”
“no, he’s not,” protests namjoon. “hoseok-ssi has been in the lead this whole time.”
“exactly, he thinks he’s going to win,” says jeongguk. “but yoongi-hyung won’t let him. he’s been saving the best part of fae’s strength for now.”
“fae?” asks namjoon, eyebrows furrowing. “i thought yoongi-ssi’s dragon’s name was grimfang.”
jeongguk pales, realizing that admitting the truth would just give more fuel to namjoon’s idea that there’s something going on between he and yoongi, he gives a nervous laugh and turns the other way, trying to see the dragons coming from the other end of the village. “right,” he says. “must have gotten it wrong.”
after another few minutes of tension and nerves making him almost sick, someone yells and jeongguk realizes he can see the dragons in the distance. he gasps, holding his breath as he tries to see who’s in front; they look to be neck and neck, but they’re too far away to know for sure, and as they get closer, he hopes and hopes that it’s yoongi who has managed to pull a great last lap out of the bag.
he sees it at the same time that taehyung’s voice rings out—“jung hoseok is in the lead!”
namjoon goes wild behind him, but jeongguk is still holding his breath as he spots yoongi directly behind the other rider, the wings of their dragons flapping madly as they soar toward the finish line.
“min yoongi is directly behind him,” adds taehyung. “it’s going to be close! they’re coming around the final bend, almost to the finish. jung hoseok is just a nose ahead, but they’re coming—and—jung hoseok wins!”
the crowd erupts in more cheers, a few boos from behind him as yoongi and grimfang cross the finish line barely a second after hoseok does. the dragons zoom off again, trying to slow down as the rest of the dragons come around the bend as well and zoom past the finish line. namjoon is already trying to brag to jeongguk about it, but jeongguk doesn’t care, just gets up from his seat and hurries out of the stands with the rest of the spectators, heading for the side of the stables where he knows yoongi will be.
it takes a few minutes, but then he sees grimfang in the sky again, descending toward the ground away from the stands, where hoseok is already receiving congratulations from the organizers and fans. jeongguk waits patiently for grimfang to land, stumbling to a halt as yoongi slowly slides off of her and onto the ground.
jeongguk takes his chance, then, moving out from his little hiding spot and approaching yoongi.
“good race,” he calls once he’s close enough, and yoongi turns to look at him. he can tell that yoongi is forcing the responding grin, and jeongguk reaches up to pet at the dragon’s snout. “it really was good, hyung. you almost had him.”
“yeah,” says yoongi. he sounds frustrated. “i could have beat him, though.”
“you’ll get him next time.”
“i wanted to be in the number one spot for the international competitions,” says yoongi; he’s not looking at jeongguk, too busy getting his riding seat off of grimfang’s back. jeongguk lets his hand roam over the dragon’s scales as she breathes heavily beside him, trying to catch her breath from the race.
jeongguk frowns. “there’s still one race left,” he says.
“yeah,” says yoongi. “i guess.”
he knows that he’s not going to be able to make yoongi see that the loss is okay—yoongi always beats himself up for a loss, knowing that he could have done more. jeongguk still thinks it’s just a mark of his character that he won’t push grimfang too hard even if it means sacrificing a few races—he probably could have won the race if he would have made grimfang fly even harder, faster, taken a few risky shortcuts in order to catch hoseok in the last lap. but he didn’t. and if he did, jeongguk knows yoongi would be beating him up for it even more, knowing that he could have hurt his dragon or put more strain on her than she deserves.
yoongi will be alright by tomorrow, anyway—it’s not the first race he’s lost and it won’t be the last.
jeongguk has to recognize, though, that maybe yoongi just wants to wallow for a while.
“well,” he begins. “if it counts for anything, i think you did better than hoseok-ssi anyway, even if you didn’t win. i’m… gonna go…” jeongguk realizes he doesn’t really know where he wants to go without yoongi—these days, they do so much together. when he’s not at the sanctuary, they’re hanging out, and even when they are at the sanctuary, they’re still hanging out.
the tamer clears his throat. “yeah,” he says, giving grimfang one last pat. “i’m gonna go.”
he’s turned around and already taken a few steps before yoongi stops him with a, “guk-ah, wait.”
jeongguk’s heart leaps again, turning back around far faster than he means. yoongi is looking at him. he looks tired, and jeongguk yearns to do something about it, to make it better. all he needs is permission.
yoongi gives it to him when he says, “d’you wanna help me with this?” he gestures to grimfang, probably means her equipment, means putting all of his racing things away and taking the dragon back to his house. it’s hardly a two-person job, considering yoongi has been doing it alone since he started racing. but jeongguk still feels warm, warm as he nods his head and makes his way back over, joining yoongi at the dragon’s side and helping with some of the straps of the equipment.
“thanks,” murmurs yoongi, and jeongguk swears the rider’s cheeks are pink, too, but—it’s probably from the racing, the wind. even if jeongguk’s are pink, too.
it seems to take no time at all before four months have passed since helios, iris, and nyx came into jeongguk’s care. now the dragons, able to control their wings and fire breathing enough to not need constant care, no longer need jeongguk—and although he’s released so many dragons back into their owner’s care, there’s something much more upsetting about this trio. it’s not just jeongguk’s care for the dragons that is coming to an end, but something more, something greater—yoongi won’t have an excuse to come over to the sanctuary anymore, and jeongguk won’t have an excuse to demand visiting grimfang.
and although it’s been four months of friendship, jeongguk is afraid that this will be it. that yoongi will be fine going back to their separate lives, only ever crossing paths at races or in the village when they happen to be out at the same time.
it’s with this tumult of emotions that jeongguk readies the dragons for their release from the sanctuary. he packs a care package to help yoongi get on his feet with taking care of the young dragons, making sure that their favourite toys are included so that they have a little something to take with them that will help with the transition. being with their mother will help, but he never wants the dragons to be worried or fearful of a new situation.
having yoongi will help, too. the rider coming by almost every day did end up helping with bonding with his dragons, even if that wasn’t necessarily jeongguk’s first intention.
“okay, little guys,” says jeongguk once he knows he can’t put off the goodbyes any longer. he crouches down in front of the three dragons, pouting as he reaches out for them. helios jumps into his arms first, nuzzling into him as iris scampers onto his legs and nyx decides to sit on his foot. he remembers when they were barely as big as his finger, needing so much love and attention. now, they’re almost too big for him to hold in his arms and don’t need him anymore. that’s the worst part.
“make sure you’re good for yoongi-hyung, okay?” he asks as he strokes at their scales. “he’s gotten really good at taking care of babies, but he’s still a rider and doesn’t know everything i do. so make sure that you behave and listen to him and eat the food he gives you. and even if he does some things wrong, just remember that he’s still learning.” they can’t understand him, at least not enough to get the sentiments, but he still feels the need to say it. maybe more for himself than anything. “and be good for your mama, too. she hasn’t gotten to spend much time with you but i know she’s a good dragon, even if she’s a lot bigger than me.”
iris flops down on his leg, making herself comfortable as usual, and jeongguk’s pout deepens. “i’m gonna miss you three so much,” he adds. “but i know you’re going to a good home. and maybe i’ll get to see you sometimes?”
“you should,” says a voice behind him and jeongguk startles, accidentally knocking iris off of him as he twists around to see yoongi standing in the doorway.
“how long have you been there?” asks jeongguk, cheeks colouring when he realizes that the rider might have heard everything he said, including the bit about yoongi not knowing as much about taking care of dragons.
yoongi just laughs, rubbing at the back of his neck. “only a little while.”
“well,” jeongguk clears his throat, standing up now and turning toward yoongi. “i was just saying my goodbyes. i have everything ready for you so you can take them home when you want.”
if jeongguk looks hard enough, he thinks maybe he can see something familiar in yoongi’s expression—something that mirrors his own apprehension and trepidation for what’s coming next. maybe yoongi is more nervous about taking care of three four-month-old dragons, but jeongguk likes to think maybe he’s worried about losing contact with jeongguk, too—as though they don’t live in the same village that only has about five hundred people in it.
still, neither of them speaks for a moment, unsure what to say next. then nyx headbutts jeongguk’s ankle, drawing the tamer’s attention to him.
“right,” says jeongguk, realizing that there’s no way to get around it. he grabs the bag of supplies that he prepared for yoongi, making his way over to the rider and handing it over. “there’s food, a bit of medicine, and some other supplies in there to help you with the first few days of helping them. i’m sure you know where to get more and everything. um—if you have any problems with them at first, you can let us know and we’ll come over and help you out. don’t be afraid to, thinking that you’re a bad owner if you don’t know what to do. most people don’t.”
yoongi lets out a breathy laugh, although it sounds forced. there’s something awkward between them, something heavy in the air. the thing is—jeongguk has so much more he wants to say, but he doesn’t want to sound… needy. doesn’t want to ask yoongi where they stand now, doesn’t want to ask if he can come visit on his own. doesn’t want to ask if he was the only one imagining everything between them in the past four months. but the longer he stalls, the more he sees that yoongi isn’t going to ask either, so—he shoves helios into yoongi’s arms.
“there’s one,” he says, then reaches down to grab nyx from where the little black dragon has been clinging to his foot. he gently places him on yoongi’s shoulder, muttering, “two.” then he turns around, searching for the third dragon. after a few moments, he catches sight of the shimmering scales hiding near one of the play pens, and jeongguk pouts before he makes his way over and carefully scoops iris up into his arms.
“you’ll be okay,” he tells her, trying to ignore the sting of tears in his own eyes. maybe he’s talking to himself and not the dragon. “yoongi-hyung will take good care of you. i was never meant to get this attached to you, anyway.” jeongguk resolutely ignores yoongi’s gaze as he carefully places iris on the rider’s other shoulder, giving her one last gentle pet on the head. she gives a little mewl, far too sad for his liking, and then he laughs as he hastily wipes at his eyes.
“sorry, got some—dust,” he mumbles. he takes a step back, nods. “i think you have everything. so, um—yeah. if you need help, just let me know.” he finally looks yoongi in the eye—the other man looks like there’s something he wants to say, but jeongguk is sure it’s just some question about the dragons. might as well rip it off fast, get it over with, so he quickly adds, “see you around, i guess?”
yoongi blinks at him. looks down at the dragon in his arm, and then says, “yeah. i guess.”
when he leaves, taking the dragons with him—iris keeps mewling like she’s hurt, looking over yoongi’s shoulder at jeongguk as he stands alone in the middle of the sanctuary—jeongguk doesn’t cry. it’s just—dust. lots and lots of dust.
he spends the whole morning and afternoon wandering aimlessly in the sanctuary, trying to distract himself with taking care of some of the younger dragons, but it’s no use. he feels empty, not only from losing the three dragons, but from something more—the uncertainty of whatever he has with yoongi, the knowledge that there could be something more, but isn’t. isn’t because jeongguk didn’t say anything, but yoongi didn’t say anything either, so—so. maybe there isn’t something.
maybe it’s just jeongguk’s silly crush on the dragon rider, the same one that he’s had for over two years now.
and then—he’s in the middle of cleaning the sanctuary when there’s a knock at the door. jeongguk puts down the broom and dust pan, eyebrows furrowing as he heads over to the door and… sees yoongi on the other side.
confused, jeongguk opens the door. before he can ask, though, yoongi is already speaking, wringing his hands—“i know it’s only been like, five hours,” he begins, “but i need your help. helios won’t eat and i’m really worried that i’m doing something wrong?”
jeongguk feels panic spike in him, nodding as he grabs his coat from beside the door and heads out of the sanctuary with yoongi. the walk to his house is a short one, especially when he’s trying to hurry, not wanting the poor dragon to be sick.
“it might be the new environment,” explains jeongguk. “that happens sometimes. when they’re put into a new home or something, they start acting differently and won’t eat or sleep or play because they’re not used to what’s happening around them or things are too different and they don’t remember how to function properly.” there was a risk of it happening, but jeongguk was hoping that there wouldn’t be a problem due to the fact that there were many similar things coming along with the dragons.
“maybe you being there will help,” says yoongi. “you were the biggest part of the environment he used to be in.”
they reach yoongi’s house and the rider leads jeongguk around the side to the backyard, where all of the dragons are. jeongguk pays no mind to grimfang where she sits further away on a rock, instead heading straight for the three smaller dragons. yoongi grabs the little package of raw meat that jeongguk had packed for him, crouching down near helios and holding out one of the pieces.
jeongguk expects that helios will either not take any interest in it or try to eat it and then spit it out, but the little dragon happily bounds up to yoongi and takes the piece into his mouth, chewing quickly and then swallowing before he noses into the package, looking for more.
“oh,” says yoongi—he sounds nervous, gives a little laugh. “i guess he decided to eat now.”
“are you sure you were feeding him the right stuff before?” asks jeongguk.
“yes. i swear he wouldn’t eat it. maybe you being here helped?”
jeongguk tilts his head a little, liking the thought that just his presence was able to help helios eat, even though the dragon didn’t so much as look at him before he went for the meat. either way—“he’s eating now,” grins jeongguk, standing back up. “i guess you don’t need me, then?”
“wait,” says yoongi hurriedly, even though jeongguk wasn’t even going anywhere. the rider stares at him for a moment before clearing his throat. “maybe—you could stay until i finish feeding the others? just in case they… decide not to eat and you really do help them with it?”
admittedly, it’s probably a good idea. there’s no point in jeongguk going back to the sanctuary only for yoongi to need him to come right back. so he stays. they sit beside the dragons and jeongguk helps yoongi feed them, tossing little pieces of meat at them and making sure that they’re not going to cough them back up. and he has to admit that it might be helping to have this middle step between environments, although he’s hoping that next time, helios will actually at even without jeongguk here.
finally, once the dragons have finished feeding, jeongguk gets back to his feet.
“thanks for coming and helping,” says yoongi, rubbing at his neck again. “and sorry for bothering you.”
“s’okay,” says jeongguk. “i was just cleaning, so i’m happy to put that off. i should probably get back, though, make sure the other dragons haven’t gone wild in my absence.”
“no, of course,” agrees yoongi. “um… thanks.”
“call me if you have any more problems,” says jeongguk, giving the rider one last wave as well as the baby dragons before he heads back out of the man’s backyard and toward the sanctuary. it’s easier this time, somehow—he wasn’t expecting to see them so soon after, but it was nice to be able to see that they looked happy with yoongi and their mother. and he knows now that yoongi isn’t afraid to ask for help, which is a good sign.
except the very next morning, yoongi is back at the sanctuary.
“i forgot how often i’m supposed to let them bathe,” says yoongi, looking all sorts of guilty.
“don’t you have a man-made lake in your backyard?” asks jeongguk, and—
“oh yeah,” blushes yoongi. “but, still, do i just let them do it naturally or should i make an effort?”
“you can watch to see how often they head into the water, and if they’re not doing it at least once every few days, i’d say you could take them in there yourself. they usually like doing it themselves, but if they’re not, there might be something wrong with the water that you should check out.”
“right,” says yoongi, already taking a step back. “thanks. i’ll… stop bothering you now.”
jeongguk watches as yoongi turns and heads back away from the sanctuary, eyebrows furrowed. it’s just strange that yoongi would forget something like that when it’s one of the very first things that jeongguk ever taught him about when it came to dragons. but no matter—it’s different when yoongi was just learning about baby dragons in general and not having to take care of three of his own.
and then yoongi comes back the next day.
“iris might be sick,” he says, already leading jeongguk out toward the house. “she’s making these weird noises and i don’t know what to do.”
“why didn’t you go to the vet?” asks jeongguk.
“because i don’t know if she is sick,” says yoongi, although he’s talking a bit fast, like he’s just trying to get the explanation out—“i didn’t want to waste the vet’s time when i knew you would be willing to help.”
iris isn’t sick. she is making noises, but that’s because one of her brothers keeps kicking her when they’re playing and she’s upset. jeongguk recognizes it instantly, giving a little laugh when he explains to yoongi that it’s just sibling shenanigans and nothing to worry about. yoongi laughs, too, apologizes and thanks him for coming.
and then yoongi comes back the next day.
before he even gets a word out, jeongguk asks, “are you sure it’s a real problem? it’s just—i’ve already taught you all of this stuff and you keep showing up anyway.”
yoongi’s cheeks are pink, pink. “i—i mean,” he begins, rubbing at his neck again. jeongguk realizes he does that when he’s nervous. “i was going to ask about what to do if they light something on fire.”
“common sense, hyung,” replies jeongguk. “you put it out.”
“yeah, but what if—”
“wait,” jeongguk holds up a finger, realizing dawning on him. yoongi has been coming back for four days in a row now, always with some excuse or problem that isn’t actually a problem, asking questions that he knows the answers to. so if he doesn’t actually need help, then he’s coming to jeongguk for… jeongguk. the tamer swallows tightly, realizing that maybe he was wrong to think that just because yoongi didn’t say anything about seeing each other after the dragons went home, that meant yoongi didn’t want to see him.
maybe that just meant both of them didn’t know how to put it into words, that both of them were too worried that the other didn’t feel the same.
“if you want me to come over to visit, you can just ask,” says jeongguk finally. “you don’t have to have an excuse. i’m happy to come just because you want me to. and because i want to.”
the blush on yoongi’s cheeks darken, and jeongguk sees the slight panic flash through his eyes—he’s been caught. and although jeongguk could tease him, he realizes that he’s too nervous about yoongi’s response to do so.
“i mean,” begins yoongi, and jeongguk can’t help but think that all of the dragon riding fangirls would be so appalled to find their precious min yoongi acting like this. and that’s why jeongguk likes it so much. “okay. do you… want to come over and visit? for—the dragons.”
jeongguk giggles. “not for you?”
“for me, too,” admits yoongi, lips twitching upward. “if you want to, i mean.”
“i do want to,” says jeongguk. “i’ll… come by after i’m done here for the day?”
“yeah,” breathes yoongi. “that sounds good.”
and if jeongguk rushes through his chores for the night, no one really has to know.
he goes to yoongi’s that night—and the next and the next, no excuse needed. they play with the dragons, who are more than happy to see jeongguk back in their lives even if it’s in a completely different environment. they talk, too, have dinner together. jeongguk finds that they have much more in common than just their love of dragons, now that they actually feel comfortable branching out into other topics. he figures that they were always just more than friends even four months ago, but it was hard to admit it when they weren’t sure the other felt. and jeongguk still doesn’t know how yoongi feels, but he likes to think that the way yoongi keeps grinning at him has something to say.
a week later, yoongi finally forces jeongguk to make good on a promise he made months ago—one that jeongguk was hoping he would have forgotten about. they’re in the middle of grooming grmfang when yoongi looks over at him, shit-eating grin on his face and says—“how about we go for that ride now? you promised you’d do it one day.”
jeongguk pauses where he’s been scrubbing at some of the spikes on the dragon’s tail and looks over at yoongi.
“i… can’t,” he says. “i’m sick.” jeongguk adds a few coughs, hoping to convince yoongi—who just laughs, putting down his own scrub brush.
“nice try,” says yoongi. “you promised me, guk-ah. it’ll be fun. and we won’t go too high, right, grim?” the dragon makes a huffing noise, which jeongguk isn’t sure how to interpret. he looks over to the baby dragons for help, but they’re all busy doing other things, so he can’t even pretend that he needs to tend to them. which means…
he sighs. “fine,” he says “but you take me down the moment i get too scared. i’ll never forgive you if you give me a heart attack.”
yoongi is all smiles as he rushes to get the riding equipment, quickly fitting it on the dragon before he hops onto her back and holds out a hand to help jeongguk get on too. it seems like a terrible idea, particularly with jeongguk’s fear of heights and the fact that yoongi is a dragon racer, which means he only knows how to go fast.
still. yoongi is looking at him all open and expectant, more than happy to share this part of his life with jeongguk. and if yoongi could learn how to take care of baby dragons, then jeongguk can learn how to ride a goddamn dragon.
he takes yoongi’s hand, using it as leverage to help him climb onto grimfang’s back as well, and then sits himself on the seat behind the rider. already, he feels a little lightheaded, especially as grimfang gets up into a standing position. and jeongguk—panics, lurches forward and wraps his arms around yoongi’s waist before hiding his face in the other’s neck.
yoongi just chuckles. “we’re not even off the ground yet,” he says.
“i know,” says jeongguk. “but it’s close enough.”
yoongi reaches over and squeezes his knee in something reassuring, then says, “alright, grim. let’s fly.”
jeongguk tightens his grip on yoongi’s waist, trying not to let himself tremble as he keeps his eyes shut tight. he can feel the dragon moving underneath him, wings unfolding beside her so that she can leap into the air. there’s a moment, though, where nothing happens, and then he feels yoongi give his head a little pet. “trust me,” he says. “i’m not gonna let you fall.”
jeongguk opens his mouth to reply—to say thank you, to say i know—and then grimfang leaps into the air and all that comes out of jeongguk’s mouth is a scream.
he can hear yoongi laughing over his own shrieks, but he can’t close his mouth, can’t open his eyes; he can feel them rising, the wind whipping through his air as they shoot through it, and he has no idea where they’re going but he doesn’t care. he just keeps his grip around yoongi, his face in the other’s neck, and tries not to panic. if he doesn’t look down, he won’t have to know that they’re high above the ground, and it won’t matter. he knows that yoongi won’t let him fall off, but that’s not the point.
the sound of grimfang’s wings flapping beside him has him cowering even further into yoongi, and the rider laughs again as he pats at jeongguk’s knee, like a reminder. finally, he thinks they level out—doesn’t feel the same pressure as he did before, just the wind moving around him and a level flying field.
then yoongi turns his head until his lips are pressed to jeongguk’s temple and whispers, “open your eyes.”
jeongguk doesn’t want to, doesn’t want to feel the fear, but yoongi said to trust him. and jeongguk does trust him, so he slowly lifts his head, just enough so that he’s still hiding most of his face behind yoongi’s shoulder but can see—and opens his eyes.
the boy lets out a gasp.
they’re flying over the mountain range beside the village, the entire country spread out before them—white peaks and green trees barely specks underneath them and the blue blue blue sky stretching out like an endless walkway. he can see the nearest village miles away, can see other dragons circling the skies further away. the sea to the right, more mountains to the left, and nothing but open sky around them.
they’re so high off of the ground, but for the first time, jeongguk doesn’t think he’s so afraid. gromfang is soaring through the air, red wings out beside her as she takes them on a gentle journey, and yoongi is warm against his chest.
“it’s beautiful,” whispers jeongguk, taking a chance as he leans back a bit so that he can get a better look at the scenery. there’s nothing more he can say as he admires the mountains and the clouds above them, feeling the wind through his air. he can feel the dragon breathing beneath him, steady and secure. and yoongi is laughing again, twisting around to look at him with that crooked grin.
“it’s not so bad, huh?” asks yoongi.
“i’m still scared shitless,” admits jeongguk, leaning back down so he can hook his chin on yoongi’s shoulder. “but i guess i can see why you might like riding dragons so much after all.”
yoongi laughs again, then returns to facing the front. “take us to the mountain, grim,” he says, giving the dragon a little pat, and they tilt sideways to turn.
jeongguk closes his eyes again, not out of fear, but so that he can feel the wind properly this time, enjoy what it’s all like without worrying about the heights. it feels surreal to be so high above the earth on the back of a dragon, especially after he spends so much time teaching the little creatures how to fly—this is what they become after years, after all of the hard work of tamers and trainers and riders. this is what helios and iris and nyx will be like one day.
eventually, jeongguk opens his eyes again. “where are we going?” he asks yoongi as he watches them fly lower and lower toward one of the mountains far from the village.
“you’ll see,” says yoongi, coaxing the dragon down even further. after a few minutes, they land on one of the mountain peaks, a little grassy plain that extends out from a taller mountain, and as jeongguk hops off of grimfang, he sees what the point is—they have a perfect view of the mountain range and their village down at the bottom of the valley, the sea spread out before them for miles and miles.
he finds himself grinning as he looks at it, trying to imagine that he’s been missing this the whole time because he’s been too afraid to get on the back of a dragon.
“pretty cool, huh?” asks yoongi as he joins jeongguk on the edge, both of them sitting with their legs hanging over part of the cliff face.
“how’d you find this place?” asks jeongguk.
“i was just riding grim once and she took me here,” shrugs yoongi. “it’s been like our secret little place every since. i like to come up with sometimes when i want to be alone or just want to remind myself what an amazing place we live in. i feel so lucky that i even get to have a dragon and fly around, so it’s nice to take advantage of that.”
jeongguk grins, turning back to look at the view. “i hope you don’t mind me crashing your special place, then.”
“it’s only more special because of you,” says yoongi, and jeongguk—blushes. again.
but… it’s things like that that make him think maybe he’s not the only one who’s been feeling this. he glances over at yoongi again, chewing on his bottom lip before he figures he ought to just bite the bullet. they’ve been friends for months now, seeing each other almost every day, and now that he knows their relationship isn’t just based on the dragons that jeongguk has been raising for him, he’s not so afraid to take the next step.
it’s yoongi who speaks first, though, says, “i didn’t have to come over to the sanctuary every day to bond with the dragons, did i?”
jeongguk lets out a stuttered laugh. “how did you know?”
“i have plenty of dragon racing friends,” says yoongi, “and all of them said the most they’ve ever gone to a sanctuary is once a week, and that was considered a lot. and i figured that from the beginning, you know, when i was freaking out and talking to other people who have raised dragons.”
jeongguk’s cheeks flare again. “you knew the whole time?” he asks.
“yeah, but… i still came, didn’t i?”
“i think it did help with the dragons, to be honest.”
“i didn’t come for them.”
oh, he thinks.
“oh,” he says. “then you…”
“came for you,” finishes yoongi. “i’ve been trying to find a way to work up the courage to tell you since like, day one, but i didn’t know how so i just… kept coming by. and then when i got to take the babies home, i kind of panicked and kept asking you for help because i didn’t know how to just tell you that i wanted you to come over to visit me and not them.”
“i came over for you anyway,” admits jeongguk. “not that i didn’t want to see the dragons, but—”
“yeah,” says yoongi. “package deal.”
the tamer chews on his lip again, waiting for—something. there’s all this hope in his heart now, the thought that maybe he was right all along. maybe what yoongi is saying is that none of this is one-sided, but he still can’t be sure, not until yoongi actually says it.
“so…” begins jeongguk.
“i’d really like it if you kept coming over,” says yoongi. “for me.”
“i’d like that too,” says jeongguk. “as long as you don’t make me ride fae that much because i might pass out if i go this high that often.”
yoongi giggles, and then scoots closer, until their thighs are pressed together. jeongguk is keenly aware of it, aware of the heat and the possibility and the want, the want, the want—“only if you kiss me,” says yoongi, and. yeah. yoongi is already leaning closer, eyes moving from jeongguk’s eyes to his lips and then back again.
“i think i can manage that,” whispers jeongguk. he sees yoongi grin, crooked and wide, and then jeongguk closes his eyes and feels like he’s flying as he meets yoongi halfway and presses their lips together.
jeongguk only has time to think that yoongi’s lips are as soft as they look, that this is the kind of lightheaded he wouldn’t mind feeling a lot more often, that there’s something about soaring and heights and not falling, about trusting that yoongi won’t let him fall—not in the bad way, anyway—and then yoongi is pulling back. he rests their foreheads together, grinning and grinning and jeongguk giggles a little, can’t keep it in.
“you do have to ride her again to get back down,” whispers yoongi.
“only if you kiss me again,” says jeongguk, and yoongi does.
“helios, stop fighting with your brother. nyx, oh my—no, don’t even think about starting him on fire. you’ve already done that once this week and i’m not in the mood to deal with that again. we’re gonna be late.” jeongguk huffs as he reaches down in an attempt to pull the two dragons apart, although it’s getting much harder now that they’re so big; they come nearly to his waist now and have gotten too much into being aggressive with each other. something about territory, he’s sure, and this is usually the age when owners choose to separate their dragons, but jeongguk has been begging yoongi not to do it.
of course—he let jeongguk take iris as his own, but that’s different considering they’re together so often that it doesn’t really matter whose house the dragon sleeps at.
“i’m leaving without you,” he calls to the two dragons, turning and marching away with the little wagon in hand. iris bumps her head into his hand and he grins down at her, scratching at her head. “i always knew you were the best behaved one out of the bunch. i chose right when i decided to keep you and not them.”
there’s a displeased noise behind him and then he hears and feels one of the dragons launch himself into the wagon, followed shortly by the other. they’ve probably crushed the food, but it’s all going in the same place anyway, so jeongguk just glances back at them with a broad grin before he picks up the pace and hauls the dragons down the road and toward the races.
it’s not always common to bring smaller dragons to the races, but jeongguk thinks that helios, iris, and nyx deserve to see their mother racing, so he happily makes his way through town with the three dragons in tow. once he gets to the stands, he parks the wagon nearer to the stables, behind the starting line so that no one will be disturbed by the three dragons but they’ll still get a good spot.
once he’s set the dragons up with a few snacks and made sure they’re not going to run away, jeongguk hurries to the stables. there’s only half an hour before the race starts, which means he won’t have much time, but he can’t help sneaking in anyway.
the tamer pokes his head into the stables, looking over the racers and their dragons until he spots the familiar red one near the back and sneaks past all of the rest of them so that he can stop beside her.
“hey girl,” he says, scratching at grimfang’s flank as she hums at him. “i brought the whole crew, so we’re here to cheer you on!”
“guk-ah?” he hears and jeongguk turns to see yoongi turning the corner, eyebrows high on his forehead.
“ah, there’s my racer,” grins jeongguk, meeting him halfway and giggling as he pulls yoongi in for a kiss. “you better kick ass today or i’m sleeping in my own house.”
“you hear that, grim?” asks yoongi, hands coming to rest on jeongguk’s waist. “this race may cost me some good cuddles. among other things.”
jeongguk giggles. “i brought you a good luck charm,” he adds, reaching into his shirt pocket and pulling out—
“is that a dragon?” asks yoongi. “jeongguk.”
“what? he’s sleeping,” says jeongguk, reaching over and tucking the baby inside yoongi’s shirt pocket instead. “he won’t even notice the flying. and he’s been known to be a good luck charm because of his species, so i just want to make sure that you get all the help you need.” he beams, pressing another kiss to yoongi’s lips before he shimmies out of the racer’s grasp.
he pats grimfang’s flank again, giggling as he glances over and sees the look on his boyfriend’s face. “good luck,” sings jeongguk. with that, he drops a kiss to the side of grimfang’s face and then practically skips his way out of the stables, heading for the three dragons where he left them—helios and nyx fighting again, of course, although he doesn’t mind having to deal with that. technically they’re his granddragons too, and he’s long since grown too attached to them.
although maybe it has something to do with their owner. jeongguk is quite attached to him, too, although he’ll never admit it.
(yoongi wins the race. jeongguk is sure that he’ll win the whole league championship with the right incentives, and they’re both eager to find out.)