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If You're Making God a Liar

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I’m sorry if you couldn’t find me.
I have been in the woods.
I put myself there because I couldn’t be good.
I have been running with foxes and hunting with crows,
And I have found myself a home where no body goes.

The forest makes good company for a lonely man.

It’s never quiet, that’s what Hoseok loves the most. Not a person for miles, but always filled to the brim with life. A chorus of vitality. Even the trees, even the wind add to the ensemble. He breathes in deep. He knows what the air is like in the cities. Prefers the stink of rot he sometimes stumbles upon here to that cloying pollution.

Hoseok loves the forest, and he doesn’t mind the loneliness. Besides, he has his dogs and he doesn’t need anyone else. Even if they aren’t around half the time, they keep him busy enough.

Like now, when he’s crouching down sometime before the sun has even bothered to get up, knees muddy in the foliage. Wet leaves making everything slippery and the rabbit’s blood isn’t helping much either.

Hoseok doesn’t hunt, not like the others do. It’s never for fun or sport or to cull the population or make him feel strong, he just sets up his traps for little critters so he and the dogs have something to eat. Really it’s mainly for the dogs, they eat better than him.

He pins the rabbit down where it’s stuck in the stick snare, makes a quick break. Painless as possible, but he still feels bad. Thinks it must’ve been scared even though he knows it’s pointless to worry about things like that out here. It’s only survival after all.

In the stories, they say you have to be born with this kind of thing, or bitten depending on the classification. How else could a human turn into a wolf?

For Hoseok, it was necessity.

He’d known he was in love with dancing since his first performance. Begged his mom to sign him up for classes, promised his dad that he could do this. He could be the best.

He was the best. He put his body and soul into it, day and night, until there was no line between him and his passion. His friends, his school, his future, his hopes were all tied to dance. There was no separating him from it, or he would fade away to nothing.

He had promise, they said, could make a career out of it, and so that’s what he planned to do. Practiced hard and harder still, threw himself body and soul into perfecting extensions and timing and endurance and-

Something had to give.

The doctors called it a labral tear. A detached ridge of cartilage deep in his hip that started with some banal clicking and ended with pain so bad he ended up sitting on the sidewalk holding back tears because he couldn’t walk home. Couldn’t take one more step without collapsing.

They tried physical therapy for a while, he attended dutifully. Always completed his home exercises, took rest like they suggested even though it killed him. Even though he could feel himself regressing with every day he did, everything he worked for slipping away. Still, he stuck with it, clung to the hope that it would finally get better.

It didn’t get better.

The doctors recommended surgery. A week in the hospital, a few months in physical therapy, no twisting or bending for at least a year afterwards, but no heavy activity even after it’s healed.

Hoseok hung up immediately. He wanted to cry, or laugh, he wasn’t sure which. He didn’t blame the doctors. Their focus was always on pain relief and getting him walking again, they didn’t understand why he wouldn’t give up a hobby for all of that.

Hoseok felt trapped, like living soul inside a rotting corpse. Suffocating and bruised, skin ripe for bursting.

Something had to give.

He doesn’t remember how it started, just knows that somewhere between the breakdowns and the pain something changed. Stripped him down and remade him.

He changed.

He became something with sharp teeth, and long claws, and keen eyes. Something that hunted and ran and didn’t feel the pain of it.

He became free again.

The forest is quiet, no one ever comes out here, it’s safe. So why.

Why is there a man sitting by his lake.

Hoseok can’t see much of him from behind but what he can see is a blonde poof of hair and a cable-knit sweater that looks ridiculously big on him. He’s hunched over something, so entranced by whatever it is he doesn’t notice Hoseok behind him.

Hoseok clears his throat, squares his shoulders as best he can. Tries to look authoritative as he asks, “Excuse me? What are you doing here?” and he really meant to sound more commanding but it’s a bit hard to be intimidating when he’s just very… confused.

The guy flinches, drops what was in his hand. Hoseok sees the pen roll into the grass. When he turns, it’s with possibly the cutest expression Hoseok has ever seen, eyes wide and lips parted, and Hoseok has to tell himself to keep on track. It changes quick, suddenly sharp eyes watching him, guarded. It’s a look which makes Hoseok feel like he’s stumbled into something he doesn’t quite understand.

“My name’s Yoongi.” the guy says. Hoseok thinks he sees a glint in his eyes, “You snuck up on me, who are you.”

Which is not how Hoseok expected this to go, and suddenly he doesn’t feel like he’s got the upper-hand. Even though this is his property this guy is trespassing on. He tries to get his bearings, manages to find a bit of footing, “I’m Hoseok, this is my lake, actually.” the guy hums, moves to pick up his pen like he’s done talking to Hoseok now. Hoseok clears his throat to get his attention again, “So, what I mean is, what are you doing here?”

The guy looks between Hoseok and the lake, purses his lips in something that might be considered pensive if it weren’t just cute. “Nice to meet you, Hoseok. I come here to write, I hope that’s ok?” He says, flips his notebook so the pages flap closed and then open again. Watches Hoseok as he does it as if he were playing with him instead of the notebook.

“Listen, I’m not trying to be a dick. It’s really fine if you hang out here, but this is kind of my property, and I’m a little confused how you even got here. It’s miles from the main paths, you know?” he finds his voice carries more conviction this time. Enough apparently that Yoongi stops flipping his notebook and staring at him like that.

“I'm your new neighbor’ Yoongi says, and Hoseok was certain that there were no properties for miles, but the look on Yoongi's face seems so serious that he hesitates to contradict him. Yoongi's face stays completely serious, as he continues, “I live in the lake”

Hoseok huffs, something meant to sound annoyed but which really comes out closer to a laugh, “Yeah? What are you, a mermaid?”

Yoongi's face screws up like he's just been personally insulted, Hoseok's screws up because he's trying to keep in his laughter. “No, of course not. Don't be ridiculous,” Yoongi says, waving a dismissive hand at Hoseok. He leans back in the grass, gestures at his body, “I'm obviously a water nymph."

Hoseok chokes on his laughter, even though Yoongi’s face stays hard as stone. Even with Yoongi assuring him he’s completely serious. Though, eventually he breaks too and joins Hoseok with a shy giggle.

It's ridiculous. Finding a stranger on his lake is ridiculous. The stranger himself is ridiculous. Hoseok is ridiculous for not having kicked him out already. He’s even more ridiculous for enjoying this conversation with him.

Still, he does sounds so serious. Hoseok hiccups a laugh and Yoongi only scrunches his nose as if he wasn’t joining in on it himself.

Hoseok didn't think he believed in water nymphs, but he looks at Yoongi and thinks maybe he does. Blonde hair swept back in the wind, falling fluffy on his brow like some kind of cloud and a face prettier than he’s seen in both his lifetimes. Hoseok doesn't know if he believes in nymphs, doesn't know what one should look like, but he thinks Yoongi wouldn't make a bad guess.

Every day Hoseok goes by the lake, either to check his traps or try his hand at fishing, and every day since that first meeting he sees him. Yoongi, bent over a journal, his eyes focused. Sometimes Hoseok finds him just laying on his back and soaking in the speckled rays of sun. Once he found him kneeling in the shallow waters of the lake, jeans rolled up to his knees but still getting wet. His hair dripping like he’d dunked his face in the cool water. His head tipped back, neck exposed to the sky and hands skimming the water’s still surface. Hoseok almost called out to see if he needed help, but he couldn’t bring himself to break the calm of the scene.

He leaves him alone. Yoongi isn’t loud and he’s never found any litter, so Hoseok doesn’t have any reason to bother him. Besides, he once walked by and saw Yoongi cooing at a possum carrying her babies through the woods, so he thinks the strange man can’t be all that bad.

It goes like that for a few weeks. Hoseok will pass by with a rabbit carcass and they’ll wave awkwardly. Or Yoongi will see him first and yell “Seok-ah! Watch out for the mushroom circles!” and Hoseok will wonder who the hell this man really is, if he’s really a man and not something closer to the nymph he first suggested.. One day, Hoseok happens to take a tumbler of coffee with him, for no particular reason. And for no particular reason he leaves it by Yoongi napping in the grass.

They only ever have these small, fleeting interactions with each other, and Hoseok finds himself wondering if Yoongi isn’t just some elaborate dream.

It feels like Yoongi’s a mirage the lake is luring him in with, he couldn’t be real. He’s far too fleeting.

That is, until one night, when Hoseok feels restless with the waxing moon and can’t sleep. Goes out for a walk in the forest, goes without direction, only a deep need to burn off the whirl of thoughts and the bubbling energy within himself, so he can get some rest.

Somehow he finds himself at the lake.

Like he was drawn there.

Probably just the pull of water. Probably.

He’s expecting it to feel lonely, and he’s surprised at himself for that. He’s never thought of the forest itself as being lonely, just having a content sort of solitude. Yet, somehow, Yoongi has integrated himself into the landscape. He knows it would feel strange without his gentle presence on the banks.

He guesses by how low the moon is in the sky, obscured by clouds as it is, it must be 3 or 4am. The air feels thick with anticipation, and Hoseok wonders if the clouds don’t forebode a storm.

When he gets to the lake, it’s calm. An occasional splash and the rustling of leaves, but not much else. Except for the scratch of a pen.

Hoseok squints in the darkness, he knows that diligent scratching. Knows that thoughtful purr-like hum..

“Yoongi?” a blonde head shoots up from the grass. “Yoongi! What are you doing here so late?”

Yoongi blinks a few times in surprise, as if he didn’t realize it really was so late. He rubs his eyes, peers up at the sky like he’s surprised to see the moon so low.

“Sorry, sorry. I lost track of time. Sometimes at night…. Well, my thoughts you know? My thoughts just get too much sometimes. It’s nice to come out somewhere where there’s no- no… I don’t know.” he finishes, deflated, and drops his pen into the grass. “I’m sorry I know I shouldn’t be here I’ll leave.”

He starts to get up and Hoseok panics. He considers how exhausted Yoongi looks, and he considers all the creatures he knows to call this forest home, and how easy it is to get lost in the night, and he realizes he can’t let Yoongi go back alone. “Yoongi, wait, listen. I don’t know if that’s such a good i-”

A shock of thunder. Sudden and shaking the ground. There’s a flash of sharp light in the sky before another shaking boom shortly after, and then just like that it’s raining. Yoongi is hunched over his notebook, trying to protect it with his own body. His hair is already starting to soak through and Hoseok notices he only has a thin cardigan on for protection. Still, he has a determined look in his eyes.

Hoseok doesn’t really think about it, he just pulls Yoongi with an arm around his shoulders (his hands are preoccupied carefully guarding his notebook, it’s only necessity) and starts guiding them back towards the cabin. Yoongi doesn’t protest, but he’s not really looking where they’re going either. He can’t with the way he’s bent over trying to get as much of his body as possible to shield the pages.

When they finally make it to the cabin they’re both soaked through to the bone, and Hoseok is glad the dogs aren’t around to make this even more chaotic.

“Sit, I’ll start the fire. And um-” he hesitates, but a fire won’t do much to help when Yoongi’s clothes are wet rags. “I have some spare clothes you can change into, just wait here.”

Yoongi simply nods and sets his notebook on the table, propping the pages open to make sure they can dry properly. Hoseok changes himself and brings him some plaid pajama bottoms, an old sweater, and his warmest pair of socks. Yoongi seems hesitant, but takes them gratefully anyway.

Hoseok is stoking the fire when Yoongi comes back from changing. The sweater seems to fit him well, but he’s rolled up the pajama bottoms a bit. He sits on the old rocking chair in front of the fire and pulls his legs up under him. The socks keep riding down his ankles, and he shivers every now and then until Hoseok gets the fire going. The realization that Hoseok finds it kind of cute has him blushing and unnecessarily stoking the fire higher just so he has something to do.

“Um, I’ll make us some tea to warm up. Or would you prefer coffee?” Hoseok asks, brushing the ash off on his thighs.

“Coffee please.”

“Seriously? I know I offered but that was just politeness, it’s like almost morning. You’re not gonna sleep at all.” he says. Still, he finds himself already putting the pot on, as well as some echinacea tea for himself.

“Exactly, almost morning. Gotta stay up.” Yoongi says, and Hoseok can’t help but snort.

“Alright, fine. How do you take it?”

“With honey please.”

“Honey in coffee?” he questions. It seems strange but he scoops out a glob anyways and lets it drizzle in before mixing the remnants.

“I like it sweet, y’know? But something about refined sugar has always been too… too harsh for me.”

Hoseok hands him his coffee with a crinkle in his eyes, a smile fighting it’s way onto his face. He takes a sip of his tea and watches Yoongi blow on his coffee. Pajama clad legs drawn up and hunched over.

He wonders if Yoongi isn’t some secret changeling, warning him of mushroom circles on his walks and appearing in the night and hoarding honey. All wrapped up in his spare clothes in front of the fire as his hair fluffs up like a dandelion after being rain soaked, Hoseok thinks it quite possible. He’s certainly different than any other humans he’s met, better. He feels more relaxed around Yoongi than he’s felt around anyone on two legs in a while, and that realization startles him.

“If you’re tired, I can head out now. I’ll wash your clothes and bring them back soon I promise, and thank you for the tea, really it was too kind.” He sets the tea down and starts to get up and before Hoseok knows it he’s grabbing his wrist.

“Yoongi wait, no it’s 4am you don’t know what’s out there this time of night and you don’t know the way from here” he drops Yoongi’s wrist before continuing, a little shocked by his own actions, “I have a guest room all ready to go. Either stay or let me drive you back, please.”

“You don’t know me, why would you do that.” and that, is a good question. One that Hoseok doesn’t exactly have an answer to, but he tries anyway.

“You just seem like a good person I guess. I haven’t met anyone I actually liked talking to in a while.”

“We haven’t talked.”

“We say hi?” he tries. Yoongi stays standing, staring at the floor, and Hoseok worries he’s made him uncomfortable somehow. “Look I’ll take you home right now really, I just can’t let you go out on your own right now. You’re tired and everything turns upside down in the dark. Please?”

Yoongi glances at him, and Hoseok does his best rendition of a pout.

“Which will be a bigger hassle?” he sighs.

“It’s really no trouble either way,” Yoongi glares it him, “but I guess driving would be? But seriously, I don’t mind either way.”

Yoongi huffs and crosses his arms indignantly before plopping back down into the chair. “Fine, you seem nice enough even though you kill like 20 bunnies in a month, and I don’t want to make this even more annoying for you, so I’ll stay.” Yoongi seems to be sticking his bottom lip out in a pout as he talks and Hoseok is almost too distracted by that to understand what he said.

“Great, I’ll get you some extra pillows and blankets, the room’s right down here.” Hoseok beams, heading off to gather up the bedding. Coming back in a flurry of pillows to set up the spare room. “It kind of smells like mothballs, but it should do.”

Yoongi stands awkwardly in the doorway, biting the skin around his thumb. “There’s nothing on the walls in your rooms? Are you like secretly a serial killer or something, you have to tell me if you are. It’s like cops”

Hoseok blanches, takes in his blank walls. It’s not just the spare room, now that he thinks about it. There’s nothing anywhere in his house but thrifted furniture and wood walls. “Um, no, I swear really I just… never saw the purpose? I swear I’m not a serial killer.”

Yoongi seems to consider that carefully before finally coming into the room. Hoseok makes sure to give him as much space as possible, like Yoongi is some skittish doe, or maybe a mongoose.

“Thank you again, really this is too much.” Yoongi says, he sounds apologetic. He picks at the sweater he has on, “The sweater is very… warm, too. So thanks. For everything.”

“Oh, um thank you. I knitted it myself.” Hoseok says, giving Yoongi his best winning and completely non-threatening smile. They’re circling each other as Yoongi comes farther into the room and Hoseok shuffles farther out of it until Yoongi is at the bed and Hoseok at the door.

“You knit?”

“Yes? Mainly sweaters, sometimes scarves. An occasional hat.”

Yoongi squints at him, his nose scrunching up a bit as he does. “I thought you lived alone? Do you sell them?”

“No, I just like it I guess. It’s nice to have clothes for free, y’know? I try to be as self sustaining as possible.”

Yoongi mumbles something that sounds he can’t catch, and Hoseok figures he should just leave him be.

“Good night, Yoongi” he says as he closes the door, quiet enough he’s not sure Yoongi actually heard. He’s shuffling back to his room and about to close the door when he hears the answering soft

“Night, Hoseok.”

He’s not sure when it happened, but he’s started going to the lake specifically to see Yoongi. It’s become a routine, and one that he finds doesn’t frighten him as much as he thought it would. Letting someone else into the fabric of his life.

At first, he’d try to keep up the pretense. He’d walk by the lake and chat with Yoongi for a moment before making some excuse about why he was out. Oh I better go check the traps. Firewood needs collecting. Need to mark some trees I’m worried about.

Around the fifth time of that, after he’d noticed the way Yoongi’s eyes shimmer like the lake when Hoseok strikes up conversation with him, he gives up. Just walks out to the lake with two mugs of coffee (one with cream, one with honey) and sits down beside Yoongi like it’s the most natural thing.

They don’t say anything for the first time since they first met. Hoseok just holds his hand under Yoongi’s mug as he grabs it to keep the coffee from spilling onto his notebook. Yoongi just smiles at him, big and gracious. Hoseok realizes this is the first time he’s seen such an open expression on Yoongi’s face, tries to memorize the flash of gums and the little crinkle under his eyes.

Tries to memorize the little warm feeling it stirs in his bones.

They don’t say anything as they sit, sipping their coffee together, watching the life of the lake, but Yoongi pats Hoseok’s knee in thanks and suddenly he doesn’t feel the autumn chill at all.

He comes to the lake again. Again with two mugs and no motivation other than sitting with Yoongi, sipping their smooth coffee together as Yoongi writes and Hoseok stares out at the quiet vibrancy of the lake and occasionally at Yoongi (more often at Yoongi). Yoongi who, when he gets stuck or wants to collect his thoughts will stick his pen into his mouth, pull it down into a deeper pout, and stare out at the lake like he sees something deeper under the surface. Something more than the tranquil splash of carp or call of osprey in the sky. Hoseok only really sees Yoongi Yoongi Yoongi though.

It’s become a problem, he knows. He can feel himself falling into an affection for Yoongi, even though they’ve hardly spoken. Maybe it’s that Yoongi is the only human contact he’s had since he’s been out here (since he cut himself off), but the warmth blossoming in his breastbone feels like more than convenience. In these moments he doesn’t care about why. Only for stealing the bits of domesticity where he can find them.

He loses track of how many days it’s been since they both gave up acting like passing strangers. Somewhere between the earthy smell of coffee drifting between them and the calm silences of the lakeshore they found themselves growing into the spaces of each other like moss.

It’s become a routine.

One day, Hoseok comes with his usual coffees and an extra scarf, it’s early October now, and he’s seen the way Yoongi shivers and tries to cover every inch of himself for warmth.

“What’s this?” Yoongi asks, Hoseok having draped the soft green thing over his shoulders without a sound.

“I had some spare yarn.” Hoseok says, keeps his eyes on movement somewhere far out on the water instead of on Yoongi.

“You knitted this?”

“Yeah, I thought you could use it.” He attempts a casual shrug.

“You knitted this for me?” Hoseok does turn to Yoongi now, smiles something small and protected.

“You don’t have to keep it, just thought you might be cold.” he says, resists the urge to reach out. To tuck the edges of the scarf down and smoothe the puffs of blonde hair thrown up in the wind.

“No” Yoongi says, clutching the ends protectively away from Hoseok “I love it. I’m keeping it, you can’t have it back.”

So he doesn’t, and the next time he visits he finds Yoongi bound up in the thick scarf looking fluffier than ever and that alone makes those hours of knitting worth it.

“Ah, Seok-ah, I was waiting for you.” he says, his cheeks puffed up from the scarf wrapped around him. He beckons Hoseok closer and he easily complies.

Hoseok almost drops the coffee mugs he’s holding when Yoongi strokes one soft hand through his hair and cups it behind his ear. Yoongi simply stares at him like that for a moment, their heads bent towards one another and his fingers minutely twitching to scratch at his scalp. Hoseok feels like melting caramel and there’s a moment where his brain can’t comprehend anything beyond a steady chant of kiss him kiss him kiss him before Yoongi finally breaks the eye contact and he feels something scratchy rest behind his ear.

Yoongi pulls back, studies Hoseok seeming pleased with himself. “It’s Goldenrod,” he says, as if that offers an explanation, “I found it growing on my way here.” he licks his lips, something Hoseok recognizes as nervousness “It made me think of you, so. Yeah.”

“Thank you” is about all Hoseok can come up with, reverent fingers brushing over the yellow flowers. Reverent eyes watching Yoongi.

It’s become a routine.

Yoongi keeps wearing the scarf, keeps bringing new flowers to tuck behind Hoseok’s ear and smile shyly. He found a book about all the different edible flowers that grow in the woods, he says. Starts plucking them (careful harvests, sure not to disturb too many) and places them in their mugs. Hoseok doesn’t really get it, finds it hard to drink around the floating petals, but he goes along with it because they make Yoongi’s eyes crinkle and his mouth turn up at the edges.

“Seok-ah, don’t you think-” Yoongi starts, one day, buttercup tucked safely behind Hoseok’s ear. Yoongi’s tongue darting out and eyes casting down as he interrupts himself. “I mean. If we were in a cafe or something, out of the woods. Out there,” he gestures vaguely with his hand, “wouldn’t we- Wouldn’t this be a date?” He turns and looks at Hoseok, far more steadfast than his fumbling would denote. Hoseok sputters out the sip he had taken. “Is this a date?” Yoongi clarifies, eyes suddenly calculating and mouth set hard.

“I um-. Do you, I mean, I would-. I would be uh” he chokes a bit, trying to get coffee out of his lungs “I would like that,” he glances at Yoongi, sharp eyes watching Hoseok carefully, he doesn’t notice the tremors in Yoongi’s hands “Would you? Like that, I mean.”

There’s a moment where neither of them say anything, and Hoseok suddenly thinks he must’ve sorely miscalculated what Yoongi was implying. Must’ve misunderstood the soft touches and softer smiles.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, but a warmth covers the back of Hoseok’s hand before he feels Yoongi slowly slot their fingers together.

“I would like that very much”

They exchange numbers even though both of them are horrible about texting and they know they’ll see each other every day anyway. When Yoongi proposes they go on a “real” date Hoseok can’t help the giddiness fluttering in his belly. He likes Yoongi, he realizes. He really likes Yoongi. He doesn’t want to mess this up.

“When you asked me to go on our first official date, this was not what I had in mind” Hoseok says, standing in the archway of an old church in the middle of the forest at a quarter to midnight. What’s left of it at least.

Legends say it was burnt down by vengeful spirits. A girl was murdered on her wedding day and now she haun- ow, Hoseok that’s mean, I bruise easy.

“Are you scared?” Yoongi asks, a mischievous glint in his eyes betraying how much he would love that. He’s sitting cross legged on some suspicious looking floorboards, smoothing out a crumpled paper with “Yes” and “No” scrawled at opposite ends. He pats the space beside him, and Hoseok takes a seat despite the dry rot and exposed nails.

No, I just-. Was picturing a cute coffee shop date or something.”

“That would be boring, do you want to be a boring couple?” Yoongi teases as Hoseok subtly maneuvers himself so his back is to a wall instead of the open room. It puts him closer to Yoongi, thigh to thigh and shoulder to shoulder. Yoongi notices him eyeing the darkness and coos at him, until he finally admits that yes, ok, he is scared.

“Don’t worry, Seok-ah, I’ll protect you.” Yoongi says, and he sounds so sure, so proud, that Hoseok can’t argue with it. Just places a careful arm around Yoongi’s shoulders, let’s the weight of it settle after confirming the little smile it puts onto Yoongi’s face. “We won’t be here long anyway,” he says, nudging his head close to Hoseok’s face, “We’re really only here to see the flowers, but we’ve gotta kill some time until they bloom.”

“Alright and you had to bring that paper because?”

“How else are we gonna communicate with the spirits?”

“I’m not even gonna ask why we have to communicate with them, but you just made that with some scrap paper in the bottom of your bag and a pen, what kinda spirit is gonna talk to you? I thought you had to buy one of those board things.” Hoseok says, presses his face into Yoongi’s hair, only slightly trembling anymore thanks to his warmth and closeness..

“That’s a capitalist scam. No this’ll do fine, it’s only the medium for them to talk. Nothing needs to be special at all as long as we have the right intention.” he takes one of his rings off and places it on the paper. “Put your hand here.”

Hoseok tries not to tense up when Yoongi cups his hand, closes gentle around his fingers and places it on the ring. He doesn’t let go, just stays a moment and strokes the delicate skin on the back of Hoseok’s hand with his thumb.

“We don’t have to, you know? It’s just silly, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, Seok-ah.” Yoongi’s voice is gentle as his fingers, brushing circles over Hoseok’s knuckles in a way that makes Hoseok feel safe, and it startles him to realize this is a new feeling. He turns his hand so Yoongi’s fingers brush over the calluses of his palm instead. Answers Yoongi with a quick squeeze before turning both hands to hover one finger each over the ring.

“It’s fine, I don’t mind. I just like spending time with you.” he smiles when he catches the little surprised expression on Yoongi’s face. Mouth falling slack and guarded eyes suddenly wide, open and telling. “Come on let’s chat with some spirits.”

The spirits do not answer.

Or at least Hoseok doesn’t hear them, not over the conjoined screams of Yoongi and him at the sight of a disgustingly large cockroach. Just terrible, who allowed those things to get so big and gave them wings of all appendages?

They tumble out of the church, screaming and laughing. Limbs slung over each other like lifelines, pressed close. The warmth of each other, their giggles, the sign of another human’s joy the only things to ward off the ghosts they’ve created. Though, not before Yoongi hastily closes their communication line. I’m not a white fool, Hoseok.

Somehow the forest feels safer, less charged with the possibilities that only an enclosed space can bring. Hoseok still feels jittery though, and he thinks Yoongi must too if the way he screeched when Hoseok grabbed his hand is any indication.

But he didn’t pull away, in the end.

“Do you… like stuff like that?” Hoseok asks, Yoongi intertwines their fingers

“Like what?” their hands swinging between them.

“Like, scary stuff. Monsters and things.” and suddenly Hoseok isn’t sure what he’s getting at, why he’s asking this. He only meant to ask if Yoongi was usually so into ghosts and scary movie tropes, but now he feels. Exposed. Monsters and things. Please say you like monsters, I think I”m one. I think I might be the worst of all.

Yoongi hasn’t answered, he’s walking beside Hoseok, humming something he doesn’t recognize. Something like a lullaby. Hoseok wants to pull away suddenly, to tell Yoongi to forget the question. Forget him. Forget the lakeshore dates and the scarves and find someone better. Someone who doesn’t belong with the very things they’ve been scaring themselves with and running from.

Yoongi laughs.

Well really it’s closer to a scoff, but either way it startles Hoseok.

“Of course I do.” he says, and he’s wearing a strange little lopsided grin. Not quite pulled up enough to show his gums, but at least not rueful. “I mean, not just because scaring yourself is fun, but” he licks his lips, the old nervous habit, “But, monsters are… relatable.”

Oh, Hoseok wasn’t expecting that. He must look shocked because Yoongi stops suddenly, falters. He squeezes their intertwined hands gently, encourages him to continue.

“Monsters are like, a mirror? Into the human, y’know?” Yoongi pulls their hands towards himself, starts playing with Hoseok’s fingers. Pushing them down one at a time like piano keys, “Not in a bad way, I’m not trying to say all humans are evil or something. I mean, and fuck I’m rambling but, I mean… I’ve always loved monsters. I’ve always loved them because I guess I see myself in them, and that sort of makes it feel ok. Like the imperfect or the grotesque is normal, like perfection is the mistake.” He drops their hands, squeezes one more time. “Does that make sense?”

Hoseok’s throat feels dry. He wants to tell Yoongi that yeah, it makes sense. It makes sense if that’s what you call feeling like Yoongi’s just peered inside of the ugly parts of Hoseok and told him they’re pretty, that they’re good. That everything he hates about himself is beautiful.

“Yeah, I understand.” He feels a tickling in his nose that means he’s about to cry.

Hides it in a smile instead.

He doesn’t expect Yoongi to notice, When he actually lived around people, it was always easy to hide his feelings. Now, out here, it doesn’t matter anymore. No prying eyes or invasive questions that come with other people. He likes it. He likes being alone. He likes not having to pretend. He-

But he also likes Yoongi’s hand in his, a little cold at the fingertips, strawberry-knuckles. Yet warm and firm in Hoseok’s hand. He doesn’t expect Yoongi to notice.

Yoongi keeps his gaze down, he couldn’t have noticed.

He squeezes Hoseok’s hand tighter, walks a little closer. Rubs the knuckles of his hand with a careful thumb. Keeps quiet, doesn’t push like Hoseok is used to, just makes his presence known. Hoseok, he doesn’t know Yoongi well enough, doesn’t know how he shows his love. Can’t quite tell if this is noticing or simply how he is, but he finds himself settling into it. Letting himself be calmed by the hand tethered in his, no matter the purpose.

“We’re here” Yoongi says, doesn’t let go. Sweeps his free hand out at the darkness in front of them. Vines cover the trees and ground, carrying twisted white spears.

“Just in time. They haven’t started blooming yet.” Yoongi says, pulls his hand away from Hoseok’s before he places it carefully around his waist. Looks up at Hoseok with a question. Is this ok. Are you ok? Hoseok places his own arm around Yoongi’s shoulder’s in answer, pulls him close.

They both stand watching the still blossoms, arms locked around each other, heads tilted and held up by the other. Hoseok isn’t sure how Yoongi knew. Knew about the tickle in his nose. Knew not to make him talk about it. Knew being held and holding onto someone else was what he really needed.

And there’s no way he could’ve known what Hoseok was really asking, but-

It feels like Yoongi knew exactly what he was afraid of.

“Get ready. It happens fast.” Yoongi whispers. So soft that if he weren’t tucked up under Hoseok’s own head he would’ve missed it.

And it does. As they watch, the creeping vine of white flowers all opening in a moment. Hoseok had always thought of flowers as blooming so slow you could hardly see them, but these unfurl so furiously he almost doesn’t catch it.

Yoongi reaches out, strokes one of the trumpet blossoms. “They’re moonflowers,” he says, “They’re one of the witches’ flowers. Supposed to be invasive, and poisonous.” He drops his hand to hug Hoseok again, presses closer still. “Supposed to be bad, y’know? Scary,” he tilts his head up to look at Hoseok, “but they’re not, they’re beautiful.”

Hoseok’ll be damned if he doesn’t feel his heart uncurling just like those moon white petals.

It happens as naturally as walking. One foot in front of the other. One hand on Yoongi’s chin, one on his waist, leaning in like he’s done it a thousand times. It happens as quick as the blossoms, “Yoongi, can I?”

But Yoongi seems a step ahead, cups Hoseok’s face and pulls him in, angles his face just slightly down. Gentle fingers crooked in the notch of his jaw, petal light against his cheeks. “Come here, Seok” he says, pretty dahlia lips breaking slowly into a smile that Hoseok can’t help but rush forward to capture.

Yoongi’s smiling big now, pink gums peeking through pink lips so that Hoseok pecks his top lip, then the bottom, the corners of his mouth. Presses in to kiss him for real, teeth clacking as Yoongi giggles against him before finally kissing back.

Hoseok feels Yoongi press a kiss to his freckle, his tongue tracing the seam of Hoseok’s mouth. He doesn’t think twice about letting Yoongi in.

Yoongi licks into Hoseok’s mouth with a smile still on his lips, he tastes of the thick coffee he drinks and the strange wildflowers he insists on drinking it with. He tastes far more familiar than Hoseok expected, as if they’ve done this before. As if they’ve licked slow and wet, scraped teeth over tongue, tumbled giggles into each other's mouths before.

It feels like the sort of kiss shared on an autumn morning, over a meal made from love and coffee made of rituals. Full of soft sunlight and knit sweaters and come back to bed. The kind of kiss that holds possibilities for the day to come.

“Seok-ah” Hoseok feels himself shiver at the nickname “Can I sleep over?” Yoongi asks, smoothes his thumb over Hoseok’s bottom lip. Drags it down and places a quick nip there before hooking his arms around Hoseok’s neck to let him speak.

“Course you can.” He smiles, presses a peck against Yoongi’s berry-round nose, reddened in the autumn air. “I’d be too scared by myself after that church anyway.”

When they get back to the cabin, Hoseok half expects Yoongi to settle into the guest bedroom again. Timid and isolating.

But he doesn’t.

He simply follows Hoseok to his room after he’s changed into a spare pair of pajamas and they’ve washed their faces together, slips into the big bed with Hoseok. The fluffy duvet swallowing him up where he’s curled in the bed.

He grumbles, pulls the covers high so only his face peaks out. “Seok, hurry up, it’s too cold.” he says, and Hoseok has to stop himself from clutching his heart at the sleepy whine in Yoongi’s voice.

As soon as he gets into the bed Yoongi shifts to curl into him instead, tangling his legs around Hoseok’s and pressing cold feet against his ankles. Curls one arm around Hoseok’s rib cage to rest on his back. Hoseok mirrors him, slings a leg over his body and hugs him close. A hand in Yoongi’s hair scratching lightly. Yoongi’s hand on his back stroking in time to their breathing. Both of them quiet, and warm.

It’s easy, being with Yoongi.

He remembers being the center of attention, always the one others turned to for a laugh. He loved it, loved to make people happy.

But he also remembers how tiring it was. He remembers the nagging feeling that people cared more about how he made them feel than who he really was.. That he couldn’t have an off day, couldn’t show his worries, that if he let his laughter die they would find someone else.

He doesn’t feel like that with Yoongi.

With Yoongi he feels like more often than not he’s the one being made happy for once. Yoongi and his loving teasing. His bright laughter that Hoseok often finds himself charged by instead of the other way around. Yoongi who once tried to pick Hoseok up and carry him, tried and then fell to his knees immediately whining that Hoseok had to carry him now for retribution. Who ran around screeching when Hoseok told him he was cute for the first time. Who wiggles his whole body when he’s happy with a line of poetry and gets Hoseok to join in with him.

Yoongi in his quiet moments, who glows with warmth just that little bit more when Hoseok is around, not asking for anything but his presence.

Hoseok in his quiet moments, and Yoongi content to sit with him through whatever he’s feeling. Never asking for more from him, never asking for him to be anything other than what he is. Never feeling like Yoongi will get bored of him for it.

Yoongi’s head on Hoseok’s shoulder, hands in his, quiet and understanding. Making easy jokes when he knows Hoseok needs to get out of his head, his laughter suddenly feeling like it’s for himself for once instead of a service to others.

Yoongi called Hoseok his battery once, one of those lazy mornings on the lake. Swaddled up in a newly-knit scarf, cheeks round and nose red in the cold. Pink gums flashing after making Hoseok laugh. Hoseok thinks it’s really the other way around.

And it shouldn’t be this easy, to settle into the spaces of eachother. Somewhere between the lake dates, the way they held hands long before they ever kissed. Somewhere under the warm blankets after Yoongi scared himself so bad with his ghost stories he ended up sleeping curled in Hoseok’s chest. Woke up and started to apologize before Hoseok shushed him and pulled the covers back up again. Somewhere in Hoseok waking up to find Yoongi sleeping at the kitchen table one day, two cups of coffee cooling next to him, like he’d tried to make one for Hoseok instead for once but had fallen back asleep halfway through. Somewhere in the moment Hoseok pulled him carefully to his feet, and he tucked his cold berry nose into Hoseok’s neck and grumbled “Can we go back to bed Seokseok”

Somewhere in those moments they found room to grow into the space of one another, like moss always pointing north.

Hoseok pauses with his key in the ignition of his old pick-up. He feels out of place here, in the city. He feels too rough, too savage, usually those are the feelings he clings on to but something about this place makes him feel ashamed. Everything seems at once too sleek and too dirty, all polished metal and dirty air.

Still, he finds he doesn’t mind it when he sees Yoongi’s familiar face walking towards him. His blonde hair is fluffy as always, and he’s wearing a knit green sweater that makes him look smaller than he really is. There’s a bite in the air from the autumn winds, and Hoseok knows he likely has on even more layers under that.

Hoseok wonders if Yoongi feels strange here too, as he runs towards the truck, clutching his notebook and some other unfamiliar thick book in one hand, head ducked against the wind. If he feels like he’s been dumped into the wrong story. He thinks it’s likely, he’s never found anyone who’s comfortable with where they are to hang out by a lake at 3am.

“Hey, Sunflower.” Yoongi says, putting his books down carefully before clambering awkwardly into the too-tall truck. Hoseok just watches him fondly, moving across the console as soon as he’s seated to press a kiss to each of his cheeks and let one linger on his lips. Yoongi laughs, pushes him away gently even as he chases Hoseok’s lips himself. “Let me put my seat belt on, jeez”

Hoseok hums, starts the car. He feels good now. Yoongi’s presence makes him feel safer. Like he’s been in a dark room for so long his head starts to hurt and suddenly there’s sunlight and he can breathe again. Like he belongs again.

Yoongi beside him and the anticipation of leaving this ill-fitting city fill him with warmth and excitement. He doesn’t even realize he’s humming until Yoongi looks at him curiously and asks what the song is.

“Not sure. Maybe I heard it on the radio, or maybe I made it up.” He says, placing his hand palm up on the console and smiling when yoongi immediately intertwines their fingers.

“You have such a pretty voice, I wanna write songs for you.” Yoongi says the last part so low, looks out the window instead of at Hoseok, he wouldn’t have heard if he wasn’t used to Yoongi’s mumbling. He smiles, brings their hands to his lips and kisses Yoongi’s knuckles as his eyes stay on the road.

“Sweetheart, I would love that.” He can’t look, but he knows Yoongi has that look on his face, pretending he’s disgusted by all these emotions. Knows he’s biting his lip to keep himself from smiling and ruining the charade.

“What’s in that big book you brought?” Hoseok asks, mercifully diverting the attention. Yoongi stops biting his lip and lets his smile out for real now, reaching for the book and opening it. The pages all look handmade, thick and ragged, off-white and crossed with bits of pulp, but prettier because of it. They’re at a stop sign now so Hoseok takes the opportunity to look.

“I’ve been learning how to press flowers” Yoongi says, holding open a page with what looks like a small lilly imprinted on it. Hoseok checks behind him to make sure no one else is waiting for them to move and then delicately traces the flower with his index finger. He’s surprised how vibrant it looks, like it might just be growing out of the page. “This one isn’t good, but it was my first so it’s special. This one’s my favorite so far.” he picks up pages in his hand and flips to it like he has the spot memorized. They fall to a page almost filled up with bundles of Honeysuckles, some pure white and some with drops of blush. They look as if they’re still attached to the vine, snaking around the page as if it fell there. Leaves still attached, a lush rib cage to protect them. Hoseok traces it all with his finger, delicate and reverent. Not for the flowers, but for the beauty that Yoongi can create.

“Here” Yoong says, ripping out a page carefully, palm flat to guide the tear, “This one’s for you.” he says, pulling out the honeysuckle page.

Hoseok beams, leans over the console for a quick kiss that they both giggle into. “I love it, I’m gonna hang it up when I get home” he promises, and Yoongi seems satisfied with that. Snips that it’ll finally look like someone lives there, and Hoseok returns that he’ll have to keep making more so he can properly decorate.

Yoongi dozes off somewhere along the way. Hoseok’s brow creases, he knows Yoongi stays up late to write, has found him at the witching hour more than once on the lake. Wide awake, feverishly writing, so focused he never even noticed Hoseok until he’d sit down with him or call to him. He worries his bottom lip, already thinking about how to force Yoongi into taking a nap at his house. Absent-minded, he places one hand on the nape of Yoongi’s neck where he’s slumped over in his seat. Hoseok finds himself rubbing his thumb gently over warm skin and into soft hair, squeezes gently with his fingers every so often. He gets a glimpse of Yoongi every now and then when he can pull his gaze from the road, finds his mouth slightly parted making him look even softer than he feels.

Hoseok feels guilt, sudden and cramping his guts. Yoongi is so soft. He trusts Hoseok, sleeps in his presence and shows him his flower-pressings and writes him poems and calls him “Seokseok”. He doesn’t want to be the reason that softness hardens, and he doesn’t know what to do to stop it. Keeping this secret from Yoongi, what he really is. It’s not only dangerous, it seems like a betrayal. To lie to Yoongi about who he is makes Hoseok feel unworthy of his trust.

Yet, how could he tell him? Yoongi is innocent, and he has beauty and magic flowing through him, and he has dealt with enough. Hoseok doesn’t want to tell him that his boyfriend is a monster, for his sake as much as Yoongi’s.

He doesn’t know what to do to keep from losing Yoongi, all roads seem to end in both of them getting hurt. His hand drops from Yoongi’s neck, his eyes turn back to the road. He suddenly feels like a voyeur. Is immeasurably glad when they finally pull up to the cabin and he hears a low rumbling whine from beside him as Yoongi wakes.

The smile Hoseok forces feels shaky at best, but Yoongi seems too groggy to notice for once. Hoseok turns to him as Yoongi’s unbuckling his seatbelt. “Listen, um I kinda have to warn you. My dogs are really big and they don’t trust people at first, just stay behind me until I get them to calm down, ok?”

Yoongi grumbles something dismissive and slides out of his seat. Hoseok left out the bit where the dogs are less dogs and more wolves. All stragglers without a proper pack, they started begging at his door after he started turning, he’s not sure how it happened but he supposes they must’ve seen him as a possible leader or maybe just a sucker who’d give up his food. Hoseok always had a soft spot for cute things, so what was he to do other than give them a place to stay and a occasionally put bows in their fur. They congregate around him, but he doesn’t keep them. Yoongi didn’t believe he had any dogs at first because they come and go so often he’s never seen them.

Yoongi stretches with an exaggerated groan as he gets out of the car, his sweater riding up and showing his soft tummy. Hoseok feels his heart warm, and then panic set in as he hears the wolves start to howl. God what was he thinking, Yoongi is going to be so frightened he’ll never talk to Hoseok again.

The wolves tear around the bend of the house and Hoseok feels his blood run cold. He knows they won’t do anything to Yoongi with him around, but he also knows just how this must look. He reaches Yoongi just as the wolves do. Grabs his wrist to pull Yoongi behind him just as the wolves have reached them. Yoongi doesn’t let him tug him back though, he twists his wrist so that they’re holding hands instead and squats down, holding an arm out and smiling widely. The voice that comes out of him is something that Hoseok has never heard in his life, Min Yoongi is using baby talk on a pack of wolves.

“Hello, little ones, hi, hi” He says, voice high and over-sweet and full of happiness as one of the wolves nudges up against his hand, two others laying with their stomach’s up waiting for him to pet them. Hoseok is not sure what’s going on. A fourth one crouches down and barks playfully at Yoongi, who responds in kind with his best rendition of a bark that comes out more like an “Ai!”. Hoseok stands there, completely entranced by the sight before him. Only Yoongi making a kissy face and landing a smooch right on one of the wolves snouts breaks him out of his stupor.

“Babe, what- How the hell did you do that? They’re usually really aggressive, I’ve never seen them warm up to anyone this quickly.”

Yoongi doesn’t even look up at him, staring straight at one of the wolves as he says, “I like puppies.” And that’s the only explanation he gives before devolving into cooing noises and patting his lap for one of the huge wolves to clamber awkwardly on top of him. It almost knocks him over in the process, but Yoongi doesn’t seem to mind. Giggling and hugging the big wolf.

“What’re their names?” Yoongi asks, settled with the huge ball of fur awkwardly in his lap.

“Um, they don’t. I’ve never named them.” Hoseok says, it seemed ridiculous, wolves aren’t pets afterall. Yoongi looks incredibly offended by this, however.

“Hoseokie is so mean, isn’t he?” he pouts to one of the wolves using his hand as a scratching post. “We’ll have to think of names for you babies. Don’t worry, Daddy’s here. I’ll save you from mean Hoseokie.”

Hoseok feels his brain short circuit.

“Oh! I should bring Holly over some time! He would love to have some playmates, he gets lonely.” Yoongi says, excited and looking at Hoseok with so much happiness it makes his heart swell in a way that hurts more than anything.

“Isn’t Holly like, tiny? These guys can be really aggressive, I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” Hoseok kneels down to pat the head of one of the wolves as he says it. It feels awkward. Yoongi only pouts at him.

“Min Holly knows Muay Thai, he can hold his own.” Yoongi says it so matter-of-fact, that it takes Hoseok’s brain a second to catch up with what he just said. He can’t help but break out into laughter, perhaps a bit hysteric but still, light.

“Yoon, I’m serious. I don’t want him to get hurt or frightened or something. It’s a lot to handle for a little dog.”

Yoongi only scoffs at him. “Holly once killed a man, he’ll be fine.”

That’s why, the next time Hoseok picks Yoongi up, it’s with a special guest. Yoongi carries Holly the whole way, he doesn’t like to get dirty Seok-ah, and lets him sleep in his lap in the car ride. Hoseok isn’t sure what to make of Holly, the way Yoongi talked about him he sounded bigger than the wolves, but he looks more like a toy than anything.

The wolves are even more excited this time, remembering how much attention they got from Yoongi on his last visit and practically throwing themselves at his feet for some more belly rubs. Yoongi barks back and forth with them and coos at them in his high pitched voice for a bit before Holly starts wiggling around in his arms. He holds the fluffy thing out at arms length, looks him straight in the eyes and says, “Be nice, Holly. Don’t bully them.” before setting him down.

The wolves tower over Holly. Instantly surrounding him. They start nudging at him with their noses and sniffing in curiosity. Everything is calm for the first few seconds, just circling and sniffing, before one of the wolves pulls its teeth back in a snarl and Hoseok feels his heart swell with panic.

He moves as fast as he can, trying to get behind the wolves to pull them safely away. He’s halfway there, yelling “No, don’t fight! Don’t fight.” when suddenly Holly turns to the snarling wolf and snaps at it. He growls, snaps once, then again in quick succession until the wolf flinches away. Hoseok stops in his tracks, stunned as he watches the offending wolf literally roll over for Holly. Yoongi tsks, shaking his head fondly.

“Holly, you’ve got to play nice.” he yells as Holly leads the wolves in a flurry of excited barking and play fighting as the dogs all run around the house and through the trees.

“Wow, he takes after his dad huh?” Hoseok asks, sliding an arm around Yoongi’s shoulders and tucking him into his side. The sun is starting to go down, and he knows how cold Yoongi gets.

“Hey, I’m not that bad. I have no idea where he got that from, ok? He bosses me around all the time too.” Yoongi whines more than says. “Eats all my damn pork.”

Hoseok laughs, jostles Yoongi closer to him and buries his face in Yoongi’s dandelion-soft hair, still giggling at the thought of the little toy dog bossing Yoongi around. His heart feels light with relief that their dog’s introduction didn’t end in tears, he feels good. “Come on, sweetheart let’s get inside. I’m making my famous stew for you. It’s not to be missed.”

“Wow, stew? You’re really pulling out all the stops aren’t you?”

“I’m trying to woo you, is it working?”

“Ridiculous, I’m breaking up with you.”

“Fine then, you won’t get any of my famous stew.” They hang off each other as they walk into the house. Yoongi laughing loud and clear, and Hoseok laughing in little hiccups that break off into giggles

Once they get inside, Hoseok busies himself a while with chopping up ingredients for the stew. A leek here, some venison there, a potato or two for good measure. Yoongi waddles up behind him every few minutes, sliding his hands around Hoseok’s waist and peppering slow kisses along his shoulders. Hoseok smiles when Yoongi hooks a chin over his shoulder, knowing he must be a little on his tiptoes. He slides his hands over Yoongi’s arms cinched around his waist, takes a sip from the stew and hums.

“It’s a little salty” he considers, “I need to add something sweet.” Suddenly, Hoseok turns grabs Yoongi around his thighs, hauls him up over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes as Yoongi tries to turn to pull on Hoseok’s hair, kick his feet, smack Hoseok’s back, and even manages to reach to slap his butt, but Hoseok only returns the favor. Yoongi gives a theatrical scream, yells “Holly! Attack him! Save your Daddy! Attack!”

Holly comes running in, starts barking more at Yoongi for making such a ruckus, and nips playfully at Hoseok’s feet. “He’s gonna eat you now,” Yoongi says, pinching Hoseok’s side, “Horrible death.”

“I guess we’re both going down then, huh?” Hoseok asks as he sets Yoongi down on the counter. He’s still giggling as Hoseok leans in and places a soft kiss to his smiling top lip. It only makes Yoongi start to laugh harder, squirming and trying to turn his face away to laugh in peace. He can’t though, Hoseok’s stepped up between his legs, and his hands are set on either side of his hips on the counter. He smiles, presses kisses on Yoongi’s forehead, his cheeks, his nose, as he fights through his laughing fit. He dips down, pulls at the hem of Yoongi’s sweater and places kisses there instead. Yoongi’s laughter starts to die down and Hoseok smiles in victory, nips at the side of his throat playfully.

“Hey, not in front of the baby.” Yoongi says, crooking a finger under Hoseok’s chin and pulling him up to meet his lips for a slow kiss. Hoseok drinks in the happy sound Yoongi sighs when he pulls away.

“What about the baby?” he teases. Sliding his hands up and the material of Yoongi’s jeans to rest at the bend of his hips.

Yoongi leans in again, snakes a hand around Hoseok’s neck and pushes him close with feet at his back as they kiss again, deeper this time. Yoongi sucks on his tongue as he pulls back, and Hoseok’s eyes are just about to turn from playful to hungry.

“Your famous stew is gonna burn.” He says. Pulling his legs up to cross them on the counter and smirking with mischief. Hoseok glares and swoops in to steal one more kiss before stirring the stew pot once again.

Yoongi leaves to grab his notebook at some point, but he comes back quickly. Taking up his place on the counter again as Hoseok cooks, taking breaks every now and then to kiss his knobby knuckles or wrap his arms around him or to watch as he writes, brow furrowed and tongue out. Yoongi breaking away at some point to hang up more flower-pressings around the house. Holly and the wolves watch them curiously, and when they finally sit down to eat the stew, Hoseok thinks it tastes better than it has any right to.

When Hoseok wakes it’s dark, and quiet. The dogs are all down, sleeping peacefully. Even the sounds of the woods have died down, no owls on watch nor the cicada call of summer. The only noise to ground him in the darkness is Yoongi’s soft breath beside him. He’s got Hoseok’s arm as a pillow, the entire thing feels painfully numb and Hoseok knows they didn’t fall asleep like that so Yoongi must’ve wrestled it for himself in his sleep. He doesn’t move to reclaim it. He can’t feel the soft tickling of yoongi’s hair splayed over the crook in his elbow, but he turns onto his side so he can push through the soft blonde hair with his free hand.

He’s careful, doesn’t want to wake Yoongi (knows how hard it is for him to find moments of rest, to quiet his mind, to feel safe enough). He keeps his hand feather light as he traces it down from Yoongi’s dandelion puff hair, over his lips parted like Dahlia petals. Lets his fingers tickle over the notch of his adam’s apple, head bent back over Hoseok’s arm and neck exposed to the sharp carvings of moonlight.

He traces the soft, taut skin and thinks of leaning in, of slotting himself against Yoongi, smelling the subtle bergamot and citrus of his cologne, pressing soft kisses and long lines with his tongue against that sensitive skin.

Thinks of how easily that sensitive flesh would rip under his teeth, as easy as tearing at some overripe fruit. How Yoongi’s sweet petal face would look then just as it does now, despite the gore.

He jolts, pulls his hand back like he’d shocked the skin he was tracing.

He scrambles away from Yoongi in the bed. His hands shaking and panicked sweat forming on his brow. He doesn’t want that, doesn’t even want such a horrid image. Tells himself not to think about it, knows that isn’t what he wants not even something he would ever do. It’s just his thoughts intruding on his peace.

Yet, the image is insidious. He can’t stop it transposing over Yoongi’s sleeping body, cant stop it flashing behind his eyes when he tries to lay back asleep. Can’t stop the waves of nausea or the overwhelming guilt that his brain would even come up with that.

Carefully, he pulls his arm from Yoongi’s head. Tries to ignore the distressed whine he gets for shifting him. Pulls the covers up high over Yoongi’s shoulders, and slips from the room.

When Yoongi asks why he’s awake so early, he doesn’t say it’s because he never slept at all. Just makes up an excuse about checking the gutters. He tries not to think about last night, tries to focus on better things. Things like Yoongi, who’s got his biggest sweater on, olive green and fuzzy with wool. Hoseok tries not to become a puddle of mush when he sees Yoongi pulling on the patterned socks he knitted for Yoongi. Seok-ah I wear your stuff all the time stop being weird. Do you have a secret foot fetish? Is that why you’re smiling all weird? You have to tell me if you do, you know.

He can’t help it, it makes him feel warm. It makes him feel happy.

Yoongi sticks his tongue out, pulls his boots on. Holly must have the sound memorized because he comes running as soon as Yoongi touches the shoes. The wolves are sleeping in the foyer, none of them interested enough to stir, but Hoseok thinks of them and the strange family they’ve all created together.

“Seok-ah, what’re you thinking about? You’ve got a funny look” Yoongi says, picking Holly up to silence his impatient barks.

“You think I look funny when I’m thinking?” Hoseok bends to his knees to finish tying Yoongi’s laces for him, looks up innocently through his lashes.

“I think you look funny with that dumb grin on your face.” Yoong says. Hoseok’s fingers have stilled where they were working his laces. Looping instead around his ankle with one, drawing soft patterns into the sharp bone. The other slides up his calf, kneading firm and practiced into the muscle over his pants. Slips underneath the cuff to touch the skin. Yoongi sighs above him, catches himself and turns it into a huff. Oak-knot fingers slip under Hoseok’s chin, pull him up, up, until foreheads touch.

“Seok-ah, what do you think you’re starting here?” Yoongi says, if they weren’t so close Hoseok wouldn’t be able to tear his gaze away from the playful pout on his pretty lips.

“Nothing at all, just tying your shoes.” They are not so close that Hoseok doesn’t see the exasperated roll that takes over his pretty eyes.

“Save it. We have work to do and besides” He pulls away from Hoseok, buries his face into Holly’s uncooperative back instead, “The baby’s here.”

“Oh I see, how could I have forgotten. Please forgive me Holly,” he says, places a loud kiss to Holly’s head. He turns, his face up, mischievous glint in his eyes, places wet, loud kisses on Yoongi’s nose in between each word as he says, “Please, please, please forgive me, Holly’s owner”

They’re both a mess of giggles by the end, Yoongi theatrically wiping off his nose, feigning disgust. Hoseok almost in stitches on the floor, and Holly barking angrily and very importantly at the both of them.

Eventually, Yoongi manages to haul Hoseok up. He’s got Holly zipped up inside his own jacket. Refused to hear anything about Holly being able to walk on his own, or already wearing a jacket that Yoongi bought him just the other week. Yoongi wouldn’t have it, do you want him to freeze, Seok-ah?

It’s not even 40 degrees out, and Hoseok is pretty sure that’s impossible, but Holly did give him a really pathetic look earlier, so he relents. Settles for looping his arm around Yoongi’s shoulders in place of holding his now occupied hands as they trek through the forest crunching leaves as they go.

Yoongi points out little things Hoseok’s never noticed, the type of moss growing under foot or scuttering daddy-long-legs in the bushes. In turn, Hoseok points out anything he can think of that Yoongi might like. Anything to get that cute wide-eyed expression on his face. A bird watching them from above or a squirrel in the branches, both of which earn a growl from Yoongi’s jacket.

As they walk, Yoongi is directing Hoseok on particular flowers and leaves to pick for the teas he wants to make. Says he saw a new method for a homemade tea recipe and he wants to try as many types as he can. He tells Hoseok when to avoid the berries and when to be sure to pick as many ripe ones as he can. Of course, Yoongi can’t help because he has to carry Holly, so Hoseok ends up doing most of the work, placing what he can into Yoongi’s shoulder bag and grumbling fondly. On one or two occasions, Yoongi will let Holly down to run around, but he returns almost immediately with exaggerated shivers, pawing at Yoongi’s ankles to get up again. Yoongi oblivious to his tactics and Hoseok laughing fondly at the both of them.

It feels like home.. It is home, Their little family of dogs and their woods and each other, and Hoseok wants to hold onto it forever, but-

He’s limping. He knows he is. He tried to push through the pain so Yoongi wouldn’t notice, but it’s gotten too much with the cold weather. It’s been too long since he’s shifted and now he can’t help it. He hopes Yoongi won’t notice, won’t worry.

“Seok-ah, are you hurt?” but of course he does, Yoongi always knows when something’s wrong. “Baby, wait, wait. Stop walking, come on sit.” and then Yoongi’s rushing over to him. Directing him to sit on a felled log with a scared look in his eyes that Hoseok doesn’t want to see.

“No, I’m fine. Really, sweetheart, I’m fine.” Hoseok tries to get out, over Yoongi’s fussing. He’s placed Holly on the ground to better help Hoseok and Holly does not look happy. “This just, it’s an old thing. It happens sometimes, don’t worry.”

“What kind of old thing?” Yoongi asks, and his brows are drawn together, lips pushed out in worry. “You’re limping Seok-ah, it’s not nothing. You’re in pain.”

“An old, old injury. Remember how I said I used to dance?” and fuck Hoseok thought he was long over this but he feels that tickle in his nose and he doesn’t want to talk about this anymore, “this is why I stopped.”

He doesn’t look at Yoongi. Yoongi doesn’t say anything more. Holly cocks his head at the both of them.

It’s silent, for a long moment in which Hoseok tries to reign himself back into the lines. He’s about to just get up and keep going when he hears a loud sigh from Yoongi.

Yoongi who is unzipping his jacket, letting it pool at his elbows before tugging at the collar of his sweater until it slips past his shoulder. Pointing at a small white dash of a scar there.

“You asked what this was, and I told you I fell, remember?” his voice is calm and deep, eyes set hard. Hoseok nods. “I lied. It’s a surgery scar, for my rotator cuff.” he thumbs over the scar before letting his sweater fall back into place over it. “You remember how I mentioned playing basketball? Well I- After the surgery, my shoulder mobility was so bad and they told me the risk of retear was too great. I had to quit, and it just-” Hoseok reaches out to cup his face. Thinks he knows something of what Yoongi’s feeling and wants to wipe it away like he can wipe away the wetness on his cheeks. Yoongi huffs, laughing at himself “It sucked, y’know?”

Hoseok nods, cracks a smile at Yoongi’s bluntness. “I know, I’m sorry.”

Yoongi sniffs, kisses Hoseok’s nose too quick for him to react. “I’m sorry, too. I just want you to know that, I get it kind of. It’s a bad feeling, but it’s ok. It’s ok to feel that way, and it’s ok to be in pain. You can tell me, ok?” Hoseok nods, and Yoongi blinks rapidly at the wetness in his eyes, “Let’s go home, I’ll give you a massage, yeah?”

Hoseok can only nod, clutching their small harvest as Yoongi leads them home.

Later, with their leaves and petals drying out on the table out of reach of the dogs, and a bundle of wildflowers Yoongi plucked hanging up above their mantle, they sit together. Hoseok lays with his legs slung over Yoongi’s lap as the TV shows three men provoking ghosts. Normally Hoseok would protest, but right now Yoongi is making good on his promise from earlier. Fingers dragging up and down the tight muscles in his thighs and hips until that ugly thing rooted in his bones feels a little less angry.

“Good?” Yoongi asks, Hoseok doesn’t so much answer as moan at the ceiling. Yoongi smiles, lets his body fall half on top of Hoseok’s on the cramped couch. Hoseok doesn’t bother protesting, only wedges his arm around Yoongi and pulls him completely on top of himself so that Yoongi can let his head drop to rest in the crook of his neck and they can breathe each other in. Hugging tight as someone on the tv yells in fear.

Yoongi huffs, Hoseok feels the puff of air against his collarbones more than hears it. When he speaks, he doesn’t bother lifting his head up so the words trickle against Hoseok’s heated skin.

“My mom called.” he starts, and usually Hoseok loves to hear about the Min Matriarch calling Yoongi a dumpling, but this sounds different. “She didn’t say much, but she wants me to come home for a little. It sounded important.”

Hoseok hums, moves his hands to scratch lightly at the base of Yoongi’s scalp and rub over his tense back.

“I have to visit, I’m not sure how long but.” he pauses, props himself up on his elbows so he can look at Hoseok “I don’t wanna leave. I’ll miss you, Seok.”

Hoseok smiles, pulls Yoongi back down. “It’ll be fine, sweetheart. I have a phone you know? Just call me every day, and don’t worry about it,” a kiss to Yoongi’s hair “Family comes first, and you’ll be back before you know it.”

Yoongi makes a sound that starts out like a whine and turns into something closer to the ghosts on the show. Buries his nose so far into Hoseok’s neck he can’t help but laugh from the ticklish nudging. He retaliates, trailing quick fingers up and down Yoongi’s sides until he almost falls off the couch with laughter. Yelling and wriggling around to avoid Hoseok’s fingers. Holly hears them and comes running. Barks at them as Yoongi tries fruitlessly to get him to attack Hoseok. Just runs around the couch telling them to stop having fun without him before finally jumping on the coach with them.

Eventually they all settle down, piled on the couch together, Yoongi petting Holly on his stomach and Hoseok under both of them rubbing gentle circles over Yoongi’s hip bones with the exaggerated screams of the tv show in the background.

Yoongi’s gone, and the cabin feels empty. He doesn’t know how that happened, it’s been only him for as long as he can remember, it shouldn’t feel lonely just because-. Well he knows why if he’s honest. It’s because he let himself fall in love like an idiot, or a human.

He’s coming back, Hoseok tells himself, he’ll be back, so stop acting like a baby. It’s no use, Yoongi hasn’t been able to call because Hoseok gets such bad service, and he’s gotten so used to that constant honey warm presence. He doesn’t know what to do without it.

Yoongi is everywhere. The walls are covered in all the torn out pages of flower pressings Yoongi’s gifted to him over the months.

Seok-ah this one had such bright colors it made me think of you. >

Seok-ah this one turned out so pretty look, look.

Seok-ah this one means loveliness and comfort.


Nothing. No Yoongi, only the echoes of him. When he was a child his aunt used to say her house was haunted. She brought in some psychics or someone who claimed to be one at least and afterwards brought it up on any possible occasion. “Residual hauntings” she’d say, “a spirit trapped to relive a moment over and over again”

He thinks he feels the residue of Yoongi’s presence here. A spectral, lonely, constant replay of him.

The wolves seem to notice. Hoseok isn’t sure if they’re more upset by Yoongi’s absence or his own bad mood, but they sit at the door and whine all day like they’re waiting for something (for someone).

Hoseok can feel it in his bones, the need to shift. It’s not like he’s a werewolf or something, bound to shift with the moon, but even so it’s impossible to ignore something so ingrained in his nature for long.

He’d avoided it for so long because of Yoongi, because he was afraid of what he’d think and what would happen if he were to get too close. Now that Yoongi’s gone, it should be the perfect time.

His body feels wrong on him. His skin too tight, too thin. His bones cracking with every movement as if they will never set right. He feels like he’s suffocating, bends himself backwards and let’s his sternum crack until he can breathe again. Until he has to do it all over again.

He needs to shift.

He knows he shouldn’t shift when he feels raw, it’s a volatile enough process as is. If he’s not feeling mentally sound, he knows he could lose himself. Once he almost did, in the early days. He still lived in the city then, was still trying to make dancing work. It was after the PT’s suggested surgery to him, that they weren’t seeing any progress with the therapy and it was either that or the pain for the rest of his life.

He didn’t mean to shift, doesn’t remember how it happened exactly. All he remembers is pacing his apartment for days, locked in and starving. Clawing at the walls and floors and his own bed, tearing at anything he could get his teeth into. He couldn’t change back, something had fallen akilter in his mind, something that didn’t want to be human again. Didn’t even want to remember what it was like to have that body.

He’s not sure how long it lasted, only that he was bloated with starvation and woke with blood on his hands from tearing his own nails. He’s not sure how he got back either. Just knows that as soon as he did he packed up his things, said his meager goodbyes, and left the city for good in fear of what he could’ve done.

Even so, he knows he can’t put it off any longer. His hip has only been getting worse, and it’s spreading to his whole body now as if in retaliation. It may not be ideal, but at least Yoongi isn’t around. At least if something does go wrong he won’t get caught in the crossfires.

That night he leaves one lingering touch on the dried honeysuckles Yoongi hung up so carefully for him. Lets the door of his old cabin hang open, and the darkness of the forest cover him.

He is sharp teeth and long claws and tangled fur and keen eyes. The foxes chase the rabbits in the underbrush and he follows, overtakes them all and the joy of the hunt overtaking him. Restless and hungry, always running, running after the prey and just for the sheer freedom of it all. He laughs in joy and hears the howl, strong and unbound. Unrestrained, untethered, from that too tight flesh too dull claws. Bones break under strong jaws and the blood runs into the leaves, and why would he live any other way?

There was a reason.

He can’t remember, doesn’t want to.

The freedom of the chase, the thrill of the hunt, the-

The birds in the trees call to each other, it sounds for a moment like laughter, a memory of joy, and he-

There was a reason.

The blood is black in the moonlight.

His reason.

He wakes up on the side of the highway halfway to town, naked except for the blood that covers him. The open road and the moon halfway down the sky, his sins lit up and shining in the cold light.

The memory of the hunt comes back to him, comes back twisted and wrong. He remembers killing just to kill, belly bloated with flesh. Killing just for the thrill of it and-

He remembers something too large to be a fox dying in his jaws. Can’t see it, doesn’t want to.

He must’ve, this must mean-. Something must’ve gone wrong. There’s too much blood, too much for some rabbits or even a few foxes. Too much and he feels sick, can’t remember what happened. Can’t remember what he’s done. He’s trying not to panic, not to just scream in the middle of the road but he-

He wants to go home. He wants Yoongi.

He runs.

He runs. He’s not sure how far away he’s gone or how fast he runs, but the time passes quickly. All of his thoughts focused on home, on Yoongi.

And then he’s home.

And so is Yoongi.

Thank God and Oh no flash through Hoseok’s mind at almost the same second. He wants to run, feels himself shifting on his heels, but it’s too late. Yoongi’s turning around already, it’ll all be over now.

“Hoseok! I was so worried, you weren’t answering my calls for days and the door was open and you weren’t- oh fuck!” He wants to run, but Yoongi is already running to him. He tells himself to take a step back, not to let Yoongi touch him. The blood and his sins will contaminate Yoongi if he touches, so step back.

But he doesn’t, he falls into Yoongi’s touch instead. The warmth of those gentle hands, shaking hands.

“Baby? Baby, what happened. Where are you hurt?” Yoongi’s hands are bloodied already, and Hoseok wants to pull away, to tell him it’s not safe, but he can’t. Lets himself lean further into the touch. He wants to tell Yoongi that he’s wrong. He isn’t hurt he’s the one that did this. The thing that happened was him, but he- he can’t do that either. Just lets himself be led by Yoongi’s careful touches into the bathroom.

Yoongi’s pulse is erratic, his eyes wide and wet, but he’s holding himself back. He wants to cry, but he won’t, Hoseok knows. He can see the ways Yoongi tries to reach forward to hug him, he can see the ways he stops himself. He can’t do anything about it except watch.

Yoongi turns on the shower, tests the water so it’s perfect despite the tremors in his hands. “Baby, can you stand? Do you need to sit, or can you-” Hoseok pushes up a little, realizes he’s been leaning on Yoongi this whole time. Held up by him, and now Yoongi’s clothes are blood stained as well. He’s contaminaniating-

Yoongi undresses hurriedly, unconcerned by the blood or his nakedness. He steps under the shower spray, finds Hoseok’s limp hands and holds onto them, urges him forward like a timid deer instead of the predator he knows he is.

“Baby? Come on, please. Let’s get you washed up, I can’t. I can’t tell what’s- I don’t know what else to do, please.” He doesn’t feel like he has control of his body, doesn’t even feel like he’s in his body, but somehow he steps forward.

Yoongi positions them so that Hoseok is under the warm spray. Hoseok watches him, tries to tether himself to Yoongi’s delicate features instead of the redness surrounding them.

The water turns red and brown and black as it runs off of them. It catches in their navels and pools at their feet. Yoongi does his best to help wash it away, careful hands brushing down Hoseok’s body, afraid of finding some wound that never comes. He scratches at Hoseok’s scalp until the last bits of clotted blood come free.

He must know by now, must know that the blood wasn’t Hoseok’s.

He doesn’t move, after they’ve been rinsed clean of the gore. He doesn’t move and neither does Hoseok. Yoongi steps forward, tilts his head to fall on Hoseok’s chest, wraps his arms around his ribcage and holds on. Squeezes as tight as he can without hurting. The water is running cold, falling into both of their eyes and noses and mouths making it hard to breathe but they don’t move. They hold on.

Hoseok doesn’t speak until they’re in bed that night. They aren’t clinging to each other like usual. No limbs wrapped around each other, no soft stroking, but they’re curled towards each other. Hands clasped tight and heads tilted close.

Hoseok is so afraid of breaking this, so afraid he already has.

He reaches out, carefully, watching Yoongi’s expression for any sign of discontent before gentle as a kiss he traces down Yoongi’s neck. Falls into a rhythm until he’s stroking the skin and the fragile bones just underneath.

“Are you afraid of me now?” He asks, doesn’t know where he got the courage from. Wishes he hadn’t almost as soon as he said it, but he needs to know.

Yoongi turns a curious expression on him, a little sad but mostly loving. He reaches out, in a mirror of Hoseok, and places careful fingers on his neck as well. “No, Seok-ah. I’m not.”

“But I- I don’t remember but I must’ve-” Yoongi shushes him before he can finish or work himself up.

“Stop it. I don’t know what happened and neither do you. Besides, you obviously didn’t mean to do whatever it was.” He squeezes their linked hands in reassurance “Just sleep, ok? We’ll figure it out in the morning?”

“Yoongi, you can’t. I’m dangerous.” Long fingers stroking over long neck. So easy for long claws to tear into, so easy to lean in and bite down, break the bone.

Hoseok jerks back, whimpers at the image of a Yoongi without life and love in his eyes.

“No, baby, don’t do that. Come back here.” Yoongi reaching out, Yoongi pulling him close, and closer still until he buries his cold nose into Hoseok’s neck. His breath is hot and it tickles as he shushes Hoseok. He wants to tell Yoongi to get away, that it doesn’t matter what he thinks that Hoseok is still dangerous. That this will only end in bloodshed, but then… Yoongi’s kissing him.

Yoongi’s Kissing his neck. Soft fluttering things along his pulse point, against the line of muscle and the places where the bones jut out.

“It’s ok, Hyung will take care of everything, so don’t worry. Ok, Seok-ah? Hyung will take care of you.” gentle press of lips between each word, his mouth so close. And what does that mean? Wasn’t he supposed to take care of Yoongi? Delicate Yoongi made up of flowers with his petal soft neck, so fragile so easy to tear into.

A kiss on the bump of his jugular, his own fragile skin, where it would be so easy to tear into his own throat.


Fuck he’s been so stupid.

He takes a shuddering breath, pulls Yoongi as close to himself as he can, and lets himself sob as Yoongi places petal-soft kisses on his neck until they fall asleep

When he wakes up the next morning to Yoongi lacing up his hiking boots, he expects it to be followed by a “I can’t do this, goodbye forever”

Instead, he smiles at Hoseok as if the last night never happened. He holds his hand out to Hoseok, still slow with sleep. Pulls him into a hug, and whispers gently into his ear. “It’s gonna be ok, we’re gonna go out and find out what really happened. Don’t assume the worst, ok baby? But no matter what, Hyung will take care of it.”

Hoseok wants to protest, tell him to run away and leave Hoseok to deal with the problem he’s created. That he doesn’t need to put himself in the middle of this ugliness, but Yoongi’s already leaving the warmth of their bed to make coffee before he can start.

He shuffles out into the kitchen with a blanket wrapped around his hunched shoulders. Tries not to notice the pain in Yoongi’s eyes when he sits a little farther away, when he refuses to let his fingers linger over Yoongi’s on the coffee mug. He just doesn’t trust himself now, doesn’t want to give Yoongi hope that he’s better than he really is. Yoongi seems to understand, just smiles at him and passes him his jacket without a word.

They walk with an inch of separation they’ve never had before. Yoongi keeps glancing at him and he aches, wants to reach out and pull Yoongi in, but he can’t be selfish.

Yoongi keeps fidgeting with his hands, biting at the nail beds as if he doesn’t know what else to do with them, and Hoseok breaks. Reaches out to link their hands just to keep him from tearing them. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Still, he feels like a weight is lifted off of him when he’s able to touch Yoongi again.

They don’t say much for most of the walk. Hoseok knows where to go even if he can’t remember it. Like finding his way on a road he’s travelled years ago.

“Were you drinking? Is that why you don’t remember?” Yoongi asks, squeezes Hoseok’s hand, “I’m not judging, just want to understand. It’s fine if there’s no reason though, that can happen too. It’s fine no matter what Seok-ah.”

Hoseok kind of wants to laugh, but he doesn’t think that would go well in this situation. He lets his hand in Yoongi’s go limp, wants to give him an easy way out for what’s to come.

“I don’t remember because I wasn’t- I turned into- well I was a wolf.”

Yoongi doesn’t drop his hand, but Hoseok is waiting for it. Instead, he says, “I don’t think I understand the metaphor.”

“Not a metaphor. I mean exactly that.” Hoseok wants to run away, but he finds himself stupidly clinging onto the hope of their relationship instead.

“Like, really?” Yoongi doesn’t stop walking, just looks at Hoseok strangely, “Like a werewolf, or?”

“No, not like that.” Hoseok doesn’t know if Yoongi is really believing anything of what he says, keeps talking anyway. “There’s nothing- It’s not like there’s a wolf inside me, or something else takes over. It’s all…. All me. I’m the goddamn wolf and the goddamn human, both at once. I think the closest word would be a shapeshifter.”

He waits for Yoongi to laugh and turn around, leave for good.

He doesn’t, doesn’t say anything at all.

They pass the lake.

“How long?” Yoongi asks, voice neither scornful nor pitious.

“A little over a decade?” Hoseok guesses, flinches at the thought of how long he’s been like this. Waits for Yoongi to yell at him for keeping such a secret for so long and leave. Or to yell at him for making such a horrible joke and leave.

He doesn’t, just hums in understanding.

“Do you often forget what you do?”

“No. Usually I remember. Just not-. Not when I’m um, emotionally volatile?” Yoongi nods in understanding, his lips set themselves into a pout that Hoseok knows means he’s worried about something.

But he hasn’t left.

“You don’t think I’m lying?” Hoseok asks.

Yoongi looks at him then, mouth open in that unguarded expression Hoseok finds so cute. “Of course not, why would you lie to me?” He says, “I just. I don’t think it’ll set in until I see it.”

It’s Hoseok’s turn to be surprised. He didn’t expect this. Didn’t expect trust and understanding. He’d been so scared for so long, he still is. Scared that Yoongi wouldn’t believe him, or worse that he would and it would change the way he looked at Hoseok. That he’d run away, come back with an angry mob. That something would happen, that god forbid he would hurt Yoongi. All the guilt and fear weighing on him for so long.

It’s just like Yoongi to exceed his expectations.

They walk in silence for the rest of the time, fingers interlaced and bodies a little closer than before. They’re both getting tired when Hoseok feels it. A sense of déjà vu so strong he can almost taste the blood in the dirt below them.

Yoongi sees the body before he does.

“Baby-” is all he says, pointing at the body, at the blood dried in the fallen leaves.

At the fur, and the antlers.

Not a human?

Yoongi’s hugging him before he realizes he’s crying. Silent and shaking with relief.

He was so sure, so sure he’d done something horrible. That memory, all that blood. It felt like it was all pointing to the confirmation of his monstrosity. Like he was damned, a terrible thing. A murderer.

Yoongi rubbing his back in soothing circles.

A stag, not a human. All that blood not proof of murder after all.

He finally, finally manages to raise his arms. Lets himself hold Yoongi, tells himself not to be ashamed of it as he digs his fingers into the material of Yoongi’s jacket and holds on for dear life. As he lets the sobs rack through him and the quiet calm of the forest swallow up every sound.

Hoseok insists on having a burial ceremony for the stag. He doesn’t feel right leaving it out in the open when he took so much from it already. Wolves are only meant to kill in order to eat, to kill and then leave it out to rot seems too cruel, too human.

Yoongi points out that’s how animals would die in nature anyway, but he agrees and gets all the supplies for Hoseok despite that.

Hoseok gets up before dawn and works for a day straight to dig the grave. His hands blister and his muscles cramp, but he savors it. He gives every bit of his labor as a sort of sacrifice. The only retribution he can think to offer to the stag.

Yoongi brings him thermoses of coffee and bottles of water and whatever food he can manage to bundle up for him. Asks if he’s warm enough, or if he’s too warm. If he’s sure he doesn’t want help in digging. Hoseok just kisses him quick, nose, lips, neck, and shoos him off back to Holly and the wolves.

When he’s finished, he feels tired enough to fall into the grave himself. It feels good.

He gets Yoongi to help him, the both of them struggling with the huge stag. Once they get it in, they cover it with a cloth patterned with sunflowers Yoongi got. Hoseok likes how bright it looks, hopes the stag would like it too.

Yoongi holds his hand as Hoseok sinks to his knees, tells the stag his regrets and promises remembrance. Hopes for forgiveness, but doesn't pray.

Picks his shovel up and gets to work once again, Yoongi helping him this time. Laying his sins to rest and promising never to forget with each pile of dirt he throws onto the great body.

When he stands again, Yoongi whistles, calls out “Holly! Puppies! Come here!” and Hoseok can only stand shocked as he watches Holly tear through the forest towards them followed closely by the wolves, all with flowers weaved into their fur and white ribbons tied around their necks.

Yoongi looks smug as the dogs all trot around the grave, carrying their flowers and sniffing curiously.

“Aren’t flowers for weddings?” Hoseok asks, bewildered, but glad for the relief of something so light and joyful.

“Shush, you’re interrupting the procession,” Yoongi says, hooks an arm over Hoseok’s shoulder and pulls him in close.

He tells Yoongi to go home and rest, but he refuses. Turns and nuzzles into Hoseok’s neck, places quick kisses there before settling in.

“We’re in this together, Seokseok.”

They shower together again that night, no trembling hands or rabbit-heart pulses. Only soft touches and warmth and the comfort of their closeness. They wash the dirt off of each other’s skin like a ritual, intent and loving.

It’s silent until Yoongi speaks up, “So you can usually control it, you said?”

Hoseok nods, lets his eyes fall closed as Yoongi scratches through his scalp.

“So does that mean you and Holly can play together sometime?”

His eyes pop open, Yoongi is grinning.

“Holly would kill me.” he says, flicks water at Yoongi.

“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t let him. I love you too much.” Hoseok chuckles for a moment, before realizing what Yoongi just said.

His heart stutters, stumbles. They’ve never, they’ve never said that out loud, have they? Yoongi must realize it too the way he freezes up, words coming out quick, “I’m sorry, this probably isn’t the time to bring that up. Don’t worry ab-”

“I love you too.” Hoseok says, cuts him off before he can work himself up.

It feels like laughter on his tongue. He’s smiling so wide the water is getting in his mouth, but he doesn’t care because Yoongi is smiling now too. Lacing his arms around Hoseok’s neck.

“Yeah? Really?” Yoongi’s face so close to his, and Hoseok scoffs.

“Of course, really.”

Soft press of lips, the water washing them clean, and new again.

“I’ll always love you, Hoseok.”

“I’ll always love you too, Yoongi.”

And maybe they take a little too long in the shower, maybe the water runs cold and their skin burns hot. Maybe Holly barks indignantly at them when they get out because it’s far past his dinner time.

And maybe Yoongi weaves Goldenrod into Hoseok’s curly hair the next morning.

And maybe Hoseok weaves soft kisses into the skin of Yoongi’s neck that say,

I love you, I’ll protect you, I know you’ll do the same.