Actions

Work Header

mouthful of forevers

Work Text:

the cake is small and lumpy, with one tiny candle sticking out of the center—alone, but brave. there might be too much baking powder or baking soda, or both. there’s no icing, which makes it look a little sad, but—it’s a cake. it’s the best jeongguk could do with the complete lack of money he has, and the complete lack of baking skills, and the complete lack of faith in himself.

but it’s a cake. he’s the only one who will see it and eat it, anyway, so—there’s no reason to be fancy. he sits in front of it where he’s set it on his little table, all of the lights off as he carefully lights the candle with his lighter. it casts the room in an orange glow, something almost eerie; it’s easier this way, probably, when he can’t actually see what’s in the room. can’t see the lack of things, or the lack of people. jeongguk closes his eyes, hugging his knees to his chest and pretending, pretending—he’s very good at pretending.

now, he pretends that he isn’t alone. isn’t lonely. it should be sad that he’s alone on his birthday, but he’s used to it now. used to all of the terrible fortune that has come his way, but—now he’s determined. if there’s someone listening, he’s determined.

“if you’re up there, mom,” he begins quietly, whispering into the silence and darkness of his tiny kitchen, “i want you to know that it’s a good birthday, even without you. and i want to thank you for looking out for me this past year, even if things didn’t really turn out how i wanted. and—” jeongguk pauses. his mother can’t grant wishes. his mother—might not even be able to hear him, although he knows that spirits are more real than some might believe. he saw his mother as a ghost once, when she’d died.

anyway. “if anyone is listening,” he whispers, “please help me. please.” he’s not above it—not below it either. jeongguk presses his face into his knees and wishes and wishes and wishes—“please give me an audition. and please give me a call back. and please let me actually land a real role, not one of those stupid background roles that doesn’t give me any money. please give me money, too. and—” he pauses, pursing his lips. “a boyfriend. that would be nice.”

jeongguk opens his eyes again. the candle is still there—alone, but brave. alone but brave, like jeongguk himself. “please,” he whispers again, and hopes that someone will hear him—hear his heart, hear his wishing. after a moment, he adds, “happy birthday to me,” before leaning over and blowing out the candle.

the room is cast into darkness again, and jeongguk just sits there for a second and lets himself smell the smoke. sometimes it’s easier like this—in darkness, he can pretend. he can pretend he’s not some korean kid in the middle of new york city, trying to make it big on broadway with a few years of drama school under his belt and a whole lot of passion.

you need more than passion, kid, one casting director had told him last year, when he’d called to ask why he hadn’t gotten the part he auditioned for. you need talent, too, and drive. i guess you just don’t have what it takes. he’d cried after that, sitting in this shitty little apartment with his shitty little life. he regrets it sometimes, but there’s nothing he can do about it now.

anyway—when he opens his eyes, he’s still in darkness. it still smells like smoke. and then—there’s a sound from behind him.

jeongguk turns to look over his shoulder, as though he’ll see anything. he doesn’t, of course—but it doesn’t scare him. he’s used to this, after all, and he gets up before finding his way to the light switch without knocking over the cake. there’s another sound, a thump, and then a quiet curse, and jeongguk rolls his eyes when he flicks on the light and says, “you better be here to celebrate my birthday, seokjin-hyung.”

except—when the kitchen is doused in light again and jeongguk sees the person making the noise on the other side of the room, he sees that it’s not seokjin. instead, the man standing in the doorway of his kitchen and staring at him like a deer caught in headlights is a little shorter, a little skinnier. he has black hair instead of seokjin’s blonde, and he’s certainly not wearing the school uniform that seokjin wears—the one that seokjin died in. there are probably worse outfits to be wearing for eternity.

the man stares at jeongguk. jeongguk stares back.

“hello?” asks jeongguk, crossing his arms over his chest. “what do you want?” he assumes this man is another ghost—they show up frequently and without warning. they’re pests sometimes, hard to get rid of when they try to speak to him while he’s in public and he can’t say anything back without looking insane.

the man finally relaxes a little, eyes skirting over the room. they land on the cake and the candle, still smoking. “what do i want?” he asks. “what do you want? you’re the one who summoned me.”

jeongguk’s brows furrow. “no, i didn’t,” he says, and then steps up to the table again. he crouches back down, pulling the candle from the cake and licking the end. “i just blew out my birthday candle and you showed up. i hope you’re not supposed to be my birthday gift.”

“from—who?” asks the man. jeongguk shrugs.

“are you a ghost?” asks jeongguk, grabbing the little knife on the side of the table and pausing to peer up at the man. it’s hard to tell—ghosts and humans look the same, and the only way to know for sure is if other people can see them. considering jeongguk is the only one here, he’ll have to ask.

“no,” says the man.

“how’d you get in here, then?” he asks. “if you’re trying to rob me, i will stab you.” he holds up the knife to prove his point, and then instead slices the little cake in half. it really is ugly, but it’ll have to do. jeongguk picks up half of the cake, bringing it to his mouth and taking a little bite as he peers up at the man again. he’s still looking at jeongguk, and jeongguk has a new thought.

“are you here to grant my wishes?” he asks. “are you a genie?”

“genies aren’t real,” says the man.

“i’m not worried about what’s real and what’s not,” says jeongguk through a mouthful of cake, spraying crumbs over the table. “i can see ghosts. things don’t really bother you when you can see ghosts.” he swallows the cake, glad that he doesn’t have to offer any to the man if he’s a ghost—it’s actually a lot better than he had imagined it would be, so he’s happy to eat it all himself. he didn’t really have lunch, either, considering his lack of funds, so this will have to do. “i’m jeongguk, by the way.”

“min yoongi,” says the man, deadpan. “pleasure.”

“can i call you hyung?” asks jeongguk, and doesn’t wait for yoongi to answer before he’s speaking again. “so about the wishes—i wished for an audition, money, and a boyfriend. i’m like one of those starving artists except i’m a broadway actor, so whatever that would be called. and it’s proper lonely here. america kind of sucks.” he takes another bite of his cake, shrugging. “but some of it is cool, i guess. they have lots of cool broadway shows and i’ve always wanted to be famous for that kind of stuff, so that’s why i’m here. i’m sure you can help me with an audition, and getting into a good show would give me money, so that’s taken care of. for a boyfriend, can you make sure he’s korean? and like, preferably taller than me with nice lips. thanks.”

he shoves the last bite of cake into his mouth, licking his fingers as he gets up and wanders toward the sink. yoongi hasn’t moved—or said anything, but jeongguk is hoping that he was paying attention about the wishes. maybe he can’t afford to be picky, but he wants to make sure that he gets everything right.

then—“why should i grant your wishes?”

jeongguk turns around. if he thinks about it—there are too many reasons why his wishes should be granted. most of them are ones he doesn’t like to think about, preferring to look on the positive side when it comes to all of the terrible things in his life. but just this once, he can indulge. “i’m spending my birthday alone,” says jeongguk quietly, nodding toward the other half of the cake, “because i don’t have anyone. i don’t know what happened to my dad, and my mom died when i was a kid. i was raised by a terrible aunt and worked my way through theatre school. i spent the last of my money to get here, and i don’t even know if it’s paid off. i want to—” he stops. there’s a frown on his lips now, and he turns around to look down into the sink rather than at yoongi. he’s a stranger, a ghost—what does he care, anyway?

“i want to be happy,” he admits quietly. “and it’s hard when you don’t have any money and the only jobs you have are as background dancer number three and being a waiter sometimes. i know money won’t solve everything, but it’ll help.”

he doesn’t expect yoongi to understand—if he can grant wishes, maybe he’s been able to grant his own. maybe yoongi is just a ghost and he doesn’t actually care, and maybe he’s just shown up because he’s looking for a way to move on. jeongguk can help him with that, but for once, it’s nice to pretend that there’s someone who can actually help him.

“what about the boyfriend?” asks yoongi.

jeongguk turns around again, eyes widening slightly as he looks at him. for the first time, jeongguk allows himself to think that yoongi is actually kind of—cute. he can’t be too much older than jeongguk himself. he has nice lips.

“i’m lonely,” says jeongguk. “is that a good enough reason?”

yoongi tilts his head. his gaze is scrutinizing, making jeongguk shrink just slightly. he’s so used to strangers showing up in his life and wanting something from him that it’s not so strange to have yoongi show up here completely unannounced. and is it weird that his only friends are ghosts? and he’s a little disappointed that yoongi isn’t seokjin, because at least seokjin would sing him happy birthday very loudly and pointedly off-key, just to make jeongguk laugh?

all he has is—this.

“you don’t need reasons to want something,” says yoongi. “but it’s good to know anyway. i’ll grant your wishes—” jeongguk gasps, but yoongi holds up a finger—“if you ask nicely.”

please, hyung,” says jeongguk, making his way across the room and getting down on his knees in front of yoongi. “please, please, please. i will do anything! well—anything within reason.”

“don’t summon me again,” says yoongi, completely impassive to jeongguk’s show of begging, and then turns to leave. jeongguk doesn’t know if that’s an agreement to grant the wishes or not, but he did ask nicely, and there’s no way his luck can get any worse, so—“happy birthday, by the way.” yoongi turns to look at him, grinning a little, and then he’s gone, just like that.

》》》

jeongguk doesn’t bother to think about yoongi in the following days. sometimes he’ll see ghosts once and never again—it’s rarer for them to hang around for long periods of time, like seokjin. he’s been around since jeongguk was fifteen, and now he’s just turned twenty-two—but he likes seokjin, likes his company when he hangs around. there are probably worse ghosts to be friends with. but there are ghosts around, so jeongguk chalks yoongi’s appearance up to that. even if he says he’ll grant jeongguk’s wishes, there’s no reason for follow up.

so jeongguk goes to an audition. he’s hopeful, as he always is—but it doesn’t go very well and he knows even before he leaves the theatre that he won’t be getting a call back. he works at the little diner not far from his apartment, lasting through teenage tourists who ask if he happens to be in a k-pop band and old men who leave spilled coffee on the counter.

it’s the same life he’s had since he moved to new york last year—dirty, and sad, and lonely. it’s not going to be a different year just because he’s now twenty-two. it certainly won’t be a different year just because he met some ghost named min yoongi.

but then—yoongi keeps showing up anyway.

jeongguk is playing with his lighter too close to a script he’s attempting to memorize in the park when the paper catches on fire—it’s jeongguk’s fault for being too absent minded with it, but he shrieks and quickly blows on the little flame before rapidly shaking the paper around in hopes of the fire going out. it does—but when he turns around, the ghost is standing there again. he’s holding a bowl of cereal with one hand and a spoon in the other, blinking at the light of the sun, and jeongguk stares at him.

“hey!” calls jeongguk. yoongi’s attention snaps to him, spoon held halfway to his mouth. “why are you eating cereal in central park?”

yoongi blinks at him. “i’m supposed to be eating cereal in my kitchen,” he says.

“wait, if you’re a ghost, how can you be eating cereal?” jeongguk asks then, eyebrows furrowed. he’s never met a ghost who could eat before—or could manipulate much of the real world, despite looking like they can. he’s watched seokjin try to pinch him one too many times to know that it usually doesn’t work that way.

“i already told you that i’m not a ghost,” says yoongi, and jeongguk narrows his eyes. whatever yoongi is, he needs to learn better manners—he just showed up in jeongguk’s apartment first and now he’s here, eating cereal in the middle of the park. at the same time, jeongguk is already finding it strangely endearing.

jeongguk looks down to his script—only one corner of the pages is burnt, so he’ll be able to salvage it. “while you’re here,” he says suddenly, “what happened to granting my wishes? it’s already been a week and i’ve gotten no auditions and no money and definitely no boyfriend.”

“patience is a virtue.”

“i’ve been patient for twenty-two years, hyung!”

“do you want me to grant your wishes or not?”

jeongguk’s eyes widen. “you can’t take it back now,” he says. “you already promised. oh wait—” he holds up the script, still smoking a little. “is this the audition i’ll get called back for? it’s not quite the leading role i would have hoped for, but… i’ll take it. rome wasn’t built in a day.”

“what does that saying have to do with anything,” deadpans yoongi.

“okay, thanks hyung!” calls jeongguk, giving him a wave. “you can go away now.” he turns away before he can see the look on yoongi’s face—he imagines it would be some sort of scowl. it seems like yoongi would have a good scowl, but jeongguk is all the more determined to get this audition right if he’s going to get called back for it.

he doesn’t, in the end—and he stomps around his apartment for two days waiting for yoongi to randomly show up so that he can give the man a piece of his mind, but it doesn’t happen.

then, it does—he thinks of why yoongi showed up either of the first two times, and the only common denominator is the fact that there was fire involved. jeongguk isn’t keen on lighting anything on fire, but he tests the theory by lighting all of the candles he has in his house (not many, but it’ll do). when the entire apartment is glowing in orange and yellow light and yoongi still hasn’t shown up, jeongguk goes back to grumbling.

“maybe he’s sleeping,” seokjin says from jeongguk’s sofa.

“you’re not the ghost i was looking for,” says jeongguk, although he’s always happy for seokjin’s company. “he promised me he’d grant my wishes and he’s done jack shit. that’s not very fair, right, hyung?”

“definitely not, gukkie,” sighs seokjin. “but you know, ghosts can’t grant wishes. i think your boy is something different.”

jeongguk narrows his eyes. he’s been considering it himself over the past few weeks—he’s never met a ghost who could grant wishes either. and maybe yoongi is a ghost, and that’s why none of jeongguk’s wishes have been granted yet, but there’s something different about yoongi. even after only meeting him twice, jeongguk can tell there’s something different. he doesn’t act like he’s dead. rather—like he’s been living for a very long time. like he’s not so interested in dealing with jeongguk, but that might just be because most people don’t seem keen on that.

“what else could he be?” asks jeongguk, knowing that seokjin likely has the answer—he always has all of the answers. and ghosts just know things.

“maybe ask that mark on your neck,” grins seokjin, and when jeongguk blinks next, the ghost is gone.

the candles are all still lit, the apartment beginning to smell like a nauseating mix of fruit and pine trees. and yoongi still hasn’t shown up, but now jeongguk touches the back of his neck carefully; he’s had a mark there since he was a kid, maybe a baby. it’s always just been a birthmark, except to the ghosts who see him and crowd around him and ask him questions.

goblin’s bride, they say. how can i be a bride if i’m a guy, though? jeongguk used to ask them. these days, he doesn’t bother—but the look seokjin gave him makes him wonder.

when gets tired of waiting for yoongi to show up, he leans over to the candle on the table next to the couch. when he blows it out and turns to the next candle, he’s suddenly face to face with someone and jeongguk shrieks, throwing himself off of the couch and reaching for the first thing he can—it happens to be the remote, but he brandishes it like it’s a weapon.

yoongi is sitting on his couch.

“please put that down,” he says, deadpan as always. “and please, for the love of god, stop summoning me.”

“so i am summoning you,” muses jeongguk, slowly lowering the remote. he’s less afraid of yoongi than he might be some other intruder, but only because he’s curious—if yoongi isn’t a ghost, then what is he? “hold on, can you go? i want to try it again.”

“jeongguk,” says yoongi, and the look he levels jeongguk with almost makes him blush.

“sorry,” he says. “it works when i blow out fire? kind of inconvenient if i ever want to light a candle or something.”

“then don’t light any candles.”

“what if i want my apartment to smell nice?”

“get an air freshener.”

jeongguk frowns. then he chucks the remote at yoongi anyway, although not hard enough to hurt him. yoongi makes a yelping sound anyway, swatting it at the remote as it goes clattering to the ground and the battery pops out. that just makes jeongguk frown harder, displeased with yoongi now for several reasons. and even yoongi’s pretty mouth isn’t going to make it better.

“i’m angry at you,” he decides. “it’s now been three weeks and none of my wishes have been granted. and now that i know i can summon you, maybe i’ll just do it all of the time until you give me what i want.”

yoongi lets out a groan, dropping his head into his hands. there are probably worse people that be able to summon him—worse people that he promised to grant wishes to. but jeongguk is the brattiest one, no doubt, and for good reason; he’s stubborn, and knows what he wants. and knows how to get it, if only by being annoying. if yoongi promised him something, jeongguk is going to make sure that the man makes good on it.

“this is my last warning,” says jeongguk.

“what are you gonna do, whine at me until i gouge my eyes out?” asks yoongi.

“don’t test me,” huffs jeongguk. he makes his way over to the couch, collapsing next to yoongi and pushing his bottom lip out in a pout. “please grant my wishes, hyung. oh, also—i don’t think you’re a ghost anymore.”

yoongi looks up finally, looking over at him with raised eyebrows. “haven’t i been telling you that i’m not a ghost?”

“i think you’re a goblin.” he gauges yoongi’s face for his reaction—the slight look of amusement in the other’s eyes disappears entirely, face settling into something stony. he doesn’t look pleased—which jeongguk takes as a sign that he’s right. it’s the sort of thing that he’s only heard about for years: a person who is paying for their sins from centuries ago by being granted immortality, forced to watch all of their friends and loved ones die before them over and over again. at least goblins are able to do supernatural things—grant wishes, but also protect souls however they can, among other things.

jeongguk narrows his eyes at yoongi, tries to see it—is yoongi the sort to be able to protect souls? is he the sort to go out of his way to do so, to make people happy, to live through whatever the universe or god decides he should suffer? it’s impossible to know. in their few meetings, yoongi has revealed so little about himself. he could be suffering from a thousand years worth of pain and sadness, or he could just… be like every other human on the planet, and suffering because that’s what humans do.

anyway—anyway. jeongguk leans back on the couch. “you don’t have to tell me,” he says. “but i think you are one. which means we’re going to get married.”

this time, yoongi does react—he lets out a sputter, almost choking on his own spit as jeongguk grins at him. “pardon?” he asks.

“i’m the goblin’s bride. i mean—that’s what all of the ghosts have been telling me. i don’t know if i believe it because i can’t really be a bride, but i don’t know if the goblin can have a groom. which is homophobic, but anyway—” jeongguk leans over, dipping his head down until he can point at the place where his birthmark is. “see? apparently that means i’m supposed to marry a goblin. i don’t know what that means, but if you’re a goblin, then hyung.” he sits up again, gasping as he launches himself at yoongi and wraps his arms around the other’s neck. he presses a wet kiss to yoongi’s cheek. “i already love you.”

“jesus christ,” curses yoongi, shoving at jeongguk until the younger relents and lets go of him. yoongi gets up, looking all sorts of antsy as he first looks at jeongguk, and then looks around the apartment. after a short pause, like he’s trying to decide how to proceed, he begins blowing out all of the candles that jeongguk has lit. “you’re not the goblin’s bride,” he says. “and we’re not getting married. just go to your audition next weekend, okay?”

so jeongguk does—and a few days later, he crowds himself into a bathroom stall in the theatre, quickly opening up the lighter app on his phone and ‘blowing’ it out before excitedly bouncing on the balls of his feet.

in the blink of an eye, he’s practically pressed chest to chest with yoongi, both of them squished into the bathroom stall.

“what the fuck—” begins yoongi, but jeongguk just waves the paper he’s holding in his face, happily shrieking a garble of words meant to sound something like i went to the audition and i already got a call back and it’s for one of the leading roles and i’m going to be a big star on broadway!!!!

halfway through his shrieking, he feels yoongi’s hands clamp down on his arms, forcing him to stay in place. jeongguk’s still beaming, unable to stop himself from it, entire face scrunching up in happiness as he practically vibrates in yoongi’s hold.

“tell me that one more time,” says yoongi.

hyung,” gasps jeongguk. “i got a call back for this super important audition! and i met this guy named jimin who got a call back for the other lead role and he’s really nice, so what if he’s my boyfriend?” he bounces on the balls of his feet a few more times. “you totally did it! i knew you would.” he wiggles out of yoongi’s grasp and hunches over until he can wind his arm’s around yoongi’s waist, giving him a hug. “thank you.”

yoongi doesn’t hug him back—which is fine. it probably wasn’t that hard to snap his fingers and convince the casting director to choose him, or to make sure that everyone else wouldn’t be available. he has no idea how it works, but he’s grateful anyway. after a few seconds, he feels yoongi give him an awkward pat on the back, saying, “no problem, kid.”

pulling back, jeongguk beams at him again. “i’m gonna be a star, hyung!” he says. “will you come to opening night? you’ll have to buy me a bunch of flowers and wolf-whistle when i do my final bow and everything and then cry about how great i was and ask for my autograph. you know, like how someone’s family would—”

“hold on,” says yoongi. “you haven’t even gotten the part yet. don’t get ahead of yourself.”

“let me dream, hyung,” sighs jeongguk. “oh, i need to find a suit for opening night—” and then, for the first time, he sees yoongi smile. or—it’s more of a grin, really, an upturn of his lips in a way that jeongguk hasn’t seen before. even with jeongguk being annoying, he hopes that maybe yoongi would find it endearing, or that he would be fond; he has no idea why they’re intertwined like this if yoongi isn’t a goblin and jeongguk isn’t his bride, but jeongguk isn’t going to question it. and the sooner yoongi gets over his apparent annoyance with jeongguk, the better.

yoongi buys him ice cream at the little ice cream shop next to the theatre as a congratulations and jeongguk giggles the whole time and accidentally on purpose gets some of his ice cream on yoongi’s nose so he can boop it. and yoongi scowls at him, but jeongguk can tell there’s a grin just threatening to break through, and—yeah. yeah. things are starting to look up.

》》》

“really, though, if she gets the part, i’m going to quit,” grumbles jimin, arm looped through jeongguk’s as they make their way toward jeongguk’s apartment. “she can’t sing for shit! plus, she’s supposed to be my love interest but i want to throw up every time i look at her? how am i supposed to pretend to be in love with her.”

jeongguk can’t help giggling despite the scowl on jimin’s face, and the look jimin gives him only makes it worse. “i’m sorry, hyung,” he laughs. “i’m sure you’ll be fine. and the director will see that she’s not a good match so i’m sure they’ll choose someone else.”

“ah, jeonggukkie, it’s too bad you couldn’t be my love interest.” the words should make jeongguk blush, probably—jimin is funny and attractive and wonderful, and a few weeks ago, he would have jumped at the chance to even pretend. but the past few weeks of knowing jimin and working together for the play they’ve been cast in has shown him that jimin is just a great friend.

and—well. he’s not yoongi. jeongguk can’t help comparing everyone he meets to yoongi, even though that’s not what he should be doing. yoongi is the elusive tsundere who has shown very little interest in jeongguk, but maybe jeongguk is just attracted to that sort of thing. he’s not going to deny the fact that there are butterflies in his tummy every time he sees a flame and has to resist the urge to rush over to blow it out just to make yoongi show up. the last time he had, yoongi had been in these ridiculous pajamas that had had jeongguk howling with laughter and yoongi demanding that he not summon him any time at night—korean time.

“you’ll be fine, jimin-hyung,” says jeongguk, still giggling before jimin suddenly pulls him to a stop in the middle of the street. jeongguk halts at his side, eyebrows furrowed before jimin nods further down the street and murmurs, “and who is that?”

jeongguk turns, curious, and sees—several things. first, there’s a moving truck parked on the side of the street, in front of one of the houses that he and jimin are meant to pass on their walk. second, there’s a tall man standing on the sidewalk in front of the house, arms folded over his chest. third—and perhaps most surprising—another man moves into view from behind the moving truck, carrying a massive box in his arms.

“are you going to help me?” he asks—yoongi asks, because it’s yoongi. it sounds like he’s struggling with the box, and the other man just tightens the fold of his arms.

“it’s not me who’s moving in,” he says.

“oh, let’s go help,” says jimin, already tugging jeongguk over, and jeongguk sputters, trying to dig his heels into the ground, but jimin is strong and manages to drag jeongguk all the way over as yoongi struggles with bringing the box up the drive and into the house. “hello! we couldn’t help but overhear your predicament. do either of you gentlemen need a hand?”

jeongguk hangs his head, trying to hide his face as the other two must turn to them—he’s not sure why he doesn’t want to see yoongi now, but maybe it’s just because he doesn’t want to see him with jimin around. jimin, who will be able to pick up on every little thing between them and instantly pinpoint the fact that jeongguk has a crush. jimin, who will tease him mercilessly and ask him endless questions, and jeongguk isn’t sure how to go about answering them.

still—“i think we’ll be fine, thanks,” comes yoongi’s gruff voice.

the second voice, unfamiliar, says, “we’ve already got two hands each.” and jimin—giggles beside him, clearly pleased with the joke. when jeongguk looks up, he sees the man’s face and doesn’t think it’s meant to be a joke, but then the man looks at him and—and. jeongguk stops.

he knows that face. it calls back to a memory from his childhood, ancient and horrible and something he’s put out of his mind for so long—the night that his mother died. the night he saw her as a ghost and she told him to always be safe, the night she apologized for leaving. he’d seen this man, too—the same face, unchanging. he’d been wearing black then, head to toe. he’d said something about a missing soul, about having his chance to take jeongguk before—something stopped him.

jeongguk sees the moment the man recognizes him, too. it’s the very moment that the answer comes to him, understanding who the man is: grim reaper.

“namjoon!” snaps yoongi from the doorway. “if you don’t tell me where to put this shit, i’ll put it in your room and then you’ll be cranky.”

the man—grim reaper—namjoon narrows his eyes at jeongguk. jimin says something beside him, but jeongguk isn’t paying attention, too struck with the understanding of this—and he isn’t afraid. there’s no reason for the reaper to take him now. it’s clear that he isn’t on duty, but he’s still here. and jeongguk remembers jimin beside him, realizes that jimin is introducing himself—which is a terrible idea. if the grim reaper knows his name, it’s dangerous.

“we have to go,” says jeongguk, already dragging jimin further down the street.

“what?” asks jimin. “but i was going to help them—”

“they don’t need help,” says jeongguk, hurrying as quickly as he can. “don’t flirt with him. he’s probably weird.”

but later—when jimin has gone home, jeongguk lights a candle. by the time yoongi shows up, carrying another box and clearly still in the middle of unpacking, there are too many questions on the tip of his tongue. he doesn’t know what to begin with, doesn’t know how to get everything out, but—

“jeongguk, i told you,” begins yoongi.

“you’re moving here?” asks jeongguk. it seems like the most logical place to start. “literally like, two blocks away from me?”

he can’t be too sure, but he thinks he sees yoongi’s cheeks colour. “i wanted a change of scenery and there happened to be a place open.” jeongguk—isn’t going to read into it. isn’t going to think about the fact that all of these events seem linked somehow, that maybe he is the bride and yoongi knows it, so he left korea. it’s easier to be summoned when they’re at least in the same timezone.

and anyway—“the only place open was with a grim reaper?”

yoongi puts down the box. “how do you know he’s a grim reaper?”

“he tried to take me when i was a kid,” says jeongguk. “i don’t remember what stopped him, but—something did. he said that i was a missing soul or something.”

this time when yoongi looks at him, jeongguk knows he is hiding something. there’s a sharp look in his eyes, lips pursed just slightly. even now, jeongguk has begun to understand yoongi’s little nuances, the bits of him that make up the enigma that he is—goblin or ghost or human. whatever he is.

yoongi says, “you are a missing soul.”

“what does that mean?”

“it means you were supposed to die and you didn’t,” says yoongi. he makes himself at home, suddenly, pulling out the single chair at jeongguk’s kitchen table and sitting down. he rubs at his face—for the first time, jeongguk realizes that he looks tired. he thinks of what he’s learned about goblins, about them being punished for the grave sins in their life, and how sometimes a goblin can live for thousands of years with no respite. only the goblin’s bride can fix it, can change his fate, and maybe if yoongi is a goblin, he’s been waiting this whole time. he’s been searching this whole time, and whether or not jeongguk is his bride—maybe he can help.

“when?” asks jeongguk quietly.

“you weren’t even born yet,” says yoongi. “it was—your mother. when she was pregnant with you, she got hit by a car. and she was dying, bleeding out, and she was praying for someone to save her. i heard her. and i stupidly decided to save her.”

“stupidly?” asks jeongguk; something like anger flares up inside of him. hearing about his mother has him—sorrowful, missing her, but yoongi saved her. yoongi saved him, and now it sounds like he regrets it. “is that why my mom died anyway when i was a kid?”

“i couldn’t save her twice,” says yoongi. “the point is—you were supposed to die. and i stopped it. it probably won’t be your last brush with death.”

“is he going to try to kill me?”

“namjoon?” yoongi lifts his eyes, almost smirking as he says the name. “he’s harmless for the most part. a pain in my ass already, but he’s not the one who kills you. he just does his job, takes the names that he’s given, and helps lead them onto their next life. so he won’t kill you. and he’ll only take you if it’s your time to go.”

it’s—not reassuring at all, to say the least. if anything, it makes jeongguk feel worse, knowing that there’s a grim reaper living not far. that the grim reaper knows him, and knows jimin now, too, even if jimin wouldn’t shut up about him and his dimples and his long legs when they got back to jeongguk’s apartment. it’s dangerous—but being involved with yoongi is dangerous too, he’s sure. with someone who is involved in the supernatural, who has the ability to stop death the way he did with jeongguk’s mother. with him, too.

“look, just—don’t panic, okay?” asks yoongi. “it’s not dangerous. and if you’re worried…” he pauses, rubbing at the back of his neck. his cheeks colour again, just like that, and jeongguk can’t stop feeling endeared, even with the given situation. “i’ll protect you. okay?”

jeongguk’s lips twitch into a grin, almost against his will. “aw, hyung,” he begins, making his way over to the table, and yoongi already groans, getting up from the table and dodging jeongguk’s outstretched arms. “that’s so cute! you care about me.”

“shut up,” says yoongi. “no, i don’t.”

“it’s a good thing, since we’re supposed to be married and everything.”

“you’re not the goblin’s bride!”

“hyung, where are you going?” he chases after yoongi as picks up the box and darts through the apartment, heading for the front door. “hyung, no! come back and let me give you a hug.”

“go away!” calls yoongi, throwing open the door and darting through it. jeongguk lunges after him, catching the door just before it closes and racing out after him and—

he stumbles to a halt, blinking at the sudden brightness he’s facing. he’s not in the hallway to his apartment like he’s supposed to be, and he turns around to look at the door that has already closed behind him. that’s not—his front door either. when he turns around, he sees that he’s in the middle of a cobbled street with the sun shining over him and people walking past. it looks nothing like any of the new york streets he’s used to, and yoongi is walking down the street away from him.

“hey!” calls jeongguk, racing after him. “hyung!”

yoongi turns around, eyes wide when he sees jeongguk. “what—”

“where are we?” he asks, catching up to yoongi and reaching out to clutch onto the man’s sleeve. jeongguk peers around the street, catching sight of a few—flags. with maple leaves on them. “did you just do magic? oh my god—”

“how did you…” begins yoongi, but jeongguk isn’t paying attention. he’s too busy trying to figure out where they are without leaving yoongi’s side, still clutching onto his sleeve as he peers at the people around them. someone walks past them speaking a different language—not english or korean.

“hyung?” he asks.

“we’re in canada,” says yoongi. jeongguk’s eyes widen, turning to look at him in shock. “quebec, to be exact.”

“we’re in canada?” asks jeongguk. “how did we get to canada? oh my god, i’ve always wanted to go—hyung. hyung! can we get maple syrup?”

yoongi scoffs as jeongguk begins to drag him down the street toward what he hopes is a maple syrup shop. surely they have those just hanging around here. “i didn’t say we were staying.

“it’s like a date!” giggles jeongguk, still tugging on yoongi. “we’re gonna get married and this is our first date. which is good, because you should always court someone before you propose to them. oh, do you think they have polar bears?”

“that’s not how canada works, jeongguk,” sighs yoongi, but jeongguk is already dragging him into the nearest tourist shop, too excited to listen to his reluctance. jeongguk gives him no choice as he roots through the shop, looking for something to buy. he gives yoongi no choice as he drags him down other streets as well, excitedly buzzing from shop to shop as if he was a real tourist. at some point, he’s sure that yoongi stops trying so hard to pretend that he’s not enjoying it.

yoongi treats him—or jeongguk makes him treat him—to dinner at a fancy restaurant, beaming as they order meat and yoongi gives him more than his fair share. jeongguk takes it as proof that yoongi likes him more than he lets on, and they walk through the streets and talk. jeongguk tells him about the play he was cast in—his big break, he’s sure of it. yoongi tells him about namjoon, a little, or at least how difficult it is to live with him even if it’s only been a day.

and it’s—nice. for once, they actually just talk. jeongguk doesn’t learn so much about yoongi’s life and his past so much as he does about how yoongi acts, and what he looks like he’s trying not to smile, and how easy it is to make him roll his eyes at something jeongguk does. and all of it makes jeongguk fond fond fond, finding himself hoping and wishing and wanting to be the stupid bride, because maybe he wouldn’t mind being with yoongi, even if he’s probably a thousand years old.

yoongi has done enough waiting. jeongguk doesn’t want him to suffer anymore.

》》》

“he says i’m not the goblin’s bride,” says jeongguk; he can’t help pouting as he sits in the middle of his bed, wrapped up in a blanket. seokjin sits next to him, and jeongguk pretends that he can feel seokjin petting his hair or something comforting; just having him here is good enough, but jeongguk always wishes there was more.

“you’re supposed to be,” says seokjin. “you have the mark and everything.”

“what is even the point of being the bride?” grumbles jeongguk. “i have to deal with his dumb ass all the time. he’s so—annoying.

“yesterday you told me you’d eat his ass if he asked.”

“well,” jeongguk huffs, cheeks reddening. “i would. but that doesn’t mean he’s not annoying.”

seokjin laughs, and jeongguk flops back against his pillow petulantly. “i don’t know everything about the goblin and bride nonsense,” says seokjin, “but i’ve heard enough over the years. you know what a goblin is, but—it’s said that the goblin has something in his chest that was put there by whoever killed him in his life. because of his sins, god or whoever punished him by keeping him alive with that thing in his chest forever. the only person who can remove it and end his suffering is the goblin’s bride.”

jeongguk pouts harder. “why does it have to be a bride?”

“most people assume the bride is supposed to be a woman.”

“i’m not a woman, hyung,” sighs jeongguk. “does that mean i can’t be the bride? or—did the universe fuck up?”

“you can be a bride if you want, jeongguk-ah. don’t listen to any of that heteronormative gender bullshit.”

jeongguk keeps sulking—can’t help it. he’s confused, especially since yoongi keeps telling him that he’s not the bride even though ghosts have been telling him otherwise his entire life, not to mention the stupid birthmark and the missing soul shit. as much as he’s happy to now have at least a few of his wishes granted—he’s been cast in a leading role in a new broadway play, which is sure to give him more money than he has now—the rest of it is overwhelming.

he falls asleep like that, with seokjin sitting next to him and keeping him company. yoongi hasn’t done anything about the boyfriend wish, evidently, although jeongguk finds himself kind of hoping that yoongi would be his boyfriend. (although if he is the bride, then—yoongi’s supposed to be his husband. and he’s not sure if he’s ready for that quite yet.)

》》》

jeongguk continues to run into yoongi—whether on purpose or not—and every time, he tries to reason with himself. if yoongi says he’s not the bride, then maybe he’s not the bride. and maybe he should try to stop himself from feeling all of these things that he feels around yoongi—but he can’t help it. yoongi quietly teaches him how to cook when jeongguk accidentally starts his meat on fire and blows it out, effectively summoning the other man into his kitchen. and yoongi quietly listens to him complaining about his co-stars when he catches jeongguk stomping down the street past his house. and yoongi quietly, quietly—quietly does everything. he quietly seeps into every crevice of jeongguk’s life, just like that.

and it’s different. jeongguk is loud, can’t help it—all of his words and love and feelings spill out of his mouth, over the edge of his ribcage. he always makes a fucking mess. but yoongi is quiet in accepting it, and quiet in looking at him, and quiet in speaking to him. jeongguk, for weeks, believes that yoongi might just hate him—but upon complaining to seokjin once more, the ghost tells him to just look.

when he does, he sees—yoongi looking back at him, in the loud moments, and in the quiet ones too. yoongi does a lot of looking, a lot of watching. it’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking most of the time, but he’s always got a little grin on his lips and jeongguk—can’t let it go. couldn’t. wouldn’t want to, probably.

jeongguk makes yoongi take him to canada again—and again and again. he complains about not eating enough and yoongi will look at him and jeongguk will grin, all bunny teeth and mischief, and then yoongi will gesture for him to follow through a door, one of yoongi’s favourite modes of transportation. just like that, they’re across the border. jeongguk can’t help using yoongi’s abilities to his advantage.

at the end of october, jeongguk blows out a candle.

“no,” says yoongi.

“please,” says jeongguk.

“no.”

hyung.

yoongi glares at him. jeongguk pouts, and then steps forward until he can slips his arms around yoongi’s waist. with his face pressed into the other’s neck, he adds, “i’m your husband.”

“you are not

“i’ll stop saying it if you take me to canada.”

this time, jeongguk takes yoongi’s hand and pulls him through a pathway of trees—red and gold leaves falling around them, fall becoming winter. yoongi looks like he’s not enjoying it, but he’s holding jeongguk’s hand tightly anyway, rubbing his thumb over jeongguk’s skin, and that’s enough.

“you know,” says jeongguk, swinging their hands between them. “i never asked how old you are.”

“are you worried that i’m too old for you?” asks yoongi, bemused smirk on his lips.

“you look like you’re in your late-twenties at the most,” says jeongguk, “but that can’t be possible if you’re a goblin. but it’s in the eyes, i think. i can tell you’ve seen some shit.”

“i have seen some shit,” agrees yoongi. “it would make your toes curl.”

“you should tell me sometime, hyung. you know—what you did in the first place.”

“that would sour the romantic atmosphere, don’t you think?”

jeongguk looks at him, eyes brightening. “so you think this is romantic?” he asks. he bumps their shoulders together, giggling when yoongi scoffs, but the other’s cheeks are red, so. “it’s practically a date. i think i’ve lost count of how many we’ve been on. how many is appropriate before you propose to me?”

“i thought you said you were going to stop with the goblin’s bride shit.”

“i don’t have to be your predestined bride for us to get married, do i?” asks jeongguk, and yoongi just—stops. he pulls jeongguk to a stop with him, their eyes meeting almost curiously. and jeongguk realizes that he might have said something wrong—as much as he can’t stop himself from loving loudly, at least when it comes to the people he cares the most about, it’s not like he’s admitted that he likes yoongi. it snuck up on him anyway, in the ways yoongi stays when jeongguk summons him, or the questions he asks about jeongguk’s rehearsals.

now they’re only inches apart and yoongi is looking at him—properly. jeongguk feels something burst in his stomach, something like a whole bubble of butterflies that wants to sing out of his mouth, and he looks up only to see more leaves falling around them. after a moment, he reaches up and waits for one to fall close enough for him to grab it, bringing it down between their faces.

“they say if you catch a falling leaf, you’ll fall in love with the person you’re walking with,” he says, staring at the leaf rather than yoongi.

after a moment, yoongi says, “what if you’re already in love with them?”

jeongguk blinks, eyes moving to yoongi’s. and then yoongi fucking winks at him and walks around him, slipping his hands into his pockets as he casually continues walking down the path. jeongguk stares after him, mouth open for a moment before he shouts, “what? what does that mean? hyung

they end up at a hotel—something that looks almost more like a castle, and yoongi tells him that he has some business to attend to and not to go wandering off. jeongguk sticks his tongue out and says he’s an adult who can do what he wants, but the warning look yoongi gives him keeps him from trying to run away; he wouldn’t be able to get back to new york without yoongi, anyway.

so he explores the hotel. exploring is more of him walking around and trying not to touch things, because he’s afraid of breaking them, but he finds a mailbox—maybe not in use, but. close enough. he grins as he grabs a piece of paper from the pad on top of the mailbox and one of the pens, getting to work.

he used to write letters to his mother all of the time when he was a kid, after she died—he knew they’d never get to her that way, but it felt better than just talking. so he writes a letter to her this time, because so much has happened in the past few months that he hasn’t been able to tell her: meeting yoongi, meeting jimin, finally landing a lead role in a play set to open in a few more months. he blushes as he talks about yoongi, unable to help it—and maybe that’s a bad sign. he looks at the maple leaf he’s brought with him, thinks about yoongi’s words.

he addresses the letter to himself, to be safe. pushes it into the little mailbox and grins to himself before leaving the hotel.

he finds yoongi near a fountain beside the hotel, sitting at a little table with a book. jeongguk calls his name, waiting to get yoongi’s attention before he waves with both hands, beaming wide—and it’s strange. it’s strange to think that only two months ago, he was still living a miserable life. now, it’s different. now—it’s happy. because of yoongi.

jeongguk can’t help it, can’t help all of his feelings welling in his chest as yoongi grins back at him from the table, and jeongguk goes running toward him. he’s always liked a challenge, always wanted something more; and maybe yoongi still thinks he’s annoying. but he’s grinning anyway as jeongguk comes to a halt in front of him, all bright eyes and wide smiles.

“d’you have a coin?” asks jeongguk, pointing to the fountain. “i wanna make a wish.”

“i thought i granted your wishes,” says yoongi.

“you’ve done okay at granting wishes,” jeongguk tells him. “could use some improvement, but i’m pretty pleased for the most part. but maybe i want to leave something up to the universe this time.”

yoongi hands over a quarter from his pocket, and jeongguk grins before he rushes toward the fountain. there are other coins glittering on the bottom—all of those wishes. he thinks briefly of yoongi’s ability to protect souls as a goblin—he hasn’t seen it, but he’s heard about it. yoongi can save lives, or can change futures to help someone. maybe he can hear these wishes too, hear them whispering to him.

but this isn’t something that yoongi can grant him. so jeongguk presses his lips to the coin just slightly, and then turns around so his back is facing the fountain. like this, he can see yoongi looking at him—just looking. jeongguk looks back. and he still doesn’t understand how they came into each other’s lives, or why, but—jeongguk closes his eyes.

please let me remember, he thinks. i never want to forget this.

he tosses the coin over his shoulder, waiting for the plop of it hitting the water, and grins. when jeongguk opens his eyes again, yoongi is already standing in front of him, hands back in his pockets.

“what did you wish for?” he asks.

“it won’t come true if i tell you.”

“or maybe it will.”

jeongguk tilts his head. resists the sudden urge to lean forward and kiss yoongi, and says, “i wished that you would stop wearing those ugly bucket hats when you don’t want to be seen.”

hey, my bucket hats are nice,” argues yoongi, and jeongguk giggles at the look on his face—all squished and upset, and jeongguk really, really resists the urge to kiss him. to kiss it better, even if he’s the one who made it bad in the first place. instead, he just shrugs, reaching out to take yoongi’s hand and tugging him away from the fountain.

“let’s get hot chocolate, hyung,” he says. “canada is too cold.”

when they get back to new york, turning up outside of yoongi’s house, jeongguk makes him walk him back to his apartment. it’s not far, but it’s late and cold, and jeongguk keeps a firm grip on yoongi’s hand as he stuffs both of them into his coat pocket. “what was your business in canada?” he asks, curious.

“i had to visit some people,” says yoongi. “they’re buried there.”

jeongguk frowns. “who?”

“the important ones,” says yoongi, and there’s something sad in his voice, something horrible—jeongguk is reminded again of the fact that yoongi might be a thousand years old. might have seen so much, lasted through enough to leave him jaded and bitter. he’s not like that, but maybe he’s still sad. “i’ve had a lot of companions, or helpers, if you will. people who take care of me. even though it’s their—job, they’re like family to me.”

“do you miss them?” asks jeongguk. when yoongi looks at him, there’s a sad little grin on his lips.

“of course. but there’s nothing i can do about it. humans die, guk-ah. that’s the point. my punishment is to deal with that, to feel the pain of loss over and over until i understand it at its very core.” he shrugs, like it’s not a big deal. “i try not to think about it. my caretaker now—taehyung—is young, like you. i’ll have him for a very long time, so i’m grateful.”

jeongguk thinks of loneliness. thinks of suffering through centuries of always knowing that anyone he loved would perish before long—not only friends and caretakers, but lovers, too. and he wonders if yoongi has even bothered, or if he’s kept himself separate, whether because he’s waiting for his bride or because he didn’t want to feel the pain of falling in love and losing someone because of it. and he wonders, too, if he could just always keep his lover from death, choosing to protect them for an eternity so they could be together.

and would that be cruel? to force someone to suffer the same fate of endless immortality, all because of love?

“are you lonely, hyung?” asks jeongguk when they come to a stop in front of jeongguk’s apartment building, night having fallen. he turns to face the older man, hands slipping apart as he searches for the answers in yoongi’s eyes rather than his words. yoongi is very good at hiding things—like pain, suffering. love, too.

what yoongi says, with a tiny grin, is, “don’t worry about me, guk-ah.”

“you are,” says jeongguk, because he doesn’t have to guess. “you’ve been alone for so long. but you don’t have to be, you know? you don’t have to make the punishment worse.” he frowns a little before he adds, “does it hurt?”

“does what hurt?”

and jeongguk points to the center of yoongi’s chest. says, “the sword.” because there is a sword in yoongi’s chest—it’s long, cutting right through his breast bone, and tilted upward between the two of them. there’s a blood on it, but he can tell that it’s not there in the way that the clothes on yoongi’s back are. seokjin told him that there was something in the goblin’s chest, the thing keeping him alive despite being the thing that killed him.

“what?” asks yoongi, mouth opening. “you can see the sword?”

“i’ve always been able to see the sword,” says jeongguk. “that’s why i thought you were a ghost. i thought you were dead.”

“jeongguk-ah—” yoongi sucks in a breath, and then stops. stares at him for a little longer, and then brings a hand to his mouth.

“seokjin-hyung told me the only one who can touch the sword is the goblin’s bride.”

“he’s wrong,” says yoongi quietly. “i mean, he’s right, but—jeongguk. the only one who can even see the sword is the goblin’s bride.”

oh, jeongguk thinks. then—oh. he can see the sword.

which means—he is the bride. which means he is meant to be with yoongi, meant to love him, meant to help him. which means he can remove the sword and end yoongi’s suffering, whatever that looks like. it means he can fix it.

it means he and yoongi are soulmates—just like he’d hoped.

“so that means—i have to pull it out?” asks jeongguk, eyebrows furrowing as he stares at the handle of the sword. it looks heavy, but yoongi didn’t say it was painful. he’s been carrying it around like that for centuries.

“yeah,” breathes yoongi. “yeah, that’s—what you’re supposed to do.”

“what will happen?” asks jeongguk. “it’ll end the punishment, right? but what does that actually mean?”

when he looks up at yoongi’s eyes again, yoongi is already staring back at him. staring hard, and jeongguk wonders if now he’s rethinking all of their conversations, their interactions. now they know that jeongguk is the bride, that he’s meant to do this one thing through love or hope or faith. maybe pulling out the sword will give yoongi a mortal life, so they can grow old and be together properly.

but yoongi’s lips curl into a grin, just slightly. “it’ll make me pretty,” he says.

“you’re already pretty, hyung,” says jeongguk. “but if you want—” he reaches for the sword only for yoongi to flinch away from him, putting a foot between them that has jeongguk pausing. yoongi’s looking at him with fear this time, spooked. “or… not?”

“not today,” says yoongi.

“tomorrow?”

yoongi licks his lips. “sure,” he says. “tomorrow.”

but tomorrow never really comes—jeongguk asks the next day, but yoongi refuses. and the next and the next and the next—each day, yoongi finds another excuse for jeongguk to not pull out the sword. let’s go to canada instead, he says, and jeongguk can’t argue with it as they walk the streets and eat meat together and hold hands. let’s watch a movie instead, he says, and jeongguk happily eats his weight in popcorn. let’s just sleep today, he says, and jeongguk lets yoongi nap while he explores the house. as he runs into namjoon and finds that yoongi was right for the most part—he’s harmless, despite being a grim reaper. he does have nice dimples, like jimin said.

jeongguk gets impatient.

“am i going to pull the sword or not?” he huffs after a week of yoongi putting it off. “that’s my job as your bride.” they haven’t really addressed that either—the bride thing. but maybe it’s been obvious that jeongguk likes yoongi as more than someone who grants his wishes and once saved his life. maybe there’s not much that needs to be said, or it’ll all be said once he pulls out the sword. once yoongi is pretty—mortal and perfect and able to love with abandon. not afraid of jeongguk having to leave him behind.

“not yet,” says yoongi.

“by first snow,” decides jeongguk. “we’ll do it by first snow.”

then it’s this: jeongguk goes to rehearsals. he meets ghosts. he writes a contract, because he doesn’t know what making yoongi pretty will entail—he mentions having to go away after the sword is pulled, and maybe that means he’ll have business to attend to somewhere else. maybe it means he’ll have to give the sword to someone else, another goblin who will be punished the same way he was. so jeongguk writes a contract, detailing everything yoongi must agree to after the sword is pulled.

it’s: dates, and holding hands, and letting them get married properly and not just because they’re meant to by marks on jeongguk’s neck and his ability to see the sword. it’s: yoongi promising to still grant his wishes, but only if they’re within reason and only if he can actually keep his goblin powers after the sword is gone.

it’s: yoongi listening to jeongguk’s summons on the first snow of every year. yoongi promising to come back just that once, from wherever he might be—just in case. jeongguk doesn’t understand how it works, doesn’t know what will happen, but he wants this: the promise of yoongi coming home.

at the end of november, he presents the contract to yoongi, all wide smiles and pride.

“this one is a little ridiculous,” says yoongi, pointing to number five on the list: min yoongi must allow his nose to be booped any time jeongguk wants, because he has a very boopable nose and it will be even prettier and more boopable without the sword.

“just sign it, hyung,” says jeongguk, and beams when yoongi does. “good. now you have to show up when i summon you. every first snow.”

before he can run away, yoongi stops him with a hand on his arm. “i’ve got something for you, too,” he says, and hands over a massive, thin box. jeongguk’s eyebrows furrow before he sets it on yoongi’s kitchen table, opening it only to gasp as he looks down at—

“is this a suit?” he asks. “why did you get me a suit?”

“you said you needed one for your opening night,” says yoongi, but the way he says it is. sad. everything he says is sad, everything he does—he’s suffered so much, jeongguk thinks. it’s good to end it. “so this is my gift to you. you’ll look—beautiful.”

jeongguk grins, leaning over to grab yoongi by the back of the neck and pull him in so he can press a kiss to the older’s cheek. “thanks, hyung,” he says. “i probably couldn’t have afforded one on my own. oh, i should wear it for the sword pulling! then we can both be pretty.”

when yoongi has gone, disappearing into his room, and jeongguk is still admiring the suit, he’s startled by the sound of footsteps behind him. he turns around to see namjoon, the man leaning against the doorframe of the kitchen and watching him.

“missing soul,” says namjoon.

“grim reaper,” says jeongguk. they’ve had enough conversations over the past few months that he’s not uncomfortable around namjoon—in fact there’s something strangely endearing about namjoon despite his close association with death. he knows, too, that namjoon and jimin have been getting closer, despite the danger of it—and despite namjoon apparently not knowing how to date. jimin ranted for half an hour just last week about namjoon’s inability to use a damn phone, but jeongguk doesn’t think it’s his place to comment.

anyway—“what’s that?” asks namjoon, nodding to the box.

“gift from yoongi-hyung,” says jeongguk. “he says he doesn’t like me that much, but then he gives me stuff like this, so i don’t really believe him.”

namjoon makes a humming noise, slipping into a seat at the table. “he gave me something, too,” he says.

“really?” asks jeongguk. “that’s weird. i thought you guys were like… frenemies or something. since he keeps stopping people from dying when you’re supposed to move them onto the afterlife.”

“we don’t talk about that,” says namjoon. he crosses his arms. “but yeah—he gave something to taehyung, too. what’s he doing going around and giving everyone gifts?”

“maybe he’s feeling generous.” jeongguk keeps his gaze on the suit, examining the tie that yoongi included with it and trying not to feel as though the gift means just a little less now that he knows yoongi has been giving gifts out to other people—likely just as expensive and just as special. “or it’s part of him protecting our souls.”

“grim reapers don’t need protecting,” says namjoon. then—he reaches up and picks up the contract that yoongi signed, the one that jeongguk wrote. jeongguk frowns, reaching over and plucking it out of namjoon’s fingers; he doesn’t need to see that kind of stuff, not with all of the mushy stuff jeongguk included. “what’s that?”

“none of your business,” says jeongguk, tucking the suit back into the box and putting the lid on. then—“it’s a contract. i’m pulling the sword out of yoongi-hyung’s chest before first snow, so i made a contract for it.”

namjoon doesn’t say anything—not at first. a contract wouldn’t make a difference to him, and neither would pulling the sword. but once jeongguk has folded the contract carefully and put it in his pocket and has picked up the box to bring it back to his apartment, turning away—namjoon says, quietly, “so they’re goodbye gifts.”

jeongguk stops. he turns back around, eyebrows furrowing as he watches namjoon. “what do you mean?”

“it makes sense, doesn’t it?” asks namjoon. “he wouldn’t just leave without doing something. last hurrah and all that.”

something like dread drops into jeongguk’s stomach—just a single drop, but it creates a ripple anyway, filling him up up up until he’s not sure he can take it anymore. slowly, he puts the box down again. “what are you talking about?” he asks. “why would that matter for pulling out the sword?”

understanding flickers in namjoon’s dark eyes, and then surprise. “you don’t know?” he asks. “he didn’t tell you?”

“tell me what?

“what do you think happens when you pull out the sword, jeongguk?”

jeongguk swallows tightly. “he’ll become pretty,” he says. “and he has to leave for a bit, which is why i—the contract. he has to come back for every first snow, no matter where he goes after this.”

“did he tell you that?” when jeongguk nods, namjoon lets out a huffed laugh, air through his nose. he sits back in his chair, shakes his head, mutters, “ah, min yoongi.” and jeongguk’s eyebrows furrow, hands curling into loose fists at his side.

“can you stop being elusive?” he asks. “what are you talking about? why are you acting like that?”

“sit down, jeongguk-ah,” says namjoon.

“no,” and jeongguk takes a step back instead, frowning now. “just tell me what’s going on.”

“jeongguk…” namjoon begins, and then shakes his head. the amused look slips off of his face, just like that, and jeongguk doesn’t like it—“yoongi-hyung has a sword in his chest because that’s how he died. or… was supposed to die, i guess. back when he lived his life and was punished for his sins, god made him a goblin by making that sword the one thing keeping him alive, giving him immortality. but he allowed the goblin’s bride to see it, and to be able to remove it—the only one who could. the only one who could end his suffering.”

“i know all of that,” says jeongguk, teeth almost gritted.

“don’t you see it, jeongguk?” asks namjoon. “ending his suffering means ending the punishment. his punishment is immortality. it’s living. when you pull out the sword—he’ll die.”

everything—stops. just like that. “what?” he asks quietly.

“min yoongi, as you know him, will be gone. in this world, he’ll be gone. that’s what was supposed to happen in his first life, but god kept him here to pay for his sins. finally paying for them means… he won’t have to suffer here anymore. he won’t have to be here anymore.”

jeongguk doesn’t realize that there are tears in his eyes until the first spills over onto his cheek, curving warm and wet down his skin until it reaches his mouth. it’s salty there, and he stares at namjoon—stares and stares and tries to understand it. tries to think about yoongi leaving as in dying, as in never getting to see him again. tries to imagine being the one to bring that about by pulling out the sword.

it’s what he’s supposed to do. he’s yoongi’s soulmate, the goblin’s bride—he’s meant to be the only one who can finally end yoongi’s suffering, to love him enough to pull out the sword. to love him enough to kill him.

“if i pull out the sword,” he whispers, shaking, trembling—“he’ll die?”

“he’ll die,” says namjoon. “that was always the point of this. the goblin’s bride can pull out the sword, and the goblin will no longer be enslaved to this world. he won’t have to suffer anymore.”

“but—” jeongguk sniffs, and the tears fall and fall—“but i’ll suffer. if he dies, then… neither of us gets what we want.” what they want—jeongguk wants to be with yoongi. but suddenly, he realizes that maybe yoongi doesn’t want to be with jeongguk. that yoongi just wants to end his suffering. he knows, of course, what will happen when jeongguk pulls out the sword, and he’s allowing it to happen. he’s allowing all of that pain and suffering to happen to jeongguk, just so he doesn’t have to be here anymore.

and he chose not to tell jeongguk. jeongguk would have pulled out the sword and watched him die and not understood why and yoongi would have just—he would have—

“where are you going?” namjoon asks, and it’s only then that jeongguk realizes he’s gotten up, that he’s stumbling toward the door with escaping him. “jeongguk-ah! you—forgot your suit.”

jeongguk wipes at his eyes, trying to keep himself from sobbing as he says, “fuck the suit,” and then hurries out of the house, letting the door slam shut behind him. he breathes in once, twice—they’re shaky, gasping.

yoongi is going to die. if he pulls out the sword, yoongi is going to die. and—he can’t do that. jeongguk can’t do that; he can’t be without yoongi, not like that. and it rushes up to meet him, all at once: all of his stupid fucking feelings. everything that he’s felt since he met yoongi, and everything he’s wanted, and everything he thought he would have for the future, and there’s no way around it now—

he loves yoongi. he loves yoongi with something terrible and aching inside of him, something that he doesn’t want—but has. and can’t escape, can’t get rid of. he loves yoongi, but not enough to let him die. not enough to take the sword and plunge it into his own chest, to make himself suffer for it.

so he goes home. he makes his decision. he packs his things as hastily as he can, typing out a text to jimin in a half-explanation with the hope of not losing everything he’s worked so hard to gain now. he looks at all of his candles, all of his lighters—everything that was meant to keep yoongi here.

he leaves them behind.

and jeongguk runs away.

《《《

it takes four days for yoongi to notice.

“have either of you seen jeongguk around?” asks yoongi when he shuffles into the living room to see both namjoon and taehyung watching some singing competition on the television. namjoon makes a non-committal sound without turning his eyes from the screen, and taehyung doesn’t even seem to have heard him. with a flick of his hand, yoongi sends a pillow from the couch smacking into taehyung’s face. “i asked you a question.”

taehyung chucks the pillow away from him, but does look at yoongi. “what was it?”

“have you seen jeongguk? it’s been like, four days and he hasn’t come around or summoned me. i’m a little worried.” this time, namjoon does look at him—there’s a slight smirk on his lips, and yoongi grits his teeth to stop himself from saying something prematurely; there has been an inordinate amount of teasing in this house since jeongguk came along, and yoongi isn’t in the mood to hear about how lovesick he is. as though a grim reaper would understand, anyway—

“i haven’t seen him, hyung,” says taehyung. “have you gone over to his apartment to check? or—namjoonie-hyung, you could ask jimin.”

namjoon’s cheeks colour. “we don’t talk that much.”

“please, i saw you giggling at your phone yesterday and i know for a fact jimin is the only contact you have on there.”

“do you want me to freeze your—”

please,” snaps yoongi. “namjoon? have you seen him?”

there’s an almost guilty look that crosses the other man’s face, his gaze moving back to the screen. it’s suspicious, and yoongi steps in front of the television to block him so that namjoon is forced to look at him, or at least forced to hear what he has to say. “do you have something you want to share with the class?”

“i saw him four days ago, too,” says namjoon with a shrug. “he showed me that suit you bought him and whatever, and we talked about the sword.”

yoongi’s eyes narrow. “what did you say to him?”

“i told him the truth.”

and—yoongi stops. the truth. there hasn’t been a lot of truth-telling between he and jeongguk, not since the beginning; he’d been sceptical of jeongguk being his bride despite everything that pointed toward it. he knew it wouldn’t matter if jeongguk couldn’t see the sword, but then he could. can. and he hadn’t told jeongguk the truth about what would happen when he pulled out the sword—that yoongi would die in this world, that his soul would move on like all souls must but his hasn’t because he only wanted to do what was right all those years ago—because he knew jeongguk would never agree to it.

and maybe part of yoongi doesn’t want him to do it, either. but it has to be done—he’s suffered enough. he needed to get it over with before he found a reason in jeongguk to stay.

“what did you tell him?” asks yoongi lowly.

namjoon looks at him finally—and he’s never seen namjoon as spiteful. maybe namjoon was trying to help. but when he says, “that pulling the sword would kill you,” yoongi can’t help it—he’s across the room in a second, hand wrapped around namjoon’s throat.

“are you fucking kidding me?” he snaps, and namjoon pushes at him, shoving him off with freezing hands. “you fucking told him that i would die?”

“you will!” snaps namjoon, managing to shove yoongi off of him and standing until they’re face to face, inches apart—angry. “he deserved to know. it was a dick move not to tell him.”

“i was trying to protect him.”

“you were trying to protect yourself.

“so what if i was?” yells yoongi. “i’ve spent hundreds of years suffering and being punished for something i don’t deserve to be punished for, and now when i finally have the chance to end all of this shit, you decide to ruin it? he’s probably—fled. and now he’s going to be pissed at me.”

“oh, boo hoo,” growls namjoon, shoving him again. “what a fucking lovers’ quarrel for you. maybe i just don’t want you to die.”

“so now you care about me?”

hyungs!” yoongi stops, hands curled into fists as he looks sideways to see taehyung standing beside them, a look of pure distress on his face. “both of you stop fighting. this isn’t about either of you—it’s about jeongguk. if he really is gone, then we need to find him.”

yoongi’s nose twitches. as much as he would like to beat namjoon into next thursday, taehyung has a point—no matter how it came about, the result is still the same: jeongguk is gone. and if he hasn’t contacted yoongi, despite attempting to spend every waking moment with him for the past few months, that means he doesn’t want to be found. he’s out there somewhere—alone, hurting. angry that yoongi didn’t tell him the truth, and maybe yoongi should have told him the truth. he can’t change that, now, though—he can only fix what’s been broken.

“don’t fucking try to mess with my relationship ever again,” he growls at namjoon before stepping away. “and help me find him.”

they do—both of them. namjoon leaves the house in his black coat and his black hat and collects souls, helps them forget their past lives and move onto the next one. every day, he comes home with a frown, telling yoongi that none of the other reapers have seen or heard anything about jeongguk. it’s a good sign, at least, that none of them have received his name card—the summons to collect jeongguk’s soul once he dies. but it’s a small comfort. namjoon tells him that jimin won’t tell him anything either, which means he does know something, but yoongi resists the urge to force it out.

jeongguk doesn’t want to be found. but yoongi will search for him—will find him. he used to think that jeongguk was just the annoying brat who wouldn’t stop summoning him for mundane reasons, but he can’t deny the rabbit beat of his heart every time he asks another ghost to help him, every time he sits in jeongguk’s apartment and waits for him to come home.

he can’t help the worry that gnaws at frozen feet as he waits for jeongguk to summon him, waits for the tell tale smoke that rises from his hands, lets him pinpoint jeongguk’s location and go to him. but it doesn’t come—it never does. and it’s new: this yearning. inexplicable, almost, for a heart that has beat for hundreds of years and never allowed itself to feel something like this.

maybe it’s time that yoongi let himself feel it. let himself acknowledge all of it—the way jeongguk has nestled into his heart, has made a place there for himself with candles and glittery costumes and bunny smiles. the way jeongguk has convinced him, bit by bit, that there are worse ways to live. yoongi is supposed to die—he was supposed to the first time, centuries ago. but now, finally, he understands something he couldn’t anticipate when he waited all of those centuries for his bride to show up: it’s not a punishment to live if he finally has something worth living for.

it’s taehyung who finds him, in the end, after almost three weeks of searching.

“he’s in south korea,” he says, bursting through the door and startling yoongi where he’s sitting at the dining room table. “hyung, he’s in—busan.”

“what’s in busan?” asks yoongi, but he’s already getting up and grabbing his coat.

“i don’t know. but i have the address of the place he’s working.” taehyung hands over a piece of paper with an address written on it, and yoongi swallows tightly as he looks at it.

“how did you—” begins yoongi, but the door opens again, this time to reveal namjoon. he hurries across the room, gently shoving taehyung to the side before he wordlessly holds out a black envelope. there’s trepidation in his eyes, lips set in a hard line, and yoongi’s heart—seizes into his throat, just like that.

he takes the envelope and slowly opens it, sliding the little white card out from within it. on it is red lettering: a name card. a reaper’s name card, one that namjoon must have received. someone is going to die.

jeon jeongguk, it says. december 20, 2018. car accident.

“it’s today,” says namjoon quietly. jeongguk is going to die today.

yoongi is frantic as he steps through the front door and into busan, right into the little high school that jeongguk is working at now—he stumbles into a dark hallway, heart racing as he realizes that it’s too late; the time difference means that school is long over. outside, night has fallen, and yoongi curses as he hurries out of the school and onto the sidewalk outside. how is he supposed to find jeongguk like this, when he doesn’t even know where he’s living? or where he might go now?

but jeongguk is going to die today—and yoongi can’t let that happen. it’s an overwhelming sort of need, all of his desire blooming in the center of his chest. he understands, suddenly, why jeongguk left when he learned that his true purpose is to help yoongi die—it’s the very reason that yoongi is here, running for a woman making her way across the school parking lot.

it’s the very reason he’s so frantic as he approaches her. “do you know jeon jeongguk?” he practically shouts at her, ignoring the alarm in her eyes when she turns to him. “please, i—i need to find him.”

“who are you?” she asks, and yoongi’s hands curl into fists. he doesn’t have time.

“i’m his—” he begins, and. and. “i’m his fiancé.”

the woman’s eyes narrow. “he didn’t mention anything about being engaged.”

“so you know him,” breathes yoongi. “please, do you know where he lives or where he might be? it’s urgent.”

she appraises him, suspicious, and yoongi doesn’t know how to make her see that he needs to find jeongguk. each second that ticks by is another second closer to jeongguk’s death, another second closer to yoongi losing everything and not having a chance to tell jeongguk what it meant before that, and to apologize, to make him see, to make him see—“he left only about ten minutes ago,” she finally says. “he bikes everywhere, and went in that direction.” she points down one of the streets. “i don’t know where he was going, but maybe you’ll find him that way.”

yoongi doesn’t even thank her before he takes off again, running and running and running—he’s not used to it, his body upset with the physical exertion, but he doesn’t care. he needs to find jeongguk, needs to get this right. it’s not a big city, and he skirts past people on the streets as he heads down, running and running—but there are too many people, too many cars. he doesn’t know where jeongguk would be, doesn’t even know why he’s here in the first place.

he searches, taking random streets, stepping through doors to give himself shortcuts in hopes of finding jeongguk faster. but every street is unfamiliar and every person isn’t jeongguk, isn’t the one he’s looking for. yoongi feels desperation like a thorn in his lungs, feels it bleeding out all over him as he throws open another door and walks through it, coming out on the next street over and he turns and—

it’s both a punch to the gut and a breath of fresh air to see jeongguk. it’s heartbreaking, knowing that they’ve been apart for three weeks—because jeongguk ran away, because he didn’t want to be with yoongi if it meant having to hurt him. but seeing him now only solidifies everything yoongi has been thinking for three weeks, fearing for much longer—he doesn’t want to die, not if it means being with jeongguk.

he steps out onto the street, still running as he sees jeongguk standing with his bike at a stoplight. car accident, the name card had said. he runs, eyes skirting the street in search of anything that could cause danger, but he doesn’t see it. doesn’t see it until—

yoongi turns his head to the side, sees a sleek black car pass him. and everything slows down in that moment, a vision of the future coming to him as they’re prone to do, sometimes in the least convenient of times. and he sees it: the car picking up speed as it sails down the street, the light turning red. the car not stopping, the car not stopping and jeongguk stepping off of the curb, unbeknownst as he walks right into the path of the car blowing right through the stop light.

it’s death upon impact, just like that.

when yoongi blinks again, his vision snaps back to the present. the car passes him, and his eyes move to jeongguk at the end of the street, foot already off of the curb as the light changes. he’s too far away—yoongi realizes he’s too fucking far away and the car is screaming down the street and jeongguk steps off the curb, and yoongi panics, trying to run as fast as he can as he opens his mouth and yells jeongguk’s name and flings his hand sideways toward the car and pushes.

he doesn’t expect it to work, but he wants it to, needs it to, and he watches as an invisible force slams into the car from the side, sending it skidding across the otherwise empty street and into the next lane the instant before it is meant to careen right into jeongguk. the car moves, narrowly missing jeongguk as he comes to a halt in the middle of the street and pulls himself back from the skidding car. the vehicle comes to a screeching stop in the next lane, smacking into a light pole, and yoongi breathes. he stares.

jeongguk turns to look at him.

even from down the street, yoongi can see all of the conflicting emotions on his face—the fear and the surprise and the concern. and yoongi knows that he’s fucking with the universe again, as he’s done with jeongguk before—as he will do again. he knows that now. knows that this isn’t something that he can just give up so easily, and it’s with this ache in the middle of his chest that yoongi walks the gap between them, jeongguk still frozen in the middle of the street and the car, almost the subject of his demise, smoking ten feet away.

yoongi comes to a stop on the curb, and his hands itch for—something. jeongguk stares at him. he doesn’t know what to say, where to begin.

so he just says—“hi.”

jeongguk swallows. shakily, he approaches yoongi, and then drops his bike onto the side of the curb before he steps up on the sidewalk and hugs yoongi, just like that—wrapping his arms around yoongi’s neck and burying his head in yoongi’s shoulder and holding on. holding on. this time, yoongi hugs him back, arms winding around jeongguk’s back and holding on just as tightly. he can feel jeongguk shaking.

“let’s go home,” he whispers after a minute, pressing his cheek into jeongguk’s hair. but jeongguk lets go of him and then gives him a little shove, surprising yoongi into stumbling backwards.

“i’m angry at you,” says jeongguk. “you’re an asshole.”

“i just saved your life.”

“i wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t lied to me.”

yoongi averts his eyes, knowing that it’s true. he should have been honest from the start, but he can’t change that. he can see futures sometimes, and he can make things move. he can freeze time for minutes, can teleport just by walking through a door. he’s immortal. but he can’t go back and change the way he hurt jeongguk—the only thing he can do is be honest here. he’s human, for the first time.

“i’m sorry,” he says quietly. “it wasn’t my intention to hurt you.”

“did you even actually care about me?” asks jeongguk, and when yoongi looks at him, when he sees the younger man wiping at his eyes, trying to hide it. “you just kept me around to use me. you kept me around because—you wanted to die.” he sniffs. “how could you expect me to be okay with that?”

“i didn’t,” admits yoongi, “which is why i didn’t tell you.”

jeongguk looks at him. there’s a smouldering anger in his eyes, a betrayal that he hasn’t gotten over yet—but there’s the same love that yoongi has seen in his eyes since the beginning, too. it’s been hard not to notice the way jeongguk feels for him, loves him. yoongi tried to ignore it at first, but he’s drowning in an ocean of it. it could swallow him whole.

“i won’t do it,” says jeongguk then, with a shake of his head. “i’m not going to pull out the sword if it means you die, hyung. i want you to know that.”

“it’s what you’re meant to do.”

“then i don’t want it,” he says. “i don’t want to be your bride if it means i have to kill you. i won’t—hyung.” he sniffs again, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes to stem the flow of tears. “hyung, i love you. i can’t hurt you.”

“jeongguk-ah,” begins yoongi, and jeongguk flinches, visibly—yoongi steps forward, reaches up between them. his hands encircle jeongguk’s wrists carefully, tugging a little at them until jeongguk brings his hands away from his eyes, until yoongi can see that they’re red and wet with tears.

“don’t,” whispers jeongguk. “i’ll just stay here a-and you can go back to new york and maybe you’ll find another bride. someone who doesn’t care enough to keep you alive.”

jeongguk-ah,” yoongi repeats, and he gives a little sigh—tilts his head until he can rest his forehead against jeongguk’s, breathing in the same air. breathing in the same everything. “i don’t want another bride. i want you.”

“you want me to kill you.”

“i want you however you want to be mine,” says yoongi. “tell me you need me to stay, and i will. give me an excuse, jeongguk-ah. give me an excuse to live.” it’s not quite the confession that jeongguk wants, he’s sure—or the one that yoongi wants to give. but it’s as honest as he can imagine being, as vulnerable and open and raw. there is more than one way to say he loves jeongguk, and this is it—this is it. this is yoongi choosing.

jeongguk sniffs again, and drops his hands a little. when he tilts his head, his nose brushes against yoongi’s, lightly, barely there. yoongi can feel the wetness of his cheeks, tries to remember when the yearning to hold him started. “i don’t want you to suffer anymore,” whispers jeongguk.

“it’s not suffering when i’m with you,” yoongi tells him. “i don’t care if you’re supposed to kill me, jeongguk. i won’t make you. i don’t want you to.”

yoongi is fearful, suddenly, of jeongguk thinking that it’s too much—of being too afraid. being with yoongi and not pulling out the sword is dangerous, is playing with the universe is ways they’re not allowed to. he doesn’t know what will happen—if god will try to force their hands, if they’ll be able to escape whatever punishment is supposed to end his punishment. but he finds that he doesn’t care—not when he’s faced with the possibility of something more. of something good.

and when jeongguk brushes their noses together again, like he’s asking for something, yoongi is all too willing to give in. “okay,” whispers jeongguk, and there’s just a slight grin that tugs on yoongi’s lips—there are questions and possibilities. but none of it matters now, when he feels jeongguk’s breath on his lips and yoongi closes his eyes and tilts his head just right, and kisses jeongguk for the first time.

yoongi has imagined something like this countless times—finally meeting his bride, finally being able to end his suffering. he imagined it would be simple, and quick, imagined that it would be like asking a stranger to use their pen. for years and years, he hoped that it would be just like that. yoongi has suffered. yoongi has watched everyone he loves die and then learned to love again anyway—foolishly, hopelessly. he imagined that he would jump at any chance to finally end it, to be gone from this world.

but—it’s this, instead: a gentle press of his lips against jeongguk’s, and jeongguk clutching at the front of his coat, and yoongi sighing into his mouth. it’s cold, and stiff. jeongguk is shaking in his grasp, pressing a little too hard, but—it’s perfect. it’s a quiet whisper in the back of his mind that tells him it was never supposed to be like this, but if there’s one thing that can triumph over fate, it’s love.

later, when yoongi is walking jeongguk home—home, as in the colleague’s couch he’s been sleeping on for three weeks, he asks, “why here?”

“s’where i grew up,” says jeongguk with a little grin. “it’s where i was born, where i made friends. it’s where my mom is buried.” yoongi blinks, surprised; he thinks of saving jeongguk’s mother from death over twenty years ago. was it here? “when i wanted to leave, it was the first place i thought of. i haven’t been back since i moved last year, but i just thought… it would be safe, you know?”

“i’m sorry i didn’t tell you the truth,” says yoongi. jeongguk’s hand is cold where yoongi’s is wrapped around it, but he doesn’t mind. “and i’m sorry i made you want to leave. if you want to stay here, that’s okay, but—i would like it if you came back. with me.”

jeongguk grins a little, knocking their shoulders together. “it’s okay, hyung, you can be sappy,” he says. “there’s no point in trying to be a tsundere when i know that you love me.”

yoongi scoffs, cheeks colouring—even if it’s the truth. he tried so hard not to seem affected by anything jeongguk did, but it crept up on him anyway. maybe he just wasn’t used to feeling this sort of love: the kind that shakes him from the inside out, that squeezes and squeezes at his heart until he’s not sure if it’s from pleasure or pain. the kind that makes him want to stay.

“i’ve been working at the high school,” jeongguk adds after a minute. “with the drama department. it’s a poor excuse for one, but the teachers still knew me and they offered to let me help out for a bit. i didn’t—” he pauses, clearing his throat. “i didn’t know if you would find me, so i wasn’t sure what i was going to do.”

“i’ll always find you, jeongguk,” yoongi tells him. “even if you don’t summon me. i will, okay?”

they do go home—jeongguk packs the few things he took with him and has to take a plane, so it takes ages, but eventually, they’re both back in new york and jeongguk is shyly asking if he can stay with yoongi for the night. yoongi tells him he can stay forever if he wants, and behind them, taehyung makes a gagging noise that has yoongi threatening to cut all of his credit cards.

it’s weird—being in love. letting himself be in love. letting himself feel what he’s been feeling for jeongguk for some time now, and not being afraid of it, and letting himself smile at jeongguk when he wants—hold his hand, pet his hair. he tries to ignore the unsettling feeling he gets about avoiding the truth and avoiding what they were destined to do, but he doesn’t care. he doesn’t care about breaking the rules when it comes to jeon jeongguk; yoongi would break every fucking law in the universe if it made jeongguk happy.

“you know this is a bad idea, right?” asks namjoon a week later, when yoongi is waiting for jeongguk to get home from rehearsals. “you’re messing with a lot of stuff. jeongguk already almost died once, and it’s just going to get worse the more you put off pulling out the sword.”

“i’m a goblin,” says yoongi as he breezes past namjoon, grabbing a glass of water for himself. “we can evade it.”

“not forever,” namjoon tells him, and yoongi flips him off on the way back to the living room.

when jeongguk comes home, he collapses onto the couch next to yoongi, already curling up next to him and yawning. “how are rehearsals coming along?” asks yoongi.

“they’ve been kicking my ass for dipping out like i did,” says jeongguk, “but they were mostly working on stuff i’m not involved in anyway, so it’s okay. opening night is only a few weeks away, though, so i’m nervous.”

yoongi grins, wrapping an arm around him to pull him closer, and then drops a kiss to the top of jeongguk’s head. “you’ll do great,” he says.

“how do you know?”

“i can see the future.”

jeongguk looks up at him with narrowed eyes. and it’s true—and maybe yoongi can’t choose when he sees the future, or what he sees, or whose future he sees. but he can pretend anyway, and isn’t faith in what will happen a sort of prediction anyway?

“your goblin powers are weird,” admits jeongguk, settling back down and reaching for the remote. “although now that i think about it, you actually did grant my wishes. i got an audition and a call back and a role, and money…”

“but?” asks yoongi, sensing the hesitation in jeongguk’s voice.

“you didn’t really do anything about the boyfriend thing,” he says.

yoongi stares at him. “what are you talking about?”

“i asked for a boyfriend, too, hyung,” sighs jeongguk. “and not one has come along since then. maybe i really should go ask jimin-hyung out.”

“excuse me!” calls someone—namjoon, as it were—from the kitchen. “you cannot ask out jimin.”

“why not?” jeongguk calls back. “it’s not like you’ve done diddly shit about it, and he’s pretty, and he calls me cute names, so i might as well.”

“what am i, chopped liver?” asks yoongi, frowning as jeongguk looks up at him.

“what?” asks jeongguk.

what? you don’t need a boyfriend.”

“why not? that’s what i asked for, isn’t it?”

“you already have one! he’s right here.”

“where the fuck—”

“me,” snaps yoongi. “i’m your boyfriend.”

jeongguk blinks up at him. and yoongi had kind of just—assumed. although they never really spoke about it, even if they’re soulmates and everything. “oh,” says jeongguk, and he shrinks a little as his lips curl up and up and up into an embarrassed grin, and yoongi has to look away to keep himself from feeling it, too. “aren’t you my husband, though?”

“have we gotten married yet?” asks yoongi. “you’re the one who told me that i have to court someone before i propose.”

“then court me, dammit,” huffs jeongguk. “you got all mushy in busan and now i’ve just been sitting around for a week.”

yoongi’s eyebrows furrow, watching as jeongguk sits back properly and huffs again, running a hand through his hair. “what are you saying?”

“take him out on a date, you idiot,” namjoon calls from the kitchen. when yoongi looks at jeongguk again, he’s beaming.

so—they go on a date.

more specifically—they go ice skating. it’s jeongguk’s idea, of course, because yoongi would never be caught dead ice skating unless he was coerced or forced. or because it makes jeongguk happy, and yoongi—would do anything to see him smile like that, all nose scrunches and wonder in his eyes. the problem is simply that yoongi hasn’t ever gone ice skating, which only further cements the necessity of the date in jeongguk’s mind once he finds out. yoongi resists the urge to grab the bottle of vodka under the kitchen sink before heading out.

“this is a death trap,” huffs yoongi as he stands on the rubber pathway just beside the skating rink, wrinkling his nose. he’s wrapped up in a massive puffy jacket and a beanie, but he’s still freezing, considering it’s an outdoor rink and it’s night time. but jeongguk stands on the ice in front of him, tugging on his hands with his signature bunny smile.

“c’mon, hyung,” he says. “i’ll make sure you don’t break any bones. you saved my life already so now let me take care of you.”

yoongi responds by wrinkling his nose. but he gingerly steps out onto the ice anyway, one foot carefully sliding out like he’s dipping it in water to test the temperature—he almost slips when he doesn’t get his weight right, but jeongguk giggles as he grabs yoongi’s elbow to lead him onto the ice and yoongi clings to him like a lifeline.

it’s humiliating. he’s a goblin, for fuck’s sake. he was a general in an army in his original life, and people feared his name. now he’s awkwardly drifting along beside jeongguk, taking more tiny steps than actual glides, and he probably looks ridiculous.

jeongguk is still giggling. “see?” he asks, suddenly turning so he’s skating backwards in front of yoongi, pulling him along with him. “it’s not so bad.”

“you’re just saying that because you’re good at this,” counters yoongi. he can’t help the slight pout on his lips, just another habit he’s picked up from jeongguk.

“i’m being a good boyfriend,” counters jeongguk, “by making you step out of your comfort zone a little. you always look so put together and like you have all the answers, so it’s kind of satisfying to find something you can’t do.”

yoongi glowers, burrowing his face into his scarf in hopes of keeping jeongguk from seeing the tint to his cheeks at the word boyfriend. even though that’s what he called himself earlier—and what it appears they are. even though he’s known for over a month that jeongguk is his bride, it’s different to be dating him properly—and it’s still new, now. still fresh, like a wound that he doesn’t want to scab over.

“if you were a good boyfriend, you’d kiss me to make me feel better,” says yoongi petulantly, a little without thinking; he sees jeongguk’s eyes widen, embarrassed, but he stops actively skating backwards as the both of them begin to drift instead. yoongi’s skates knock against jeongguk’s as they get closer, and they’re still just—staring.

and then—yoongi’s skate catches on a bump in the ice, making him lose his balance as he goes tumbling to the ice with a shriek. he doesn’t let go of jeongguk, though, so they both end up in a heap on the cold ice, limbs tangled and yoongi’s nose pressed into jeongguk’s cheek where the younger landed on top of him.

he groans. “my ass hurts,” he says, and jeongguk pulls his face again and looks down at him and—it’s really. not appropriate to be lying on the ice like this when everyone around them is skating. they’re in the way. but yoongi doesn’t really care about everyone else, not when jeongguk is right there with his bright eyes. he’s always got such fucking bright eyes.

“hi,” says jeongguk quietly.

“hi,” says yoongi. “it’s very cold down here.”

“i’ll warm you up, hyung,” says jeongguk, and yoongi groans again, about to comment on how corny that is, but then jeongguk leans down and kisses him, right there in the middle of the skating rink, under the stars of winter—the same stars that looked down on yoongi when the sword was driven into his chest, and when he was brought back to life, and every night after. for the first time—the very first night in all of those hundreds of years, since the very beginning—yoongi feels like they’re softer. feels like they’re finally listening to all of his pleas, even if those pleas have changed.

(kissing doesn’t actually warm him up, unfortunately—if anything, his lips just get stiffer and then his butt goes numb from the ice and jeongguk giggles into his mouth when he feels yoongi start shivering. he tows yoongi around the rink until yoongi’s complaints get too loud, and then they go for dessert and make fun of bad christmas decorations adorning the houses in their neighbourhood.

and yoongi realizes that—if this is living, he doesn’t mind it. it’s only taken him nine hundred years to see it.)

the problem, though, with evading death, is that death is still there—lurking in the shadows of jeongguk’s eyelashes on his cheek, in the corner of yoongi’s mouth when he grins at seeing jeongguk’s bedhead now that he’s sort of just staying indefinitely. it’s there, almost physically, in namjoon, who berates yoongi for keeping jeongguk around while doing the exact same thing with jimin. when are you going to tell him that you’re a grim reaper, yoongi throws at namjoon during one of their squabbles. when are you going to pull that fucking sword out and die, namjoon spits back.

the problem is—yoongi has been evading death for almost a thousand years, even if it’s been against his will. it’s different when he has to actively work for it, when he has to watch out for anything that might harm a mortal human. it’s different when it seems that there’s something actively trying to kill jeongguk to force yoongi’s hand, to put him in a position where he has to choose, even though he won’t.

the problem is—a week before opening night, namjoon bursts into yoongi’s study. “he’s going to die,” is what namjoon gasps, as though he doesn’t spend half of his time apparently resenting jeongguk’s presence in the house. “moonbin got his name card yesterday.”

yoongi is already running out of the door before namjoon adds, “he’s at the theatre!” and yoongi closes the door behind him, teleporting to the theatre across the city. he stumbles out of the bathroom, hurrying down confusing hallways as he searches for the stage; he knew there would be too many dangerous things here, and yoongi throws himself into the back of the theatre to see an array of people and colours and sets. there’s so much going on—music blasting in the near-empty theatre, people dancing and singing on stage—that it takes a few seconds for yoongi to see jeongguk on the side of the stage. no one seems to have noticed yoongi entering the theatre, but his eyes dash this way and that as he searches for it—for what will kill jeongguk. won’t, because yoongi is here, because he can’t let it happen.

it’s when jeongguk steps further onto the stage and opens his mouth to begin singing that yoongi is struck by several things—first: jeongguk’s voice. he’s been shy about it around yoongi, refusing to sing for him and saying yoongi will just have to wait to watch the play in order to hear it.

second: the massive metal crescent moon hanging above him, part of the set. it should be fine. but yoongi sees the wires that it’s attached to suddenly fraying, just like that, like there’s someone trying to cut them even though no one is there, and yoongi sees it without even having to see a vision: the moon falls. jeongguk is standing directly below it. (he suffers this time.)

jeongguk!” yoongi yells, already running down the aisle, but there aren’t any lights on him and the music is too loud, rising to a crescendo as others join in on the number, and one of the wires snaps, the moon beginning a swinging arch downward as someone shouts, noticing it, and jeongguk looks up and the second wire snaps and he’s not moving

yoongi takes his chances this time, knowing that it’ll be unexplainable for every person in the theatre. but he has to, he has to—yoongi closes his eyes and wills it, feels himself thrown through space as he disappears from the audience and appears on stage in the blink of an eye, hand grasping jeongguk’s wrist and pulling him away. they stumble back five, ten feet just in time for the metal contraption to come crashing down directly where jeongguk was standing, so fast and heavy that it dents the floor.

around them, the music continues to scream through the auditorium, but no one is singing. no one is dancing. there’s just—breathing, and jeongguk staring at the place where he once stood, and yoongi clutching onto jeongguk’s wrist as relief floods through him.

“yoongi-hyung?” jeongguk asks quietly as he notices the hand on his wrist, wide eyes turning to look at yoongi.

“are you okay?” breathes yoongi. “jeongguk, are you okay?”

a little stiffly, jeongguk nods. and the stage erupts in noise, shouting—yoongi isn’t paying attention to the commotion and people rushing onto the stage to inspect the moon, or the questions people throw out about yoongi’s sudden and miraculous appearance. out of thin air, he hears, but he’s busy watching jeongguk, free hand carefully reaching out to smooth over his neck. he’ll do this, he realizes—he’ll continue to do this, over and over, if that’s what it takes. he will wait for every accident, every potential disaster, and he’ll stop them. for jeongguk.

movement in the wings catches his attention; yoongi turns his eyes to see namjoon standing there, watching him. “here just in case?” yoongi asks him.

“i’m here to help you,” says namjoon. “i knew you’d end up needing it.”

what he means is—all of these people can’t know that yoongi appeared like that. namjoon can make them forget, as a grim reaper, and it’s his voice that rises above the rest as he commands everyone to look at him. it’s that easy, and yoongi turns back to jeongguk when namjoon tells everyone to get in a line in front of him. he’ll look them in the eyes and compel them to forget that yoongi was there at all, and they will.

a week later, the show opens as it was meant to. yoongi sits in the audience and can’t help staring at the new moon they constructed—more wires, he sees—and waiting for it to fall again. it doesn’t. jeongguk and jimin receive standing ovations, and yoongi feels a weight lift from his shoulders as the curtains close. it’s only the first show, but it’s gone well. yoongi is proud.

“did you see me, hyung?” calls jeongguk after the show, squeezing past the crowd of other actors and their families to throw himself into yoongi’s arms. “did you see me?”

“i did see you, baby,” grins yoongi. “and you were absolutely marvellous. you should be cast in every broadway play ever from now on.”

jeongguk kisses him—high on the thrill of it, and yoongi tries to feel it, too, tries to stop the fear from gripping his heart. but everything is dangerous now, everything is something else that could hurt him. the flowers he hands jeongguk might prick his finger, and even if that can’t kill him, yoongi can’t help feeling like he needs to coddle the younger man.

“everything is perfect,” sighs jeongguk as yoongi sets him down, clutching the flowers to his chest. “you really are the best goblin, hyung. you granted all of the wishes and then some.”

“that doesn’t mean you can come up with more wishes,” says yoongi. “just so you’re aware.”

“what if i just ask nicely and you give things to me not because you’re a goblin, but because you love me so much?”

yoongi snorts, but he’s distracted from replying by the sight of jimin appearing at jeongguk’s elbow, looking as excited and flushed as jeongguk did. “ah, jimin,” he grins. “congratulations. you did really well.”

“i need a drink,” says jimin, and he’s already tugging at jeongguk’s arm before someone clears their throat next to yoongi. turning, he sees namjoon—who quietly asked if yoongi wouldn’t mind buying him a ticket, as well, and who quietly sat next to him and watched the entire thing intently. who quietly appeared now, with rosy cheeks as he looks at jimin.

“hello, jimin-ah,” says namjoon. “um—it was very good. i particularly enjoyed… you.”

jeongguk giggles.

“did you?” asks jimin, a little smirk on his lips. “how come you didn’t get me flowers? yoongi-hyung got jeongguk flowers.”

namjoon’s cheeks brighten, eyes widening like he’s gotten caught in headlights, and jeongguk laughs a little harder, making yoongi look at him. and it’s—this, he thinks. it’s this that he wants forever, and he will have forever. he’ll make sure of it.

“that’s because yoongi-hyung and i are in love,” jeongguk says.

“my point exactly,” says jimin, and namjoon seems to choke on his own spit, and yoongi can’t help laughing along this time, letting jeongguk pull him away with a, “we’ll let you two sort this out yourselves,” and it’s good. jeongguk almost died last week, but it’s good.

《《《

“ah, hyung,” whines taehyung as he enters the house, dragging his feet over to where yoongi is cooking in the kitchen. “why did you have to take away the camera you gave me a few months ago? i took so many nice pictures with it and my phone just isn’t the same.”

yoongi reaches out to swat taehyung’s hand where the younger is trying to grab some of the food, and then says, “those were goodbye gifts and then i didn’t leave. so no, you can’t have it.”

hyung.”

“taehyung-ah, aren’t you supposed to be the one taking care of me?” he raises an eyebrow, watching the other; maybe taehyung is only sort of being trained in how he’s supposed to help yoongi, his father still the main caretaker for yoongi. but taehyung’s father is in korea and taehyung was the only one who could actually move to new york with him, so here, he should be doing more.

taehyung pouts. “i found jeongguk for you,” he says. “doesn’t that mean i should get rewarded?”

“my eternal happiness is your reward,” says yoongi. “that should be your greatest concern anyway.”

he can tell taehyung is glowering at him, but yoongi just smirks as he continues cooking. after a moment, he adds, “go bother namjoon.”

“namjoon-hyung isn’t fun to bother,” huffs taehyung. “also—hyung, i think the food is burning.” yoongi’s eyebrows furrow as he turns to look at the pot he’s turning, frowning as he looks down at it. it doesn’t look burnt and it certainly doesn’t smell it, but taehyung points toward it anyway. “it’s smoking.”

when yoongi looks closer, he does see the wisps of smoke wafting off of the food, or—he takes his hands away from the pot and the smoke moves with it. it’s not the food that is smoking, but his hands, which means—

yoongi panics, calling out, “watch the food, taehyung-ah!” before he closes his eyes and lets the tug take him, just like that.

when he opens his eyes again, he’s standing on the roof of a very tall building, the wind whipping around him as he tries to place himself, or place why—when he turns around, he sees that jeongguk is backed up against the edge of the roof, a larger man advancing on him, and the man yoongi recognizes as one of jeongguk’s ghosts trying desperately—and failing—to grab the man and push him away.

the lighter in jeongguk’s hand clatters to the floor, cowering as the man raises his hands—to push jeongguk, maybe, or something just as damning, and yoongi tells, “hey!

the man startles, turning to look at him.

“what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” he snaps, stalking across the roof and not bothering to worry about the shocked or angry look on the man’s face. he just grabs the back of the man’s collar and throws him sideways, watching as he goes tumbling to the ground below. yoongi is after him in a moment, reaching down to grab him and force him upright again before he punches him in the face.

“what the fuck—” snaps the man, garbled.

“were you going to throw him off this roof?” demands yoongi. “were you? you piece of shit. what the fuck is wrong with you?”

“get off of me,” growls the man, shoving roughly at yoongi to dislodge his grip. the man stumbles backwards, spitting blood out of his mouth and glowering at yoongi. “the brat is trying to accuse me of murder.”

yoongi’s eyebrows furrow, throwing a look over his shoulder at jeongguk. he’s far from the edge now, crouched down and staring at yoongi with wild and fearful eyes. “he killed seokjin-hyung,” whispers jeongguk, and yoongi’s eyes shift to the ghost—he’s sitting beside seokjin, a guilty expression on his face. but he nods.

yoongi turns back to the man. “go to the police,” he commands, knowing that he’ll listen—he has to, at least when yoongi uses his goblin powers to command it. “confess to them. and don’t ever try to lay a finger on anyone ever again.” the man takes off immediately, running for the door and staircase to lead him off the roof, and yoongi turns around to look at jeongguk.

there are tears in his eyes. but there’s anger in yoongi’s and he marches toward the pair, rounding on seokjin first. “what the fuck were you thinking?” he snaps. “you almost got jeongguk killed. and for what?”

“i’m sorry,” says seokjin quietly. “i just—i remembered. i remembered what happened to me and i wanted him to pay for it, and then i could move on. i didn’t intend for jeongguk to get hurt.”

“it was irresponsible,” says yoongi. “but you got what you wanted. are you happy?” seokjin doesn’t look it—can’t have, not with what nearly happened. there was no way to know that the man would try to hurt jeongguk, but it happened anyway. yoongi doesn’t bother to ask how they ended up on the roof in the first place, or what either of them were trying to accomplish by confronting the man like this rather than gathering evidence another way.

he just turns to jeongguk next, reaching down to grasp the younger man’s wrist and tugging him upward into a hug. “are you okay?” he asks quietly.

“no,” whispers jeongguk into his neck. and it’s—the third time that jeongguk has nearly died. the third time in not even three months, and he knows this is what is going to happen if they try to live, but—it’s not what he wants. yoongi doesn’t know how to go about keeping himself from panicking every time jeongguk leaves the house without him. doesn’t know how to keep comforting jeongguk after near death experiences, and they shouldn’t be commonplace for him.

“let’s go home,” he tells jeongguk, pressing a kiss to the side of his head. “we can talk about this later.” he’s still angry, still upset—but yoongi understands that directing that anger at jeongguk is only going to make the situation worse. he has no problem being angry at seokjin, who couldn’t have been hurt any more than he already was in his life. he’ll have to talk about that later, too.

after he’s brought jeongguk home, fed him the food that taehyung thankfully didn’t let burn, and cuddled him on the couch for a few hours while they watch jeongguk’s favourite movies, he tucks jeongguk into bed. gives him a kiss on the forehead, and almost almost almost pretends that he doesn’t hear jeongguk’s quiet, “is it because i won’t pull out the sword?”

his hand stills in jeongguk’s hair, watching the sleepy eyes that look up at him. “i don’t know,” he admits. “there could be a lot of reasons for it. you’re a missing soul, jeongguk-ah—you’re not supposed to be alive, by the universe’s standards.”

jeongguk’s eyes are sad, a bone-deep sort of sadness that yoongi hasn’t wanted to see for a long time. and he knows that jeongguk has suffered anyway—losing his mother at a young age, living with terrible relatives who didn’t treat him right, struggling through a year of trying to make ends meet as an unemployed actor in a harsh city. yoongi wants to think that he’s made it better even without granting wishes, but he can’t change all of it. he could direct jeongguk toward the right audition, could give him the confidence to get cast, could love him the way he does.

but he can’t change the fact that not dying when he was supposed has put him on the universe’s hit list. he can’t change the fact that by yoongi not dying, he’s putting jeongguk in more danger he knows what to do with.

“i’m sorry,” whispers jeongguk. “i’m sorry i keep making you save me.”

“no, guk-ah,” says yoongi, leaning down to press his lips to jeongguk’s forehead. “i’ll always save you. it’s not a burden. i just want you to be okay.”

it doesn’t change the guilt—doesn’t change the fact that jeongguk keeps ending up in dangerous situations anyway. yoongi is doing his best to protect him, but he has to convince everyone else to do the same, and it’s with this thought that he gives jeongguk one last kiss to the forehead, leaving him to sleep before he slips out of the house and into the dark back alley.

“kim seokjin,” he calls, knowing that the ghost can likely hear him from wherever he’s hiding. “we need to have a talk.” the ghost doesn’t appear, and yoongi frowns as he turns around in the alley, waiting. “i’m not going to do anything, seokjin. i just need to talk.” there’s a breeze in the alley, suddenly, blowing snow past his feet, and he almost rolls his eyes at how dramatic ghosts can be before he turns around to face—

yoongi’s eyebrows furrow. it’s not seokjin, but it is a ghost. he knows, the way he knows that he himself is a goblin, that jeongguk is his bride. it’s a woman who stands in the middle of the alley twenty feet away, illuminated by the moon and nothing more.

she looks angry.

“min yoongi,” she says. “we meet again.”

yoongi’s eyes narrow. “can’t say i recall who you are,” he tells her. “shame. you look like you’re ready to have a very enlightening conversation.” her face darkens—she clearly doesn’t like the humour—and in a blink, she’s appeared in front of him, close enough to touch. now that she’s closer—yoongi can almost place her. she is familiar, somehow, but yoongi has seen so many people and ghosts in his life that it’s impossible to remember them all. he’s cursed to remember all of the worst moments of his long, long existence, but she clearly didn’t leave a lasting impression on him.

“i just want to let you know that i won’t stop,” she hisses at him. “no matter how many times you save him, i won’t stop until you fail. and then you’ll only have yourself to blame and a thousand more years to live in agony.”

this time, there’s no amusement in yoongi’s demeanour—it sounds like she’s talking about jeongguk, about the accidents. “why don’t you tell me what this is about instead of being a creepy and ominous asshole?” he asks. “don’t i deserve to know that much if you want me to suffer like that?”

the woman laughs, a barking sound. “it was me or his mother,” she says. “and you chose her.” yoongi thinks back to that night twenty-three years ago—jeongguk’s mother, pregnant, had gotten hit by a car. it was unavoidable, the road too slick with rain and sleet, and she’d wished. she’d prayed for someone to save her, to save the child within her womb.

yoongi had listened.

he tries to think—tries to think if he had heard any other soul calling to him that night, if he had unknowingly let another person die by choosing to save jeongguk’s mother. his mother had died, if only for a minute, before yoongi brought her back, stemmed the bleeding enough to make sure that she wouldn’t bleed out in the street before the ambulance he called got there. he’d watched as the paramedics piled her into the ambulance, brought her to the hospital where they made sure she and the child would be safe.

“i don’t know what you’re talking about,” yoongi says dismissively—the last thing he needs to make the woman think that she’s got any sort of leg up on yoongi. as a ghost, she surely doesn’t, but she practically growls at him.

“that night, the hospital you sent her to was overcrowded,” she tells him. “but you bring good fortune with you everywhere you go, don’t you? when you saved her, you ensured that she got a room, got a bed. you ensured that there were nurses and doctors to tend to her, to make sure that she would be fine, along with that stupid baby.

“what did you expect me to do?” yoongi asks.

“you got her a bed,” says the woman, “but her getting a bed meant that someone else didn’t.”

yoongi stares at her. and then—it makes sense, suddenly. yoongi didn’t choose between anyone, but his choice to save someone when she was meant to die threw everything out of balance, just slightly. it was a shift in the universe—not enough to change it all, but enough to change this one thing. this woman was meant to live that night, was meant to be saved in the hospital. and yoongi unwittingly changed that.

“i’m sorry to hear that,” he tells her carefully. “i merely did my job of protecting souls. i protected hers.”

“you killed me,” she snaps at him.

“i didn’t choose to,” says yoongi. “that’s not how it works. it’s unfortunate that you died that night, but i didn’t drive a stake into your heart.” the truth is, there are probably many other factors that contributed to it—the overcrowding of the hospital, the overworked staff, whoever or whatever it was that did cause her to be injured to the point of needing to be in the hospital in the first place. none of it is yoongi’s fault.

and yet—“you let me die,” she tells him. “and i’ve been searching for you for twenty-three years to make you feel what my family had to feel because of that. you’ve been so lonely, min yoongi. there’s no one you care about enough to hurt you the way that you hurt me and everyone i care about, but—i found it, finally. i found him.” she grins at him—all malice and venom, and yoongi fits the last piece of the puzzle in.

“it’s you, isn’t it,” he deadpans. “the reason all of the accidents are happening. you’re manipulating everything.”

“like i said,” she tilts her head. “you can keep trying, but one day, you will fail to save him. and i’ll be there to revel in it, to finally see what it is that i’ve wanted all this time.” revenge, yoongi thinks. what she wants is revenge for something that yoongi didn’t do, couldn’t have had any way of knowing would happen. people die every day. it’s not his job to keep them alive, not his job to save them, not the way he has to save jeongguk—but he sees it in her eyes: she’s telling the truth. she’s entirely convinced of what she says, that it’s yoongi’s fault that she died.

that it will be her fault that jeongguk dies.

an eye for an eye. a life for a life.

yoongi’s face hardens. “go ahead,” he tells her. “do whatever the fuck it is you think you need to do to be satisfied with how you’ve hurt me. but you will never succeed in taking him from me. i’m a goblin. do you think you hold a flame to me? to what i’m capable of?”

she smirks. “you think you’re invincible,” she says. “don’t forget about that sword in your chest.” and then, when yoongi blinks again, she’s gone.

he stands there long after she has, staring at the place in the alley where she stood. he thinks—she won’t stop. he thinks—he has to do something about it, because this isn’t just the universe trying to correct what he did twenty-three years ago. he thinks—don’t forget about that sword in your chest.

so yoongi goes home. so yoongi sits at the end of jeongguk’s bed and just watches him sleep, feeling even more protectiveness over him—knowing that he would do anything to protect jeongguk. to make sure that the ghost can’t hurt him, not the way she wants. it’s not fair, either; they’ve only been together for a few short months. jeongguk makes him happy. jeongguk makes him happy.

yoongi has waited almost a thousand years for jeongguk. he won’t let anyone take him away so easily.

《《《

the accidents continue. near brushes with death and jeongguk summoning him and yoongi refusing to leave jeongguk’s side in case something happens. he doesn’t see the ghost again, not the way he did the first time, but he knows she’s there—causing all of it, whispering darkness in the ears of people who almost kill jeongguk, whether by accident or on purpose. eventually, he has to tell jeongguk—explains, feeling a little sick to the stomach, that it’s his fault, even indirectly, that jeongguk is going through this. and jeongguk takes yoongi’s face in his hands, mouth set in a hard line when he says, “don’t you dare apologize for some crazy ghost’s behaviour. as long as you’re here to protect me, it is never your fault.”

but she’s not just a crazy ghost. yoongi knows that much—and he has to get rid of her. he realizes it a few weeks later, after he stops jeongguk from accidentally being knocked into oncoming traffic by an overexcited dog and its owner—there’s no other solution to this. he has to get rid of the ghost and the accidents will stop, and they can be safe. they can be safe.

but it’s the ghost who has to choose to leave this world, to finally cross into the next. the ones who hang around have unfinished business that can take years to finish, much like this ghost’s—even if it’s malicious. it’s the ghost who has to choose—unless they’re forced into it.

“i’ve never done it before,” namjoon tells him when yoongi brings up the idea. the grim reaper deals with ghosts, calls the dead into the next life. most ghosts can’t evade them, not unless they really want to, but most don’t. “i’m not sure it’ll work.”

“you have to try,” yoongi says. “you have to, namjoon-ah. it’s the only thing i ever ask of you. it’s the only idea i have.”

“we need to force her out of hiding, then,” nods namjoon. “we need to bait her and be there to catch her so that it can work. i can’t call her unless she’s visible to me.” it’s not so easy—she won’t show up when yoongi is around, because she knows that yoongi can stop her from doing something to jeongguk. it’s the reason yoongi has hardly left jeongguk’s side since all of this became too dangerous, even accompanying him to rehearsals and sitting in the wings of every production of his show with only minor manipulation of those around him so they don’t question it.

so he knows, without having to think on it. he knows how to bait her.

a week later, jeongguk is frowning at him as yoongi tugs the coat a little tighter around the younger’s shoulders. “are you sure about this?” asks jeongguk. “what if she does something before you show up?”

“that’s why you summon me,” yoongi tells him, busying himself with fixing jeongguk’s hair, just to give his hands something to do. he understands the queasiness on jeongguk’s face, feelings the nerves tangle in his stomach. “but you have to wait until she shows herself to summon me.”

“what if she doesn’t show herself?” asks jeongguk. “what if she just tries to kill me?”

“she won’t be able to resist the urge,” says yoongi. “i’m sure of it. if she wants revenge on me, she’ll want to make sure that you know why you’re dying. she’ll want to make sure that you see the reason for your death.”

it doesn’t seem to reassure jeongguk, who frowns at yoongi until he drops his hands from jeongguk’s hair. he’s nervous about it, too—worried that he’ll be wrong. but that’s why jeongguk has the lighter, anyway, why yoongi is ready to step in to stop anything from going wrong. he grips jeongguk’s chin, tugging his face downward enough for yoongi to kiss him, just gently.

“i’ll take care of you,” he whispers. “i promise, jeongguk. i’ll always take care of you. but you have to be brave for me, okay?”

jeongguk nods, just slightly. says, “if she touches a single hair on my head before you show up, i’m sleeping on the couch for two weeks.”

yoongi grins, kisses him again—“deal.”

when he leaves, yoongi takes a moment to collect himself. without jeongguk here, he has less reason to be confident in this, but—there’s no other way. he waits until namjoon emerges from his room, wearing his long black coat and his black hat, the one that keeps him hidden from human eyes. he nods at yoongi, just briefly. “it’ll work,” he tells yoongi. “i’ve got it figured out.”

they go together, carefully stalking down the dark streets toward the place that jeongguk has headed to before them. it’s the same building that jeongguk almost died on weeks ago, when seokjin asked for his help. yoongi knows now that part of the reason the man tried to push jeongguk off was because of the woman; she compelled him to do so, urged him onward to hurt jeongguk. he’s certain she won’t be able to resist the irony of it, the poeticism of jeongguk meeting his end somewhere that yoongi previously saved him, was previously able to sanctify as safe.

halfway there, yoongi’s phone rings.

“i’m here,” jeongguk whispers on the other end. “it’s fucking freezing up here.”

“you have the lighter?”

“yes, hyung. i’m just waiting for her.”

“make sure to summon me as soon as she shows up, but no sooner.”

“i know.” there’s a tremble in jeongguk’s voice; yoongi suddenly wishes that he’s kissed him one more time, reassured him one more time. but there’s nothing they can do about it now, and when they hang up, he lets out a breath. beside him, namjoon squeezes his shoulder. they get to the right building, standing on the street below it and staring up at all of those stories. and then they wait.

it’s agony as he stands with his hands in front of him, waiting for the tell-tale smoke of jeongguk blowing out the lighter and summoning him. he stares up at the building, waiting and waiting as the minutes pass. he can’t hear anything, can’t see anything, and maybe that’s worse than not knowing what’s coming—he knows what to expect. but the seconds tick by and by and by and there’s nothing, nothing.

“do you think—” he begins, and then namjoon says, “hyung, your hands.”

there’s smoke. he reaches out for namjoon, their hands colliding as he closes his eyes and they’re there.

when he opens his eyes again, yoongi sees them: much like the first time he appeared on this roof, jeongguk is backed up to the edge of it. this time, though, the ghost’s hand is on his throat, holding him over. she can’t help the taunting, but yoongi doesn’t listen to it as he strides toward her, fisting a hand in the back of her coat and sending her flying backwards, away from jeongguk.

jeongguk falls forward, gasping as he’s allowed to breathe again, and yoongi takes only a moment to look him in the eyes, to silently ask—and jeongguk nods, letting him know that he’s okay.

yoongi turns.

“i told you,” he tells the ghost, “that you can’t hurt him while i’m here.”

she grins—painted red with danger, with a thirst for blood, and she says, “then i’ll just have to get rid of you.”

then—jeongguk gasps from behind him, the ghost suddenly gone. when he turns, jeongguk is standing upright again, but it’s—not jeongguk, he can tell. he stands the way the woman did, eyes dark and wild, and yoongi knows she’s possessed him, wants to use jeongguk to hurt him, hurt the both of them. jeongguk reaches out and grabs his shoulders, an inhuman strength about him as he begins to tug yoongi toward the edge of the building as well, and yoongi can’t hurt him, won’t, not even now—“namjoon-ah!” he yells as he pushes jeongguk sideways, just enough to get his hands off of him.

and namjoon’s voice rings out with a, “park jihye.”

jeongguk gasps again, shuddering as the ghost leaves him just like that, forced out of his body at the sound of her name—the name that namjoon found, the name he must use to call her to the next world. jeongguk collapses forward again, yoongi catching him as the ghost turns to namjoon.

“park jihye,” repeats namjoon. “heed my call, dead soul.”

and the woman—laughs. she laughs, and it’s only as yoongi is looking down at jeongguk against him that he gets it. that he understands what he failed to before—she’s not going to stop. namjoon can call her, can compel her to listen to him, but it’s still her choice. it’s still her choice as long as she’s the soul of a human who once had free will. they can stand here for years as namjoon calls her again and again, but it’s never a guarantee that she’ll go. it’s never a guarantee that she won’t turn around and push jeongguk off the building, or possess him to do it himself, ending the both of them at once.

and yoongi gets it. he gets that the only way he can stop her is through what he does. the only reason she’s trying to hurt jeongguk is because she wants to hurt yoongi, so yoongi—has to take himself out of the equation. he has to save jeongguk by doing what they should have done months ago, when all of this started; jeongguk will always be at risk as long as he is the goblin’s bride, and as long as he doesn’t do his duty as the goblin’s bride.

as long as yoongi is alive. the ghost will find him. another ghost will find him after this one, and another, and another—they’ll come until they finally succeed. yoongi promised to protect jeongguk, promised to keep him here, and there’s only one way he can do that.

he has to choose. he finally has to choose.

don’t forget that sword in your chest, the ghost had said. and with the ghost’s laughter as the soundtrack in his mind and namjoon calling her name and jeongguk slumped against him, yoongi makes the choice. the only way he can protect jeongguk is by sacrificing himself, by finally finishing it, so—he slides his hands down jeongguk’s arms until he can take jeongguk’s hands in his, skin on skin. he takes jeongguk’s hands and curls them around the handle of the sword in his chest—the one that’s been there from the beginning, the one thing keeping him here.

he pulls.

it burns as it goes, just as it burned going in almost a thousand years ago—but he grits his teeth against it, tightening jeongguk’s hold on the sword before it finally dislodges from his chest in a wide arc. he lets go of jeongguk’s hands, grasping the handle himself as he takes a breath, and lets jeongguk fall to the ground when he turns, stepping toward the ghost. he slices downward with the sword, sending it right through her back, and she gasps when she stumbles forward.

she turns. she looks at him—at the sword in his hand, at the look on his face, and he knows it’s the only way he could send her to the next life against her will. jeongguk will be safe now.

but the ghost grins anyway—the same maniacal smile that she wore before this. “and so it ends,” she tells him. “you think this is peace. but min yoongi—you’ve lost anyway.” she disintegrates like that, melting into the wind until the last thing left of her is that grin, that smile—you’ve lost anyway.

yoongi drops the sword, falling to his knees as it hurts him all at once: the pain. it radiates from the center of his chest, where the sword has been lodged for centuries and centuries, where there’s nothing now—where his heart is. he can feel it, can feel it stopping. he raises his eyes to see namjoon staring at him, wide-eyed—a tear slips down his cheek as he stares at yoongi.

“take care of him,” whispers yoongi, and namjoon doesn’t even nod. but yoongi knows he will, knows he has to—

something collides with his back, and he hunches over as the pain throbs in his chest, through his entire being and it’s jeongguk—it’s jeongguk who’s kneeling in front of him, his arms wrapping around yoongi and holding him close, clutching at him.

“no,” says jeongguk, voice already breaking and wild and desperate—“no, no, no, yoongi-hyung—” he lets out a sob, something caught in his throat, and yoongi feels his pain, too, feels it like something washing over him, clawing at his insides, and he slumps against jeongguk’s chest. listening to that mantra—no no no no no nonono

“jeongguk-ah,” he begins, and jeongguk is crying in earnest now, letting go of him enough to pull back and take yoongi’s face in his hands.

“you can’t go,” says jeongguk. he demands it, tears falling freely, and yoongi gingerly lifts a hand to thumb at his cheeks, to wipe them away. “no, yoongi—don’t, don’t, you can’t—” he lets out another sob and yoongi. grins, just slightly. he saved him—he saved jeongguk just like that, and maybe it meant sacrificing himself. maybe it meant losing this, but he was wrong—he has waited almost a thousand years for jeongguk. and it was worth it.

“i love you,” yoongi tells him, tries to ignore the pain worsening in his chest, asking him to let go—“jeongguk-ah, i love you. did you know that?”

“yoongi-hyung, please,” jeongguk cries, clutching at yoongi, and yoongi wipes his tears, because it’s the only thing he can do now. “please, please—fucking—don’t. don’t die, you can’t, you can’t—” he sobs harder, harder, and yoongi can’t stop it, can’t do anything but look at him and will himself to never forget this, no matter where he goes next. “yoongi, please.”

“i love you,” yoongi repeats. “i love you, i love you, i love you—”

do something,” jeongguk screams, and yoongi understands vaguely that he’s talking to namjoon, but he’s shaking and shaking and yoongi wants to go. he’s so tired and it hurts, and jeongguk is still holding onto him. “yoongi-hyung—”

“first snow,” whispers yoongi. “i’ll come in the first snow. in the rain, in the sunshine—i’m here, jeongguk-ah. i’m always here.” he closes his eyes, lets his own tears spill from over the rims, lets himself feel the pain of it—this isn’t what he wanted. this isn’t how he wanted it. but he’d do it again and again and again, he’d wait a thousand more years just to love jeongguk like this, just a spark and nothing more. it’s worth it. it’s worth it. “i love you, i love you, i’m right here—”

jeongguk screams something again, maybe his name, but yoongi is already fading. he feels it starting in his toes, feels it like a numbness. he leans forward again, hands clutching at jeongguk’s face as he rests their foreheads together and jeongguk is sobbing so hard that he shakes with it, clutching at him like he can keep yoongi here through sheer willpower alone.

yoongi tilts his head just so, pressing a kiss to the corner of jeongguk’s mouth.

and then, like the ghost, like every ghost before him, like he should have nine hundred years ago—yoongi dies. he leaves, bit by bit, into the wind and the night and the stars. yoongi becomes nothing.

《《《

everything is white. white snow white sky white white white and there are footprints here, alone—wandering.

yoongi wanders.

let me stay, he thinks. let me stay here, between this life and the next. let me keep my promise.

this time, the universe—listens.

》》》

“jeonggukkie!” the voice rises above the rest, a din of noise and talking and excitement; jeongguk turns away from the understudy he’s been speaking with to see a familiar face squeezing through the crowd, wide wide wide smile and a massive bouquet in his hands. “jeonggukkie, my baby, look at you!”

jeongguk lets out a laugh, and then an oof once jimin throws himself at him, wrapping jeongguk up in a tight hug before he pulls away and shoves the flowers into his hands instead. “you were amazing,” gushes jimin. “i mean, i’ve seen the show like six different times, but you really outdid yourself this time.”

“had to go out with a bang, didn’t i?” he asks with a chuckle. “last show and all.”

“i’m a little upset that you’re leaving the show,” says jimin. “but since you’re a hot-shot now, i guess you have to move onto bigger and better things. you made this show what it was, though. they’ll miss you.”

it’s what he’s been hearing for months, since jeongguk announced that he would be leaving the show in the middle of the run; he’s been at it for more than a year, but he feels like it’s time for the show to take off without him so that he can try a few new things. he’s in hot demand, anyway, so it’s not like he needs to stay here just to stay afloat. he’s already gotten several things lined up for the coming year, including a possible record deal, so maybe it’s time to branch out.

jimin’s still beaming at him, a hand on jeongguk’s shoulder. it feels strange sometimes, remembering where they started—together, almost ten years ago. both of them had gotten their starts in the same show, arm in arm as they slogged through rehearsals and political drama with the director until they’d come out the other side better for it. and had gotten noticed, finally.

“is namjoon-hyung here?” asks jeongguk after a moment.

“no, he’s working,” says jimin with a wrinkle of his nose, which means—something else entirely, but jeongguk isn’t going to ask. namjoon has seen the show several times himself anyway, and he’s always been jimin’s rather than jeongguk’s, even as a friend. “but he told me to congratulate you anyway, and tell you to come over for dinner sometime this weekend if you have time. we’ve missed you.”

it’s here that jeongguk’s grin falters, just slightly. he’s been busy, is the thing. he’s been busy for ten years, trying to build up his broadway career bit by bit until he’s here—beloved by many, with enough money and fame that he should be happy.

should being the key word.

but—he doesn’t think about it. not when he’s here, with flowers in his arms and a good friend at his side and the whole future ahead of him. he got a five minute standing ovation when the show ended, and shouldn’t that be enough?

“i’ll let you get back to all of your adoring fans,” says jimin with a smile. “i’m really proud of you, gukkie. take care, okay? don’t be a stranger.” for a moment, jeongguk wants to tell him not to go—wants to hold onto him, wants to have things as they were years ago. but he knows it can’t be, and growing older means finding something new. means not holding onto the past, no matter how slippery it is. so he just nods, giving jimin one last hug before he finds himself alone in the middle of a thickening crowd, all of his co-stars and their families buzzing around him.

he’s happy, is the thing. he tells himself that, anyway, when he gets back to his dressing room and wipes the make up off, changes back into his own clothes. he’s happy, he tells himself, when he packs up the last of his things and takes one last look around the room and knows this won’t be his anymore; he’s done handfuls of shows over the years, dipping his toe into everything to find what he’s comfortable with. he’s successful.

but at the end of the day, when all of the stage lights turn off—jeongguk goes home alone. he waits until he’s out of the theatre and driving home to let it crash into him, the high of the performance and applause wearing off. he goes home to an empty and dark house, too big for him, too quiet. he sits at his kitchen table and eats leftovers from last week, already stale. he got four different invitations to dinner, but he couldn’t keep up pretences for that long, so—here he is.

here he is. it’s been almost ten years since his first big show, since he really broke into the industry. and ten years of—something missing. but jeongguk can’t figure out what it is, can’t understand why he feels this aching deep in his bones—this yearning, like he’s waiting for something even though he doesn’t know what. it feels like he’s forgotten something very important.

it’s what he does, despite how happy he should be—wallows. wallows. jeongguk sits in his big empty house with his big empty heart and tries to remind himself that he’s loved by so many people. but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s thirty-two years old and lonely, lonely, lonely.

as if on cue—there’s a knock on the door.

jeongguk considers not getting it, considers pretending he’s not here, but. but he gets up anyway, leaving his cold noodles behind and making his way to the door instead. when he opens it, he can’t help but grin a little at the man standing there.

“jeon jeongguk,” he says. “i would have thought you were out partying the night away after such a successful last show.”

“hobi-hyung,” greets jeongguk, and he rubs at his neck a little as he laughs. “i thought you knew me better than that.”

“i was just teasing,” and here, hoseok reaches out to poke jeongguk’s nose, making him wrinkle it as he swats at his friend’s hand. “i do know you. and i know that i can’t believe you’re leaving me behind with all of those awful back-up dancers. do you think i could ask them to recast like they’ve recast you?”

jeongguk rolls his eyes, leaning against the doorframe even though he can’t help but laughing. it’s been nice having hoseok with him in the show; they met a few years ago doing another show, and ended up being cast in this one, too. and jeongguk is leaving him behind, but hoseok will be fine. he always is, with that bright smile. everyone loves him. “i’ll try to put in a good word,” says jeongguk. “do you—want to come in?”

hoseok leans into the door a little, like he’s trying to see into the house. like he’s trying to gauge if it’s okay for him to come in—he does know jeongguk. he knows that right now, jeongguk doesn’t actually want company, but he has to ask because it’s what friends do.

“nah, it’s okay,” says hoseok when he straightens, still grinning. “i just came to give you this.” he reaches down to pick up a box that jeongguk hadn’t noticed, carefully placing it in jeongguk’s hands. “i know you’ve probably gotten plenty of parting gifts, so i figured i’d give you something that you don’t have to worry about finding space for. don’t eat it all at once.” he winks, tapping the top of the box, and then takes a step backwards. “i’ll call you tomorrow, okay? make sure you get some rest.”

and like with jimin, jeongguk almost almost almost asks him to stay. it would help, probably, soothe the ache of missing something that he feels most strongly now, when he should instead be happy and grateful for the opportunities of his life. but the truth is that hoseok can’t make it better, not the way that jeongguk needs it to be better. jimin can’t do it either. there’s something that jeongguk can’t grasp, but he knows the answer is neither of them, so he just grins and nods. watches as hoseok makes his way down the drive and into the car he’s parked on the curb, giving a wave to jeongguk before he gets in and drives away.

and jeongguk is left on his doorstep with a box in his hands, one he opens to reveal a little cake. he stares down at it. hoseok told him not to eat the whole thing, but maybe this is what he’s been missing—or maybe it can be a nice substitute, at least for now. he doesn’t have to worry about the aching loneliness when he has cake.

it’s a warm night, his quiet street offering some solace as jeongguk closes the door behind him and sits down on the stoop of his house. he takes the cake from the box, balancing it on his knees and admiring the flower icing before he reaches into the box and takes out the candles that hoseok included in it, too. he sticks them in one at a time, carefully pushing the wax into icing and flour. he’s meticulous about it, like this will be answer.

it might be the answer.

when he’s finished placing the candles, jeongguk grabs the matches and lights them carefully. then he stares down at this little cake, his congratulatory gift for a job well done. a life well lived, as far as everyone else is concerned. for a moment, he thinks of—ten years ago, his twenty-second birthday. thinks of the wishes he made, just wanting something to work for once. and it had, miraculously—someone or something had granted his wishes. the universe. maybe god himself.

and it seems silly now, in his early thirties, to believe that making wishes on candles can change anything in his life. but he’s just desperate enough to do it, just desperate enough to try anything to stop the ache that keeps him locked in this in-between of his life. so jeongguk closes his eyes, clasping his hands above the cake.

“if anyone is out there,” he whispers. “if the thing that granted my wishes the first time is out there—” he pauses. what is he even wishing for? how can he put all of this into words? “please help me. i don’t know what’s wrong with me, why nothing i do makes me feel happy. i have everything i should want, but it’s not enough. it’s not what i need. please help me. please let me be happy, please fill this stupid hole in my heart.” he was happy once, he thinks. ten years ago. “please bring back whatever used to make me happy.”

he wishes. he wishes and wishes and hopes, somehow, that it’ll be enough—that the universe will listen, that it’ll be merciful. and jeongguk leans forward, right over the candles. he blows them out.

when jeongguk opens his eyes, he sees a man standing on the other side of the street. it’s not unusual—he lives in a nice neighboured, with nice people. they’re usually out and about, but—the unusual thing is that the man is just standing there, staring at him. jeongguk stares back for a second, the smoke of the candles wafting past him. suddenly, he feels a little chilly.

jeongguk is about to get up and go back inside when the man steps out onto the street, gingerly at first, and then with more purpose as he moves across the asphalt and onto the sidewalk before jeongguk’s house. and then he just keeps walking, right onto jeongguk’s property, up the drive to the stairs where jeongguk is sitting, and then standing, somewhat alarmed at the stranger approaching him.

“um,” he begins, still holding the cake in front of him, “can i help you?”

the man stops, finally, at the bottom of the few steps. he looks up at jeongguk, and jeongguk sees—something strange in his eyes (sharp eyes, cat-like eyes, and he tries to think if they’re familiar). there’s longing, relief. he’s looking at jeongguk like he’s finally found something that he lost for a very long time.

“jeongguk,” breathes the man, and jeongguk takes a small step back, reflex.

“yes,” he says. of course strangers know him—he’s at least mildly famous, especially in the world of broadway.

“you grew up so well,” says the man, voice almost wistful. “look at you. you live—here? in this massive house? with cake whenever you want?”

jeongguk’s eyebrows furrow, frown on his lips now. “what are you talking about?” he asks. “yes, this is where i live. are you—are you a fan? i’m sorry, but i don’t know how my address got leaked out and i would appreciate it if you didn’t come to my house.”

the man doesn’t seem to be listening, though, taking a step up as jeongguk takes a step back, now holding the cake like something of a weapon. “you still look the same,” says the man. “i don’t know why i thought you wouldn’t. are you okay, jeongguk-ah? have you been well?”

“i don’t know you,” says jeongguk, backing up against the door. “please go away. i’m not signing autographs and i’ll call someone if you keep harassing me.” the man reaches out, like he wants to touch, and then stops suddenly, like he’s finally understanding what jeongguk is saying. like he’s finally seeing that jeongguk doesn’t know who he is.

it’s not the first time he’s dealt with a crazed fan. not the first time he’s had something mildly terrifying happen to him, and this isn’t something that he can’t handle on his own. but the man just stands there, frozen on the step before something extremely sad passes over his face. “oh,” he says. “oh, yeah, i—sorry.” he drops his hand, and the way he’s looking at jeongguk makes jeongguk want to throw up a little, because it’s. it’s how he kind of wants someone to look at him all the time, but not if it’s a stranger. “you don’t remember me?”

“i’ve never met you in my life,” says jeongguk. “why are you here? please leave.” he could be a ghost—jeongguk used to be able to see them, although it’s been something like ten years since that time. there would be no reason for the ability to come back now, so he puts the idea out of his mind. his life is normal now. or he’s trying to let it be.

“sorry,” says the man. “someone… called me. sorry, i—i was just happy to see you.”

“okay,” says jeongguk. he keeps himself pressed to the door, still willing to throw the cake if the man tries to make a move, but—he doesn’t. he stands there for another moment, like he’s trying to pull himself away, and then he finally steps back off the stair. jeongguk keeps a careful watch on him as he swallows tightly, opens his mouth like he’s going to say something, and then thinks better of it. he turns. he makes his way back to the street, and then turns to look at jeongguk once he’s gotten there. and jeongguk keeps watching him until he leaves entirely, until he’s down the street and out of sight.

it’s only then that jeongguk gets back into his house, leaving the cake on the table before making his way into his room. he stares at everything there, and slowly sinks down onto his bed. he thinks of the man’s face—sharp eyes, lips just slightly turned up at the edges. black hair, black outfit. jeongguk is so certain that they’ve never met before, despite what the man says. and despite the way the ache in his chest suddenly worsens, doubling in pain and flaring as his heart beat beat beats and jeongguk lets out an inexplicable sob, loud in the darkness of the room.

he doesn’t understand. but jeongguk cries—and cries and cries and cries as he thinks of those eyes, that mouth.

the cake goes untouched. jeongguk falls asleep in his clothes, eventually exhausting himself from the crying. and he still doesn’t remember.

》》》

jeongguk keeps seeing him. at the café near jeongguk’s house two days later, walking down the street in jeongguk’s neighbourhood the next week. in the middle of times square when jeongguk is heading toward the theatre he’s worked at for the past year, just to collect the last of his things. in central park. no matter where jeongguk goes, the man is there—he’s not always watching jeongguk, but he’s always there. always with those eyes that hold so much, an endless well of longing and sadness and something more, something jeongguk can’t put his finger on.

it goes on for two, three weeks. jeongguk tries to put it out of his mind, move on and ignore his visceral reaction to seeing the man in the first place. but after those three weeks, jeongguk finds himself on a very thin rope about it all.

maybe it’s the fact that he’s having a bad day—his agent has been trying to get him a meeting with a record label but they’re being elusive, refusing to actually set up a time. another meeting with them has just fallen through and jeongguk can’t help the irritation he feels toward it, can’t help snapping at his agent and then immediately regretting it. he knows he needs to find a way to calm down—so he goes skating.

the rink is outdoors, busy in the middle of the day. jeongguk puts a mask on, covering the bottom of his face, and shoves a beanie on his head in hopes of not being very recognizable by people who might otherwise want to see him. he puts headphones in, letting the music take him as he glides around the rink slowly, trying to find some peace. trying to calm the turmoil in the middle of his chest, even though he knows it’s not just from the record label fiasco.

it’s only been half an hour when he takes one more lap around the edge of the rink, turning to look at the people standing against the edge of the rink and watching their kids or loved ones skating, and—comes to an abrupt halt, skates scraping against the ice when he sees. him.

jeongguk has been good at ignoring him; it’s not a crime for both of them to end up in similar places all of the time, but the irritation flares in him again and jeongguk rips out the headphones from his ears before taking off for the edge of the rink. he almost slams against the siding, gripping onto it as the man stands twenty feet away.

hey,” yells jeongguk, and the man’s attention snaps to him. he’s bundled up, too, hands stuffed in his long black coat and a scarf wrapped around his neck. there’s still, inevitably, some part of jeongguk that reaches out for him, which doesn’t make sense—“are you stalking me?”

the man doesn’t do anything at first, doesn’t say anything. and then he slowly walks toward the edge of the rink, until the only thing separating them is the siding and all of the ice and the fact that jeongguk still doesn’t know who he is. “am i not allowed to like skating rinks?”

“you keep showing up everywhere,” says jeongguk with a frown. “first my house, then the café, my street, times square… there are so many people in new york city. i don’t think i’ve ever seen a stranger twice, but you’re everywhere. and i’m certainly not looking for you, so…”

something flickers across the man’s face, like—pain. “i’m not stalking you,” he says. “actually, i want to apologize for my behaviour that night, with—your house and the cake. that was inappropriate of me to invade your personal space like that and i hope you won’t think i’m some crazy fan who is trying to get close to you. i… admittedly have only gone to one of your shows and i’m not too familiar with your work, anyway.”

that’s been the problem, jeongguk thinks—so many of the people he meets are people who want to work with him, who love him for what he does, but are fans first. it’s hard sometimes, to know if someone likes him for him, genuinely, or for the fame, or just because he’s starred in some successful musical where he could sing and dance and wow the crowd.

“which one did you see?” asks jeongguk, unable to help it. he’s curious.

be more chill,” says the man. “i was there on opening night. i didn’t—get to hear about what happened with it, though. did it go well?”

jeongguk chews on his lip. “yeah,” he says. “i mean, that was the musical that launched my entire career ten years ago. it still holds a special place in my heart.” he’s been in a lot since then—others, better ones, maybe. but he’s not here to talk about his career, so he ignores the new look in the man’s eyes—one of pride—so that he can huff a little. “is that what you meant when you said i grew up well? because you’d seen me then?”

“i haven’t been… around,” says the man. “definitely haven’t kept up with the broadway scene here in new york. i’m sorry if i scared you.”

as unnerving as the encounter had been, jeongguk supposes that it hasn’t left any lasting effects on him. and there’s something interesting about this man, something about him that has jeongguk not wanting to dismiss him as just someone who knew him ten years ago. “maybe i remember meeting you at the show or something,” he says. “what’s your name?”

the man grins. “min yoongi,” he says. “my name is min yoongi.”

jeongguk searches his memory for the name, for any sign of it—tries to connect the name to the man’s face, tries to understand if they’ve ever met before, even ten years ago. if they ever shared a conversation, ever shared more. but jeongguk comes up entirely blank.

“min yoongi,” repeats jeongguk carefully. “well. that name doesn’t ring a bell, but it’s nice to meet you properly. you already know, but i’m jeon jeongguk.”

“you like skating?” asks yoongi after a moment, gesturing to the rink.

jeongguk laughs a little, rubbing at the back of his neck. “it calms me down,” he admits. “i don’t know why, but this particular rink… it helps me.” the irritation has calmed some, he knows—whether from the skating, something that this particular outdoor rink has always helped with in the winter, inexplicably—or because he’s realized that there’s no reason to be so harsh on this man.

“i went skating once,” says yoongi. “just once. it didn’t end well.”

“you clearly didn’t have someone to teach you,” laughs jeongguk, trying to imagine this man—who appears so put together—falling all over himself on the ice because he doesn’t know how to work skates.

but yoongi just shakes his head. “i had someone,” he says. “he was very good at teaching me things.”

jeongguk just—takes a moment to look at yoongi. there’s something about him, something that makes jeongguk want to stay. to know more. he should go home, he knows. he should go home and deal with things like his career, his life, his loneliness.

instead, he asks, “do you want to grab a coffee or something?”

it kind of just—happens from there on. he and yoongi go for coffee and end up staying for three hours, talking. he learns that yoongi used to live in new york, too, ten years ago, but has been away since then. he learns that yoongi used to be in the army. he learns that yoongi likes iced americanos even in the middle of winter and smiles with all of his teeth and gums when jeongguk tells him a joke. despite their rough beginnings, they kind of just fit.

and jeongguk doesn’t mind it.

they got out for coffee again after that, and then again. jeongguk convinces yoongi to go skating with him once, ignoring the blush on his cheeks when yoongi clings to his hand to make sure he doesn’t fall over. they go out to the movies once, the latest instalment in the marvel universe, and yoongi asks him questions the entire time because he’s apparently been living under a rock and doesn’t know anything about how the story has progressed. they become friends, properly—and yoongi doesn’t quite stop the ache in jeongguk’s chest, but he dampens it. he fills jeongguk’s life with noise and activity, distracts from him the fact that the loneliness is still the monster under jeongguk’s bed. he makes it easier.

weeks later, yoongi texts him asking if he wants to go out for dinner. jeongguk, exhausted from a day of auditions, tells yoongi that he can just come over instead, that they can make dinner together.

and then—jeongguk realizes that he hasn’t invited anyone over to his house for years. maybe—never, other than jimin or hoseok, who don’t count. and he panics slightly, instantly throwing himself into cleaning, making the place look presentable. yoongi doesn’t seem like the kind of person to mind a little mess, but it keeps jeongguk from overthinking anyway.

he ends up in his room again, trying to clean that even though he doubts yoongi will be going anywhere near his bedroom. he can’t stop it, though, needing to make sure everything is good perfect wonderful, wanting to pretend that he has his life together like yoongi probably does. he cleans his desk, throwing papers and notebooks into random drawers and then—stopping when he pulls open a drawer to reveal something he hasn’t looked at for years.

jeongguk’s fingers slide over this notebook—it’s been sitting in his drawer for ten years. he doesn’t remember where it came from, doesn’t remember anything about it, but he knows it’s his. he wrote whatever it inside it, because it’s his writing. he just doesn’t remember writing it, doesn’t remember why. it’s yet another part of his life that he’s missing out on, some chunk of his memories that have miraculously disappeared.

now, for the first time in a long time, jeongguk pulls out the notebook. he flips through it until he finds the page he’s read hundreds of times—when he first discovered the notebook, he’d poured over it again and again, searching for some meaning in it. trying to remember when he had written it, what he was trying to tell himself.

you have to remember, he’s written. his name is min yoongi. he’s short and when he smiles, he’s sad. he’ll come as rain. he’ll come as the first snow. he’ll keep his promise. remember. you have to remember. you are his bride.

he runs his fingers over the words. he still doesn’t understand them, can’t—what was he meant to remember? what does any of it mean? and the name—min yoongi. he thinks of his min yoongi, the one he knows now. how common is the name, and does it have to mean anything, and is it all a coincidence, and why does he feel like this is supposed to be some answer to whatever he’s been missing for ten years?

there’s a knock at the door, his phone vibrating in his pocket at the same time. and jeongguk puts down the notebook, slipping it back into the drawer. there’s no time to worry about it now, not when all he’s been trying to do is put that feeling of loss out of his mind. he leaves the note behind. he goes to yoongi.

they make dinner together, something horribly domestic, and jeongguk tries not to think about it. tries not to think about maybe this is what he wants—not necessarily with yoongi, but with someone: another body in his kitchen, asking how spicy he likes his food, accidentally knocking over a glass of water and laughing about it after they’ve mopped it up with haste. some noise, someone to finally sit in the other seat on that side of the dining room table. someone to bump elbows with.

in the middle of dinner, jeongguk finds himself kind of just—staring at yoongi. is it you, he wonders. are you the one i’m not meant to forget?

“what?” asks yoongi, chopsticks halfway to his mouth. “why are you staring?”

“has anyone ever told you that you’re pretty?”

yoongi’s cheeks are pink. “i’m rugged and handsome.”

“you’re pretty, hyung,” says jeongguk. “soft and pretty and delicate.”

“we’ll see how delicate i am when i kick your ass for being greasy,” and jeongguk laughs and laughs and thinks that maybe it doesn’t matter if yoongi is the yoongi from his notebook, if yoongi is the one he’s not meant to forget—because this yoongi is here. and jeongguk is going to make the most of it.

》》》

jeongguk receives a letter.

in a round-about way—it comes through his agent, and letters often do when they’re from people who don’t know jeongguk’s actual address but still want to contact him. he gets fanmail sometimes, but he doesn’t get to read all of them. this, though—this is different.

“it came to your old apartment,” says his agent as she hands over the letter. “like, super old apartment. the current tenants apparently freaked out when they saw your name, but they had the good sense not to open it and send it here instead. it looks important, since it’s handwritten and all.”

jeongguk looks down at the letter—the envelope is yellowed and old, crumpled in a few places. but it’s his name on the front, and his old address, like his agent said. the peculiar bit, though, is the fact that jeongguk recognizes the handwriting. it’s his own.

he puts it out of his mind for the rest of the day, tucking the envelope into his coat pocket carefully, and only pulling it out again when he’s come home. he hasn’t lived in that old apartment in at least five or six years, but he also doesn’t remember writing a letter to himself; he could have all those years ago, something that he merely forgot, but that means the letter is that old—five or six years.

when he opens it, he sees he’s wrong. it’s five or six years old—it’s ten years old, addressed in the fall of 2018. his eyebrows furrow as he reads it; it’s addressed to his mother, like the letters that he used to write her when he was a kid, after she’d died. how’s heaven? he reads. i wonder if it’s anything like canada. that’s where i am! you wouldn’t believe how i got here. but i love it. i think i’ll come back a lot more in the future, because it makes me happy. it makes me happy because hyung is here, too. you don’t have to worry about me anymore. i found someone who wants to take care of me, who will let me take care of him, too.

he stares at the letter. and stares and stares and doesn’t understand—it’s just another part of his life that he doesn’t understand now, doesn’t remember. he doesn’t remember ever going to canada, especially ten years ago. doesn’t remember who this hyung is, but—min yoongi. his name is min yoongi. you are his bride.

he was happy. that’s what the letter says—he was happy there, he was so unafraid of the future after years and years of turmoil and uncertainty. of seeing ghosts and running from grim reapers and losing everything: his mother, his home. he found some sort of happiness and peace in canada. and jeongguk decides, as he puts the letter down, that he’s just desperate enough to understood what happened to him to pack up and go.

if he was happy in canada once—perhaps he can happy in canada again. perhaps he’ll find what he’s been missing for the past ten years.

jeongguk calls his agent later that night, telling her to clear his schedule for the week. he doesn’t care about meetings, about auditions—all he needs is an answer. he uses the return address on the envelope, he books his flights, he packs his bags. he texts yoongi, at the last second, just so the man isn’t alarmed, tells him that he’s going away for a week. yoongi doesn’t ask any questions. neither does hoseok, or jimin—but they know. they know, to a certain extent, that jeongguk isn’t happy, and hasn’t been happy for a very long time.

so jeongguk is doing this for himself, finally. and jeongguk goes to canada.

it’s spring. everything is green, fresh—growing anew. he walks down cobbled streets in quebec, admiring the architecture, admiring the trees that are just beginning to bloom fully with flowers and leaves that will one day turn red orange yellow and drift down to meet those below. he takes his time in souvenir shops, buys a little bottle of maple syrup because he’s always wanted to. he wanders. jeongguk wanders and tries to breathe the air, like it’ll somehow solve whatever has been keeping a vice grip on his heart.

more than anything—he tries to understand. he tries to find what it is that he left behind here ten years ago, as though he’ll be able to pick up his happiness where he might have dropped it under this bridge, in that restaurant, around that corner. he tries to see all of this in his memory, but there’s nothing.

he’s trying to understand what he found here. inexplicably—he finds himself thinking of yoongi instead.

after two days, when he’s wandered and not found anything and spent too much time thinking about yoongi’s eyes and his smile and his stupid name in jeongguk’s notebook—and after jeongguk has spent the evening in his hotel bar nursing too many glasses of wine, he fishes his phone out of his pocket. he leaves the hotel, night having fallen as he takes to the streets this time. he finds a fountain not far from the hotel, coins glittering at the bottom, and sits down heavily on the end.

yoongi picks up after four rings.

“hello?” he asks—voice almost groggy. it sends shivers down jeongguk’s side.

“hyung,” he says, tries not to sound as drunk as he feels.

still—“jeongguk-ah? are you okay?”

“just wanted to hear your voice,” says jeongguk, almost mumbling into the phone. it’s too quiet here, too picturesque—he misses the bustle of new york. misses yoongi.

“have you been drinking?”

“i’m in canada,” he says. feels the need to say it; there’s a sharp intake of breath through the phone, but jeongguk pays no mind. “i didn’t tell you that i was coming here, did i? i got a letter from ten years ago that i wrote to myself. it said i was happy in canada and i’ve been—hyung, i’ve not been happy. i thought maybe this would help. but i don’t know what i was looking for here.”

there’s nothing but silence on the other side—or not silence. he can still hear yoongi breathing, which means he’s there. he’s just not saying anything.

“am i your bride, hyung?” asks jeongguk quietly. “i don’t know what that means. but am i? did i forget you? did we know each other?” in his wine-drunk mind, he can’t fit the pieces together anymore. he couldn’t when he was sober, but now he’s clumsy. it’s all too big for his hands, for his heart. and he just wants to understand. just wants to know what went wrong and how to fix it, doesn’t want to feel like this anymore. he forgot something. how did he forget something?

he turns to look at the fountain he’s sitting on, at the coins at the bottom—glittering from the lamps illuminating the square of the hotel, and the moon overhead. yoongi is saying something on the phone, but jeongguk isn’t paying attention, not as he finally gets another idea.

wishes. he wished on that cake after his show ended and yoongi showed up. and that’s not—how it works, he knows. he couldn’t just summon yoongi like that, but he wished. he wished and it got a little better, even if he’s not found all of the answers. so he puts his phone down, yoongi’s tinny voice still coming out of it, and he clambers to his feet. his head spins, just a little; jeongguk digs in his pocket until he finds a coin, and he holds it up in front of him. it’s a quarter.

jeongguk turns around until his back is facing the fountain. he presses his lips to the coin for good luck. he closes his eyes, clutching the coin in his hand for a moment before he whispers, “please let me remember. please let me remember what i forgot here.” and then he tosses the coin over his shoulder, waiting for the plop of it hitting the water and sinking down down down.

and—

it’s quiet: the memory that comes to him, like a whisper. he’s here now, opening his eyes onto darkness and loneliness and the present. but in his mind, he sees another time, another moment in his life: opening his eyes to brightness and red trees and this very same fountain and the plop of a coin behind him. he sees it unravelling before him like a film, silent as he sees: yoongi. as he sees yoongi grinning at him from a table that still sits there, empty now, ten years later.

and just like that, something snaps.

and jeongguk remembers—he remembers it all.

he runs, leaving the fountain behind. leaving his phone behind, not caring, as the haze of drunkenness leaves his mind entirely. and it’s all clear, this clarity, this understanding of what he’s been missing. so he runs, searching and searching as he takes the first street he can find and it all comes, just like that: the cake and the ghosts and busan and the sword, the sword, the fucking sword, and yoongi—yoongi in the middle of it all, like he’s always been, and jeongguk forgot him. it’s been ten years.

jeongguk stumbles to a halt as he passes a dark shop window, as he passes the candle lit just outside of it, and he gasps in a breath as he turns toward it, desperate when he blows out the flame.

and then—takes a step back. and turns around to the empty street and screams—“yoongi-hyung!” jeongguk can’t stop the tears that come now, filling his eyes and then spilling over onto his cheeks, and the ache in his chest burns and burns. “yoongj-hyung, please—please, i remember. i remember you.”

he takes a breath, pain clawing at his chest as he opens his mouth to scream again, but—there’s a hand on the crook of his elbow, tugging and turning him, and jeongguk is vaguely aware of a familiar face before he’s pulled forward into someone’s chest, warms wrapping around him.

into yoongi’s chest. yoongi’s arms wrapping around him.

jeongguk gasps in as he sobs, overwhelmed suddenly with something that fills and fills and fills him, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes—relief, or wanting, or love. but it’s not the ache, it’s not the ache, and he gets it, he knows. he remembers. he can’t stop crying, doesn’t bother to try, as yoongi holds him, and then pulls back, just enough to bring his hands to jeongguk’s face.

and jeongguk looks at him—looks at yoongi, at this man that he’s loved and lost and loved again, who died for him. who came back for him, too.

“jeongguk-ah,” whispers yoongi, and jeongguk exhales. he looks at yoongi and sees what he should have seen all along, and then he surges forward and kisses him.

it’s wet—from jeongguk’s tears, and maybe from yoongi’s too. but it’s warm, somehow, from the inside out, as jeongguk curls his hands into the front of yoongi’s coat like he used to. like he used to—and yoongi holds his face so delicately, tilts his head just right and opens up just like that, lets jeongguk in. it’s just like it used to be. like it used to be, like jeongguk remembers now.

it says, i remember you. it says, i didn’t mean to forget. it says, i love you i love you i love you.

yoongi kisses him gently, softly, like jeongguk might break—he captures jeongguk’s bottom lip with both of his, then his top. he kisses both corners of jeongguk’s mouth and then pulls back, just slightly; their noses brush. jeongguk opens his eyes.

“hyung,” he whispers, voice breaking on the one word—the one word that holds so much more than he could possibly say. it’s been ten years. they’ve wandered for ten years. “i miss you.”

“i’m here,” whispers yoongi. “guk-ah, i’m right here.”

jeongguk kisses him again—even softer this time, just wanting him near. needing him closer and closer. this one says, you came back. this one says, you came back because i needed you. this one still says, i love you i love you i love you. he moves his lips over yoongi’s softly, brushing and pressing and wanting more, breathing in this air—breathing out. feeling yoongi’s thumbs over his cheekbones, this cradle and caress. it’s enough.

suddenly, jeongguk realizes that he’s not sad anymore—not like that. just like this, and that’s okay. he overflows. yoongi overflows with him.

》》》

“where were you?” asks jeongguk quietly, when they’re back in his hotel room and pressed side to side on the sofa. he can’t stop tracing the features of yoongi’s face, just gently, trying to relearn everything he’s been without for so long. “after you—” he doesn’t finish.

“i guess i was just… between here and there,” replies yoongi. “there being the afterlife. i did die, like i was meant to, but i chose to stay. i asked god to let me stay.”

that’s how it was always supposed to be, he knows—yoongi was always meant to die. but maybe he wasn’t always meant to come back, and that’s just them breaking the rules again, finding ways around it to be together. “for ten years?” asks jeongguk. “you were just waiting there for ten years?”

“you were waiting here for ten years,” yoongi tells him.

“but i didn’t remember you.” jeongguk frowns, thumbing over yoongi’s cheek. and there’s—nothing he could have done about it, he knows. it wasn’t his choice to forget, but he still finds himself blaming himself for it: for yoongi wandering in limbo for so long. “i’m sorry i forgot.”

“i’m sorry i used your hands to pull out the sword in the first place,” says yoongi. “but i had to protect you. it was the only way.” and that’s tragic—a tragic love. maybe it was always worth waiting for.

“i summoned you back, didn’t it?” asks jeongguk, thinking back to when they met the second time—yoongi standing across the dark street from him after jeongguk blew out the candles on his congratulatory cake, and how yoongi had looked at him and how yoongi had stayed. how he’d not given up despite jeongguk not remembering him, and would they have simply continued like that if jeongguk hadn’t come here? would yoongi have waited ever patiently for jeongguk to fall in love with him again?

and would he have fallen in love again?

yoongi nods. turns his head a little to fit his cheek into jeongguk’s hand, kissing his palm. “it was the stupid contract you made me sign,” he says. “you made me promise to come back.” jeongguk lets out a quiet chuckle, although he’s never been more grateful for his younger self—how eager he’d been, how stupidly in love. there are so many small bits of this that, if they hadn’t fallen exactly into place, would have meant never finding each other again. there’s something to be said about soulmates.

“i was so sad,” says jeongguk. “and i didn’t know why. it just felt like—something was missing, you know? right here.” he presses his free hand against his chest, and it’s not empty anymore. it hurts, but it’s a different kind of hurt—a good kind of hurt. “and i knew i was forgetting something. i just didn’t know what.”

“i’m sorry,” whispers yoongi. “i never wanted you to get hurt, jeongguk-ah.”

“i know, hyung. but it’s okay. i don’t hurt anymore.”

when yoongi grins at him, it’s like—the whole sky opens up. and he thinks about how yoongi has waited so long for him, and then had to wait a little longer. and maybe that’s why he didn’t mind it, because he knew that jeongguk was worth it. is. knew that jeongguk would find a way to call him back, knew that what was meant to be would be. jeongguk carefully glides a finger over yoongi’s lips, trying to touch that grin, trying to make it his own, and yoongi laughs at him.

says, “are you going to stop touching me?”

jeongguk shakes his head. “i’m still trying to convince myself you’re real.”

“i’m real,” says yoongi, and he reaches up to curl his own fingers around jeongguk’s wrist. “i’m not going anywhere this time. okay?”

there’s more to be said. there’s always more to be said—questions to be answered, and attempts to let yoongi know how he’s suffered. attempts to let him know what he feels now, and how he’ll never be able to put it all into words. but. jeongguk doesn’t want to say any of it. he just wants to exist here, with yoongi—finally. he doesn’t want to wait anymore.

“i love you,” jeongguk tells him. yoongi kisses his palm again. and then he pulls jeongguk’s hand away from his face, shifting so that he can lean over, just until they’re a hairbreadth apart. jeongguk—inhales sharply, closes his eyes. he can feel yoongi there, just waiting.

“jeongguk-ah,” says yoongi, breath skirting across jeongguk’s lips. “i have waited a thousand years for you. i would wait a thousand more.”

“you don’t have to,” replies jeongguk. “i’m right here.”

he can feel yoongi grinning this closely—can feel it radiating off of him, this thought of finally. this thought of having loved and lost and gained again, the thought of never letting go. and when yoongi finally kisses him, jeongguk knows he’d wait a thousand years, too. he would, he would—but he doesn’t. he doesn’t, because yoongi kisses him right here and now, hands curling over his neck. yoongi kisses him heady and heavy, aimed somewhere beyond this, and jeongguk lets him take. he will always let yoongi take.

yoongi pushes, just slightly, and jeongguk lets the both of them tip backward until yoongi is hovering over him, sliding between jeongguk’s legs and pressing him into the cushions. jeongguk licks into his mouth, opening wide and vulnerable and raw, asking for more how he knows yoongi will understand—and yoongi knows, letting his hand trail down jeongguk’s side until he can hitch his thigh over yoongi’s waist, tugging him ever closer.

that’s how they stay, how they let go—when jeongguk gets impatient with the kissing, enough and not enough at the same time, and whines into yoongi’s mouth, trying to grind up into him. it makes yoongi laugh, muttering something about jeongguk not changing, but he lets go of jeongguk long enough to take his shirt off anyway, so—so. jeongguk revels in it, in getting what he wants when he rakes his hands down yoongi’s front, pulls him back into another bruising kiss. it’s suddenly not fast enough.

it’s not fast enough as he feels himself rapidly hardening, grinding up into yoongi’s thigh shoved between both of his, and yoongi curling a hand in jeongguk’s hair and tugging just enough to make jeongguk moan—and yoongi licks it right out of his mouth before moving onto his neck. it’s not fast enough when jeongguk pushes him away again only to wiggle out of his own clothes, desperate enough to forgo all pretences of seduction.

“are we going too fast?” yoongi breathes when jeongguk has pushed him far enough away to attempt to get out of his jeans, and jeongguk lets out a groan.

“you just said you’ve waited a fucking thousand years for me,” he huffs, managing to throw all of his clothes onto floor before going for yoongi’s, too. “and i’ve waited ten, so have some mercy.”

yoongi does—he laughs again, because he’s always laughing at jeongguk, but he manages to summon lube from somewhere that jeongguk isn’t going to question, reattached at the lips as his hands work elsewhere. and jeongguk can feel yoongi’s cock against his thigh, hard and heavy, and tries not to come from that alone—from the anticipation of it. yoongi kisses him when he pushes the first finger in, and jeongguk makes a high-pitched noise in the back of his throat, scrambling for more.

and this is where he understands it, understands why yoongi could come back and always would, always will—he’s always under the mercy of jeongguk’s hold on him, can never deny jeongguk anything he asks for. come back, jeongguk told him, and he did—now, with every sound and movement, yoongi does what jeongguk wants. works him open slowly at first, then faster when jeongguk can handle it, when he starts whining into yoongi’s mouth and grinding his hips down onto yoongi’s fingers, and he’s waited and waited and waited. he’s loved yoongi and needed more, and yoongi knows. of course he knows.

he pauses, just for a few moments, after he’s lined himse;f up and jeongguk can feel yoongi’s cock nestled against his rim; his gut clenches with it, waiting and wanting, and yoongi just—looks down at him, chest heaving. gently brushes jeongguk’s hair away from his forehead, so lovingly that jeongguk almost starts crying.

“what?” asks jeongguk, cheeks flushed not only from the situation, and he tries to wiggle down a little. “what are you looking at?”

“you,” says yoongi. “i’m just looking at you.”

“can you fuck me while you’re looking at me?” asks jeongguk, and it feels like yoongi is doing so much more than just looking at him—and he thinks about waiting a thousand years. thinks about yoongi sacrificing himself to save jeongguk, not knowing if he would have a chance to come back. but hoping for it anyway. and believing that their love could transcend every law of the universe, and that should be—terrifying. it should be too much. but it’s not—because that same love is right here, nestled in jeongguk’s chest when yoongi looks at him and gently touches him and loves him right here. it’s the same love—it’s always the same love.

“only if you hold my hand,” yoongi says finally, and he does hold his hand in between them, and jeongguk takes it, squeezes it tight. and yoongi finally pushes in, filling him up from the inside out, and jeongguk throws his head back, gasping at the sensation. it’s like that at first—overwhelming and slow, and jeongguk can feel everywhere they’re connected. can feel everything yoongi kisses into his skin when he leans down and captures jeongguk’s mouth with his again, and waits long enough for jeongguk to whine, wrapping his legs around yoongi’s waist.

it’s slow. yoongi thrusts like they have all of the time in the world, his cock dragging against jeongguk’s walls and stretching him wide open, and jeongguk kisses yoongi and holds his hand and loves him more than before—more than he did ten years ago, but less than he will ten years from now. it’s exponential and growing, growing.

he doesn’t hold back, lets himself moan into yoongi’s mouth. lets himself feel it, when yoongi speeds up just slightly, hips carefully curving against jeongguk’s, and it’s good. it’s always good. yoongi kisses him soft, gentle, fucks him like that, too—loves him like that. it doesn’t always have to be loud. they don’t say much, not when there’s nothing that could encompass everything jeongguk wants to say—but they have time, finally. they have eternity.

when jeongguk comes, it’s with yoongi’s hand on him, thumb flickering over the head of jeongguk’s cock. he keens into yoongi’s mouth, squeezing yoongi’s other hand where they’re still connected, and yoongi whispers praises into his lips, the edge of his mouth, where jeongguk can keep them safe. where he can swallow them whole and let them bloom in the pit of his stomach.

when yoongi comes, it’s with his cock buried in jeongguk, pressing and pressing and warm. and enough, finally, with his lips on jeongguk’s neck and jeongguk’s hands curling through yoongi’s hair, keeping him there. yoongi calls him baby, gets his hands all over jeongguk’s waist and stomach, pressing in and in as he groans into it, and jeongguk pulls him up to kiss him. over and over and over again, making up for ten years—ten years that he should have had, that they should have had. it’s like a dam has been broken, drowning everything in all of his feelings, all of his love.

yoongi kisses him back. and that’s all jeongguk really wanted.

》》》

when they get back to new york a few days later, everything isn’t so different—and is, at the same time. it feels like a strange fusing of his life from ten years ago and his life now, since yoongi is back and he’s still working toward the life he has been living since before he remembered. jeongguk goes to meetings, goes to auditions. he sings and dances.

he summons yoongi.

most of all—he summons yoongi.

in the hallway outside of his agent’s office before a meeting, for a good luck kiss. in the grocery store in the middle of the night, because he can’t decide if family value packs really have that much value. in his house—always in his house—for no longer reason than to tell yoongi that he’s missed him. and yoongi always has a pout on his face when he suddenly appears in the middle of doing something else, but jeongguk knows he doesn’t mind. sees the look in his eyes, like he’s just glad that jeongguk remembers he can do this.

sometimes it’s less about abusing the power and more needing it—when jeongguk has a nightmare about forgetting yoongi again and summons yoongi in his panic, holding onto him and refusing to let go when yoongi appears in his own pajamas and looking sleep-mussed. when jeongguk is still half-convinced that it’s a dream, or thinks that something else will take yoongi away. there’s no danger now that they’ve fulfilled what they needed to—now that yoongi no longer has a sword in his chest—but he can’t help it.

it’s good, for the most part. jeongguk doesn’t feel so sad anymore, not with yoongi here. not when yoongi is over at his house and trying to cook dinner with jeongguk passionately dancing around the kitchen and belting out renditions of all of the broadway numbers he’s starred in that yoongi has missed over the past ten years—arms flailing, elbows flying. jeongguk is sweaty and tired, but happy happy happy with his socks slipping on the kitchen floor and yoongi gently guiding him away from the stove when he gets too close.

that’s how it happens—with the both of them in the kitchen and jeongguk trying to hit a high note he hasn’t hit in six years and yoongi watching him. jeongguk finishes the note and doubles over with laughter and takes a deep breath, ready for the next one, and yoongi just says, “jeongguk-ah.”

when jeongguk straightens up again, yoongi is still standing at the stove, watching him. there’s that look in his eyes—the same one that he has almost all of the time when he’s watching jeongguk do something stupid or ridiculous. “hyung,” says jeongguk.

jeongguk expects yoongi to say something about straining his voice or not burning himself on the food. but yoongi just asks, “will you marry me?”

and—jeongguk stops. the music is still blaring from his phone on the counter, but he’s not paying attention to it now, not as he stares at yoongi. maybe the question shouldn’t catch him off guard, considering how their relationship started ten years ago, but he just slowly puts down the wooden spoon he was using as a microphone. “aren’t i already your bride?”

yoongi shakes his head. “not anymore,” he says. “when i died, all of that shit went out the window. you don’t see ghosts anymore, right? we’re not tied together any more than any other two people are on this planet. we don’t have to do anything anymore.”

it’s strange, maybe, that jeongguk hadn’t considered it. but it makes sense—he can’t see ghosts anymore. the mark on his neck, the one that set him apart as the goblin’s bride, disappeared when yoongi did. but he still loves yoongi, so—“guk,” continues yoongi. “i don’t want to marry you because i have to. i don’t want to marry you because the universe decided that i had to pay for my sins and be a goblin, and you had to be the one to end my punishment. we’re free to make our own choices now. and i still choose you. i want to marry you because i love you, not because the universe says we should.”

jeongguk swallows tightly. ten years ago, even before he knew he loved yoongi, he thought it would end like this—because it had to. but it doesn’t have to end like anything, not anymore. they broke the rules. they found a way to come back to each other, even against all of the odds.

so he grins. he nods. “okay,” says jeongguk. “yeah, hyung. i’ll marry you.” they’re still halfway across the kitchen from each other, some broadway song the soundtrack to the whole thing. it could be more romantic—could be dramatic and grand. but they’ve had enough of that, jeongguk thinks. there doesn’t have to be magic here.

“okay,” says yoongi, and then turns off the stove. he steps forward until he can walk past jeongguk, reaching for his wrist as he does so. “let’s go, then.”

“what?” asks jeongguk, but he turns and follows anyway. “wait, you meant right now? we’re getting married right now?”

“why not?” asks yoongi. “you love me, i love you. neither of us have families to be present, and i doubt that your friends will be too upset. we’ll send them cake as a consolation.” jeongguk giggles at that, and thinks—why not? why not? he’s known for a long time, even if he forgot, that he wants to be with yoongi for the rest of his life. and now he finally can be.

so: yoongi digs a suit out of his closet, still living in the same house with namjoon—and because namjoon kept all of his belongings. maybe he was in on yoongi’s choice to stay in the in between, and now that jeongguk remembers him, too, he decides he’ll have to send a thank you card. along with the cake, as a consolation for missing the wedding. jeongguk finds one of his suits, too, the one that yoongi got him ten years ago long gone. yoongi teases him about needing a veil to be a bride, and jeongguk threatens to call the whole thing off.

they get married in a field of buckwheat flowers, just the two of them—and yoongi makes it snow, just a little. first snow, in a way. he promised to come as that, to come with that, and here he is.

“i feel like until death do us part isn’t appropriate here,” says yoongi. “but we didn’t. and we won’t.”

jeongguk grins. “even if death separates us,” he says, “i’ll always find my way back to you. fuck the rules.”

yoongi laughs. but—“fuck the rules,” he agrees. and then he kisses jeongguk, and seals it all, and there they are, the goblin and his bride. or just—yoongi and jeongguk. i’ll always find my way back to you, he said. and jeongguk intends to keep his promise.