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don't you cry (maybe everything is alright)

Chapter Text

To be chosen by the dragons was to be chosen by the gods.

Those were the words that were repeated, over and over and over, as Taehyung and the rest of the people from his town walked towards the temple. He could see it just beyond the heads of those leading the crowd, fumbling over his feet as a baby started to cry. He didn't blame them. It was a stressful time for everyone.

His mother had dressed him up in the best clothes she could find, pressing out any wrinkles in his shirt and trousers and making him clean his leather shoes. His father brushed his hair, so similar to the way he used to do it when Taehyung was a child, and had him shaved proper by the man a few houses down who had a talent for it.

It seemed extravagant, considering, but Taehyung didn't resist.

There were plenty of families that did the same. He could see a few families still dressed in their pajamas, hair mussed up and eyes droopy with sleep. It was hard to tell, sometimes, whether someone’s clothes were distressed because they couldn’t afford to spend coins on clothes or if they couldn’t be bothered. He understood what they were trying to do, but the method of expressing disinterest in the ritual hadn't stopped people from being chosen in the past.

"The pure of heart will be chosen by the dragons," his mother explained to him when he asked why some people were chosen and why others weren't. "They can try to resist, but you can't hide your true nature. The dragons will choose who they want."

Taehyung still didn't understand what they were being chosen for, but no one did. His entire life he was told to trust in the dragons and the priestesses that lived in the temple, but a decent amount of the town did not. There would always be fear of the unknown, but Taehyung didn't think they were being hurt. The dragons had never hurt them before.

The crowd fanned out in front of the temple, settling on their knees and resting their hands in their laps as the priestesses made their way down the steps. The High Priestess was seated at the top, looking over them with a hidden smile as her apprentices and lower priestesses circled to sit on either side of her.

Taehyung watched in wonder, his lips parting as the sun caught on their scales. They were always so gorgeous. Blues, reds, purples, the occasional white. He had never feared their fangs and scales, even as a child. They were fascinating to him. They were beautiful.

He straightened out his back when his mother tapped on his knee, smiling at her before looking back up at the High Priestess. She stood a few moments after the last of the town sat down, her white robes fanning out at her feet. They hems were trimmed with a gold thread, an intricate design shown that Taehyung couldn’t discern from so far away. The adults all went quiet, even though a few children and babies kept babbling and asking questions. He kept his laughter to himself.

"Welcome," the High Priestess said, tipping her head down in greeting. "Thank you for joining me here for another month. We thank you for your sacrifice, and hope you will appreciate the honor bestowed upon you if you are chosen."

Taehyung had heard stories of people rejecting the offer, but it was so rare that those stories were more like myths.

He watched as the High Priestess began the ceremony, sucking in a breath as the incense was brought inside the temple by the lower priestesses. He could barely see the ceremonial stand, staring in awe as they lit the incense with their own fire. They didn’t flinch, as Taehyung thought he might if fire were to fall from his lips. It burned blue, and his skin itched as he imagined how hot it must be.

His eyes fell back to the High Priestess as she finished her prayer, bowing his head in unison with the rest of the townspeople. "There will be two chosen today from this region," she hummed, scanning over them with her dark eyes. Her aquamarine scales glistened against her golden skin, and he was entranced. "If I say your name, come forward."

His mother squeezed his knee, and Taehyung allowed himself to close his eyes. She said two from the region. That didn't mean specifically their town. There was another temple about an hour and a half on horseback that hosted a few smaller towns, and it could be possible that both people were chosen there.

"Jung Hoseok."

Taehyung had never heard that name before. There wasn't a reaction from the crowd other than a few sighs, so Taehyung assumed Hoseok was chosen from the other temple. He scrunched up the fabric of his trousers as he fisted his hands in his lap.

The High Priestess was smiling when Taehyung opened his eyes, and he sucked in a careful breath. Everyone who was conscious of what was happening was silent, watching her as she glanced over the entire crowd. Her gaze was unreadable, at least to Taehyung, and he lowered his eyes when she looked towards his section.

"Kim Taehyung."

Taehyung’s eyes shot open, his body going rigid. His parents didn't gasp, like he expected they might have, but they both gripped onto his elbow tightly as the rest of the town turned towards him. He saw Jimin stare at him in shock a few rows ahead, tucked between his parents with his little brother seated on his lap, and his heart ached.

"Go," his mother said, urging him on as he stumbled to stand up. The High Priestess was watching him, a guarded smile twitching on her lips, and he swallowed thickly.

"Okay," he said, his hands shaking as he gathered himself and took the first steps towards the temple.

The rest of the priestesses were staring at him, their smiles pure and soft, and he struggled to offer one of his own. He wasn't sure why he felt so nervous. He had been waiting for this. His parents had been waiting for this.

He almost tripped as he walked up the first steps, his shoes falling heavily on the marbled ground, and he thought for a moment he was going to throw up. He managed to gather his nerves by the time he reached the steps before the High Priestess, falling numbly to his knees and bowing his head to her feet. From that angle, he could finally make out the shapes of the embroidery on her robes. Dragons spewing fire.

She hummed, pleased, and was holding out her hand when he looked up again. He had seen the ceremony dozens of times, but it felt strange experiencing it himself. An apprentice placed a bowl of melted wax in the High Priestess's hand, and Taehyung sucked in a breath.

She dipped her fingers in the wax, and Taehyung had to wonder if it stung. Dragons were made from fire, yes, but were they immune to it?

Regardless, she didn't flinch as she circled her fingers around before pulling them out. She was careful not to drip the red wax onto his clothes or her own, and Taehyung sucked in a breath as she swiped her thumb across his forehead and down the bridge of his nose. It didn't burn, but it was warm enough for him to flinch when it touched his skin.

"The pure of heart will lead the next generations," she said, quiet enough that only those in her immediate surroundings could hear. He blinked up at her, his lips parting in surprise. She was beautiful, so much more beautiful than he had realized. "Our future relies on people like you."

He wanted to ask what she meant, but he kept his manners. He tipped his head again, folding his hands on his lap as a priestess started to ring the bell.

"Thank you for your consideration."

 

 

Taehyung stared at the bowls in front of him as his stomach shifted into knots. All of his favorites were there. It felt silly to spend money they didn’t have on food, but his parents wouldn’t listen to him. His family had gone to the market after the ceremony, and several merchants offered them deals to celebrate Taehyung's choosing. The wax felt heavy on his skin as more and more people stared at him.

"It'll be okay," his father mumbled, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and rubbing his hand down Taehyung's arm. His touch felt heavier than usual. "You'll be alright, boy."

His siblings were silent from their seats across the table, on either side of Jimin. He couldn't remember the last time they were at the table and his siblings weren't causing a ruckus. They were a little too young to understand why he was leaving, but they knew he was leaving and they weren't happy about it. They had cried and cried after returning home, their small noses rubbed red and their hands and clothes streaked with snot, but now they were silent as they mulled over the inevitable.

Taehyung sniffed back the next sob, and his mother wiped away the tears streaming down his face as she cooed. He knew that his parents were happy that he was chosen, but there was that fear of the unknown holding them back from that happiness. They were losing their eldest son, regardless of the circumstances. "Oh, Taehyung-ah. My baby."

Jimin stared at him from across the table with his puffy eyes and red nose, and Taehyung shared a look with him that could only be described as true despair. Jimin was his best friend, his brother in heart, and Taehyung didn’t want to lose him.

Taehyung could say no. He could,

He was allowed a final night with his family before he needed to report to the temple to be prepared for his leave in the morning. The dragons would be waiting.

 

 

Taehyung closed his eyes as his mother's wrinkled hands brushed over his cheeks, tensing at the sweet croon of her prayer. They spoke of the dragons frequently. When he was old enough to understand what they were being chosen for, he hadn't been scared. He thought the idea was exciting, even.

Now, as he opened his eyes and watched his mother stare back at him with wonder, he was scared.

"We'll leave within the hour," she said, her words tight with pride. He swallowed around nothing, his throat scratchy and uncomfortable. The wax felt tight on his skin, but he didn’t dare wipe it away. "Try not to wake your siblings.."

"I won't," he mumbled, averting his eyes as his mother stood.

"I love you," she said. He sucked in a breath, nodding along as his heart fell to his feet.

"I love you. I'll be fine."

"I know you will," she hummed. "You're precious, child. The dragons choose you for a reason. There's nothing to be afraid of."

Taehyung licked his lips, settling back against the dining chair and listening to the far off sound of his father getting ready in the other room. "I know."

He hoped they were right.

 

 

Taehyung was allowed to bring a bag with his most intimate belongings. They told him to bring a few days worth of clothes, since they would provide him with new ones where they were going, so he dedicated most of his space to trinkets from his friends and family.

He brought small things that reminded him of his favorite people— his mother's favorite book, his father's knife, a handwoven leather necklace from Jimin. His siblings had given him things as well: two wooden toys that were, ironically enough, dragons.

The High Priestess was not present when he arrived at the temple, which was expected. Instead, two priestesses were waiting for him with horses ready for travel. Their white robbed fanned out over their saddles, swinging daintily in the wind. He wasn't told where they were going exactly, but he knew they had to travel to retrieve Jung Hoseok before they could meet with the dragons.

His parents held him tightly before he left, mumbling prayers in his ears and telling him that it was going to be alright. He held back his tears until he mounted his horse and disappeared behind the treeline, the warmth of his mother's hands on his cheeks haunting him the entire way.

 

 

They reached the next temple by lunch time, and Jung Hoseok was waiting inside with two more priestesses Taehyung figured were his escorts. Hoseok was a year older than him, and kind by the looks of it. His clothes were of a much higher quality than Taehyung’s, and he looked well fed without overly calloused hands. Taehyung wasn't sure if they had any similarities that would make it easier for him to understand why they were chosen.

"My entire life I've been told that being chosen was an incredible honor," Hoseok said as they feasted on honeyed meats and ripe fruits. His voice was low, as if the priestesses couldn't hear him from the other side of the room. He brought his hand up to the wax marker on his face, pushing his index finger against it as if to remind himself where it was. "Now that I have been, I'm a little worried."

"We're safe with them," Taehyung said, even though his heart wasn't completely there. "I'm kind of scared, too, though. If that makes you feel better."

Hoseok smiled, his lips drawn close together, and Taehyung returned it. "It does, a little. Thank you."

They finished their meal and were allowed a few moments of rest before being ushered outside to mount up again. "We'll be going to the mountains in the east," one of the priestesses explained as she led them out of town. A few people had gathered to watch them leave, but it did not appear that Hoseok knew them. He made no effort to say goodbye, and the people stared at him as if he were holding the moon in his hands. "Two guides will be waiting there for you. They will explain everything."

"Thank you," Taehyung said, holding onto the reins. Hoseok remained silent, staring pensively at the road in front of them.

 

They reached the mountains by nightfall, taking a break to eat a quick dinner under the shade of the forest. Taehyung had never been so far away from home before, and as he looked around him, he wondered why.

It was so beautiful. Taehyung's home was surrounded by forest and grassland, and there had never been a reason to visit the mountains. Of course, the mountains weren't too different from what Taehyung was used to, but it was just different enough to enrapture him.

"They're here already," the priestess in front called, alerting Hoseok and Taehyung.

The other priestesses could already hear or smell the other dragons, Taehyung assumed. He sat up straighter in the saddle, biting down on his bottom lip as they pushed past the treeline.

There were two men seated at the base of the mountain, talking to each other over a blue fire. The color of it made Taehyung's heart race. One of them must've lit the fire themselves if it was that color. They looked up as soon as the group made themselves known, and Taehyung would be lying if he said he wasn't staring.

There was a large carrier to the right of their makeshift camp, made of a sturdy looking brown leather. Taehyung's heart raced at the implications, and Hoseok let out a soft gasp as he saw it. Taehyung had only seen dragon carriers in their textbooks. They were much more intimidating in real life.

The man on the right had scales that looked like obsidian around the edge of his face and down his neck. The rest of the scales disappeared under his clothes, but Taehyung assumed those scales went down his arms and legs like he had seen on the priestesses. The man on the left also had black scales, but they shifted to an emerald shade in the light. They were beautiful, but terrifyingly so.

"This is Min Yoongi," a priestess said, gesturing to the man on the right and then to the man on the left, "and Jeon Jeongguk. Min Yoongi will be Kim Taehyung's guide, while Jeon Jeongguk will guide Jung Hoseok."

Taehyung blinked, sharing a look with Hoseok. He did not know what she meant by guide. The dragons, however, nodded their understanding.

Another priestess urged them to dismount, and Hoseok reached for his hand as soon as they were safe on the ground. Taehyung laced their fingers together, sharing an unsure smile with him as they grabbed their bags and followed the priestesses closer to their dragon guides.

"We'll explain everything to you soon," Yoongi said. His voice was much deeper than what Taehyung expected. He had devilish eyes, though, so similar to the alley cats that used to slink around the town trying to charm their way into a nice meal. Taehyung was always very bad at resisting those charms. That cast a fright in his heart, dissimilar to the fright that had plagued them on their journey to the mountains.

"Here," a priestess said, plucking two jars from the saddlebags of her mare. She walked over, offering a jar to Taehyung and Hoseok each. "Drink this. The journey to your destination is a long one, and this will put you to sleep since I'm sure your nerves will not allow you to in the sky."

Taehyung accepted the jar with his free hand, staring at the contents with dismay. The liquid was similar to the consistency of jelly but the color was a frightening shade of green. Taehyung's stomach started to turn.

"Drink up," the priestess said, placing her hands on the bottom of both of their jars after Taehyung and Hoseok shared an uneasy look. "You'll have to drink it."

Taehyung huffed, put off, and brought the jar to his lips. He tilted it and his head all the way back to swallow down the liquid as fast as possible, wincing at the bitter taste. The consistency was like nothing he had ever eaten before, and it reminded him of the slime he would see at the edge of lakes and rivers. He forced himself to think of other things— candies, jellies, anything else— as he swallowed it down.

Hoseok made a soft sound of displeasure next to him, and Taehyung's face shrivelled in distaste as he swallowed down the last bit of the liquid before giving the jar back to the priestess. Hoseok did the same, groaning under his breath as he released Taehyung's hand to wipe at his mouth.

The priestess smiled, grabbing the jars and returning them to one of her saddlebags. "That wasn't too bad, was it?"

"No," they both said, not wanting to displease her. In reality, Taehyung's stomach was starting to bubble and cramp with disgust. Hoseok looked like he was having the same issue.

Another priestess smiled at Yoongi and Jeongguk, who looked amused by the human's dissatisfaction. "You should leave now, before it gets dark. You will get home by morning."

Home.

What a strange word. Taehyung wondered if he would have to refer to that place as home sometime. He still had no idea what they were getting in to, but if they were to be killed they already would have been. Right?

Hoseok didn't seem to think the same, since every time Taehyung looked at him there was still that same amount of fear and distrust in his eyes. Taehyung reached for his hand again, if only to offer some comfort, and Hoseok gave him an uneasy smile.

"Alright. They should turn around?" Jeongguk said, catching Taehyung and Hoseok off guard.

"Turn around?" Hoseok asked, his words trembling.

The priestesses smiled, and one of them laughed behind her hand. "They are going to shift. Jeongguk will put on the saddle for you two to ride in, and Yoongi will lead."

"Oh," Hoseok said. Taehyung bit his bottom lip, taking the initiative to turn around first. Hoseok followed, squeezing Taehyung's hand tighter as he mumbled something under his breath. Taehyung didn't understand what he said, but it must've been something to calm him down.

The two dragons behind them fell silent, so when Taehyung first heard the sounds of bones breaking and rearranging he jumped in surprise. Hoseok did, too, with a little yelp. The priestesses uttered words of comfort to them, placing hands on their shoulders to keep them in place so they wouldn't try to turn around.

Taehyung wouldn't think to. He had seen diagrams of the dragon shift in his textbooks, and they looked nothing short of painful. The diagrams always made it seem so explicit and dangerous— skin tearing, bones breaking, scales emerging.

Hoseok mumbled a curse under his breath, not even caring that the priestesses could hear him, but as Taehyung glanced at them it didn't seem like they cared. They eyed them with pity, and a little bit of amusement. They weren’t so bold to laugh at them, but the mirth in their eyes told Taehyung they were holding back. Taehyung dropped his gaze to the ground.

When the sounds finally drifted into nothingness, the priestesses urged them to turn around again.

Taehyung did so first, his hand slipping out of Hoseok's as he stared in wonder at the two beasts who used to look so similar to himself.

He matched the scales to who was who. Jeongguk was a few inches taller than Yoongi, his head and neck more elongated with thick whiskers coming off either side of his maw. The shift to his scales was much more apparent in his dragon form, and if Taehyung weren't so stunned he might've asked to touch them.

Yoongi was shorter, but he looked a bit bulkier with wider shoulders and a thicker tail swaying behind him. His whiskers were longer than Jeongguk's, too, and as he opened his mouth to vocalise something to the priestesses Taehyung stared in wonder at how large his fangs were.

They seemed to be a longer variety of dragon, with tall necks and long tails and bodies that didn't rest low to the ground. Taehyung had been taught different variations of dragon, and he wondered what type the priestesses were. It was said that dragons in the west were bulkier, so he figured they must share the same form as Jeongguk and Yoongi. The townspeople never saw what the priestesses looked like in their dragon forms. It was said that they would only shift amongst themselves or in times of danger. Taehyung supposed it was a good thing he had never seen them shift.

Still, he stared at the two dragons in front of him in awe. They had been beautiful in their human shift, but in their dragon shift they were so much more impressive and striking.

Hoseok sucked in a breath beside him, and Taehyung offered him a calm smile as he hiked his bag up on his shoulder. His wonder seemed traitorous to Hoseok’s fear, so he held his comments about the dragons to himself. "It'll be okay."

Jeongguk walked over to the saddle, dipping his head down so he could start to wiggle into it, and two of the priestesses walked over to help him fasten the belts around his legs and belly. Taehyung knew from his studies that the usual carriers were made so dragons could put them on themselves, and he wondered if this carrier was a modified version for the sole purpose of taking tributes.

Another priestess urged them forward, placing a hand on Hoseok's shoulder as she smiled at them. "You'll be safe with them. The medicine should kick in within the next ten minutes or so and you'll sleep the rest of the way there. There's a possibility you will wake up an hour or two after you arrive, so do not be surprised if you wake up in a bed."

"A bed?" Taehyung asked, blinking. He wished they would tell them where they were going.

"A bed," she repeated. Her smile was soft. It made Taehyung feel like she wasn't lying. "I know it's scary for you two, but you were chosen for a reason. We won't be hurting you. Jeongguk and Yoongi especially."

"Thank you," Hoseok said, his voice small. Taehyung didn't know him well enough to be able to tell if he believed her, but at least he didn't look uncomfortable or nauseous like he had a few minutes ago.

They approached Jeongguk once the carrier was secured properly, and Taehyung had to take a few seconds to stare at his scales. He had only ever seen dragon scales so close up on the priestesses. It was considered good luck if you found a dragon scale, fallen from the sky, but Taehyung had never been lucky enough to find one.

He came up to Jeongguk's shoulder, so luckily it wasn't too high up. He took the initiative to climb up the carrier first, being careful not to kick Jeongguk as he scrambled over the seats. It was a carrier meant for carrying passengers, as Taehyung assumed, with two seats pushed up against the back of the bed and a space in front of them where they could place their things. If he was being honest, the design was simple and didn’t seem to have much thought put into it.

Taehyung eyed Hoseok, who was climbing up the carrier, as he slid his bag off his shoulder and got comfortable in one of the seats. Hoseok slid into the other seat, sighing as he finally sat down, and Taehyung shared a smile with him as they both placed their bags in front of them.

"Here we are," Hoseok said. Taehyung didn't reply. It didn't sound like Hoseok was talking to him.

"Good luck," one of the priestesses called from below, "and may the moon bless you."

"May the moon bless you," Hoseok and Taehyung called back, both of them gripping the sides of the saddles as Jeongguk stood up straight. The saddle didn't budge much, but it was enough for them to be surprised.

Taehyung laughed, breathless, as he stared out at the forest around him. Jeongguk's tail was swaying behind them, and Taehyung focused on the flat diamond spike at the end of it. He glanced back around to look at Yoongi's tail, tilting his head as he saw a similar diamond spike and little triangle spikes that travelled up the length of it. They stopped at the base of his tail and Taehyung didn't see any more until about halfway up Yoongi's neck.

"They're fascinating," he mumbled, unable to contain himself any longer. He lips twisted into a smile when he saw Hoseok's confused face in his peripheral. "The dragons. They're so different."

"Like humans, I guess," Hoseok said, biting his cheek when Taehyung turned to face him.

"You're right," Taehyung said, tilting his head back in a laugh. It helped to think of them like that. They didn’t seem so scary that way.

They stuck to silence as Yoongi started to flap his wings, drawing an impressive amount of air underneath them before bending down halfways and launching into the sky. Taehyung said something— a mangled version of woah— as he sat up in his seat and watched him, gripping the edge of the carrier as he tilted his head back to watch him fly up and up and up.

Yoongi called down, a sound Taehyung couldn't put a name to since he had never heard anything like it before, and Jeongguk returned the call with a low mumble of his own.

Hoseok reached for Taehyung's hand again, and Taehyung let him lace their fingers together. Taehyung wasn't as scared as he had been. He was more fascinated than anything. Still, he wouldn't refuse Hoseok comfort if he needed it.

Jeongguk took a few steps forward before repeating the same motions Yoongi had done, his wings sweeping rushes of air underneath them as he batted them up and down. Taehyung stared at the wing closest to him, the one to his right, and a shiver ran down his body as he felt Jeongguk take his bow before lifting up.

Hoseok made a soft sound next to him, and Taehyung froze as they started to lift up in the air. Jeongguk didn't go as fast as Yoongi had, and he stayed level to accommodate the humans on his back, but Taehyung’s still flipped with queasiness. He choked out a laugh, staring over at Hoseok with his eyes pulled open and his lips stretched from ear to ear. Hoseok didn’t look back at him, and his eyes were shut tight.

Blood rushed to Taehyung's ears as he stared at the disappearing tree tops. He had never been so high up before and he didn't know what to do with himself. He hadn't considered a fear of heights, which seemed to be Hoseok's problem with how tightly he was gripping onto Taehyung's arm, but he didn't find himself fearful of being in the sky.

If anything, it excited him.

He smiled to himself, turning away from the scenery to huddle against Hoseok. "It's okay, hyung."

"Let's just close our eyes," Hoseok said, his words slurred as they fell from his tongue. His skin was pale, and Taehyung wondered if he was cold or fearful. "We'll sleep soon. Right?"

"Right," Taehyung said, smiling as they rested their heads against each other.

His thoughts started to go hazy a few minutes later as he watched the clouds around them, a strange thickness settling in his chest. A part of him wondered if he should have asked what was in the jelly drink before he consumed it.

Regardless, he closed his eyes and let a dreamless sleep overtake him.

Chapter Text

"He seems nice. Innocent. I think both of them will fit in nicely."

"He's asleep, how can you tell?"

"He was chosen for a reason, Yoongi-yah. The priestesses know what they're doing."

"Jeongguk will have his work cut out for him, at least."

Taehyung opened his eyes to a wall made of stone. He was tucked in with a thick cotton blanket, his shoes pulled off his feet but the rest of his clothes seemingly still on him from what he could feel. He sat up in a tizzy, and his vision spotted black from the movement.

Yoongi was on the other side of his room, and there was another man next to him. He was taller, with dark blue scales around his face and down his neck. It was a little dark in the room since there was only a sliver of light peeking out from behind the drawn curtains, but Taehyung could see how handsome he was. He had soft lips and a pretty nose with nice cheekbones. Taehyung cleared his throat, feeling awkward despite his previous excitement.

"Hello," the stranger said, flashing Taehyung a smile. "I'm Kim Seokjin. I live about ten minutes out and I'm a friend of Yoongi's."

Taehyung glanced between him and Yoongi, who seemed exasperated. He had bags under his eyes and Taehyung wondered if that was from travelling all night. "I'm Taehyung. It's nice to meet you."

Seokjin smiled, resting his hands on his hips. "Don't mind Yoongi, he didn't sleep well. Are you hungry?"

Taehyung looked at Yoongi, who's cheeks were dusted pink from Seokjin's words, before nodding. "I am. Where's, uh, Hoseok hyung?"

"He's at Jeongguk's," Yoongi answered. His voice was deeper than it had been yesterday. Again, most likely from the travel. "You two will meet again tonight at dinner. Jeongguk's doing his duty as his guide, and Seokjin's helping me do mine."

Seokjin laughed, clapping his hand against Yoongi's shoulder. "The food's ready. Come join us in the kitchen, I'll have your plate put together."

Taehyung said a soft thank you as he slid out of bed, fixing his clothes and smoothing out the wrinkles on his trousers before standing up. He would have liked to have Hoseok by his side, more for Hoseok’s sake than his own, but he wouldn’t question it. Seokjin smiled at him before heading out of the room, and Yoongi looked him up and down before following.

Taehyung looked down at himself, unsure of what Yoongi was looking at, and shrugged when he didn't see anything of importance. He followed them out of the room after he searching for his bag, finding it tucked against the foot of the bed along with his shoes.

It was a moderately sized room, not unlike the one he had back home, with a single window. There was a bed with a soft mattress, a desk, and an armoire, which was more furniture than he was used to. He shared a room with his siblings, so it felt much lonelier to be on his own. There wasn't much to it, but Taehyung didn't even know if he would be staying there.

As he exited the room, he glanced down the hallway to see a few more doors which he assumed led to more rooms. His curiosity peaked as he followed the path Seokjin and Yoongi took to the left. He entered what looked like a living room, with two large chairs and a low table that had a game spread over it, and kitchen beyond it through a wide arch. There were more walls than Taehyung was used to, but the floorplan was open enough for it to not feel cluttered.

Although it was different, it reminded him of his own home enough to make his heart clench with sadness.

Yoongi and Seokjin were waiting for him, seated at the table with the pots and plates full of food. It smelled good, like spices Taehyung hadn’t had since he was young, and his belly ached with hunger. He smiled at them, unsure, before taking a seat across the table from them on a cushioned seat. "Thank you for the food."

"You're welcome," Seokjin chirped. "Yoongi is still getting the hang of cooking more meals, so I might stop by every now and then to help. You're always welcome to come to my home, too."

"I still don't understand what's going on, but thank you," Taehyung said, smiling sheepishly as Yoongi passed him a plate.

It was loaded up with meat and noodles and rice and vegetables, and Taehyung wasn't ashamed of how loud his stomach growled. "You start eating," Yoongi said, passing him utensils as well. "I'll explain once I get my words together."

Taehyung took the utensils and didn't hesitate to start eating. The food wasn't different from what he was used to at home, and it made his belly feel warm and happy as he started to shovel it all down. He kept his ears open, trying not to chew so loud that he would have to ask them to repeat things.

There was still that discomfort at the bottom of his belly that he was with two strangers that could overpower him at any time, and he didn't want to push it.

"The priestesses pick humans that are deemed worthy of saving," Yoongi began, folding his hands on the table. It caught Taehyung off guard, and a piece of meat fell from his lips. He chased after it, blood rushing to his cheeks, and Seokjin hid a laugh behind his hand. "As for why you need to be saved...it has to do with issues in both of our realms."

Taehyung blinked. As far as he knew, they were still in the same realm. He wasn't sure what Yoongi was referring to.

Seokjin stepped in, sensing Taehyung's confusion. "Us dragons have access to another realm. Your realm, what we refer to plainly as the human realm, is where our people originated from. We existed in tandem for centuries, but our people eventually found this realm through our use of magic. The majority of our people came to live here once we realized the humans were destroying that world."

"D-Destroying?" Taehyung choked out, coughing as his food went down the wrong pipe.

Yoongi slid over a glass of water, frowning. "Humans aren't as careful as they think they are. There's destruction of lands, wars, overutilization of resources..."

Taehyung shuffled uncomfortably in his seat, taking down gulps of his water. He understood what Yoongi was referring to. His town was barren, and it was hard to get by. They had to be careful with water, and food was scarce. It wasn’t uncommon that Taehyung and his father had to travel far from home to find work just to support the rest of the family. There were towns like Hoseok’s that weren’t as destitute, but they were far and few between.

"Anyways," Yoongi said, sharing a look with Seokjin, "the dragons don't hate humans. We've had a generally harmonious relationship. But, we can't allow everyone to live in our realm. We can't allow this realm to be destroyed as well."

"The priestesses were given the task to choose humans deemed worthy of our realm to live here," Seokjin said, tilting his head as he smiled. There was some sauce smeared over his lips, but it only made him look more charming.

Taehyung's heart was beating so hard he could hear it in his throat. "So you...choose?"

"The priestesses make their decisions based off of how they've seen you interact with the world throughout your life," Yoongi answered with the corners of his lips downturned. It wasn't quite a frown, more like a neutral smirk. "They're meticulous."

"What's...the point?" Taehyung couldn't help but ask.

"The Elder Council doesn't want humans to die out, or to continue to live dangerously. They destroyed one world, we can't have them destroy this one as well. So, when the priestesses choose humans they figure are worthy, we bring them here to live in this better world and teach them how to keep it that way."

There was an awful amount of superiority in that statement, but Taehyung didn’t have it in him to mention it. He doesn't want to anger them, and if he was being honest he wasn't well educated in the ways of the world anyways.

“Our people…” Seokjin paused, looking at Yoongi as if he wasn’t sure how to say it, “need help, as well. With our lifestyle, it’s sometimes hard for couples to conceive. Our numbers have been dwindling, and we’ve chosen to rely on bringing humans in to supplement the population.”

Taehyung stared, his free hand twitching in his lap as he pushed around his food. He had never heard of that before. As far as he knew, the dragons were all powerful. They had few flaws, if any. Being unable to produce enough offspring without the help of humans was a huge weakness. It made sense why they wouldn’t want that to be common knowledge, but Taehyung still felt uncomfortable.

"Sorry," he said, instead of making a fool out of himself. "It's just a lot to take in."

"I know. It’s better, now. We have had a lot of humans come to our realm, and it’s bolstered growth and morale," Yoongi said. He nudged the bowl of noodles towards Taehyung. "Eat up."

They ate in relative silence, Taehyung trying to organize his thought as best as he could without completely understanding it all. Seokjin smiled whenever their eyes met, and Taehyung always tried to return it.

"Over a year ago I served as the guide for a human," Seokjin said when they were done eating. Yoongi was showing Taehyung where all the dishes and cups and utensils went, and they both looked over to where Seokjin was grabbing his coat off the back of his chair. "My human's name is Kim Namjoon. I'll bring him tonight for dinner, okay?"

Taehyung perked up at the idea of meeting another human, especially one that had been living with the dragons. Maybe they could help him understand. "Okay."

"He's your hyung," Yoongi said, nudging his chin towards Seokjin. "I'm your hyung as well. I'm two years older than you, he's three years older."

"You could've ended it after telling him I was his hyung," Seokjin whined, shoving his arms through his coat as Yoongi snorted. "Whatever, I'll see you two tonight. Be nice, Yoongi."

Yoongi hummed, turning back to the sink so he could finish rinsing the dishes. Taehyung stood there awkwardly, wringing the dish rag in his hands as he waited for Yoongi to hand him something to dry. He had so many questions, but he wasn’t sure if he should ask them.

Three cups later, Yoongi looked at him. "I know you must be scared, but no one is going to hurt you here."

"I know," Taehyung said. He wasn't lying. He didn't feel unsafe, not anymore, he just felt...weird. "I know, Yoongi-ssi. I just miss my family."

Yoongi returned to the dishes.

 

 

After breakfast, Taehyung went back to his room to unpack his things. He spread them out over the desk, pressing them to his heart before setting them down. It didn't feel real, not yet.

He left his room an hour later, after spending some time to himself to think. Yoongi was waiting in one of the armchairs in the living room, his legs crossed loosely as he flipped through the pages in a book. He looked up when he heard Taehyung coming, and the smile he offered seemed genuine.

"I want to show you the town. It’ll help pass the time and I’m sure you’re curious," Yoongi said, putting the book down on the table next to his chair. "Do you want to go?"

Taehyung would be lying if he said the curiosity wasn't killing him. "Yes, please."

Yoongi hummed, standing up from the chair. "Go grab your shoes, I'll give you one of my coats to borrow."

Taehyung perked up, turning around to head back to his room. He could hear Yoongi behind him, and as he sat down on his bed to tug his shoes on he could hear shuffling in the room next to him. He supposed that explained one more room in the house.

"I don't want you to feel like you're my prisoner," Yoongi said once they were in front of the door. "I know you're confused. And probably scared."

Taehyung shrugged on Yoongi's coat, being careful so that he could get his arms into the thinner sleeves. "I'm not scared. But I am confused," he admitted. "I just... I miss my family, and my friends. I don't know how to feel."

Yoongi gave him a look, resting his hand on the doorknob. They stared at each other for a few moments before Yoongi dropped his gaze to the ground. "I know."

Taehyung was surprised to see the ground covered in snow when they left. It hadn't been snowing back in the...human realm, he supposed. He pulled the coat closer to him, pursing his lips as he walked down the steps of Yoongi's porch. The snow crunched under his weight, and he looked behind him to see Yoongi shut the door quietly.

"If I had useful words, I'd say them," Yoongi said after Taehyung met his gaze. "I don't, though, and I'm not going to pretend to understand what you're going through. Namjoon will, though. He’s better at things like this."

"Thanks for being honest, I guess," Taehyung said, managing a smile. “I’ll look forward to meeting him.”

Yoongi didn't seem like a bad person. Their ideals were different, but Taehyung thought they could get along if they tried.

Taehyung turned back around, staring at the forest around Yoongi's cottage. There were no other cottages around, and that confused him. "Where is everyone else?"

"We live fairly far apart," Yoongi hummed, "It's a hierarchy thing. Older, more established dragons in the clans get more territory. The younger ones live in communal houses near the center of our clan's territory if they choose to live on their own."

"So you're high up in the hierarchy?"

Yoongi stuck his hands in his pockets as he started towards the treeline. Taehyung followed him, unsure. "I'm upper rank for my age, yes. My grandfather is on the Elder Council, so my family is given opportunity for higher ranks."

"Elder Council," Taehyung repeated. He remembered that from earlier. "So...they're in charge?"

"Essentially," Yoongi said. He kicked at the snow as he walked. "The Elder Council usually has ten members from different families, and when one dies or decides to retire another elder is elected for the role. Usually from the same family, but if no one is deemed fit the role will be passed to another family."

"Huh." Taehyung had never been taught the inner workings of a clan. All he knew was that there were many, many clans, and the majority of them were very tight knit. "Are you, um, the only clan that takes in humans?"

"No," Yoongi answered, glancing at Taehyung over his shoulder before turning his attention back to the path in front of them. "All clans in the realms are in agreeance. We wouldn't risk waging a war over humans."

Taehyung frowned, biting his tongue. Personally, he didn't think humans were that bad. What made dragons so different? "Where exactly are we going?" He asked.

"The center of our territory. That's where the lower ranked live, as well as various specialized merchants, and where the majority of activity happens. It's similar to what you're used to in terms of a town."

"I see."

They continued down the path, following the dips where Taehyung assumed Yoongi had worn into the ground. The snow was lighter here, most likely because of how thick the trees were above them. Still, it was chilled enough to send a shiver down Taehyung's body.

They walked in silence and Taehyung's mind raced. He had so many questions, and he wasn't sure what was appropriate and inappropriate to ask. What did Yoongi really mean by hierarchy? How high up was he? Did that have to do with him being chosen as a guide? What all did being a guide entail? Why him?

"I can hear you thinking," Yoongi said, turning around to give Taehyung an amused smile. "I'm not being secretive on purpose. We'll answer all your questions tonight at dinner. It's better not to overload you."

Taehyung pouted. That wasn't what he wanted to hear, but at least it meant he would get his answers eventually. "Fine."

"We're almost there." Yoongi was still smiling, and Taehyung bit his lip. It didn't feel like he was being made fun of, but it was awkward enough.

True to Yoongi's word, a few minutes later the path opened to a wide road that fed into what looked to be a normal town. There were rows of buildings, both tall and small, that looked similar to what Taehyung had seen his entire life.

It was pretty active, with kids running around and teenagers gossiping and adults wandering about. There were stalls near the edge of the town, closest to where Taehyung and Yoongi were, selling all sorts of goods and food items. The scent of fresh bread wafted over, and Taehyung's mouth watered. For all intents and purposes, the place looked normal.

"I'm responsible for teaching you a craft or taking you to someone who can teach you so you can get a job to support yourself. When you're ready," Yoongi said. He stopped walking a couple hundred feet from the stalls, and Taehyung did the same even though his stomach was starting to rumble at the scent of sweet bread. "Do you know any crafts?"

"Leather making," Taehyung answered, unable to tear his gaze away from the older man selling the bread. His scales were the color of spring water. "It was my family's business. Well, when we could afford it."

"Shoes? Or?"

"Lots of stuff," Taehyung said, shrugging. "I liked to make saddles for horses. The officials would buy them for a good price. I can make accessories, too. Things like that."

Yoongi was smiling when Taehyung faced him. "That might be something you can do here."

Taehyung blinked. He remembered the carrier Jeongguk had worn to transport him and Hoseok. It was big, so much bigger than anything Taehyung had ever made before. In terms of design, however, Taehyung was used to saddles much more intricate. "You mean dragon carriers?"

Yoongi shrugged. "Kind of. We don't really use any type of transportation out here other than ourselves, so items like carriers are used to transport goods from town to town. The one we brought you with was a little unique, since our humans don’t usually ride on our backs." He nudged his chin towards the breadmaker. "He uses a similar carrier to take his bread all over the realm."

Taehyung stared at the man again, his eyes wide. He could only imagine how much leather that would take. "Wow."

Yoongi grinned, and Taehyung followed him when he started to walk towards the hustle and bustle of the town again. "It's an option."

Taehyung lingered in front of the breadmaker's stall, staring at all the different loaves in wonder. The breadmaker grinned, his scales twinkling in the sunlight as he leaned over them. "Ten coins for a loaf, kid."

Taehyung looked at Yoongi, eyes wide, who snorted at him and reached into his pocket to grab the coins. "Grab the one you want."

"Is that okay?" Taehyung asked, even though he was already looking over them to decide what he wanted. There was one that smelled strongly like lemon, and his eyes kept drifting back to it. But, cinnamon....

"Grab which one you want," Yoongi hummed, offering the coins to the breadmaker. "They gave me an allowance for you until you get a job, so it's fine."

Taehyung beamed, pointing to the bread he wanted. "That one, please."

The breadmaker grinned as he received the coins, and he plucked the loaf of lemon bread from the others to stick in a cloth bag. "Bring this bag back next time you want a loaf. I'll remember if you don't."

Taehyung received the bag with a wide smile, nodding. "I understand, thank you."

He offered another thank you to Yoongi, who waved him away before continuing his trek. Taehyung followed him happily, already thinking if it would be appropriate to start eating. People were looking at him, though, as if inspecting the new human in their territory. He didn't feel comfortable having them watch him eat.

"This is the main mess hall," Yoongi said, gesturing to one of the larger buildings. It was in the center of the town, surrounded by tinier shops and stalls and pens that housed various livestock. "It's mainly for the kids that live in the communal houses, but if we're ever in town and you want something to eat it's useful."

Taehyung nodded, staring at the large brick building. It felt so different from the wooden buildings Taehyung was used to. Even the stalls had primarily brick or stone walls and structures. "Do you not use a lot of wood in your towns?"

Yoongi grinned, showing his teeth. "Wood doesn't like fire, Taehyung."

Taehyung laughed, his shoulders shaking at the thought. Well, that made sense.

Yoongi continued to walk him down the town, showing him where the seamstress and physician were. There was a barber, too, and a generally all the same professions that Taehyung was used too back home. The town seemed much more business oriented, though, and Taehyung supposed that had to do with the majority of the dragons living away from the center of the territory.

"Many people live in houses with their families," Yoongi explained. They had already broken off pieces of the bread and were sharing it under the shade of a gazebo in the center of town. There was a fountain in front of them, and the atmosphere was so nice that it made Taehyung feel like he didn't have to be worried about anything. People weren't staring anymore, at least not a lot of them. He supposed the novelty was dying off. "My cottage is actually smaller than most, since I don't have kids or a mate. Families typically stay in the same house, sharing with their kids."

Taehyung hummed in understanding, stretching out his legs in front of him and smiling. One word caught his attention, though. "I'm not sure what you mean by mate, though?"

Yoongi blinked. "I thought they taught you stuff like that in school. Mates for us is, uh, like...husbands? Wives?"

Taehyung's mouth formed an 'o' as he nodded. They had never been taught the inner workings of dragon relationships. He felt a little silly. "I understand."

Yoongi smiled again, breaking off another piece of bread and popping it in his mouth. "You'll get the hang of it soon. We're not too different."

"No," Taehyung said, laughing a bit as he watched a group of children chase each other around the fountain. Their skin twinkled as the light reflected off the scales on their arms, but they were otherwise just as rowdy as the children back home. "Not too different at all."

Yoongi led him to the communal houses. They were big, but smaller than the mess halls, with large doors and glass windows. The windows amazed him the most. They were so much more extravagant than the ones Taehyung was used to. "Are there...dragons that do glassmaking?"

Yoongi nodded, stopping in the middle of the street. "Yes. Seokjin does, actually. He made the windows for my house when we built it."

Taehyung mumbled a soft woah under his breath. "That's really cool." He had another question though. "If it's, um, so cold that it's snowing how is the fountain back there running?"

Yoongi smiled, sticking his hands in his pockets. "The mages. They do something to the water with their magic to control it. It's the same water in that fountain, too. I don't ask a lot of question about that, though."

Taehyung blinked. Mages. He knew that there were some dragons that possessed magic, but that was another thing they didn't teach in school. "I guess there's a lot I still don't know."

"You'll get the hang of it," Yoongi hummed. He took a hand out of his pocket to rub at the back of his neck, and he almost looked sheepish. "Admittedly, I'm probably not the best guide. That's why I asked for Seokjin hyung's help."

Taehyung smiled, shrugging his shoulders. "I think you're doing okay, Yoongi-ssi."

Yoongi returned the smile, but he still seemed a bit unsure. "You know, you're free to call me hyung. When you're ready."

Taehyung licked his lips. They were chapped from the cold, and he had to resist the urge to start biting at them. "Okay. Yoongi hyung."

Yoongi's smile brightened considerably. Taehyung thought it made him look quite pretty.

 

 

They had lunch in the mess hall.

Taehyung's belly wasn't aching due to the fact that they had eaten nearly half of the bread loaf, but he still found himself curious as they lined entered the building. There were about fifteen people seated inside on long benches, talking and eating and laughing together. They seemed young, about his age or younger, but there were a few older dragons there as well.

He didn't see any humans, though, and he mentioned that to Yoongi.

"The humans we bring are typically given guides from more established families," Yoongi explained as they walked to where the food was being served. There were several older dragons manning the large pots and pans and canisters, and they seemed a bit intimidating as they served. "Usually humans only come in the mess hall here their first day, like how I'm bringing you here. For the experience. Or if they’re in town and need a quick bite."

Taehyung nodded, remembering what Yoongi had told him earlier about the mess hall being mainly for the younger dragons who lived in the communal houses. He supposed it made sense. "I get it."

Yoongi handed over thirty coins and they were given two bowls heavy with rice and meat and vegetables. It wasn't anything fancy, which Taehyung was expecting, but it was enough to make him smile as they made their way over to an empty bench and sat down.

"It looks good," he said, picking up his utensils so he could start digging in. Yoongi hummed in agreeance, already shovelling food into his mouth.

They ate in relative silence, and Taehyung took a moment for himself to observe his surroundings. The younger dragons were boisterous, like teenagers and young adults tended to be, and they seemed to form cliques together. It reminded Taehyung of how it was back home, and that comforted him.

"You said that families tend to all live together," Taehyung asked, after a few minutes. "So why are these kids living in the communal houses?"

Yoongi licked his lips, and Taehyung watched him swallow down what was in his mouth. "It depends. Usually families with higher ranks have bigger houses, so often kids in lower ranks will have to move out of their family homes due to space or a desire for privacy. They'll live in the communal houses for a few years until they make their way up the ranks, usually by mating."

Taehyung continued to eat, fascinated.

They finished up their meals and decided to head back home. Yoongi said that they would be heading to Jeongguk's for dinner, and Taehyung made sure to not eat the rest of the lemon bread so he could take some for Hoseok. He hoped Hoseok wasn't too scared being alone with Jeongguk. Jeongguk was less intimidating that Yoongi, and Yoongi had turned out to be polite and kind.

Taehyung wrapped himself tighter in the coat, suppressing a laugh as the fur lining the collar tickled his throat. The snow was packed in tighter as they walked back, so Taehyung was able to focus less on trying not to slip and more on the trees above them. There were a few birds chirping, and Taehyung even caught a squirrel or two relaxing on the branches.

He found himself calm by the time they got back to Yoongi's cottage, and they both stomped their boots on the porch before heading inside so they wouldn't track snow and water inside.

Taehyung was surprised that he was getting along with Yoongi. He wouldn't say that he was a very negative person, but he was known to hold grudges and act childish when wronged. He supposed Yoongi hadn't wronged him. The priestesses hadn't either, if he was being honest with himself. It was weird, being taken from his life, but...

It was a choice he had made. He was willing to try for that reason alone. They weren't going to hurt him, as far as he could tell, and Yoongi was nice. Seokjin seemed nice. The rest of the dragons he had seen today were normal, and they hadn't scared him.

"Yoongi hyung?"

It still felt awkward on his tongue, but he was going to try.

Yoongi hummed to show he was paying attention. He was hanging their coats and boots and his back was turned to Taehyung. Taehyung supposed that meant he trusted Taehyung at least a little bit.

"What do you do? You said Seokjin hyung does glassmaking?"

Yoongi looked at him over his shoulder and Taehyung took the time to really look at him. He had a small, sloped nose and soft cheeks, balanced by a strong jawline. His eyes were still his most striking feature, a deep brown. Taehyung thought he was quite handsome in a way that reminded him again of those alley cats.

"Blacksmith," he answered.

Taehyung thought of the knife on his desk, the one that belonged to his father. "Weapons?"

"Sometimes." Yoongi shrugged, turning around and heading to the kitchen. He poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher on the counter, and Taehyung shook his head when he was offered one. "It’s not my specialty, though. I do the bases for furniture, or other things. Decor, mostly. I built my own furniture."

Taehyung nodded, amazed. He took a peak around the house. Sure enough, most of the furniture seemed to be made by Yoongi himself. The tables and bookshelves and chairs had iron bases, smoothed over and decorated with swirls and other designs. "You did all this?"

Yoongi smiled, his cheeks dusted a light pink. "Jeongguk made the cushions for the chairs, but, yes. I did all this."

Taehyung huffed out an amazed breath, resting his hands on his hips. "You're really talented, hyung."

Yoongi took a quick gulp of his water, and if Taehyung was being honest he looked embarrassed. Overwhelmed, maybe. "Thank you," Yoongi mumbled, curving his hands around his glass.

Taehyung smiled. "Seokjin made that?"

Yoongi looked down at the glass, twisting it in his hands as if he was inspecting it. "He did. We usually trade amongst each other."

Taehyung nodded, understanding that. Back home, his family would often trade leather goods for meat or cheese or milk at the markets. Occasionally someone would commission something in return for a beautiful tapestry or porcelain or other fine goods, which was always nice for his father to sell at the bigger marketplaces several towns away. The older he got, though, the less they could afford the nice leather. "That sounds nice."

Yoongi smiled. "It is." He paused, looking at the water in his glass before returning Taehyung's gaze. "You can go rest in your room until dinner, if you'd like. I have some work to do outside, and I'm sure you don't want to watch me."

Taehyung laughed. Truthfully, he would be interested, but maybe another day. He wanted some time for himself. "Okay, hyung."

Yoongi gestured to the bookshelf. "Feel free to grab a book to entertain yourself. Some of them are in the ancient language, though...?"

"I know how to read it," Taehyung said, pride bubbling in his chest. Yoongi stared at him, an eyebrow curved up. "It's weird, right?"

"Not weird," Yoongi said, careful, "just unusual. They taught you the ancient language in school?"

Taehyung shook his head. They had discussed the ancient language briefly in their textbooks, but it was brief. It wasn't as if humans used the ancient language on a day to day basis, anyways. The priestesses made their prayers in the ancient language, but everyone knew the translations.

"My father taught me," Taehyung explained, curling his fingers around the hem of his shirt. "He said I might need it one day."

Yoongi pursed his lips, nodding along. "Well, I suppose he was right. Feel free to pick any book, then. You can leave the bread on the counter, we'll grab it when we leave."

"Thank you."

Taehyung ended up grabbing a few books, most of them revolving around mischief and magic, to sate his appetite. One of them was in the ancient language, which he found the most intriguing. He had never read a book in the ancient language before, since there were really none in their libraries, and he wondered if he would find more information about dragons in them. The other books seemed to be classics of the regular sort, with no explicit mention of dragon culture or anything like that, but he still wanted them to amuse himself.

The book had worn corners, and the edges of the papers were yellowed. There seemed to be some water damage along the spine, and Taehyung smiled at the irony as he brushed his thumb over the ripples.

The first story discussed the birth of the dragons. They were said to have been born from the sun, children who lost their paths on the way to becoming stars. They fell to earth, magic and mystery and fire within them, where they grew alongside humans under the watchful eye of the moon. As humans grew to adapt to tools, dragons adapted to fire.

The humans had been scared of dragons, once. That ignorance led to a long war, one where the humans had no chance to overthrow the dragons. That blue fire was too powerful, especially in a society that didn't have the tools to deal with it. The war lasted for decades, until one day a dragon fell in love with a human.

Taehyung knew of that story. His mother used to tell it to him, about the birth of the shifters.

The children conceived by the human and dragon led to creation of the shifters. That new race served as a catalyst for peace, bringing both dragons and humans into a harmonious relationship. It always seemed a little explicit to Taehyung, considering a dragon and human mating, but he supposed all origin stories were odd in that way.

The stories went on to describe the rise of the shifters in power. Many humans relied on the dragons for things such as food or fire or guidance. The priestesses were a rising class that served as a beacon of hope in most of their towns, and Taehyung himself had a great amount of love and admiration for them.

There were always skeptics, of course, but the dragons were revered.

The stories mentioned the dragon realm every now and then, but it never discussed bringing the humans over. Taehyung supposed that began after the book was published. It had been going on for as long as he was alive, anyways, and a good portion of his parents' lives as well.

Taehyung rested the book on his lap. Now that he knew what he was chosen for, although he still didn't know why, he realized why the dragons kept their motives a secret. If the rest of his town knew that he was selected to survive in luxury while they were being left behind, what would they say?

If he were in their position, he would be upset. The dragons were more powerful, yes, but what gave them the right to decide who deserved to live?

Taehyung sighed, resting his head in his hands. His bones felt heavy with how much thinking he had been doing. There was so much he had to consider in regards to his new life, and he wasn't sure what to make of it all.

A knock on his door had him pause, and he sat up before mumbling out a soft, "Come in."

Yoongi peeked his head in, glancing down at the mess of books in front of Taehyung on the bed before offering a gentle smile. "We should leave now to get to Jeongguk's in time for dinner. Are you ready?"

Taehyung hadn't changed since he had gotten there, since he didn't have a reason to. He nodded. "I am."

He was starting to get hungry, too. He hadn't realized how long he spent reading.

He followed Yoongi out after grabbing the bread, back to the door where he struggled for a few seconds to pull on Yoongi's coat. He shrugged on his boots, now dry, and licked his lips They were still dry, and he wished he had a salve to put over them.

"He lives relatively close," Yoongi said, shrugging on his own coat. "Closer than town, anyways. It won't be long."

They walked in silence. Yoongi seemed to sense that Taehyung wasn't in a talkative mood, and Taehyung figured Yoongi wasn't, either. There wasn't anything negative in the air between them, so Taehyung didn't bother trying to make small talk. He supposed they would be spending the entire time at dinner talking, anyways.

Jeongguk’s cottage was about a ten minute walk from Yoongi's, and it was approximately the same size. There was a fur pelt hanging over the chair on the outside porch, and Taehyung couldn't resist the urge to run his fingers over it as Yoongi knocked on the door. It was as soft as it looked, and it reminded Taehyung of the few times his father had been able to work with fur when he was young.

Surprisingly, Hoseok was the one to open the door.

His shoulders relaxed once he realized who was there, and Taehyung offered him a cheerful smile. He felt a rush of relief at seeing his new friend, and he held up the bag containing the remains of the loaf of lemon bred. "Hi, hyung."

"Taehyung," Hoseok breathed, smiling wide. He didn't look as scared as he had the last time they had been together, which was a relief. "What's this?"

"Lemon bread," Yoongi answered simply.

Hoseok eyed him before smiling, taking the bread from Taehyung. "Everyone's inside already."

Taehyung smiled, relieved that Hoseok seemed to like it. They followed him inside, taking their shoes off and arranging them next to the others. It was warmer inside, even when they took off their coats, and as they walked down the hallway to the main room he realized why.

The chimney had a fire going, that same pretty blue burning bright and warming up the entire house. Seokjin was sitting at the table with a man Taehyung figured was Namjoon, while Jeongguk was bringing over the dishes from the kitchen. He grinned at them first, lifting up a hand. "Hello, strangers."

Yoongi gruffed out a hello, taking a seat beside Seokjin, and Taehyung offered a subdued smile. "Hello?"

"This is Namjoon," Seokjin said, patting Namjoon's shoulder with a more muted smile. "I told you about him earlier, remember?"

"I do," Taehyung said, smiling as Namjoon did. "It's nice to meet you."

It felt kind of odd seeing another human. He was used to just Hoseok and the dragons, and now there was another like him. "It's nice to meet you, too," Namjoon said, nudging Seokjin. "How has your first day been?"

Yoongi patted the seat next to him, and Taehyung slid into it after a second of consideration. Hoseok sat down, too, and it didn't surprise Taehyung that he took the seat next to him. "It's been nice," Taehyung said, shrugging his shoulders. "I, um, I think. I wasn't sure what to expect, anyways."

"It'll be like that for a while," Namjoon said. He looked honest, and Taehyung appreciated that. He spoke to both him and Hoseok, even though Hoseok was staring at the bread bag he placed on the table. "I know it's asking a lot, but trust us, okay? I know how you feel, because I was in your position not too long ago. But I've made a lot of friends I consider as family, and I'm happy here."

"I guess we can't be too upset," Hoseok sighed, running his hand over his face. "We had the chance to decline the consideration, anyways."

Taehyung hummed, and Namjoon smiled. "Yeah. Jeongguk-ah, let's eat?"

Jeongguk came over with the last plate of food, setting it down with a shy smile, and Taehyung looked over everything. There was a lot of variety to the food, and he had to wonder if they were trying to impress him and Hoseok. Either way, he'd enjoy it.

"Thank you for the food," they all said before digging in.

Taehyung loaded up his plate silently, watching Hoseok curiously from the corner of his eye. Jeongguk seemed to be watching him too, his cheeks and ears pink with shyness, but Hoseok didn't look at either of them. He seemed closed off, but Taehyung didn't blame him. It was going to take some getting used to, and the dragons couldn’t fault them for that.

"We'll explain everything you want to know," Seokjin said after a few moments of eating. He smiled when Taehyung raised a brow. "Yes, everything."

"Can you explain the hierarchy thing, then?" he asked. He gathered bits and pieces from what Yoongi had told him throughout the day, but there was still some things missing.

"Alright. We're all ranked in the hierarchy based on a combination of birth and our contribution to the clan," Seokjin explained. "The Elder Council is at the top of the hierarchy, and their families tend to be high ranked as well. We tend to give higher ranks to people who contribute a lot to the clan, like our physicians and hunters. For example, Jeongguk's family have always been hunters, so they tend to rank higher. My family, on the other hand, wasn't that high ranked."

Jeongguk raised his hand when his name was mentioned, as if Hoseok and Taehyung would forget who Seokjin was referring to.

"However, my glassmaking is used in all the new buildings and cottages. I'm considered useful to the clan, so I was rewarded with my own territory. It's a smaller contribution than, say, Jeongguk's, but I'm also older, so we have about the same amount of territory given to us. Yoongi, on the other hand, was born into his position in the hierarchy since his grandfather sits on the Elder Council. He also provides a lot to the clan with his blacksmith work, so he's able to retain that position. Does that make sense?"

Hoseok and Taehyung both nodded. It was interesting, so different from what Taehyung was used to in regards to wealth and property. Dragons seemed to be very filial.

"We don't explicitly define our hierarchy, since it doesn't matter when comparing amongst ourselves," Jeongguk said, his lips twitching into a smile. "We're all equal, pretty much, just some of us are alloted more land."

Taehyung nodded again. That sounded fairly nice.

"Why were you chosen as guides? What exactly are you supposed to do with us?" Hoseok asked, focusing his gaze on Jeongguk.

Jeongguk shied at his gaze, lowering his utensils down onto his plate. "Since we're higher ranked, the council considers us better equipped to help you adapt to our lifestyle. We're steady, I guess?"

"I'm sure my grandfather saw this as an opportunity to give us more responsibility," Yoongi said, pursing his lips. "He saw Seokjin hyung and Namjoon as a success, so he thought having Seokjin hyung close to me and Jeongguk would be a good resource."

"As for responsibilities," Seokjin said, smiling as Yoongi pouted, "they'll be responsible for helping you two adapt. Teaching you how to be more cognizant of using your resources, learning a craft or utilizing skills you already know, supporting both yourself and the clan. They'll house and feed you for as long as you need it, and will be your support. In about a month the Elder Council will summon you to their chambers, where they will meet with you and fully initiate you into the clan."

"Yoongi mentioned something about an allowance," Taehyung said, wracking his brain for all the things that had happened throughout the day. "Can you, uh, elaborate?"

Hoseok turned to him, tilting his head. "An allowance?"

Seokjin levelled Jeongguk with a look that Taehyung assumed meant Jeongguk was supposed to let Hoseok know, and Jeongguk nervously smiled back. "Yes. The council will give you two a certain amount of coins every month until you pick up a craft and can support yourselves. Your guides have your first allotment, but from now on it will be deposited in the bank under your name. You'll be responsible to go into town and receive it to buy the things you need."

Yoongi snorted, shaking his head. "Pretty big thing to forget about, Jeongguk-ah."

"Sorry," Jeongguk mumbled, ignoring the teasing from his hyungs as he chomped down on more noodles. Hoseok seemed amused, smiling behind his water.

"I still...don't understand why," Taehyung admitted, once their chatter melted away into nothingness. "Why us?"

Seokjin smiled. "I can't tell you for certain. But, there are a lot of humans that are greedy. Whether that be for land or wealth or things or war. Such greed can lead to destruction of everything. They're being extremely picky with who they want to bring here to avoid instances of that greed."

"Are people here not greedy?" Hoseok asked. There was a bit of hostility in his tone, and Taehyung pressed their shoulders together.

They didn't know each other well, but Taehyung didn't want Hoseok getting himself in trouble. They had to stick together.

Jeongguk fumbled, his utensils clattering off his plate to the table. "N-No, they are, it's just--"

"It's just different," Yoongi finished. His tone was flat, and his face was clear of any expression when Taehyung whipped his head around to look at him. "It's rare that dragons get greedy for power and money. There's no need to with how our society works."

Hoseok didn't look convinced, but he relaxed into his chair. "I'm not trying to offend you," he started, lips drawn tight, "but it's just hard to wrap my head around."

Namjoon cut in, looking exasperated. "I was the same, at first. I had a lot of questions and it didn't make sense to me. I guess you just have to realize that they're not trying to be evil or superior. It's just...it's dangerous, right?"

Hoseok puffed out his cheeks. He looked pensive. "I get it. It's just frustrating, thinking about how people I think would be worthy aren't in the eyes of the priestesses."

Taehyung thought about his family and friends he left behind. He took a careful sip of his water, his eyes flickering between Namjoon and Hoseok.

"I know," Namjoon said, sighing as he ran his fingers through his hair. "It's a complex situation."

They went back to eating in silence, and Taehyung contemplated a few more things in his head. "You seem to have an overall negative opinion of humans," he said, honestly. He didn't say it specifically to anyone, busy moving the leftover rice on his plate. "I didn't feel uncomfortable with the staring I got today, but are people going to dislike me? Us?"

Hoseok shifted in his seat.

"No," Seokjin said. Taehyung lifted up his gaze, and he was sure the frown Seokjin had was mirrored on his own face. "I'm sorry it came across that way. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable or unsafe here. All of the clans are in agreeance about our human additions. We want you to thrive here, all of us. I don't think I know anyone who actively hates humans. There might be some judgement towards some of the humans back in your realm, but that's towards those who are killing it."

"If someone bugs you, tell me," Yoongi mumbled, shovelling noodles in his mouth afterwards. “I’m sure everyone today was curious. We’re very close as a community, and there’s always curiosity when someone new comes to live with us.”

Taehyung's shoulders slumped. It made him feel a little better, but he would need some time before he believed them.

"Well," Seokjin said, his frown flipping into a bright smile, "I think it's time for dessert?"

Chapter Text

Taehyung tilted his head. "What're you up to?"

His head was still foggy with sleep. He was in a pair of pajamas borrowed from Seokjin, so they were a bit big in some places and a bit small in others, but they were fine enough to sleep in. He had actually slept well, despite the cottage still being so unknown to him. It helped that he had fallen asleep with a book in his hands, the ancient language swirling around in his head as he tried to absorb as much information as he could.

He had gotten up, ready to help Yoongi make breakfast or find something around the house, only to hear clattering outside. He exited the cottage and walked around to the back, following a stone path in the direction of the noise.

He found Yoongi tucked between the trees in a shed about half the size of the cottage, fitted between tall containers of metal and molds and all sorts of things Taehyung didn't know the names of. There were unfinished projects scattered about the ground, and Yoongi was working in front of a large forge on what looked like a hammer.

Yoongi looked up, licking his upper lip as he wiped the sweat of his brow. "Work."

Taehyung snorted, staying near the door. He could see the distinct blue fire from where he was standing, and he didn't want to get too close. It already felt warm. "I can make breakfast?"

Yoongi stepped back from the anvil, shrugging off his gloves and rubbing at his hands. They weren't calloused or rough like Taehyung assumed they might be. "That'd be nice. There are eggs and meat in the icebox, and there's still some leftover rice from last night."

Taehyung nodded along, relieved that there was enough for him to throw something together. He didn't want to have to rely on Yoongi for everything, so breakfast was a good start. "Come inside soon."

Yoongi hummed out his understanding, turning back to his many projects as Taehyung took the trek back to the cottage. He wasn't sure how to feel about making breakfast for himself and a stranger, but he had to tell himself that he needed to learn to trust Yoongi.

He took four eggs out of the icebox along with a slab of smoked meat, looking around in the cupboards until he found a deep pan. He couldn't do much since he was used to being spoiled by his parents, but he was able to make his way over to the fireplace and set the pan on the hooks attached on the inside.

There was some contraption built into the countertop that he saw Seokjin using their first meal together, seemingly powered by fire, but he wasn't sure how to use it. He didn't want to risk breaking anything, either. Yoongi had been nice to him so far, but Taehyung didn't want to push any buttons.

He watched the eggs carefully, making sure to put them in after the meat so they wouldn't burn, and by the time he was walking back to the counter to grab some plates Yoongi was making his way in.

"It smells good," he commented, shivering as he hung up his coat and kicked off his boots. .

"I wasn't sure how to use this," Taehyung said, smiling as he gestured to the...stove, he remembered hearing Seokjin call it. "So I used the fireplace."

Yoongi grinned, lopsided in a way that Taehyung thought might be making fun of him. "It has to be lit with my fire. The fireplace is a good alternative, though, which is why I installed those hooks."

Taehyung flushed, looking over at the stove. It was strange and he didn't understand how it worked. He would have to keep to the fireplace. "Well, here."

He loaded up their plates and offered one to Yoongi before grabbing his own, rounding the dragon so he could plop down at the table. Yoongi followed with shorter strides and sat across from him, and soon enough they were both silent save the sounds of their chewing.

"I'll be giving you the rest of your allowance," Yoongi said, once they were done eating and helping each other wash the dishes. Taehyung was quite amazed with the whole sink. He had been the first day, too, but was too unsure to ask about it.

"How does that do...that?"

Yoongi blinked, realizing that he wasn't going to get a response to his original topic. "Do what?"

"The water," Taehyung said. He leaned against the counter, tilting his head as water dripped from the long neck of the tap.

Yoongi made a soft 'ah' sound, reaching out to turn the valve to stop the water. "Magic, mostly. Our mages figured out how to redirect and reuse our water, so we won't have to go to the rivers to clean our things. Like the fountain?"

Taehyung remembered Jeongguk filling their glasses with water from the tap. The water had tasted clean, so he had no reason to doubt Yoongi. "We had to wash our dishes in basins."

"We still have to wash our clothes in basins," Yoongi said, smiling a little. "Not that advanced yet. But bathing is easier, as well."

Taehyung didn't think there was any other way to clean clothes. He hadn't believed there was another way to clean dishes, either, though.

"Anyways," Yoongi said, finishing rinsing up the last plate, "you'll be responsible for your allowance."

"We're still going to get me things today?"

"Yeah, Seokjin mostly said that to push Jeongguk," Yoongi said, wiggling his nose as he wiped his hands off on his trousers. "We'll go with them. You need clothes that belong to you."

Taehyung looked down at himself and hummed. "Yeah, that'd be nice. I can buy whatever I want?"

"As long as you can afford it," Yoongi mumbled. "Change and we'll head out."

Taehyung did as he was told, retreating to his room to change into his spare clothes. It felt nice to be in clothes that actually fit him, and even if he was bummed that he couldn't bring more of his old clothes he was excited to get new ones. He was attached to the memories that came with his clothes, anyways, not necessarily missing the rough patches his mother had sewn onto them when he tore something. Part of him wanted to buy more loaves of bread, too, but he knew better than to blow off all of his allowance on sweets.

Yoongi told him that he would be taking care of their meals, so at least he wouldn't have to worry about that. He needed clothes, and it would be nice if he could start accumulating things for leather making. Yoongi said he would help if it got expensive, but...

Taehyung was determined to make it work.

Yoongi was waiting for him, coat in hand, and he lifted himself out of the chair as Taehyung made his way over to grab it. "Ready?"

Taehyung smiled, shrugging on the coat with ease. He hoped he wasn't stretching it out. "Ready."

 

 

Jeongguk and Hoseok met them in town. Hoseok seemed to be in a better mood than he had been at dinner, and Taehyung beamed when they met eyes.

"Hyung!"

Hoseok laughed as Taehyung hugged his arm, nudging him away playfully. "You're in a good mood."

"We're finally getting clothes," Taehyung chirped. He held up the sack Yoongi had put his allowance in, pleased to hear the coins jingling around inside. "Of course I'm in a good mood."

Jeongguk smiled awkwardly as he watched them, and Taehyung felt obliged to say a chipper good morning to him as well. He felt a little bad for him, since it didn't seem like Hoseok was being very patient with him, but at the same time it wasn't like Hoseok could be blamed for being wary.

"Let's go in," Yoongi said, gesturing to the door with his chin.

There were several mannequins around the store, showing off brilliant outfits that Taehyung couldn't imagine himself in. He liked clothes, but there was something about ruffles and bright jewels that intimidated him. He was used to wearing plain shirts and trousers.

The seamstress smiled as they walked in, and she greeted them with gusto. Her name was Jieun and she had scales that glistened a baby pink. Taehyung stayed as still as possible as she took their measurements, but she didn't even prick him with her needle. "It's been a while," she said, forlorn. "It's not too often I get to take new measurements."

Jeongguk laughed, running his finger over a bolt of cloth. "It's only been half a year."

"The other clans get more humans than we do," she said, waving him away. "They're spoiled."

Yoongi rolled his eyes, but he was still smiling. "We get the same amount. It has nothing to do with being spoiled."

Jieun scowled, but immediately went back to smiling as she asked for Taehyung to stand up straighter. He did so, not wanting to upset her when she seemed so excited. Taehyung felt relieved that a dragon seemed so excited to have humans around.

Hoseok seemed to be excited about getting new clothes, and he pointed out various different fabrics and styles of shirts as she asked him about what he wanted. Jieun loved that, asking him a million and one questions that had Taehyung tilting his head in confusion.

"My parents had sheep," Hoseok explained as he helped Taehyung pick out what clothes he wanted. "I used to help them shear the sheep and we would make clothes for the winter."

Jieun leaned in, her smile growing from ear to ear. "You should work for me."

"Noona—"

"Hush, Jeongguk."

Jeongguk deflated, his lips pouting. Hoseok looked between them, his eyes shining with curiosity, and Taehyung figured that was that.

"Okay," Hoseok said, matching her grin. "I think that would be nice."

Yoongi snorted, crossing his arms over his chest. "That just makes your job easier, Jeongguk-ah."

Jeongguk bit his lip, shrugging his shoulders as he went back to petting the cloth. Taehyung felt a bit bad for him. He seemed to be trying his best with no luck so far.

Taehyung ended up ordering five shirts and three trousers and a coat. He got some undergarments, too, along with a recommendation to go to the shoemaker a few shops down. Hoseok ordered a few more things, which lead to Taehyung ordering a scarf and gloves. The dragons found gloves to be ridiculous since their hands were hotter compared to human hands. Taehyung didn't care; his hands were sensitive to the cold.

As they left the store, Jieun making Hoseok promise to come visit her the next morning so she could start training him, Taehyung lifted up his sack of coins and pouted. "It's so much lighter now."

Yoongi laughed behind his hand. "I'll pitch in if you need anything else."

Jeongguk smiled, glancing at Hoseok under his eyelashes. "Me too."

Hoseok decided to throw Jeongguk a bone, smiling widely as he started to make his way towards the shoemaker. "Thank you, Jeongguk."

Taehyung swallowed down a laugh as Jeongguk beamed, accepting the attention with a puffed out chest and long stride. Yoongi seemed to notice, though, and he shared a secretive grin with Taehyung as they watched Jeongguk follow Hoseok like a hopeful puppy.

Taehyung had enough money for the shoes he wanted, which were much more simple than the boots he brought from home. They were sturdy, and the leather was nice. The shoemaker complimented his boots, which made Taehyung puff up with pride. No matter where he went, he was first and foremost his parent’s son.

Yoongi suggested they return to his for lunch. They ate comfortably, and Taehyung had to admit that he was having fun. Hoseok was loosening up, which made him feel better, and in turn Jeongguk was starting to come out of his shell. Yoongi was still being quiet, but Taehyung figured that was just his personality.

Hoseok and Jeongguk left without incident, and Taehyung found himself once again drawn to the books as Yoongi left to return to his work.

"I'm sorry I can't humor you for longer," Yoongi had said, but Taehyung smiled and shook his head.

"I wanted to finish some more books, anyways. Go work, hyung."

He found himself reading in the main room, bundled up in a blanket that smelled of spices. He wasn't in the mood to read in the ancient language, so he picked up a simpler book instead. It was kind of funny, telling fairy tales that Taehyung was used to but with a dragon twist.

He laughed by himself, immersing himself in the stories he used to love so much as a child. He loved them, still, but it had been so long since he took the time to enjoy them. It felt childish, but he supposed he could allow himself that luxury for the time being.

 

 

Taehyung frowned. "What do you mean?"

Yoongi sighed, brushing the hair out of his eyes. "I mean, we don't use coal or wood for our fires."

Taehyung supposed that made sense, but he wasn't a dragon. "Isn't it tiring producing fire all the time?" He looked down at the stove, which Yoongi was supposed to light up with his fire, and back up at Yoongi.

Yoongi pursed his lips and crossed his arms over his chest. "No, it isn't. My fire lasts longer than your fire, anyways, so it's not like I have to constantly produce it."

Taehyung hummed, tapping his fingers on the counter. "Can you show me, then? How you light it up?"

They were trying to make dinner. The previous night they ate simple, bread and vegetables and the leftover smoked meat in the icebox. Taehyung didn’t want to spend any more money on food since getting all his clothes had taken a big portion of his allowance, even though Yoongi’s generous offer was still on the table.

However, Jeongguk had brought over some fresh meat in the morning, which Yoongi traded him some metal goods for, and Taehyung suggested they make stew. They had vegetables and spices and meat, and there was still rice leftover from breakfast.

Now, as he stared at the pot, he wondered what it would be like to watch Yoongi produce fire.

Yoongi seemed to sense that, and he sighed. "You don't have to be scared," he started, dropping his arms to his sides. "Just— step back, if you want. But I won't burn you."

Taehyung wanted to believe him, but they were effectively still strangers. He took a few steps back. Yoongi didn't seem to be offended, at least, and he bent down to get level with the stove. There was an open valve in front of the burner, and Taehyung jumped as Yoongi started to blow into it.

The fire looked just as blue coming out of Yoongi's mouth as it did burning in the fireplace. It reminded Taehyung of the illustrations he used to see as a child that depicted wind, delicate swirls of fire tunneling into the valve until the burner lit from underneath.

Yoongi stepped back, urging Taehyung forward, and Taehyung offered a meek smile as he returned to the counter and moved the pot of stew onto the burner. He could feel the heat, but it wasn't overwhelming. It just felt warm.

"That's neat," he admitted, rubbing his hands together.

Yoongi smiled, and it took Taehyung some effort to not pout from embarrassment. "It is, isn't it?"

"It always used to be such a bother," Taehyung said, trying to be amicable, "getting lumber."

"I think I'd rather be cold," Yoongi said, grinning when Taehyung choked out a laugh. "We don't get cold easily, though. So that's nice."

"How's, um, how's summer?" Taehyung asked. Dragons didn't get any less interesting the more time he spent in their realm, so he found himself with more questions than he could have ever imagined back home.

"It can be fairly uncomfortable," Yoongi mumbled, starting to pick up the scraps of vegetables they had left on the counter. Taehyung started to help him clean up, too. "We spend a lot of time in the water. Or flying."

Taehyung hummed, nodding along as he tried to imagine it. "Do you fly often?"

"You have a lot of questions," Yoongi said, smiling a little as Taehyung's cheeks flushed. "But, yeah. I try to get away when I can. I get antsy if I haven't been in my dragon shift for a while."

Taehyung bit his bottom lip. A part of him wanted to stop asking questions, since he had gotten called out, but he couldn't resist. "Does it hurt? The shift?"

Yoongi paused, the vegetables falling into the trash from his downturned hands, before shrugging his shoulders. "It did at first. Now it's just....a dull throbbing. You get used to it."

"I don't think I could," Taehyung admitted, swiping away a bit of spice that was left on the counter. "I'd be scared of getting hurt."

Yoongi bit his cheek, leaning back against the counter and crossing his arms over his chest again. "If I stopped myself every time I was scared of getting hurt I wouldn't get a whole lot done."

Taehyung's lips parted in surprise.

Not like he could argue with that.

 

 

Namjoon appeared a few days later, all smiles.

Taehyung had spent his time with Yoongi casually. He learned that Yoongi was a bit of a workaholic, but Taehyung didn't mind. He liked spending time by himself. He wasn't allowed a lot of time alone back home, especially since he had to help watch his siblings and help his parents in the shop.

He hadn't seen Namjoon since that first night at Jeongguk's, though, so his visit was a pleasant surprise.

"Jieun has your clothes ready," Namjoon explained. "She saw me in town and told me to come get you and Hoseok. I thought you might appreciate some time away from your dragon, anyways."

Taehyung perked up. He glanced at the coat he had been borrowing from Yoongi, excusing himself for a few seconds so he could shrug it on and put on his boots as well. He told Namjoon to start heading into town, so excited to get clothes for himself, and in the meantime jogged through the thin layer of snow to the shed.

It was a weird feeling. He didn't have many opportunities to get new clothes back home, so it felt like his birthday and the holidays all in one. It was nice to get something entirely new for himself, but a part of him would miss seeing those homemade repairs.

"I'm heading to town with Namjoon and Hoseok," Taehyung called, offering a big grin as Yoongi glanced up from his work.

He was shaping some intricate design out of the metal, something that looked similar to the ornate railing in front of the cottage. It looked like tough work, and Taehyung didn't envy him. "Alright," Yoongi said, licking his lips before looking back down at the metal. "Play nice. Be careful."

Taehyung blinked. It was a fairly basic sentiment, but he still felt awkward with Yoongi. He wasn't sure why, but he supposed it was normal. Taehyung didn't know how they were supposed to act together most of the time. "Okay, hyung. I will."

He caught up with Namjoon after grabbing the remainder of his allowance from where it was left on his desk. He had some money left, so maybe if he was lucky he would be able to pick up some tools. He had to start somewhere!

Namjoon smiled when he saw Taehyung, and they made their way to Hoseok's in relative silence. Hoseok opened the door for them, and he smiled widely when he realized it was them. "Hey?"

"Let's go get our clothes!" Taehyung said, wiggling his hands from where they were stashed in Yoongi's coat pockets to flap it around. "I can't keep washing my same two outfits."

Hoseok snorted, turning over his shoulder to call out, "I'll be going with Namjoon and Taehyung."

They heard some thumping as Hoseok moved to put his shoes and borrowed coat on, and Taehyung blinked when he saw Jeongguk's flustered face peek out from the hallway. "Um. Bye, hyung."

Hoseok tilted his head, humming as he laced up his boots. "Bye, Jeongguk."

Jeongguk waved to them, shy, and Taehyung shared a sheepish look with Namjoon as Jeongguk disappeared back into his room. They moved down the porch and back onto the snow as Hoseok exited the house, shutting the door gently behind him.

Taehyung wondered if he should bring it up, but Namjoon beat him too it.

"I know it's tough for you," Namjoon said, once they were far enough away that Jeongguk couldn't overhear them, "but, it's tough for him, too. He's just a kid, barely turned twenty this past September."

Hoseok frowned, his cheeks turning dusty with embarrassment. Shame, maybe. "I get it. I'm trying. He's just..."

"He's shy," Namjoon said, raising a brow. "He was sheltered as a kid, the youngest of five. Moving out was an attempt for him to stop relying on other people so much, so being assigned as a guide is a big thing to him. He’s been trying to be more outgoing for the new year, but things like that take time."

Hoseok deflated, his shoulders slumping as the fight left him. It looked odd on him. "I'm trying."

In an attempt to lighten the mood, Taehyung nudged Hoseok's arm with a smile. "I don't think you are. He follows you around like a lost puppy."

Hoseok rolled his eyes, nudging Taehyung back. "We're getting used to each other, I'm not trying to be mean to him."

"He likes you a lot," Namjoon said, smiling. His tone was a lot more calm now, his shoulders eased of tension, and Taehyung let out a sigh of relief in his head. "Just give it a shot, alright?"

Hoseok offered a smile, and it didn't seem forced. "I will."

Jieun was waiting for them, their clothes packed in neat stacks near the front of the shop. She was working on something towards the back, a dress fluffed up with pink tulle over a hoop skirt. "About time you came back!"

That was said to Hoseok, who simply laughed. "I was here yesterday morning."

Jieun huffed, putting down her needle and thread and resting her hands on her hips. "No one else here has talent like you, Hoseok. Don't leave me with them."

Taehyung laughed behind his hand, while Namjoon sighed and ran a hand through his hairs. "At least you're getting along."

Jieun squinted at Namjoon before pointing a finger at him. "It's not my fault you can't make clothes properly, Namjoon."

"I'm a designer," Namjoon huffed, "not a tailor."

"Oh, I know," Jieun said, patting his shoulder as she walked over to grab their clothes. She stuck them in large cloth bags, offering one to Hoseok and one to Taehyung. "Namjoon tried to be my apprentice when he first came here. His designs are nice, but we don't work well together."

"You're a control freak," Namjoon groaned, "and you said my designs were shit."

Hoseok laughed, squeezing his bag to his chest. "I'm not much of a designer, maybe that's why noona likes me."

Jieun waved her hand, clicking her tongue as she moved to the right and pointed to a coat on a mannequin. It was a gray wool coat lined with thick black buttons lining the right side and large pockets, also detailed with black buttons. The top button was done up, and the collar was neatly pressed. It looked more expensive than any article of clothing Taehyung had every own. "You made this, didn't you?"

Taehyung paused, peeking inside his bag. There was a similar coat inside, and Taehyung stared at Hoseok in wonder. "You made these?"

Hoseok smiled tightly, his dimples peeking out above his lips as the tips of his ears turned pink. "I finished it. I know how to make coats."

"He's doing a great job," Jieun said, nodding firmly as she ran her hand over the sleeve of the coat. "He picks up things quickly."

Taehyung smiled, nudging Hoseok playfully. "That's great, hyung. You're talented."

Hoseok returned the smile as Jieun prattled on about the types of clothes she had to start making in preparation for the warmer weather to come. She made plans with Hoseok for the next day, after making them all promise to come see her as soon as the snow started melting to get cooler shirts and shorts, and Taehyung was happy to see that Hoseok was enjoying himself.

He worried about himself, sure, but he couldn't help but worry about Hoseok, too. They were in it together, after all.

Namjoon invited them over to his place for lunch, telling them that Seokjin was out working gathering materials, so they headed back into the woods with light conversation and humorous moods.

Seokjin's (and Namjoon's, Taehyung supposed) cottage was closer to town than Yoongi's or Jeongguk's, and Namjoon explained that he had less land even though the house size was the same. It was nice, and Taehyung was starting to recognize more and more the decorative metalwork that Yoongi was responsible for.

Namjoon heated up the food Seokjin had made earlier that morning as Hoseok and Taehyung looked around the living room. Seokjin had a lot more decorations in his home than Jeongguk or Yoongi, with vases and fine dishware and even a few sculptures.

"Did Seokjin hyung make this?" He gestured to a glass sculpture of a little dragon that was sitting on the fireplace mantle. It was the color of Seokjin's scales, and Taehyung had a funny idea that it was supposed to be a representation of Seokjin's dragon shift.

"Yeah," Namjoon said, smiling. "I designed it and he made it."

Hoseok took a seat at the table as Namjoon brought over their food, and Taehyung tore himself away from what he was looking at to join them. "Jieun mentioned that. Are you an artist?"

"Of sorts." Namjoon handed them plates, moving over to one of the bookshelves as Hoseok and Taehyung echoed out their thanks. "I help Seokjin design his wares. I can show you my designs."

He grabbed a thick sketchbook and brought it over, flipping over the first page with a bashful smile. Taehyung started to shovel vegetables into his mouth as he looked at them, his eyes shining in awe.

"You're really talented," Hoseok said, smiling as he leaned in to look at the drawings better. "Oh, there's the dragon."

Sure enough, on the page was a few drawings of that dragon from different angles. It was shaded beautifully, and it almost looked like it could jump off the page at any moment. "That looks so cool, hyung."

Namjoon beamed, putting the sketchbook aside so they wouldn't drop any food on it before taking his seat. "Thank you. Hyung is good at the stuff like simple windows and vases, so I help him with the more intricate designs."

"You complement each other," Taehyung said.

Namjoon smiled, looking down at his food. "Well, enough about that. How's everything going? Are you having any issues?"

"I miss my family," Hoseok said, mixing some vegetables into his rice, "but I don't hate it. Here, you know."

"Were you close?"

Hoseok nodded, and Taehyung watched the careful way he ate. "My father was my hero growing up, and so was my mom. I had an older sister, too. She was my best friend."

Taehyung smiled a little. "My siblings were all younger than me," he said. "It was stressful, but fun."

"You seem like an older brother," Namjoon said, smiling. "Hoseok seems kind of spoiled."

Hoseok huffed, straightening out his posture more as he threw a glare Namjoon's way. "I'm not spoiled. I just...I was scared, at first. I think Jeongguk's more scared of me than I was of him, though."

Taehyung laughed, as so did Namjoon. "Jeongguk's pretty sensitive," he explained, shrugging his shoulders.

"I feel bad," Hoseok sighed, "but I'm going to try to be nicer. Accept him, I guess. Jieun noona keeps asking me questions about him, so I guess I should start answering them."

"She's a brat," Namjoon mumbled, nudging at his noodles. "I'm shocked she likes you."

"I'm charming," Hoseok deadpanned, making Taehyung snort on his water. "What? I am!"

"Anyways," Taehyung giggled, "I miss my family, but I'm getting along with Yoongi hyung. He's been nice to me."

"Hyung's like that," Namjoon said, ignoring Hoseok's pouting. "He likes helping people."

Taehyung smiled, nodding in agreement. "He's been really nice to me. There's still a lot of things I'm not used to, but he's patient. To be honest, I was always curious about dragons. It was...kind of a golden opportunity for me?"

Taehyung had been thinking about how he and Hoseok, two completely different people, got chosen. Taehyung could only imagine the kind of life Hoseok had, and he was sure it was the same for Hoseok.

"I cried the night I arrived here," Namjoon said, smiling a little. "I accepted the consideration because my family wanted a better life for me."

"But you didn't know what you were coming into," Hoseok said, furrowing his brows.

Namjoon shrugged his shoulders. "My family was...destitute. Having one less mouth to feed was worth the chance."

Taehyung frowned, moving around the food on his plate. He understood that. Hoseok looked guilty, though. He hesitated before speaking. "I didn't think of it like that."

"Well, I missed them more than anything. The more I spent with Seokjin and the other friends I made, like Yoongi and Seokjin, the more I realized how happy I was to be here. I get to do what I love, you know? I wouldn't have been able to live out my dream if I had stayed home. I would've had to continue the family business, which was our failing farm. I wouldn't have been happy that way."

"How do you deal with not missing your family too much? Your old life?"

Namjoon shot him a smile. "I miss my family, but I don't miss my old life." He didn't elaborate, and Taehyung didn't want him to. "But, I have Seokjin hyung."

Hoseok tilted his head, curious. "What do you mean by that? I've been meaning to ask you that, too. About why you still live with Seokjin? Jeongguk said once I got my bearings I could move into the communal homes or get awarded my own land depending on my contribution."

Namjoon took a long sip of his water as his cheeks turned rosy. He cleared his throat as he put his glass down again, and Taehyung smiled. "We work well together. It's... a little different out here than it is back home."

Taehyung furrowed his brows. That wasn't a very satisfying answer. "What do you mean, hyung?"

Namjoon sighed, looking between them and probably realizing they weren't going to let up. "Dragons...see mates as something more sacred than procreation. They choose their mates based off of love and compatibility, not power or the desire for children. It’s part of the reason why they decided to bring humans over in the first place."

Taehyung didn't understand what that had to do with anything.

Hoseok smacked his hand against the table though, making Taehyung blink over at him. "Wait! You're Seokjin's mate?"

Namjoon stumbled over his words. "W-Well, we haven’t completed the mating ceremony so not officially but I am, so—"

"Holy shit—"

"If that's a problem—"

"It's not! Trust me, it's not—"

Taehyung stared between them in amazement. He thought back to the first time he kissed a boy behind his cousin's barn, feeling sticky with heat and embarrassment and fear. He never saw that boy again, but after that one incident he found himself looking at the girls in his town less and less. That same fear from the first time he had seen Yoongi clawed at his heart, and he lowered his gaze down to his plate before he said something he would regret.

Chapter Text

Taehyung bit his lip. "It's accepted, then? Dragons and humans being...mates?"

Yoongi hummed, waiting for Taehyung to bring him more dirty dishes. "It’s accepted. The council likes it, especially, since it makes them feel like the humans we bring here are tying themself to us. Loyalty and all that. Originally, the humans we brought here would mate one another, but our society has evolved. It was never seen as taboo, anyways."

"That makes sense. You all seem very family oriented."

"We are," Yoongi said, turning on the water again once Taehyung put the plates down.

Taehyung leaned against the counter, folding his arms over his chest. "Can I ask why you don't live with your parents, hyung?"

Yoongi smiled a little as he scrubbed down the plates. "I have a big family and I like my peace. I wanted to see if I could survive on my own, so I worked at my rank until I was allowed a territory to myself. I built my cottage on my own, too. It took me a year, but I did it."

Taehyung smiled, too. He took a clean plate as soon as Yoongi was done washing it and wiped it down with a rag. "That's impressive, hyung. I never considered moving away, I was expected to stay in the house since I was the oldest."

Yoongi hummed. "Whenever I run into my parents in town they bug me about introducing you to them. I didn't want to bring it up since you're still getting used to everything."

Taehyung perked up, going around Yoongi to put the plates away in the cupboard. He remembered that Yoongi’s grandfather sat on the Elder Council, but Taehyung always liked to face his fears. "I appreciate it, hyung, but I'd really like to meet more people."

Yoongi chewed on his bottom lip. He finished washing the remaining dishes, and Taehyung passed him another rag so they could both dry them. "I'll take you soon, then."

Taehyung smiled to himself as they dried everything and put them back where they belonged. He had a sudden thought, and after a moment of hesitation he tapped his fingers against the counter and told Yoongi to hold on.

Yoongi hummed, and Taehyung hurried to his room. He looked through his things on his desk and smiled when he found what he was looking for. He returned to the kitchen with it in hand, and offered it for Yoongi to look at.

Yoongi raised his brow as he grabbed the knife. "What is this?"

"It was one of my father's knives," Taehyung explained. His heart swelled with emotion, and he had to bite back a frown. "He taught me how to make my first leather pieces with that knife."

Yoongi turned it over in his hand, and Taehyung figured he was looking at it through a blacksmith's trained eye. "It's a nice knife. What was the first thing you made with it?"

Taehyung smiled, shy. "A coin purse. I gave it to my mom for her birthday. We couldn't afford to trade for leather all the time, so it still surprises me that my father was willing to give some up to teach me."

Yoongi stared at him for a short while and before Taehyung could ask if he had something on his face, Yoongi sighed. "When you get your next allowance I'll introduce you to the cattle farmers that live in the eastern section of the territory. They sell leather. It’s nice. Sturdy."

Taehyung's eyes widened. "Hyung, really?"

"You're supposed to make a life here," Yoongi said. He handed back the knife, and Taehyung accepted it with a wide grin. "There's a free space in my shed, too, so you can work there. In the meantime, if you can find a book with the tools you need or can draw them out, I'll make them for you. The sooner you can rely on your own income, the better."

Taehyung clutched the knife to his chest, hoping that somehow he could suppress his budding excitement. He let out a shuddering laugh, so happy that he couldn't contain himself. "Hyung, thank you."

Yoongi turned from him, busying himself with random things, and Taehyung wondered if he was hiding a smile. "Sure, Taehyung."

 

 

True to his word, Yoongi had made the majority of tools Taehyung needed. The ones that he couldn't make, he helped Taehyung buy in town. There was a human girl selling metal tools amongst the travelling merchants, and Taehyung had spent an hour talking to her about all the different things he wanted to make. It was much more comfortable to speak to her since she was human as well, even if Taehyung had to admit that all of the dragons had been kind to him so far.

She had given him advice and some discounts since he bought multiple things, and Taehyung didn't even have to borrow much from Yoongi.

"They'll be giving you more this month," Yoongi explained as they walked through the town to the bank, "since last month you were here for a little under two weeks."

Taehyung nodded along in understanding. "That's nice— I was worried I would only have enough for the leather."

Yoongi smiled. "It'd be a good investment, anyways. Leather goods will be good to trade for other things."

Taehyung laughed, tipping his head back. "I'll have to practice a lot."

The banker was an elderly man with dark red scales, and he hummed with closed eyes as Yoongi introduced Taehyung and said they were there for his allowance. He didn't open his eyes even as he got up and went to the back. He returned with a cloth bag filled with coins. Taehyung accepted it with a hearty thanks, and before he knew it they were outside again heading in the direction of the cattle farm.

"This is more," Taehyung said, making sure to tie the bag tightly so nothing would fall out. "Where does this money come from?"

"The council members share wealth," Yoongi explained, "so they take from that wealth to give to our human members. It's an investment, since eventually you'll be supporting yourself and contributing to the clan with your own goods and earned coin."

"That's...nice." Taehyung didn't think anyone back home would do that. People didn't even want to give a piece of bread to beggars when they themselves couldn't feed their families. It seemed to good to be true, and as Taehyung remembered the sacrifice he had to make to come here, he supposed it was.

It was a fifteen minute walk to the cattle farm. The eastern territory had less trees or more open fields and meadows, so Taehyung started to bounce with excitement when he saw the first signs of fences and cows. They grazed peacefully, as if they didn’t have a care in the world. He supposed they didn’t. "Hyung, are we there?"

Yoongi smiled. "We are."

Taehyung bit his lip to hide his growing smile. The cows looked so healthy and well fed. He could only imagine the quality of the leather.

At the center of all the different pastures was a large barn, and there was a house attached to it as well. Yoongi led Taehyung up the porch, knocking deliberately. They waited for a few seconds before Taehyung heard feet approaching the door, and he put on his nicest smile in anticipation.

A woman about their age opened the door, beaming as she did so. "Yoongi!"

"Noona," Yoongi said, smiling kindly.

"Is this Taehyung?"

Taehyung smiled, tipping his gaze down to her chin. She was very pretty, and pretty people often intimidated Taehyung. "I am. It's nice to meet you."

"Yoona is the Im's oldest daughter," Yoongi said, rolling his eyes when Yoona gave a big grin.

"Sure am. Any reason you're bringing Taehyung over here? Why don't you come in?"

Yoongi walked in first, and they politely left their shoes by the door. "Taehyung is a leather craftsman. He needs some leather."

Yoona smiled, and they followed her past the kitchen to a room in the back. It was full of stacks of tanned leather and ice boxes where Taehyung was sure they stored milk and cheese and meat in. "You're keeping him all to yourself, Yoongi-yah. He barely ever comes in town so no one can meet him."

Taehyung smiled at Yoongi, who started groaning. "I didn't want to overwhelm him."

Taehyung nudged him, and decided to play along with Yoona's teasing. "I'm not a baby, hyung. I can handle it. I've already been here for two weeks. Isn’t it better for me to start assimilating?"

Yoongi frowned, resting his hands on his hips. He sent a glare Yoona's way, but she was busy looking through the leather piles. Or she didn't care. "Fine, I'm not holding you back."

"Yoongi's very protective," Yoona explained as she tugged out a larger sheet of leather. "I'm sure he's been a good guide, though. He brought you here, after all. We have the best cowhide sides in the clan."

She rolled up and handed him the leather, which looked to be about twenty square feet, and Taehyung couldn't say that he disagreed. The leather was smooth and beautifully colored. "This is amazing," he said, in awe.

Yoongi stayed silent, his ears pink from Yoona's teasing, so Yoona took the opportunity to coo. "You're so cute, no wonder Yoongi wanted to keep you for himself."

"Noona—" Yoongi broke his silence, but Yoona continued on as Taehyung let out a surprised laugh.

"I want you to keep coming back, so tell me how much you want. I'm sure we can work out a good price."

Taehyung wouldn't ignore an opportunity, so he smiled and nodded. "I want to take...maybe sixty square feet? Just to get my feet in the water and practice. I won't be making anything too big, anyways."

"For now," Yoongi said, sending a warning look Yoona's way.

Yoona laughed behind her hand, pointing at different piles. "Well, why don't you pick two more colors? We have a darker brown than the one I already gave you and black, as well as some more colorful options..."

Yoongi stood there awkwardly as they negotiated, holding the goods whenever Taehyung would pick something. Yoona eventually came down to a price Taehyung was comfortable with, and he laughed with her as he paid. She was nice and funny, and Taehyung liked talking to her. The fact that her leather was so beautiful was a bonus.

"Come for dinner soon," Yoona said once the coins were exchanged. Yoongi looked like he was about to politely reject, but she muscled on. "It wasn't an offer, it was a demand. My father will be upset if you don't come."

Taehyung grinned. "We'll come soon, then, Yoona-ssi."

"Call me noona," Yoona said, clapping her hand against his shoulder with a bright grin. "Come back soon, okay? You’ll love our milk and cheese, too."

Yoongi sighed out a goodbye as they were led out, and Taehyung helped him carry it all back as they shuffled on their shoes and walked back to the road. Taehyung smiled at Yoongi once they were alone, and he tipped his head.

"Do you get like that a lot?"

Yoongi glared at him, as if he was expecting it. "Get like what?"

Taehyung laughed at the defensiveness and shrugged his shoulders. "Shy?"

Yoongi frowned, holding the leather sides closer to his chest as they continued to walk. "I had a crush on her until I was thirteen. It's still awkward."

Taehyung let out a surprised laugh, nearly dropping what he had in his hands. "Wow, really? Did she know?"

"Yes," Yoongi grumbled. "Unfortunately, she did."

"Aw, hyung. Did she reject you?"

"Not really. She just called me cute. Not like I ever tried to ask her out or anything stupid like that."

Taehyung bit back a laugh. He thought it was the sweetest thing in the world, but he didn't want Yoongi to get upset if he said so. "Sorry, hyung."

Yoongi huffed. "I'm over it. She just knows how to push my buttons."

"It's cute," Taehyung said. Screw it.

Yoongi's cheeks turned pink as he mumbled something under his breath that sounded awfully similar to shut up, and Taehyung grinned.

 

 

Taehyung spent the rest of the night sketching. He had so many ideas of things he wanted to make, and he didn't want to waste any leather because he wasn't prepared. It reminded him of the nights he used to spend with his father, slaving away in their raggedy workshed, and he was determined to work hard.

He woke up in the morning with a bright attitude and motivation, gobbling down the porridge Yoongi had prepared before making his way out to the shed with confidence. Yoongi followed after him, taking a seat on what looked like his usual stool as he told Taehyung where everything was.

There was a large worktable in the back that Yoongi had cleared off for him, stocked with the tools Yoongi had made him and the cowhide slides they got the day before. Taehyung grabbed his father's knife out of his pocket, unsheathing it with a bright smile as he put it down on the table. He looked back at Yoongi, who was wearing a small smile.

"Now it's perfect."

Taehyung started to gather his materials, grabbing the tin box with thread and needles before turning to Yoongi. "Hyung, can I measure you?"

Yoongi tilted his head, but stood up anyways. His scales sparkled in the dim light through the windows. "Measure me where?"

"Your waist. I want to make a belt," Taehyung explained, taking out a thicker piece of yarn before approaching Yoongi. He held tightly onto one end, and a queasy smile grew on his lips as he reached around Yoongi to grab it from behind and pull it around.

He could feel Yoongi's breath on the top of his head. It was warm, but not in an unhygienic or gross way. It was a comforting warmth.

He pinched the other end of the string once he arranged it properly around Yoongi's waist, letting go of the free end before stepping back and taking it back to the table. "Thanks, hyung."

Yoongi hummed out his response, sitting back on his stool.

Taehyung started with a smile, humming under his breath as he started to cut the leather to the length and width he wanted. The combination of the smooth leather side and the knife made it easy. He made it a little longer than the measurement of Yoongi's waist, so that there would be room for a belt buckle and holes. A part of him wanted to carve in a design, but he didn’t want to embarrass himself if it turned out poorly.

He cut the end into a smooth sort of peak, and skived off some of the thickness so it would fold under the buckle easily. He punched out four holes, being careful to make them even so it wouldn't look like an amateur's job.

Taehyung looked at Yoongi over his shoulder. "Hyung, do you think you could make me a belt buckle?"

Yoongi raised a brow, but nodded. "Figured you would need one. Give me the measurements."

Taehyung beamed, telling Yoongi the exact size and style he wanted. Yoongi turned to his own machines and tools, and Taehyung got back to work. He did peak to see Yoongi light his forge, though.

He grabbed a bowl and a rag from one of the shelves bolted on the wall. They had gone back into town after grabbing the leather, and Taehyung had gotten a few jars full of leather dyes. Yoongi had him put them inside the shed, and Taehyung felt like he was really building his own space. It didn't look anything like his father's workshop, but he hoped it would one day.

He excused himself, going back to the house to fill up one of the bowls with water, but Yoongi was too involved in his own work to offer anything more than a hum. He returned quickly, excitement quickly taking over as he dipped the rag in the water and dampened the belt. He glided the beveler Yoongi made him over the raw edges until he was satisfied, tilting his head here and there to look at it from all angles.

He jumped when he heard Yoongi slam down his hammer on the anvil behind them, and laughed at himself before shifting the rag around and opening up the jar of dark brown dye. He rubbed on a thin layer, concentrating so it wouldn't end up blotchy and uneven.

Once he was proud of the color, a pretty sort of walnut brown, he put down the rag and smiled. Now it had to dry. Yoongi behind him had gone quiet, too, and when he turned around there was a neat line of several belt buckles.

"Are they done?"

Yoongi hummed, picking one up and tilting it around to show Taehyung. It was pretty simple, like Taehyung wanted it, but it was nice. "Need to cool down a bit more, but they're done." He put it back on the anvil and tipped his chin towards the belt on Taehyung's table. "The belt done?"

"Almost! I need to let the dye dry, first. It's hot in here so shouldn't be too long."

Yoongi grinned, wiping his hands down on his trousers. "Here, let me see it."

Taehyung raised a brow, but grabbed the belt carefully and handed it to him. Yoongi took it in his hands, spreading it out in front of his face before lightly blowing on it. Taehyung startled, afraid that Yoongi was going to set it on fire, but nothing of the sort happened.

Yoongi handed it back to him with a smug grin, and Taehyung stared at him in wonder. He handed him the belt loop too, and Yoongi laughed at how small it was before doing the exact same thing to dry it. "Hyung?"

"I'm warmer than you are. Comes in handy," Yoongi said, shrugging as Taehyung took the belt loop and stared at it in wonder. He returned to his work, pulling out other things that Taehyung had seen him work on over the past few days, and Taehyung stuttered out a laugh as he placed the belt back on his work table.

"That's cool," he mumbled, reaching for the jar of oil he had gotten as well. He had mixed in beeswax to make the leather more flexible and durable. That had been a hard find at the market stalls, but he was proud to say that he found it for a bargain.

He applied thin coats of the mixture to the leather, smiling in satisfaction at the color darkened to a perfect shade of brown. He waited for the oil and beeswax to sink in, fastening the belt loop with one of the extra metal pieces Yoongi had donated to him.

("You'll need metal eventually," Yoongi had said. He had a box full of metal snaps and clips and bars and all sorts of things that made Taehyung's head race with ideas. It was another thing Taehyung had to add to the list of things Yoongi had given him out of the kindness of his heart.)

He pulled back once he was satisfied, proud of the color and smoothness. It didn't look rough at all, even though Taehyung hadn't made anything in a while.

"It looks good," Yoongi said, stepping up from behind him. He had the belt loops in his hand, and they looked even prettier fully cooled down. Taehyung beamed, his heart fluttering with pride.

"You think so?"

Yoongi hummed, offering one of the belt loops. He put the rest of them away in the box with the rest of the metal extras and Taehyung quickly worked to fasten it to the end of the belt. It fit perfectly.

"You should get your own branding stamp," Yoongi said.

Taehyung smiled, laughing under his breath. "That would be nice, I think. Professional."

Yoongi bit his lip. "If you want," he started, tapping his fingers against the work table, "you should get Namjoon to design it. I can make it for you. I've made a few before."

Taehyung felt oddly touched. "That's really nice of you, hyung. Thank you."

He picked up the belt to properly show it off to Yoongi, glad that there wasn't extra oil smearing across his fingers or dye coming off like it had the first time he made a belt, and Yoongi nodded his head with a wide smile. "It's really nice, Taehyung. You know your craft."

Taehyung's heart swelled at the compliment, and he rolled the belt up before offering it. "I want to give it to you, hyung. For being so helpful."

Yoongi hesitated, his eyes going wide, and for a second Taehyung was worried he wasn't going to take it. "You want me to...?"

"I do," Taehyung said, sure of himself. "I made it just for you, anyways."

Yoongi sucked in a breath before taking the belt. His fingers twitched, and Taehyung laughed shyly as Yoongi looped it through his trousers and fastened it on himself. "Well...thank you. It's perfect."

Taehyung grinned and turned back to make some more.

 

 

Taehyung laid out the miscellaneous accessories he had been making over the past few days. Multitudes of belts, bracelets, necklaces, some coin purses, and even a few bags. Yoongi had given him advice on what he could make to sell in Jieun's shop, and Taehyung wanted to follow it.

Jieun looked impressed. So that was a good start.

She picked up a satchel Taehyung had spent two days making, looking over it with a wide smile. "You made this all by yourself?"

"Yoongi hyung did the metal pieces," Taehyung explained, pointing them out. There weren't very many, but just enough to make it look more refined. "But, other than that, yes."

The satchel was dyed a cherry red, purely for aesthetic purposes. He had wondered if he should leave it brown, but he couldn't resist the temptation. "They're beautiful. I'd be more than happy to display them in my shop. Hobi!"

Hoseok appeared from the backroom, a long strip of lace hanging around his shoulders. He smiled when he saw Taehyung, and Taehyung returned it. "What do you need?"

"Let's display these," Jieun chirped, picking up a belt. "Help Taehyung spread out the bracelets and necklaces on that table, I'll start putting the bigger things on the mannequins."

Taehyung did as he was told, following Hoseok's directions on how to arrange everything. It was nice, seeing his things out on display. There weren't very many, since he had only been working for a short amount of time, but he couldn't wait to make more and more.

"You're free to bring more things, too, Taehyung," Jieun said once they were done setting everything out. Taehyung felt proud that his goods looked up to par with Hoseok's and Jieun's clothes. "Just bring them over and we'll put them on display. I'll give you whatever money you make selling them when you stop by, okay?"

Taehyung smiled, feeling proud that he was on the path to making his own money. "Thank you, noona. Ah, I'm not sure about prices, though...?"

Jieun waved her hand. "Don't worry about it. What you should worry about is what you'll be wearing to the festival in two weeks."

Taehyung blinked, looking at Hoseok for answers. When he saw Hoseok looked just as confused as he felt, he turned back to Jieun. "What do you mean festival?"

Jieun rested her hands on her hips, frowning. "Your guides are useless. Every other month, we have a festival to celebrate the full moon. It's held in town, and there's food stalls and entertainment and it's overall a good time. It's an excuse to dress up and fly late at night, to be honest."

Taehyung perked up. He had yet to see a dragon shift close up since that first night with Yoongi and Jeongguk. He supposed it made sense that the dragons wouldn't be in their dragon shift in the middle of town, but he was getting antsy. He had been too shy to ask Yoongi about it, too.

"That sounds fun," Taehyung said, sharing a grin with Hoseok.

"What kind of entertainment?" Hoseok asked, smoothing down the shirt on one of the mannequins.

"Anything and everything," Jieun said. "Dancers and singers, stuff like that. Some of the older folks will read poems or tell stories. We play games, too, even if the elders win most of them."

Hoseok perked up. "My sister and I used to do traditional dance back home. I love watching it."

Jieun clapped her hands together, grinning. "You should participate! It's fun, really. Taehyung-ah, do you dance or play any instruments?"

Taehyung didn't have the heart to tell her poor people didn't have the opportunity to play instruments. Instead, he shrugged. "No, not really. I'd love to see Hoseok dance, though."

Hoseok laughed, waving his hand at the suggestion. "I don't know about that."

"I think you should! The festival's going to be a good opportunity for you two to meet more people, so it'd be a great conversation starter," Jieun said, nodding to herself. “I think everyone would like to see you trying to fit in, too.”

Taehyung smiled at Hoseok. "You know she's not going to give up until you agree."

Hoseok closed his eyes, sighing as he rubbed a hand against the side of his neck. "Yes. I know."

"Then you'll do it?" Jieun looked so hopeful, clutching her hands in front of her chest as she grinned. Taehyung had to hide his laugh.

"Yes, noona. I'll do it."

Jieun laughed, bright and happy as she smacked Hoseok on the arm. "Great! My brother is a musician, I'll have him stop by tomorrow and teach you the music. I'm sure one of your dances will fit."

Hoseok sent an exasperated look Taehyung's way, and Taehyung couldn't contain his laughter.

 

 

 

Taehyung had gotten into a routine.

In the morning, he would eat his breakfast with Yoongi. They'd talk about simple things, like work or their friends or how Taehyung was feeling, and then they would either walk into town together or work together. They'd have lunch together if they were working, but if not Yoongi packed them lunches to take into town.

Yoongi wouldn't stay in town, from what Taehyung had gathered. He would visit people's homes to install his goods or to take a commission or negotiate a trade. No matter what, though, he would always return by sunfall to walk with Taehyung home.

Taehyung, on the other hand, often found himself in Jieun's shop helping her and Hoseok out while displaying his wares. Namjoon and Seokjin would stop by to check in on them, sometimes, and it was nice to be surrounded with good company. There were rare days when Taehyung would stay home to work while Yoongi went off to meet people, but Taehyung didn't like that option too much. He liked people way too much to be by himself.

His items were rather popular, which was a bonus. He was been surprised when Jieun handed him his pay, a hefty load of coins, and announced that all of his things had sold only a few days after they had set them out. Something about dragons liking pretty things. On one hand, Taehyung was been excited, and on the other hand it had lit a fire under his butt to get back to work.

He showed Yoongi his pay when they met up before dinner, having promised to walk back with one another. "Hyung, look!"

Yoongi blinked, unsure of what Taehyung was trying to show him until he peeked inside the bag. He lifted his head up with an impressed smile. "You're talented, I'm not shocked."

Taehyung flushed, biting back a smile as he tied the bag securely. "Thank you, hyung."

Yoongi's smile remained as they kept walking, the birds chirping above. "Depending on how much you make this month you might not need an allowance. You're doing great."

The praise lifted Taehyung's spirits high. "You're so nice, you know that?"

Yoongi's smile faltered as surprise lit in his eyes. "I, uh, try to be."

Taehyung bit his cheek to hold back his laugh, holding his bag of coins to his chest. "To be honest, when I first met you I thought you would eat me. Or something stupid like that. Hoseok hyung was probably more scared than I was, though."

Yoongi let out a startled laugh, kicking a stone that rolled under his shoe. "I wouldn't eat you. And, if anything, Hoseok would probably bite Jeongguk before Jeongguk could bite him."

Taehyung snorted out a laugh. "Poor Jeongguk. He seems so nice."

Yoongi smiled, rolling his eyes like an older brother talking about his younger sibling would. "He's a good kid. I think he's getting along better with Hoseok, but he's just shy. Doesn't know how to talk to people sometimes."

"Hoseok hyung took a while to open up to him," Taehyung said, shrugging his shoulders. "I think he just...saw Jeongguk as a dragon for these first few weeks. Instead of Jeongguk being Jeongguk."

"Insightful," Yoongi teased, making Taehyung nudge their shoulders together. "You're right, though. I'm just glad they're getting along. It’s been three weeks already. It would have made Jeongguk look bad if they didn't."

Taehyung raised a brow. "What do you mean?"

Yoongi sighed. "The council selected us specifically. If Jeongguk had failed, it could have affected his rank."

Taehyung didn't really understand it, but he supposed he didn't have to. Hoseok was a lot calmer when Jeongguk came up, so he thought they were getting along. "I hope they get even closer, then."

"They will," Yoongi assured him. "We get along, don't we? Hoseok just needed some time."

Taehyung smiled, nodding. "Yeah. You're right."

They walked in silence for the rest of the way home. It wasn't until Taehyung saw the first peek of their cottage beyond the trees that he remembered what he had meant to bring up since Jieun first mentioned the festival.

"Oh! Hyung, by the way?"

Yoongi looked at him, confused. "What?"

Taehyung bit his lip, smiling. "Would you shift? So I could see it?"

Yoongi stared until the words properly settled in his mind, and then he coughed out a laugh. "You want to see my dragon shift?"

"To be honest, I've had some carving ideas, but I wanted to get a good look at you before I did them," Taehyung said, beaming. He had heard Yoongi shift, sometimes, outside his window when the moon was high in the sky. Taehyung was sure Yoongi hadn’t meant to keep it from him, as he probably wasn’t sure if Taehyung would be comfortable with it. "Also, I want to see it for purely selfish reasons."

Yoongi sent him an amused smile before nodding. "Alright, then. Fine. Turn around so I can strip."

Taehyung did as he was told, giddiness spreading through his veins as he listened to Yoongi undress behind him. The sound of Yoongi shifting so close to him was just as unsettling as it had been the first time, but at least he knew what to expect. It felt kind of weird, but he was more interested in seeing Yoongi's dragon shift to care about the technicalities.

A huff sounded behind him, much louder and deeper than anything Yoongi had ever produced, and Taehyung took that as his signal to turn back around.

Yoongi was just as incredible looking as Taehyung remembered. His scales were impeccable with high shine and an inky depth. His legs were long and skinny, similar to how they were in his human shift, but Taehyung only got to observe their length for a few seconds before Yoongi was lowering himself down to rest.

Taehyung laughed behind his hand. "Hyung, can I touch?"

Yoongi huffed, lowering his head down to the ground in front of him. Taehyung took that as a yes, and he placed his bag of coins down before hurrying to Yoongi's side. He flinched whenever Yoongi's legs or tail or head moved suddenly, but he was proud to say he walked up to Yoongi's shoulder without wanting to retreat.

Yoongi stayed still, and Taehyung pressed his hand against the scales. They were a lot smoother than Taehyung had expected, but they were hard like the iron Yoongi revolved his work around. Taehyung let out a breath he had been holding, his nerves slowly melting away into nothingness as he smoothed his hand up Yoongi's neck.

Funnily enough, Yoongi's head was about the size of Taehyung's body even though in Yoongi's human shift he was a few inches shorter. It made for an interesting comparison.

"You look so cool, hyung."

Yoongi grumbled, and Taehyung thought he sounded quite pleased. He continued to pet down Yoongi's neck, fascinated. There were a few scales around Yoongi's jaw that were a deep burgundy color, and Taehyung was shocked that he had never noticed them.

Yoongi's tail was thumping on the ground, flicking around as Taehyung continued to pet his scales. His eyes were closed, his legs curled underneath him, and Taehyung wondered if he was relaxing. It was cute, and Taehyung had to admit that he was thinking back to those alley cats.

He allowed himself a few more minutes of petting and observing before pulling back, reminding himself that Yoongi was probably tired after working all day. He wanted to look and learn more, but he wouldn't be difficult. "Thank you for indulging me, hyung."

Yoongi bumped his head against him, opening his large silver eyes, and Taehyung let out a startled laugh. He let Yoongi maneuver him until he was turned around, and he kneeled down to pick up his coin bag. He waited for the sounds and groans and shuffling until he turned back around, smiling at the sight of Yoongi tugging on his shirt. He caught a sliver of belly underneath, and told himself to keep his mouth shut.

"Hyung. You're so cool."

Yoongi rolled his eyes, but he had that telltale shy smile on. "Let's go, Taehyung. It's dinnertime."

And who was Taehyung to say no to that?

Chapter Text

Namjoon showed up in Jieun's shop with a bright smile on his face. "It's a nice day out."

Taehyung regarded him suspiciously from where he was fixing a display. "...It is. What are you hiding?"

Namjoon laughed, throwing his hands up in defeat. "Alright, I'm bad at keeping secrets. Yoongi hyung sent me over to invite you and Hoseok to his family's house for dinner. Seokjin hyung and I will be going, too."

At the mention of his name, Hoseok came out from the back. "Dinner?"

Taehyung's lips parted in surprise. "Yoongi hyung's been saying they've wanted to meet us. Will his grandfather be there?"

Taehyung wasn't sure what he was supposed to expect. The dramatic part of him thought Yoongi's grandfather might be an overbearingly tall and serious man. The hopeful part of him wanted him to be like Yoongi. A little intimidating, but overall kind.

Namjoon smiled, nodding. "Yeah, he will be. Meeting him will make your meeting with the Elder Council later this month more bearable, I think. He's a nice man, you'll like him."

Hoseok bit his lip. "Did you already tell Jeongguk?"

Namjoon nodded again. "He's aware, said it was up to you."

"Well, I want to go," Taehyung said, beaming. "I was wondering when Yoongi hyung would introduce me. Is, um, is there anything we need to bring?"

Namjoon smiled, knowingly, and clapped his hand on Taehyung's shoulder. "No, Yoongi's mom likes to spoil her guests. This is just a regular family dinner, anyways. Save it for when she tries to come over to dinner at your place."

Your place. Taehyung wasn't sure when everyone started to think of Yoongi's cottage as his own. If he was being honest, he thought of it as home, too. It seemed too soon, but

Hoseok fidgeted where he was standing. "It won't be weird?"

Namjoon shook his head. "Nah. They're really nice people, and I'm sure they've heard good things."

"We haven't really talked to a lot of people," Taehyung said, tilting his head.

"You're both already contributing and making a salary," Namjoon said, laughing so that his dimples peeked out. "That's impressive. Everyone that's been coming in here has liked you, too. Jieun noona likes you."

"Shut up, Namjoon!"

Namjoon ignored Jieun's yell from the backroom, and Taehyung stifled a laugh into his hand. Hoseok, on the other hand, was wearing a proud grin. "You're right."

"We'll all be there," Namjoon continued. "They live in the southern part of the territory, but your dragons know the way."

Taehyung smiled, and he paused when a thought came to his mind. "Oh, what about Jeongguk's parents?"

The question was mainly targeted towards Hoseok, but it was Namjoon that answered. "I think Jeongguk's been too shy to bring it up, to be honest. His family's a bit more private, they usually don't host big dinners or parties."

Hoseok shrugged. "He hasn't mentioned anything to me."

"You should ask," Taehyung suggested. "I'm sure he's appreciate your interest."

Hoseok puffed out his cheeks. "He's a good kid, alright? I just—"

Taehyung and Namjoon waited as Hoseok cut himself off, and they shared a look when Hoseok shook his head and walked to the front of the store to shuffle through the clothes. Taehyung wanted to ask what Hoseok was talking about, but he didn't want to make Hoseok uncomfortable.

Namjoon frowned, but he simply changed the topic and let Taehyung lead the conversation.

Yoongi was waiting for him, as usual, by the end of the working day. Taehyung could tell his nose was already getting red from the cold, but seeing Yoongi made him warm up with excitement. "Hyung!"

"Hey. Joon-ah told you about dinner, right?"

Taehyung nodded. He looked down at himself and bit his lip. They weren’t his finest clothes, but they were much better than the outfit he had met Yoongi in. "Yeah. I'm dressed okay, right?"

Yoongi hummed, starting to walk in a different direction than usual. Judging off of where Namjoon said the Min household was, Taehyung assumed they were going to head straight over. "You're fine. Everyone will be in their work or lounge clothes."

Taehyung felt better about that. He wanted to impress them, since they were Yoongi's family and held a member of the Elder Council. "Okay, hyung."

Yoongi tilted his head towards him. "You're not nervous, are you?"

"To be honest?" Taehyung laughed, rubbing at the side of his neck with a gloved hand. "I kind of am. I like meeting new people but it gets me nervous if I don't know what to expect."

Yoongi shrugged his shoulders. "You don't need to expect much. They're regular people and there will be good food. The kids will like you."

Taehyung's lips parted. "Kids?"

Yoongi grinned and bobbed his head in a teasing nod. "My nieces and nephews. A cousin, too. Do you like kids?"

Taehyung's heart clenched. That was a loaded question. "My siblings were young. Really young. I, um, I do."

He expected to feel sorrowful, maybe, but he didn't. He was just excited to have a chance to interact with little ones after so long. There were sometimes kids that came into the shop with their parents, hiding behind their mother's legs or clinging onto their father's sides, but more often than not Taehyung didn't have a chance to interact with them since he was working.

Yoongi hummed, his expression hidden as he looked forward. "I think you'll like them, then."

The Min house was a lot larger than Taehyung anticipated. There was a large tree just outside of it with a homemade swing, its wooden planks thick and sturdy, and Taehyung had the urge to wipe off the snow that was spread over the seat so he could sit on it. There used to be one in the town, right outside the butcher's shop, and Taehyung had loved playing with it with Jimin when they were younger. It had broken off when they entered their teens, due to one of the older kids playing too rough, and it had been Taehyung's first instance of heartbreak.

He could smell the warm invitation of food in the air despite the cold, and he shared a smile with Yoongi as they approached the multilevel house and stepped up onto the porch. Yoongi didn't bother to knock, and Taehyung's heartbeat sped up as he followed him inside and joined him in kicking off their shoes.

The walls were lined with shelves full of art, and Taehyung stared at the ceramic tiles and vases and figurines as they walked down the hallway into a wide family room.

"Yoonie!"

Taehyung jumped when a little girl bolted towards them, her shrill cries ringing in her ears as something so familiar that Taehyung's heart squeezed. He laughed, surprised, when she launched into Yoongi's arms and forced him into a giant hug.

"Haneul-ah," Yoongi cooed, pressing a sweet kiss to her nose as she giggled and threw her arms tighter around his neck.

She squished their cheeks together, and Taehyung tore his gaze away to fulfill his curiosity of the rest of the household. There were several people spread out over the furniture, kids and teens and adults either chatting amongst each other or watching Yoongi and Haneul or smiling politely at Taehyung. It surprised him how many kids there were, given what he had been told about dragons being unable to reproduce as easily as humans. He supposed the Min family was lucky.

Taehyung returned their smiles, overwhelmed with all the different colors of scales. There were a few that had scales similar to Yoongi's, that familiar obsidian, but he also recognized that deep red that he had seen on Yoongi's dragon a few days past.

Yoongi rested Haneul on his hip, smiling one hell of an endearing smile, before facing Taehyung again. "Well, this is my family. Everyone, this is Taehyung."

Taehyung dipped into a bow as they chorused out hello's and welcome's, tilting his head forward. "It's nice to meet you, thank you for letting me into your home."

"Stand up straight, boy."

Taehyung did as he was told, his lips parting in surprise as an elderly man stepped towards him. His cane was outstretched before him, and his skin was wrinkled and sagging around his eyes and jowls. His eyes were warm and inviting, though, colored with a deep brown surrounded by his burgundy scales.

He smiled, and it reminded Taehyung of the smile he would see sometimes from Yoongi when he laughed too hard. "Kim Taehyung. I've heard a lot about you."

Taehyung's skin itched. It felt like everyone was watching him, and he supposed they were. "Elder Min, it's an honor to finally meet you and your family."

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who Yoongi's grandfather was. Yoongi had told him that the Elder Min was his last surviving grandfather, and a man that stood with that much power and demand for respect had to be important.

Elder Min tipped his head back in a laugh, and Taehyung could've sworn he saw Yoongi grin beside him. "Calm, boy. You're apart of the family, now. Call me Pa."

Taehyung's shoulders relaxed as a laugh bubbled up his throat. A few of the other Min's started to laugh as well. "Will do, Pa."

Elder Min clapped him on the shoulder. "Yoongi's been keeping you from us for so long. He never liked to share his toys as a whelp."

Yoongi flushed when Taehyung raised a brow at him. "He's not a toy, Pa."

"And yet you're still not sharing," someone said, making Taehyung laugh as they rounded Elder Min to nudge Yoongi. It was man that looked almost identical to Yoongi, to his surprise, and Yoongi grumbled under his breath before properly introducing him.

"This is my hyung, Junki. Don't listen to anything he says."

"Yeah, yeah. Can we eat?"

Taehyung suppressed a giggle as they continued to tease Yoongi, leading them further into the house. Everywhere he looked, it seemed like there was another person waiting to greet him. There were kids climbing over their parents to greet Yoongi, and Taehyung laughed every time they tried to argue with Haneul to get a chance to be carried.

Namjoon was carrying a little boy on his shoulders when they walked to the dining room. It was huge, probably the largest room in the house, with a long and wide table in the center. Taehyung didn't bother trying to count how many chairs there were. He smiled when they grabbed his attention, and Taehyung giggled when an toddler waddled towards him and clapped on his leg.

"Would you pick him up?" A woman Taehyung assumed was his mother asked. He hands were full with dishes she was helping set out, and her smile was sheepish. "He's needy, sorry."

"No, it's okay," Taehyung said, cooing as he bent down to take the baby in his arms. He giggled, clapping his hands against Taehyung's chest before snuggling closer. Taehyung's heart melted.

"Thank you!" The boy's mother retreated back through doors Taehyung assumed led to the kitchen, and Namjoon wandered over.

"I always get assigned as a baby carrier when we're over here. Seokjin hyung is in the kitchen." Namjoon lowered his voice, as if someone was listening to them. "Don't tell him, but hyung's kind of a bad cook. He has good ideas and can do basic stuff, but—"

"Kim Namjoon."

"I'm armed with a baby," Namjoon said quickly, bringing the boy to his arms as Seokjin stomped into the room with a full platter of steaming food in his hands. He was glaring, hard, and Taehyung bit his cheek to hide his laughter.

"They do this every time we're over here," Yoongi said, sighing. Haneul poked at his cheek. "Are Hoseok and Jeongguk here yet?"

Seokjin narrowed his eyes as Namjoon as he put the platter down. "Jeongguk's attempting to show Hoseok around. They were out back, I think."

Yoongi hummed. "I'll go grab them. dinner will be ready soon."

Taehyung took a seat when instructed to by Seokjin, who poked Namjoon's ribs before returning to the kitchen to help grab more food, and Namjoon took the seat next to him with a snicker.

"I like it here," Taehyung said, bouncing the baby in his lap. More people were starting to shuffle in, sitting in various seats and chatting amongst themselves. "Is it always this lively?"

Namjoon shrugged. "Depends. Some of the kids have moved out to live in their mates' family homes and they're just visiting. But when they're all together it's pretty active."

Taehyung laughed when the baby smacked his hands on Taehyung's collarbone. "That seems nice. I'd never be bored."

Hoseok plopped into the seat across from him a few minutes later, and Taehyung beamed at him. "Hyung! Isn't this awesome?"

Hoseok smiled, nodding along as Jeongguk sat beside him. "It's a really nice house. I'm impressed."

"Hey! Aren't you the one that's making the new clothes at Jieun's?"

Hoseok was swept away in conversation with a teenager, Yoongi's cousin according to Namjoon, and Taehyung went back to playing with the baby on his lap. The food looked and smelled delicious, and it felt weird to say that he was already comfortable.

Yoongi's hyung sat on the other side of Jeongguk, and he grinned when Taehyung looked up and met his gaze. "How's my brother treating you?"

Taehyung smiled, shrugging his shoulders as he brushed through the baby's hair. "Pretty well. I'm comfortable."

Junki nodded, a proud glint to his eye. Jeongguk eyed him suspiciously. "It's about time he had someone in that lonely house of his. He says he likes his privacy, but he’s a family man at heart. Continue to get along with each other, alright?"

Jeongguk relaxed, and Taehyung supposed that was a good enough indicator that Junki wasn't going to create trouble. "I'll do my best, thank you."

Yoongi returned, sans Haneul and with Seokjin flanking him. They both took their seats on either side of Taehyung and Namjoon as the last platters of food were dropped onto the table. Plates started getting passed down from Taehyung's left. They filled the plates with the food in front of them as they were passed down, and he was met with a dilemma until the baby's mother came to retrieve him.

She thanked him, again, and Taehyung smiled it away. "I really like kids," he said, making her smile before she went to sit with her mate.

Elder Min walked in a few moments later, mid plate pass, and Taehyung watched him with wide eyes as he went to the head of the table. He sat down with a bright smile, letting one of the kids climb onto his lap as a plate made its way in front of them. They passed utensils too, and Taehyung perked up when he heard his name called.

There was a woman watching him, her smile bright and gummy, and Taehyung went shy. "Well, it's nice to meet you."

"It's nice to meet you," Taehyung parroted, looking to Yoongi for help.

Yoongi grinned, handing Taehyung another set of utensils to pass down. "That's my mother, Soyeon. And my father, Seongho."

Taehyung would be embarrassed to admit that he gasped, immediately lifting a little out of his chair to bow his head to them in greeting. They both laughed, as did a few others, and urged him to sit back down. Yoongi was grinning, and Taehyung pouted at him.

"I see you two are getting along well," Yoongi's mother said, giggling behind her hand.

Yoongi shrugged, that dumb grin still spread over his face. "We get by."

Taehyung nudged their shoulders together, his cheeks flushed. So much for a great first impression. "Hyung's very kind to me. When he isn't being a bully."

Yoongi's mother laughed, shaking her head in disbelief. "Well, enjoy the food. I'm sure we'll have time to talk later."

Taehyung smiled at both of Yoongi's parents, hoping to charm them with his cute face, and perked up when a few of the younger kids started to place cups of water in front of everyone. He thanked them profusely, taking a well needed sip of water.

Yoongi was still smiling, and Taehyung threw him a dirty look.

It was cut short by Elder Min clearing his throat, and they all turned to face him. His smile was bright, his demeanor kind, and Taehyung felt at ease. "I'd like to first welcome our two newest guests to the table, Jung Hoseok and Kim Taehyung. Please treat them with kindness as they adapt to our lifestyles here, and offer them guidance if they seek it."

Both Taehyung and Hoseok colored when they were mentioned, and they bowed their heads in respect. Taehyung swore he heard Hoseok say a thank you, and he was quick to say it as well.

Elder Min continued on to a prayer, his tongue curling over the slick words of the ancient language, and Taehyung smiled proudly as he understood it. It was a common prayer, wishing health and happiness and prosperity, and it made Taehyung feel at ease.

He kept his hands on his lap as Elder Min took the first bites of his food, and the entire table waited until he chewed and swallowed his first bite until they picked up their utensils and dug in. Taehyung followed a few seconds after, flustered at the new tradition, and Yoongi offered him a comforting smile when Taehyung glanced at him.

The food was delicious, though, so Taehyung managed to bury his curiosity with the warm weight of meat and rice and spices on his tongue.

The Min's asked him and Hoseok plenty of questions about their lives before their consideration. Taehyung detailed as little about his poverty as possible, embarrassed and prideful, while Hoseok told stories of the tutors he had and how healthy their herd of sheep had been. Taehyung wasn't ashamed of his family's wealth (lack of it, rather), but he felt like he had a responsibility as the eldest son to keep his family's pride.

He did boast about his father, though, explaining that his father had been self taught. He taught Taehyung all he knew, after all, which had surprised some of the dragons.

"I've seen the items you two have been making," one of Yoongi's cousins said, her eyes brightening. "You're both really talented."

Hoseok and Taehyung shared twin prideful smiles, and the conversation drifted off as they talked about their work with Jieun. It was nice, and Taehyung didn't feel pressured at all as they talked. They were all respectful, if not a little nosy like most families. It made Taehyung miss home.

They ate until their bellies were heavy with good food, and Taehyung would be lying if he said he didn't want to loosen his belt. He had to take off his coat halfway through the meal, draping it over his lap as he gobbled down the stew. Jeongguk laughed when Hoseok ended up spilling rice and soup down his chin, but he was still the first person to offer a napkin to wipe him down.

It was funny, and Taehyung giggled when they got up to retire back to the family room and saw the stain on Hoseok's white shirt. Hoseok had pouted until they started to play board games, teaming up with the girl he had been talking to earlier to take Taehyung and another one of Yoongi's cousins on.

It had been a long game, and Taehyung had yelled out in success when his teammate managed to score and win them the entire game.

Elder Min patted them all on the head before he headed up to bed, and that had been a catalyst for the majority of the family to start turning in as well. Taehyung's head swivelled around to find Yoongi when his teammate had to leave back home with her parents, and his heart grew about three sizes at what he found.

Yoongi was dozing on the couch, two of his nephews curled up under his arms as they whispered to one another and shared his warmth. His head was tipped back, showing off the long column of his neck, and his lips were parted. He looked adorable, if Taehyung was being honest.

He bit his lip to conceal his smile as he stood up, making his way over and gently poking Yoongi's shoulder. "Hyung?"

The two boys giggled, poking at Yoongi's belly and sides until Yoongi started to groan and move. They slipped off the couch as Yoongi started to flap his hands after them, and Taehyung grinned. "Time to go?" Yoongi slurred, his eyes staying shut even as he moved to sit up.

Taehyung hummed, eyeing Hoseok as he said goodbye to his new friend. "Probably. You look tired, hyung."

Yoongi wiped his eyes with his palms, swallowing down a yawn. "Mm, okay. Let me go say bye to my parents."

"I'll join you."

Yoongi's parents told them to come more often, and Taehyung beat Yoongi to it with a wide grin and a promise to make it over at least once a month to join the family for dinner. That had impressed them, and even Yoongi couldn't hold back the smile as they headed back to the family room to grab all their things.

Yoongi found his coat, and Taehyung bit his lip as Yoongi held it up for him so he could slip his arms in. "Let's find the others. We'll walk back with them."

Namjoon and Seokjin were talking outside, and Taehyung smiled brightly as he retrieved them. Yoongi managed to grab both Hoseok and Jeongguk by the time the three of them returned, and soon enough they were all echoing their goodbyes and slipping on their shoes and heading out.

It was a peaceful walk home. They separated with Namjoon and Seokjin first, and not long after Hoseok and Jeongguk went their separate ways.

"So. Did you like them?"

Taehyung smiled at the ground. The snow was dirty with leaves and mud, but it still managed to be beautiful. "I think they're amazing, hyung. They made me feel..."

"Like you finally had somewhere to eat well?" Yoongi teased. His mood was bright, and Taehyung liked it.

Taehyung bit his lip, choosing to not look up and meet Yoongi's gaze. "No. Like I had a family again."

Yoongi paused, but the silence that followed wasn't uncomfortable. Only when Taehyung looked up did he see how soft Yoongi's smile was, and his mind couldn't formulate a proper thought on how he felt about it.

"I'm glad, then."

 

 

Taehyung found Yoongi dozing in the living room. His body felt heavy under his robes, lined with thick fur, and if they didn't have somewhere to be he might've considered taking a nap as well.

He knew Yoongi was tired, though. Yoongi had been working tirelessly for the last few days, pumping out commission after commission while still supplying Taehyung with anything he needed. Taehyung had forgone asking Namjoon to design his brand. He already knew what he wanted.

His eyes caught on the subtle Kim pressed into the leather bracelet hanging on his wrist, and he smiled. His father had preferred simple logos, said they looked more classy, and Taehyung wouldn't necessarily say he agreed. It reminded him of his father, though, so that was enough for him.

He approached Yoongi from the side, sitting halfway on the couch as he nudged Yoongi's arm. "Hyung. We're going to be late."

Yoongi grumbled, squeezing his eyes tighter as Taehyung continued to poke at his arm. "It's time to go?"

His words were slurred with sleep, and Taehyung smiled to himself. "Yeah, we should go. Jeongguk and Hoseok might beat us."

That got Yoongi moving, his competitive nature compelling him to stand up and stretch his arms over his head as his mouth stretched open with a yawn. "Fuck."

Taehyung raised his brows, fighting back a smile as he headed to the front of the house and tugged on his boots. Yoongi shuffled after him, mumbling little curses under his breath, and shoved on his as well. "You should sleep early tonight, hyung."

"Nah," Yoongi hummed, lacing up his boots before straightening out and stretching some more. "The nap did me good. I'll be fine once we eat. And, anyways, it’s your first festival. We should enjoy it."

Taehyung smiled, and he opened the door to let them out once they had everything they needed. He had been nervous the entire morning and afternoon, but Yoongi told him that it would be pretty easygoing. The Elder Council would say some words, ask them if they wished to be initiated into the clan, and they'd feast for the rest of the night.

Taehyung liked the idea of a feast, but there were still so many people in the clan that he didn't know. He didn't want to embarrass himself.

The walked to town in silence, Taehyung staring at the snow up above in the trees with a little smile as Yoongi tugged his scarf up over his nose. It wasn't awfully cold for Taehyung, so he knew that Yoongi wasn't cold. He was probably trying to see if he could sleep standing up. He looked like a baby being coddled by his mother, if Taehyung was being honest.

When they reached the edge of the town, Taehyung's stomach growled with interest. There was already a strong scent of meats and vegetables and sweets permeating through the air, and with a gasp he noticed—

"A dragon!"

Yoongi snorted, pulling down his scarf to smile at the running children around them. "There's a lot of those here, Taehyung."

Taehyung pouted at him. "Hyung, they never fly this close to the town."

There was a few of them up above, playing some type of game in the sky with a large ball. Taehyung flinched every time it looked like the ball was going to soar down and hit a building or a person, but the dragons were always quick to recover it and keep on with their game. It was impressive.

"There usually isn't time for recreation throughout the week this close to town," Yoongi explained. "The kids usually stick to their houses and the dragons in town are working."

Taehyung nodded along, enthralled, and he nearly ran into someone since he was so busy watching the unique game. He remembered reading about a similar game in one of the books in the ancient language, and he wished he had paid more attention so he could understand what was going on.

The center of the town was most active, lined with rows of food vendors showing off their goods. Taehyung tugged on Yoongi's arm, his eyebrows perked up with interest, and Yoongi followed with ease to the first booth.

They stocked up on a heavy noodle dish with sides of vegetables, and Taehyung beamed when the woman behind the stall complimented their robes. "I'm glad you two are getting along," she hummed, filling up their plates. "Jieun made your robes well."

Yoongi returned her kindness with a smile. "Thank you, Gayeon."

Taehyung wanted to ask where Yoongi knew her from, since he was curious about everything, but he didn't want to in front of her in case it would be rude. "It was her idea to make us match."

They wore black robes, the same black as Yoongi's scales, and she had even added compliments of red to the trim and sleeves. Taehyung found it quite funny, while Yoongi had been embarrassed.

They sampled a few more stalls before running into Hoseok and Jeongguk, who were balancing equally full plates, by the sweets and Taehyung was quick to lead them all to seating. They were dressed in similar robes to Yoongi's and Taehyungs, except with Jeongguk's scale colors. Taehyung found himself liking the concept more and more.

"Isn't it neat?" Taehyung said, leaning in as Hoseok took his first bite of food. "Having everyone out here? Playing?"

Jeongguk stifled a laugh behind a mouthful of food. "You're really easy going, hyung."

Taehyung bit his cheek, pouting. "And what's wrong with that?"

"Nothing," Jeongguk said, raising his hands up as Hoseok side eyed him. His grin was sheepish. "I'm just saying, it's nice. Compared to Yoongi hyung."

"What did I do now?"

They talked about frivolous things as kids ran around them, giggling after one another with their loud voices of play. Taehyung spotted a few familiar faces from the shop. There was Yoongi's cousin, who started to come in more since she knew Hoseok and Taehyung better, and an elderly man who had asked for a complete wardrobe change in preparation for the warmer months.

Truthfully, he was Taehyung's favorite with his tall tales and soulful jokes, but he wouldn't tell any of their other customers that.

Eventually, Namjoon and Seokjin found them and joined in on their fun. They had been playing cards on the other side of the courtyard, and Namjoon proudly showed off the pile of coins he won.

Seokjin leaned in, whispering so loudly that Taehyung was sure the next group could hear him. "Don't let him fool you, he lost more than he gained."

Namjoon whined, shoving Seokjin back until Seokjin laughed out an apology and leaned in to peck him. Taehyung's ears and cheeks burned bright, and he averted his eyes from their affection. He could see Hoseok staring at them in his peripheral, but he was too embarrassed to think anything of it.

Jeongguk cleared his throat. "I think the elders are coming."

That got Taehyung's attention back, and he nearly dropped his plate with excitement as he looked up to see. The group of them radiated a level of passion and power that Taehyung had only felt back home, when they sat before the priestesses, and his heart pounded with nostalgia.

They walked in a single file line. Taehyung recognized Elder Min three people from the back, and a whisper from Yoongi told Taehyung that they were ranked in age. That fascinated him.

The group seemed to fascinate the rest of the clan, as even the children went silent to respect their arrival. They stopped in front of the fountain, and the woman in front of the line arranged herself at the forefront of their small crowd.

"My clan," she began, "I hope you are feasting well tonight. We come under the full moon to seek refuge from the month's arduous tasks to delight ourselves with play and friendship. As I'm sure you all know, this past month our clan has accepted two distinguished guests into the fold. I hope you have all been treating them kindly."

A murmur rose over the crowd, and Taehyung felt shyness creep into his heart as a few people turned to smile at them. A few kids giggled and pointed, and Taehyung bit his lip.

"Jung Hoseok and Kim Taehyung, would you come here?"

Taehyung stood first, smoothing his hands over his robes in hopes that they weren't wrinkled or stained, and Hoseok followed a few seconds after. They looked at eachother, Taehyung's brightness rivalling Hoseok's, and stepped through the crowd to where the Elder Council was waiting for them.

They bowed deeply, as instructed to by their guides, and Taehyung swore he felt nauseous from the excitement of the unknown.

"Rise, boys."

They straightened out. Taehyung's hands felt sweaty, and Hoseok shifting beside him wasn't helping.

"My name is Elder Son," she said, her smile so much kinder than what Taehyung might've imagined. She reminded him of how his grandmother had looked before she passed away. Frail, but somehow with so much power and motivation that it made him feel weak in comparison. "I'm overjoyed to welcome you as full members of our clan, should you wish to be. You've impressed all of us with your motivation and contribution, even though you've only been here for a month. We would be honored to have you join us."

Taehyung held his breath, knowing Hoseok had the right to answer first since he was older. He already knew his answer.

Hoseok didn't hesitate, either, and he smiled as he bowed his head. "I would be honored to."

Elder Son faced him, then, and Taehyung repeated the same action. "I would be honored to."

The clan erupted into clatter behind them, and Taehyung had to bite his lip in fear of his face ripping from how wide he was smiling. He had been so scared of not fitting in, but the fact that the clan was so willing to accept them made his heart feel like it was going to burst.

"Repeat these words after me," Elder Son said, reaching behind her to retrieve a book from one of the other elders. "This will bind you to the clan in our ancient language."

She spoke in the ancient language, her tongue slipping around the words in a way that had Taehyung's spin. He understood her, but he had never known what the ancient language was really supposed to sound like. Hoseok looked confused, but he kept a smile on nonetheless.

They repeated the words together, Hoseok's sound a bit more like gibberish than Taehyung's, but Elder Son smiled at them regardless.

"Welcome," she said, lowering her voice for only them to hear. "I know it must have been hard for you. But you're strong boys. And we're eternally grateful to have people like you among us."

Taehyung's heart warmed. He blinked when she reached behind her again, and he caught Elder Min's mischievous wink. Yoongi hadn't explained anything further, so he wasn't sure what they were doing.

"A gift," Elder Son said when she turned back. There were two necklaces in her palm, sparkling beautifully. "At the birth of every dragon in our clan, they are given a necklace with their birthstone. You are both honorary dragons."

She handed them their necklaces, and Taehyung stared at the brilliant blue of his stone. Hoseok's was purple, and they shared a look of amazement before bowing their heads to give another thank you.

"Go, enjoy," Elder Son said, smiling as they moved to help each other put them on. "Have fun and meet more people, alright? Don't let your silly dragons keep you all for themselves."

Taehyung laughed at that, remembering how Yoongi's family had teased him, and before he knew it the festivities were back on. They introduced themselves to the rest of the Elder Council, and Taehyung had to admit that he didn't realize how lax it would be. He had been picturing them walking into a room with no windows, bowing in front of the ten elders with their heads to the ground as they received their verdict.

Silly, sure, but Taehyung had a big imagination.

They made their way back to the group, accepting congratulations and greetings from various people, and Taehyung would be lying if he didn't feel a little overwhelmed. He took his seat next to Yoongi, running his thumb over the gem set in his necklace. It was pressed against his throat, a little looser than a collar might be, and he liked the unique style.

"Look at you," Yoongi said, smirking when Taehyung smiled at him shyly. "Thought I'd keep that part a surprise."

"It's so pretty. I love amethyst," Hoseok said. He was touching his, too, and Jeongguk offered him back his plate. "I'm more surprised you managed to keep this from me."

Jeongguk's cheeks colored, and he shrugged his shoulders before returning back to his food. "Hyung said it would be fun."

"Seokjin hyung kept it a surprise from me, too," Namjoon said, smiling as he tugged down the front of his robe to expose his necklace. It was sapphire. "It’s a nice tradition, I think.”

"I like it," Taehyung said, picking up a big piece of meat and plopping it into his mouth with a satisfied hum. "Ah, hyung, when are you supposed to dance?"

Hoseok perked up, a proud smile making its way onto his lips. "I was going to head over once I was done eating." He tipped his plate towards Taehyung, showing that it was empty. "So I should probably go."

"I'll walk you," Jeongguk offered, shovelling the remaining bits of his food into his mouth and stacking their plates together before Hoseok could even answer. Hoseok shrugged, and they all waved and wished him luck before they were off.

Seokjin lifted his hand up, leaning in to whisper something in Namjoon's ear, and soon enough they were standing up to walk off too. "We're going to get back to playing cards. Are you two going to join us or walk around?"

Taehyung shrugged, looking at Yoongi for answers. There was so much going on that Taehyung didn't know what he wanted to do.

"I want to show Taehyung some stuff before Hoseok dances," Yoongi said, looking at Taehyung as if he was asking permission.

Taehyung smiled. "That'd be nice, hyung."

They said another round of goodbyes, and Taehyung grabbed Yoongi's empty plate once they were both done. He told Yoongi to wait for him as he wandered over to the waste buckets, offering the man watching them the plates with a bright smile and a thank you.

He turned to head back to Yoongi, only to be met with the bright smile of a teenager. "Hello!"

He wasn't anyone Taehyung had every seen before, with light blue scales and a babyish smile, and he looked only a few years younger than Jeongguk. "Uhm, hello."

"Sorry," the boy laughed, running his fingers through his hair, "I'm Junhee! I've seen you and Hoseok-ssi around, but I haven't had a chance to say hi."

Taehyung smiled, thinking that was kind of funny. "Oh, well that's alright! It's nice to meet you, Junhee."

"Can I ask you some stuff?" Junhee said, biting his bottom lip as his eyes brightened.

Taehyung raised a brow. "Sure, go ahead."

Junhee leaned in then, his eyes sparkling with mischief, and for a moment Taehyung wondered if he had made the wrong choice. "Is it true that humans start a lot of wars with each other over stupid things like money?"

Taehyung blinked, shock making him still. "Stupid...uhm, I suppose so."

"That seems dumb," Junhee said, pouting. "Why fight over money?"

"Not everyone has money," Taehyung tried to explain, not wanting to bring up the gross reality of true greed. “Some people get, um, restless, when they can't even afford to live—"

"So they fight? Doesn't that seem irrational?"

"When you're starving and—"

"But then aren't they wasting more resources and energy? When they're starving?"

"I'm not saying it's right—"

Taehyung was cut off by a hand on his shoulder, and the fight left him as soon as he was met with Yoongi's even stare. Junhee went quiet, too, and Taehyung frowned when he saw the uneasy smile on his face.

"Taehyung-ah," Yoongi said, staring right at Junhee until the kid was forced to look down at his shoes. "Let's go, Elder Kim just set out some sweets. You know that honey bread you like?"

Taehyung did know. He didn't realize that Yoongi had remembered, but he was too busy watching Junhee collapse into a state of embarrassment to think about it. "Yeah. Okay, hyung."

Yoongi squeezed his shoulder, nudging Taehyung towards the stall where Elder Kim was helping serve sweets with another dragon Taehyung assumed was her daughter. "Junhee?"

Taehyung forced himself not to look over his shoulder, opening his ears so he could hear them as he took slow steps.

"Y-Yes?"

"Hold your tongue from now on. You know better than to cause a scene like that. Do you hear me, Junhee?"

"Yes, Yoongi hyung," Junhee mumbled, his words thick with embarrassment.

Taehyung was uncomfortable, but he continued to walk until he reached the stall. Elder Kim greeted him with gusto, offering him a slice of honey bread for free, and she wouldn't budge on it even as Taehyung said he was more than happy to pay. Yoongi joined him a few seconds later, buying his own honey bread, and they stepped back to head towards where a few kids were gathered playing an unknown game.

Yoongi waited until no one was paying attention to them, engrossed with cheering on their kids, to speak. "I'm sorry about that."

"It's okay," Taehyung said, but his words sounded unsure even to his ears. If he was being honest, it wasn't that okay. But he didn't want to push his luck. "I know kids are...like that. Sometimes."

"They're not," Yoongi grumbled, his jaw clenching with presumed anger. "Junhee's nosy and has a mean streak. He wants to apprentice under me when he turns eighteen in a few months, but if he continues to act like this I'm not going to accept him."

Taehyung's eyes widened in shock. "Hyung, that's a bit..."

"It's not harsh." Yoongi pursed his lips, catching Taehyung’s gaze. "Human or not, you're older than him. He needs to respect you. This isn’t the first incident, either."

Taehyung's shoulders slumped, and he bit his bottom lip. "I know. I just don't think I've ever seen you angry before. It caught me off guard."

Yoongi nibbled on the edge of his bread, his nose scrunching up. "I had a temper when I was younger. Not so much anymore."

"Well, I wouldn't say that," Taehyung said, trying to lighten the mood. One of the kids scored a goal, and Taehyung joined in on the cheering even though he still didn't understand what was going on. "Thank you for sticking up for me, though."

Yoongi smiled at him, and it was such a sweet smile that it caught Taehyung off guard. "It's my job. We're friends now, aren't we?"

Taehyung laughed, turning away so he could focus back on his bread. "Yeah, we are."

The kids scored another goal, and Taehyung resumed his shouting even though Yoongi informed him he was cheering for both teams.

 

 

Yoongi took him to where a few older dragons were working a booth, and he lowered his voice before they approached. "These are our clan mages. They'll send any wish of yours to the moon."

Taehyung perked up. "Any wish?"

"Any wish," a new voice sang, making Taehyung jump. "You're new, I'm sure your first wish will be special. Would you like to make one?"

Taehyung laughed behind his hand. "I like that. Sure, I would."

She slid over a pen, dipping it in ink that had no color, and Taehyung furrowed his brows. "Don't make that face, Taehyung."

"This is Dahyun," Yoongi introduced, rolling his eyes when she puffed her chest out with a bright grin. She had lustrous orange scales, similar to the color of the setting sun. "Our youngest mage."

"And most powerful," she said with gusto, even though the man next to her threw her an unimpressed glare. "What? I am!"

"Anyways," Yoongi said, picking up the pen, "let me show you how it works."

Dahyun extended her arm, a happy grin on her face, and Yoongi started to write on it. Taehyung leaned forward, narrowing his eyes, but no matter how hard he squinted he couldn't see what words Yoongi was writing out. The ink was invisible.

Yoongi released her arm once he was done writing, and Taehyung's lips parted in surprise when Dahyun raised her arm up towards the sky. She whispered under her breath, the slickness of the ancient language falling from her lips, and he let out a soft gasp when the ink started to lift off her skin in small sputters of blue fire.

He watched them go up and up and up until he couldn't see them anymore, lost up above in the big sky.

"With use of my magic I'm able to send your wishes to our moon mother," Dahyun explained, grabbing Taehyung's attention once more. "The fire is an offering to warm her through the night in hopes that she will grant your wish."

"That's incredible," Taehyung said, awe thick in his words. "May I?"

Dahyun offered her arm again, and Yoongi slipped the pen into his hand. Taehyung had so many thoughts. There were so many things he could wish for. People, places, things.

He looked at Yoongi, and then Dahyun, and then down at the smooth expanse of skin waiting for him to write his wish. He knew just the thing to write.

Even if it is in my dreams, I wish to one day reunite with those dearest to my heart.

 

 

Hoseok was doing a performance with Jieun's brother. Taehyung didn't know much about dancing, but he had seen enough snippets of Hoseok practicing to know that Hoseok was incredible at it.

They met up with the others after sitting down to watch the dragons playing up above, Yoongi laughing whenever Taehyung flinched thinking the ball was going to fall on them, and Jeongguk seemed excited.

"What's got you in a good mood?" Seokjin teased as they took their seats on the concrete steps by the water well. There was a stage set up where people had been playing music all night, and Taehyung realized that they had moved some of the main instruments off to make room for the dancers.

"Hoseok hyung's going to wear a cool costume," Jeongguk said, refusing to look at Seokjin's wide grin. "I saw it at home and it looks really cool."

Taehyung snapped his fingers, remembering Jieun working on the costume a few nights before to put some finishing touches on it. "I know what you're talking about! It's really cool."

"Jieun noona made it the color of my scales," Jeongguk said, smiling shyly. "That's kind of cool."

Taehyung perked up, clapping his hands on his thighs. "Oh, I've be meaning to ask about that! I didn't get a chance to talk to Jieun. Why are we matching your scales?"

Ironically, it was Namjoon that answered. "You can pretty much identify a family based off of their scales," he explained. "Since you don't have scales of your own, your robes will mimic those scales. Yoongi's your new family, so your robes are dyed to match him."

Yoongi was quiet, even as Taehyung turned to smile at him, but he couldn't hide the red tint to his cheeks.

The entire crowd hushed as Jieun's brother, Injeong, stepped onto the stage. He looked proud and competent, and something about it made Taehyung sit up straighter.

Hoseok joined him a few seconds later, and they all clapped as he bowed to greet them. The first chords were calm, something Taehyung recognized hearing when he was a young boy and they would gather around his mother's skirts to play with music and songs.

His mother always had such a pretty voice. Times like this, he missed it.

Hoseok's costume had the same colors as his robes, black with emerald, and it was arranged in a tight wrap around his torso that led into flowy pants. There were slits down the side of his shirt, showing off the strong muscles of his abdomen, and Taehyung stared at how beautifully built he was.

He moved with power, matching the beat of the traditional music as he danced. The crowd was enamored, whistling and clapping whenever Hoseok did something particularly beautiful or impressive. His legs moved almost separately from his torso, and he was so fluid that even water would have looked stiff next to him. Perhaps Taehyung was exaggerating, but he was impressed. Taehyung had never seen anyone dance so wonderfully.

The song continued to build on itself, the power and intensity growing with each passing second. Hoseok's expression matched the power, his brows drawn in tight and his lips pressed into a line, and it drew Taehyung in further.

Jeongguk made a soft noise, something similar to wow, and Taehyung couldn't agree more.

The entire crowd erupted into applause as Hoseok twisted his body into the traditional representation of a dragon with his arms pulled over his head and twisting into the sky as he balanced on one leg. He held the pose for a few seconds before returning to a regular standing position, his usual bright smile breaking out as he took in the clapping and cheers.

He bowed, deeply, as did Injeong, and Taehyung whooped loudly.

They were off the stage within seconds, welcoming the next dancing trio on, and Taehyung watched them with a happy smile as they danced to another traditional song. They were powerful as well, pushing their beauty through their dance moves, and Taehyung was so enamored with them that he barely noticed Hoseok returning to their group with his ceremonial robes back on.

"Hyung," Jeongguk called, his cheeks rosy, "you're incredible."

Hoseok smiled, taking the cup of water Seokjin offered him with a small thank you before chugging it down. His forehead wasn't wet with sweat, as Taehyung imagined it might be if they weren't in the colder months. "You think?"

"You're really talented," Taehyung said, making sure not to talk too loudly that the other people around them might be bothered. "I'm impressed."

Hoseok took a seat between Taehyung and Jeongguk, his smile never faltering. Taehyung thought happiness was a nice thing to share. "I had a lot of fun. I haven't been able to dance like that for a long time."

"You should dance next time, too," Seokjin suggested. He leaned in, pointing a thumb in Jeongguk's direction. "Did you know Jeonggukkie's an amazing dancer, too?"

Hoseok raised a brow, his fingers tapping against his cup. "Oh?"

Jeongguk flushed, waving his hands in front of him. "Hyung, I don't really—"

"Don't listen to him," Seokjin interrupted, "He's amazing. Naturally gifted."

Hoseok hummed, taking another long sip of water as he watched Jeongguk flush and stick his hands in the fabric bunched between his knees. There was something in his eyes, an expression that Taehyung had seen before but didn't understand. "I didn't know you danced."

"He doesn't anymore," Yoongi said, watching Seokjin as he said it. "But, he's good."

"You should dance together for the next festival," Seokjin suggested, smiling even as Jeongguk turned a darker shade of red. "Just a suggestion."

Hoseok licked his lips, clearing them of the water clinging. "Maybe. It could be fun."

Jeongguk's bit his cheek, smiling down at his lap. "Maybe."

Their attention turned back to the stage as the trio finished their routine, and Taehyung didn't hesitate to cheer as loud as the rest of the group. Hoseok was awfully quiet, though.

 

 

Taehyung had gone to the festival with the intent of leaving early, since Yoongi had been so tired, but they ended up staying until the sun had disappeared and the moon was hanging high over their heads. Some of the older dragons lit a large fire in the middle of town, and those that were still hanging around circled around it to take in its warmth.

The elders told stories of when they were younger, or stories that they had heard when they were younger. Some of the stories Taehyung recognized from his books, but they were even more fascinating coming from people who grew up with that culture.

They had left hours into the night, bellies full off of their second round of dinner and the multitudes of sweets that had been passed around, even as many stayed behind. Hoseok had stayed, too, drinking mulled wine while Jeongguk watched over him like a guard dog. Namjoon and Seokjin said they would be heading home, too, but Taehyung doubted that with how much fun they were having playing with the kids.

Yoongi had taken a few sips of wine as well, while Taehyung couldn't bear it from how full he was. They wrapped themselves in their robes as they walked, and Taehyung stared up at the moon through the trees. It was big and beautiful, just as it had been back in town.

They stayed in silence until they got home. They took off their boots at the entrance, shaking them clean of dirt and snow and debris, and Taehyung started to loosen up his robes. Yoongi cleared his throat, tilting his head towards the couch. "Sit."

Taehyung raised a brow, but did as he was told.

Yoongi disappeared from the room, heading back to his bedroom, and Taehyung tapped his fingers against his knees as he waited. When Yoongi returned, he had something in his hands. It was too dark to tell what it was, but from the shape it looked like a pot.

"Hyung?"

"I got you a gift," Yoongi said, his face lit by the moonlight streaming in from the window. Still, Taehyung couldn't read his expression. "It's nothing much, just to commemorate your initiation. Hoseok should be getting one from Jeongguk, too."

He held out the gift, and Taehyung's lips quirked into a smile when he realized it was some sort of plant. With a domed top and spikes running down it, it was unlike any plant Taehyung had ever seen before. "What is that?"

"A cactus," Yoongi said. "You told me about how you used to have a garden, back home with your mom? How you hated when you couldn't waste anymore water on the plants?"

Taehyung took the pot, smiling as he turned it in his hands to take a better look. It looked like a sea urchin. "My mother loved her flower garden," he said. His voice didn't betray the emotion swelling in his gut, and for that he was grateful. "I did, too."

"This is a plant that doesn't need a lot of water," Yoongi explained, resting a hand on the curve of his neck. "I thought you might like it. Ah, be care—"

Taehyung yelped when he pricked his fingers, shaking his hand when it started to burn with pain. "Ow."

"Be careful," Yoongi admonished. "It'll sting."

Taehyung smiled sheepishly, clutching his injured finger to his chest. "I'll be careful, hyung. Thank you, though. Really. I love it."

Yoongi smiled at him, small and almost like he knew how much Taehyung appreciated the gift. "You're welcome. I'm going to turn in now."

Taehyung nodded, ready to go to sleep himself. He held the pot to his chest, careful not to tip it towards him and give the killer plant another jab at his sensitive skin. "Goodnight, hyung. Sleep well."

Yoongi turned back to head to his bedroom, and he hummed as he walked. "Goodnight, Taehyung."

Taehyung didn't go to bed immediately. He took a seat on the couch, letting himself stare at the cactus for a good long while as the moonlight crept closer.

Chapter Text

Ever since Taehyung had seen Yoongi in his dragon form, touched him in his dragon form, and watched the dragons fly above them at the festival, he had an idea. It was a bit of a silly idea, if he was being honest with himself, and maybe that was why it took him four days to work up the courage to ask Yoongi about it.

Seokjin and Namjoon had visited for breakfast, since they were headed out early to another town to do some business and wanted to say goodbye before they left, and the idea had been stuck in Taehyung’s mind throughout the entire meal. Namjoon had noticed, going so far as to wave his hand in front of Taehyung's face. They teased him when he pouted and swatted Namjoon away, but they didn't bug him about what he was thinking. It was far too early for that.

They were working from home, so as soon as Seokjin and Namjoon were gone the both of them had finished washing up and were headed back to the shed to start working.

Taehyung didn't have anything specific he had to work on, so he went back to the usual. By lunch he had a few belts and some bracelets done, and the warmth from Yoongi's work was enough for Taehyung to stay in for a few more moments. He sat on his stool, leaning back against his work table as he watched Yoongi work.

About ten minutes passed before Yoongi realized he was being watched, and he looked over his shoulder to meet Taehyung's gaze with a long blink. "What are you looking at me for?"

Taehyung smiled, shrugging. "Nothing in particular."

Yoongi snorted, rolling his neck to either side as he set aside the parts of the chair he was working on. "That face usually doesn't mean nothing in particular."

Taehyung muffled a laugh behind his hand, ignoring the thick scent of dyes and oil on his skin. "Alright, hyung. I have an idea."

Yoongi pulled out the fire, working to get it put out so they could go inside and eat lunch, and he hummed to show that he was paying attention.

"Well, remember how you said I should make saddles?"

Yoongi eyed him as he rounded the pot, throwing sand into it. "I do."

Taehyung smiled, resting on his elbows. He was starting to get nervous, but he didn't want Yoongi to see that. "I had an idea. Maybe I could make individual saddles? Instead of using large cargo saddles like the one Hoseok and I rode in our first day here, I could craft an individual saddle similar to horse ones."

Yoongi brushed the sand from his hands, slapping them against his work apron. "Huh. You think you can do that?"

"I'd like to try," Taehyung said. Here came the hard part. "Would it be okay if I used your measurements? To be honest, I want one for selfish reasons."

Yoongi snorted, heading out of the shed. He looked over his shoulder, making sure that Taehyung was following him, and smiled. "I could do that for you. I can't say I'm surprised, anyways, considering how obsessed you've been watching the dragons fly."

Taehyung flushed. He was never good at hiding. "It's kind of amazing hyung."

"Alright," Yoongi said. "I'll let you measure me after lunch. If you can successfully make one, I'll even take you out on a ride."

Taehyung perked up as excitement bubbled through his veins. He rushed to Yoongi's side, resting his hand on Yoongi's forearm to ensure he wasn't dreaming. "Hyung, really? You'd take me?"

Yoongi looked down at his hand. "Why not? I'm curious to see if you can do it."

Taehyung laughed, and he passed Yoongi to head inside. He didn't care about lunch, not anymore, and he wanted to get it done as quickly as he could. His mind raced with the possibilities of what he could make, how far he could stretch his mind and his talents. He swore he heard Yoongi laugh behind him, and that was enough to have him hurry to the kitchen even faster.

 

 

It was going to take a lot of leather.

Yoongi pitched in the money for half of it, since the saddle was going to be tailored to fit him, but Taehyung refused to let him pay for all of the sides since he was going to have Yoongi make the metal components anyways.

Namjoon found the entire thing fascinating, and he had even helped Taehyung sketch out a rough design of what the saddle would look like. Taehyung was used to making saddles for horses, but Namjoon was used to making things for dragons. It was a good combination, and they managed to get a solid design drafted.

Taehyung decided on a black cattleside, figuring that it would complement Yoongi the best. They had visited Yoona in the morning and she had wrangled them into joining them for lunch. She introduced Taehyung to her cousin's mate, a human by the name of Sooyoung, and it wasn't long before the three of them were laughing loudly together at the expense of several other dragons at the table.

Yoona's parents were kind to him, and her father made him promise to come and show them the saddle once he was done with it. They had never made individual saddles for each other, just the big bulky ones for transporting goods.

Still, they gave him tips on how to properly assemble it to fit their dragon bodies. They helped him fine tune the design, explaining to him why some straps would be uncomfortable some places and where he could put them instead. He was grateful for their input, and by the time he was back home with Yoongi he was confident he could pull it off.

"Maybe we can use them for races," Taehyung said, once he was back in the shed with Yoongi. He was working on the tree, wrapping up the gullet and the cantle, while Yoongi was...working on the many projects Yoongi always worked on. "Wouldn't that be cool?"

Yoongi snorted. "Maybe. You could start something."

Taehyung smiled. It was going to take a lot of work— at least two weeks— but he was willing to put in the effort.

 

 

"I heard Jeongguk wants to dance with you," Jieun said, crimping the collar of one of her newest creations. "I don't blame him, you're fantastic."

"We haven't talked about it," Hoseok said carefully. He was stitching the hem of a shirt, and he wasn't looking at either of them. "Thank you, though."

Taehyung leaned back in his chair, surveying all of the goods. He hadn't been in the shop in four days, pouring all of his energy into the saddle, and Yoongi had forced him to go into town to socialize and take a break before he got burned out. "Can I ask you a question?"

Hoseok turned to him, finally, and his eyes were guarded despite his smile. "Go ahead."

"What's up with you and Jeongguk?"

Jieun stayed silent, but Taehyung had been around her often enough to know that she was listening.

Hoseok dropped his gaze. Taehyung would have seen it as a defeat if he hadn't started talking. "Nothing. He's a good kid, I like him."

Taehyung bit his cheek. "It looks like he's always waiting for something. From you, I mean."

"What could he be waiting for?" Hoseok said, his words remaining calm and neutral.

Taehyung wondered if Hoseok knew just how much staying neutral betrayed his true feelings. "I don't know."

"He's a peculiar kid," Jieun said, eyeing them both. "But he has a big heart. He gets invested very easily, I just hope you're being kind to him."

"I try to be as kind as I can," Hoseok said. "Matters of the heart, though...I don't know about that."

It was a guarded answer. Taehyung felt bad for asking. Hoseok looked uncomfortable, and Jieun looked confused. He hadn't meant to stir up any trouble. "I think you'd both be really good friends."

Hoseok's shoulders slumped, and when his nose scrunched up and he shook his hand Taehyung realized he had pricked himself with the needle. "I think so, too."

They quieted down until they sat together for lunch, and when Jieun left to go drop something off to a friend across town Taehyung couldn't resist the urge to apologize. He didn't want to risk ruining Hoseok's trust in him over something he didn't understand.

"I'm sorry for making you uncomfortable earlier. I'm not trying to be rude or disrespectful," Taehyung started, watching Hoseok slowly eat his rice. "I just want you to be happy like I am."

Hoseok placed a hand on Taehyung's knee and squeezed. "I am happy. There are just some things I have to deal with myself. It's not Jeongguk."

There was a finality in his words, and Taehyung knew better than to beat a dead horse.

 

 

Yoongi ran his fingers over the intricate carvings. "You did this freehand?"

Taehyung smiled, nodding. It was kind of a busy scene, and Taehyung would be lying if he said he hadn't gone overboard. There were tiny wisps flowing into the shapes of large dragons, and from their mouths fire flew. It wasn't his best carving, since it was his first attempt making those kinds of characters, but it was beautiful nonetheless. "Mhm."

Taehyung yawned for the fifth time in the past hour, and that was enough for Yoongi to stand up and call it a night.

"Hyung, but I'm—"

"You're exhausted," Yoongi said, already putting out the lanterns that lit up the shed. He had been hammering, and Taehyung's ears were still ringing from the loud sounds of metal crashing together. Maybe he did need sleep. "It'll be here tomorrow when you come back."

Taehyung let Yoongi tug him off of his stool, and they made their way out after all the fires were put out and all of their tools were left exactly where they liked him. There was oil and grease and dye on Taehyung's hands, but he couldn't be bothered to make it over to the bath to clean himself up. Yoongi grabbed a rag for him once they were inside, making Taehyung promise that he would be up first thing in the morning to take a bath.

Taehyung did so, his heart squeezing from all of the attention.

 

 

"I...I think it's done."

Yoongi looked up. He was taking the day off, since he had finished all of his commissions and wanted to give his aching hands some time off before he started up again, but he had insisted on sitting in to watch Taehyung. It was nice to have the company, and it had willed Taehyung to finish.

Taehyung took a step back. He rested his hands on his hips and turned to Yoongi, his lips curled into a content smile.

Yoongi crossed his legs at his ankles, his trousers bunching at his hips and slipping up to show them off, and he whistled. "Would you look at that."

Indeed. It was the largest piece Taehyung had ever worked on. If he was working with his father, they could usually get a horse saddle done in about ten days. It had taken Taehyung sixteen days, including the day he got the cattlehide sides from Yoona, to design and craft it. He had also been juggling goods for Jieun's shop, too, so it wasn't like he had been able to dedicate all of his free time to it. He was certain that the next time he made one, if he got the opportunity, that it would take him less time since he knew what he would be doing.

"It's a little rough some places," Taehyung said, looking it over with a critical eye. "I'll have to see how it fits you, too."

"It looks good," Yoongi hummed, his lips stretching into a grin when Taehyung looked at him. "How long until we can test it out?"

Taehyung smiled, barely able to contain himself from jumping in place. "Not tomorrow, but the day after. I just need to make sure the dyes and oils settle in well. I used a lot of layers of oil and don't want them to rub all over your scales."

Yoongi huffed in amusement. "Alright. We'll go flying on Wednesday."

Taehyung bit his cheek, but it wasn't enough to prevent his smile growing from ear to ear. "Wednesday it is."

 

 

Taehyung begged Yoongi for it to be just the two of them for the first test; he wanted to make sure that it was perfect before he showed the rest of the clan. He couldn’t bare the embarrassment if something went wrong. Yoongi hadn't minded, and he helped Taehyung get the saddle out of the shed and into the open space around their house. Yoongi shifted then, and Taehyung forced his eyes on the saddle as he waited.

Yoongi was just as big as he had been the last time Taehyung saw him shift, and Taehyung swore he saw a amused glint in his eye. He walked to the side where they had filled up the saddlebags with a spare change of clothes for Yoongi's and food for them to eat after travelling, as well as the blanket he had commissioned from one of the ladies in town. He placed the saddlebags down before throwing the blanket over Yoongi's back, positioning it a few inches above his shoulders.

Yoongi guided himself into the saddle, and Taehyung stood still to watch the way the sunlight bounced off of Yoongi's scales. He found himself getting more and more excited as Yoongi dipped his head down, slipping the saddle on until it was settled on his back.

Taehyung skipped forward to make sure the blanket was aligned properly under the saddle, since Yoongi had said his skin could be sensitive to rubbing, and once he was pleased with the placement he started to work on tightening the cinches under his belly and the breastplate. Once he was certain the straps weren't rubbing or pinching his skin, he grabbed the saddlebags and attached them properly.

Yoongi stayed still, which was nice since Taehyung's heart was racing and any false move might have made him yell. He took a step back once everything was fastened, going back and forth to make sure he hadn't missed anything. Yoongi had told him that if he fell off while they were flying that Yoongi would be able to catch him, but Taehyung didn't want to risk that.

"I think that's everything," Taehyung said, running his hand down Yoongi's neck. It was strange, if he was being honest, how open to affection he was when Yoongi was in his dragon shift. He couldn't help it, really. He missed those alley cats back home. "I'm going to get on now, hyung."

Yoongi let out a shallow huff of air as he dropped down, curling his legs underneath him so Taehyung could climb on without kicking him. Taehyung had seen a few horses at the cattle farm, but he hadn't been brave enough to ask Yoongi if he could ride them, so he was a little rusty.

Still, he mounted with a fair level of ease, throwing his leg over and getting comfortable in the saddle. He laughed, amazed at how high up he was. It was so much different than what he was used to, but at the same time it felt familiar. He slipped his feet in the stirrups as Yoongi stood up, letting out a soft whoosh of air.

Yoongi huffed again, as if asking Taehyung if he was ready, and he hummed with a satisfied smile. The saddle wasn't wiggling around with his weight or slipping with the blanket underneath, and that was a good sign. It seemed to fit Yoongi perfectly. "We're good to go, hyung."

Yoongi didn't wait before he was launching up into the air, so similar to that first time Taehyung had seen him fly nearly two months ago. He laughed, joyous and unbothered as he held on with all his might. The wind was ruffling his hair, blowing into his face and eyes, but he didn't care. It wasn't scary. It was amazing.

Yoongi levelled out after a few seconds, his wings flapping leisurely on either side of him, and Taehyung loosened his grip on the horn once he didn't feel like he was going to fall off. He stared in wonder at the trees beneath them, coated with a thin splattering of snow, and leaned forward until he could see the very tips of the buildings in town. They weren't so high up that he could see what was happening in town, but it was fascinating to be able to look over the treetops.

"Woah," he mumbled under his breath. The wind was cool on his face, and he had to wonder what it might've looked like if it had been snowing. Yoongi told him he didn't like to fly in the rain, which was a bit of a bummer, but snow Yoongi could tolerate.

Yoongi had kept the destination a surprise, only that it would be just outside of the territory inhabited by houses and farmland. Taehyung was excited. The farthest out he had been was to get leather sides from Yoona's place. He was comfortable, but Taehyung liked to explore.

Yoongi climbed a few hundred feet higher and Taehyung straightened out, his lips parting as the wind dried them out. The sun was still tall in the sky, since it was just before lunchtime, and Taehyung had to force himself not to look up and hurt his eyes.

The forest went on for a lot longer than Taehyung anticipated. He knew their territory was vast, but it looked almost endless from the sky. He could see the tops of homes scattered about the land, but it was mostly raw forest. It was nothing like what Taehyung was used to, but he loved it.

Taehyung released one hand from the horn, curiously spreading it over Yoongi's spikes and down to his scales. They felt so strange, like coins beneath a river. Yoongi made a sound, something less aggressive than a growl but more vibrative than a huff, and Taehyung laughed to himself. He returned his hand to the horn and sat back to thoroughly enjoy the ride.

They travelled until the forest levelled out into expansive meadows, rows of brilliantly colored flowers making Taehyung's eyes bulge out with excitement. He had never seen such pretty colors. They didn't have flowers like that back home, couldn't waste the water unless it was on crops, and Taehyung wanted to just...smell them. Enjoy them.

Yoongi surprised him then, stalling above the meadow and slowly flapping his wings as he lowered down. Taehyung looked over the side, his lips parting in shock as the wind jostled the flowers about. He rocked forward in the saddle when Yoongi landed, laughing quietly when Yoongi made a sound that Taehyung was sure meant get off.

He did so, throwing a leg over and dismounting with care so he wouldn't trample any of the flowers. Yoongi had landed a few feet away from where the large patches of flowers were, and Taehyung didn't want to trample them either.

He took off the saddlebags, settling them onto the grass before undoing the cinches. Yoongi wiggled out of the saddle, and Taehyung was ready to grab the blanket off his shoulders. He left the saddlebags by Yoongi so he could have his clothes and turned around to give him some privacy.

The flowers were nothing short of gorgeous.

Every color imaginable was there, from pinks to greens to blues to yellows, and Taehyung sucked in a deep breath. The floral scent made him feel at ease, and he nearly didn't hear the sound of Yoongi shifting behind him as he bent down to softly pet the petals.

"You like it?"

Taehyung looked over his shoulder, smiling as Yoongi rearranged his shirt on his torso. His hair was unkempt, strands going in every direction, and Taehyung might've fixed it if they were standing next to one another. "I like it a lot, hyung. It's really..."

"Beautiful," Yoongi finished for him. "I haven't been out here in a while. Not since you've been here, at least. Spring is a few days away, though, so I knew the flowers would be newly bloomed."

Taehyung stood up when Yoongi approached him, and he grinned when Yoongi reached for the other end of the blanket. They spread it out together over the grass, and Taehyung made his way over to the saddlebags to start unloading everything. "I'm kind of in love."

Yoongi helped him spread out the food, and if he saw Taehyung pop a few grapes in his mouth while they were setting up he didn't say anything. It felt kind of funny to be having a picnic in a huge meadow with Yoongi, but it was nice at the same time. There was an easygoing sort of atmosphere around them, and it grew more and more by the day.

"How do the other humans get around, then? If they have to go far? I know the horses aren't really utilized for transportation here," Taehyung asked. He sighed as the scent of meat hit him, and Yoongi gave him a knowing look before passing him the bowl.

"Same way you got around when we first picked you up." Yoongi laughed at Taehyung's forlorn expression. "I know. It's a little ridiculous, but there's never been a major issue. It works. There isn't someone in our clan that does leatherwork other than the shoemaker, and he doesn't know how to make saddles. Well, there wasn't someone in our clan that does leatherwork."

Taehyung smiled, picking up a thin slice of pork belly. Our clan. It felt quite nice to belong to something like that. "I didn't make anything revolutionary, but I hope I can help others out."

"You don't give yourself enough credit," Yoongi said between bites. There was sauce on his chin, and he wiped it away when Taehyung pointed it out. "Namjoon alone seems to have enough excitement to cover the whole clan."

Taehyung laughed as he remembered how happy Namjoon had been to help him design. He refused to let anyone see the saddle while he was working on it, fearing critiques when he mainly wanted to play, and Namjoon had been crabby about it. "I wonder if Seokjin hyung would want one, then."

"If it's for Joon, he'll want it," Yoongi grumbled. "He plays hard to get, but he'll do anything to make Namjoon smile."

Taehyung bit his bottom lip, hiding his smile between a big bite. "That's really nice, though. Don't you think, hyung?"

Yoongi hummed, folding his legs underneath himself. "It is. They're...ideal, I think. Can I tell you a secret?" His lips were curled into a conspiratory smile, and it made Taehyung's limbs itch with interest.

Taehyung nodded, sucking his lips into his mouth and running his finger over the seam as if to say his lips were sealed.

Yoongi snorted at the charades. "Anyways," he teased, "Namjoon came to me a week ago and asked for me to make their rings."

Taehyung startled, clapping his hands against his thighs. "Their rings?"

"They're promised in the way of dragons, officially courting," Yoongi explained, smiling as Taehyung started to wiggle in excitement, "but they haven't exchanged engagement rings. So, exclusive, but nothing official. After that, they typically enter a period where they're in limbo until engagement is proposed, and the mating ceremony follows."

That was fascinating. Back home, they didn't exchange rings. It was too expensive to. Some families were lucky, passing down rings from elders passed or making them out of cheaper metals, but Taehyung's parents didn't have rings.

Taehyung never saw rings on Namjoon's or Seokjin's fingers. He remembered, briefly, Namjoon telling him and Hoseok that they hadn't completed the mating ceremony. "Oh. So Namjoon wants to go ahead...?"

Yoongi smiled. "He does. Ironically, Seokjin approached me about a month ago requesting the same thing."

Taehyung jolted, an amazed laugh spilling from his lips. "Oh, hyung, that's amazing."

"They both traded for gemstones for the rings, but the good thing is that they complement each other," Yoongi sighed. "They plan on proposing to each other at the next festival."

"They're perfectly in sync," Taehyung said, smiling before popping another grape into his mouth. "Did they ask for different kinds of rings, though?"

Yoongi shrugged. "Namjoon told me to make something I knew Seokjin would like and Seokjin gave me a few pointers, so it works out. I have some time to design and make them, though. Figured I would tell you before you started asking questions when you saw me working on them."

Taehyung laughed, covering his mouth. "Yeah, I'm a little nosy. Sorry."

"Yeah, you are," Yoongi joked, dodging when Taehyung threw a grape at his chest. "Hey, don't waste food."

Taehyung laughed some more, dragging his knees up to his chest to protect himself in case Yoongi thought to retaliate. "Sorry, hyung. I'm happy for them, though. Really."

"So am I," Yoongi said, mellowing out with a smile. He grabbed the assaulting grape and pushed it past his lips, nibbling on the skin before eating it.

"I'm sure the ring will be beautiful," Taehyung said. He knew it would be. Yoongi was talented. "I've never seen you work with anything other than iron, though?"

"Seokjin wants silver. It's not my primary metal of choice, but I can work it."

Taehyung had a thought, and he huffed out a laugh. "Don't tell me you charged both of them?"

Yoongi rolled his eyes, lifting up a grape as a threat. Taehyung held up his hands in defeat, stifling his giggles against his knees. "No, Taehyung, I didn't. I told them both I'd be more than happy to make my best friend's mating rings for free."

Taehyung smiled, cooing with grabby hands and then shrieking when Yoongi launched the grape at his nose. "Hyung! I think it's nice," he whined, rubbing at his nose.

"You're a shithead," Yoongi said, his lips quirked up with amusement. "Enjoy the grape."

They sat and finished the rest of their food after a few more minutes of teasing, Taehyung telling stories of his days in Jieun's shop and Yoongi detailing his grievances with a family that wanted way too much for way too little. It was comfortable. Taehyung found it kind of nice that only two months ago he had been scared of what Yoongi could do to him, and now the dragon was sitting with him like they were good friends.

That raised a thought. "Hyung?"

Yoongi hummed to show he was listening. He wasn't looking at Taehyung, too busy enjoying the scenery of the newly blossomed flowers.

Taehyung smiled, resting his chin on top of his knees. The sun brought warmth from where it peeked out behind the clouds, but there remained a cool breeze reminding him of the passing winter. "We're friends, right?"

Yoongi faced him then, but Taehyung was too shy to return his gaze. "Yeah," he said, after a moment. "We are."

Taehyung raised his head to meet Yoongi’s eyes, confidence flowing through his veins, and they shared a moment of tranquility as they exchanged smiles. Friendship was a funny word. He didn't know if it quite matched the emotions he felt when he looked at Yoongi, but it was a good placeholder until he figured them out.

 

 

Taehyung whistled, wiping the sweat off his brow. "I know you said they were going to be popular hyung, but..."

"Don't overwork yourself," Yoongi warned him, tapping his fingers against Taehyung's work table as he looked at the designs.

There were three orders in total. One from Seokjin and Namjoon, who loved the idea of being able to travel easier together, another from the baker and his adoptive human daughter, and the last from Yoona's cousin.

Yoongi let Taehyung ride him over to his family's home for dinner so they could show it off the Monday after their first test run. They had all been amazed by it, and a few of Yoongi's nieces and nephews around the same size tried it on. It worked fairly well, since they were similar in build and Taehyung built the saddle to be adjustable, and Taehyung wasn't able to express the amount of pride he felt when he saw them soaring above with his creation on their backs.

Namjoon loved it, and they ended up negotiating a trade over dinner as Yoongi and Seokjin bickered about who knows what.

Elder Min had been the most impressed, and he had been the one to suggest that Taehyung take his creation town in case people would want to commission him. He wasn't receiving an allowance anymore, so anything he could do to involve himself in the economy would benefit him.

So, he had done so.

He showed Jieun, who told him she would be telling her customers and friends with human companions about it, and that landed him the order with the baker. Yoona's cousin's mate, Sooyoung, had remembered him from dinner and filled his first slot, buttering him up with coins and promises that she would give him tips on how to better negotiate with Yoona.

Yoongi recommended he only took three orders at a time. It was long and arduous work, and Taehyung would get swamped if he wasn't careful. The good thing is that he could work on a lot of the same pieces at a time, but it would be about a month for him to get all of them completed.

"Look at this," Taehyung said, pointing to something on the design he was completing for Namjoon and Seokjin. "This is disgusting."

Yoongi furrowed his brows, confused by Taehyung's words, until he leaned forward and saw what Taehyung was pointing out. "Moon save them," he sighed, running a hand over his face.

"They're gross," Taehyung whined. He wasn't sure when Namjoon (or Seokjin, for that matter) had managed to sneak something onto his design. He had been working on them at the table the day previous at dinner, when their four friends came over, so maybe it had been then. "Namjoon hyung really wants me to carve this? Their initials? That's so..."

"They think it's romantic," Yoongi said, pursing his lips. "They're children."

Taehyung scoffed out a laugh. "Well, guess I can't say no to the power of romance."

"I'd charge him extra for making you look at that," Yoongi said, grinning when Taehyung started to laugh. "Why are you laughing? I would."

"I know you would," Taehyung giggled, wiping some dust off of his paper. "Jeez, they're really something."

Taehyung thought it was embarrassing, but he wanted a relationship like that one day. To be so in love that you didn't care what others thought about you, didn't that sound nice?

Yoongi hummed, going back to his work. He had started designing their rings that morning, and Taehyung had watched over his shoulder and given advice whenever Yoongi asked for it. "I never thought Seokjin would have a mating ceremony, to be honest."

Taehyung's lips parted in surprise. "No? He seems so..."

"Because of Namjoon," Yoongi explained, picking up a long piece of metal and slipping it into the furnace. If Taehyung was to guess he would say it was for table legs. "He didn't used to be like that. He messed around when we were younger, with men and women, so I wasn't sure where the wind was going to take him."

"Until Namjoon?"

Yoongi nodded. "Until Namjoon."

"The right person just hadn't come along, then," Taehyung said, smiling. "My father was like that. My mother used to tell us about how he used to be this casanova, and she feared I would turn out the same way."

Yoongi looked over his shoulder, a hidden smile on his lips. "Are you? Like that?"

Taehyung laughed, shaking his head. His hands ached from working all day, and he was glad for a break to just talk. "No. I'm a hopeless romantic. Are you, hyung?"

Yoongi turned back around. "I'd like to think I'm in between. I don't...actively seek romance, but I'm not against it. A younger kid tried to court me a few years back. He was only eighteen, and I was twenty two. It wasn't something I wanted."

Taehyung wanted to ask about what courting all entailed, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to hear all the details of someone trying to court Yoongi. "If...If he tried to court you now, what would you say?"

Taehyung didn't know why he asked. Yoongi didn't seem like he expected that question, either, and he paused for a short while before answering. "No. He was an attractive kid, and kind, but I don't think we would have been happy together."

Taehyung bit his bottom lip. "I didn't have anyone back home. Like that. I was expected to marry our neighbor's daughter when she turned twenty, but..."

But, he was here.

Yoongi wiped his hands on a rag, focusing on his palms. "Was she pretty?"

"She was," Taehyung said, discomfort settling in his gut. Truth be told, he found her older brother much prettier. But that older brother went and eloped with the dairy farmer's daughter, never to be seen again. "Her name was Nayeon. I...wouldn't have been able to love her, I think."

Yoongi faced him them, lips parted in surprise. "No? Why not?"

Taehyung lowered his gaze, staring at the dye stained ground. His heart was racing, and he swore it had migrated to his throat. He wanted to say it, but the fear that had been instilled in him since birth had him pause. "Well..."

Yoongi fully turned to him with his brows drawn in. "Was she mean?"

Taehyung shook his head, cheeks burning. "No, not at all. She was a good friend, I just..."

Nayeon hadn't questioned Taehyung when they were fourteen and Taehyung had reacted negatively to her trying to kiss him, instead linking their pinkies together and promising him that they would keep each other's secrets for eternity. As a child, Taehyung hadn't understood what she had been implying. As an adult, he cherished her even more.

Taehyung couldn't see the expression Yoongi was making, and his curiosity got the better of him. He looked up, and his breath caught in his throat at the gentle frown on Yoongi's lips. "Taehyung. What are you trying to tell me?"

It was odd. He knew that Yoongi wouldn't dislike him, but there was still that fear at the back of his mind. "I don't know."

"That's alright," Yoongi said. It was kinder than anything Taehyung had ever heard from him, save when Yoongi was talking with the kids in his family or his grandparents, and it made him feel a little.... Well, he didn't know how it made him feel. He couldn't put a name to the strange emotion building at the back of his mind. "You don't have to tell me anything."

Taehyung wanted to, though. He knew he was safe, amongst the dragons, and he wanted to be honest. "I've never told anyone. M-My best friend, Jimin, even he doesn't know."

Yoongi took a few careful steps forward. He paused in front of Taehyung, like he was expecting Taehyung to move or turn away, before placing a firm hand on Taehyung's shoulder. He squeezed, and Taehyung sucked in a short breath. "You can tell me, if you'd like. If it would make you feel better."

Taehyung wanted to look away. Yoongi's gaze was strong, his eyes burning with some emotion Taehyung couldn't identify. Yoongi was smaller than him, both in height and build, but he held the kind of confidence and power that it made Taehyung feel protected. "I'm gay, hyung," he said, the words slipping from his lips sounding so unlike himself that he could barely recall saying them. "That's why I wouldn't have been able to love her. Not in the way my parents wanted me to."

Yoongi's gaze softened, and he squeezed Taehyung's shoulder just hard enough to be comforting. "You don't have to be scared to admit that," he said. His thumb pressed into the dip next to the bones of his shoulder, and Taehyung's breath hitched. "You're still Taehyung."

It took him a minute, but he repeated it. "I'm still Taehyung."

Taehyung felt a weight lift off his chest, like an ache that had been resting there since he was a young boy, and he let out a laugh when Yoongi ruffled his hair and told him to get back to work.

Chapter Text

Taehyung winced as another needle pricked the sensitive skin around his hips. "Ow."

"Sorry," Hoseok groaned. "I'm almost done, alright?"

Namjoon looked seconds away from laughter, and Taehyung shot him a pleading look. If Namjoon started laughing, then Hoseok would get distracted and then Taehyung would get pricked again. Namjoon was polite enough to hide his snickers behind his hands, and Hoseok couldn't see him since his back was turned. Taehyung had a chance to make it out alive.

Hoseok pulled back once he was satisfied, resting his hands on his hips. "Okay, that should be good enough. You can take the robes off, Tae."

"Thank you," Taehyung sighed. "Jieun noona needs to teach you to not prick your clients, hyung."

Hoseok scowled, elbowing Taehyung as he passed. "You twitch! Thats not my fault."

Taehyung giggled, making his way to the back room so he could shrug off the clothes as carefully as possible. He changed back into his trousers and shirt, folding the robes and bringing them back out.

"Well, I appreciate you making my robes," Taehyung said, "even if you poked me a million times, hyung."

"You're bold," Hoseok said, rolling his eyes as he made his way over to the shelves Jieun had stocked with fabrics. "It's a good thing Jieun doesn't have to remake our winter robes."

"Loose fitting, perfect for weight gain," Namjoon chirped, smiling when Hoseok shot him a warning look. "What? I gained weight when I came here, too. Nothing better than a balanced diet and three meals a day."

Taehyung could attest to that. He took a seat next to Namjoon, by the window, and crossed his legs as he leaned back. "It was different for you, Hobi hyung."

Hoseok sighed and reached up to grab a bolt of fabric off the top shelf. "Yes, I know."

His shirt rode up when he did so, and Taehyung blinked at the sight of a purple bruise along his hip. It was gone in an instant when Hoseok dropped his arms back down, taking the bolt of fabric over to his work station.

"Hyung?"

Hoseok hummed, unrolling the fabric. "Yeah?"

"Can you lift up your shirt for me?"

Namjoon startled at the question, nearly dropping his book, and Hoseok's head whipped around to look at him with his eyes blazing. "What?"

Taehyung flushed, fearing he sounded like a pervert. "I thought I saw a bruise."

Hoseok's lips parted, and Namjoon relaxed next to him. "Gods, I thought you were being a creep."

"Why would I?" Taehyung huffed. "Can I see, hyung?"

"It's nothing," Hoseok said, clearing his throat. He lifted up his shirt though, and sure enough that same purple bruise was there. There was another one, too, closer to his bellybutton. "I bumped into my nightstand a few days ago. It was dark and I was tired, so I wasn't paying attention."

Namjoon gave a low whistle. "Tell Jeongguk to give you some salve. Seokjin gave him a jar not too long ago."

"I will," Hoseok said, dropping his shirt back down with flushed cheeks. He turned back to his work, picking up his blade again. "You don't need to worry, Taehyung-ah. If I was getting into fights I’d probably have the upper hand anyways."

"Sorry, hyung," Taehyung said, smiling sheepishly when Namjoon laughed at them.

He didn't bother mentioning that he had been in Hoseok's room before, so he knew that Hoseok's nightstand only went up to his knee.

 

 

Two weeks before the full moon festival, Taehyung invited Namjoon and Seokjin over to the house for lunch so they could pick up their saddle. Namjoon had stopped by Jieun's shop the day previous, which saved Taehyung a trip since he had been planning on going and visiting them in person to invite them over.

Taehyung cooked, since Yoongi was out for the day installing furniture in a family home out in the eastern side of the clan's territory, and it wasn't anything spectacular but it was good enough. The house was warm with the scent of meat and spices, and Taehyung felt oddly at home.

"I can't wait to see it," Namjoon said, thanking Taehyung as they sat down to eat.

Seokjin laughed, picking up his utensils and starting to fill his plate. "I think you're more excited about this than I am, Joonie."

Namjoon rolled his eyes, a smile growing on his lips. "You get to fly whenever you wish, hyung. I've only been in the air a few times."

Taehyung didn't mention the weekly excursions he had been making with Yoongi ever since he created his prototype. On one hand, he didn't want to make Namjoon jealous, and on the other hand...

He kind of liked having a secret like that. It was nice to go and explore with Yoongi without a care in the world.

"You'll like it," Taehyung said instead, picking up a piece of carrot. "Seokjin hyung, if you want you can try it on before you leave so you can let me know if I need to make any adjustments."

Seokjin smiled, finishing up chewing what was in his mouth. "That'd be nice, Taehyung. It'd probably be easier for me to fly home with it, anyways."

Taehyung giggled at that, suppressing the urge to tease as excitement blossomed on Namjoon's face in the form of a grin. "Sounds like a plan, then."

Seokjin offered to do the dishes so Namjoon and Taehyung could grab the saddle out of the shed, and it wasn't until they were out of hearing range did Namjoon pour out his feelings. "I think it's going to be really nice," he said, "just...going out with Seokjin like this? Sometimes I'm worried he doesn't shift as often as he might want to because I'm around."

Ah. Taehyung understood now. "Hyung, I'm sure he loves you enough to tell you if he wanted to shift more."

"I know," Namjoon sighed, waiting as Taehyung took the lock off the shed's door and attached it to his belt with the key left inside. "I just get irrational sometimes. I want him to be happy."

"That's good," Taehyung said, smiling as he gestured for Namjoon to follow him. "He looks the happiest when you're around."

Namjoon smiled, too, and it only grew wider when they reached Taehyung's work area and he saw his custom saddle. "Oh, wow."

"I hope you'll like it," Taehyung said, rubbing his palms together as he walked over to one side of it. "Help me with the other side, please?"

"I already love it, Taehyung-ah," Namjoon said, laughing as he helped Taehyung lift it off the table.

It was a little heavy, but the both of them managed to get it out of the shed and into the yard behind the house. Taehyung went to lock up the shed as Namjoon looked over all the details, being careful to put the key in his pocket so he could put it back inside later.

When he returned, Namjoon was running his finger over the raised initials on the horn. There was an expression on his face that Taehyung had never seen before, and something in the back of his mind told him to be quiet until Namjoon addressed him.

A few moments later, Namjoon was looking at him with a gentle smile. "It's incredible. You're talented, Taehyung."

Taehyung rubbed the side of his neck with a sheepish smile. "I'm glad you like it, hyung. Thank you."

They laughed when Namjoon practiced mounting and dismounting, and Taehyung had to teach im how to put his feet in the stirrups properly. Namjoon didn't have horses back in his town, he explained, so he had never ridden a horse before. The good thing about that was that Namjoon wouldn't have to use any reins to direct Seokjin around. He just had to sit there and enjoy it.

Seokjin came out of the house in the middle of Taehyung telling Namjoon where to keep his hands and how to keep himself upright when he was in the air, and his smile was just as content as Namjoon's had been. "Is that it?"

"It is," Taehyung chirped, stepping to the side so Namjoon could dismount without bumping into him.

"Look, hyung," Namjoon said, pointing to their initials. "Isn't that amazing?"

Seokjin made his way over, still wiping his wet hands on his trousers, and he laughed in disbelief as he looked over the design. "Namjoon, did you ask for this?"

Well, that answered Taehyung's question.

"He snuck it on to my design sheet," Taehyung said, wiggling his knuckled against Namjoon's side as Namjoon sputtered out some excuses.

"Namjoon." Seokjin laughed, tipping his head back as he rested his hands on his hips. "Oh, moon, you're unbelievable."

"I'm a romantic," Namjoon hissed, swatting away Taehyung's hand. "That tickles, you fiend."

Seokjin laughed, and he started to unbutton the top of his shirt. "Taehyung-ah, turn around so I can shift."

Taehyung did as he was told. He felt excited, too, since he had never seen Seokjin in his dragon shift. He didn't flinch as he heard the shift behind him, and he was very proud of himself for that. He was getting used to it, as much as he could, especially with how many times he had listened to Yoongi going through the shift over the past few weeks.

"You can turn around now," Namjoon informed him, as if Taehyung couldn't hear the huff of breath Seokjin let out when he was stretching.

Taehyung let out a laugh when he did turn around. "Hyung, he's going to get stuck."

Namjoon pouted. "Why?"

"Because you need to undo the cinches first," Taehyung giggled, stepping forward to help guide Seokjin out of the little tunnel Namjoon made for him. He was big, bigger than Jeongguk or Yoongi, with a smattering of black scales on his chest that almost blended in with the dark navy that spanned over the rest of him. "Okay, first things first. You said you have the blanket back home, right?"

"Right," Namjoon said, smiling sheepishly. "I should've brought it."

Seokjin huffed, leaning down to nudge his snout against Namjoon's head.

"I know, I'll be more responsible, hyung."

Taehyung laughed into his hand, but got himself together before Namjoon faced him again. "Okay, well. The first step would be to put the blanket on. I typically put it here—" he stepped forward to show Namjoon “—so there's wiggle room when he puts on the saddle. Then, you can guide him into it."

He undid the cinches, showing Namjoon what to do so he could repeat it once they got home. Namjoon picked it up easily, smiling sheepishly. "Your turn, hyung."

Seokjin followed their direction, dipping his head so Namjoon could help pull the saddle over it and down it neck until it landed on his back. Taehyung helped him rearrange it until it was comfortably flat on Seokjin, careful not to rub against his wings.

"Now you tighten," Taehyung said, amusement tugging at his words. "Do the back cinch. This one's kind of the most important, since it'll prevent the saddle from lifting up when he's flying."

Namjoon did the back cinch, and then arranged the breast collar. It was easy, like putting on a belt, but Taehyung had him double check to ensure that there wasn't any skin being pinched or rubbed improperly.

"Up you go," Taehyung chirped, letting Namjoon hold onto his shoulder as he got one foot in the stirrup and lifted himself up to throw the other leg over.

He did so with a natural talent, and Taehyung beamed. Seokjin responded with a pleased huff, turning his head to blink appraisingly at Namjoon. Namjoon responded with a bright smile. "That's everything?"

"Yup." Taehyung rested his hands on his hips. "Just make sure to have the blanket next time. Other than that, you're all set."

"Thank you, Taehyung-ah," Namjoon said, resting unsure hands on the horn. He looked uncomfortable, like Taehyung assumed he would the first time, but otherwise okay. His posture was good. "I'll see you soon, yeah?"

Seokjin nudged him to say thank you as well, and Taehyung giggled as he pet down his snout. "See you soon."

Taehyung took delight in watching Namjoon lift to the air, his boisterous laughter echoing as Seokjin went higher and higher. If his job was going to bring other people, his friends, joy like that, then he was proud to do it.

 

 

Yoongi asked Taehyung to hold his hand out.

Taehyung did so, and he grinned when Yoongi dropped a set of rings on his palm. They were brilliantly shiny and adorned with several gems along the sides that Taehyung could only imagine the price of. There was a diamond in the center of each ring, and Taehyung sucked in a breath at the sight. "Wow. They're gorgeous, hyung."

Yoongi smiled, relief making his shoulders sag. "You think?"

"I do." Taehyung turned them over in his palm, looking at all the intricate details. The silver was woven around the gems, beautifully so, and if he didn't know Yoongi he would have assumed the maker specialized in jewelry. "I think you're in the wrong business."

"I make a good salary," Yoongi said, crossing his arms over his puffed out chest with a smug expression. "I trade well, too. I think I'm alright."

Taehyung giggled. "You know I was joking, hyung. Hold on, let's put them in something so they don't get misplaced."

"Don't even say that," Yoongi grumbled, his former smugness morphing into exasperation. "If I lose those I don't think Seokjin will let me ever live it down."

Taehyung threw him a knowing smile over his shoulder, making his way over to his work table and leafing through his extras. He pulled out two small black bags, roughly the size of his palm, and put one ring in each. "There. So they won't rub."

Yoongi took the bags, tying them with the leather strings laced around the rim, and smiled. He stuck them in the pocket of his apron where they would be safe from heat and debris. "Thank you, Tae."

Ah. That was new.

Taehyung took a seat on his stool, biting his cheek as he picked up his skiver. He had orders to fulfill. He didn't have time to start thinking about things he struggled to understand. "Any time, hyung."

"I'm keeping them hostage in the house until the festival," Yoongi explained, crossing the shed back to his area. "Knowing Namjoon, he'll get excited and try to propose before then. And knowing Seokjin, he'll leave the rings somewhere Namjoon can find them."

"And you only made one set of rings."

Yoongi huffed out a laugh. "And I only made one set of rings, yes."

"Well, there’s only one more week until the festival," Taehyung commented, brushing his fingers over his work to dust away the shavings. He leaned in, frowning as he looked over the details. "Think they'll be able to keep it a secret from each other until then?"

"They've lasted until this long," Yoongi replied. "I think it'll be fine."

"I can't wait to see their faces when they realize they both had the same idea," Taehyung giggled. "Seokjin hyung is probably going to be upset you didn't tell him."

"Nah," Yoongi snorted. "He loves shit like this. He'll be over the moon."

Taehyung laughed under his breath, looking at the cute outline of Namjoon's and Seokjin's initials he had carved into the center of the horn. There was a dragon curled around the letters, flames wrapping around the edges down the sides. It was better than the carving he had done on Yoongi's saddle, since he had more practice, and he was proud of the result.

"I hope they'll be happy together for a long time," Taehyung said, smiling to himself. "They deserve it."

Yoongi was quiet, and before Taehyung could turn to look at him he was humming his agreeance.

 

 

The days leading up to the full moon festival were dull.

Yoongi was working on a big project in the southern portion of the territory, so when Taehyung stayed home to work on the saddles he was alone more often than not. He realized just how much he had relied on Yoongi to keep him company. It was strange, being lonely.

He invited Hoseok and Namjoon over, sometimes, since they were quickly filling the space in his heart reserved for friendship. They were busy, though, since Hoseok had to help Jieun make last minute robes for the festival and Namjoon was hit with a creative streak like none other. It was times like then, when he was cooped up in the shed all in his lonesome, that he yearned for Jimin.

He missed his best friend just as much as he missed his family. He hoped that he was doing okay, and that his younger brother was healthy and happy. A small, selfish part of him wondered if Jimin would ever be chosen and brought to join the clan with him.

Jimin was a good person. He was arguably the best person Taehyung knew. He was righteous and caring, and his only downfall was his temper. But he wasn't a selfish person. He worked hard to provide for his family, and he was an upright member of society. His parents were, too, and so was Nayeon. So were his cousins, and his aunts and uncles. There were a few bad apples, sure, but what had the rest of them done to deserve poverty?

Taehyung knew a lot of people that were good. The problem was that he still didn't understand if his definiton of good differed from the dragon's definition of good. After three months of living with the clan, he was almost scared to ask.

 

 

Taehyung was just as excited for the full moon festival as he had been for the previous one. He didn't feel nervous, though, so that was an improvement. He knew what to expect a second time around, so before Yoongi could even ask what he wanted to do first he was rushing to the mages to get his wish.

Dahyun was there again, and Taehyung matched her wide grin as she offered her arm. He wrote it out quickly, wanting to get it up to the moon as fast as he could.

"You're eager," Dahyun teased as Taehyung finished the last word.

"I came prepared," Taehyung said, putting down the pen and smiling as she lifted her arm.

He stared at her arm instead of her face, flattening his palms on the table as the ancient language pushed the ink into the air as fire. The flickers of blue almost blended into the beautiful color of the sky, and it wasn't long before they disappeared from his sight. It was just as beautiful as it had been last time.

"Thank you," he chirped, lifting his hand up to wave as she smiled and turned to the next person in line.

Yoongi was waiting for him, and he seemed amused at Taehyung's excitement. "Good wish?"

"Yes," Taehyung breathed. "I know it'll come true."

"For your sake, I hope it does," Yoongi teased. "Why don't we go get some food?

They grabbed plates heavy with sweet potatoes and pork and rice, laughing together as a couple of kids raced past them. One of them tripped in front of Taehyung, and he bent down to help her up by the hand. She smiled at him, teeth crooked and eyes bright, before bolting away with a thanks thrown over her shoulders.

"They're excitable," Yoongi snorted, holding his plate to his chest in fear of someone bumping into him.

"I think we're all excited," Taehyung said, chipper as ever. "By the way, hyung, you gave them the rings?"

Yoongi hummed. He glanced around, as if to check that none of their friends were nearby. "I gave them each a ring, said I would be holding the other one. Thought it would be a funny situation."

Taehyung tilted his head back in a laugh. "That's really cute, actually."

They met up with the rest of the group after grabbing all the food they wanted, exchanging pleasantries with people along the way, and Taehyung nearly had to sit on his hands to hide his excitement. Yoongi had been strict with him, saying that he would need to keep it a secret that he knew, and Taehyung wanted to keep his word. He didn't want to ruin the surprise.

Hoseok was sitting next to him, and Taehyung distracted himself with the bit of red peeking out from under his collar. "Hyung, what's that?"

Hoseok looked at him with his eyes wide, and he looked down at himself only to curse under his breath. "I don't know, actually. I was doing some heavy lifting yesterday, so I probably hit something against my chest."

Jeongguk stood, suddenly, his lips downturned as he pressed the edge of his plate to his belly. "I'm going to go say hi to my parents," he mumbled, already passing the benches they were seated on. "I'll be back."

Taehyung followed him with his eyes, confusion settling in his gut. "Is he in a bad mood?"

A dull silence followed. Hoseok was looking back down at his food when Taehyung turned back around, pushing the rice around on his plate. It was Seokjin that answered. "I think he wanted to dance during this festival. Right, Hoseok?"

"We didn't have time to arrange anything," Hoseok said, his lips pursed as he looked up at Seokjin. "We were both busy."

Seokjin tilted his head, and there was something in his eyes that suggested he knew something that the rest of them didn't. "I'm sure you were."

"Anyways," Yoongi drawled, his knee bumping against Seokjin’s as Namjoon narrowed his eyes "let's eat."

Couldn’t argue with that.

 

 

They ended up playing cards together when Jeongguk returned, plate empty and a smile back on his face, and Taehyung found it hard to concentrate with the sounds of kids yelling and dragons flying and people clapping. He ended up sticking by Yoongi's side, whispering into his ear whenever he thought of a something Yoongi could do to one up the others, and they all laughed when Namjoon called them out for cheating.

"I live in his house," Taehyung said to defend himself. "We're like one person!"

"That doesn't make any sense," Namjoon huffed.

They let him continue to play, though, and Taehyung giggling before pointing at one of Yoongi's cards and telling him to put that one down.

Eventually, a group of kids grabbed their attention as they made their way onto the stage. A few of them were dancing, a pretty traditional kind of dance with newer moves integrated in. Hoseok stared at them, his lips set in a line, and Taehyung wondered if he missed being up there. He had such a gift for dancing.

They broke away from the card game to take seats by the stage, gathered at the steps in front of the water well, and Taehyung relaxed with the calming music. It was nice.

"Oh," Yoongi said. They turned to him, but he was pointing at the dragons above. "They're using one of your saddles, Taehyung."

Taehyung made an unusual sound as he tilted his head back to look up. Sure enough, one of the dragons had his saddle strapped to his torso and a person sitting on it. There was a ball in the person's hand, and Taehyung laughed out loud when he tossed it to one of the other dragons. It looked a little different from their usual game, but Taehyung got the general idea. "Woah!"

"That's really neat," Hoseok said, grinning when Taehyung clapped his hands. "I'm sure the others will be wanting saddles for themselves soon enough."

"It looks fun," Seokjin said, perking up as he nudged Namjoon. "Joon-ah, we should join them next time!"

Namjoon laughed, rubbing the side of his neck as Taehyung giggled at him. "You know I'm not good at games, hyung. Maybe."

Seokjin poked his side, smiling as he leaned in to rest his chin on Namjoon's shoulder. "You're such a worrywort. I think it'll be exciting."

"If you say so, hyung."

"Congrats," Yoongi said as Seokjin’s laughter trickled into the air, making Taehyung turn to face him.

Taehyung tilted his head, and the smile on his lips didn't go away. "What for?"

"I'd say that's a success," Yoongi said, pointing a finger up at the sky. He was smiling, too. "You'll be popular."

Taehyung shrugged his shoulders, a sheepish laugh passing through his lips. "I'm just glad people are enjoying them. It makes me feel good."

Yoongi turned from him as the kids on stage exited, making way for a few adults and their larger instruments. Taehyung's eyes went wide at the comical size of one of the drums, and he leaned forward until his elbows were on his knees and his hands were cupping his face so he could focus on them.

The music turned brighter as more instruments were added, and Taehyung found himself bobbing his head along. A few couples stood up to dance in front of the stage, and Taehyung giggled when Seokjin stood up confidently and had Namjoon join him.

Hoseok stared after them, and for a second Taehyung thought he might go and join them.

He bit his lip, wondering, before standing up as well. He offered his hand to a bewildered Yoongi and grinned. "Hyung, let's dance."

"I don't dance," Yoongi said. The tips of his ears were turning red, but Taehyung could see the way his eyes kept flickering to the stage.

"Aw, hyung. Please? Just this once."

Jeongguk smiled, standing up and dusting his pants off. "I'll dance. C'mon, hyung."

Taehyung beamed, looking to Hoseok for more support. Hoseok smiled, knowing fully well what Taehyung was doing, and lifted himself off the steps after a moment of hesitation. "May as well."

Yoongi sighed, running his hand over his face before slapping it over Taehyung's. "Fine, let's dance."

Taehyung beamed, and he led Yoongi until they were a few feet away from Namjoon and Seokjin. Seokjin tossed them a grin, and Taehyung laughed as he started to dance. It wasn't anything structured or fluid, and if he was being honest he was stiff with inexperience, but he held onto Yoongi's hand and smiled when Yoongi started to dance as well.

They were doing nothing more than bouncing, but it was fun.

Hoseok and Jeongguk stood alone, dancing on their own, and Taehyung teasingly tried to replicate the moves Hoseok was putting on while Yoongi laughed at him. Yoongi looked embarrassed with red ears and pink cheeks, but he had a smile on his face that made Taehyung's body wiggle with happiness.

Taehyung lifted Yoongi's hand up in the air, and Yoongi looked at him with a brow raised until Taehyung gestured for him to spin. Yoongi did so with an exasperated groan, but Taehyung was so happy that he did it that he didn't care.

The music turned more excited and exuberant as more people joined them to dance, and before Taehyung knew it he was being pushed closer to Yoongi. They couldn't just wiggle about anymore, since Taehyung was fearful of hitting someone, and he laughed as he gripped Yoongi's bicep with his free hand.

Yoongi smiled at him, and Taehyung nearly jumped as he placed his hand on Taehyung's waist. "Are you being promiscuous?"

"You're a riot," Yoongi deadpanned, pinching Taehyung's side and laughing when he yelped.

"Just dance with me," Taehyung said, grinning when Yoongi rolled his eyes.

They continued to dance, though, and Taehyung had to hide his smile when he thought about how close they were. Yoongi had pretty eyelashes, something Taehyung had never noticed, and if it wasn't for the fact that he had to look Yoongi in the eye to look at them he might've stared.

He felt a tug on his robes as the next song started to play, and he looked down to see one of Yoongi's cousins staring up at them. Yoongi smiled, leaning down to pick her up as Taehyung dropped the hand from his bicep. Their fingers were still intertwined though, and Taehyung didn't think to let go. "Did you want to dance, Eunyoung?"

She nodded, her cheeks pink in the same way Yoongi's were, and turned to make hands at Taehyung. Taehyung smiled, his cheeks hurting from how happy he felt, and grabbed her hand so they could all dance together.

They laughed as they danced, Taehyung waving around their hands as they bounced in place, and Eunyoung looked so happy that Taehyung thought he might die from the cuteness.

Taehyung turned when he heard a commotion, and his eyes grew wide as Seokjin dragged Namjoon up onto the stage. The music faded away, the dragons on stage looking at them with smiles, and it clicked. "Are they...?"

"Gods, of course they are," Yoongi groaned, putting Eunyoung down and releasing Taehyung's hand. "Go find your mom, okay?"

Eunyoung nodded, hurrying away to find her parents, and Yoongi shared an uneasy look with Taehyung as Seokjin and Namjoon walked to the center of the stage. Namjoon looked confused, and Taehyung had to hide a laugh behind his hand as Seokjin reached into his pocket.

"Namjoon-ah," Seokjin said, smiling, "I'll save the speech for later, when we're alone, but I wanted to share this moment with the people we care about."

"Hyung?" Namjoon looked uneasy, and he glanced out at the crowd. Unable to find what he was looking for, which Taehyung figured might be Yoongi, he looked back at Seokjin. "What're you doing?"

Seokjin tilted his head back, laughing, and the rest of the crowd leaned in as he took the small bag out of his pocket. "I'm asking you to spend the rest of our lives together, officially. Will you do me the honor of committing to me as my mate?"

Namjoon gasped as Seokjin pulled the ring out of the bag, presenting it to him between his thumb and index finger. The crowd started to talk then, excited chatter as Seokjin beamed. "Oh, gods."

He fumbled, pulling out the same bag from his pocket and nearly dropping the ring as he pulled it out. "Hyung!"

Taehyung couldn't hold back his laugh, then, and he heard Yoongi snicker behind his hand as Seokjin gaped at Namjoon's sheepish smile. "What in the—" Seokjin paused, his shoulders going rigid, and he turned to glare into the crowd. "Yoongi."

Yoongi reached for Taehyung's hand again, pulling him out of the crowd as Seokjin yelled behind them. "Time to go."

They laughed as they ran through the crowd and into the town, hiding amongst the tall buildings as Seokjin's yells were quieted by Namjoon's soft wait, so this means...

 

 

"Give them until tomorrow," Yoongi said, putting his hands on his knees as he bent over to catch his breath. "Jin will— shit, I'm out of shape— take Namjoon home for tonight and cool off."

"It was cute," Taehyung giggled, his lungs burning with how hard they had sprinted. They were by the shoemaker's, hidden in the alley near a stack of bulky crates. "I didn't know you were so scared of Seokjin."

Yoongi snorted, stretching out his spine with his arms over his head as he straightened out. "He's terrifying and isn't afraid to hit me," Yoongi grumbled. "Namjoon looked happy, though, so he won't be mad for too long."

Taehyung grinned, biting his bottom lip. "I think it's kind of sweet, to be honest. They're really in sync."

Yoongi hummed as he dropped his arms back down to his sides, resting his hands on his hips. "Yeah, they're like that. Seokjin hyung will look back at this and laugh."

"Once he's done being mad at you," Taehyung teased, dodging the playful kick Yoongi aimed at his ankle. "Hyung."

Yoongi grinned, leaning against the building. "Seokjin hyung hates it when he doesn't know everything. He's probably amazed that Namjoon kept it from him."

Taehyung laughed, shaking his head. "They're really meant to be."

Yoongi's lips curled into a softer smile, and Taehyung mirrored him. "They are. We can head home now, if you'd like."

Taehyung hummed, crossing his arms over his chest as he mulled it over. He wasn't ready to go home quite yet. "Can we go on a ride instead, hyung? It's been a while since we've been so busy, and it's still early."

"I'd like that," Yoongi said, surprising him. "Let's hurry, then, before it gets cold."

Taehyung perked up, clapping his hands together before reaching for Yoongi's hand so he could drag him towards their house. Yoongi snorted behind him, but he let Taehyung do what he wanted.

They made it home in record time and dragged out the saddle. Yoongi shifted as Taehyung ran inside to grab spare clothes and snacks and a coat in case it did end up getting cold. By the time he came outside Yoongi was waiting with the blanket and saddle beside him, and Taehyung saddled him up with the brightest smile.

Yoongi bumped his head against Taehyung's side once he finished fastening the saddlebags, and Taehyung giggled before bopping his snout and mounting.

Before he knew it, they were up in the sky with Taehyung leaning forward and resting his cheek on the smooth scales on Yoongi's neck. They didn't have a destination in mind, and Taehyung doubted Yoongi would even land anywhere before turning around to head back home. He didn’t care what else happened that night. His wish had come true for Namjoon and Seokjin.

He could see the town in the distance, and even as Yoongi flew away from the excitement of the festival Taehyung smiled with contentment and pet a hand down the side of Yoongi's neck.

 

 

Yoongi gave Namjoon and Seokjin the weekend to themselves, but they didn't even have time to consider visiting them before Seokjin showed up at their door Monday morning yelling about breakfast.

Taehyung giggled as Yoongi was forced to make breakfast by himself as his punishment. Seokjin sat at the head of the table, arms crossed over his chest and ring fully on display as Namjoon rested his head in his hands. "Cook all the meat, Yoongi-yah. I brought it for a reason."

Yoongi snorted, annoyance making his shoulders tight. "Fine, hyung."

Seokjin winked playfully at Taehyung, who was waiting patiently for his food. He liked this punishment.

Yoongi grumbled under his breath as he brought the pan full of hot, sizzling meat over. He dumped small piles on all of their plates, already full with rice and eggs, and glared at Seokjin before returning to the kitchen to put it down.

Taehyung hid his smile behind his hand when Yoongi returned, but he couldn't hold back his laughter when Yoongi flopped into his chair and grabbed his utensils. "You're all such fuckers. Taehyung, you're a traitor."

"Aw, hyung!"

"He knew, too," Yoongi said, pointing his chopsticks at Taehyung with narrowed eyes. "He isn't being punished."

"Because Taehyung is loyal to you. Too bad you're not loyal to me," Seokjin bit back. He picked up his chopsticks with a deathly smile. "Eat up, buttercup."

The dramatic 'tension' died down when Namjoon started to talk about the mating ceremony. They had decided on the next month or two, most likely after the next full moon festival, since they would have time to work hard so they could take a week off for their honeymoon period. Taehyung was fascinated with the idea of a honeymoon, and Namjoon was kind enough to ask all his questions.

Seokjin leaned in, his grin catty. "It's just an excuse for us to be intimate for a week long without having to work, to be honest."

Namjoon groaned, tilting his head back as Yoongi snorted out a laugh and Taehyung's face turned red. "Please, hyung, be quiet. Please."

Seokjin cooed at him, tickling under his chin. "You love me."

Namjoon swatted his hand away, but he was smiling anyhow. "You're a child."

"You're mating a child," Yoongi teased. "Enjoy your life, Namjoon-ah."

"He will," Seokjin said, narrowing his eyes at Yoongi. "I could extend this punishment."

"Don't break him," Taehyung said, laughing even though his face was still red from Seokjin's teasing. "I still rely on hyung."

"That's right," Yoongi huffed, gathering some meat together. "Stay loyal to me."

"I will," Taehyung said, laughing as Yoongi shovelled in a mouthful of meat.

 

 

Taehyung returned to Jieun's shop a few days later, and she had been over the moon when Namjoon walked in. She went on and on about all the different styles of mating ceremony attire they could choose from, and Namjoon let her ramble for five minutes before he produced a folded sheet of paper from his satchel.

It quieted her, and Taehyung looked up from his spot on the other side of the room. Hoseok was looking, too, and he was close enough to step forward and look at the paper over Jieun's shoulder. "Oh, wow," Hoseok said, blinking at Namjoon. "You did these?"

That made Taehyung curious enough to join them, and Jieun turned the paper in his direction so he could see it better. There were two robes drawn, and both of them were colored a navy similar to Seokjin's scales. They were trimmed with gold, and Namjoon had drawn a large symbol on the bottom with a dragon intertwined with what looked like a buck. Its large antlers were extraordinary, the ivory of them matching the large teeth the dragon was baring.

"My family were deer hunters," Namjoon explained, playing with his fingers. "I wanted something that represented both of us."

"It's gorgeous, Namjoon." Taehyung was impressed, but Namjoon's designs always impressed him.

"Normally, I would argue with you for the sake of it," Jieun said, her smile more calm than Taehyung had seen in a while, "but I can see this is important to you, so I won't. I really like it, Namjoon. It's a lovely design."

"Can you embroider it?" Namjoon asked, grabbing the edge of the paper between his fingers and pulling it down a little so he could frown down at his drawing. "It's not too..."

"Too much?" Hoseok asked.

"Too much," Namjoon confirmed, smiling sheepishly.

"No, it isn't," Jieun said, tossing her head back in a laugh. "You know better than to doubt me, Joon-ah."

Namjoon laughed, shaking his head. "Habit, I guess. Thank you, noona."

"The gold accents are going to look brilliant," Jieun said, taking the paper with her as she headed back to her work room. "I'm going to do some of my own sketches with more details and show them to you soon so you can take them home tonight and decide on what you want with Seokjin."

"Okay," Namjoon said, sitting on one of the free seats at the front of the shop. He pulled out his sketchbook and the graphite pencil he always carried with him from his satchel. Taehyung joined him, smiling as Hoseok went back to organizing ribbon.

"To be honest," Taehyung said, "I'm very confused."

Namjoon blinked, his pencil hovering over the paper. "Confused? About what?"

"Mating," Taehyung said, smiling sheepishly. "It's a little different from what I'm used to."

"Oh," Namjoon said. He put his pencil down with a smile. "Well, I'll start from the beginning?"

"I'm listening, too," Hoseok said, peeking at them from behind the ribbon holder. "Just busy."

Taehyung laughed behind his hand, and Namjoon grinned before beginning. "Well, in general it's the same. Dragons traditionally don't do arranged marriages, though, so I think that's a big difference. The kids are expected to remain chaste until mating, things like that, but a lot of people see official courting as engagement so those ideals aren't always upheld."

Taehyung bit his lip. "Courting?" He had heard that word a countless amount of times, but he never bothered to ask for more information. It was either too embarrassing or just not the right time.

Namjoon tapped his fingers against the paper, his form relaxing. "Well, when a dragon sees someone they're interested in mating, they will begin courting them. You can have multiple suitors, but official courtship begins when two dragons exchange knives."

Taehyung's lips parted. "Oh. Knives?"

"Well," Namjoon started, biting down a laugh, "it's a tradition. The dragons of old saw it as a rite of passage. It was supposed to be a symbol of protection and symbolize that these two dragons could take care of one another. Knives can be used for protection or to hunt, things like that. So it was seen as an important item to be exchanged."

"That's fascinating," Hoseok said. Taehyung agreed.

"Seokjin hyung already had his knife ready. Some parents will have a knife commissioned for their child before they come of age in preparation for courtship," Namjoon said, leaning back in his chair. His pencil dropped from his lap, and he pouted as he bent down to pick it up before it rolled to who knows where. "When I learned about courting, I had mine commissioned. Yoongi hyung did it, actually."

"Yoongi hyung?" Taehyung asked, blinking. "That's really nice, since he even did your rings."

At the mention of it, Namjoon turned his hand over to look at his ring with a content smile. "Yeah. The knives are more ornamental, now, so I could've had it done with the jeweler but I thought it was special. You know, since he's hyung's best friend."

"Is that why you two had him do your rings?" Hoseok asked. He rounded the ribbon holder, all of them properly sorted and returned to where they needed to be, and crossed his arms over his chest before leaning against a table.

Namjoon nodded, his eyes downturned as he wiggled the ring on his finger. It sparkled even in the dull light of the shop. "Yeah. It felt right."

"Yoongi hyung seemed happy," Taehyung said, thinking back. "He really cares about you two."

Namjoon’s lips parted, a sort of softness falling over his features, and he patted Taehyung's knee. "Yoongi hyung's really special. I'm glad you got him as your guide."

Taehyung bit his cheek to hide his smile. "I'm glad, too. Oh! I don't mean to pry, but could you tell us more about how you and Seokjin hyung...?"

"Got together?" At Taehyung's shy nod and Hoseok's quiet laughter, Namjoon smiled. "Well, when I first came here I was just like you two. I didn't know anything about courting or mating. People back at my home married who they were told, most of the time, with nothing really happening prior to their engagement, so I was ignorant to those kinds of things. Dragons are very romantic, though."

"Romantic," Taehyung repeated. He tried to think of Yoongi being...romantic, and quickly focused back on Namjoon.

"Well, they'll be very caring towards their desired mate. I confused Seokjin's intentions for kindness, to be honest. I had never talked with a dragon before, and I knew he was supposed to take care of me, but I didn't realize that he was going above what he was supposed to be doing. He gave me gifts and brought me foods I liked and did everything he could to make me happy."

"That's a little vague," Taehyung said, nerves catching in his throat. Hoseok stayed silent, expression closed off.

Namjoon's laughter was lighthearted. "It's hard to explain? Hyung is a kind person, but with me it was different. He always made sure that I was okay. He made me food even if he was tired and answered all my questions. We spent a lot of time together, and it was almost like that was our secret time? We were able to get away from the world and just...enjoy. I remember wanting a book explaining the differences in human and dragon shifts, and he travelled for a day to find one for me. I think that's when I realized something was different between us."

Taehyung had a funny feeling in his gut, and he wasn't sure what to call it.

"The way he acted with me was different, as well," Namjoon said, laughing to himself. "He was a brat, yes, but he was intimate. Sometimes he would pet my head or massage my shoulders if I was stressed. I think that's just a Seokjin thing, to be fair. A lot of dragons will try to make themselves look capable, though. Taking on work, providing food, entertaining their desired...things like that? Oh! They liked to bring their desired things? Random things that they think to be pretty. Shiny. That's a more primitive trait, and it's kind of subconscious."

Hoseok bit his bottom lip, pushing himself off the table he was leaning on. "I'm going to go help Jieun."

Namjoon looked at Hoseok's retreating figure, surprise falling over his features, but Taehyung was too busy remembering the bag of seashells Yoongi had brought him after a job he had a week past. The family had given them to him out of kindness, claiming they had collected too many during their vacation to one of the oceanside clans, and Yoongi had given them to Taehyung as soon as he got home. They were pretty. Shiny.

 

 

Yoongi was waiting for him at the end of the day, as per usual, and Taehyung tried to not let his confusion show. He smiled, bright as ever, and Yoongi returned it as they started to walk home.

They went in silence, and even though Taehyung felt a little uncomfortable it wasn't...terrible.

They walked into the house, discarding their boots and jackets at the entrance before walking inside. His stomach was aching from hunger, since he didn't eat much at lunch, and he quickly went to his room to put his stuff down so he could return and start cooking.

Yoongi was already there, pulling out ingredients, and Taehyung let himself be guided on what to do. It was easier that way.

"Namjoon hyung brought the designs in for their mating robes today," Taehyung said in hopes of a decent conversation. He felt odd.

"Oh," Yoongi said, a smile growing on his lips. "Did he and Jieun decide on something?"

"Well, Jieun revised his initial designs and made a few suggestions, so he's going to show them to Seokjin hyung and see if they like them. But Namjoon hyung seemed happy with them."

Yoongi hummed, nodding in understanding. "Seokjin can be picky, but I'm sure they'll agree. Their mating ceremony should be fairly nice."

Taehyung smiled, cutting into the vegetables in front of him. "Namjoon hyung actually explained the whole process to us. How they'll mate under the moon, in front of the clan. That's so interesting."

"You're used to weddings in the daytime," Yoongi asked, nodding along as Taehyung did. "They're nice. There will be a feast afterwards. You know how Seokjin is about food."

Taehyung laughed, shaking his head. "Yeah, Namjoon hyung was telling us about all the things Seokjin wants."

"I hope he didn't confuse you," Yoongi said, smiling at him as he got a pan out. "I know Namjoon gets excited and talks without explaining sometimes."

"He explained everything to us," Taehyung said, biting his lip. There was a risk he was taking and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it. "The courting and how dragons get to it. And everything after."

Yoongi threw the meat on the pan, tilting his head as he surveyed the spices he had rubbed on it. "Yeah. It's a little different from what you're used to."

Taehyung paused. That wasn't the response he was expecting. He wasn't sure what he had been expecting, if he was to be honest with himself. He thought back to the seashells, scattered over his desk, and turned to stare at the vegetables he was supposed to be preparing. "Yeah. Different."

Chapter Text

Taehyung tilted his head. "Hi?"

"We need to talk," Hoseok said, a frown heavy on his face. "Sorry for coming unannounced."

"It's okay," Taehyung said, patting Hoseok's shoulder before taking a step to the side. "Come in, I just squeezed some juice."

"Is Yoongi hyung home?" Hoseok asked once his shoes were off. They were seated in the living room, glasses full in their hands. The sun was pouring in strong from the window, and Taehyung had half a mind to draw the curtains.

"No," Taehyung said after taking a sip of his juice. Peaches. Yoongi had brought some home the previous day, and Taehyung had been so excited that he could hardly contain himself. His mother loved peaches, but they weren't able to get any the older he grew. Too expensive. He mentioned it to Yoongi, once, and he hadn’t realized that Yoongi remembered until Yoongi arrived with a bag full of them and a shy smile. "He's working on a house project today, out west."

"Okay," Hoseok said. He tapped his fingers against his glass, and Taehyung's eyes fell on the tightness of his posture.

"Is everything okay?"

"I suppose," Hoseok said, frowning. "Well, I don't know. I was in town this morning to pick up some materials so I could work on something at home, and I heard some of the people talking. There was a disease that hit. Back home."

Taehyung's eyes widened, and he nearly dropped his glass as he scooted forward. "Back home?"

"Not our homes," Hoseok said, quickly. " I mean, back at the human realm. One of the towns in the north. A sickness, or something, hit it and wiped them all out. I just— I don't know. I don't know."

"It's okay," Taehyung said, his heart dropping to his stomach. "Not our towns?"

"No," Hoseok said, his shoulders slumping as Taehyung reached for his hand. "At first, I thought it might've been, but...no. I'd never heard of it. It was far from us, anyways. They said it was in the northern part of the country."

"Okay," Taehyung said, relief mixing in with his fear. "Okay. Shit."

"Oh, gods," Hoseok said, sighing. "That terrified me. I didn't hear what town they were talking about, so I—"

"I know," Taehyung said, rubbing the back of his hand. His stomach was turning. "It's okay, hyung. Is Jeongguk home?"

Hoseok's cheeks colored as he shook his head. "No, he's not. He's out until tonight hunting. I stayed home since I would have the house to myself."

Taehyung bit his inner cheek. "You can stay here, then. Want to sit in the shop with me?"

Hoseok smiled, and Taehyung didn’t like how strained it looked. He laughed humorlessly as he rested his head against the cushions. "I'm sorry, Taehyung-ah. I'm acting like a child."

"To be honest, hyung," Taehyung said, tightening his grip on his glass, "I don't want to be alone, either."

Hoseok's expression softened, and he squeezed Taehyung's wrist. "I understand, Taehyung-ah."

 

 

Yoongi returned home in time for dinner, and by that time Taehyung had already walked Hoseok back to his own home. Jeongguk had been home, as well, and Taehyung offered a tiny smile with him as Hoseok slipped in quietly. Jeongguk looked concerned, like he usually did when Hoseok didn't speak to him, and Taehyung could do nothing more but smile wider and quietly tell Jeongguk that he should put some milk on the stove for him.

He wasn't sure if it would help Hoseok, but it helped him whenever he was upset.

Taehyung went back home and made dinner. He didn't do anything complicated since his mind was full with anger and sadness and so many emotions that he could hardly contain himself. It was hard. He wanted to be angry, but he didn't know who to be angry at. The dragons? He didn't know.

"Hi," Yoongi said, smiling at him across the counter. "Good day?"

Taehyung looked up from the plates. He wondered if Yoongi could tell that he had been crying. "No, hyung. Not really."

Yoongi's face fell. His shoulders tensed up, and his right hand twitched at his side as if he wanted to reach out. "What happened?"

"Did you hear?" Taehyung said, his stomach clenching with unease. "The sickness that hit that town. They all died, hyung."

Recognition passed over Yoongi's eyes. "Oh. Yes, Tae, I heard about it. Did you...?"

"No."

Yoongi's shoulders slumped. Relief. Taehyung didn't feel much of that. "Good. That's good."

"That's not good, hyung," Taehyung said, his brows furrowing. "Nearly a hundred people died. It doesn't matter if I knew them or not."

"I know," Yoongi said, raising his hands up in surrender. "I'm sorry, that's not what I meant."

"They got sick because they were starving and weak," Taehyung said. He shoved one of the plates forward, and it clattered against the counter. "Their bodies couldn't handle the illness, and they didn't have the medicine they needed. They were starving and so many people are starving while I'm here eating like a king, hyung."

Yoongi sucked in a breath, flattening a hand against the counter. It inched towards Taehyung. "I know you're upset. But it's not something you can control."

"I know," Taehyung said, blinking back his tears of frustration. "It's just— you say you pick the best people, but I know so many good people back home that deserve to be here."

Yoongi's jaw twitched, and Taehyung's nostrils flared as he tried to control his breathing. "The priestesses know what they're doing, Taehyung. The Elder Council, too. They've been doing this for nearly fifty years."

"It doesn't matter," Taehyung said, his gut clenching with anger. "Hyung, it doesn't matter how long they've been doing it. My people are dying. Innocent people are dying. My best friend? Jimin? He's the best person I know. Why isn't he here? My parents? My siblings? It's not fair."

"It might not be fair," Yoongi said, his words careful, "but that's how it is."

"Why?" Taehyung said, his words sharper than before. Yoongi's lips flattened to a line. "Why do dragons get to decide who gets to live? That's just...hyung, you have to realize there's something wrong with that?"

"It's how it's always been," Yoongi replied, crossing his arms over his chest. "We can't save everyone, Taehyung. We would be saving people that would do the same thing they did to your realm. Our future depends on our selection process."

"Our future," Taehyung repeated. "And who does that refer to, hyung? Just the dragons?"

"No," Yoongi said, his face scrunching in aggravation. "Taehyung. You're here for a reason. You, Hoseok, Namjoon, and every other human that has been brought here. You were chosen because they wanted to give you another chance to survive. Because you're the type of people that deserve it."

"I don't deserve anything, hyung," Taehyung said, turning away from Yoongi as the anger burned brighter under his skin. "People are dying. Starving. While I sit here and do nothing. I don't deserve anything."

"Taehyung—"

"I don't want to fight," Taehyung interrupted. It was a coward move, maybe, but he didn't have the energy to fight. He didn't have the desire to. He dusted his hands off on his pants and rounded the counter, refusing to look at Yoongi as he did so. "I'll skip dinner. I'm going to bed."

He didn't slam the door as he retreated to his room, but with the heavy silence that followed he might as well have.

 

 

Yoongi was due to work on a house the next morning. Taehyung had originally planned on heading into town to work over in Jieun's, but he didn't feel like he was ready to see everyone. He was upset. Upset that he couldn't help the people he loved. Upset that he had fought with Yoongi. Upset that Yoongi didn't understand.

Taehyung forced himself out of bed. He headed to the kitchen, and something ugly crawled into his heart as he saw the plate waiting for him. There was a note next to it, the words written in Yoongi's script.

I know you're upset. Please eat. If not for you, for me. YG

Taehyung stared at the note for some time. He took it and folded it, putting it into the pocket of his pajama shirt before grabbing the plate and utensils. He ate at the table, something like guilt creeping through him as he forced himself to swallow it all down. He ate everything, reminding himself that he couldn't be wasteful, and washed the dishes with a solemn slump of his shoulders.

 

 

He left a note.

He felt bad about it, and he felt even more like a coward, but he left a note.

He showed up in front of Namjoon's and Seokjin's home, anxiety plucking at his heart, and let out a whoosh of air before knocking. Seokjin was the one to answer, and he was chipper as ever until he saw the bulging satchel hanging off Taehyung's shoulder. "What's that?"

"Clothes," Taehyung said. He hoped he hadn't made a mistake. "Can I stay here tonight?"

Namjoon appeared behind Seokjin, and he blinked. "Did something happen? Where's Yoongi hyung?"

"Should be getting home in an hour or so," Taehyung said, lowering his gaze to the floor. "I just— I can't be there tonight. Can I stay?"

"Yes," Namjoon said, interjecting before Seokjin could reply. "Come in."

Taehyung smiled shyly at Seokjin as he walked in, carefully taking off his boots and putting them on the rack alongside Seokjin's and Namjoon's shoes. "Thank you. Sorry for the inconvenience."

"It's no inconvenience," Seokjin said, smiling as he gestured for Taehyung to take a seat on the couch. He did so, and Namjoon took a seat next to him. Seokjin sat behind him, and Taehyung realized with a bit of guilt that they were already in their pajamas. Their hair was mussed up, like they had been in bed already.

"We got in an argument," Taehyung said, rubbing his palms against his thighs. "I heard about...the sickness. The one that wiped out that whole town? It really upset me, and so we started talking about..."

"Humans being chosen," Namjoon finished for him. Taehyung nodded. "Yoongi's stubborn, I know. We argued about it a few times when I was new here."

"His grandfather being on the Elder Council has swayed his opinion. He’s very filial, so when someone questions the way they run things he gets defensive," Seokjin explained. He pursed his lips. "For the most part I don't share the same views, but a lot of dragons do. It's nothing malicious, of course, but..."

"It's difficult," Namjoon said. "I understand where they're coming from, and I'm sure you do, too, but it's a tough situation. They're just trying to protect themselves, right?"

"Right," Taehyung repeated. He knew Yoongi wasn't trying to be mean, but he couldn't help but feel angry towards the whole situation. "I just...it's not fair. Everyone here wants to protect their families, but I do, too."

"I know," Seokjin said. He reached across Namjoon to place a hand on top of Taehyung's and squeezed. "I wish there was a way to help you, Taehyungie. I wish I could help Namjoon's family and friends, too. It's hard, because we have these biases against all the bad in the human realm, but we know there are good humans. Some slip through the cracks, though, and it's not fair."

"I just want Yoongi hyung to understand where I'm coming from," Taehyung said, frustration building. "I don't want to be mad at him."

"I'm sure he didn't want to upset you. Not that that makes it okay, of course. We're supposed to travel together tomorrow morning, so I'll talk to him. Okay?" Seokjin patted his hand before pulling back, and Taehyung bit his lip.

"If you want to," Taehyung said, crossing his ankles. "I know I'm being dramatic. I just—"

"You're not being dramatic," Namjoon said, his jaw clenching. "I know how you feel, Taehyung-ah. I've been in your shoes before, and I still have moments like this. The hurt won’t go away, and I know that’s not what you want to hear. It's a tough situation."

Taehyung's shoulders slumped. He knew the hurt wouldn’t go away. How could it? There would always be that guilt in his heart. "Either way, thank you for letting me stay here tonight. I just wanted to be able to think for a second."

"It's okay," Seokjin said, patting his knee with a bright smile. "Really. You're always welcome here, Taehyung-ah."

Namjoon wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him in for a tight hug. Taehyung returned it, sighing against his shoulder before pulling away with a smile. "Thank you. I really, really appreciate it."

"Tomorrow's the first of the month, right? Fresh start," Seokjin said, smiling as he stood from the couch. "Sleep well tonight so you can have a good day tomorrow. Namjoon-ah and I are here if you need us."

"You can sleep in the guest room," Namjoon said, offering a hand for Taehyung to lift himself off the couch with. "Why don't you go change? I'll make the bed for you."

"I can make it," Taehyung said, guilt rising at the back of his throat as he grabbed his satchel and held it to his chest. "I know you two were probably in bed..."

"It's okay," Namjoon laughed, patting his shoulder. "Go get ready for bed."

Taehyung knew a hint when he heard one. He smiled, shy, and thanked them again before heading to the bathroom. He pretended not to hear Seokjin's tired sigh and Namjoon's low and intelligible words as he shut the door behind him.

 

 

I won't be home tonight. Don't worry. I'll be back tomorrow. Thank you for breakfast. TH

 

 

Standing in front of the house, Taehyung regretted leaving.

He felt awkward. Seokjin had said he would talk to Yoongi, and in his distress Taehyung hadn't realized what that might mean for him. He hoped Yoongi wouldn't be more mad at him because of that. He was upset with Yoongi, sure, but he didn't want Yoongi to get scolded because of that.

Taehyung sighed, pushing the door open. He had worked all day in town with Jieun and Hoseok, and it had helped to get Yoongi off his mind until he was walking home with only his thoughts to accompany him.

Hoseok had been amicable, and it showed that he was in a much better mood than Taehyung was. Taehyung supposed Jeongguk hadn't argued with him, and he was grateful for that. Hoseok had more of a temper regarding the issue with the human realm, and Taehyung figured it was better that they didn't fight.

Taehyung sucked in a breath as he stepped past the entrance and into the living room. Yoongi was there, sipping at a cup of something warm while reading a book Taehyung had just read the other day. It was some kind of murder mystery, if he was remembering correctly.

"Hi," Taehyung said, clearing his throat when Yoongi looked up at him. "Did you just get home?"

"About an hour ago," Yoongi said, putting down the book. His eyes were sharp, but there was something uncomfortable in the way his lips twitched. Almost like he was going to try and smile. "How was your stay at Namjoon and Seokjin's?"

"It went well," Taehyung said, looking down at the table as he approached the opposite side from Yoongi. That was enough of a confirmation that Seokjin had spoken to him. Taehyung rested his hands on the edge of the table, biting his cheek as he tried to think of what to say. "Hyung, I'm sorry—"

"Don't be," Yoongi said, cutting him off firmly. "I made you upset, and that wasn't my intention. I should've been more empathetic."

Taehyung stared at him in surprise. "Did Seokjin hyung tell you to say that?" He asked, wary.

Yoongi laughed, humorlessly, and rubbed his hand against the side of his neck. "No. He didn't. He just...opened my eyes a little."

Taehyung tilted his head. "What do you mean?"

"He put it in perspective for me," Yoongi mumbled. Taehyung recognized the discomfort on his face as embarrassment. "I've been a little selfish, I think. I didn't look at it from your point of view."

"I just miss my family, hyung," Taehyung said, shrugging his shoulders. "I know you all mean well. It's...I'll admit it, it's nice knowing that I'm safe and happy and healthy here. It just scares me knowing that the people I love can't have that, too."

"I know," Yoongi said. He stood up, and Taehyung stayed still as Yoongi walked closer to him. "I'm sorry. I tend to look at the world through rose coloured lenses. I was raised with the idea that what we're doing is helping good people. I forget that we're leaving a lot of people behind in the process."

Taehyung held his breath as Yoongi stood in front of him. He was close enough that Taehyung noticed his eyelashes again, and his heartbeat quickened with uncertainty. Memories and feelings of affection from previous days rushed forward, but Taehyung didn’t want to think about it. Not when his wounds felt so raw. "I don't want to fight with you."

"I don't either," Yoongi said, tilting his head. "I want you to know that I'm on your side. If I could take you to your family I would, but you know it's not that easy."

Taehyung stared at him, and he swore he felt his heart soften around the edges. "Thank you, hyung."

Yoongi smiled, satisfied enough, and turned back to return to his seat. Before he could, though, Taehyung grabbed his elbow. Yoongi blinked, looking at him with a raised brow.

Taehyung's heart was in his throat. "Can we go on a ride? I think I need one, to be honest."

Yoongi's expression smoothed over, and his lips curled into a casual smile. There was something there that Taehyung couldn't put a name to, but it made him feel like he could pass out at any moment. It was strange, and Taehyung didn't know what to do about it. "Yeah. I'd like that."

Chapter Text

For the most part, things went back to normal.

Taehyung got busy with the amount of new orders he had, and Yoongi was helping one of the younger dragons build her home on her newly acquired land. It was exciting, apparently, since she was the first dragon to move out of the town’s communal housing in a long time. Taehyung wanted to go and visit so he could see what it was like, but he hadn't been able to make the time to.

He couldn't make it to Jieun's shop more often than not because of all the crafting he needed to get done, so he was left to his lonesome while Yoongi was out working. The others had been right about his craft, and after the festival more of the dragons that played in the sky game (Taehyung hadn't bothered to learn the name of it) wanted to commission a saddle from him so they could have their humans or even other dragons play along with them. They were making adjustments to the game, they told him.

So, he had to make saddles for an entire team. It had taken him two days to measure all the dragons he was making them for, and Yoona's eyes practically bulged out of her head when he told her how much leather he was going to need.

He was happy, though. He felt like he was keeping busy, and he was doing something that made him happy. Yoongi seemed pleased, too, and he had patted Taehyung's shoulder with a congratulatory smile when Taehyung told him about all the work he was looking forward to.

They didn't bring up the human realm again, and Taehyung was grateful for it. It probably wasn’t the best, but Taehyung was tired of thinking about it.

Taehyung wiped the sweat from his brow. He was tempted to go inside and grab himself some juice, but he wasn't sure if he was ready to take a break. He had spent the greater portion of the morning carving a matching pattern onto all the saddles and his hand was cramping because of it, but he was also getting into a rhythm.

The choice was made for him when he heard a call, and he blinked as he put down his tools and exited the shed. He rounded the corner of the house at another call, clearly Yoongi's name, and walked to the front door only to stop dead in his tracks.

"Hello?"

Junhee stopped mid knock, and he whipped his head around to stare at Taehyung like a dog caught taking a piece of meat off the table. "Oh. H-Hello."

Taehyung bit his cheek to hold in his smile as he walked up the porch steps. "Yoongi hyung is off working today. I don't think he'll be back until later."

"Oh," Junhee said, again. His ears were bright red, and his hands were held in front of him like he wasn’t sure what to do with them. "Okay. I'll, uh, come back some other time. Or not at all. Thanks."

He scurried down the steps, and Taehyung couldn't hide his laughter as he reached to grab the kid by the shoulder. "Don't be so quick to go. You came all the way out here and I was about to take a break anyways. Would you like some juice?"

Junhee looked down at Taehyung's hand on his shoulder, and then back up at Taehyung with those same wide eyes. "Uh. Sure? Thank you?"

Taehyung smiled, releasing him and turning back to open the door. He invited Junhee in, kicking off his newly acquired work boots and waiting for Junhee to take off his shoes as well before heading to the kitchen and grabbing two glasses.

"Take a seat," Taehyung said, smiling when Junhee rubbed his palms together before sitting down on the couch. "Here."

Junhee took the glass with an uneven smile, taking a careful sip from it. "Thanks."

"Did you need something from Yoongi hyung?" Taehyung asked. He didn't think Junhee was a bad kid. They had gotten off on the wrong foot, but he was a kid. Sometimes kids spoke before they could think about what they were saying. Taehyung had been that type of kid. Sometimes he still was.

"Not particularly," Junhee answered. His grasp tightened on the glass, and Taehyung realized he didn't drink much of the juice. "I, uh, used to come over here sometimes. To...watch him work and stuff."

Taehyung remembered what Yoongi had said, about Junhee wanting to become Yoongi's apprentice once he turned eighteen. Considering the other kids he had seen, and stories he had heard, Taehyung knew that Junhee was set to graduate and become of age soon. He smiled. "You want to become a blacksmith?"

"Kind of," Junhee said, shrugging his shoulders. "Yoongi hyung does a lot more furniture and infrastructure and I like weaponry. But he's the best blacksmith I know."

Taehyung wanted to say that Yoongi was the only blacksmith in the clan, but he refrained. "You haven't been coming around, though?"

Junhee's cheeks darkened with warmth, and Taehyung's skin tingled with second hand embarrassment. "Uh, I knew hyung was mad at me, so..."

"You still should've come by," Taehyung said. He offered a lopsided smile, tapping his fingers against his glass. "I don't think Yoongi was very mad, just disappointed."

"Yeah," Junhee said, his nose twitching. He was staring into his juice, but he looked up with an intensity in his eyes that had Taehyung blink. "I'm really sorry about how I spoke to you. That was really immature of me, and I wasn't trying to make you uncomfortable. I did, though, and I was being invasive."

Taehyung's lips parted in surprise. "That...was probably one of the better apologies I've heard here. Thank you, Junhee."

Junhee's shoulders slumped in relief as Taehyung patted his wrist, and they shared a smile. "I'm not just saying it to get into Yoongi hyung's good graces, either."

"Well, now that you say that I might think you are," Taehyung teased, tilting his head back in a laugh when Junhee's face fell. "I'm kidding! Drink your juice before it gets warm."

Junhee did so with his cutely flushed cheeks, and Taehyung hid his laughter to drink some more of his as well. "I hope you don't think that I dislike humans," he said after a moment. "I have human friends at school and they're just...like everyone else? It doesn't matter to me. I've just heard all these stories about the human realm so I got curious."

"Well," Taehyung said, crossing his legs at the ankle, "I don't blame you. I used to be the same way about dragons, even before I came here and knew about the separate realm. My family really admired your race."

Junhee smiled, sitting up straighter as his eyes twinkled. "If you have any questions you can ask me, hyung!"

"Likewise," Taehyung replied, a smile growing on his face from Junhee's quick shift to enthusiasm. "As long as you gain some tact."

Junhee laughed, but his cheeks went pink. "I promise I will."

"Good," Taehyung said, laughing as well. "Maybe you can go over some books with me. There are some gaps in the history I was curious about. The origin story and that."

"Oh, neat," Junhee said, his lips parting as Taehyung stood and went to the bookshelf. "We learned about all that in school, so I've kinda memorized it."

"There's this one part I'm stuck on," Taehyung said when he returned with the book in question. He opened it to the page he had bookmarked a week past, pointing his finger to the last paragraph. "About magic. It doesn't really explain how the mages integrated into society? Or the type of magic they're able to do."

"I know that one," Junhee said, his smile bright as he looked over the page. "We don't have a lot of mages in our society, but they're natural born dragons. Compared to humans, dragons are more saturated with magic. That's how we have our fire and the shift, y'know? But there are some dragons that are able to divert that magic into other areas. Some mages are skilled in other elements of nature, such as water or the earth or air. It's, uh, different than how we use our fire, obviously. They can control things like temperature or the health of plants or the direction of rivers if they're strong enough."

"So a mage like Dahyun just found a way to direct her fire-bearing magic into the wishes?"

Junhee nodded. "Yup. The flow of magic is different, and she's able to manipulate it to pass through her skin and the ink to send it to the gods. Other mages, like my cousin Eunkwang, are able to use their magic to control water flow and pressure. That's how we can get stuff like plumbing. Some mages only have one talent in directing magic, and others, like Dahyun noona, have multiple. It's kind of hard to explain, to be honest. I don't understand it that much."

"That’s alright," Taehyung said, giddy at the new information. "That sums up what I wanted to know."

"Glad I could help," Junhee said, a pleased smile curling at his lips. "Can I ask a question about your realm? I won't be rude this time."

Taehyung snorted, but he nodded.

"How do the priestesses act? Like...how do humans perceive them?"

"They're revered by most," Taehyung said, simply. "They're awfully secretive, but they're kind. I never saw them shift, though, so when I saw Yoongi and Jeongguk in their dragon shift for the first time I was alarmed."

He laughed at the memory, and Junhee grinned. "Really?"

"Yeah." Taehyung smiled, thinking back to the times where they terrified him with their beauty. "I thought they were incredible. I know some people are scared of the system...this system—" he gestured to himself "—but we trusted them, for the most part. They kept order, I suppose."

Junhee got an uncomfortable look on his face again. "I'm sorry you can't go back home."

"Me too," Taehyung said, his smile turning bittersweet. He didn’t want to talk about it. "But I'm happy here. I can't complain too much."

He finished what was left of his juice. Then, realizing the time, he asked Junhee if he wanted to stay for lunch.

"I shouldn't," Junhee said, an apologetic softness to his eyes. "I told my mother I'd be back soon, and she'll scold me if I come back full."

Taehyung snorted. "That's okay, next time."

Junhee put on his boots in a record amount of time after Taehyung put their two glasses in the sink, and he smiled politely when Taehyung opened the door to escort him out. "Thanks for listening to me today."

"It was my pleasure," Taehyung said, sincerity wrapping his words. "Listen, Yoongi is due to work through the full moon tomorrow and the rest of the weekend. He'll probably take off Monday to rest, so why don't you come by on Tuesday? I think he'd like to see you, and if you're my guest he can't kick you out."

"I don't think that's how that works," Junhee said. He was shifting from one foot to the other with his hands shoved in his pockets. "Are you sure?"

Taehyung grinned. All misgivings he had had about Junhee were cleared up, and Taehyung could see that the kid was sweet despite their first interaction. "Yup. Yoongi hyung can't say no to me. Come after breakfast, okay?"

"Okay," Junhee said, sucking in a breath.

He made his way down the porch, turning around once to wave, and Taehyung watched him go until he disappeared beyond the treeline.

 

 

"What is that?"

"A vegetable based dye," Taehyung answered. "I want all of the saddles to be the same color so they can match, and this will do that for me."

"I thought you were supposed to be watching me," Yoongi called from his side of the shop. "All you're doing is bothering Taehyung."

Junhee got a sheepish look on his face, and he bounded back to where Yoongi was loudly hammering a...if Taehyung was being honest, he had no clue what Yoongi was doing other than being loud.

"He's fine," Taehyung called over the noise. "You're just grumpy because you want all the attention."

Yoongi said something that sounded awfully close to a curse, and Taehyung snickered to himself as he got back to his work.

Taehyung had been a bit nervous when Junhee turned up. He had wanted to talk to Yoongi about it, but he was right when he said Yoongi would take off Monday. He slept practically the whole day, only coming out to eat and have simple discussions with Taehyung about work or a book in Taehyung's hand, and Taehyung didn't want to bug him with what could potentially be a long conversation. He didn't want to overstep, but he didn't want Junhee to suffer because of one mistake, either. He seemed like a good kid, first impressions be damned.

Yoongi had stared at Junhee for a few seconds, then at a bright eyed Taehyung, and smiled. "About time you came back," he said, clapping Junhee on the shoulder before returning to his work.

Junhee and Taehyung had both let out a relieved sigh.

Yoongi was a good teacher, it turned out. Junhee had a lot of questions, and Yoongi always seemed to know the answer. He described all of the tools he was using and the techniques he was applying to the metal, and Junhee was absorbing the information like a sponge. Taehyung had no clue what they were talking about, but it seemed like they were getting along.

By the time lunch rolled around, Taehyung's shirt was sticking to his skin from sweat and he was more than happy to sprawl out on the couch while Yoongi made them a simple noodle dish. Junhee was excited, talking his ear off, and Taehyung didn't have the heart to tell the kid to relax.

Yoongi smiled at him when Taehyung got up to grab them all drinks, Junhee seated at the table with his hands underneath his thighs, and Taehyung knew he had done the right thing.

 

 

Taehyung looked up from his book. "What?"

"You're reading a lot more lately," Yoongi said, smiling even though he had to repeat himself. He put down their plates, motioning for Taehyung to start eating. "Good material?"

"Junhee let me borrow some of his school texts," Taehyung explained. He put in his bookmark, setting the book on the chair next to him before picking up his utensils and digging in with a sigh of a thank you.

Yoongi snorted. "You're welcome. I haven't seen one of those in years."

"That one's a history book," Taehyung said brightly. "I'm reading about how the process of bringing humans over began. It doesn't go into too much depth, but Junhee's been telling me what else I want to know."

Yoongi raised a brow, and Taehyung stuffed his mouth with rice. "You're spending a lot of time with him recently. I wouldn't have expected that."

"He's grown on me," Taehyung said, laughing when Yoongi rolled his eyes. "Besides, I've only been talking to the kid for...what? A week and a half? He's nice, I like enthusiastic kids."

"Two weeks, actually," Yoongi pointed out.

Taehyung's lips curled into a smug grin. "Hyung, you've been keeping track?"

"I just have a good memory," Yoongi said, his cheeks coloring.

"Don't worry," Taehyung said, reaching across the table to pat Yoongi's hand. "You're still my favorite dragon, hyung."

"You're ridiculous," Yoongi sighed, shaking his head. He stared down at his food. "I just wasn't expecting it given your first interaction with him."

"I appreciated his apology," Taehyung said, smiling as he shrugged his shoulders. "And he provides me with the information I so desperately seek."

Yoongi raised a brow. "The information you so desperately seek," he repeated.

"Yes," Taehyung said, smiling as he gestured to the book. "I already have a few questions."

"You're free to ask me, Tae," Yoongi said, grabbing another piece of broccoli from the dish between them. "That's sort of my purpose as your guide."

"Fine." Taehyung smiled, laughing to himself at Yoongi's pout. "Alright, hyung. Can you explain to me how the Elder Council chooses what clans get what humans?"

Yoongi seemed pleased, and he finished chewing the food in his mouth before answering. "Certain towns are assigned to certain clans. It's dependent on the nearest portal to those towns. Different portals in the human realm lead to different areas over here. For example, the portal nearest your town and other towns in the area lead to the portal assigned to our clan's territory. The Elder Council decides among themselves if there is a dragon suitable to be a guide, and from there they contact the priestesses to see if there is a human they recommend sending over. It's a rather lengthy process."

"I figured. Hoseok hyung and I have been here for nearly five months and no one else has come."

"It'll most likely be a while before we get any more humans here," Yoongi said, shrugging his shoulders. "Right now a lot of focus is on helping Jihyo build her home and establish her land, and we have a lot of expectant families for the first time in a long while. It wouldn't be appropriate to bring on more people at the moment."

"That makes sense," Taehyung said, biting his lip. "Jieun noona mentioned there was someone that came before us? Way back when."

"I think it was half a year before you came," Yoongi said, tilting his head in thought. "She lives out in the eastern section of the territory, but you've probably seen her around. She helps raise the sheep with her guide's family, since she chose to continue living with them."

"What's her name?" Taehyung said, tilting his head in thought. There were so many people in the clan, sometimes he couldn't remember everyone.

"Chaeyoung," Yoongi answered. He smiled, nudging his food around on his plate. "My grandfather told me she was originally supposed to be assigned to myself or Jeongguk, so it's a good thing she wasn't."

Taehyung flushed, and he had to catch himself before he dropped the food between his chopsticks. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"That I'm glad it was you," Yoongi said.

It was so sudden that Taehyung did drop his food, and his face felt hot as he struggled to pick it back up. It kept slipping. "You said guides are chosen depending on their status."

Yoongi smiled, something hidden in his eyes. "Yeah. Jeongguk wasn't quite ready, so they held off so we could do it together. Chaeyoung’s guide is the matriarch of the family, so she's well established. She’s Dahyun’s grandmother, you know, the mage? They get along well, from what I've seen."

"That's nice," Taehyung said, sucking in a breath. "I didn't really ever think about being assigned to someone that already has a family. But I've seen...y'know...kids without their blood parents. So I guess that makes sense."

"Kids?" Yoongi blinked, and before Taehyung could explain himself it clicked. "Ah. There have been a few orphans selected, yeah. It's pretty rare since the priestesses like to observe the people for a while before they send them here, but there have been some cases."

"It must be so confusing for them," Taehyung said, tilting his head to the side in thought. "I don't think I would even understand enough to consider staying."

"We make sure they're at least twelve years old," Yoongi said, as if to ease his mind. "It's still young, but our main concern is to give them a better life while still giving them a chance to stay behind. It's not a perfect system, but we haven't had any issues."

Taehyung hummed, and stuck more food into his mouth. He chewed in silence, and Yoongi waited for him patiently. As he swallowed it down, another thought hit. "Oh! The book mentioned that no one's ever rejected the consideration. But I've heard rumors...?"

"There's been a handful of cases. The book's outdated, to be honest," Yoongi said, pursing his lips. "It's surprisingly rare, and our clan has only had to deal with one rejection. Well, two, considering the circumstance."

"Two?" Taehyung blinked owlishly. "If it's our clan, it must've been from my area?"

"It was a smaller town I don't remember the name of, and it happened when I was a few years old. For the first time, the Elder Council had decided on a young and recently married couple to be chosen together. They were probably around our ages back then."

"A couple," Taehyung repeated, fascination blooming behind his eyes. "The both of them managed to be chosen?"

"They were good people," Yoongi said. "The priestesses all vouched for them, so the Elder Council was willing to bring them over. However, they arrived at the temple the following morning and rejected the consideration. They couldn't leave their family, and she had recently fallen pregnant."

"That must've been hard," Taehyung said, his brows furrowing. He couldn't imagine being in that type of situation. It was hard enough for him to make the decision and he had all the support in the world.

"I believe they moved from the small town to a bigger town nearby, where a majority of their family resided," Yoongi said, humming in thought. "The priestesses liked to gossip about them after the rejection, so I heard about them through my grandfather. Their names...I believe Kim Junhyung and Han....Han..."

"Minseo," Taehyung finished for him, the name whispered from his lips like that mournful croon his mother had sang to him all those months ago.

Yoongi stared at him, his head tilted to the side. "Yes. Han Minseo. How did you know that?"

Goosebumps prickled over the surface of his skin, and Taehyung sucked in a cool breath of air that burned on its way down. His hands shook as he put down his utensils, and Yoongi looked like he was seconds away from standing up. "Those are my parents, hyung."

Chapter Text

Taehyung broke out into tears.

Yoongi had been frightened, launching out of his seat and rushing over with his hands hovering until he leaned in and pushed Taehyung's head against his stomach. Taehyung floundered, unsure of what Yoongi was doing until he felt the fingers brushing through his hair. He didn't calm down, though, and he supposed he should have felt shame as he sobbed against Yoongi's clean shirt.

Yoongi shushed him, gently cupping the side of his head as he continued to scratch at his scalp, and Taehyung held onto the bottom of his shirt like a child clinging to his mother's clothes. He felt pathetic, and he didn't even know why he was crying.

"Let's move to the couch," Yoongi said after a few minutes, when Taehyung managed to calm himself down enough to hiccup wetly against Yoongi's stomach.

Taehyung whimpered, and Yoongi's knees buckled slightly as he helped Taehyung stand up. They limped over to the couch, and Taehyung would be lying if he said he was trying his best. He felt boneless, like he couldn't even move, and every time he calmed down Yoongi's words would return and render him speechless.

Yoongi sat him on the couch and took the seat next to him, pressing in so his knees were against Taehyung's thigh, and he was frowning as he wiped away the trails of tears on Taehyung's cheeks. "Why are you crying, Taehyung-ah?"

"I-I don't k-know," Taehyung stuttered, his breath hitching with every word he tried to force out. "H-H-Hyung."

"Shh, it's alright," Yoongi mumbled. He pushed Taehyung's head against his neck, and even though his tears Taehyung hoped he wasn't getting Yoongi's clothes dirty. He was sweaty from the days work, and so was Yoongi, but he couldn't stop crying. "I know you miss them."

"W-Why didn't they t-tell me," Taehyung choked out. His chest felt so tight, like something was compressing him from both sides. "N-No one t-told me."

"They were probably trying to protect you," Yoongi offered. He was petting him again, and Taehyung shivered. "I think they were young and didn't understand at the time that we meant no harm. By the time you grew up, they knew. That's why they wanted you here, hm?"

Taehyung nodded, his body shaking as a hot tear streamed down his right cheek. "T-They said to trust t-the dragons," he said, cutting himself off to inhale sharply. "W-We could've b-been together."

"I know," Yoongi said. He sounded gentler than Taehyung had ever heard him, and it soothed Taehyung immensely. "I know it's hard for you, Taehyung-ah. I know it's not fair."

Taehyung whined out his agreement, and he didn't protest when Yoongi dragged him in closer. They were practically hugging, but Taehyung didn't have the energy to do more than grip Yoongi's shirt at his shoulder. His other arm was squished between them, but he didn't have it in him to move.

"I'm sorry," Taehyung said after a minute of Yoongi calmly assuring him, squeezing his eyes as if to forbid more tears from coming out. Yoongi hushed him, gripping the back of Taehyung's neck.

"You don't have to be," Yoongi mumbled. He rubbed his thumb against the top of Taehyung's spine, and a shiver followed. "You love them a lot."

"I do," Taehyung breathed, wincing at the sharp feeling in his chest. "I'm just..."

"You're sad," Yoongi finished for him. Taehyung dropped his hand from Yoongi's shoulder. It landed below his waist, a little above his hip, and he left it there. "It's okay to be sad, Tae."

"I just wish I wasn't," Taehyung said, wincing when his eyes burned as he opened them. He felt dizzy. "This wasn't part of your job description, huh?"

"That doesn't matter," Yoongi grumbled, pressing his thumb down against Taehyung's skin. "I'm your friend. It's okay to cry."

Taehyung sucked in another rush of air, and he couldn't resist the urge to scoot closer until his face was fully buried against Yoongi's neck. "Can I just...stay like this? For a moment?"

Yoongi accepted it with ease. He wrapped one arm around Taehyung's waist, pulling him in while his other hand remained safely on the back of Taehyung's neck. "Stay as long as you need me, Tae."

Taehyung wasn't sure how long they stayed there. By the time he was ready to pull back, the tears on his face and wet patches on Yoongi's clothes dried, Yoongi looked heavy with exhaustion. Still, he smiled as they stood from the couch. He smiled as he walked Taehyung to his room, making sure he was comfortable enough to get into bed by himself. He smiled as he turned off the light at Taehyung's bedside and wished him a good night before going to his own room.

Taehyung fell asleep without another tear shed.

 

 

Taehyung woke up early.

He stayed in bed because he knew he had time, and he allowed himself to think about it. It made sense, suddenly, why his parents were so adamant about him taking the consideration. They raised him to love the dragons, to respect them, and made sure he had a positive outlook towards them. If he were to be bold, he might say they had been conditioning him to be selected.

Taehyung ran his hand over his face. His eyes hurt from all the crying he had done, but they weren't burning anymore. If anything, his heart felt warm.

He remembered the hand in his hair and the sweet words spoken to him. He hadn't cried like that since he was maybe fourteen, and he couldn't even remember what had made him cry so hard all those years ago. It seemed silly, looking back at the previous night, but he couldn't put a word to the emotions he had been feeling.

Now, especially, he couldn't put a name to his emotions.

Yoongi woke to him making breakfast, and he offered a gentle smile as Taehyung served him. He sat in his usual spot with his bleary eyes and mussed up hair, and Taehyung's heart felt tight in his chest. "Good morning."

"Good morning," Taehyung replied.

He took his usual spot across from Yoongi and waited.

Yoongi kept quiet as he ate, like he usually did at breakfast, and it wasn't until Taehyung had finished his eggs and most of his sausage that Yoongi spoke. "Do you want to talk about it? We don't have to if you don't want to."

"We can talk," Taehyung said. His voice was a little rough, and he smiled shyly when Yoongi raised a brow. "I haven't cried like that in a long time. I'm a little embarrassed."

"It's okay," Yoongi said carefully. "I'd rather have you cry than keep it to yourself."

Taehyung sighed, biting his bottom lip as he thought. "There's just...so many things that make sense now. I guess. Everything I've said about my parents not being chosen when they're good people seems ridiculous now."

"It's not ridiculous," Yoongi sighed. "You didn't know. Like I said last night, it's not a perfect system."

"I know," Taehyung said, half smiling. "In a perfect world they would have come here and gave birth to me. My siblings, too, maybe. Would it have been different? If the two of us met that way?"

"That's an odd question." Yoongi laughed, quietly, and Taehyung had an urge to playfully nudge him under the table. "I'm not sure what you mean by different."

"I don't know either," Taehyung admitted. "Anyways, it's just tough. Knowing that they could be here with me but they aren't."

He thought back to Yoongi's family. All the times they had gone over to the big house to have dinner or visit Yoongi's grandparents or help out were so much fun for him. He missed having a family to call his own, and he had found one in Yoongi and Yoongi's family and Hoseok and Jeongguk and Namjoon and Seokjin. Still, he craved the family he had always known as his own. He didn't think he would ever stop missing them. His parents. His siblings. His cousins and aunts and uncles. Nayeon. Jimin.

"I have this best friend," Taehyung said, catching Yoongi's attention. "His name is Jimin. I think he's the most interesting person in the world."

Yoongi smiled, a knowing glint in his eye that made Taehyung think of Seokjin and Yoongi’s friendship. "Do you?"

"I do. He's an artist, you know? Like Namjoon? He always loved drawing portraits of people. He has a drawing of his younger brother for every year that he's been born. Plans on giving it to him when he turns eighteen."

"He sounds special," Yoongi said, smiling as Taehyung's face softened. "I know it's hard for you, Taehyung-ah. I'm doing my best to make sure that you're happy here, but I know there are some things I can't fix."

"I know." Taehyung tilted his head as it got heavier with thoughts. "I just get attached to these ideas. I grew up thinking my life would be one way, and now...I don’t know. Would it...be okay if we kept this between us, hyung? I don't think I can handle talking about it with the others."

Yoongi hummed. "Whatever you want, Taehyung-ah. It's fine with me."

Taehyung smiled, and his heart swelled with a mixture of relief and happiness. "Thank you. And...you're doing really well, hyung, I promise. You've made it easy for me to be happy here."

Yoongi looked at him, then, and something about his gaze had Taehyung's mouth feel dry. He smiled that same pretty smile, and Taehyung found himself once again grasping at straws to put a name to the feelings stirring in his gut. Maybe he did know the name. Maybe he was too scared to admit it.

 

 

Taehyung stared at Hoseok. "What do you mean?"

"I mean there's a stray cat that's been coming around here lately and I want to feed her but Jieun won't let me," Hoseok said, laughing when Jieun started to curse at him from the back room. "She's just mean. We could have a shop cat but she has to be difficult."

Taehyung parted his lips, looking out the window as if that would help him spot a cat that walked on the ground. "I want her."

"Give her some meat from your lunch, then," Hoseok said, dropping his volume so Jieun couldn't hear him. "I'm not home enough to have a cat, but I can live vicariously through you. She was in the alley this morning when I got here, so go look."

Taehyung beamed, hurrying to his work station and grabbing his lunch bag. "I'll be back!" he called before exiting the shop.

He rounded the corner to the alley, and sure enough a tabby cat was sitting on the wooden boxes grooming herself. She froze when she heard his boots crunch against the gravel, and he raised his hands up to show he meant no harm even if it did little to deter her from climbing down the wooden boxes to put more space between them.

"I have food!" he said happily. He reached into his lunch bag as fast as he could manage, trying not to make more noise and scare her away, and pulled out a sliver of ham from his food. He bit his lip, trying to figure out where to put it as she stared at him, and eventually settled on placing it on one of the lower level boxes.

Her tail flicked from side to side as he took a few steps back, and he bounced eagerly on his toes as he watched her get closer to it. She kept glancing at him, as if she was afraid he would step forward to scare her or take the food away, but eventually she was close enough to hop onto the box and crouch down to eat the offered meat.

His heart seized with affection, and he had to resist the urge to step forward and see if she would let him pet her. He didn't want to test his luck.

He left her another piece of meat on a box closer to him, and to his surprise she jumped down once she was done with her first piece and came up to rub against his legs with a confident meow. She circled him a few times as he let out a happy laugh, and she even let him run his hand over her back before she sauntered towards the additional piece of meat to eat it. She was soft, if not a little dirty, but Taehyung didn't mind. She was perfect.

He left her another piece of ham as if to reward her for letting him pet her, and then forced himself to go back inside. As sad as it made him, he did have work to do. "I'll be back tomorrow," he promised her, watching the way she cutely ate the chunks of ham. "I'll bring you more so you come back, too!"

Hoseok looked smug when Taehyung returned, and all Jieun could do was glare at them suspiciously when she left the backroom to get some embellishments.

 

 

Taehyung yawned as Yoongi continued to fly. It wasn't too cold up, but Taehyung found himself snuggling in tighter against Yoongi's neck. His scales held a warmth to them, and it was making Taehyung sleepier.

They were nearly at the meadow, though, so he did his best not to fall asleep. The week had been long, and he was just grateful that it was finally the weekend. He had nothing but relaxation to look forward to.

Yoongi circled the meadow twice before lowering himself to the ground. He was always so careful not to step on the flowers. Taehyung thought it was the cutest thing in the world, but Yoongi just got shy and waved him away whenever Taehyung mentioned it. Which was, as it turned out, even cuter.

Taehyung slid off the saddle, stretching his arms over his head as Yoongi took a few tentative steps back to ensure he wasn't crushing any of the flowers. He undid the cinches and turned when Yoongi wiggled out of the saddle, going to put the saddlebags down and stretch out a blanket as per usual. It was dark out, but not terribly so. The stars brightly lit up the meadow, just enough that Taehyung could glance over his shoulder and smile when he saw Yoongi adjusting his shirt and pants.

They left the saddle where it was, and Taehyung spread out on the blanket with a sigh.

Yoongi joined him, and he was the first to dip into the saddlebags to take out a fistful of nuts. He offered some to Taehyung, and Taehyung smiled as he popped a few in his mouth.

"Long week?"

"The longest," Taehyung said, smiling when Yoongi gave him a look. "I can't complain. Work's been good."

"Here." Yoongi pulled out a bag Taehyung didn't realize was in there, and his cheeks flushed when he realized there were oranges inside. He had mentioned, once, to Yoongi that they were his favorite. "You're getting better. At the saddles, I mean."

"Thank you," Taehyung breathed. He wasn't sure if he was referring to the compliment or the oranges. Both? "I guess you can call me a professional saddler now. Where did you get these?"

Yoongi smiled, a knowing smile, and stole one for himself as Taehyung started to peel his first. "There's an orange tree on the plot of land we're working on. I was given permission to take a couple."

Taehyung inhaled sharply before tossing in the first slice of it, and his mouth watered as the tartness alerted his taste buds. He made a sound, a low moan at the back of his throat, and Yoongi made a sort of expression Taehyung had never seen on him before. He was too busy enjoying the best orange he had ever had in his life to comment on it. "Oh, gods."

"They're good?" Yoongi's words were a little tight, but his smile reached his eyes.

"The best," Taehyung sighed, his body relaxing as he stuffed the rest of the orange in his mouth. His cheeks puffed up, but he couldn't be bothered with silly thoughts of embarrassment when he was enjoying himself so much. "Thank you."

Yoongi didn't comment on Taehyung talking with his mouthful, and Taehyung appreciated that.

Taehyung worked through about three oranges until Yoongi did comment that maybe he should ease up before he got a stomach ache, and Taehyung pouted and whined until he gave Yoongi the bag back. Yoongi eyed him cautiously as he put the bag to his left, where Taehyung couldn't reach, and he made Taehyung promise that he wouldn't try to eat anymore.

Taehyung felt like a child doing so, but he snapped out of it when he remembered exactly what he wanted to talk about with Yoongi. "Oh, hyung?"

Yoongi narrowed his eyes at him, as if afraid Taehyung would ask for another orange. "What?"

Taehyung laughed, tipping his head back and nudging his elbow against Yoongi's bicep. "You're mean. I just wanted to ask you something. About things that aren't oranges."

Yoongi rolled his eyes, but there was enough of a smile on his face that made Taehyung feel relaxed. "Alright. Go ahead."

"There's this cat," Taehyung started, trying to look for any negative expression. He didn't find one. "A tabby cat. She lives in the alley next to Jieun's shop."

"Does she?" Yoongi's grin was knowing, and Taehyung resisted nudging him again.

"I want to adopt her," Taehyung said, straightening out his posture to look as confident as he could. Hoseok said that would help him convince Yoongi, after all. "She's very sweet and likes to be pet and spoiled."

"A cat's a big responsibility," Yoongi said. He tilted his head, lips turning into a smile. "Are you sure?"

"I'm an adult," Taehyung said confidently. "I've been feeding her, you know? To gain her trust. I think it'd be nice to have a cat, especially when you're gone and I'm home alone."

Yoongi paused, and Taehyung smiled as he stretched his legs out in front of him. It was a ploy to tug at Yoongi's heart strings, and it seemed to be working. "That...does seem like a good idea."

"We don't have to if you're really opposed to it," Taehyung amended. "I really want to keep her, but I won't throw a fit if you say no. It's your home, hyung."

Yoongi rolled his eyes. "It's our home, Taehyung-ah. It's alright. I like cats."

Taehyung perked up, excitement already bubbling in his veins as he brought his legs back to his chest and leaned in. "So...?"

"So, if you can gain her trust and bring her home you can have her."

Taehyung yelled out his laughter as he dragged Yoongi in for a hug, satisfaction easing his worried mind into a comfortable mood. "Hyung, you're the best."

Yoongi hugged him back after a moment of hesitation, and Taehyung would be lying if he said he didn't relax in Yoongi’s grip before pulling back to beam at him. "I've wanted one for a while, anyways," Yoongi said, his words coated with embarrassment.

"You're really the best," Taehyung said, laughing as Yoongi's cheeks colored. It was barely visible in the starlight, but Taehyung still noticed. It made him feel warm himself. "Hyung, you know you kind of look like a cat?"

"Don't," Yoongi groaned, shoving Taehyung away with a palm to his chest. Taehyung pretended to be affronted, but it didn't last long before a laugh trickled out. "Because I'm a dragon? Tae."

"No," Taehyung said, giggling behind his hand. Yoongi levelled him with a look. "Hyung, that's not it! You just...have that aura. And your eyes."

"My eyes," Yoongi repeated, arching a brow. "You're ridiculous."

"Maybe so," Taehyung chirped, biting his lip when Yoongi sighed. "You remind me of this one tomcat back home. He was always so cute, acting like he owned the entire town."

If Yoongi noticed Taehyung practically calling him cute, he didn't mention it. Instead, his eyes got comically wide and he crossed his arms over his chest. "Are you saying I'm cocky?"

"No," Taehyung laughed. "Confident. Cool."

"So you think I'm cool," Yoongi said, dropping his hands to his sides and puffing his chest out playfully as Taehyung laughed harder. "I can live with that."

"Now you're being cocky," Taehyung said through his laughter. "You're ridiculous."

"Make up your mind about me," Yoongi said, smiling when Taehyung regressed back into a fit of giggles.

"I already did," Taehyung said, recovering with a wide grin.

Yoongi hummed, and that satisfied grin remained stretched out over his lips. "Good. I've made up my mind about you, too."

Taehyung wasn't sure what that meant, and he didn't have the bravery to bring it up before they switched back to talking about who knows what.

 

 

Namjoon wiggled his nose. "No, I don't think that's a good idea."

Seokjin put his hands on his hips and squinted. "You have no sense of fun."

"He's trying not to ruin your ceremony," Yoongi slid in, smiling when Seokjin scowled at him. "Don't offer alcohol before. It's against tradition, anyways."

Taehyung didn't know any of the traditions, but they didn't drink before marrying back home, either. How unusual for Seokjin to want it.

Seokjin sighed, tossing his hands in the air. "You're both against me."

"You don't usually like alcohol," Namjoon said, leaning in to press their shoulders together. "Well, this much. Are you afraid of getting mated to me or something?"

"You're both ridiculous," Taehyung said, laughing as he got up to look at the planning papers. "I think Seokjin hyung just wants an excuse to drink away his nerves."

"Should I be worried?" Namjoon teased, ignoring Seokjin's groan. "Hyung."

"Fine," Seokjin said, intertwining his fingers with Namjoon's. "I was worried for my own sanity. We'll do it the right way."

"The elders would throw a fit, anyways," Jeongguk said, shrugging his shoulders. "Have you two decided on a menu? Pork would be good!"

"Because you like pork," Hoseok said, snickering when Jeongguk flushed.

"That's not— hyung."

"He always does that," Seokjin huffed. "Joonie's favorite is venison, so we'll be having that. Jeonggukie, you know where the best game is. You’ll help us?"

"I will, hyung," Jeongguk said, resting his chin on the table in defeat.

Taehyung pointed to one of the notes. "What does this mean?"

Seokjin tilted his head down, blinking, but it was Namjoon who answered. "Families give away their child at their mating ceremony. My parents will give away Namjoon."

Namjoon smiled, oddly timid, and Taehyung pressed their shoulders together. "It's not a very big part of the ceremony, but it's tradition. We can't get around it. And hyung's family is like a second family to me, anyways."

Taehyung thought he might say that he saw Yoongi's family as his second family, too, but it seemed inappropriate given the circumstances.

Luckily, he was saved as Seokjin clapped his hands together. "Ah, Jieun finished our robes yesterday. Do you want to see?"

Hoseok straightened up in his seat, tapping his fingers against the table. "She wouldn't show me, so yes."

Seokjin laughed as he went to one of the back rooms to grab them, and Taehyung shared a tiny smile with Namjoon. He returned with a bright smile, and Taehyung's words caught in his throat at the beautiful navy robes folded neatly in his hands.

"Wow," Taehyung gasped.

"Wow," Jeongguk breathed.

"Wow," Yoongi snorted. "You two really are spending a lot of money, huh?"

"No, we aren't," Seokjin hissed. "You're awful and jealousy looks terrible on you."

"What do I have to be jealous of? Please tell me."

"Well, you inside out squirrel, I'll have you know—"

Namjoon managed to sneak the robes from Seokjin as the two of them argued, and he shared an exasperated look with the others. He was smiling, though, as he unfolded one of them and proudly displayed the embroidery on the back.

"It came out even better than I expected," Namjoon said, sucking in a breath.

Taehyung leaned in, his lips parting in surprise. "They're really gorgeous, hyung."

"Jieun outdid herself," Hoseok said, running his finger over the details. "Really, though. They're incredible, Namjoon."

The detail astounded Taehyung. Jieun had outlined the buck and the dragon in a thin thread of gold, the lines so close together that they seemed like patches of color rather than individual threads. The ivory of the buck's antlers and the dragon's claws and fangs stood out especially against the dark silk of the robes, and he couldn't resist running his fingers over the raised portions.

"I'm very happy," Namjoon said, softer than before. “It’s everything I could have ever wanted.”

The commotion around them stopped, and Taehyung didn't have to look up to know the fond look Seokjin was giving Namjoon. He did, though, and it never failed to make his heart flip in his chest. He wasn't sure why, but it wasn't a bad feeling.

Yoongi sighed, and gestured towards Taehyung and Jeongguk. "We need to start dinner; it’s getting late. Can you two go and get herbs from Namjoon's garden? Mint and perilla leaves. Hoseok and I will get the water boiling."

Taehyung pouted. "We're always on herb duty."

"Because we're the youngest," Jeongguk sighed, ruffling the back of his own head as he stood up from his seat. "Let's go, hyung."

Taehyung pouted at Yoongi as he followed, but Yoongi paid him no mind as he directed Hoseok to grab one of the big pots so he could light up the stove. Namjoon and Seokjin were talking to each other, low enough that Taehyung couldn't hear, and he turned away to give them their privacy.

"I heard Yoongi hyung is going to let you keep the cat, hyung."

Taehyung blinked, shutting the door behind him before stepping down the porch to stand beside Jeongguk. "News travels fast."

"Well, Hoseok hyung and I talked about it last night," Jeongguk explained, kicking a rock under his foot. They were barefoot, but neither one of them cared. The grass around Seokjin and Namjoon's house was always so nice and plush. "We couldn't keep her and I was bummed, because I really want a cat. He told me after you told him."

He had had lunch with Hoseok the previous day, since Hoseok was taking an extra day at Jieun's store and Taehyung wanted an excuse to try and see the cat. He had shared the good news, then. He was a bit surprised that Hoseok thought to tell Jeongguk. It made him happy. Maybe they were getting along better than he thought.

"I'm really excited," Taehyung admitted. Jeongguk went to one end of the plot of dirt Namjoon had sectioned off behind a tiny (tiny) fence, specifically for his garden, and squatted down to start plucking at leaves. "I've never had a cat before."

He squatted as well, tilting his head as he searched for the correct plant. It always tricked him. Vegetables were way easier to get. "I had one when I lived back with my family," Jeongguk said, shrugging his shoulders. "She was more of a family cat, though, and I don't think she liked me very much."

Taehyung laughed, nodding to himself as he started to snap off some of the perilla leaves. "I'm going to spoil him rotten."

Jeongguk grinned, putting a couple of leaves on the ground next to him. "Hoseok hyung said you told him we could visit whenever. I don't think Yoongi hyung will like that."

"Just come when he's not around," Taehyung joked. He didn't mean it, not really, since he knew that Yoongi liked having his friends around even if he never said it out loud. He didn't think it was a pride thing. He thought Yoongi was a bit shy.

"Maybe not," Jeongguk said, grinning when Taehyung started to laugh.

Their cackles died off as they returned to their previous work, knowing to gather up a few extra so they wouldn't run out halfway through the evening and be forced to come back outside. Taehyung had a decent pile beside him, but before he had the chance to ask Jeongguk if he was ready he caught the younger man looking at him pensively.

Jeongguk flushed once he realized he was caught, averting his eyes, and Taehyung raised a brow. "Jeongguk?"

"I, uh," Jeongguk paused to clear his throat, and Taehyung waited patiently. "Well, I wanted to ask for your opinion on something?"

"My opinion," Taehyung repeated. Jeongguk was a nice kid. They weren't particularly close, but Taehyung liked to think they were friends. Jeongguk had never asked for his opinion before, and it made him feel a bit giddy. "Uh, sure. Go ahead."

Jeongguk reached into the pocket of his pants, and his hand stalled for a second before he got the courage to take whatever was in there out. "Do you think this is pretty?"

Taehyung blinked as Jeongguk showed him... a rock.

Well, alright. It was a gorgeous rock. It had several shades of green, from an almost yellow shade to a deep emerald, and was in the shape of an egg. There was a deep splotch of black in the center of the stone, and it almost looked polished. "It's very pretty," he said, honest. "What's it for?"

Jeongguk smiled. It was the kind of smile that had a secret behind it, and Taehyung was itching to find out what it was. "I want to use it as a clasp. I have this idea for a, um, spring coat? I got a really pretty pelt the other day, so..."

"It'd look really nice," Taehyung said, biting his lip to hide his smile as Jeongguk's words spilled from his lips like water. "I think you should make it."

Jeongguk didn't look like he was going to tell Taehyung his secret, but Taehyung liked that he was being included. If he could help Jeongguk out, he would.

Jeongguk pushed out a relieved breath, and he stuck the rock carefully back in his pocket. "Okay. Great. Thank you, hyung."

They gathered their herbs as Taehyung tried to think of why Jeongguk seemed so nervous. He had seen him make a few simple clothes before, but it had never been a big deal. Maybe Hoseok had influenced him and he wanted them to look nicer? Taehyung didn't really get it, but he didn't want to press Jeongguk and ruin a good thing.

Namjoon took the mint from Taehyung's hands and went back to the kitchen, and Jeongguk disappeared behind him. Taehyung saw it as an opportunity to help Seokjin, and he smiled when Seokjin offered him utensils. "Did you have a nice conversation with Namjoon hyung?"

"Yes," Seokjin chirped, unfazed by Taehyung's teasing. "I did, thank you."

Taehyung couldn't hold back his giggle.

They sat down after all the plates and utensils and glasses were set out, and Taehyung sighed at the inviting scent of food already wafting over from the kitchen. Hoseok and Namjoon returned, too, while Jeongguk looked over Yoongi's shoulder as he chopped something up on the kitchen counter.

"By the way," Hoseok said, sitting down next to Taehyung like usual, "I was wondering what all goes into a mating ceremony? We got...sidetracked the last time we talked about it."

Taehyung distinctly remembered Hoseok walking away from the conversation for an unknown reason, but neither he nor Namjoon brought it up.

"It's similar to any wedding," Seokjin said, taking Namjoon's hand in his as Namjoon smiled. "One of the elders will marry us under the moon and a mage will bind us to one another, and we'll have festivities afterwards. There's the usual food and alcohol and dancing, so I think you two will enjoy it."

"We'll probably play cards all night," Namjoon admitted, his dimple peeking out as he smiled. "It's more fun than drinking, anyways."

"I can't hold my alcohol," Hoseok grumbled, leaning back against his chair. "My sister would tease me for it. I get red in the face and disoriented faster than most."

Taehyung hid his laugh behind his hand, but Hoseok caught him and glared anyways. "Hyung, don't drink then."

"We'll have a lot of good food, anyways," Seokjin said, laughing at Hoseok's dismay. "Don't worry. I’m sure the kids would love to dance with you, too."

Yoongi and Jeongguk returned to the table after dumping everything in the pot, and Taehyung's stomach rumbled at the idea of stew. It was just starting to get cool outside, and he wanted something to warm him up again.

"Anyways," Namjoon said, biting his bottom lip when Seokjin nudged at his side. "The courting pair will exchange vows and rings in front of the elder, and then they will be officially mated. We're to celebrate with the clan until midnight, and then we take flight together." Namjoon shrugged his shoulders. "Well, it's a good thing we had that saddle made. Otherwise it'd be an uncomfortable ride."

Taehyung bit back a laugh, catching Yoongi's eye across the table. He was amused, lips curled up in a catty grin while Seokjin snickered, and Taehyung wished to the gods that he could understand the funny feeling tickling in his gut. Yoongi winked, something playful to match the spirits of the room, and Taehyung smiled at him for a few moments before forcing himself to look away.

Chapter Text

Taehyung beamed as he walked up to Yoongi, cat in his arms. "Mission accomplished?"

"That was fast. What, a week?" Yoongi asked. He offered a hand for her to sniff, and smiled when she bumped her nose against his fingers. "Can't say I'm surprised, you're charming enough. Do you have a name for her?"

Taehyung flushed, bumping against Yoongi as they started to walk down the path. "No, not yet. Maybe we can pick one out together."

"That'd be nice," Yoongi hummed.

The cat wiggled in his arms, and Taehyung adjusted her carefully to make sure that she was comfortable. He pet her, gently, and cooed when she nuzzled against his hand and arms. It hadn't been hard to win her over since she was so sweet, but Taehyung was still relieved. It might have broken his heart if he hadn't been able to adopt her.

They reached the house in record time, and Taehyung bit his lip as he placed her down on the floor. "Um. I didn't think this far in advance, to be honest."

"Let her explore," Yoongi offered. "She'll probably want to know what the house is about and search for hiding spots. In the meantime, let's look around to make sure there's nothing she can hurt herself on."

Taehyung appreciated the guidance, and he made sure the door was closed behind them before wandering in. His first stop was the kitchen while Yoongi went to the living room, and he made sure all of the sharp objects were put away in case she tried to jump on the counters. He hoped she wouldn't, but he knew cats were curious things.

He joined Yoongi a few minutes later with a bowl in his hand. "I put some water in here for her. Is that okay?"

Yoongi looked up from where he was arranging things on one of the tables, and nodded. "Yeah, that's fine. Keep it in the kitchen in case she knocks it over."

Taehyung did so, and by the time he returned he found Yoongi watching the cat with his hands on his hips. She was slinking around, sticking her nose in every crevice she could in case it would be a viable hiding spot, and Yoongi snorted when she wiggled her way underneath the slim space between the bookshelf and the floor.

"That won't fall over, right?" Taehyung said, nervous. He didn't want her to get hurt, and he didn't want Yoongi's things to get ruined.

"No," Yoongi said, shaking his head. "It's sturdy, so she won't be able to knock it over. We'll just have to be mindful of how we stack the books."

Noted. Taehyung retreated into his bedroom, and his eyes zoomed in on the cactus on his desk. The seashells were there, too, along with Taehyung's other important things. He bit his cheek and closed the door, deciding that he would just have to monitor her if he let her in the room with him.

He closed Yoongi's door, as well, figuring that they could just keep her in the common areas if she was home alone. The bathroom was otherwise fine, but he made sure to move any glass jars closer to the center of the counter in case she jumped up.

She walked in amidst his rearranging, and he cooed as she bumped against his ankles. "Do you like your new home?"

She didn't reply, choosing to explore the new area with her tail flicking behind her, and Taehyung smiled as he walked back to the living room. Yoongi was finished, sitting on the couch with a book in his lap, and Taehyung sat beside him.

"Thank you," he said, briefly. He didn't want to disturb Yoongi, but he couldn't go on without thanking him.

Yoongi looked up from his book, and his neutral expression morphed into something softer. "You're welcome. I think she'll like it here."

"Do you think she'll stay?" Taehyung asked, biting his lip. He wouldn't force her to stay indoors since she was an outdoor cat, but he didn't want her to run away, either.

"As long as the cat's fed, she'll stay," Yoongi affirmed him, patting his knee.

Taehyung sucked in a breath, and nodded. "Yeah. You're right."

As if on cue, the cat jumped onto the couch then. She meowed, bumping against Taehyung's arm before climbing down onto his lap. He suppressed the giggle as she stomped over his legs to settle in the spot between his and Yoongi's thighs. Yoongi smiled at him, and Taehyung couldn't help but smile back as he pet down her back.

"The strays back home weren't this sweet," Taehyung said, cooing when she nuzzled into his palm. "Maybe she's just a born cuddler."

"The strays here are fat and happy," Yoongi said, tickling at her ears and grinning when she pressed her nose against his fingers. Taehyung wondered if it would become a habit. "They're fed all the time. Of course they're sweet."

Taehyung tipped his head back as his laughter bubbled out.

 

 

The sun was hot on his back, and Taehyung let out a sigh of relief when he entered the cool air of Jieun's shop. It was a little past noon, and the sun was giving off such an intense heat that his skin was itching.

"It's hot out," he whined, flopping onto one of the empty chairs. Jieun peeked out at him from the back, and it was at that moment that he realized Hoseok wasn't there. "Oh. Hi, noona."

"Were you not expecting me?" Jieun scoffed. She turned her head back to her work, but Taehyung could see her well enough past the door. She had her legs tucked under her, practically melting into her cushioned chair, and her hair was held loosely with a tortoiseshell clip. "Hoseok isn't here yet."

"Sorry," Taehyung said, sheepish as he sat up properly. "He said you probably weren't coming in 'til later. I thought he would be here already."

Jieun hummed, scratching her jawline as she stared at something in front of her. "He should be here soon. Probably got caught up with lunch."

Taehyung shrugged, figuring that he could at least use the time he was waiting to put out his goods. He had brought a satchel full of things to stock up, since Jieun side eyed him every time he stopped by without more goods. It wasn't his fault, since he had been working on so many saddle commissions as of late. He didn't want to leave Jieun hanging, though, so he had worked late the previous night.

Since it didn’t look like Hoseok was going to arrive any time soon, he got to work setting out his belts and bags and accessories. He was careful not to disrupt Jieun and Hoseok's displays, working around the areas he knew he could, and by the time he was setting out his last coin purse the door was opening once again.

He beamed when he saw Hoseok walk in, only for his face to crumple in discomfort. "What are you wearing?"

Hoseok's face was flushed, and he looked down at himself as he shut the door behind him. "Nothing."

Jieun peeked out from the back, her distaste louder than Taehyung's as she clucked her tongue. "It's hotter than hell out there, why are you wearing a coat?"

"I just grabbed it," Hoseok hissed. He took it off, carefully, and with a jolt Taehyung realized the clasp at the front was adorned with the stone Jeongguk had shown him at dinner the other day. "Stop teasing me."

"Fine," Jieun sighed. She lowered her voice for the next bit, but Taehyung still heard her. "Sensitive."

Hoseok glared at her, but Jieun was back to working. He levelled Taehyung with a look, then, and Taehyung lifted his hands up in defeat. He was too taken aback to continue teasing him, anyways.

"You're late," he said, instead.

Hoseok's expression softened then, and he smiled as he put his coat on the rack near the door before taking off his bag and heading to one of the empty workstations. His face had a light sheen of sweat on it, and he dabbed at it nonchalantly with the back of his hand as he took a seat. "Jeongguk and I decided to dance at the festival, and we've been working on a routine these past few days. Nothing big, since it's last minute."

Jieun poked her head out again, and a single brow was raised. "You're dancing. Together."

"With Jeongguk," Taehyung finished for her, lips parted in shock. Hoseok and Jeongguk got along well, even after their bumpy start (or maybe in spite of it), but Taehyung didn't think they would actually dance together like Seokjin had suggested all that time ago.

"Yes," Hoseok said, pursing his lips. "I missed it. He brought up missing it, too, and we both agreed that it would be fun to try. I hated not being on stage at the last festival."

"Because you love being the center of attention," Jieun called, laughing when Hoseok groaned.

Taehyung tuned out their bickering as the pieces started to come together. The weird looks, Hoseok's attitude when they talked about mating, Jeongguk's question, the coat. The bruises? Hoseok had been so angry at first, so unsure, but now he was relaxed. He was happy.

Jeongguk was courting Hoseok.

He had been courting Hoseok, and Hoseok must have finally put the pieces together. He must have.

"Taehyung-ah?"

Taehyung's eyes widened once he realized he had been spacing out, and his cheeks flushed as he met Hoseok's amused gaze. "Uh. Yes?"

"Let's talk soon, okay?"

Hoseok returned back to his work with a hum, and Taehyung knew he had been found out. He pouted, dropping his gaze and taking out some papers so he could start sketching.

 

 

Jieun left after the three of them had dinner together, eating in the coolest part of the shop with tall drinks of water and light meals. Taehyung had almost been too nervous to eat, but Hoseok had pressed their thighs together and smiled as he gestured for Taehyung to take some of his pork.

Hoseok turned to him as he locked the door behind Jieun, ensuring that no one could walk in, and he sighed. "Alright. Do you want to talk?"

"I think we should," Taehyung said, licking his lips. "I mean...it's nothing bad. Right?"

"No," Hoseok said, tilting his head with a smile. "It's nothing bad at all."

Taehyung relaxed at that, and he followed Hoseok to the two chairs in front of the window. He remembered Namjoon talking to them about courting in the same exact seats, and it made his stomach flip nervously. "Okay, then. Let's talk."

"Well," Hoseok said, laughing under his breath, "I think you should tell me what you think you know, first."

"What if I'm wrong?" Taehyung whined.

Hoseok placed his hands on his knees, and he smiled. "I'm almost positive you're not wrong."

Taehyung crossed his legs at his ankles, and he intertwined his hands together before pressing them between his thighs. "Fine," he mumbled. "Jeongguk's...courting you. Right?"

"You're right," Hoseok said, his cheeks coloring as he admitted it. There was a pause, and Taehyung opened his mouth to say something only for Hoseok to continue. "We've been...yeah."

"Oh," Taehyung breathed out. It was one thing to suspect something and another thing to have it confirmed. He didn’t know why he was so nervous. "Since when? You never told me."

"It wasn't something I was ready to talk about," Hoseok said, his smile turning sorry as he reached out to pat Taehyung's arm. He settled back into his seat as Taehyung matched his smile. "Things were rocky at first. We weren't in a good place until...probably about a month ago. I had a lot of fears, and I wasn't fair to him. But he waited for me."

"What do you mean?" Taehyung said, his eyes widening. "I remember the bruises, hyung. The...marks?"

Hoseok flushed, again, and his dimples showed themselves as he pursed his lips. "It wasn't courting at first. We messed around. You know?"

It was Taehyung's turn to blush.

"I had never...with a man," Hoseok explained, the words coming out with a weight to them. Taehyung understood. More than he wished he did, but he was getting over that internalized fear. "At first, it was just about lust, I suppose. I was afraid to get close to him, but I think it was inevitable. I tried to reject the things he would bring me, or ignore the way he talked to me or looked at me. It didn't work very well."

"You didn't want it?"

"I did," Hoseok said, quick to defend himself. And Jeongguk, Taehyung thought. "I wanted him. But that scared me, so I tried to push him away. Emotionally, at least."

Taehyung's lips parted. "But that didn't work."

"No," Hoseok hummed, leaning his head back. "It didn't work at all. We fought before the last festival, which was why we didn't dance together. I had feelings for him and I didn't know how to deal with them, and he didn't know how to deal with me."

Taehyung remembered how Jeongguk had acted when they brought up them dancing. It made sense, looking back on it. "Poor Jeongguk."

"I was unfair to him," Hoseok admitted. "I know you and Yoongi hyung fought about the illness that hit that town, but Jeongguk...he made sure I was okay. He took care of me, and we talked. I explained why I had been so standoffish towards him, and...I don't know. It fell into place from there."

Taehyung's heart hurt at the memory of his and Yoongi's argument, but he ignored it in favor of smiling at Hoseok. "I'm so happy for you, hyung."

"He gave me that today," Hoseok said, smiling as he pointed to the coat still hanging from the rack. "I guess Namjoon was right about the gifts. Jeongguk can't stop giving me things. It was odd, at first, but I like it."

"He asked me about the stone," Taehyung said, smiling when Hoseok blinked at him. "Wanted to know if I thought it was nice."

Hoseok huffed, shaking his head in disbelief. "Of course he did."

Taehyung laughed at the memory. Jeongguk had seemed so nervous, and Taehyung realized why. Jeongguk had always wanted Hoseok to be happy with him. "I think he really wants to impress you."

"He does impress me," Hoseok said, smiling when Taehyung wiggled his eyebrows at him. "He makes me happy, Taehyung-ah."

"Then I'm happy for you," Taehyung said, sincerity pouring from his words. "Really, hyung. Are you two officially...?"

"Not yet," Hoseok sighed, rubbing the side of his neck. "I want to take it slow, and he does, too. I don't even have a knife, anyways, so..."

"We could have them made," Taehyung offered. "I'm sure Yoongi hyung would make them. He made Joon hyung's."

Hoseok hummed as he thought about it, biting the corner of his lip. "You want one, too?"

"I might need it one of these days," Taehyung said, averting his eyes as Hoseok looked at him. "I don't know."

"Maybe we should talk about that," Hoseok teased. He nudged Taehyung's foot with his own. "Taehyung-ah."

"I don't know," Taehyung repeated, puffing out his cheeks. "Yoongi hyung and I, we..."

"You have feelings for him," Hoseok said, as if it wasn't a surprise. Taehyung gaped at him, tingles running up arms. "Don't be like that. I just see the way you two are with one another."

Taehyung….didn’t know how to respond to that. He felt so embarrassed, like there were flames licking at his skin from the inside out, and his chest was tight. If Hoseok knew...

"I don’t know. It scares me," Taehyung admitted, the words catching in his throat. He hunched forward a little, pressing his arms between his chest and his legs. "I just— what if he doesn't have feelings for me? I have this...this feeling that he might be trying to court me, but what if I'm wrong? I don't know what to do."

"Be patient," Hoseok offered, patting Taehyung's back. "You don't have to rush into anything. It's a weird dynamic, right?"

"Right," Taehyung repeated, his cheeks feeling way to warm as he closed his eyes. “I live with him. For the most part, I rely on him. It puts me in an awkward position if things go wrong.”

"But you do have feelings for him?"

Taehyung paused to think about that. It was something he had never admitted, not even to himself, and yet Hoseok managed to notice. He felt nervous at the thought. If Hoseok noticed, was there a chance that Yoongi noticed, too?

"I do," he said, his words tight as they fell from his lips. "It's frightening."

"I know," Hoseok sighed. "It's scary, Taehyung-ah, but you don't have to be afraid. Yoongi hyung cares about you a lot. I can see it plain as day. Anyone can see it, I think."

"I think I just need some more time to think about it," Taehyung said, sighing as he rested his forehead on his knees. "I don't want to cause any problems."

"You won't," Hoseok affirmed him, "but take all the time you need. Don't rush, okay?"

Taehyung found it a little funny that Hoseok of all people was saying that, but he supposed Hoseok was speaking from experience. He trusted Hoseok's opinion, anyways, and it made sense to wait it out. Taehyung wasn't sure if he was ready to do anything about what he felt for Yoongi. "I won't," he promised. "Sorry for making this about me."

Hoseok tipped his head back in a laugh. "You didn't, Taehyung-ah. It's still very much about me."

Taehyung shoved his hands away then, whining out his disgust as Hoseok laughed harder.

“We’re thinking about telling everyone during the festival. We’re supposed to go to dinner at his family’s home the next day, too. On Tuesday,” Hoseok said, kicking his legs out in front of him. He was visibly excited, with his face scrunched up in a smile, and Taehyung felt lifted up by his energy. “I think it’d be nice, actually.”

“Only two days until the festival, hyung. Everyone’s going to be excited,” Taehyung said, straightening out again as he bumped his fist against Hoseok’s knee.

Hoseok huffed out a sigh, his smile softening. “I really hope so.”

“They will be, hyung. You don’t even have to worry.”

Chapter Text

“You what?”

“We’re, uh, courting,” Jeongguk said, stuttering over his own words as he gestured between Hoseok and himself. Taehyung bit his lip to hide his laughter as Yoongi gaped at them.

Seokjin, on the other hand, guffawed. “Oh, gods, it’s about time you two admitted it.”

Hoseok grinned as he slipped his hand into Jeongguk’s. Even though everyone around them was busy playing games and eating and joking around with friends to pay them any attention, Taehyung still thought it was telling that Hoseok was willing to initiate affection like that in public. “I think so, too.”

“Well,” Yoongi said, whooshing out a breath. “I can’t say I was expecting that.”

Namjoon blinked, looking at Seokjin. He looked upset, but Taehyung had seen Namjoon upset before and he knew this time around that it was all for play. “Me neither. Hyung, you didn’t tell me anything.”

“I thought it was obvious,” Seokjin said. He pointed his chopsticks to Jeongguk and Hoseok, cheeks full of food. “They’re exhausting. The two of them have been dancing around one another since Hoseok arrived.”

Jeongguk laughed, his cheeks flushed. “Hyung, you’re terrible.”

Hoseok pressed his side against Jeongguk's, and for a second he met Taehyung's eyes. He turned back to Yoongi, though, who was staring at them with his brows drawn in tight. "We're not officially courting, if that's what you're wondering."

"I was," Yoongi admitted, his ears burning a soft pink as he straightened out his posture. "You still need a knife, after all."

"I wanted to ask about that, actually," Taehyung said, finding his strength when Hoseok looked back at him. Hoseok smiled, and Taehyung used that as fuel to continue speaking. "Shouldn't Hobi hyung and I get knives? Since we're part of the clan now?"

Seokjin clapped his hands against his thighs, and his lips curled into a grin as he pointed at Taehyung. "You're absolutely right. Why haven't we gotten you knives?"

Yoongi tilted his head, lips pursed as if he was wondering the same thing, and Namjoon breathed out a sigh. "It never came up. If they want one they'd have to ask Yoongi hyung."

"I can do them," Yoongi said, simple enough. "I did Namjoon's."

"I think Junhee would want to help you," Taehyung suggested, earning a confused look from Yoongi. "He said he likes weapons, right?"

"I suppose," Yoongi hummed, biting his lip. "I'll invite him over at the end of the week."

"I'm not at all surprised that Taehyung managed to convince you to take Junhee back," Seokjin said, ignoring Yoongi's pointed look. "He's a good kid, really."

"He is," Taehyung chirped.

"When he's not being a brat," Yoongi amended, causing Taehyung to poke his side playfully. "What? Am I lying?"

Hoseok laughed behind his hand. "He seems like a good kid whenever he stops by the shop. Jieun likes him well enough."

"That should be a warning sign," Namjoon grumbled. "Well, as long as he's good at weaponry."

"Can't deny that," Yoongi said, shrugging his shoulders. "Give me a general idea of what you two want by Thursday and I'll fix the design up with Junhee."

Taehyung smiled to himself as Hoseok went over some of the finer details he wanted on his, and he wasn't sure if he was more excited about getting his own knife or convincing Yoongi to take Junhee under his wing. He ultimately decided he was equally excited with both.

"I just want to relax already," Seokjin sighed as they passed around a jug. There was alcohol inside of it, and Taehyung shook his head shyly when Yoongi offered to fill his cup. "We're so close. How many days, Joon?"

"Eleven."

"Eleven days," Seokjin whistled, clapping his hands against his thighs. "Only eleven more days and you get to be mated to the most handsome dragon in the clan, can you believe it?"

Yoongi snorted behind his cup. "Here we go."

"I won't be stopped," Seokjin chirped. Namjoon held his head in his hands. "I can't be stopped."

"Never stop, hyung," Taehyung laughed, winking playfully when Yoongi shoved at his side.

"Don't encourage him."

"Please don't encourage him," Namjoon groaned behind his fingers, making the rest of them laugh louder while Seokjin pressed an obnoxious kiss to the side of his head.

 

 

"What is it?"

"Fish cake," Yoongi said. He tore off a bit of his and offered it to Taehyung, and Taehyung didn't miss the color to Yoongi's cheeks when he dipped it to bite it out of Yoongi's fingers. The group had dispersed when it was time to get more food, and Taehyung had followed his nose to the booth where Elder Son was serving some of the best food Taehyung had tasted yet.

Taehyung moaned as he chewed on it, his fingers wrapped around Yoongi's wrist to steady himself. "Hyung, that's so good. Why haven't we had this before?"

Yoongi got a queasy kind of look on his face. "I...don't know."

Taehyung licked the grease and crumbs off his lips, and he would have to be completely oblivious not to notice the way Yoongi followed his tongue. He released his grip on Yoongi's wrist and smiled as innocently as he could with the way his heart was pounding against his chest. "Let's go play cards?"

Yoongi sucked in a breath, and he wriggled his nose about as he nodded. "Yeah, let's go play cards. Seokjin hyung's getting a big head and I want to bring him back down to the slumps with the rest of us."

Taehyung laughed behind his hand, following Yoongi down to where Seokjin and Namjoon were having a heated discussion with one of the elders about whether of not their play was legal.

“Where’s Hoseok and Jeongguk?” Yoongi asked as they took spots across from Namjoon and Seokjin. There were two elders playing, too. Taehyung recognized Elder Im, but he couldn’t recall the name of the other elder.

“Getting ready for their performance,” Seokjin explained, pointing to one of the cards in Namjoon’s hand after Namjoon whispered what might have been a question in his ear.

Yoongi tossed his arm over Taehyung’s shoulders once they were settled in their seats, and Taehyung bit his bottom lip as he resisted the urge to lean into him. He distracted himself by picking up a deck of cards, giggling to himself once he realized how terrible it was. Still, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of coins to put in the betting pile.

“He’s got a good hand,” Seokjin whispered, loud enough that Taehyung and everyone else heard. “Watch out, Joon-ah.”

“Say it a little louder next time, hyung, I don’t think the other tables heard you,” Namjoon sighed, dodging Seokjin’s glare as he tossed a card into the pile growing in the center.

Taehyung bit back a laugh, tossing in a card once it was his turn. The elder to his right, Elder Im, snorted at his decision, but Taehyung didn’t care. He sucked at cards, anyways.

Yoongi leaned in as Namjoon and Seokjin whispered to each other, making sure they were distracted before he spoke. “Use this one. You’re going to lose anyways but may as well mess with them.”

Taehyung grinned, biting his bottom lip as he nodded his agreement. He pulled said card out in preparation of putting it down, and he caught Namjoon’s suspicious look across the table. “What are you playing at?”

“I’m just playing a game like everyone else,” Taehyung chirped, grinning as Yoongi squeezed his shoulder. “Don’t be such a sore loser, hyung.”

“These kids are so loud,” one of the elders sighed. “Put you card down, Jin-ah.”

Seokjin puffed out his cheeks, and he put down his card with narrowed eyes. “Try to best that.”

“He won’t have time to,” Elder Im boasted, putting down the card that would win him the round. Seokjin and Namjoon groaned, tipping their heads back in defeat, while Taehyung and Yoongi laughed amongst themselves.

“Please show me your hand,” Seokjin groaned, throwing down his. He would have won if Elder Im hadn’t, and that made Taehyung giggle to himself.

“It’s all trash,” Taehyung sang, revealing his hand.

Seokjin dropped his head in his hands. “I’ve been played.”

Namjoon sighed, running a hand over his face as Elder Im cackled and scooped up his winner’s loot. “I don’t know why I keep playing with you.”

“Because I’m a winner.”

“Not today,” Elder Im said, proudly shoving his coins into a small satchel. “I’m on to another table, I don’t play with losers.”

Seokjin’s head dropped to the table in shame, and Taehyung wasn’t able to wait for Elder Im to leave before he was bursting out into laughter.

 

 

Taehyung kneaded his fingers against his thighs as Hoseok and Jeongguk climbed onto the stage. He felt comfortable even in the heat with his shorts, legs kicked out on the steps in front of him. Yoongi was sitting on the step above him, leaning back on his elbows while Namjoon and Seokjin were seated to his left.

They were talking to each other, laughing quietly and sharing a kiss every now and then. It was embarrassing to look at them, since Taehyung was still getting used to such casual affection being displayed, but when he turned he had the misfortune of meeting Yoongi's gaze.

Yoongi arched a brow at him, and Taehyung cleared his throat.

He was saved from his embarrassment when the music started to play, the heavy beat of the drums drawing his attention back to the stage. Hoseok and Jeongguk were in matching black outfits, a sort of robe pulled tightly around their bodies and flaring around their legs before ending at their calves. Their arms were exposed, showing off their muscle toned bodies, and Taehyung would be lying if he said he didn't compare them to his thinner ones.

He shook off the thought as they started, hands flying up to clap against each other before circling around. They kept their eyes on each other, matching grins on their lips, and Taehyung leaned in to watch them closer once they stepped back.

Their dance was similar to the one Hoseok had performed at their first festival with the clan. They were fluid, but they punctuated their movements with a speed and power that Taehyung could hardly imagine. Taehyung thought Hoseok was impeccable, but Jeongguk was just as fantastic. Together, they made a perfect team.

Their movements were large and exaggerated, but they didn't look silly. They looked professional, and every movement they made matched the beat of the music.

"Wow," Taehyung breathed. "Jeongguk's almost as good as Hoseok hyung."

Seokjin snorted beside him. "You're biased, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung grinned at him, unabashed, and Yoongi nudged at his shoulder with his knee. "Hoseok's always been his favorite."

Taehyung shushed him, playful as ever, and Yoongi rolled his eyes as a grin work its way onto his lips.

Their group cheered the loudest when Hoseok and Jeongguk returned to their initial positions, hands clasped tightly between them and foreheads pressed together, and the rest of the clan followed in suit with whistles and cheers. Hoseok laughed, loud and shameless, and Jeongguk followed in suit.

 

 

Dahyun stared at him, her eyes bright and curious, and Taehyung bit his lip. His previous wishes had been so easy to make, but he was struggling to come up with one.

"It doesn't have to be anything big," Yoongi said. He had already made his, and Taehyung had been surprised at how quickly he did so. "Wish for something easy."

"Something easy," Taehyung repeated, chewing on the inside of his cheek. "Well..."

Dahyun offered her arm as Taehyung picked up the pen, and she laughed under her breath as he wrote onto her skin. A part of him wondered if she could tell what people were wishing for based off of the strokes on her arm, but he knew she would hold his secrets.

She smiled at him as she lifted her arm into the air, and he leaned against the table to watch the still drying ink burn as she mumbled her spell. The blue flames never failed to amaze him, and his stomach flipped as he thought about what he had wished for.

"Good?"

Taehyung nodded at him once the final flames disappeared, and the both of them thanked Dahyun before making their way back to the rest of the group. Taehyung had wanted to ask Hoseok to go and make a wish with him, but before he could get it out Yoongi had said he would join him.

Hoseok was busy, anyways, helping mediate Seokjin and Namjoon's ideas for their mating ceremony. Taehyung didn't have the patience or endurance, if he was behind honest. Yoongi got irritated with them too easily, and Jeongguk wouldn't do more than tease them. Hoseok was the best at it.

"We should try flying with the others next time," Taehyung said, wondering what Yoongi would say.

To his delight, Yoongi hummed in agreement. "That might be fun. I know Seokjin wants to play. He used to be on one of the junior teams when we were younger."

Taehyung perked up. "Oh, really? Is he good?"

Yoongi snorted. "He's alright. He relies on bluffing."

Taehyung stifled a laugh. That didn't surprise him in the slightest. Seokjin often relied on bluffs whenever they went over to his and Namjoon's house for boardgames, and he would remain stoic and sure until someone called him out. Then, he tended to get over eager and would start defending himself to no end. At that point they usually figured out he was bluffing, but he would still act like he was the master of plays.

Taehyung was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't see the protruding branch in the shade, and before he knew it he was catapulting forward until his knees broke his fall on the dirt. He yelped, pain shooting up his legs, and Yoongi cursed under his breath as he dropped down to his side.

"Shit, Tae—"

"I'm fine," Taehyung said, wincing as he sat back on his butt. He winced at the sight of his knees, scraped up terribly, and Yoongi whistled lowly.

"You don't look fine," Yoongi said, a frown tugging at his lips. "Come on. The infirmary is open for everyone, let me bandage you up."

"Hyung," Taehyung stuttered out, his cheeks flushing. "I don't—"

"It'll get infected," Yoongi said, cutting him off with a deeper frown. "I won't take care of you if you refuse to let me help you and then you end up with an infection in your wound. Don't be stubborn, I promise it'll be quick."

Taehyung flushed, feeling properly chastised. He took Yoongi's hand when it was offered to him, and his nose scrunched up when his knees throbbed with the pressure of his weight. "Okay."

Yoongi wasn't smiling, but his expression turned into something more neutral as he looped one of his arms around Taehyung's waist. He guided Taehyung to hold onto him, and Taehyung sucked in a breath before tossing his arm over Yoongi's shoulders. It pressed them together, bringing them closer than Taehyung had ever been with Yoongi, and if they were in any other situation he wasn't sure if he would have been able to handle it.

Taehyung limped, but Yoongi didn't rush him. A few of their clanmates sent worried looks their way, but Taehyung assured any familiar faces that he was alright. It was embarrassing enough that he had tripped so forcefully in front of Yoongi, and he didn't want the others to think that he was clumsy like a child.

"I don't usually fall like that," Taehyung grumbled. "Jimin's the clumsy one."

"Jimin?" Yoongi blinked, but the recognition flashed over his face before Taehyung could remind him. "Ah. Your best friend."

"He's very poised," Taehyung said, smiling at the memories crawling through his head, "but very, very clumsy. Anything could make him fall. He didn't get hurt very often, though."

"That's good," Yoongi said. "Unlike you, he was able to catch himself."

Taehyung pouted, even as Yoongi playfully squeezed his waist. "I never fall, so I'm not used to it."

"Sure, Tae."

The infirmary was empty and dark when they arrived, and Taehyung watched in awe as Yoongi dipped his head forward to blow his fire into the lanterns around the room to light it up. He took a seat on one of the chairs lined up on the side of the room while Yoongi looked around for supplies. They didn't have an infirmary back at his town. There was a doctor, but he made house calls.

Taehyung looked around. He hadn't been in the infirmary before, and it was amazing. There were all sorts of posters on the walls with detailed drawings of anatomy, both human and dragon, and they reminded Taehyung of his old textbooks.

Yoongi returned from the back room with a small box, and Taehyung leaned forward in his chair until he could see everything inside. "Are you going to—"

"Yes," Yoongi said, putting the bowl of water and towel on the floor next to Taehyung's feet. He dropped to his knees after handing the bandages to Taehyung. "Hold these."

"Okay," Taehyung said. The tips of his ears were pink, but he didn't want to protest. It was nice that Yoongi wanted to help him out. It felt good.

Still, he winced when Yoongi swiped the damp towel over his knees, cleaning up the blood and dirt. He did his best not to move, and it was embarrassing to admit that Yoongi had to hold the back of his knee to keep him in place. His fingers were smooth, but his grip was tight enough to make the tiniest shiver roll up Taehyung's spine.

"Ow," Taehyung said, his voice soft. The salve Yoongi was putting on stung a bit. "Hyung."

Yoongi didn't say anything. He started to wrap the bandage around the cuts, and Taehyung's face scrunched up at the pressure that was being applied to his wounds. He was kind of a baby when it came to pain, and it sucked that Yoongi had to see it.

"There," Yoongi said, patting Taehyung's calf as he leaned back to start putting away the supplies. "You survived, Tae."

"Barely," Taehyung huffed, his cheeks red from embarrassment and pain. He didn't want to admit how nice it was to have been under Yoongi's care. "Thank you, though."

Yoongi helped him to his feet, and Taehyung waited by the door as Yoongi went to put the supplies back. Taehyung ran a hand through his hair, and he sucked in a breath.

"Let's go back, yeah?"

Taehyung nodded, and he smiled to himself as Yoongi pressed a hand between his shoulders to lead him out. There was another shiver, but Yoongi didn't seem to notice it. That was fine. They would go back to the town center and play cards or watch the games or eat some more food. Taehyung could live with that.

It was getting easier to admit to himself that he had feelings for Yoongi. When Yoongi treated him so kindly, though, it was harder for him to figure out if Yoongi had feelings for him, too.

 

 

Let him know how I feel for him, and let him feel the same way.

 

 

Yoona hid her laughter behind her hand. "Oh, no."

"What?" Taehyung groaned. "What is so wrong with this?"

"It's too simple," Jieun said, shaking her head. "It's so boring."

"Well, I don't do weaponry," Taehyung huffed. "I'm a saddler."

"Still," Yoona said. "Hoseok-ah, show us yours?"

Hoseok had the mind to at least look sheepish as he passed over his design, and Taehyung crossed his arms over his chest. He was being childish, sure, but it wasn't his fault. "Jeongguk helped me with mine, if that makes you feel better."

"It doesn't," Taehyung whined, slumping back against his chair. "I didn't have anyone to help me."

"You should have looked at Yoongi's knife," Yoona said, tilting her head. "I'm surprised he didn't show it to you."

"I didn't think to ask," Taehyung said, his words slow. He felt shy. "Maybe I will."

"Nevermind that," Jieun sighed. "Let me help you, instead. I'm assuming Hoseok's matches Jeongguk's, so his won't be of much help."

"Guilty," Hoseok said, his grin shiteating as Jieun rolled her eyes. "What? It's nice, isn't it?"

It was. The handle was jewel encrusted, leading up to a sharp and curved blade. Hoseok had put his initials hidden in the jewels, as well, and Taehyung thought it was a little much for his personal taste but he knew Hoseok was used to extravagant things.

"I'd like to put my full name on it," Taehyung said as they looked over his design. It was simple, he had to admit. He had chosen to model his after a dagger, with silver detailings on the handle. He hadn't been sure on what to do for the carvings, so around his name there were just scribbles. "I'm not sure what else, though."

"Your birthstone would be nice," Jieun suggested. She flipped the paper over, and Taehyung sat back as she started to sketch something similar to his initial design. "We'll keep the sword hilt style. I think a bone handle with silver finishings would look more appropriate. I think it would be nice if he carved a dragon here, circling around your name."

"Wisps around the dragon would be nice," Yoona said, pointing to the free space. Jieun's sketch was basic, but Taehyung knew Yoongi would understand it. "He might not be able to do the bone handle, though."

"Junhee will," Taehyung said, thinking back to all the conversations he had had with the kid about the type of artistry he wanted to do. "He likes stuff like that."

Hoseok bit his lip, and he leaned in to look over the sketch. "I think a singular gemstone here would be good. At the center of the cross-guard."

"I like that," Taehyung agreed, smiling when Jieun drew it into their sketch. "I think that's really nice."

"See?" Yoona said, poking at his ribs. "They're completely ceremonial, so it's okay to be a little over the top. Hoseok's is way over the top, but that suits him."

Hoseok rolled his eyes, but he didn't seem offended. "They're both going to be nice. Can you give mine to Yoongi hyung when you go home, Tae?"

"I will," Taehyung said, smiling to himself as he gathered his paper and Hoseok's to place in his bag. "I'm very excited. Do you think they'll be done before the wedding?"

"Mating ceremony," Jieun corrected, poking his nose playfully as he flushed. "It's alright, simple mistake. He might be able to do both in time, but he'll probably want to do Hoseok's first. I'm sure Jeongguk wants to exchange knives."

Hoseok laughed, waving his hand around. "We haven't talked about it yet."

"I'm still not sure about the tradition," Taehyung admitted, looking between them. "How does it...work?"

"Traditionally, the one being courted will offer their knife after they have decided on a suitor and have spent some time getting to know each other. They will enter a period of official and exclusive courting, and will remain so until mating is proposed," Yoona explained, resting a hand on Taehyung's shoulder.

It wasn't often that Yoona stopped by Jieun's shop while Taehyung was there, but he loved when she did. She was so patient with him. "So like Namjoon hyung and Seokjin hyung," he said, smiling when Yoona nodded.

"Exactly. Official courting can last for any amount of time. Every couple is different."

"Hoseok and Jeongguk aren't technically official," Jieun said, grinning when Hoseok narrowed her eyes. "What? I'm just saying."

"We don't have to exchange knives to be official," Hoseok said, sticking his hands in his pockets. "He knows where I stand with him. His family gave us their blessing, too."

"I think it'd still be nice," Yoona offered. "It's different for you two since you weren't raised with this tradition, but it's very important to us. I’m sure his parents are looking forward to it, and Jeongguk, too."

Hoseok lost any fight he still had, and his eyes softened with understanding. "I know. Once my knife is done, I'll be giving it to him."

"Good," Jieun said, patting his back with a sure nod. "I'm proud of you, Hoseokkie. Now get back to work, both of you."

Hoseok's lips curled into a smile as he rounded the table to head back to his work station, and Taehyung relaxed against his chair with a knowing grin as their eyes met. Yoona giggled, shaking her head as she went back to her shopping. "Thank you, noona."

 

 

Taehyung didn't give the papers to Yoongi when they met up after work. It wasn't until after dinner that he found it in himself to pull them out of his bag, since Yoongi was changing into his night clothes, and he stared at them until Yoongi came back out.

"What's that?"

Taehyung sucked in a breath. He felt like he had been caught doing something wrong, and he wasn't sure why. "Uh. Hoseok and I, we finished our designs."

Yoongi raised a brow, and he extended a hand out as he crossed the room. "Could I see them?"

There was no getting out of it. Taehyung offered them with a weak smile, and Yoongi returned it before grabbing them and turning them around so he could look them over. He gave a low whistle, and Taehyung rounded him to see that Yoongi was looking at Hoseok's. "That's...a lot."

"It suits him, I think."

"I'll have to tweak it so it isn't overly gaudy," Yoongi hummed, biting his cheek. "But it's nice. I can see where he drew inspiration from Jeongguk's knife."

Taehyung had never seen Jeongguk's knife before, so he would have to take Yoongi's word for it.

Yoongi shuffled the papers so Taehyung's design was on top, and he smiled when he took a peek at the back to find Taehyung's first design. "A lot of humans make their first designs simple. I wonder why?"

"I'm still not used to it," Taehyung said. "The luxuries, that is."

Yoongi's eyes flickered towards him, and Taehyung dropped his gaze. He hated being reminded of his upbringing, of the many things they didn't have. It made him feel selfish. He had a good family. It wasn't their fault that they couldn't afford an excess of food and gemstones and clothes. "That's alright," Yoongi drawled. "You have an appreciation for the things you get here, and that's good."

Taehyung licked his lips, and by the time he looked back up Yoongi was back to looking at the design. His shoulders loosened up with relief.

"It's nice," Yoongi said, the corner of his lip tugging up in a smile. "I like the bone handle. You want a gem here?"

Taehyung nodded, feeling warm all over. "I want it to match my necklace. It doesn’t have to be my birthstone, since I know that’s probably hard to get. Just a similar colored stone or gem."

"Alright. That's nice," Yoongi hummed. "Did Hoseok help you?"

"Yes," Taehyung admitted, playing with his fingers. "Jieun noona and Yoona noona, too. I didn't come up with much of it, to be honest."

"That's alright," Yoongi said. He smiled as their eyes met again, and Taehyung licked his lips. "You're sure you like it? I want to make something you want me to make."

"I do like it, hyung," Taehyung said, honestly. He did. To him, it was perfect. "Do you like it?"

The question caught both of them off guard. Yoongi raised a brow, a curious glint to his eye as his smile faltered. It wasn't a particularly bad expression, but it had Taehyung feel like he was going to pass out from embarrassment. Taehyung wasn't sure what possessed him to ask that.

He thought Yoongi might ask him why he wanted to know, or that it didn't matter if he liked it or not.

"I like it a lot," Yoongi said, instead. His cheeks wore the slightest tint of pink, and Taehyung's lips parted in surprise.

"Okay," Taehyung said after ensuring that he wouldn't choke on his own spit. "That's— okay. Then I'd like mine to look like that."

"Junhee will be over tomorrow." Yoongi's words came out slow, like he was carefully selecting them. "I'll go over everything with him tomorrow and we'll get started."

"I suppose you'll make Hoseok's first?" Taehyung asked, wanting so desperately to change the subject from himself.

"I'll work on his," Yoongi hummed, looking back down at the papers. "Junhee will be able to get started on yours, though. The bone handle is out of my comfort zone."

"I figured as much," Taehyung said, biting his cheek. "I wasn't trying to be difficult, really. That was Jieun's idea."

"I'm sure it was," Yoongi snorted. "It's alright, it's not difficult. Junhee is quite good at it."

"Alright," Taehyung breathed. "Let's, ah, let's get dinner started, then?"

Yoongi smiled the kind of smile that had Taehyung breathless all over again, with his lips curled into a lazy grin and his head tilted to the side. It was like he knew what was going through Taehyung's head, but Taehyung thought that was impossible. If he did, there would have been no surprise at Taehyung's earlier question. Right? "Okay. Beef stew sound good?"

"That's perfect." Taehyung gave himself a second to recuperate. "Hyung?"

"Hm?"

"Thank you."

Yoongi's smile was wider, then, and Taehyung found himself eager to return it. “I’m more than happy to help, Taehyung-ah."

 

 

"Nabi!"

Yoongi opened one eye to glare at him, and it wasn't enough to deter Taehyung from cooing at the lump of cat on his lap. "What?"

"Her name," Taehyung chirped. He tickled under her chin, and his heart melted as she bumped her head against his chest. "Nabi. Do you think it's nice?"

"I do," Yoongi sighed, closing his eye as he slumped further into the armchair. "You took a long time to give her a name."

"I wanted it to be perfect," Taehyung said, undeterred as he bent over to kiss the top of her head. "She's delicate and sweet. I was scared she wouldn't come home, too, so I didn't want to give her a name right away."

"I told you," Yoongi mumbled, threading his fingers over his stomach. "You're too charming, and you give her good food. Of course she came back."

Taehyung smiled, nuzzling his nose against Nabi's and melting into the couch as she began to purr louder. "She's my baby."

"I'm sure she is," Yoongi hummed. "Now hush and let me rest until Junhee comes."

Taehyung laughed against Nabi's fur, playing along only because Yoongi had been working tirelessly over the past few days. Taehyung had been working, too, but Yoongi had a lot more on his plate. He was still working on pieces for the new house, and as soon as Junhee arrived he was to start on the knives. Taehyung thought his work drive was incredible, but he wished Yoongi would give himself a break every now and then.

They hadn't even had time to go riding that week. Taehyung wanted to, very badly, and made a promise to himself to ask Yoongi at the start of the following week. It probably wouldn't happen, since Yoongi was so busy and Taehyung's work was picking up again as well, but he could dream.

As he was feeding Nabi pieces of leftover meat from lunch, a heavy knock sounded on the door. Yoongi moved to stand up, but Taehyung waved him away as he jogged over to greet their guest.

"Hi, hyung," Junhee chirped. Taehyung stepped to the side to let him in, glancing to the side where Nabi was staring at them with her tail flickering behind her.

"Hi," Taehyung said, shutting the door behind him as Junhee walked over to where Yoongi was.

"Hyung, do you have the designs?"

"Mhm." Yoongi gestured to the stack of papers on the table, and Junhee picked them up with a whistle. "I worked on Hoseok's design last night, and I want you to go over Taehyung's. You'll be doing the bone carving, so make whatever changes you need to make."

"Cool," Junhee said, plopping back on the couch. Taehyung sat next to him, patting his thighs to call Nabi up, and Junhee peeked at her. "Think she'll like me?"

"Probably," Taehyung teased, rubbing his thumb between her ears. "She's liked everyone so far."

Junhee reached his hand out, and a wide grin stretched over his face when Nabi stretched her neck out so she could sniff at him. She let him pet her, and Taehyung shared a smile with Yoongi when Junhee giggled. "She's so cute. My mom's allergic so we can't keep one in the house."

"Too bad," Taehyung hummed, rubbing his fingers down Nabi's back.

"Yeah," Junhee sighed. He turned back to his papers once Nabi returned to cuddling Taehyung, and bit his lip. "Well, I think I want to decrease the width of the cross-guard. It'll support the dagger better if it's better balanced."

"Here," Yoongi said, getting up to grab a pencil off the bookshelf. He handed it to Junhee with a smile before sitting back down. "Make sure to note any changes you're making."

Junhee did so, and Taehyung went back to concentrating on Nabi as they went back and forth about the logistics of the design. It wasn't really his place to pay attention, since he knew little about weaponry, and he had already given his input on what he wanted. Yoongi knew, too, so he felt fairly confident that whatever they came up with would be beautiful.

Junhee drew back his attention a few minutes later, tapping his shoulder, and Taehyung tilted his head in a question. "Hm?"

"Do you have someone you're going to give it to?"

And. Well, Taehyung wasn't expecting that. He looked at Yoongi, hoping to find an anchor, but Yoongi wasn't looking at him. He was staring down at the papers in his hands, drawing what looked like scribbles at the top of the sheet, and a funny feeling washed over Taehyung.

"Well," he started, unsure of himself, "I'm not sure."

"Not sure?" Junhee pouted, and before Taehyung could try to change the subject he was speaking again. "There's this girl in my year, and I think I'm in love with her. I want to try courting her soon, but I'm not sure I'll have the courage."

Taehyung sucked in a breath, relief and affection flooding his mind at the same time. Yoongi looked up, too, and Taehyung figured he was in the clear. "You should go for it. What's her name?"

"Jakyung," Junhee answered, smiling down at the papers in his hands. He was holding them so tightly that Taehyung could see creases from where his fingers were, and he had to hide his knowing grin. "We're close, but I don't know if she sees me that way. I think she wanted to court someone else a few years back, but it didn't work out."

"You should still go for it," Yoongi said, his words coming out a little strained. He looked straight at Junhee, with his chin tipped up and his eyes hiding his emotions. "You won't know unless you try. Start small and work up until she notices."

"You think?" Junhee looked between them, eyes wide with childish innocence, and Taehyung smiled.

"Yoongi hyung's right," Taehyung said, patting his knee. "You said you're close, so you know what she likes. Right? It doesn't have to be anything extravagant."

"I was thinking of making her a necklace," Junhee explained, gnawing at his bottom lip. "My aunt brought home some seashells from a job at another clan and gave me some. I know seashells are kind of an old school courting gift, but I think she'd like a necklace with some. She really likes the sea."

Taehyung froze. His hands grew clammy, and even Nabi nuzzling against his belly was doing little to hone his focus. He refused to look at Yoongi, and he had a suspicion that Yoongi wasn't looking at him either. "Oh, really."

"Yeah," Junhee said, oblivious to Taehyung's inner turmoil as he tickled Nabi’s ears. "Different clans have old school courting gifts. Since our clan doesn't have an ocean bordering our territory, back in the day we would travel far to find seashells and pearls to give to their intended. It was a symbol of their devotion."

"That's—" Taehyung paused to clear his throat, and he had a desire to hide his face in Nabi's fur. "That's really nice, Junhee. I think she would like them. It's a very special message."

"We should get started," Yoongi said, interrupting anything else Junhee was going to say. Junhee was unperturbed, bouncing to his feet with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. Taehyung didn't look up, as he was afraid his heart might leap out of his throat.

"Cool," Junhee chirped. "See you later, hyung?"

"Sure," Taehyung said, giving Junhee an easy smile as Yoongi rounded the couch to head back outside. "I'll be out there in a little bit, okay? I have some sketches to finish myself."

"Okay, hyung," Junhee said, leaning down to give Nabi one final pat before he was jogging after Yoongi.

Taehyung stayed on the couch for a few minutes, imobile save the hand that was still petting Nabi, and let the realization that Yoongi was indeed courting him sink in like the morning dew melting into parched soil.

Chapter Text

They didn't talk about it.

Yoongi was swamped with work, and it wasn't long before Taehyung was right beside him trying to keep up with all the custom orders he was getting. They worked in silence, only speaking up to ask if the other wanted water or if it was time to break for lunch, and Taehyung was surprised that it wasn't....awkward.

He wanted to talk about what had happened, but he was so tired from working that he couldn't find the courage to bring it up. It was embarrassing, but he had a fear that if they talked about it the facade would break. Maybe it was a mix up. Maybe Yoongi wasn't courting him.

Yoongi treated him the same, ignoring the awkward moment they had had with Junhee and returning to their usual routine, and Taehyung supposed that was how it was going to have to be. They would talk about it. Eventually.

 

 

"How do I look?"

Taehyung looked up from his book, and even though he had been preparing himself all day to see Yoongi in ceremonial dress he was still blown away. The white complimented his skin tone beautifully, and the loose sleeves fell in the perfect way to make his arms and fingers look anything but long and pretty. "You look...great, hyung."

"You paused," Yoongi said, his lips curling up in a teasing smile. Taehyung didn’t mention that it was because he had to refrain from calling Yoongi beautiful. "You look good, too."

Taehyung looked down at himself. His skin tone was darker than Yoongi's, but he liked the way his tan looked against the white. The cloak was carefully secured over his shoulders, tied in a bow at his neck and flaring down around his torso in loose pleats. He had a white shirt underneath which came up to his neck, a few inches of ruffles peeking above the collar of the cloak. His trousers were the same shade of white, and he was surprised that Jieun didn't insist he wore white shoes as well.

Yoongi's outfit was very similar, the key differences being his more traditional pointed collar and the bulky knot he made to tie his cloak at his collarbone. "Are you ready to leave?"

Taehyung hummed, sucking in a breath as Yoongi smiled and swept past him to head to the door. Taehyung followed a few seconds later, his hand clammy. They put on their shoes quietly, and before Taehyung knew it they were walking down the path to town. He stepped carefully to not splatter dirt on himself, frowning down at the ground.

"You're fine," Yoongi said, amusement coloring his words. "Don't worry. I'm sure you won't be the only kid with dirt on your clothes."

Taehyung swatted at him, a whine building in his throat, and Yoongi tipped his head back in laughter. "You're cruel, hyung."

"I'm just playing," Yoongi said, his laughter dying down as they continued to walk.

It was surprisingly nice out, but Taehyung was expecting nothing less for Namjoon and Seokjin's ceremony. They had been planning so meticulously over the past two months that Taehyung would be shocked if everything didn't turn out exactly the way they wanted. They deserved it, he thought.

The moon was nicely positioned in the sky by the time they reached the outskirts of town, floating lanterns leading them towards where the ceremony was to take place. Taehyung stared at them in wonder, lips parted as the blue fire flickered prettily in their white cages.

"We associate white with purity," Yoongi explained, leading Taehyung to where a large group of people were gathering. They were chatting, taking their seats or saying hello and how are you as they waited for the main event. There was an arch placed before them, strung with little flickers of fire encased in glass bulbs and a mixture of flowers Taehyung didn't recognize.

"What kind of flowers are those, hyung?"

"White violets, myrtle, and daisies," Yoongi said, pointing to each flower so Taehyung could differentiate them. "They symbolize the newfound happiness the two of them will find in mating, and the loyalty they have for one another."

Taehyung sucked in a breath. "That's very..."

"Seokjin's romantic, even though he doesn't like to show much of that softer side to anyone except for Namjoon," Yoongi said, directing Taehyung to the front. He saw Hoseok and Jeongguk there, along with people he recognized as Seokjin's family. He had seen them before, but they hadn't exchanged many words outside of pleasantries during festivals. "Come, let's sit."

Taehyung was amazed by how many chairs were put out. He knew the clan was large, but when Yoongi had told him everyone who was able would show up for the mating, he hadn't believed him. Marriages in his town were rather small, and it was rare that anyone outside the family joined. They were hardly celebrations. He liked the change.

Hoseok squeezed his hand as Taehyung sat next to him, and he looked handsome in his white attire. Jeongguk was matching, a soft smile on his face as he spoke to a woman Taehyung knew to be Seokjin's cousin, and Taehyung smiled to himself as they got comfortable.

Yoongi was speaking to Seokjin's grandparents, seated in front of them, and only stopped when a group of people filed in behind them. Taehyung beamed when he recognized Yoongi's family, and he had to hide his laugh behind his hand when Yoongi's mother pinched his cheek and cooed at him.

"You're so handsome," she said, patting his cheek before sitting down. "Yoongi-yah, take care of him."

Yoongi whipped around to look at her, his cheeks red, and Taehyung sucked in a shaky breath. "Mom."

"You've been taking such good care of him already," she said, unbothered by the embarrassment radiating from her son. "You make sure he's happy."

"I am happy," Taehyung said, smiling shyly as Yoongi's father watched him from the corner of his eye. "Yoongi hyung is very kind, I promise."

"Good," she said, patting the back of his chair. "Oh, I think they might be starting soon."

A low thrum of music started to play, smooth and pretty, and Taehyung looked forward as his feet tapped against the ground in anticipation. He must have been making sound, because Yoongi placed a hand on his knee to keep him still, and Taehyung flashed him a guilty smile before focusing back on the altar.

Elder Son walked down the aisle first, a book placed in her palms. It was as white as the clothes on her body, and Taehyung could see the vague imprint of the ancient language on the spine of it. A mage followed behind her, his eyes shining as the magic brimmed at the tip of his fingertips. Their eyes were closed, but they opened them right before the altar as they turned around to face the crowd.

The mage stepped to the side, sparks of magic falling from his fingers like water droplets. Elder Son smiled, and Taehyung swore he could feel the energy radiating in the crowd. "I welcome you all to the mating ceremony of Kim Namjoon and Kim Seokjin. We are gathered to celebrate the next stage of their life, where they are fated to navigate the world with each other."

The crowd was silent, but that didn't stop the energy from heightening as the music slowed to a pretty hum. They all turned towards the back, and Taehyung followed suit. He and Hoseok had delayed reactions, since they had never attended a mating ceremony before, but it was easy to pick up on what they were missing.

Namjoon and Seokjin entered his sight at the same time, translucent veils the color of gold pulled over their heads. The tails were held by Seokjin's parents, Seokjin's father with Namjoon, and the two of them walked hand in hand down the aisle.

Taehyung stared at them, drawn in to the deep navy of their robes. The crowd murmured as they took in the embroidery on their backs, and the design was even more beautiful than Taehyung had remembered. The dragon and the buck were intertwined, complementing each other, and Taehyung sucked in a breath as he marveled at the beauty of Jieun’s work.

Yoongi squeezed his knee.

Namjoon and Seokjin got down on their knees, sitting back on their heels as Elder Son smiled at them. There was a fondness in her eyes as she looked at Seokjin, but she shared the same fondness for Namjoon. It made Taehyung feel...good, he supposed.

"Kim Namjoon, born on September twelfth to the Kim family in a world separate from our own, do you accept the responsibility of taking Kim Seokjin as your mate?"

Namjoon lifted his head, and Taehyung's heart softened once he realized Seokjin had reached over to intertwine their fingers. "Yes, I do."

Elder Son hummed, turning to look at Seokjin. "Kim Seokjin, born on December fourth to the Kim family of our clan, do you accept the responsibility of taking Kim Namjoon as your mate?"

Seokjin rolled his shoulders back, confidence radiating off of him. "Yes, I do."

Elder Son opened her book, then, to a bookmarked page. She pressed a fingertip against the words before speaking. She began to recite the traditional ceremony in the ancient language, the words as slippery and strong as Taehyung had remembered. He had read about it, once, with Junhee. He could understand most of what she was saying, but he still struggled every now and then with some of the more complicated words.

Namjoon and Seokjin replied to her when prompted, and Taehyung was pleasantly surprised to hear how fluent Namjoon sounded.

Elder Son stepped back once she finished reading, and her smile was wide as she gestured for the mage to step forward. "This mage will bind you in life and death, so that you may find eternal happiness with one another."

Taehyung leaned forward in his seat, and Hoseok squeezed his hand as the excitement built in the crowd. The mage stood in front of them, and Taehyung could hear the muttering of the ancient language under his breath as the magic in his fingertips grew. He lifted their conjoined hands, and Taehyung's lips parted in surprise when the magic started to bundle up around them.

The mage finished his utterings, and Namjoon and Seokjin both let out a sigh as their hands were dropped back down. Elder Son took back her place as the mage returned to his, and she placed her hands on top of their heads. "With the binding completed, I ask you to remove your veils and seal your mating with a kiss."

Noise started up in the crowd as Namjoon and Seokjin faced each other, sharing laughter as they fumbled to remove each other's veils and loop them around their necks. Seokjin cupped Namjoon's face, whispering something that had Namjoon laugh before they were leaning in to kiss one another.

The crowd broke out into cheers, and Taehyung couldn't help but jump up as everyone else did to clap and shout and wiggle about in excitement.

 

 

"Come on," Yoongi said, pressing a hand between Taehyung's shoulder blades. Namjoon and Seokjin had exited, the crowd cheering as loud as they could, and they were to be met at the courtyard on the other side of town where the party was set up. There were more lanterns to guide them, but the crowd was moving as if they already knew where to go. Taehyung supposed they did. "They'll come out a few minutes after everyone is gathered, and then we'll feast."

"That was really amazing," Hoseok sighed, hooking his arm with Jeongguk's as they followed the flow of the crowd. There was a brightness to everyone that Taehyung loved. "I'm so happy for them."

"As am I," Yoongi said, his smile soft but proud. His hand was still on Taehyung's back, and Taehyung didn't mind it.

There were round tables set up around the courtyard, surrounding the small rose garden that Taehyung learned was upkept to commemorate the founders of their clan. It was tradition to have mating festivities near the garden in order to add vitality to their history and future.

Yoongi pointed to a table, and they followed his lead before taking a seat. Jieun found them, too, and with her she dragged along Yoona and Sooyoung and Sooyoung's mate, Kyungho. They talked amongst each other, catching up on any gossip Jieun had and what kind of work they were up to. It was nice.

Once everyone was seated, a murmur going over the crowd with all the different conversations going on, they were alerted by the newly mated couple's entrance by the low thrum a music.

Taehyung perked up in his seat, sitting on his hands as an attempt to contain himself as Namjoon and Seokjin entered with their family following behind. Most of Seokjin's family was already seated at the various tables, but his parents and siblings and grandparents were behind them with bright smiles.

Namjoon and Seokjin walked hand in hand, bright smiles stretching over their faces as they walked to the table reserved especially for them. It had only two seats on it, and they were sat at the mouth of the garden facing the rest of the tables and the dance area.

Namjoon shyly waved to their table, and Taehyung laughed behind his hand when Seokjin perked up and winked at them playfully before leading his mate to their seats.

The rest of the family sat at the other tables, and Taehyung found energy buzzing beneath his skin as the music started to pick up. The aroma of fresh food hit him, and his stomach growled expectantly as a group of teenagers came out with platters to serve them.

"I didn't know they did that," Taehyung said, blinking as he spotted some of the kids from Junhee's class walking around. He couldn't see Junhee, but there was too much movement to try and look for him.

"It would be too hectic if we tried to serve ourselves," Yoongi explained. "The kids do it as a respect thing, celebrating the new mating and all that."

"That's really nice," Taehyung hummed, biting his lip when a plate was placed in front of him. Unsurprisingly, the plate was filled with venison and leafy greens and rice and all sorts of foods Taehyung knew Namjoon and Seokjin loved. They were brought a small bowl of stew as well, and Taehyung sighed in delight as they all started to dig in.

The hum of conversation died down as they all ate, and Taehyung found himself getting lost in how wonderful it tasted. Hoseok had mentioned that Jeongguk went hunting for three days just for the wedding, and in Taehyung's opinion it paid off.

"Good job," Taehyung heard Hoseok whisper. He caught the red to Jeongguk's ears and smiled to himself, returning to his own food.

It really was great. Taehyung knew Namjoon was probably enjoying himself to the fullest, and when he looked up his thoughts were confirmed with Namjoon's bright smile as Seokjin fed him bits of meat.

They chatted mindlessly, talking about all sorts of things in between bites and sips. It was easy to fall into the joy of it all. Taehyung didn't mind one bit. He liked the sense of normalcy.

Taehyung perked up when he saw Namjoon and Seokjin rise from their table, and Yoongi leaned in. "They'll come greet everyone, and then from there they'll open up the dancing."

Taehyung laughed behind his hand, feeling sorry for Namjoon since he knew he wasn't the biggest fan of it. "That's very cute. Will you dance with me, hyung?"

Yoongi's cheeks turned pink, but he nodded despite it. "Yeah. We can dance."

"Hoseok and Jeongguk are going to show off," Yoona joked, poking Hoseok's arm when he laughed and shook his head. "What? You two are the best dancers in the clan."

"You think so?" Hoseok asked, rubbing the side of his neck. His cheeks were pink, but he looked proud anyways.

"Hyung is," Jeongguk said, smiling as Hoseok pressed a hand to the crook of his elbow. "You're going to blow everyone away."

Taehyung smiled to himself, picking up the glass that had been placed in front of him filled with wine. It was bitter, but the taste was good paired with their food. He was careful not to spill on himself, knowing it would be embarrassing to survive the rest of the night with a deep crimson stain on his clothes, and Yoongi gave him a knowing look.

They all sat up straighter when Namjoon and Seokjin approached their table, smiles fully on, and Namjoon was the first to break into a smattering of laughter. They looked ethereal, arms looped together as their golden veils sparkled against the collar of their robes. It was such a pretty combination of colors, especially underneath the moonlight. "You're all ridiculous. Are you enjoying yourselves?"

"Yes," Yoongi said, grinning when Seokjin eyed him suspiciously. He folded his hands on the table in front of him. "I won't tease you, hyung, it's your special day."

"I'm glad," Seokjin said, his tone still wary as he rested a hand on Namjoon's bicep. "Either way, thank you all for coming. You know we appreciate the support."

"It's really great, hyung," Jeongguk said, tilting his head back a little so he could look up at Seokjin. Seokjin smiled down at him, dropping his hand briefly to pat the top of Jeongguk's head.

"We'll come around later," Namjoon said, already taking a few steps to the side to lead Seokjin to the next table. Taehyung didn't blame them. They still had a few tables to go. "Yoongi hyung, save me a dance?"

Yoongi raised his drink to him as Namjoon dragged a laughing Seokjin away, and he tipped his head back to drink once they were gone. Taehyung watched the line of his throat as he swallowed, unashamed in his actions, and Hoseok cleared his throat loudly beside him before Yoongi had a chance to notice.

Taehyung's lips twitched, resisting the urge to smile, and he pressed his knee playfully against Hoseok's.

They returned to their conversations as Namjoon and Seokjin greeted the rest of their guests, the noise of chatter picking up again as the majority of the clan finished up their food. Taehyung had eaten his entire plate, and he was more excited for the festivities to begin so he could indulge in the sweets table he could see the younger kids setting up on the other side of the garden. There were tables being arranged for games, too, which Taehyung knew to be fashioned with Namjoon and Seokjin's favorites.

His heart squeezed with affection as the music picked up, and he leaned forward in his seat as Seokjin took long strides to the center of the dance area. He extended his arm to a shy Namjoon, who took it with a shake of his head and a laugh falling from his lips. They began to dance, simple and traditional in the way they held each other and spun to the right at every third beat. Taehyung had seen the dance before, when he was younger and the town could afford to dance at the late hours of the night, and he wanted to join in.

"Hyung?"

Yoongi looked at him, a smile growing on his lips. "You want to?"

"Yes," Taehyung said, scooting his chair back and slipping out of it. He waited for Yoongi to get up before pushing it back in, and Hoseok and Jeongguk got up as well.

There were already a few couples on the dance floor, filing alongside Namjoon and Seokjin to match their lead, and Taehyung felt excited. He had never danced with so many people at the same time.

Yoongi looped a hand over Taehyung's elbow as it was offered to him, and Taehyung waited with bated breath for an opening. He slipped them in as soon as he was able, and Yoongi twisted to face him with a sure grin. They matched each other well, gripping shoulders and intertwining the opposite hands. Taehyung was a little rusty on the particular steps, but Yoongi led him well. They laughed together, light and airy from a mixture of joy and full stomachs and alcohol.

Yoongi was a good partner. He was light on his feet, surprisingly so, and he led them whenever Taehyung stumbled or forgot to turn at a specific time. Taehyung thought it might be awkward with the tension of the unknown between them, but it was anything but that.

There was a chill to the air, but Taehyung didn't find himself cold. Yoongi emitted warmth, and it only served as more of a reason for Taehyung to keep their dance close. They laughed as they spun, joyous and silly, and Taehyung probably should have been more embarrassed whenever he tripped over his feet or knocked them against Yoongi's.

Yoongi didn't seem to mind, though. "You're getting better," he teased, lips curled into a grin. "Try not to step on my toes."

"I haven't," Taehyung said, laughing as he squeezed Yoongi's fingers. "I won't."

The song trailed off, signalling the end of their dance, and Taehyung felt a childish sadness as they parted with a bow. He wanted to keep dancing, but there was so much more to enjoy. Yoongi seemed to sense his dilemma, nudging his chin in the direction of the sweets. "Let's go try some of that, yeah?"

"Yeah," Taehyung said, making sure to get out of the way as the rest of the couples started the next dance. "You read my mind."

"You have a sweet tooth," Yoongi said. He offered his arm, and Taehyung didn't hesitate to hold onto it so they could navigate through the crowd together. It wasn't so thick that they would be separated, but it was just busy enough that Taehyung could use it as an excuse to stick to Yoongi's side.

"I'm not used to getting a lot of sweets," Taehyung admitted. His parents couldn't buy sweets very often, and even if they had the means to it was rare for them to find people who sold them. Taehyung didn't miss the eat to survive mentality. "I think I've gotten spoiled."

"That's alright," Yoongi hummed. "It's good to be spoiled."

Taehyung smiled, his heart hammering against his chest. "You think so?"

"Spoiled is a good look on you," Yoongi said, pinching the fat of Taehyung’s cheek.

Taehyung didn't have much of a chance to respond to that. They were pushed along with the crowd up to the sweets, quickly grabbing themselves multitudes of whatever they could get their hands on before they were being ushered aside to let more people along. Taehyung laughed to himself, staring down at the chocolate and vanilla and cherry and—

"Slow down," Yoongi laughed. He brushed his thumb against the corner of Taehyung's lips, and Taehyung held his breath. "You're going to make a mess."

"I have a napkin," Taehyung said, as if that excused his messy eating. "Hyung."

"Eat," Yoongi said, a grin stretching over his lips as he nibbled on a cookie. "Just be careful."

Taehyung sucked on his bottom lip before popping another piece of chocolatey goodness into his mouth, and a moan rose at the back of his throat as it melted on his tongue. Yoongi didn't make sweets very often, and even if Taehyung loved his cooking Yoongi wasn't the best baker. These sweets were godly.

Yoongi gave him an odd look, tongue swiping over the seam of his lips, and Taehyung met his eyes as he sucked the chocolate off his fingers. Yoongi averted his eyes then, and with the way the tips of his ears were coloring pink Taehyung knew he was playing a dangerous game.

Taehyung stole a bite of the doughy pastry in Yoongi's hand, ignoring Yoongi's hard look, as they made their way over to the game tables. One of the elders, Elder Song, was setting up a game and she grinned when she noticed them.

"Come and sit, you two. Finish your treats and play a game with me."

"She's sneaky," Yoongi whispered once they were seated, licking sugar off his lips. "Don't let her catch you off guard."

"Don't be whispering to him," Elder Song said, smacking her hand playfully against the table. Taehyung muffled his laughter behind his hand, knowing his mouth was full of food. Yoongi smiled at him, winking, and returned to his own sweets.

They finished their dessert as Elder Song started to shuffle her cards, and Taehyung leaned forward to watch her. She was skilled at, more so than some of the other elders Taehyung had played with. It was fascinating just to watch her.

She dealt them their hands, and Taehyung listened intently as she explained the game. It was one he had played before, during the festivals, and it was simple enough. The main objective was to form melds, and even if Taehyung wasn't the best at cards he was going to do his best.

Yoongi, on the other hand, was very good at cards. They would play at home, sometimes, and it was rare that Taehyung bested him in a game. A large part of it was luck, but Yoongi had a good amount of skill with card games that Taehyung found impressive.

Elder Song sighed, and Taehyung thought she might have pulled a bad hand. He wondered if he should put down a card or pull from the deck. One one hand, he wanted to win, but he didn't want to upset her, either.

He smiled at her as he drew a card from the deck, trying to appear sweet, and she narrowed her eyes. As if to prove a point, she smacked down a card that won her the game.

Taehyung sputtered, and Yoongi snorted a laugh through his nose. "I told you, Tae."

"I didn't even say anything!"

"I won't be pitied in my own game," Elder Song said, wagging a finger at him. "Now shuffle the cards, boy. Play right."

Taehyung did as he was told, pouting the entire time, and Yoongi patted him between the shoulders with a muffled snicker.

 

 

Elder Song eventually got up to sneak some more desserts, and Taehyung pulled Yoongi up from the table with a meaningful smile.

"Let's dance some more, hyung?"

Yoongi sighed, but he didn't seem truly put out. Instead, he offered his arm and led them back to the dance area when Taehyung grinned and held onto him. "I don't think Namjoon and Seokjin have stopped."

"They're cute," Taehyung said, smiling as they waited for an opening. Namjoon was spinning Seokjin around, laughing loudly whenever Seokjin made a face at him or poked his sides, and they looked like they were having the time of their lives.

Yoongi led him into the crowd, and they assumed the same position they had earlier as they began to dance. It was a more modern dance, once that Taehyung had seen his parents twirl around to when he was younger. The thought didn't make him feel as sad as he thought it might have. "I know Seokjin was worried that everything wasn't going to be perfect, but I think it was a success," Yoongi hummed.

"I think so, too," Taehyung said, his smile bright. Yoongi pulled away briefly so Taehyung could spin him, and Taehyung giggled as the silliness of it.

Yoongi seemed amused, and Taehyung pulled him in tighter once they were back together. The other couples seemed to be enjoying themselves, laughing amongst each other and talking loudly as the band played in the background. It was easy to get lost in the length of Yoongi's eyelashes, Taehyung's favorite thing to look at, and if Yoongi noticed him staring he didn't say anything about it.

Taehyung felt light on his feet. It was hard to ignore the buzz at the back of his mind from the alcohol, but it was a pleasant buzz. He hardly drank alcohol, didn't like the feeling more often than not, but he wasn't opposed to the way it loosened him up. He felt drunk on happiness rather than wine.

"Hyung," Taehyung said, giggling when Yoongi's chest brushed up against his. His scales sparkled in the moonlight, almost like stars on Yoongi's smooth skin. "Did you know you're very handsome?"

Yoongi's eyelashes fluttered, and Taehyung tried not to think of what might happen if he leaned forward and kissed them. "If I didn't, I do now."

"I'm glad," Taehyung said, squeezing Yoongi's forearm. It felt nice, to touch him. "I think it'd be sinful for you not to know."

"Do you now?" Yoongi said, an amused smirk curling at his lips. Taehyung thought of Nabi, of the way she would grin at him from across the room and flicker her tail before pouncing. "I feel the same towards you."

"In what way?" Taehyung asked, inhaling sharply through his nose when Yoongi rolled his head to the side. His smile was all too knowing, and his eyes were deep enough that Taehyung thought he might drown.

"You're very handsome," Yoongi drawled, twirling them when Taehyung forgot to. "Do you know you have a mole? On the tip of your nose."

Taehyung did know. For the sake of whatever strange feeling that was sticking to his skin, he feigned innocence. "Do I? And what do you think of it?"

Yoongi laughed, short and almost like a bark. "I think it's charming," he said. He leaned forward then, and Taehyung forgot the mechanism of breathing as their noses brushed together. "You're a very charming person."

"You've said that before," Taehyung said, his chest feeling tight. Yoongi had been close to him before, but it was hard to think when he was so close that their skin was pressed together in ways it hadn't been before.

"It should not be forgotten," Yoongi said. Taehyung felt the tickle of his breath against his lips, and he struggled not to stumble over his own feet. "Don't you think?"

"I think you're teasing me," Taehyung admitted, his heart hammering against his chest with a vengeance. He felt hot, even with the brisk night air, and it was hard to look anywhere except for Yoongi's dark eyes.

"Do you?" Yoongi said, his grin turning into something more soft and serene. "If I kissed you, would that appease you?"

Taehyung sucked in a breath, and he would be lying if he didn't lean in to feel more of Yoongi's body pressed against him. "I would— I would like that a lot, hyung."

Yoongi smiled, and the last thing he saw was Yoongi's eyelashes fluttering as he shut his eyes before leaning in. He closed his eyes at the same instance, and a sense of thrill fell over him as Yoongi's lips pressed against his own. Yoongi's lips were softer than Taehyung had imagined, since Yoongi was always sucking and biting them, and Taehyung found himself melting into the kiss.

Yoongi pulled back, slowly, and Taehyung trailed after him like a puppy. It was a bit embarrassing, but as he opened his eyes his heart softened at the look Yoongi was giving him. Yoongi squeezed his hand, and Taehyung hoped he couldn't feel how sweaty Taehyung's palms were. "Good?"

"Good," Taehyung breathed. He couldn't resist the urge to lean in again, chastely pressing his lips against Yoongi's just to feel him. Yoongi smiled into it, and Taehyung's heart flipped in his chest. He looked around to see if anyone had caught them, but all eyes were off them as dragons and humans alike laughed and drank and sang and ate. "Very good."

 

 

Yoongi kissed him, again, as Namjoon and Seokjin climbed into the air, the crowd whooping and hollering up at the moon to bless their union. They were hidden between the celebrations, sparklers being waved around in a way that might have frightened Taehyung had he not been drinking, and Taehyung delighted himself by wrapping his arms around Yoongi’s neck to pull him in closer.

Chapter Text

Taehyung woke to a hand brushing through his hair, the gentle fingertips pressing into his scalp in a light massage as his eyes flickered open. He leaned into it, blinking to clear his vision, and a smile grew on his face as he focused on Yoongi's calm gaze.

"Morning," Yoongi said, his voice slurred with sleepiness. Taehyung didn't remember much of what had happened when they had gotten home, but the both of them were at least dressed in a fresh set of pajamas. There was a dull throb at the back of his mind, but Yoongi’s touch was doing well to soothe it. "Sleep well?"

"Like the dead," Taehyung said, resisting the urge to shut his eyes as Yoongi massaged down to his neck. He curled into him like a cat, seeking more of Yoongi's warmth.

Their arms were pressed together, chests facing each other but inches apart, and Taehyung could feel his feet pressed against Yoongi's calves. It was intimate, more intimate than they had ever been, and Taehyung felt satisfied.

Yoongi hummed, and Taehyung's eyes followed his tongue as it ran between his lips. "Yeah. Me too."

Taehyung's chest burned as he remembered the way their lips pressed together the previous night. It had felt so normal. He wanted to try and kiss Yoongi again, but he didn't trust his morning breath. "We should talk, hyung."

Yoongi's hand cupped the back of Taehyung's neck, and Taehyung had to fight the urge to close his eyes at the sense of comfort that wrapped around him. "We should. Let's clean up and get breakfast first, yeah?"

"Yeah," Taehyung whispered. There was a dull moment when Yoongi pulled away, sliding out of Taehyung's bed and stretching his arms over his his head. His pajama shirt was thin, and Taehyung bit his lip as he watched the curve of his muscles underneath it.

Taehyung forced himself to the bathroom to wash his face and mouth as Yoongi disappeared into his own room, presumably to use his bathroom, and couldn't hide the smile that was growing on his face. He hadn't been afraid the previous night, since his head was foggy with alcohol, and Yoongi hadn't allowed him to wake up afraid, either. They were in a good place.

He went back to his room to change into a fresh set of clothes, and he could already hear Yoongi in the kitchen. The giddiness made him slow to change, and he laughed to himself as he struggled to pull his shirt on. He felt silly, like a child, but it was a nice feeling. He didn't like to take himself too seriously, anyways.

Yoongi was making eggs when Taehyung joined him, and he looked even more handsome in the dark blue shirt and black trousers he had pulled on. Taehyung wanted to kiss him terribly. "It smells good, hyung."

"Just eggs and some meat," Yoongi said, the corner of his lips curling up in a smirk. "You're easily pleased."

"And you're mean," Taehyung said, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the counter. He wanted to set the table, but he wanted to stay closer to Yoongi even more.

Yoongi laughed under his breath, and he gestured for the plates on the counter behind Taehyung. "Help me, Tae."

Taehyung rolled his eyes, but he couldn't hide his smile as he reached for the plates and held them out so Yoongi could lift the pan and fill them up with food. The meat and eggs smelled even better on the plate than they did in the pan, and Taehyung inhaled deeply as he walked over to put them down on the table. "Thank you, hyung."

Yoongi hummed, and he followed Taehyung with utensils and glasses full of juice he had ready on the counter. "Eat a lot. I'm surprised you're not hungover."

"Are you?" Taehyung asked, tipping his head. He didn't have much pain like it had been when he first woke up, just some residual sluggishness.

Yoongi shrugged his shoulders as he sat down in his usual seat across from Taehyung. "A little. I think we drank a lot of water before bed."

Taehyung shrugged, picking up his utensils to dig in. Yoongi was slower to start eating, and Taehyung hoped he wasn't in too much pain. They didn't drink too much the previous night, Taehyung thought.

The food was a warm welcome on his tongue, and he sighed happily as he swallowed down the first bite. "It's good, hyung."

"Good," Yoongi said, his face loose with relaxation. "Eat up, then."

Taehyung did as he was told. They ate in relative silence, save for a few comments here or there or a plea for more juice or silly things like that, and Taehyung liked it. It was comfortable.

He ate until his stomach was full and his plate was empty, and he leaned back against his chair to stretch himself out with a happy sigh. "I needed that."

Yoongi licked grease off his lips as he settled into his chair as well, and he hummed. "Let's clean up and move to the couch, yeah?"

Taehyung nodded, an inkling of anxiety crawling underneath his skin of what that meant. They had to talk, but Taehyung had never had a conversation like that before. It made him nervous, even though he knew Yoongi would never hurt him. "Okay."

They cleaned the dishes together, and Taehyung found himself even more drawn to Yoongi's warmth. The weather was hot outside, but Taehyung didn't care. He wanted to press against Yoongi, to feel his body heat. It was embarrassing and it made him feel like a teenager, but he wanted that intimacy again.

Yoongi smiled at him as he shut off the water, waiting patiently as Taehyung finished drying the last plate before putting it back in the cupboard. They seemed to be waiting for the other to make the first move, and Taehyung breathed out a sigh of relief as Yoongi started to walk towards the living area.

He followed, and he waited until Yoongi sat down to take up the space next to him on the couch. Yoongi's hand lifted, like he was going to place his hand on Taehyung's knee, but it dropped back to his lap. Taehyung itched to touch him, too.

"Alright," Yoongi said, licking his lips. "Where should we start?"

"Probably not last night," Taehyung suggested, tilting his head as Yoongi's cheeks flushed. "I think this started a while ago, hyung."

"You're...right," Yoongi admitted. He rubbed a hand against his forearm, and his gaze dropped to the ground. Taehyung had never seen him so shy. "I know you figured out the courting."

"I did," Taehyung said, a ghost of a smile pulling at his lips. "I had my suspicions, but Junhee confirmed them when we talked."

"It was subconscious at first," Yoongi mumbled, pinching his skin and rolling it between his thumb and index finger. "The, uh, the gifts."

"I remember the seashells you brought me," Taehyung said, leaning in. Yoongi's eyes lifted up to meet his, and Taehyung knew he wasn't imagining the way they darkened.

"They're still on your desk." Yoongi smiled, confidence seeping back into his expression. "You liked them?"

"I liked them even more when I realized what they meant," Taehyung admitted. Yoongi laughed, gently, and Taehyung smiled. "Why me, hyung?"

It was a loaded question. Still, he wanted to know. He didn't think Yoongi was capable of hurting him, not now, but he wanted that affirmation.

"Because you make me happy."

Taehyung... had not been expecting that. It was a simple response, but it made Taehyung's heart swell up with affection and relief and pride. He made Yoongi happy. "I do?"

"Yes," Yoongi snorted, shaking his head a little. "You do. You inspire me a lot. And you make me laugh."

"I like it when you laugh," Taehyung said, resting his cheek against the cushioned edge of the couch. Yoongi's eyes curved as he smiled. "You're pretty, hyung. Has anyone ever told you that?"

"Not anyone that I wanted to hear it from as much as you," Yoongi said, laughing when Taehyung swatted him for being so cheesy. "Hey, you started it, don't hit me."

"You're so..." Taehyung bit his lip as his cheeks ached from smiling so hard. "Hyung."

"I like you," Yoongi said, simply. His confession shot Taehyung through the heart, and even though he had been expecting it, Taehyung's heart clenched. "I've liked you for a while, Taehyung-ah."

"Me too," Taehyung said, sucking in a breath as Yoongi tipped his head back. "I like you, hyung."

"Would you let me kiss you? Again?"

Taehyung licked his lips, grateful that they weren't chapped, and he nodded even though his heart was threatening to leap out of his chest. "Please, hyung."

It took a few seconds, nerves bouncing between them like static, but Yoongi lifted his hand up to curve around Taehyung's jaw and Taehyung leaned into it like there was nowhere else he wanted to be. Their lips hovered for a few seconds, anticipation pushing and pulling them, before Taehyung pressed forward to seal the deal.

Taehyung melted at the softness of Yoongi's lips, and his hand dropped to curl around Yoongi's waist. Yoongi sighed, and Taehyung giggled as the air tickled his lips. They moved against each other, soft and sweet like children kissing for the first time, and it was nice. It was everything Taehyung had been dreaming of for weeks, and it was real.

Yoongi pulled away first, and as Taehyung chased after his lips he peppered light kisses over Taehyung's chin and jaw. The warmth was sweet and so, so satisfying, that Taehyung found himself tipping his head back to welcome more kisses over his skin.

Yoongi hummed, his lips pressed against Taehyung's neck as soon as he was invited there, and Taehyung sucked in a shaky breath. He tightened his grip on Yoongi's hip, sliding his hand up until it curved around Yoongi's waist, and it was so nice to feel the way Yoongi's shirt bunched up underneath the pressure of his fingers.

"You drive me crazy," Yoongi said against his throat. The words tickled his skin, and Taehyung giggled.

"That's a good thing, right?"

"It is," Yoongi said. He pulled back properly that time, and although Taehyung missed the warmth of his lips, he liked looking at Yoongi's blissful expression even more.

He cupped Yoongi's face with both of his hands, temporarily ignoring his fascination with Yoongi's waist, and smiled when Yoongi scrunched up his nose. "Hyung. I want you to court me properly. I'd like to court you in return."

Yoongi's face went blank as he took in what Taehyung was saying, and a happy laugh floated out of him once it settled. "Yeah. I'd like that a lot, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung smiled, and he couldn't help himself from leaning in to kiss Yoongi until their lips and hearts were swollen with affection.

 

 

"Don't tell them," Yoongi whispered, his hand resting on the small of Taehyung's back as they walked to Namjoon and Seokjin's house. They were due for dinner so that they could send Namjoon and Seokjin off on their honeymoon. It was more intimate than the mating ceremony had been, with just their small group of friends invited. "Everyone was too drunk last night to tell what happened between us. Let them figure it out."

"Seokjin hyung is going to make a big show out of it," Taehyung said, laughing behind his hand. It was so hot outside, but he still found himself craving Yoongi's warmth. "You know how loud he gets."

"Let him," Yoongi said, grinning as he pulled back. His lips were still swollen from their kissing, and Taehyung wondered if the others would notice. "I teased the two of them a lot when they got together, so I'm sure he'll want revenge."

Taehyung snorted, and he squeezed an arm around Yoongi's waist before pulling away as the house came in sight. The sky above was so pretty, splashed with oranges and yellows and reds from the setting sun. It felt almost surreal, knowing that he was going to visit friends with the secret of Yoongi's confession poking at his heart.

Selfishly, he wanted to keep it to himself. At the same time, he wanted to show Yoongi off. This man likes me, Taehyung thought to himself as Yoongi climbed the steps and knocked on the front door. This brilliant, amazing man.

His scales glistened, shining almost red in the light, and Taehyung sucked in a careful breath. Yoongi seemed to hear it, and he threw Taehyung a wink over his shoulder before straightening out again as Namjoon opened the door with a happy laugh.

"Hyung!" Taehyung surged forward to greet him with a hug, and Namjoon squeezed him before stepping back to invite them inside. "How was everything? We didn't get to talk much last night."

"Good," Namjoon said, his face devoid of any stress or exhaustion. He looked good. Happy. "Seokjin hyung will be upset if I start telling you about it without him, though, so come in."

Yoongi and Namjoon shared a gentler hug as Taehyung kicked off his shoes and ventured into the house, perking up when he saw Hoseok and Jeongguk chatting with Seokjin at the table. The food was already out, and Taehyung's mouth watered as they looked up to greet them.

"Hi," Taehyung chirped, slipping into the seat next to Hoseok. Hoseok smiled, nudging their elbows together.

"You're in a good mood," Hoseok commented, laughing when Taehyung's cheeks flushed. "That's a good thing."

"I'm happy," Taehyung said, tilting his chin up. "I had a great night."

Yoongi dropped into the seat next to him, and he patted Taehyung's thigh. To anyone else, it was a normal gesture, but it had Taehyung sitting up straighter. There was a heaviness to Yoongi's touch that hadn't been there before, and Taehyung liked it. Or, maybe it had been there all along and Taehyung never understood what it meant.

Seokjin started on his version of the night, while Namjoon helped pass around the food. Taehyung hid his laughter as Seokjin complained about the elders not letting him win at games even though it was his mating night, and Jeongguk snorted.

"Hyung, you were drunk and could hardly play. They were trying to go easy on you."

Seokjin rolled his eyes. "We don't need to get into specifics. Anyways, my feet hurt from how much dancing we did. Time passed so fast, didn't it, Joon-ah?"

Namjoon smiled, pressing his arm against Seokjin's as they all started to dig in. "It did. Your mom wanted to dance with me the entire night."

"Because she loves you," Yoongi said. He gestured to Seokjin. "Probably more than this buffoon. Not that I blame her."

"I could snap you in half with my teeth, you little worm—"

"I, for one, had a great time dancing," Namjoon said loudly, smacking a hand over Seokjin's hand until he calmed down. "The food was great, too. Thanks, Guk-ah."

Jeongguk puffed his chest out, and Hoseok grinned. "He got a big head about it, everyone kept complimenting him."

"I spent days hunting the best game," Jeongguk said, pouting even as Hoseok cooed and tickled under his chin. "The herds were being difficult, it's almost like they knew."

Namjoon smiled despite the morbidity, eyeing Seokjin. "It was perfect, really."

Yoongi squeezed Taehyung's knee, and Taehyung smiled down at his plate. He was used to Yoongi's touch, but the new emotions behind it had butterflies tickling at his stomach.

Seokjin continued to tell various stories about the wedding, ranging from interactions with their guests to things he and Namjoon did together, and Taehyung listened intently. He loved the whole idea of a mating ceremony, as it fed his inner romantic.

They ate to the tune of Seokjin's stories, Namjoon piping in every now and then to offer his side of the story, and it was nice. Taehyung felt like he had to pinch himself sometimes, in order to remind himself that he was allowed to enjoy a life so peaceful and happy.

They moved to the living room after eating, all of them helping put the plates and utensils and glasses in the sink, and Taehyung plopped into the seat next to Yoongi before anyone else could. Jeongguk, who had just been about to sit down, gave him a strange look but shrugged his shoulders and found a spot halfway Hoseok's lap on the other side of the couch.

Taehyung smiled, sheepish, as Yoongi snorted and Seokjin raised a brow at them. "Anyways," he said, taking his usual seat cuddled up with Namjoon on the wider armchair. "We're going to be gone for the next week. Won't you miss us?"

Yoongi raised a brow. "Oh, sure. I'll miss Namjoon a lot."

"I’ll miss you, too, hyung," Namjoon said, intervening before Seokjin could retaliate, "I'm excited to go on the trip."

"Where are you going again?" Taehyung asked, leaning in as Namjoon smiled.

"To one of the eastern territories. There are beaches there."

Taehyung perked up at that, squeezing Yoongi's forearm as he turned to look at him. "Hyung! Real beaches?"

"What, the lake isn't good enough for you?" Yoongi teased, grinning as he poked Taehyung. "Maybe we'll go one day."

"I've wanted to go for a while," Namjoon said, sharing a look with Seokjin. "We've visited for work, but never for vacation."

"That sounds fun," Hoseok said, running his fingers through Jeongguk's hair. Jeongguk curled against him, his eyelids hanging heavy. "I'm surprised you two aren't staying for longer?"

"We can't take off that much time," Namjoon said, waving his hand. "It's fine. We don't need much more than a week."

"Besides, we might take another vacation during the winter holidays, around the time of my birthday," Seokjin chirped, tapping his fingers against the arm of the chair. "It's a little warmer down south, but there's still snow. They do something called ice skating, too, which I think would be fun. We should make it a group trip."

Ice skating, Taehyung mouthed. "Oh, hyung, really?"

Yoongi looked at him, a smile quirking up at his lips. "It'd be your birthday month, too," he hummed. His head tilted and his eyes narrowed, as if he was thinking. "Would you want to go?"

Taehyung sucked in a breath, nodding before Yoongi even finished asking. "I'd really like that."

Hoseok cleared his throat, and Taehyung looked back at him. There was a look on his face that Taehyung didn't recognize, but as Hoseok smiled Taehyung realized it was teasing. "I think it'd be a nice holiday retreat."

"We could go mid-December," Namjoon offered, looking around at all of them. "After Seokjin hyung's birthday and before Taehyung's? I still feel bad that we didn’t do much other than dinner for Yoongi hyung’s and Hoseok’s birthdays."

Hoseok waved his hand. “Nothing to feel bad about, Namjoon. I didn’t want much more than a dinner at that point, anyways.”

Seokjin smiled, clapping his hand against Namjoon's shoulder. "Good idea, Joonie."

Taehyung bit his bottom lip, looking to Yoongi for approval. Yoongi broke into an easy smile. "Then we should do it. We've got the rest of the year to plan, anyways."

"Neat," Hoseok chirped. "I'd like a family vacation."

Seokjin laughed, high and cheerful. "A family vacation, yes."

"Ah," Yoongi said, his lips parting as his eyes widened. "Speaking of family, I almost forgot..."

He stood up from the couch, and Taehyung had to stop himself from whining at the loss of warmth against his side. They all watched, various degrees of curiosity on their faces, as Yoongi went to search in the pockets of his coat. He pulled out two black boxes, and Taehyung sat on his hands. They had given Namjoon and Seokjin presents the day before, imported goods curated from clans down south to decorate their home and bless their mating, and Taehyung wondered why Yoongi brought more presents.

"What's that?" Seokjin asked, offering a hand out as Yoongi came back to the living room.

Yoongi shook his head, though, and offered a box to Taehyung and Hoseok. Taehyung took his with a jolt of surprise, and Hoseok tilted his head with a furrow of his brows. "Let them open it and we'll see."

Seokjin shared a look with Namjoon, and his expression brightened after a millisecond. "Oh! Open them, then."

Taehyung didn't get it, so he chose to open the box instead. He was never good at guessing under pressure. Inside the box was a cloth bag, a pretty shade of red, and Taehyung bit his lip and he pulled at the cord wrapped around the opening.

A soft gasp was heard to his right, but Taehyung couldn't focus on that as he pulled out the knife from the bag.

"Oh," he breathed out, lips parting in amazement as Yoongi helped him pull the bag and box out from under it so he could look at it properly.

It was everything he had wanted and more. The ivory of the bone handle was striking, and it complemented the coolness of the metal well. The dragon carved on the handle was so much more intricate than Taehyung could have imagined, wisps of fire swirled into the metal. It reminded Taehyung of the dragons he carved into his saddles, over and over again, and he quite liked it.

His birthstone sat at the center of the crossguard, more wisps of fire surrounding it to better blend it into the metal, and Taehyung sucked in a breath as he ran his thumb over it and the etching of his name above it. "Hyung..."

"You like it?"

Taehyung wasn't used to Yoongi's voice like that. Soft. Worried, almost. He wished they were alone, so he could properly show Yoongi just how much he liked it, but he settled for a sweet smile and a hand on Yoongi's arm instead. "I love it, hyung. Thank you."

Yoongi let out a sigh of relief, and a breathy laugh followed it. "Good. That's good. I'm glad you like it."

"It's amazing," Hoseok said, making Taehyung sit up straight and look back at his friend. His own knife looked heavy in his hands, the gems shining beautifully under the warm light streaming inside the room. "They both are. Thank you, Yoongi hyung."

He looked peaceful, running his fingers over the flat surface of the blade as Jeongguk looked it over. Taehyung felt happy for him. He knew that soon enough the two of them would be exchanging knives, given their affection for one another, and it made him feel giddy with excitement.

Yoongi squeezed his wrist as Seokjin and Namjoon walked over to inspect their knives, voices loud with excitement, and Taehyung couldn't help but laugh to himself as his friends showered him with their joy.

 

 

They all spent the night at Seokjin and Namjoon's, seeing them off in the morning as they fly towards warm beaches and cool water. Yoongi had offered to check in on their house during the week, since he had to pass them by on the way to his work, but Taehyung was excited to just get back to their own.

He loved his friends, he did, but there was so much undiscovered territory with Yoongi. Taehyung felt a little weird about it, if he was being honest, and it made him want to take the time to get used to the shift in their relationship.

Yoongi didn't seem to mind Taehyung's shyness when they got home and he tried to steal a kiss. Taehyung flinched, so unused to it, and Yoongi had simply laughed and pressed his nose against Taehyung's shoulder.

"I'm sorry," Taehyung said, reaching down to hold onto Yoongi's hand. "I'm not...used to it?"

"You've never been with a man before," Yoongi mumbled against his clothes. He looked up, and his eyes were so soft it made all the nerves melt from Taehyung's body. "You’ve never been with me before. We're going slow, right?"

Taehyung thought of the knife, resting heavy in his coat pocket. He thought of the way Jeongguk and Hoseok looked at each other with the knowledge that they would soon be promised. It wasn't often that he felt jealousy towards Hoseok, but when it came to relationships...

He knew that Hoseok had more time than he did to get used to a relationship with another man. He knew that Hoseok chose to hide that relationship because he was scared, just like Taehyung was, and yet...

"I'm not ashamed," Taehyung said, leaning forward to bury his nose in Yoongi's hair. Yoongi was the perfect height for Taehyung to cuddle to his chest, holding him tight where he belonged. "You know, right?"

"I know," Yoongi said. A hand found Taehyung's waist, and the squeeze pushed a sigh from Taehyung's lips. "This is new. We don't have to rush."

Taehyung cupped his face then, urging Yoongi to look at him. He did so, and his round eyes had Taehyung stunned for a moment. He leaned in, inching forward slowly, and tilted his head as their lips pressed together. Yoongi relaxed against him, and the hand on his waist pressed in tighter.

It was a simple kiss, but it was enough to release all of the tension that had built up in Taehyung's body. Yoongi smiled as they separated, and it was enough to make Taehyung's heart soar with affection.

"You know," Taehyung said, cupping Yoongi's jaw in his hand, "I think Hoseok might have figured it out. Us, I mean."

Yoongi raised a brow. "You think?"

Taehyung bit his bottom lip. "He knew how I felt about you. I don't think it took much to put it together."

A thumb pressed against his lower lip, and the look in Yoongi's eyes knocked the air from Taehyung's chest. "You talked about me?"

"I did," Taehyung said, his heart racing. "I confided in him. He trusted me before, and I trusted him. Did you ever talk about me?"

It was a dangerous question, maybe, considering Taehyung could be setting himself up for disappointment. He was a romantic at heart, though, and he wanted to know. Wanted to know if Yoongi had yearned for him just as much as Taehyung yearned for Yoongi. "Seokjin knew," Yoongi said, tilting his head as Taehyung started to press his fingers up into his scalp. "We've been best friends for so long. It's hard to keep secrets from him."

Taehyung laughed, and he bit his cheek as Yoongi's eyes closed as Taehyung continued to pet him. It reminded him of how Nabi got whenever Taehyung spoiled her with affection. "Seokjin hyung seems to want to know everything that's going on."

"He's going to be angry when he finds out," Yoongi said, keeping his eyes closed as he leaned into Taehyung. "If Hoseok knows, Jeongguk knows."

Taehyung huffed out a laugh. "You had better hope he find out soon, then. He likes me, you not so much."

Yoongi opened one eye to peak at him, an unimpressed scowl working its way onto his lips. "Don't start with me."

"What are you going to do about it?" Taehyung teased, cackling when Yoongi growled and pressed his knuckles against his side. It tickled, and Taehyung wiggled away until he was safely perched onto the couch.

Yoongi followed after him, though, and he hooked his hands under Taehyung's jaw before dragging him in for a kiss. Taehyung laughed into it, and the laughter bubbled away into a smile as Yoongi worked his lips against him.

"You're so touch starved," Taehyung sighed when Yoongi pulled back. He didn't feel any of the apprehension he had when they first arrived home. Yoongi made him comfortable.

"Because I've been wanting to do this for a while," Yoongi said, nosing along Taehyung's jawline.

It felt almost unrealistic that they had only been honest with each other for such little time. Taehyung supposed Yoongi had always been tactile, as had Taehyung, but still.

"You're too sweet," Taehyung said, pressing his socked feet against Yoongi's calves. He saw Nabi moving in the corner of his eye, and his stomach grumbled with the realization that it was past lunchtime.

He flushed with embarrassment, but all Yoongi did was laugh and pat a hand on Taehyung's chest. "Come. We'll eat lunch before you go to Jieun's."

 

 

 

He brought the knife with him, eager to show Jieun what Yoongi made from their design, and when he skipped into the store he was delighted to see Hoseok showing off his own. "You beat me to it!"

Jieun was hunched over the table, flipping the knife around in her delicate hands, and Taehyung worried she might stab herself. Realistically, he knew that she had the steadiest hands amongst the three of them. She looked up at him, still twirling the knife, and smiled. "Taehyungie!"

"I brought mine, too," Taehyung said, pulling the thick bag out from his pocket and resting it on the table. Hoseok offered to get it out while he put away his coat, and Jieun whistled when she saw it.

"The bone handle was a good choice," Hoseok said, crossing his arms in front of him as he leaned on the table.

Taehyung plopped on one of the stools, and his smile brightened as he put his satchel full of goods in front of him. He had a few pieces he had worked on the morning of the wedding, since he couldn't concentrate on anything bigger, and he figured he should bring them. He didn't bring as much anymore, since most of his time was spent crafting his saddles, but he didn't want to disappoint Jieun and stop all together. "You think?"

"It's unique," Jieun said, nodding her head as she put down Hoseok's knife to inspect Taehyung's. "It suits you, though. The birthstone is very beautiful."

Taehyung smiled, pride for Yoongi and Junhee making his chest swell. "I think Junhee is supposed to come this week, I'll be sure to compliment him on his work. He's really improving."

Jieun perked up at that. "Oh, he should be starting his apprenticeship soon. The kids should have just ended school."

Taehyung's eyes grew wide. "Really? How does that work?"

Jieun smiled at his enthusiasm, and he was surprised she didn't tease him. "The weeks following school ending, the graduating kids will seek apprenticeship under someone in the clan. Most of them have already made prior arrangements, but there are sometimes a few stragglers. Junhee's been chasing after Yoongi for years, though."

Taehyung thrummed his fingers against the table as his excitement built. "I'm sure Yoongi will take him on. They've been working together already."

"Thanks to you," Hoseok said, winking playfully. "You seem to know how to get Yoongi hyung to agree to things."

Jieun snorted as Taehyung's cheeks flushed. "That's true. Junhee's been on his best behavior, too. I'm sure his parents are relieved."

"He's a good kid," Taehyung said, gnawing at his bottom lip. "He's talented."

"He is," Hoseok chirped. He took his knife back from where it was at the center of the table, carefully inserting it back into its protective bag. "He'll learn well."

"When are you going to give that to Jeongguk?" Jieun asked, gesturing to the bag. Hoseok paled, as if he expected to get away without any questions.

"Well," Hoseok said, tying the cord around the top in a careful not, "I was thinking of sometime this week."

Taehyung's eyes widened as Jieun clapped. He leaned forward, a mixture of excitement and shock rushing through his veins and pimpling his skin. On one hand, he knew that Hoseok and Jeongguk were ready to exchange knives. On the other hand, it still seemed unreal. "Already?"

Hoseok hummed, his embarrassment melting away into confidence as he smiled. "I think it's time."

"I'm happy for you," Jieun cooed. "Keep that boy in check, and make sure he keeps you happy."

Hoseok grinned, and Taehyung found himself growing more sentimental with the prideful look on Hoseok's face. "Thank you, noona."

Jieun stood up from her seat, placing her hands on her hips as she grinned. "Well, that's enough excitement for me. I need to get back to work. You two behave, alright? Hoseokkie, I'll be expecting good news tomorrow."

Hoseok rolled his eyes at her retreating form, but he was still smiling. "Of course, noona."

Taehyung smiled, and he started to lay out his goods as Hoseok stood from his seat. He expected Hoseok to return to his work station, like he usually would, so he jolted a little when he looked up and found Hoseok closer to him than before. "Hyung?"

Hoseok crossed his arms over his chest, and he smiled. "I have a few questions for you."

Taehyung's heart sped up with the implications. His eyes flickered over to Jieun's office, but the door was shut. She wouldn't hear them. "Okay. Go ahead, hyung."

"Something happened between you and Yoongi, right?" Hoseok said. His voice was lower than before, and Taehyung appreciated the gesture. He loved Jieun, of course, but he wasn't ready for the whole clan to know about him and Yoongi. He wanted to take his time.

"Yes," Taehyung admitted, unable to hide the giddiness in his voice. Hoseok's eyes curved as he smiled. "The night of the mating ceremony. We— I think we were a little drunk by then, but we kissed. While we were dancing? And then the next morning we confessed to each other. Hyung, can you believe it?"

"With the way he looks at you?" Hoseok tipped his head back in a laugh, and he shook his head. "Taehyung-ah, it's about time. I'm happy for you."

He squeezed Taehyung's bicep, and Taehyung hid his smile by looking down at the floor. He was so happy to have Hoseok by his side. Hoseok was like a true brother to him, and Taehyung wasn't sure if he would have been able to make it without him. "I'm still a little apprehensive, I think. But, Yoongi hyung makes me happy. I know his family and how he is, but there's just...this guilt? I suppose?"

"I feel it, too, sometimes," Hoseok said, rubbing his hand up and down Taehyung's arm. His eyes grew softer, kinder. "I know my family would want me to be happy, though. I don't want to waste my opportunity to live here, happily, with Jeongguk. We shouldn't feel guilty, Taehyung-ah. The moon blessed us, didn't she?"

Taehyung thought back to his family. He thought of his parents, who worked so hard to make sure that he had everything he needed. It was impossible to get him and his siblings everything they wanted, but they were well taken care of. They were loved.

"You're right, hyung. They would want what was best for me," Taehyung said, looking up to meet Hoseok's gaze. Hoseok pulled him into a hug, and Taehyung held onto him like a lifeline.

Chapter Text

For the most part, things went back to normal.

They returned to work, and Junhee was formally appointed as Yoongi's apprentice. Taehyung had to get used to a third person in their workspace every day, but he didn't mind it. Junhee made work even more fun than usual, and more often than not he volunteered to grab them drinks or snacks or even lunch if it was a particular grueling work day. He was Yoongi's apprentice, but Taehyung had a soft spot for him.

Even though it was business as usual, there was a layer of intimacy that grew between Yoongi and Taehyung that hadn't been there before.

It was almost surprising how affectionate Yoongi was. Taehyung was used to Yoongi being tactile whenever he was in his dragon shift, but even as a human Yoongi started to want to touch Taehyung all the time. He liked to hold hands and cuddle on the couch and kiss, even when they were working. There were a few close calls when Junhee walked into the shed right as they parted, and Taehyung had to scold Yoongi when they were alone again.

It didn't work, though, since Yoongi was back to stealing kisses the very next day. Taehyung wanted to wipe the smug look off his face, but he couldn't. He had to admit that he loved all of it, even if it made his heart race whenever Junhee ran in with their drinks or snacks.

They went on a night flight together, on Yoongi's request, and Taehyung found out just how romantic Yoongi really was.

"You're cute, hyung" Taehyung said, smiling as Yoongi laid out a blanket. The stars were resting high in the sky, and the moon was looking down at them. There wasn't a cloud in sight. It was perfect.

"I thought it'd be nice. Nabi isn't here, but it's a little better than being on the couch," Yoongi said, rubbing the side of his neck. There was a basket full of snacks sweet breads and fruits and even a bit of spiced cider.

Taehyung crawled onto the blanket, and he didn't even have time to invite Yoongi down next to him before Yoongi was fitting himself between his thighs. He sucked in a breath as Yoongi pressed back against his chest, but he relaxed when Yoongi rolled his head back to rest against his shoulder.

"Too much?" Yoongi asked, exhaustion already resting heavy on his tongue. Taehyung didn't blame him. It had been a long week. He often lost track of what projects Yoongi was working on, since he had to keep track of his own, but Yoongi had practically been working nonstop. More often than not, Taehyung had to drag him back into the house before it got too late.

"No," Taehyung said, wrapping his arms around Yoongi's middle. He feared he was getting addicted to Yoongi's warmth. There were nights he wished they would sleep together, like they had the night of the mating ceremony, but he was always too shy to ask. It seemed too soon.

Yoongi hummed, and he reached blindly for the basket. He pulled out the two flasks of cider, and Taehyung smiled as he was handed one. He untangled one of his arms from Yoongi's waist to receive it, and he did his best to open it with one hand. He was proud to do so without spilling it, and Yoongi snorted as he tipped his own flask back to drink.

Taehyung smiled, sheepish, even though Yoongi couldn't see it. He found himself wanting to impress Yoongi all the time, as childish as it seemed. "Thank you, hyung."

"Don't thank me," Yoongi said. He snuggled deeper into Taehyung's warmth as Taehyung sipped at his cider. "You're better than a bed, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung snorted, and he flinched as some of the cider shot up his nose. The burn was way more uncomfortable there than it had been in his throat. "I would hope so," he said through the discomfort.

Yoongi fell asleep halfway through them eating their fruit, and Taehyung didn't bother to wake him up until an entire hour had passed. Taehyung told himself that it was to let Yoongi sleep comfortably, but he had his selfish reasons. Yoongi was the most precious as he slept. His face grew slack, cheeks soft and smooth as his lips parted for him to breathe, and his eyelashes rested prettily at the tops of his cheeks.

He had to force himself to wake Yoongi up once all the food was gone, sitting comfortably in Taehyung's belly, and he let Yoongi kiss him sweetly until Yoongi was well enough awake to fly them home. He held onto Yoongi's neck delicately, lips swollen and hands warm as he brushed them over Yoongi's scales. Yoongi huffed, and Taehyung liked to think he was sounding out his approval.

 

 

Eunyoung jumped into his arms as soon as Taehyung entered the living area, and Taehyung giggled as he lifted her up and twirled her around. Her mother laughed, busy wiping the remnants of what looked like pudding off her eldest daughter's lips, and Yoongi rounded Taehyung to tickle her cheeks. Eunyoung giggled, and it was enough to make Taehyung coo.

There was a low thrum of anxiety settling in his gut as they greeted more of Yoongi's family, moving further into the house where the thick scent of food was wafting from. He had told Yoongi that he hated lying, and he especially didn't want to lie to Yoongi's parents and the rest of his family, but Yoongi affirmed him that no one would be upset over not knowing. They were still getting used to the idea of there being a them. They didn't have to rush.

Still, when Yoongi's mom came out of the kitchen and placed down big platter of food before crossing the dining room to greet them, Taehyung's heart fell to his feet. He beamed at her, hoping she couldn't read right through him, and she laughed and squeezed the side of his neck.

"Did you not sleep well, Taehyung-ah?" She cooed before giving a pointed look to her son. "Yoongi-yah, you need to take better care of him."

"I am," Yoongi mumbled, the tips of his ears going pink. Taehyung cleared his throat.

"Just been working hard," Taehyung assured her, smiling when Eunyoung cuddled into his neck. "I'm okay, I promise. Yoongi hyung has been great."

Yoongi's mother smiled, patting Taehyung's cheek. "Good. Eat well, okay? I know my son isn't the best cook."

Yoongi looked affronted, and Taehyung hid a laugh behind his hand. There was the clutter of more dishes being placed on the table, and Taehyung's stomach rumbled in anticipation. "He's getting better, really."

"Good," Yoongi's mother said, smiling. "Come, sit. The other boys should be coming soon."

They did so, taking up their usual seats about halfway down the table from where Elder Min sat, and Eunyoung eventually slid away to go play with the rest of her cousins. Yoongi leaned into him, talking in a quiet voice as he knew his aunts and uncles were apt to eavesdropping, and Taehyung rested his chin on his palm.

Taehyung always found it fascinating how many guests the Mins' invited over for their dinner parties. The many cousins were allowed to bring friends and significant others, and it was rare for the crowd to always be the same. Yoongi and Taehyung missed them, sometimes, and Taehyung yearned for the homey environment whenever they did. It was fun, and the closest thing Taehyung had to a real family atmosphere within the clan.

Yoongi and the other boys were his family, of course, but there was something different about being surrounded by siblings and parents and grandparents. It was what Taehyung was used to, and it was what he liked. He liked Yoongi's family.

Namjoon and Seokjin arrived to loud congratulations and catcalls, to which Taehyung participated in, and Taehyung's anxiety melted away into nothingness. The two of them would be the center of attention for the night, and no one would be worrying about what Yoongi and his human were doing. Taehyung smiled, and Yoongi glanced at him with one of his own.

Hoseok and Jeongguk were the last of their friends to walk in, and Taehyung bounded up to Hoseok with a question in his eyes. Hoseok didn't say anything, but his gentle laughter was enough for Taehyung to start clapping and congratulating them. Jeongguk flushed, hiding his face against Hoseok's shoulder as the rest of the group caught on to what was happening.

Yoongi slid up next to Taehyung, ruffling Jeongguk's hair with a proud grin. "Finally, huh?"

"Yes," Jeongguk mumbled, his cheeks pink as he folded himself against Hoseok. Hoseok kissed the top of his head, the tips of his ears that same shade of pink, and seemed to distract himself with talking when the older dragons approached them with questions.

"Come on," Junki called from the other side of the room, making Taehyung perk up. He had been on a trip for a few weeks, arriving home right before Namjoon and Seokjin's mating ceremony, and Taehyung hadn't had the chance to greet him yet. He made a mental note to go say hi after dinner. "Let's eat, we can talk then."

Hoseok lured Jeongguk out of his embarrassment with another kiss to his head, and Taehyung averted his eyes as he made his way to his seat if only to give them some semblance of privacy. Yoongi followed after him, a hand pressed to the small of his back, and Taehyung let out a sigh as he slid into the chair. The food smelled how it always did, amazing.

Namjoon and Seokjin sat across from them while Hoseok and Jeongguk sat to Yoongi's right, closer to the elders since they knew they would be bombarded with questions. Taehyung didn't envy them, but at the same time he felt excited for the time when he and Yoongi would be celebrated as well. It was nerve wracking, but he knew how Yoongi's family was. They liked him, and Taehyung was fairly certain that they would welcome him with open arms. He thought he might have been more scared about it, but they were good people. They were kind.

Dinner was a rush of twenty thousand conversations as Namjoon and Seokjin were asked about their honeymoon and Hoseok and Jeongguk finally spilled the beans about exchanging their knives. Jeongguk was a fairly private person, though, so he let Namjoon and Seokjin's stories dominate the discussion. Taehyung gave Hoseok a look that signalled they would be talking about it more, later, and Hoseok winked at him cutely.

Yoongi placed his hand on Taehyung's knee somewhere between Taehyung's third serving of japchae and Seokjin's snorting on his glass of wine, and no one noticed. No one noticed when Taehyung slid his fingers between Yoongi's, intertwining their hands comfortably between their thighs as they joked and conversed with their friends and family.

They finished dinner with round stomachs and a sense of sleepiness, crowding in the living room with the the babies as Seokjin told a loud story about Namjoon getting sunburned until Namjoon swatted him. Taehyung found himself with Eunyoung on his lap again, and he pressed his shoulder against Yoongi's as the sound of the older kids playing board games lulled him into a relaxed state of being.

Their ankles tangled together, Yoongi's resting on top of Taehyung's. It was nice. Namjoon looked at them, and Taehyung watched as his eyes flitted over how close they were. He smiled, prepared for Namjoon's quirked brow, and when Namjoon met his eye they shared a simple smile before Namjoon was back to trying to calm Seokjin down from getting beat in a game again.

 

 

Taehyung didn't have a chance to talk to Hoseok until a few days later, when the six of them planned a trip to the lake. The heat was getting nearly unbearable, and Taehyung was starting to recognize restlessness in Yoongi. It was kind of bad, but Taehyung thought it was cute.

Yoongi insisted that they flew there, and Taehyung understood why as soon as they were up in the sky. The sun was still hot on their skin, but the breeze they got from flying was nice. It ruffled his hair so much that he was sure it looked like a bird's nest by the time they landed, but Hoseok and Namjoon looked the same.

There were a few others sprinkled around the lake, sprawled out in the water in their human and dragon shifts, and Taehyung barely gave himself time to greet their friends before he was stripping off his shirt and wiggling into the water. Seokjin and Jeongguk were already shifted back, bodies bare save their swimming shorts, but they were off to the side setting up their blankets.

Yoongi yelled at him for leaving him with the dirty work once he shifted back, and Taehyung laughed as Hoseok managed to get away and jump into the water. Namjoon was nice enough to stay back to finish helping, but Taehyung saw the longing looks he sent to the lake over his shoulder.

"Yoongi's going to bite you," Hoseok teased, making Taehyung splash him with water. "Hey!"

"Don't," Taehyung whined, sinking down to hide the majority of his face underneath the water's surface. It felt so nice, even if it was near freezing.

"Cute," Hoseok laughed, falling back to float on his back. "Jeongguk-ah, hurry!"

Jeongguk responded with a yell of his own, something along the lines of I'm trying and Taehyung resurfaced to laugh. "Ah, hyung. You still haven't told me...?"

"It's nothing too juicy," Hoseok said, catching on as Taehyung's cheeks flushed. "Really, Taehyung-ah. I made him dinner, he made dessert. I think we both knew that it was time, you know? We didn't want to make a big show out of it, I think. I had my knife in my room, and when I excused myself to go to the bathroom to get it, he had his by the time I came back."

Taehyung smiled, waving his hands around in the water. They were a bit farther out from the shoreline, and it seemed like Namjoon was finally pulling Seokjin in. Yoongi was forcing Jeongguk to help him lay out the towels. "And you just...gave it to him?"

"Well," Hoseok said, humor making his tone lighthearted, "I gave him a little speech about how much I love him, and how I'm happy he's in my life. He cried a little bit, but don't tell him I told you. I pulled out my knife, and he pulled out his, and that was kind of it. I don't think you want the details of what happened after, hm?"

Taehyung flushed down to his toes as his snickers were abruptly cut off, and he swatted more water at Hoseok. "Hyung!"

Hoseok laughed, reaching over to poke his cheek. "You wanted to know!"

"Not that!"

"Not what?"

Taehyung pouted as Namjoon waded over to them, a knowing grin on his face, and Hoseok grinned. "Taehyung is still a baby, that's what."

"I'm not," Taehyung whined. "You two are just promiscuous."

Namjoon snorted. "I'm mated, I can be as promiscuous with Seokjin as I want."

"That's right," Seokjin cooed, coming up from behind to wrap around Namjoon's back. He placed an obnoxious kiss against Namjoon's ear, even as Namjoon's wriggled his nose. "But don't steal away Taehyungie's innocence. He's almost as much of a baby as Jeongguk is."

"Jeongguk's not a baby," Hoseok said, grinning when Seokjin snorted. "Taehyung's just a bit of a prude."

"Am not," Taehyung groaned. "Can we not do this?"

As if coming to his rescue, Jeongguk yelled as he ran from Yoongi's side and catapulted himself into the water. Yoongi entered in a much more calm way, but from the way he was glaring at Taehyung, there was a punishment in store. Taehyung flushed, the knowledge of his impending doom tickling under his skin.

He hid behind Hoseok, but that was a terrible play since Hoseok slinked away as soon as he could to pull Jeongguk in for kisses and laughter. Jeongguk melted against him, forgetting instantly that Hoseok tricked him into staying behind to help, but Taehyung wasn't so lucky.

"Kim Taehyung."

"No!" Taehyung screeched, paddling as fast as he could in the opposite direction of Yoongi's glare.

Yoongi was much too fast, though, and before Taehyung's knew it he was being dragged down into the water by a firm set of arms around his waist. He sucked in air before he sunk, forcing himself not to laugh so he wouldn't swallow any of the water. He fought against Yoongi, wiggling around in his arms until Yoongi pulled them back up to resurface.

He gasped out, coughing in surprise. The rest of their friends were laughing at Taehyung's despair, and Taehyung struggled to push out a whine. "Hyung!"

"You deserved it," Yoongi said through a grin. He leaned in, arms still firmly wrapped around Taehyung's middle, and Taehyung froze. As if remembering where they were, Yoongi diverted his path at the last possible moment to bite at Taehyung's shoulder.

Taehyung yelped, kicking Yoongi away with his feet, and Hoseok burst into laughter. "Moon, he really did bite you!"

"Yoongi-yah," Seokjin snorted out, surprise evident on his face. "Are you five years old?"

Yoongi scowled at them, his cheeks pink, and Taehyung stared at him in wonder as he flipped onto his back and started floating. "Don't start with me. I’d still act older than you if I were."

"Excuse me"

Taehyung sunk down in the water again as Seokjin and Yoongi started to splash each other, eventually morphing into a wrestling war a lot less...intimate than the one between Yoongi and Taehyung. He glanced at the others, and Jeongguk and Hoseok were snickering at him. Namjoon, on the other hand, only smiled and beckoned Taehyung to play with him.

 

 

"I have a proposition for you."

Taehyung looked up from his seat on the floor. Nabi was curled up on his lap, purring so loud Taehyung felt it in his bones. It was a little warm, but Taehyung didn't mind it. "What about?"

Yoongi looked over all the papers Taehyung had scattered in front of him. The good thing was that they were on the low table they kept in the living room, but the bad thing was that Taehyung could hardly remember what he was even looking for. He felt a little lost. "I'm going on a business trip next week, to work on a commission? Up north. I wanted to know if you wanted to come with me."

Taehyung jerked, so much that it startled Nabi, and he immediately deflated to pet her back into a calm sleep. "Ireally? Yes, hyung, I want to go!"

Yoongi laughed behind his hand, but it couldn't hide the way his nose scrunched up or the way his eyes curved with his smile. Taehyung felt a strong urge to kiss him, so enamored by the image, but he didn't want to disturb Nabi from her nap a second time. "I plan on leaving Tuesday night, so we should get there Wednesday morning."

Taehyung wiggled in his place, biting his bottom lip. "You've never invited me before, hyung. Should I be offended? I could have taken goods."

Yoongi rolled his eyes, wandering over to thead his fingers through Taehyung's hair. Taehyung tilted his head back to look up at him, and they shared smiled. "No. I've just never gone somewhere that I've wanted to take you, or that you could have sold stuff. Timing, too."

"Well, I'd love to go," Taehyung said, leaning into the warmth of Yoongi's palm. "Even just to get away with you for a few days. Is that selfish?"

"No," Yoongi said, rubbing his knuckles against Taehyung's scalp. His expression was softer, then. "I want to spend time with you, too. But there will be a big marketplace next to the building I'm delivering my things too, so you should bring items to sell."

Taehyung bit his bottom lip, his mind racing with the possibilities. "I'd really love that, hyung. We can bring that prototype I’ve been working on, too. The saddle for overnight travel? You know, I've been thinking of more decorative pieces lately, too. Like..." He picked up one of the pieces of paper in front of him, pointing to one of his sketches. It was adorned with braided leather and a patterned blanket, and even some tassels hanging from the side. "Like, for ceremonies and stuff? I was just thinking..."

"It's really nice," Yoongi said, taking the paper from Taehyung's hand and looking it over. "You know, we have ceremonial garb for our human shifts. I don't see why it would be such a bad idea to have some for our dragon shifts, as well."

Taehyung beamed, his ego inflating just a little as Yoongi looked at his design with a smile. "You think?"

"I do," Yoongi hummed as he handed back the paper. "I like it, Taehyung-ah. We have no use for armor, but things like this are nice. Pretty."

Taehyung felt pleased enough to grab more sheets of blank paper from a stack to his right. "I'm going to sketch for a little bit, then. Ah, hyung, there's so much I want to take!"

Yoongi snorted, and he bent down to press a chaste kiss to the curve of Taehyung's temple. "Alright, Taehyung-ah. I'll be out back, okay?"

Taehyung watched Yoongi retreat back out the front door, tugging on his shoes and waddling out quietly, before returning to his sketches. He included some clothing items, since Jieun said that leather would always be in fashion, but for the most part he focused on accessories dragons could wear. It was kind of a funny idea to him, but he knew the dragons would like it. Junhee told him of some clans that stayed in their dragon shift the majority of the time, unlike their clan, and wouldn't they like pretty things, too?

He worked on his sketches for the better part of an hour, until Nabi woke up from her nap and spurred him into gathering all his papers and taking them out back. Yoongi was busy working, but Taehyung managed to steal a kiss from him before taking his work to his station. There were a few pieces of leather thrown about, and he carefully pushed them to the side so he could start working.

They worked in relative silence, only breaking once to eat a quick dinner and to feed Nabi. When night hit, Taehyung was surprised that Yoongi didn't turn on the lanterns they had hanging in the shed. Taehyung looked over his shoulder to find Yoongi smiling at him as he made his way over. "Hey."

Taehyung looked down at his stained fingers, and back up at Yoongi. He smiled. "Hey, hyung."

"We should stop for today," Yoongi said, caging Taehyung against his work table with an arm on either side of his waist. "You worked hard."

Taehyung looked down at his lips. "You did, too. I guess we should stop."

Yoongi grinned, and he pulled back. "Finish cleaning up, I'll grab us some juice inside."

Taehyung hummed, turning back to his work once he finished watching Yoongi retreat back towards the house. The night air was chiller than the blazing heat of the afternoon, but there was still a healthy sheen of sweat over their skin. It felt a little perverted for Taehyung to admit that he liked the look on Yoongi, but he liked to be honest to himself.

He put everything away as quickly and carefully as he could, wanting nothing more than to take a bath and steal a few kisses from Yoongi and pet Nabi. He wasn't sure when he got so comfortable, but he supposed he was always comfortable. Yoongi made it easy for him.

Speaking of, Yoongi was waiting with two tall glasses of apple juice when Taehyung entered the house. Nabi was up on the counter, meowing prettily for Yoongi's attention, and Taehyung laughing behind his hand when he caught Yoongi leaning in to press their noses together.

Yoongi looked over at him, cheeks pink, and Taehyung made his way over to press himself against Yoongi's back. "Hi, hyung."

Yoongi twisted in his grip, placing down his glass, and snaked his arms around Taehyung's waist. "Hi, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung wanted to say something, but all was forgotten as Yoongi dragged him in for a proper kiss. Taehyung melted against him, letting Yoongi lead him as their lips molded together. There was a low thrum of surprise running over his skin, and he felt like he was turning into mush.

Yoongi's tongue pressed against the seam of his lips, and Taehyung parted them as a queasy sensation settled in his gut. There was that fear of the unknown, pressing into his anxious thoughts, but Taehyung didn't want to pull back. He felt silly, but he didn't want to pull back.

Yoongi pulled back first, as if sensing Taehyung's unease, and he smiled knowingly. He reached up, pressing his thumb against Taehyung's bottom lip. He swiped it over Taehyung's skin, and Taehyung sucked in a shaky breath. "Was that okay?"

"Yes," Taehyung said, sounding a bit unlike himself. "I'm, uh...what was that for?"

"For working hard," Yoongi said, simple enough. It made Taehyung's heart flip in his chest. "You seem apprehensive, Tae."

Yoongi's tone wasn't accusatory, like Taehyung thought it might be, and that was enough to make some of the dread leave his body. He smiled, a little shaky, and shrugged his shoulders. "You know I've never done this before, hyung. N-Not with just men, you know?"

"You've never been in any kind of relationship, I know," Yoongi said, his words calm. He cupped Taehyung's cheek, and his thumb brushing against his skin. "You know you don't have to rush for me. We're going at whatever pace we're comfortable at. Right?"

"Right," Taehyung breathed. He appreciated the concern, he did, but... "That's not what I mean, though."

Yoongi raised a brow, confusion sparking in his eyes. "Tell me what you mean, then."

"Well," Taehyung started, squirming in his place, "I, uh, I've never really kissed anyone. Like that? I don't really know how."

"Oh. Oh." Yoongi's eyes lit up with understanding, and Taehyung felt terribly shy. "Tae, that's not I can teach you. If you want?"

"If I want," Taehyung repeated, the words feeling almost foreign on his tongue. "Moon, I-I want that, hyung. I want you to teach me. This sounds so..."

"Perverted?" Yoongi teased, laughing gently when Taehyung nodded. "It doesn't have to be. Just between us, yeah?"

Taehyung leaned in when Yoongi's fingers pushed into his hair. His hands were always so nice, and Taehyung couldn't help but want them on him at all times. "Yeah. Just between us."

"Come sit with me, then." Yoongi's hand fell to Taehyung's nape, squeezing, and Taehyung followed him to the couch. It felt a lot more real as they sat down, and Taehyung kind of liked that Yoongi was pressing up against him. His knees were flush against Taehyung's thighs, and whenever Taehyung breathed in he could smell the spice from Yoongi's favorite cologne. "We can stop whenever you want."

"Okay."

Yoongi cupped his face again, and Taehyung leaned into it as their lips met. It was soft, like their kiss from before, but it wasn't long until Yoongi was pulling back. He grabbed Taehyung's hands, which were on his lap, and led them to his hips. "I like it when you touch me here," he mumbled, nosing at Taehyung's cheek. "My hips or my waist. My shoulders, too."

"You have nice shoulders," Taehyung said, breathless. He tightened his grip on Yoongi's hips, just to try, and Yoongi's lips parted with a sigh. "I, um, I like it when you hold onto my waist. And my jaw and cheeks."

"You have cute cheeks," Yoongi mumbled, leaning in to kiss him again. His fingers tangled into Taehyung's hair, the other hand holding the side of his neck, and Taehyung sucked in a shaky breath.

He thought it might have been more awkward, but all he found rushing through his veins was eagerness and a small spark of arousal. It was easy to follow Yoongi's slow movements of his lips, the way he arched into Taehyung's chest whenever Taehyung experimentally tried to nibble on his bottom lip. What Taehyung lacked in experience, he made up in enthusiasm.

Yoongi pressed his tongue against Taehyung's lips again, and Taehyung felt more prepared for it as he parted his lips. It was kind of weird, pressing their tongues together, but as Yoongi made little noises and got closer to him Taehyung found himself struggling to keep his mind clear.

By the time Yoongi pulled back, his lips spit slick and swollen, Taehyung was so out of it he had to take a second to catch his breath. "You're good at it," Yoongi said, his lips curving into a lazy grin. "I'd say you're a natural."

Taehyung laughed, his chest clenching with breathlessness, and he got comfortable against the cushions. "You're so...you..."

"Don't push yourself," Yoongi teased. He pressed apart Taehyung's thighs, and Taehyung merely let out a sigh as Yoongi got comfortable between them and rested against his chest. Taehyung's arms wrapped around his waist like they belonged there, and Taehyung liked to think they did. They were still sticky from being in the heat all day, but Taehyung was too tired and too happy to say anything about it.

Chapter Text

They left Tuesday night after dinner, bellies full and moods bright as Taehyung helped Yoongi into the larger saddle he had been working on. It was a fairly new design, one that he worked on between commissions, and he figured he would benefit from trying it out before continuing. It was similar to the cargo saddle Taehyung and Hoseok had rode in on all that time ago, but with a more comfortable seating area and a more efficient use of leather so it wasn't too heavy for the dragon wearing it. It was meant to be designed for a person, rather than for things.

Yoongi had their things tucked away in the large saddlebags hanging from either side of him, and Taehyung had been careful to secure them down so they wouldn't rub against his skin during the journey. He felt guilty that Yoongi had to be awake the entire time, but Yoongi had slept a large majority of the day in preparation for it.

Jieun was in charge of watching Nabi while they were gone, since Hoseok was over at the shop all day and Jieun's loft above it was safe for her to roam around. Hoseok had wiggled his eyebrows when Taehyung told them about the trip, and Taehyung was glad that Jieun didn't notice Taehyung kicking him under the table.

Taehyung leaned forward to press his hand against the scales on Yoongi's neck, smiling at the small patch of red he found hidden amongst the black. He pet him, sweetly, and followed up with a kiss. Yoongi huffed, a goodnight of his own, and Taehyung settled back in his makeshift bed for sleep.

 

 

The clan they were visiting had an inn run by an older couple. Taehyung found it fascinating, since their clan didn't have one, and he said as much to Yoongi when they walked up the stairs and down the hallway to the room Yoongi purchased for them for the next four nights.

"They get a lot of merchants through here," Yoongi explained, struggling to open the door with his hands full. Taehyung would have helped him, but he was carrying even more things. Their saddle was stored in the back, where the couple had a large storage unit, but Yoongi hadn't felt comfortable leaving all of their stuff in there. "They'll stay for a while, unlike back home."

Yoongi finally managed to get the door open, and Taehyung laughed under his breath as they made their way inside. He stood, confused, when he saw only one bed in the center of the room. It was a nice bed, but. Only one. "Hyung?"

Yoongi groaned as he dropped the bags, carefully, and he looked up at Taehyung with a confused frown. He followed Taehyung's line of sight, and cleared his throat once he realized what Taehyung was asking. "Ah, yeah. They charge more for two beds. I didn't know if you'd be comfortable, so I can take the couch...?"

"Hyung," Taehyung mumbled, his skin turning pink. It wasn't that he didn't want to share the bed, but... "No, no way. Sorry, my reaction was weird. I'm okay sharing the bed with you, it just caught me off guard."

Yoongi rubbed the side of his neck, looking smaller as he frowned at the ground. "It's whatever you're comfortable with. Don't feel forced because of me."

Taehyung put down his bags, wincing as the cloth rubbed uncomfortable against his skin, and made his way over to Yoongi. He shut the door with his foot before bringing Yoongi in for a loose hug, smiling against Yoongi's hair. "I'm not forced, hyung. I promise. It's new for both of us, right?"

"Right," Yoongi mumbled, nudging his nose against Taehyung's shoulder. Taehyung felt the slightest twitch of a smile, and he bit his lip as one formed on his own lips. "We're intolerable, Tae."

Taehyung giggled, nuzzling the top of Yoongi's head before pulling back. He wanted to cuddle Yoongi, but they had to unpack their clothes and get situated first. "We are, hyung."

There wasn't much of a rush to unpack, since they didn't have plans to go down to the marketplace until after lunchtime, but Taehyung still got all of his clothes and things in order so he could start sorting through his goods. Yoongi watched him, curious, as he tugged off his boots and sprawled out on the bed. "What're you doing?"

"Organizing," Taehyung answered, biting his lip as he looked through the stack of belts he brought. Was it overkill?

"You're thinking too hard," Yoongi said, amusement clear in his tone. "Are you nervous?"

"A little," Taehyung admitted, shrugging his shoulders as he pulled out the coin purses and arranged them by color and size. "I've only ever sold my stuff through Jieun's shop, or when people approached me."

"You'll do fine," Yoongi said, his words softer. Taehyung sighed. "Really. I'm not just trying to placate you when I tell you you're charming. You'll do great. You don't have to sell everything you brought, you know?"

Taehyung looked over his shoulder, giggling, and Yoongi smiled at him. There was something so comforting in his gaze. Taehyung wasn't sure what it was. Affection? "I know. Thank you, hyung."

 

 

The clan was bigger than what Taehyung was used to.

They weren't surrounded by forests, for one, and the town was more industrial in the sense that the buildings are taller and more efficient with their homes stacked on one another. They don't tend to give territory to individual families, Yoongi explained, and instead share to utilize their space better. They mine, up in the mountains, for precious metals and other shiny things that Taehyung can barely fathom.

The marketplace was booming, though, and it made Taehyung's skin itch as they set up their wares. It felt impersonal, if he was being honest, but Yoongi kept pressing his hands to his sides as if he knew Taehyung was uncomfortable. It was comforting, just enough for Taehyung to smile when people started to flutter past and look.

Yoongi didn't have a whole lot, mainly smaller items he worked on with Junhee, since the main purpose of his trip was to work on the piping in one of the taller buildings in town. Taehyung didn't understand it, but he appreciated the opportunity to sell his extra goods.

There aren't many humans in the clan, like Taehyung expected, so he was surprised when a young girl approached their table and pointed at one of his bags. It's smaller, intended more for aesthetic than utility, and a pretty cherry shade. A man, a dragon, comes up from behind her and smiles at Taehyung. "How much is this one?"

"Thirteen coins," Taehyung told him, smiling when the man looked down at the young girl. She has the same black hair as the man, and the same nose with a slight bump on the bridge. "Your daughter?"

"Yes," the man answered. His scales were a deep indigo, and it fascinated Taehyung. "Her favorite color is red. Do you want this, Jiae?"

Jiae nodded, holding onto her father's arm with a smile as he pulled out a small coin bag and fished the coins out. Taehyung beamed, reciting his usual thank you's as he accepted the payment and handed over the bag. Jiae clapped, excitement flushing her skin, and Taehyung's heart fluttered.

"Have a good day," he called as they retreated, smiling as he turned to face Yoongi. "Hyung, my first sale!"

"You're cute," Yoongi said, snorting as Taehyung stuck the coins safely in the coin purse he was keeping in his pocket. "Not too bad, right?"

"Not at all," Taehyung answered, biting his lips. "That's the first time I've seen a human kid with a dragon as their biological parent, I think."

Yoongi smirked, getting comfortable in the uncomfortable chair that came with the stall. "It happens more often than you think, Tae. I just think you haven't noticed."

Taehyung nudged him with his foot, smiling shyly. "I just think it's nice. Do, um, the kids always come out as human?"

Yoongi tilted his head in thought. "Not necessarily. There are a few kids back home with human parents that can shift. They might not be as big, or they might have trouble shifting until they're older, but they can."

"So the shift is hereditary," Taehyung said, amazement shining in his eyes. "That's so cool, hyung."

Yoongi laughed a bit. "Junhee might know more about this, you should ask him. Kid's smart."

Taehyung grinned, turning back to the bustling crowd in case he could spot anyone looking at their goods. "Yeah, you're right. Remember when you got jealous of him? Back when we first made up?"

Yoongi groaned, and Taehyung could visualize the roll of his eyes. "I wasn't jealous in the sense that I thought you wanted to date him, Tae."

"Still," Taehyung sang, arranging the bags. "You admit you were jealous."

Yoongi started to say something, but he was cut off as an elder strode up to their table and started to ask about the silverware Yoongi had on display. It was a pretty set, one of the first things Yoongi and Junhee worked on together, and Taehyung smiled as they started to haggle with prices.

Ultimately, it went well. They sold a fair amount of goods, staying until it was time for a late dinner. The owners offered them food when they returned to the inn, shoulders heavy from carrying their things across town, and Yoongi had sighed out his thanks. It smelled delicious, and Taehyung certainly wasn't opposed to an intimately home cooked meal over the cafeteria food they had been planning on eating.

They ate until they were full, and Taehyung had been surprised when the old woman asked him about his hometown. His real hometown, she stated, making Yoongi color with something close to embarrassment. He knew why, and he chose not to say anything.

He told her all about the place he grew up in, omitting the poverty and fear for stories about his friends and families. He told her about the many strays that used to wander about, and how he used to pretend that they were all his. He even brought up Jimin, specifically, which Yoongi had smiled at. There was a hand on his knee, squeezing, and Taehyung placed his hand on top of it.

They retired early, still recovering from the travelling and the long day selling, and Taehyung was reminded of the bed.

It wasn't particularly daunting, but it was a little nerve wracking. The only time he had ever shared a bed with another person was when he would sneak into bed with his parents and siblings, or if Jimin was sleeping over. Never with someone he liked, boy or girl. That would have been unheard of back home. He didn’t count the night of Namjoon and Seokjin’s mating ceremony, either, since they had both been drinking and Taehyung couldn’t even recall how they ended up in his bed.

He changed into his pajamas in the bathroom, sucking in a breath before exiting and spotting Yoongi climbing into bed. It was about the same size as the one he had at home, so it wasn't as if there was a ton of space for them to sprawl out. He flushed, and approached the other side of the bed anyways.

"You sure you're okay?" Yoongi asked, his words starting to slur with sleepiness. His cheek was already pressed into his pillow, and he looked so sweet.

Taehyung's heart lurched in his chest, and he smiled. "I'm sure," he told Yoongi, not an ounce of a lie there.

He relaxed, wiggling his body under the thin sheets and resting his head on the pillow. The sheets were cool, battling against the summer heat, and it felt nice on his skin. He had caught the smooth expanse of Yoongi's thighs and calves before Yoongi pulled the sheets over his hips, and the image kept flashing in front of his eyes. There was a tinge of guilt tickling underneath his skin, and he tried to ignore it.

All of his worries melted away when Yoongi inched forward, resting a hand on the curve of Taehyung's waist. His hand was warm, but it wasn't unpleasant. Yoongi opened his eyes properly, looking up at him, and he licked his top lip. "Okay?"

"More than," Taehyung mumbled. He took the initiative, adjusting so that he could press up against Yoongi properly. He wrapped an arm around Yoongi's back, pulling him in until he could bury his nose in Yoongi's neck. "You're so cute."

"Shut up," Yoongi grumbled against his hair, tightening his grip on Taehyung's waist. "Go to bed, Tae."

Taehyung laughed, his lips brushing against Yoongi's neck. "Night, hyung"

He fell asleep easier than he thought he would have, wrapped in a blanket of comfort and security.

 

 

Breakfast the next day was provided by the couple, and Taehyung felt oddly at home as he ate. They offered to help with the dishes, only allowing themselves to be shooed out of the house when all of the plates were cleaned. It was nice, Taehyung thought, having such nice people wherever they went.

A small part of him had been afraid that the clan would be hostile towards him, a human, but he should have known better. The dragons had told him enough times that all the clans were in agreement, and everyone had been nothing but polite to him. Well, except than one awkward time with Junhee, but still.

Taehyung joined Yoongi on his job, since he had nothing better to do, and he helped carry Yoongi's tools and things to the housing units a few buildings away from where they were staying. The more time he spent in the town, the more he realized the little personal touches the inhabitants left. There was a lot of greenery planted in pots all around, as if mimicking the forests they lacked, and Taehyung saw a lot of gardens. It was nice.

He left Yoongi to his work, choosing to explore the empty housing units instead. They were barren, save a few pieces of furniture. Yoongi told him that it was a new building, once they just finished, and they were just working on the finishing touches. They were practically ready to move in, but the clan had made a large trade with their clan for furniture and pipes and things like that for their mined metals and gems.

Taehyung didn't understand much of it, since he wasn't fully involved, but he liked that Yoongi got such a big job. Nepotism was a word that Seokjin had teased Yoongi with, until Yoongi got flustered and reiterated that he was the only blacksmith in the clan. It was kind of funny, seeing Yoongi get embarrassed like that.

Yoongi took a lot of measurements, some that Taehyung helped him with. "I have to take measurements for Seokjin, too," he mumbled. "He does the windows, remember?"

"Nepotism," Taehyung said, laughing when Yoongi threw him a glare. "Ah, I'm kidding, hyung!"

"You better be," Yoongi huffed. "A lot of our clan tends to do things with agriculture, it's not our fault we chose something else."

"I'm just teasing," Taehyung cooed, approaching Yoongi from the back until he could pull him into a hug. He kissed the shell of his ear, feeling brave and eager to try something new, and Yoongi melted in his grip. "You work hard, hyung. You're great at what you do."

"You're making me blush," Yoongi mumbled, and he wasn't lying. The tips of his ears were red, and it made Taehyung want to kiss him again. So he did.

"Get back to work," Taehyung teased as he let go of him, playfully patting Yoongi's butt.

Yoongi huffed, shaking his head as Taehyung's giggles followed his retreating form.

 

 

Their lunch was a measly meal thrown together from foods Taehyung managed to buy at the marketplace, bread and meat and some vegetables. It didn't taste as good as the food they had eaten for breakfast or for dinner the previous night, but it was passable.

Yoongi got done taking measurements and surveying the place a few hours after lunch, and he found Taehyung sprawled out in front of the window that wasn't a window quite yet. Taehyung peered up at him, a sweet smile on his lips, and let himself be pulled up into Yoongi's careful embrace.

It was a little sudden, but Taehyung was never one to say no to affection. Especially affection from Yoongi.

Yoongi cupped his cheek with his eyes full of something so lovely that it made Taehyung's knees weak, and he leaned in for a kiss. It was a hair shy of toe curling, with Yoongi nipping and sucking on his bottom lip, and Taehyung moaned too soon into his mouth. It was a little embarrassing, but Taehyung found himself caring less and less. He knew Yoongi didn't care.

Yoongi smiled, pressing his lips against the corner of Taehyung's lips once more before pulling back. "Let's go stargazing tonight, hm?"

"You get so romantic," Taehyung said, a little breathless. It was a lot, frankly. He thought he was building up a tolerance to Yoongi's kisses, but Yoongi always seemed to catch him off guard. "I'd like that, though."

It was a few days past the full moon, but Taehyung loved looking up at the stars no matter the time. It made him feel small, almost, but not in a bad way.

Yoongi smiled, pressing his thumb underneath the curve of Taehyung's ear. He didn't seem to notice the shiver that ran down Taehyung's body from being tickled. "We'll go after dinner."

Dinner was a rather confusing affair. On one hand, Taehyung was happy to get to know the older couple more and answer their curious questions about the human realm, and on the other hand he wanted to go and stargaze with his...beau? Significant other. Dragon partner.

Well, he wanted to go. But, because he was raised with manners, they sat with them politely for what seemed like hours until they were excused from the table.

Yoongi flashed Taehyung a knowing look, grinning as Taehyung bolted upstairs to put together their blanket and comfortable clothes and a book. Taehyung liked to read to Yoongi, sometimes, and it was always especially nice to do so under the moonlight.

Yoongi pressed a kiss to Taehyung's cheek before they exited the room again, minutes after they walked in, and Taehyung suppressed his giggle as they made their way back down the stairs. They had never gone stargazing, really, unless Taehyung was counting all the little adventures they went on at night and ended up stargazing anyways.

The older couple was already gone into their bedroom by the time they made it downstairs, and Taehyung bit back a smile as they quietly snuck out of the front door. He held the blanket closer to his chest.

"Do you know where we're going?" Taehyung asked, leaning against Yoongi. The sun had already set, and the moon was peeking out behind the clouds. It was, thankfully, a lot cooler than it had been earlier in the day.

"Kind of," Yoongi hummed, grinning when Taehyung pouted. "What? I've only been over here a few times. There's a place down the path, near the river."

Taehyung laughed a bit, shaking his head. "Okay, hyung. I'll take your word for it."

Luckily, Yoongi was right. Beyond the regular path of the town was a cobblestone pathway to the river, and there was a wide expanse of ground that wasn't terribly rocky for them to put their blanket over. The moon and stars were visible, despite a few instances of clouds, and Taehyung sighed as he sprawled out on the blanket.

Yoongi crawled to his side, fitting against him like he was meant to be there, and Taehyung wiggled an arm around his shoulders. It was comfortable. It was nice. Taehyung found it kind of funny that Yoongi wanted to come stargazing when he was just curled up against Yoongi like a kitten.

"Hyung," Taehyung mumbled, rubbing a hand up and down Yoongi's arm. "You're so affectionate."

"Can't help it," Yoongi sighed, pressing his lips against Taehyung's neck. It wasn't much of a kiss. Just skin pressed against skin. "You like it, anyways."

"I do," Taehyung said, a rush of heat blooming on his skin. Yoongi arched up, and Taehyung thought he was going to snuggle in closer. He didn't, instead kissing up until he found Taehyung's lips.

Taehyung giggled, and Yoongi made an unimpressed sound until he was halfways rolled onto Taehyung's chest to kiss him properly. They leaned into another, lips moving almost lazily as they shuffled around. Taehyung found himself completely underneath Yoongi, his hands shifted until they were resting comfortably on Yoongi's hips.

It was nice. Taehyung found himself yearning more and more for Yoongi's kisses, especially with all the privacy they had as of late, and he was glad that Yoongi was always happy to appease him.

His back arched up off the ground when Yoongi's fingers pressed underneath the hem of his shirt, dancing dangerously against his hip bone. "Hyung."

"Too much?" Yoongi mumbled against his lips. His hand pulled away, and Taehyung was quick to put it back.

"No," Taehyung said, leaning in to get another kiss. "It's good."

Yoongi made a little noise against his lips, unintelligible with Taehyung's tongue in his mouth, and his fingers went back to exploring. Taehyung wondered, sometimes, if they were moving fast, but he didn't think so. He had been wanting for a while, and so had Yoongi.

Yoongi's hand flattened against his belly, and a whine bubbled up Taehyung's throat. "Hyung..."

"What?" Yoongi pressed kisses alongside Taehyung's jawline.

"My stomach," Taehyung mumbled, resting a hand on Yoongi's wrist. He wasn't...used to having a small pouch of fat there. He didn't think it looked bad, not really, but...

"What's wrong with it?" Yoongi said, pulling back to look at it. "Do you have an ache?"

Taehyung laughed, tipping his head back against the blanket that had bunched up from all their movement. "No, hyung. It's just, uh..."

Yoongi seemed to get it faster than Taehyung could put words towards it, and he sat back on his heels. His hand didn't lift from Taehyung's belly, though, and instead he started to run his thumb over the skin there. "You're the most beautiful man I've ever seen, you know that?"

Taehyung sucked in a breath, trying to calm himself down as blood rushed to his cheeks. He could feel Yoongi's thumb brushing down the hair underneath his belly button to his waistband, and it felt so intimate that he thought he might explode. "You're too much."

"I'm telling the truth," Yoongi said, a lopsided grin working its way onto his mouth. His fingers splayed out over Taehyung's stomach, and not for the first time Taehyung was left wondering how Yoongi's hands got to be so big. "You were handsome when you came, but now...You're much more beautiful when you're healthy."

"I've gotten pudgier," Taehyung said, the words leaving his lips without much thought. He couldn't think, not with the way Yoongi's thumb was brushing up and down and up and down his skin.

"You've gotten healthier." Yoongi leaned in, pressing a featherlight kiss to his chin. "Your arms and legs are more muscular, and I like your belly. It doesn't have to be flat to be beautiful."

"You're going to kill me," Taehyung breathed, releasing his grip on Yoongi's wrist to hold onto his waist instead. "You compliment me so much."

"Because I want you to know how much you mean to me," Yoongi said, his smile making Taehyung pull him in for another kiss.

 

 

Taehyung and Yoongi had a rather successful second day in the marketplace. Yoongi refused to model the saddle, too shy to be put on display, but they were able to drag it out and have it next to their stall.

Taehyung's pride had grown with every passerby that asked him about it, their curious humans wanting one to make travelling easier. He had told himself to only take three commissions, since that was about a month of work, but he ended up taking five because he couldn't say no.

Yoongi had spent his entire morning installing the things he had brought over, and Taehyung had joined him with his sketchbook and an energized mind. It was nice to spend time with him, even in silence. Taehyung liked ending their days at the marketplace. It was peaceful.

"You're going to be busy," Yoongi said as Taehyung started to sketch out designs. The crowd was thinning out, people leaving for dinner or to put their children to bed, and they hadn't had someone approach their stall in a while. "I'm proud of you."

Taehyung's hand paused, lifting up from the bird he had been sketching out. He looked up at Yoongi, whose eyes were soft with something Taehyung couldn't put his finger on, and he leaned in to kiss the corner of Yoongi's mouth. "Thank you, hyung."

Yoongi sighed, his breath minty and warm against Taehyung's cheek. "Any time, Tae."

 

 

"You know," Yoongi said, running his fingers through Taehyung's hair, "you're the first person I've had a committed relationship with."

Taehyung blinked, pulling away from his position against Yoongi's chest. "Really?"

"My parents have bugged me about it, but I never found someone I wanted to be with," Yoongi explained, grinning as shock made its way over Taehyung's face. "Don't look at me like that."

"It's kind of unbelievable," Taehyung said, shyness taking over. "You still have more experience."

"I messed around with people," Yoongi admitted. "But there was never anything there beyond that."

It was kind of funny hearing that. Taehyung had never been in a relationship, either, but he was a few years younger and he didn't have the opportunity to explore since he had grown up expecting to marry Nayeon. Yoongi's family seemed to be very relaxed in how they raised their kids and let them mate who they wanted, so it wasn't like Yoongi was restricted in that aspect. "Why are you telling me this?"

It wasn't a malicious question. Taehyung was genuinely curious. They were due to go home the next morning, and Yoongi was never one to say something like that without having a purpose. Taehyung didn't question it when Yoongi asked him to go stargazing again, but everything was starting to fall into place.

"Because of what I'm about to tell you," Yoongi said, pinching Taehyung's cheek for being impatient. He soothed it afterwards with a kiss, and Taehyung scoffed out a breathy laugh. "I'm prepared to give you my knife, Taehyung-ah. It doesn't have to be now, or anytime soon. We've only been together for...what? Three weeks? I don't want to rush you, but I want you to know where I stand. Okay?"

Taehyung sucked in a breath, his blood running hot underneath his skin. "Oh, hyung."

"I'm ready whenever you are," Yoongi said, cupping Taehyung's cheek. His scales looked gorgeous under the moonlight, so much that Taehyung had to reach out and run his fingers over them. Yoongi's eyes closed at the touch.

"Okay," Taehyung said. He wasn't ready. Not yet. He hadn't had time to think about it, but he knew that he cared for Yoongi more than he had ever thought he could. He wrapped his arms around Yoongi's shoulders, desperate to get closer, and tilted his head. "Hyung."

Yoongi leaned in, pressing their lips together with a smile that rivalled the beauty of the moon.

Chapter Text

"So we're here," Junhee said, pointing to a blob of land on the map. "According to the books, we started as individual clans. Yoongi hyung's family, Min, were the pioneers for this territory. But, over generations people immigrated and emigrated, so that isn't necessarily true anymore. There's four major clans: Kim, Park, Lee, and Choi. Our clan was one of the smaller outgroups. That's why our territory is smaller than the four major clans, but we're rather large in comparison to others."

Yoongi had never told him that. Taehyung hummed, folding his legs underneath him. The dining chairs weren't as comfortable as the couch, but it was easier to study in front of an actual table. "Is that why there's a Min on the Elder Council?"

He wanted to ask Yoongi all sorts of questions, but he was out for the day working in the communal homes. Junhee had visited Taehyung shortly after breakfast, and Taehyung couldn't resist the opportunity to ask him more questions about the clans. Especially after visiting the clan up north.

Junhee shrugged. "Not necessarily? I mean, Elder Min does hold the seat that was passed to him from his ancestors, but you know that they have to be elected and approved by the clan. That's why there's other families on the council, too."

"That's neat," Taehyung said, biting his bottom lip. "So, the Mins are kind of like royalty?"

Junhee hid his laugh behind a hand. "No, hyung, we don't see it like that."

"Aw, why not?"

"We're not like humans," Junhee giggled. "That kind of stuff doesn't matter, we're all the same. Hierarchy or not. The clan respects the old family, but not in that way."

"Back home, we all would play games where we pretended to be kings and queens," Taehyung said, folding his hands in front of him. He had clear memories of him and Jimin conspiring against the royals and it brought a smile to his face. "We would pull straws, and whoever won got to be spoiled for that day. It was easy, back then."

Junhee nudged him, a playful smile curling his lips. "It's always easier being a kid."

Taehyung hummed. "Yeah. I like my life now, though."

Junhee beamed, and Taehyung mussed up his hair until Junhee whined and tried to push away his hands.

 

 

Taehyung stretched his arms over his head, a yawn torn from his mouth. It was almost time for him to break for lunch, but Hoseok looked like he was focusing hard on his work. Jieun hadn't come out of her workroom all morning, even closing her door, so he figured he might have to eat alone.

Before he could think to get up and grab his lunch from his bag across the room, a panting Namjoon burst into the shop and immediately bent over with his hands on his knees. "Shit, I'm in terrible shape"

"Hyung?" Taehyung startled, stumbling off his chair as he crossed the room. "Why were you running?"

"Are you okay?" Hoseok called, concern thick in his voice.

Taehyung placed a hand on Namjoon's shoulder, the heat of his skin almost repelling Taehyung. Namjoon shook his head, straightening out with a groan as he brushed his hair out of his face. "No. Shit. Yes, technically. It's Yoongi."

Taehyung blanched, his heart falling to his feet as he dug his fingers into Namjoon's shoulder without thinking. Namjoon winced, and Taehyung took a second to retract his hand with an apologetic frown. "What happened to Yoongi hyung?"

"He fell, during work," Namjoon explained, regaining his composure. "It's nothing serious, I promise. I think he sprained his elbow."

"Shit," Hoseok said, his eyes going wide. "You ran all the way here?"

"People talk," Namjoon said, grumbling as he squeezed his sides. "You all would have found out sooner rather than later, and Yoongi wanted to make sure Taehyung didn't freak out."

"I'm already very uncomfortable," Taehyung said, shuffling from foot to foot. He felt better knowing that Yoongi had only sprained his elbow, but that didn't mean he felt good. "Where...?"

"Back to your home," Namjoon said. He frowned, rubbing the side of his neck. "Do you want to go now...?"

"Yes," Taehyung answered before Namjoon could even finish his sentence. He turned back around, rushing to grab his bag and gather all of his things. He was sure he would be forgetting some stuff, but he'd be back tomorrow. He didn't really care.

Hoseok sent them away with well wishes, telling them he would catch Jieun up, and said he would come visit soon with Jeongguk. Taehyung felt a little bad, knowing that Hoseok was a natural worrier, but he knew that Hoseok couldn't abandon his work.

They made it back to the house in no time, Taehyung's mind cloudy with worry, and Namjoon didn't say anything when Taehyung barrelled in through the front door. Taehyung was amazed he even thought to take off his shoes. He knew better than to throw his things around, and it took every part of him to place it calmly on the table before rushing to Yoongi's room, where the door was clearly open.

"Hyung—"

Yoongi was sitting on the bed, his face twisted in a dreary look of discomfort, and the doctor was to the side speaking to him in a low voice. Taehyung immediately quieted at the look the doctor sent to him, his scales looking dull in the darkness of the room, and hurried to sit down on one of the chairs Yoongi had to the right of his bed. Yoongi fixed him with a smile, and Taehyung hated how forced it looked.

I'm okay, Yoongi mouthed as the doctor continued to speak to him. His arm was already wrapped up, resting against his chest, and Taehyung wanted to soothe him. Namjoon wandered in as well, taking the seat next to Taehyung, and he offered Taehyung a pat to the back.

It was with a jolt that Taehyung realized he had never been inside Yoongi's room before. They tended to stick to the living room when they were in the house spending time together, and if they ever shared a bed it was Taehyung's. Taehyung wasn't sure why. It didn't bother him, but now that he was inside Yoongi's room he found himself brimming with curiosity.

Yoongi's room was simple, like Taehyung's, with a larger bed and a dresser with a lot of drawers on one side and two large arm chairs on the other side. There were a few ornamental things on top of the dresser, as well as an intricate mirror, and Taehyung found himself staring at them before he forced himself to look back at Yoongi and listen to what the doctor was saying.

"Luckily, it seems to be a simple sprain," she said, smiling politely at Namjoon and Taehyung. "It should take about two to three weeks for the majority of your mobility to return, and I'd advise you to refrain from shifting during that time. It could cause the muscles to tear further."

"Three weeks," Yoongi sighed, tilting his head back against the pillows. "Thank the moon it wasn't my ankle."

"Or your dominant hand," the doctor said, patting his shoulder. "You can work, just proceed with caution. Taehyung, you'll have to help him out."

Taehyung perked up, sitting up straighter in his seat. He hadn't been aware that the doctor knew his name, but he couldn't say he was surprised, either. "I will," he said. She smiled.

Namjoon offered to lead the doctor out, and Taehyung took advantage of the opportunity to launch into Yoongi's bed with a low whine. "Hyung. You fell?"

Yoongi flushed as Taehyung leaned in, their noses bumping together. "Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung got comfortable next to him, his knees pressing up against Yoongi's thigh. He resisted touching him, fearing Namjoon's inevitable return, settling for a peck against his lips before sitting back on his heels. Yoongi's lips followed him, a small puff falling from them, and Taehyung giggled. "I just got you, don't try to leave me already."

Yoongi snorted, and before he could reply Namjoon was walking back in the room. His eyes drifted between them, and he crossed his arms over his chest with a raised brow. "Alright, what's going on?"

Taehyung shared a look with Yoongi, unable to hide his laugh, and Yoongi sighed. "I'm surprised it took you this long to notice."

Namjoon shook his head with a look of exasperation Taehyung was all too familiar with. "I noticed something was off, but I didn't want to ask in case I was wrong."

Taehyung bit his lip. He looked back at Yoongi as if to ask permission, but Yoongi didn't do much other than smile. "Hyung and I are courting."

Namjoon softened as he rounded the bed, sitting on the opposite end from Taehyung, and a bright smile graced his face. "Really?"

Yoongi laughed, gentler than ever, and Taehyung's heart skipped a beat. "Really, Namjoon-ah. I was going to tell Jin hyung today, but this happened instead." He gestured to his elbow, and if Taehyung weren't still upset about it he might've laughed.

Namjoon laughed in his stead, tipping his head back. "He's going to be jealous that I found out first. Is this a recent development?"

Yoongi shrugged his shoulders. His cheeks had a flush to them that Taehyung wanted to litter with kisses. "Depends on your definition of recent. After your mating ceremony?"

"Recent enough," Namjoon said with a whistle. "Almost a month. Well, shit. Congrats to the two of you. Our next family dinner is sure going to be interesting.”

Taehyung laughed, finally allowing himself to rest his hands on top of Yoongi's good one, and shook his head as Yoongi groaned in exasperation. "That's what I was afraid of, hyung."

"Who else knows?" Namjoon asked, tilting his head. "If Seokjin hyung didn't know, I'm assuming your parents don't know, hyung."

Yoongi hummed, eyeing Taehyung carefully. "Hoseok found out, so Jeongguk must know. We were taking it slow, so my parents don't know yet."

"We weren't trying to hide," Taehyung said, knowing Namjoon might be wondering. Namjoon's sheepish smile confirmed his suspicions. "We wanted everything to fall into place rather than forcing it."

"I think it'd make the Min family happy," Namjoon said, smiling. He kneaded his knuckles against the bedspread. "Your mother's been wanting you to get mated off for a while now, hyung."

"Stop," Yoongi grumbled. "I'm ill, respect me."

Taehyung snorted, hiding it behind his hand, and Namjoon laughed as Yoongi pinched at Taehyung's side. "You two are meant for one another."

"Damn right we are," Yoongi huffed, relenting when Taehyung started to bat at his hand. "We were talking about bringing it up to my parents before the next family dinner."

And...they were. It had been a few nights prior, when they were under Taehyung's sheets. Taehyung had been half asleep, curling against Yoongi's back while Yoongi had talked about it. He hadn't meant to be rude, only conscious enough to make little mumbles of agreeance, but Yoongi had understood him well enough.

"Good luck," Namjoon said, tilting his head as a more sincere smile grew on his lips. "You'll make them happy. I know they really like Taehyung."

"Hyung." Taehyung flushed, but he met Namjoon's eyes with a burst of pride. "Thank you."

"Thank you," Yoongi repeated, his words softer.

Taehyung met his eyes, and the smile he received was enough to melt away all of the anxiety that had been building around Taehyung's heart.

 

 

"You're okay with them all knowing?"

Taehyung looked up from the vegetables he was cutting. Yoongi was seated on the counter next to where Taehyung was working, a petulant frown on his face since Taehyung wouldn't let him help. Taehyung didn't mind doing all the work. It felt like he was spoiling Yoongi a little, and he liked taking care of him. More often than not it was Yoongi taking care of Taehyung, anyways.

"Yes," Taehyung said. "Like Namjoon said, it's almost been a month. I think it's time, yeah?"

They had told Namjoon to go ahead and invite everyone over for lunch the next morning, since they knew Seokjin would want to come anyways, and if Taehyung was being honest he was excited for it. It felt nice to be surrounded by people that were happy for them. He knew Seokjin would throw a fit, probably, but it was all in good fun.

"Yeah," Yoongi said, eyeing the pot as Taehyung tossed a handful of potatoes in it. Taehyung was making his favorite, but neither of them mentioned it. "Taehyung-ah."

"Yes, hyung?"

"I like you a lot."

Taehyung paused, and he looked over to where Yoongi was smiling down at his lap. He looked cuter than he should have, with his left arm wrapped up pitifully, and Taehyung couldn't resist the urge to cross the small distance between them to press his lips to Yoongi's chin in addition to his response. "I like you too, hyung."

 

 

"Jeongguk found out before me?"

"Here we go." Yoongi ran a hand over his face.

"Here we go," Seokjin mocked, his chin jutting out as he crossed his arms over his arms. "How did Jeongguk find out before me?"

"Hoseok found out first," Taehyung said, shrugging his shoulders. It was hard to hide his laughter when Seokjin was pouting so strongly, his legs kicked out in front of him like a child while Namjoon looked on with a mixture of embarrassment and endearment. "Jeongguk found out from him."

"I considered telling you, hyung," Jeongguk said, smiling saccharinely, "but it's funnier this way."

Jeongguk dodged Seokjin's flying fist, nuzzling in the space between Hoseok's back and the couch with a cackle, and Hoseok swatted playfully at his side. "Don't be mean to Jin hyung," Hoseok chided, laughing.

"You didn't tell me either," Seokjin said, pointing an accusatory finger at Hoseok.

Hoseok lifted his hands up in front of his chest. "It wasn't my secret to tell!"

"You told Jeongguk," Namjoon said, and whether it was to add fuel to the fire or to make Seokjin happy Taehyung wasn't sure. Probably both.

"He's my promised," Hoseok said, leaning back against the couch to squish Jeongguk against the cushions. They collectively ignored Jeongguk's whine. "Namjoonie told you right away, didn't he?"

"I was the last to find out, that doesn't count," Seokjin huffed, batting at Hoseok's hands. "A whole month! And you've known almost the whole time!"

"I just have good instincts," Hoseok said, grinning. "You don't seem very surprised, hyung."

"Because Yoongi's been hung up on Taehyung-ah for a while," Seokjin said, shaking his head. "I should've know. No wonder Yoongi wasn't—"

"Hyung—"

"Wasn't what?" Taehyung chirped, leaning forward with a bright grin. "Yoongi hyung talked about me a lot, didn't he?"

"Oh moon," Namjoon sighed. "I should've known this was going to happen."

"He talked about you all the time," Seokjin said, ignoring Yoongi's glares as he settled back against Namjoon's side.

"Hyung stares a lot," Jeongguk said as he wiggled away from Hoseok's iron grip. He ended up at his feet, sprawled out on the floor, and Taehyung grinned.

"I catch him staring still," Taehyung said, lowering his voice to a conspiring whisper. Jeongguk snickered.

"Stop it," Yoongi growled, pinching Taehyung's side.

"Ow!"

"It was about time," Hoseok said, ignoring them as he waved his hand around. "Taehyungie tried to ignore it at first, I think."

"Namjoon-ah was the same way," Seokjin said, grinning over his shoulder at Namjoon's disdainful expression. "What? You were?"

"Tease Yoongi hyung, not me."

"Can we please talk about something else?"

"No!"

"Absolutely not, Yoongi-yah."

"Sorry, hyung."

Taehyung laughed, and he nuzzled his nose against Yoongi's cheek to the sound of Seokjin's fake nausea and Hoseok's laughter. "I like this conversation quite a bit, hyung."

Yoongi rolled his eyes, but the pink to his cheeks and the curve of his smile showed his happiness. "I'm sure you do."

 

 

Seokjin got over his dramatics by the time lunch was over, wishing them well with an exuberance only he could pull off, and it wasn't long before they were left to their own devices again. Taehyung had given himself the entire day off to help Yoongi around so he could figure out how to get by with his arm in the sling, even though Yoongi told him he should work, and if he was being honest with himself he was glad to have time for them to spend together.

Yoongi eventually convinced Taehyung to at least work in the shop, choosing to sit on the stool and give Taehyung some design advice as he worked on the many commissions he had building up. It was nice to have Yoongi's input instead of just working in silence like they usually did. Not that Taehyung didn't like the comfortable silence, but still. It was a little selfish, but he liked listening to Yoongi's voice the most.

"Hey," Taehyung said, walking up to the stool and settling between Yoongi's spread thighs. Yoongi's eyes flickered down to his lips, and Taehyung resisted the urge to smile. "It's late."

"Not too late," Yoongi hummed. "Are you done working?"

"For today, yeah," Taehyung said. He wasn't sure how many hours had passed, but it was already dark out and he had gotten a lot more than he had expected done. "Want to get washed up?"

"Mmm. I wanted to bathe tonight, but..." Yoongi glanced down at the sling with a frown as he stood up from the stool. "Seems like a hassle."

Taehyung followed his gaze, and he bit his bottom lip as a thought occurred to him. "I could help hyung?"

Yoongi raised a brow. "What do you mean?"

Taehyung reached for his hand, squeezing it slightly as he led him out of the shop. He paused as they passed the lantern, watching as Yoongi turned off the flame. "I could help bathe you so you don't get it wet?"

Yoongi smiled as he turned away from the lantern. "You trying to find an excuse to watch me bathe?"

"I don't need an excuse," Taehyung chirped, leaning in to hover his lips over Yoongi's. "Hyung would let me if I asked nicely, right?"

Yoongi's breath stuttered out as Taehyung pulled away without kissing him, and the look of longing was obvious in his blown out pupils. "Don't play with me."

"I was being serious," Taehyung said, skipping out into the yard. "Hyung's the one with the dirty mind."

Yoongi caught himself a second later, stumbling out after Taehyung, and he squeezed Taehyung's hand. "Fine. You can help me."

"You're more than welcome," Taehyung teased, turning around before he opened the door to give Yoongi the kiss he had been expecting earlier. "You're welcome for that, too."

"Be quiet," Yoongi mumbled against his lips. He leaned in to get another one seconds later, and Taehyung let him get in a few more seconds before he was pulling him inside.

"Go get your clothes, hyung, I'll draw your bath," Taehyung said after they put their shoes away.

"Okay," Yoongi said, a little smile on his face as he let go of Taehyung's hand to head to his bedroom.

Taehyung followed after him a few seconds later with a fond smile, passing both of their rooms to head towards the bathroom. He turned on the water, sighing happily when he stuck his fingers under the flowing stream. It was a good temperature, not too warm and not too cold. Yoongi liked his baths a little cooler than Taehyung did, since he ran hotter.

Taehyung bit his lip, thinking to himself as the tub filled up with water, and turned back to the shelves on the back wall to grab a few of the oil bottles. He sprinkled in a few drops, stopping once he was satisfied with the comforting scent of lavender, and put them back when he was done.

Yoongi walked in as Taehyung was pulling up the stool that regularly sat in front of the vanity to the side of the tub, and he smiled knowingly. "You're too cute."

"So are you," Taehyung replied, a bright smile growing on his face. He leaned forward to shut the water off before straightening out and facing Yoongi. "Let me help you, hyung."

He took the fresh change of clothes and put them on top of the vanity, pulling out a towel as well, and turned back to Yoongi with grabby hands. Yoongi sighed, staying still as Taehyung carefully undid his sling. He didn't wince, thankfully, and that gave Taehyung the courage to start tugging at his shirt.

"You won't hurt me," Yoongi said, stepping back so Taehyung could work his shirt around his injured arm. "Really, Taehyung-ah."

"I'm trying not to," Taehyung said, letting out a sigh of relief when he got the shirt off without so much as a hiss from Yoongi. "There. Crisis averted."

Yoongi laughed, not unkindly, and Taehyung took a step back so he could take off the rest of his clothes. "Are you going to just stand there and watch me?"

Taehyung flushed, and he turned around with a pout. "Aw, hyung. You're no fun."

"We're not there yet," Yoongi mumbled, his words thick with something Taehyung was coming to recognize as shyness. "I'll tell you when to turn around."

Taehyung laughed quietly, nodding even though it was likely Yoongi was focusing on getting his trousers and underwear off. There was a soft plop as Yoongi got into the water, and Taehyung bounced on his heels as he waited for his cue.

"Alright," Yoongi said after a few more seconds. "Come here."

Taehyung did as he was told, turning around and taking his seat on the stool with a bright smile. Yoongi was waiting with his head tipped back, the ends of his hair already dipping into the water. He looked so peaceful, so sweet, and Taehyung's heart skipped with the amount of affection that flowed through him. His injured arm was perched on the edge of the tub, and Taehyung was careful not to bump into it as he reached for the soap.

"Want me to wash your hair first?" he asked, lowering his voice. Yoongi looked so calm. He didn't want to disturb that.

"Yeah," Yoongi said, closing his eyes before dipping his head fully in the water. He surfaced after a second, and Taehyung smiled as he lathered up the soap in his hands before leaning in to work it through his strands.

Yoongi let out a soft sigh of content as Taehyung massaged his fingers against his scalp. Taehyung concentrated as best he could to ensure that no soap dripped down to Yoongi's face, dropping a finger down to tip Yoongi's head back once he was done to carefully scoop water over his hair. The soap came out with ease and Taehyung smiled fondly.

"Hyung," he said softly, "did you know that you're the prettiest thing I've ever seen?"

"You're getting sweet," Yoongi mumbled, tilting his head pliantly as Taehyung worked out the remains of the soap. "What's the occasion?"

There were a lot of things Taehyung could have said. So many thoughts had climbed into his heart over the past four weeks, and it was hard to express them fully.

"I'm happy," he settled for, brushing away a stray droplet of water near between Yoongi's brows. "Everyone's being so nice."

"I've told you before," Yoongi said, opening his eyes fully once Taehyung pulled back to reach for the soap again, "you're too charming. No one can resist you."

Taehyung's heart fluttered, not for the first time that night, and he reached for a washcloth to lather the soap up against. "Just let me clean you up, hyung. Save the flattery for later."

Yoongi laughed, a soft huff of air through his nose, and Taehyung smiled as he started to wipe at his neck and collarbone. He patted Yoongi's shoulder, urging him to sit up, and Yoongi did so without much fuss. Taehyung scrubbed at his back, selfishly peeking at the smooth expanse of skin that had been previously hidden under the water. There was a smattering of scales at his tailbone, reflecting light prettily, and Taehyung had the urge to touch them to feel how smooth they might be.

It was still hard for him to believe that Yoongi was his, especially when he looked at him in this way, and Taehyung couldn't resist the urge to lean in and press a longing kiss to the curve of Yoongi's shoulder. Yoongi leaned his head back, his wet hair brushing against Taehyung's cheek, and he met Taehyung's eyes with his pupils so blown out Taehyung thought he might drown in them.

"Careful, darling," he drawled. "I don't think you're ready for that kind of game."

He reached out his hand for the washcloth with a pretty downturn to his lips that had Taehyung squirming as fire licked at his skin. Taehyung sucked in a breath, unable to hold Yoongi's gaze without fear of melting into the floor, and dipped the washcloth into the water before carefully handing it to Yoongi.

Yoongi gave him a smile, then, and Taehyung sat back patiently as Yoongi loaded the washcloth up with more soap to clean the rest of his body. He felt like a scolded child, but those feelings melted away into nothingness when Yoongi finished washing his body and reached out to tap Taehyung's lips with a damp finger and a wider smile.

"Help me get dry, hm?"

Taehyung bit his bottom lip, tipping his head to the side before nodding and getting up to retrieve the towel. He heard Yoongi pull the drain behind him, and he dropped his gaze in preparation as he headed back to the tub.

Yoongi stood, the flush of water dripping down his body making Taehyung jolt at first, and he reached out for the towel. Taehyung gave it to him, lowering both Yoongi's clothes and his gaze onto the stool and only looking up when Yoongi hummed to help rub him down. He was careful, making sure to keep his hands where Yoongi would be comfortable with, and Yoongi huffed out a laugh.

"You're like Nabi when she gets scolded," he teased. "Too cute."

"Hyung, please," Taehyung mumbled, his cheeks flushing pink. "Come, step out and dry your feet and legs so you can get dressed."

Yoongi did as advised, a snicker dripping from his lips, and Taehyung momentarily forgot his embarrassment to ensure that he wouldn't slip. He caught glances of Yoongi's skin every now and then as the towel swayed, smooth legs and thighs making Taehyung's heart skip. He felt a little overwhelmed, but he wasn't sure what he was expecting when he offered to help.

Yoongi told him to turn around again so he could put his underwear and sleeping pants on, and Taehyung did so without complaint. It was easy to try and tease Yoongi when Taehyung felt like he had the upper hand, but Yoongi knew too well how to get under Taehyung's skin.

"Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung turned around, and a smile grew on his face when he saw the way Yoongi was frowning at his shirt. "Need help?"

"Yes," Yoongi grumbled, holding the shirt out.

Taehyung accepted it with a light laugh, and he instructed Yoongi to hold a similar position to the one he had held to get his shirt off. Yoongi did so, and Taehyung was even more careful than the first time around as he stuck the shirt through Yoongi's injured arm.

It took a few minutes, but Taehyung was able to stand back with a bright smile once the shirt was on successfully. He picked up the swing afterwards, frowning when Yoongi winced as they put it on. It was inevitable, since it was in direct contact with his injury, but Taehyung hated it all the same.

"There," he said, smoothing the knot he tied over Yoongi's shoulder. "Is that okay?"

"Yes," Yoongi said, shaking his head as his hair started to drip water on his face. Taehyung laughed when a few water droplets flew his way, and he poked Yoongi's stomach in retaliation.

"Hyung, don't," he whined, reaching for the towel again and patting it against Yoongi's hair until the excess water was absorbed. "There. All better."

Yoongi leaned in, his lips ghosting over Taehyung's, and Taehyung nearly dropped the towel. "Do you want a kiss for a job well done?"

"Are you offering?" Taehyung said, tilting his head. Yoongi's lips were so close, but he didn't want to give him the satisfaction of giving in.

Yoongi huffed, as if frustrated that his plan wasn't working, and Taehyung risked a smile. "You seemed willing when you were trying to seduce me during my bath."

Taehyung flushed down to his toes, but he refused to be moved. "And I have you wrapped around my finger now, don't I?"

Yoongi growled, lifting his good hand up to cup Taehyung's jaw. He dipped in closer, and Taehyung sucked in a breath as their lips brushed together for a brief moment. "Is that what you think?"

"It is," Taehyung said, his voice thick with anticipation. It was fun to tease, but it was so much more fun to get what he wanted. "Please, hyung."

Yoongi didn't bother to play further, instead choosing to lean in and suck Taehyung's bottom lip into his mouth. Taehyung gasped, and his knees nearly buckled as Yoongi finally kissed him properly. Their lips slipped together, and Taehyung scrambled to hold onto Yoongi's waist to ground himself. It felt hot, so much hotter than what it had been, and he wanted nothing more than to bury himself in the heat between them.

Taehyung gasped into Yoongi's mouth when Yoongi leaned into him, pressing their bodies flush together. "Hyung."

Yoongi pressed another kiss to the corner of his mouth, his breath soft against Taehyung's skin. "You fascinate me, Taehyung-ah."

"What are you doing?" Taehyung said, pressing his nose against Yoongi's cheek as he tried to stabilize his thoughts. Their bodies were still pressed together, and Taehyung was doing his best to not focus on it without much success.

"I don't know," Yoongi said, laughing under his breath. "I feel like I can't think when I kiss you."

Taehyung's nerves tingled from his toes to the top of his head. "You can't say things like that, hyung."

Yoongi hummed, rubbing his thumb down to Taehyung's neck. "And why not?"

"Because it'll make me want to kiss you again."

Yoongi brushed his lips across Taehyung's jaw until they were hovering over Taehyung's again. Taehyung could feel the phantom warmth of his smile, and it made his fingers shake from their position on Yoongi's waist. "Then kiss me."

Taehyung laughed against his lips, leaning in until he could capture them in a proper kiss. He pulled away seconds later, though, to Yoongi's chagrin. "Hyung. It's bedtime. Will you join me in my bed?"

Yoongi's eyes darkened, and Taehyung flushed at the implications. He hadn't ever explicitly asked Yoongi to join him in bed before. They usually found themselves in Taehyung's after a long day, especially after returning from their trip, so Taehyung never had to ask. He felt a little silly.

"Why don't we sleep in mine tonight?" Yoongi said, making Taehyung's eyes widen. "It's bigger. We probably should've been sleeping in there this entire time."

Taehyung laughed, tipping his head back. "I think you've been using my smaller bed as an excuse to hold me tighter."

Yoongi snorted, poking Taehyung's side. "Hush and go change into your sleep clothes. I'll finish cleaning this up."

Taehyung smiled and leaned in for one last kiss. "Okay, hyung. I'll see you soon."

Yoongi rolled his eyes, the fondness in his smile making Taehyung's heart clench. "See you soon."

Taehyung rushed to his room, putting on his most comfortable sleep clothes in celebration of sleeping in Yoongi's bed for the first time. Excitement flowed through his veins as he made his way to Yoongi's room, finding the door ajar like it had been the previous day, and he smiled when he saw Yoongi already curled under the bedspread. It was dark with no lights on, but not dark enough that Taehyung couldn't see him. He looked so gentle with his eyelids hanging heavily and his lips puffing out soft breaths as he got comfortable that Taehyung didn't bother taking his time climbing in next to him.

"Took you long enough," Yoongi teased, extending his arm so Taehyung could fit against him. Taehyung cuddled into his side, pressing his nose into Yoongi's neck with a comfortable sigh.

"Every moment without you is an eternity," Taehyung teased. "Now we can sleep peacefully."

Yoongi laughed, a sweet sound that had Taehyung's heart brimming with joy, and he pressed his lips to the top of Taehyung's head. "Goodnight, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung curled his hand around Yoongi's belly, petting down his side as he pressed a similar kiss to Yoongi's neck. "Goodnight, Yoongi hyung."

 

 

The rest of the week and the weekend passed easily, Taehyung choosing to work from home so he could stay by Yoongi's side. Luckily, Yoongi wasn't experience much pain, so it was easy for them to sit in the shop together as Taehyung worked. Yoongi wasn't supposed to work, but Taehyung couldn't deny him whenever Yoongi picked up a pen and paper and chose to spend the day sketching out designs.

Junhee came by, too, pouting since he couldn't do much without Yoongi's guidance, and Taehyung took him under his wing for the time being. It was fun, having a faux apprentice for a few days, and Taehyung had to wonder if he would ever get one of his own. It felt strange to think about it, establishing more permanent bonds, but it made him happy, too.

Monday came around faster than Taehyung would have liked, and Yoongi smiled when he noticing how Taehyung was fidgeting on the way to the Min house. "Are you nervous?"

"I am," Taehyung admitted. He latched onto Yoongi's good arm, tugging at his clothes. "Hyung, they like me as your friend, but—"

"They like you for you," Yoongi corrected him. He leaned in, pressing his lips to the corner of Taehyung's jaw. "If you want to wait to tell them we can. I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

"No," Taehyung said, his apprehension decreasing with the affection. "I want them to know. I'm just being silly."

"You're human," Yoongi said, teasing with another kiss to Taehyung's skin. "You're meant to be silly."

Taehyung tilted his head back in a laugh. "Be quiet, hyung. Look, we're here."

Yoongi put a respectful distance between them as they approached the Min house, his head held high as he greeting his cousins who were moseying about in the front yard. Taehyung greeted them as well, ruffling the hair of a child as he ran past them, and he put on his best smile as they walked in through the open doors. It was still light out, the summer sun peeking at them with a warmth that rivalled the flush to Taehyung's cheeks.

Yoongi's mother greeted them, as per usual, and Taehyung's greeting back was a little more breathy as he bowed. Yoongi laughed from next to him, and Taehyung pouted towards him when he straightened out again.

"Mother," Yoongi said, smiling as she bundled him up in her arms and cooed at his injured elbow. "Is father around? I'd like to speak to the both of you."

Yoongi's mother paused. "He's in the living room along with your brother. Did something happen?"

Taehyung had the urge to grip Yoongi's hand, but he kept to himself with a neutral smile as Yoongi shook his head. "Nothing bad. I just need to tell you both something."

"Alright," she said, apprehension making her eyes flit between the two of them before she turned. "Go wait for us in our room."

Yoongi hummed, bowing his head before grabbing Taehyung by the elbow and gently pulling him along. Taehyung offered Yoongi's mother a better smile, and she returned it before going to retrieve her mate. Taehyung felt a little embarrassed, worrying her, but Yoongi was nothing but smile as he led Taehyung down the hallway. They stopped in front of a door Taehyung had never been past, and he pressed himself against Yoongi's back as Yoongi pushed it open.

"Don't worry," Yoongi said, his voice low as he guided Taehyung inside.

The room was similar to Yoongi's, but their decor was a touch more elaborate. The wooden carvings to the chairs that sat to the right of their bed were so ornate that it made Taehyung lean in to view them better. It reminded him of one of the stories he had read so long ago, when he had first come to the clan.

As if reading his mind, Yoongi pointed to the dragon embracing the moon. "They had these gifted to them from my paternal grandparents for their mating ceremony. They tell our origin story, and how the dragons were born from the love of the moon."

Taehyung smiled, tilting his head. "They're beautiful."

"I know you like that story," Yoongi hummed.

Before Taehyung could reply, the sound of the door opening cut him off. He turned around, bowing at the waist as Yoongi's parents smiled at them. "What are you worrying your mother about?" Yoongi father said, smiling as he led his mate to the two seats.

Taehyung lowered himself to his knees first, and Yoongi followed with an amused huff. His heart was beating so hard in his chest he thought it might burst, and he was afraid to start the conversation in fear of making a fool of out himself.

Luckily, as his parents sat, Yoongi took the initiative with a calming smile towards them. He bowed, his good hand lowering to the floor in front of him. "I wish to ask for your acceptance."

A spark of recognition flashed in Yoongi's mother's eyes, and she leaned forward with her hands clasped over her chest. "Yoongi-yah?"

"Taehyung and I have decided to court," Yoongi continued. Taehyung lowered himself down in a deeper bow, wishing to express what he couldn't with his words. "I hope you will accept my choice in mate."

Taehyung sucked in a breath, pressing his body even flatter against the floor as Yoongi's parents fell to silence. He hoped they would accept him. Moreso for Yoongi's sake than his own, but Taehyung had also grown to love and cherish Yoongi's family as his. It felt odd, but he craved their acceptance more than he thought he might have.

"Yoongi-yah." It was Yoongi's father, and Taehyung braced himself. "Of course we give you our blessing."

Relief washed over Taehyung like a cold bath, and he had to refrain from bursting up to exclaim his gratitude. Yoongi sighed beside him, and Taehyung laughed in his head. Seems like he wasn't the only one that had been nervous.

"Get up, the both of you," Yoongi's mother cooed. "We should have seen this coming."

Taehyung waited until Yoongi moved to sit up, and he kept his eyes lowered as he fixed his hands on his lap. His cheeks were pink with a mixture of relief and embarrassment and gratitude, and he didn't want to face them quite yet.

A hand found its way onto his lap, and Taehyung couldn't hold back the smile as he intertwined his fingers with Yoongi's. "Thank you," Yoongi sighed.

"We want you to be happy," his mother said. "Taehyung-ah, look at me."

Taehyung did as he was told, as regretful it was that his face was still pink. Their faces were so comforting, though, that it was easy to forget his embarrassment for at least a second. He shared her bright smile, and she laughed behind her hand.

"Call me mother now, sweetheart. Our family will be lucky to have you."

Taehyung sucked in a breath, and he dipped his head again. "Yes, mother."

Yoongi's father laughed, a sound that reminded Taehyung so much of Yoongi that it had his heart clenching. "Our son is all grown up now. You did a fantastic job picking out a mate, Yoongi-yah. Have you two discussed exchanging knives...?"

Taehyung glanced at Yoongi, who had his chest puffed out, and he smiled as Yoongi did. "We have. We haven't said exactly when, but we are on the same page. We'll exchange them when both of us are ready."

"There's no need to rush," Yoongi's mother said to Taehyung. She reached for his hands, and Taehyung didn't hesitate to drop Yoongi's and wiggle forward to hold her warm hand. "I know this is still new to you."

"Yoongi hyung's been understanding," Taehyung reassured her, his heart filling with affection for both Yoongi and his parent. "He hasn't rushed me, but I know I would like to give him my knife eventually."

Taehyung could see Yoongi fidgeting from the corner of his eye, and Yoongi's father laughed heartily. "Good, son. I'm glad we raised you properly."

"Father," Yoongi mumbled. "Please."

Taehyung turned to face him, grinning at the sight of Yoongi's red ears. "Hyung's embarrassed now."

"Hyung wants you to stop now," Yoongi grumbled, puffing out his cheeks as his parents laughed. "We should go back out."

Yoongi's mother cooed at him, squeezing Taehyung's hands in her own. "You know we're going to tell everyone, don't you?"

"At least I'll have food to distract myself with," Yoongi said, pouting more as his father lifted out of the chair and laughed as he patted the top of Yoongi's head.

"Come, son. I'm assuming Seokjin and the others know?"

"Seokjin hyung found out recently. Namjoon found out first," Taehyung said, smiling sweetly as he stood up and offered a hand to Yoongi's mother. She took it with a smile, standing up with a grace Taehyung was entranced by.

"I'm sure Seokjin was quiet jealous," she said, laughing sweetly. "How cute. He'll be pouting."

"Hyung likes to be ahead of the game," Yoongi said through a snort, holding back to allow his father to pass and lead them out of the room. "For once he wasn't."

"He threw a fit, didn't he?" Yoongi's father grinned as they shuffled into the hallway, shutting the door once they were all out.

"He always throws a fit," Yoongi said, laughing finally when Taehyung tickled his side.

"Don't let hyung hear you say that," Taehyung joked.

"Are you four done?" Junki said as he rounded the corner, his arms over his chest with a grin.

Taehyung glanced at Yoongi, who's smile never faltered, before turning back and nodding. "Yes."

"We're courting," Yoongi said, simple enough. Taehyung was surprised at the ease, and Junki seemed surprised too. There were a few others around that heard, and their eyes went wide. Taehyung could already hear them whispering, spreading the news deeping into the house, but he didn't feel any bad energy from it.

"Well," Junki said, his grin mirroring Yoongi's. "Congrats to the both of you. I can't say I'm surprised. You two match each other well."

"Thank you, hyung," Yoongi said, bowing his head. Taehyung followed, a thanks of his own falling from his lips, and Junki patted his brother's shoulder.

"Come, you three. Help out in the kitchen, hm?"

Yoongi looped his hand around Taehyung's wrist, pulling him along, and when he looked over his shoulder to fix Taehyung with a pretty smile, Taehyung knew everything was meant to work out.

Chapter Text

Taehyung put down his book, blinking at Yoona from across the table. "Can you repeat that, noona?"

Yoona smiled, folding her hands in front of her as she leaned forward. "The shoemaker came over to my family's for dinner last night. His daughter will be graduating next year and she's starting to think about who to pick up an apprenticeship with. Your name came up."

Hoseok whistled. "You're already popular, Taehyung-ah."

"Why me?" Taehyung asked, tilting his head. He was honored, yes, but also a little confused. "I don't think I've ever met her...?"

"Like Hoseok said, you're popular," Yoona said with a shrug of her shoulders. "She's really gifted with leatherworking, but she's never liked making just shoes. Her dad’s had her in the shop since she was young and she’s great at it. She's a good kid, too. I think you'll like her."

Hoseok clapped his hand against Taehyung's back as he got up to head to the back. He was busy working on more robes for the upcoming festival for a set of newly born twins, and Taehyung stared on with amazement. "I'm sure she'll do well if she's the shoemaker's daughter."

Taehyung smiled, biting his bottom lip. "Is there anything I need to do...?"

"It's the responsibility of the child to approach their desired mentor," Yoona said, shaking her head. "I'm sure she'll approach you during the next festival if she ends up choosing you, but she still has time as she hasn't even started her final year of school."

Taehyung nodded, giddiness thrumming through his veins. "I think it would be fun. I would still have time to master my craft, too."

"Junhee is good practice, too," Hoseok said, picking out a shimmery white fabric. "You've taken over some of Yoongi hyung's duties while he's on leave, haven't you?"

Taehyung hummed, sliding a bookmark in between the pages of his book. He knew better than to read during lunch, since he usually got distracted, but it was a new one Junhee had brought him the previous day and he couldn't resist bringing it. "Yeah. Hyung's not as bitter about it as he was."

"Well, it's been...what, a week?"

"And one day," Taehyung said, grinning when Hoseok rolled his eyes.

"Yoongi is weak to you," Yoona said, laughing prettily behind her hand. "He probably thinks you're doing a better job."

"Well, I'm helping Junhee with carving," Taehyung said with a shrug of his shoulders. "Like the work he did on my knife?"

"Cute," Hoseok said, shaking his head with a laugh. "That kid is going to be a jack of all trades."

"He's capable!" Taehyung clapped his hands against the table. "Junhee is amazing."

Yoona smiled. "I'll agree with that. He's a good kid. Yoongi's very lucky to have him."

"He is," Taehyung chirped. "Junhee's my favorite."

"Don't let Yoongi hear you say that," Hoseok teased, dodging the spare piece of fabric Taehyung tossed at him as Yoona laughed.

"Trust me, hyung already knows."

 

 

Yoongi nipped at Taehyung's chin, following even when Taehyung giggled and tried to dodge him. "What're you doing?"

"I'm not doing anything," Taehyung chirped, laughing louder when Yoongi started to tickle his belly. He did his best not to wiggle around, not wanting to bump into Yoongi's injured arm, and Yoongi was using that to his advantage. "Hyung!"

"Say it again," Yoongi said, jutting his chin out when Taehyung held onto his wrist to prevent any more tickling. "I dare you."

"Junhee's my favorite," Taehyung drawled, rolling onto his side to avoid Yoongi's nips with a loud laugh. "Hyung!"

"I should be your favorite," Yoongi gruffed, twisting his hand out of Taehyung's grip and slapping it onto Taehyung's belly. He gripped onto it, squeezing a little until Taehyung gasped out.

"Hyung, I'm sensitive there," he whined, pushing at Yoongi's hand until it relaxed its grip. "Don't do that."

"Then come here."

Taehyung relaxed against the pillows, letting Yoongi straddle his waist properly and lean in to give him a kiss. It was a lot more calmer than Yoongi's previous actions, and Taehyung found himself melting more and more into the sheets with every deliberate movement of Yoongi's lips.

Taehyung dropped his hands to Yoongi's waist, toying at the hem of his shirt before sneaking his fingers up. Yoongi's skin was so soft, and Taehyung's fingers twitched as they brushed over the scales he had been admiring the other day in the bath. They were just as smooth as Taehyung expected them to be, but what he didn't expect was the low moan from Yoongi.

Taehyung licked his lips, expectation growing in his gut as he pressed up against Yoongi. "Hyung. Please."

Yoongi huffed against his neck, thighs trembling as he lifted himself onto his knees above Taehyung's lap. He looked down at him, lips downturned and pupils blown out, and Taehyung pressed his thumb against the scales again. Yoongi's lips parted, and Taehyung felt more than heard the moan that dripped out.

"I want to help hyung," Taehyung said, brushing his hand further up Yoongi's back. He dragged his nails down over Yoongi's spine just to watch the way Yoongi would react.

Yoongi arched his back, tilting his head back with a low groan. "You're going to kill me, Taehyung-ah."

"Does it feel nice?" Taehyung asked, bracing himself as Yoongi sat down on his thighs. The weight was comfortable, since Yoongi wasn't too heavy, and the skin of his thighs looked so soft.

"It does," Yoongi breathed out, a short laugh following. "Do you know what you're doing?"

"Of course I don't," Taehyung laughed. He tilted his head up to press a kiss to the underside of Yoongi's jaw, pleased with the rumble that followed. "Hyung will guide me, right?"

Yoongi moved his head to grant Taehyung more access, humming as he rested his hand on top of Taehyung's head. "You chose the wrong time to get to the next step of our relationship, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung glanced at the sling, and a smile grew on his lips. "I'll do all the work, hyung. I want to."

"You know," Yoongi sighed, wiggled when Taehyung started to pet down his back again, "I'm not supposed to initiate anything sexual with you until we exchange knives."

Taehyung flushed, thinking of his own knife that rested in his drawers where it was safe. He had been thinking about it more ever since they went to visit Yoongi's family, having been asked several times about it by Yoongi's aunts and uncles, and it had been weighing heavy on his mind. He hadn't had much time to think about it, regrettably, but he knew that he wanted to give Yoongi his knife. It was a matter of when that he had to think about.

"Hoseok hyung and Jeongguk did," he said, remembering all the stories Hoseok told him. It made his flush darken, and Yoongi snorted.

"Hoseok and Jeongguk aren't normal," Yoongi drawled, brushing his fingers through Taehyung's hair. Taehyung preened at the touch, and it made Yoongi's lips curl into a lazy smile. "I'm fine with giving myself to you, though."

"Oh," Taehyung breathed, as if he hadn't been the one to bring it up in the first place. Yoongi was always so mature and ready, and sometimes Taehyung forgot that he was equally as inexperienced as Taehyung in that way because of it. "Me too, hyung."

"You've been trying to seduce me for a while," Yoongi teased. "I would hope you want to."

Taehyung laughed, pressing a kiss to Yoongi's collarbone before relaxing back against the sheets. "I can't help it, hyung. You're so handsome."

"You think?" Yoongi grinned, leaning in to kiss Taehyung's lips chastely. "What do you want to do to me?"

Taehyung sucked in a breath. Hoseok had told him about the things he and Jeongguk had done together. While it had made Taehyung embarrassed to look at him for hours, it was helpful. "I want to use my hands," he said, using all of his strength to say it.

Yoongi paused, his lips parting in surprised, and Taehyung struggled not to take the initiative to hide his face against Yoongi's belly. "You do?"

The words came out gruffer than they had before, and Taehyung sucked in a breath. He tightened his grip around Yoongi's waist, pulling him in tighter. "I do."

"Okay," Yoongi breathed. His lips looked so soft. "I— I'd like that."

Taehyung broke out into a smile, and he sighed in relief. "Can I?"

Yoongi laughed, shaking his head a little as he dropped his hand to Taehyung's shoulder to steady himself. "I'd really like it, yeah."

"I don't think I'll be very good," Taehyung said, rubbing his palms against Yoongi's hips. "You should probably rest against the pillows, hyung."

Yoongi laughed, and there was a giddiness to it that had Taehyung's head spinning. He slid off Taehyung's lap, regretfully, and Taehyung followed after a second to settle between Yoongi's spread thighs. "We'll go slow, okay?"

"Okay," Taehyung said, grinning as Yoongi relaxed. "Hyung, tell me what feels good."

"I will," Yoongi said, the words coming out strained as Taehyung hooked his thumbs around the waistband of Yoongi's trousers and started to wiggle it downward. He lifted his ass when Taehyung told him too, huffing out a sigh when Taehyung grinned at him.

"You're so cute, hyung," Taehyung said, feeling a little out of sorts as he got Yoongi's trousers off. He could see the hardness beneath Yoongi's underwear, and it made heat rush to his own groin with anticipation. "Can I take these off?"

"Go ahead," Yoongi said, tipping his head back against the pillows with a low sigh as Taehyung tugged the underwear down his legs.

Taehyung found himself mesmerized at the sight of Yoongi's cock resting against his stomach. It was a little larger than Taehyung's own, although Taehyung's had a bit more girth, and he sucked in a breath. There was a bit of wetness at the tip, and Taehyung wondered what it might taste like. It was a strange thought, one he had never had before, and it made him squeeze his thighs together with embarrassment.

"Don't force yourself," Yoongi said, his cheeks dark red. Taehyung licked his lips, and Yoongi followed the movement with an animalistic growl at the back of his throat.

"I'm not," Taehyung said, his voice sounding strange to his own ears. "I won't."

"Take off your pants, too," Yoongi mumbled, biting his bottom lip. "I'm feeling self conscious."

"You don't need to," Taehyung said, quick to slip his own pants and underwear off. He was a little less embarrassed about his nakedness, having bathed with Jimin and the other boys in the river outside of town from a young age, and there was something to Yoongi's gaze that made him feel even more confident. "Do you like it?"

"I do," Yoongi said, his good hand reaching out to rest on Taehyung's hip. Just a touch. "Fuck, you're perfect."

"Strong words," Taehyung said, laughing to himself as he dipped in to steal a kiss. "So are you."

"I won't be able to help much," Yoongi said, forlorn as Taehyung settled back on top of his thighs.

"It's okay," Taehyung said, kissing at the corner of Yoongi's mouth. "Can I touch you?"

"Please," Yoongi sighed, nosing at Taehyung's cheek.

Taehyung didn't have to be told twice. He smiled against Yoongi's skin, pulling back only so he could watch as he wrapped a hand around both of their cocks. The combination of the warmth from his hand and the warmth from Yoongi's cock was enough to make Taehyung whine, and it sounded pretty in addition to Yoongi's low moan.

Taehyung's hips jerked forward, and he wiggled around until he could successfully find Yoongi's lips in a kiss. He moved his hand at a steady pace, not wanting to overwhelm himself or Yoongi, and it was more than worth it to hear the whimpers Yoongi released into his mouth.

He wasn't faring better himself, not with how close Yoongi was and how tightly Yoongi was gripping onto his hips, and he panted against Yoongi's lips as he started to rock his hips forward. He wasn't going to last long, that much was obvious, but he didn't care. It felt too good to be worrying about how long he could last.

"Is it good?" Taehyung groaned, tipping his head back when Yoongi kissed down to his neck. "Hyung."

"So good," Yoongi growled, biting down on Taehyung's skin. It wasn't hard enough to leave a bruise, but it was hard enough to have Taehyung rutting his hips forward.

The heat was building and building in his groin, almost unbearably so. A hand on his balls caught him off guard and he jerked, moaning out a mangled version of Yoongi's name. "Fuck."

"Just like that," Yoongi mumbled against his neck, blowing cool air against the spit left behind. "Please."

Taehyung couldn't formulate a proper response as he continued to jerk them off, his hand feeling clumsy and unsure, but Yoongi didn't seem to mind. He whined louder against Taehyung's neck, arching his back when Taehyung tightened his grip around them.

"I think I'm gonna cum," Taehyung panted, rolling his head back as Yoongi groaned against his throat. "Hyung."

"Me too," Yoongi said, rolling his hips forward in short thrusts that made Taehyung's head spin with want.

Taehyung came with a short cry, his hand stilling as Yoongi continued to squeeze him. Yoongi followed a few moments after, biting down on Taehyung's shoulder as a groan was ripped from his chest.

"Fuck," Yoongi moaned, pressing a sweet kiss to the bite before resting his forehead against Taehyung's chest. Taehyung was so out of it he couldn't do much more than whine. "You okay?"

Taehyung nodded, his lips parted as pleasure continued to thrum through his veins. It was much more intense than any orgasm he had had on his own, and he figured it was due to Yoongi's accompaniment.

Yoongi laughed, pressing another kiss to Taehyung's heated skin before pulling back. His hand retreated from Taehyung's sensitivity, and his smile was catty as he leaned back against the pillows. "You're incredible."

"I think I'm broken," Taehyung breathed out, finally able to muster up the energy to speak. He sat back, dropping his hand to his side and wincing at the sight of their cum on his fingers. "Fuck."

"You normally don't curse this much," Yoongi said, laughing so prettily that his gums showed and his eyes curved. "Was it that good?"

"So good," Taehyung hummed, spreading his legs out and bending them at the knees so they sat over Yoongi's without crushing him. "I feel like I'm melting."

"You're so cute," Yoongi said, shaking his head with a snort. "We should clean up before we don’t want to get out of bed anymore."

"Fine," Taehyung said, his bottom lip pouting out until Yoongi grabbed his collar and pulled him in for a proper kiss. He melted, and his smile grew. "Okay. Now I won't complain."

Yoongi snorted, patting Taehyung's belly as Taehyung wiggled around to get off the bed without bumping into Yoongi's injured arm. "Good boy."

Taehyung returned with a damp towel and a fresh pair of underwear resting comfortably over his hips. He had cleaned himself off in the bathroom so he could return and spoil Yoongi, knowing better than anyone that Yoongi loved to be coddled and pet. Taehyung liked helping Yoongi. It made him feel good, and he loved the warmth on Yoongi’s face when they were together in that way.

Yoongi was waiting for him, legs spread as he leaned back against the pillows. His scales were glistening in the low moonlight streaming from the window, and Taehyung thought he looked the most gorgeous Taehyung had ever seen him. The bar was pretty high, too, considering Yoongi never failed to sweep Taehyung off his feet.

Taehyung climbed onto the bed with a smile, pressing his nose against Yoongi's cheek in a nuzzle before pulling back to wipe the towel against Yoongi's thighs. He was more careful wiping away the cum and sweat from Yoongi's cock, not wanting it to hurt, and Yoongi gave him a sweet smile in thanks. "Do you want me to get you a pair of pants?"

"Nah, I'm fine like this. You can leave the towel on the floor for now," Yoongi hummed, looping his arm around Taehyung's waist. "Come and rest."

"Okay," Taehyung said, doing as he was told. He crawled to Yoongi's side, helping push down the bedspread and tug it over their legs. Yoongi relaxed against him, and he let out a soft sigh as Taehyung pet down his stomach.

"Goodnight, Taehyung-ah," Yoongi mumbled, his eyes already closing. Taehyung pressed a kiss to his cheek, a smile blossoming on his lips.

"Goodnight, hyung."

 

 

Taehyung smiled as the latest of his creations took off in the sky, attached so pretty to its new owner. It was a light fawn color, and Taehyung was surprised at how much he liked it. Granted, its owner had light yellow scales that looked almost white under the bright sun, so it was bound to look nice on her.

"She like it?"

Taehyung looked over his shoulder, and he smiled at the sight of Yoongi leaning against the doorframe of the shop. He was wiping his hands off with a damp rag, and Taehyung eyed the bandaging around his elbow. He was free of the swing, had been for a few days, but it still worried Taehyung. He couldn't help but be a little protective.

"She did," Taehyung said, lifting his eyes to Yoongi's knowing smile.

"Good. Let's break for lunch."

Lunch was simple with Yoongi filling their plates with chicken and greens and a bowl of rice, and Taehyung even convinced him to let them eat in the living room. Nabi curled up against Taehyung's thigh, massaging her toes against him. Taehyung threw his other thigh over Yoongi's, pressing their shoulders together as they talked about nothing in particular.

It was nice.

Taehyung felt closer to Yoongi than ever, and it felt almost silly to admit that. The sex had helped, sure, but it was nice to know that they didn't have to hide their relationship. That had been his worst fear growing up. Falling in love with a man and not being able to show the world.

He pressed in closer, and Yoongi brushed his fingers through his hair.

Nabi returned to the windowsill to take her afternoon nap as Taehyung and Yoongi cleaned up, and Taehyung was out the house first to head back to the shop. He had another order that was due to be finished before the festival at the end of the week, and he wanted to get it done with so he had at least a day or two to relax before then.

"You're doing great," Yoongi said, passing behind Taehyung as he got his tools in order. "You keep improving, too."

"You're flattering me," Taehyung said, smiling as he walked over to the calendar Junhee had drawn out for him a few weeks ago so he could keep track of all his orders. He picked at the pages where the bookmark laid, opening it up to the week. He hadn't looked at it in a while, to be honest, since he had been working on two orders at the same time and didn't need to check his dates. All he really did was move the bookmark at the end of every week, and if he forgot Junhee would do it for him.

He paused when he looked at the date, knowing it was Monday. "Hyung."

"Hm?" Yoongi was sitting on his bench, sketching something out. His back was turned to Taehyung, and Taehyung stumbled over until he could press against him. Yoongi felt so strong, like a rock, and Taehyung needed it.

"What day is it?"

Yoongi blinked, looking at Taehyung over his shoulder. He had to think for a minute, as if forgetting the day. "August twelfth. What's wrong, Tae?"

Taehyung folded his hands and pressed them against Yoongi's neck, hiding his face against them as a familiar heaviness rushed through his body. "It's my mother's birthday today."

Yoongi was silent for a second. He cleared his throat, putting his tools down in front of him. "Oh."

"Sorry," Taehyung mumbled, tears threatening to fall as he squeezed his eyes shut. "Everytime I think I'm past this—"

"You don't have to be sorry," Yoongi said, his words soft and warm as they entered Taehyung's ears. "Don't say sorry to me. It's okay to miss her. To miss them."

"I know," Taehyung said, biting his bottom lip. "I just...I don't know. I wish I could ask her..."

Why she said no to the consideration. Why his father had rejected the consideration, as well. Taehyung hated to think about it, knowing he would never receive an answer, and he did his best not to, but there were times when his heart was stronger than his mind.

Yoongi turned around, catching Taehyung's hands in his own and pulling them down. Taehyung whined, but he didn't want to struggle in fear of bending Yoongi's arm the wrong way. Yoongi frowned, and he dipped his head forward to better look at Taehyung.

"Hey. Look at me."

Taehyung did so with a pout, his nose scrunching up. "Hyung."

"It's okay," Yoongi said, letting go of one of Taehyung's hand to cup his cheek. "Why don't you tell me about her, yeah?"

"Okay," Taehyung breathed. He was proud of himself for not crying, but he couldn't deny the profound sadness poking at his heart. "She was...the best. She was always really optimistic, even when things weren't going well. I think that's why my father worked as hard as he did. It was hard to not want to make her happy."

"I know how that feels," Yoongi said, smiling when Taehyung laughed and shook his head.

"She really loved her garden when we had it." He thought of the cactus on his windowsill that Yoongi had gifted him so long ago. It was still healthy, sitting so proudly in the sun, and it made Taehyung happy whenever he looked at it. "Chrysanthemums are her favorite. The garden was full of them."

"We should grow some," Yoongi suggested, brushing his thumb over the back of Taehyung's hand. "I think it'd be nice, don't you think? We need some color around the house."

"I'd like that," Taehyung said, smiling. "My father would buy her one every year for her birthday, even if it meant buying less food for himself. Just to see her smile."

"Your parents sound like good people," Yoongi said. He squeezed Taehyung's hand. "I wish I could have met them."

Taehyung smiled. His heart didn't feel so heavy anymore. Still a little sad, but not as sad as he might've been months ago. "Me too, hyung."

"I never want you to think that you have to hide your sadness from me," Yoongi told him, meeting his gaze. "I'm proud of you for telling me what was upsetting you."

"It's not healthy to hide away my sorrows," Taehyung said with humorless laughter. "I trust you, hyung. I couldn't keep anything from you."

Yoongi smiled, and Taehyung couldn't resist the urge to bend down and kiss him.

Chapter Text

Even though Yoongi said he didn't need help putting on his robe, Taehyung was there to get his arms through the sleeves and tighten it at the waist. Yoongi didn't complain, just pouted as Taehyung smiled and fixed him up, and it was so cute that Taehyung had to press a kiss to his nose.

They both gave Nabi kisses before departing, watching as she flopped onto her back and flicked her tail at them, and Taehyung would have stayed if not for how excited he was to go to the festival. Yoongi had gone to pray in the morning and Taehyung had joined him, pleased by the soft breeze that was running through the shine. Dahyun had been there, like she always was the morning of the festivals, and she had waved with a bright smile until the Head Priestess eyed her.

Taehyung played with his necklace as they walked to town, the moon already peeking at them beyond the canopy of leaves above, and fit his other hand in Yoongi's. "The weather's nice today, isn't it?"

"It is," Yoongi said, his lips twitching into a smile. "It'll start cooling down soon. The breeze is a good sign."

"Maybe I'll wish for cooler weather this time around," Taehyung joked, dodging Yoongi's playful shove.

"Have your wishes come true so far?"

Taehyung hummed, swinging their hands before twisting around to plant a chaste kiss on Yoongi's cheek. "The majority of them have, yes."

Yoongi's cheeks flushed with color, and he turned his face away from Taehyung to stare at the passing tree trunks. Their leaves were starting to fall, making a blanket of green and brown on the forest floor. "Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung pulled back, squeezing Yoongi's fingers in his own as he led Yoongi further down the path. "We're here, hyung."

The town looked as pretty as ever, the clean streets illuminated by the floating lanterns. The dragons in the sky were already playing, the shouts of their humans sitting on the saddles Taehyung made echoing down. They were far up enough that Taehyung couldn't tell exactly who was playing, but he figured Namjoon and Seokjin were up there. They practiced a lot lately, and Taehyung had been surprised to find that Namjoon liked it a lot. Apparently, they were good at it.

Yoongi chose to get food from Elder Heo's booth, and they both smiled as she cooed and filled their plates up. Congratulation filled food, she said. To bless them with a happy courtship. She gave them bigger servings than she had given the people before them, and Taehyung might have refused if it wouldn't have been rude.

So, he thanked her as she kissed their cheeks, a gentle smile growing on his face. They made their way to the usual meeting spot more and more people congratulated them, eyes drifting down to their intertwined hands and patting them on the shoulders. Taehyung was a little embarrassed, but Yoongi looked happy enough.

Hoseok and Jeongguk were waiting for them, relaxing in their seats and watching the twin sons of the banker ran around and perform tricks with their fire. Taehyung stared on in wonder, nearly forgetting to sit down until Yoongi tugged on his sleeve. Hoseok laughed behind his hand.

"It's cool, right?"

"Yoongi hyung doesn't play a lot with his fire," Taehyung said, spooning rice into his mouth as the boys tumbled around. "I wish he did."

"It's not safe," Yoongi said, rolling his eyes. "I don't want to burn my house down."

"Yoongi hyung's just old and tired," Jeongguk said, laughing when Yoongi glared at him. "What?"

"I'm not old and tired, you ignoramus."

"Ignoramus," Hoseok repeated, leaning forward with intrigue sparkling in his gaze. "I'll have to use that one. Thank you, hyung."

"Just eat," Taehyung said, laughing as he lifted a piece of meat up to Yoongi's lips. Yoongi took it with a grumble, and Taehyung nearly jumped in his seat when a flicker of fire was blown his way. "Now you want to play?"

"I'm not old and tired," Yoongi grumbled. He brought more food up to his lips, and Taehyung hooked their ankles together.

"You're not," Taehyung hummed. "Well, maybe not tired."

"Anyways," Hoseok interrupted before Yoongi could blow a fuse, "Let's eat."

They did eat, and it wasn't long before Yoongi was back to playing around. Taehyung thought it was quite cute, but he didn't say so in fear of Yoongi getting embarrassed and stopping. Seokjin and Namjoon joined them eventually, brows sweaty from exertion and hands clamoring for food, and it was nice.

They parted again when Hoseok and Jeongguk left to get ready for their dance, bellies full with food and contentment, and Taehyung found himself dragging Yoongi over to the mages. The moon was looking down at them kindly, and Taehyung wanted her to hear his message before it was too late.

Dahyun smiled as they approached, and she held out her arm in anticipation. "Do you have a good one this time?"

"I always have a good one," Taehyung chirped, picking up the pen. He took a moment to think of the wording before pressing it to her skin. It wasn't anything special in particular, just wishing for the health and safety of all his friends (including the ones back home), but he didn't want to waste an opportunity to speak to the moon.

Dahyun repeated the spell, and Taehyung watched with bated breath as the fire raised from her skin and flickered up into the night sky. It was as beautiful as it always was, and Taehyung couldn't help but be captivated by it. Yoongi patted his hip, urging him to shuffle over so he could make his own wish.

"You know," Dahyun said, lowering her voice so the other mages couldn't hear her, "I saw your parents here earlier, Yoongi oppa."

Yoongi flushed, and Taehyung tipped his head to the side. "What about it?"

Dahyun's grin turned catty. "It's tradition for parents to send a prayer to the moon through us when their child starts courting. Usually it's to bring good fortune, but there have been instances where parents wish for their child to choose another."

Yoongi snorted, taking a step back from the table. "I can assure you my parents were wishing for good fortune. Goodnight, Dahyun."

Taehyung laughed, knocking his knuckles against the table before lifting his fingers up to mirror Dahyun's playful wave. He followed after Yoongi, whose ears were tinted pink, and looped an arm around his. "Are you embarrassed?"

Yoongi wiggled his nose, and his lips were curled in a pretty frown. "No."

"You are," Taehyung said, nosing at Yoongi's cheek. A passing group of teens snickered at them, and Yoongi bared his teeth in warning. It didn't do much to sway their laughter, but at least they had the tact to head in the opposite direction. "I didn't know about that."

"It's tradition," Yoongi mumbled, rubbing the side of his neck. "If your parents were here, they would have made the wish together. It's given to the Head Mage, as they're the only one trusted to send such an important wish to the moon."

Taehyung's lips parted. "Oh."

And...it didn't hurt. It didn't hurt in the way Taehyung was used to it hurting whenever they talked about his parents. He thought back to his mother's birthday. There was that bittersweet feeling of longing in his gut, of course, but he hadn't felt torn apart. On one hand, he was relieved. On the other hand, he was terrified.

"You're my family now," Yoongi said, his eyelashes looking so pretty as Taehyung leaned in to brush a few kisses against the tops of his cheeks. "They consider you family, too. They didn't just send that wish for me."

"Thank you," Taehyung breathed, pressing his hand against the curve of Yoongi's neck. "Maybe one day they'll meet, right? In a perfect world?"

Taehyung felt Yoongi's smile against his skin, and it calmed him in the way Taehyung needed most. "In a perfect world."

Wishful thinking was dangerous, but Taehyung couldn't help himself. He didn't want to forget. He was afraid he was starting to.

 

 

Yoongi held his hand as they walked back to the courtyard, the sound of cards shuffling and kids giggling and mothers gossiping accompanying them, and if Taehyung hadn't been paying so much attention to the noise he might not have heard the faint call of his name.

He turned towards the source of the sound, blinking at the sight of a girl toeing at the rocky path underneath her boots. She was shorter than him, and Yoongi, with long black hair and scales so similar to the color of the morning sky it was shocking. She wasn't looking at him, with her eyes focused on the ground, and it made Taehyung pause. Yoongi stopped beside him, glancing between them with a blank expression. "Yes?"

"Taehyung-ssi," the girl said, biting her bottom lip as she lifted up her gaze, "I was wondering if you were accepting apprentices."

Ah. Taehyung shared a look with Yoongi before he broke out into a smile. "I'm not." Her face fell, but he was quick to amend his words. "I will during the next season, though."

"Oh," she said, the words breathy as they fell from her lips. "I'm graduating next season. M-My father is the shoemaker, and I know plenty about leather making. I was interested in specializing is saddle making like you, Taehyung-ssi. If you would have me."

Yoongi squeezed his hand, and it made Taehyung's smile grow wider. "I would love to have you," he said, earnestly. It was a bit of relief to know that he wouldn't have to teach her from scratch, since the foundation was the most important part of crafting. "Why don't you come visit me sometime next week? I can't officially accept you yet, but you can get a feel of the shop and my work and see if its something you'd actually like to do. What's your name?"

"Lee Yeonwoo," she said, her eyes curving with the intensity of her smile. "Thank you, Taehyung-ssi."

"You can call me oppa," Taehyung said, laughing behind his fist. "Junhee is Yoongi hyung's apprentice, you know that, right?"

Yeonwoo nodded, her eyes sparkling with the moonlight as she clasped her hands in front of her. "Junhee oppa is good friends with my noona."

"He usually comes on Wednesday and Friday," Taehyung said, rubbing his thumb over the back of Yoongi's hand as anticipation started to tickle underneath his skin. "Why don't you come with him one of those days?"

"Okay, oppa," Yeonwoo said, unable to hide her excitement as she wiggled in place. She bowed at the waist, her long hair swinging down. "Thank you for considering me."

Taehyung bit his bottom lip to hide his laughter, nodding instead. "I'd be happy to have you, Yeonwoo. I'll see you then?"

Yeonwoo waved shyly as she departed, a gaggle of her friends waiting nearby with bated breaths, and they didn't even bother to hide their excitement as she relayed the good news. Something in Taehyung's heart stirred at the sight, and he turned to nuzzle his nose against Yoongi's cheek before urging him to continue towards the courtyard.

"Congrats," Yoongi said, squeezing his hand as they walked.

"It's a bit strange," Taehyung admitted with a light hum of laughter. "Don't you think?"

"No," Yoongi said, raising a brow. "You're incredibly talented. It was only a matter of time before the kids started to fight to be your apprentice."

Taehyung rested his head against Yoongi's. "Hyung. You're making me blush."

Yoongi pressed their shoulders together, and his lips curled into a pretty smile. "That's the point, Tae."

Seokjin and Namjoon saved seats for them in front of the stage, ushering them over as the first notes of the song began to play. It was pretty, softer than the song Hoseok and Jeongguk had danced to last time, and Taehyung found himself smiling as he got comfortable with his thigh against Yoongi's. Their hands were still intertwined, cuddled between the warm of Yoongi's knees.

As Hoseok and Jeongguk made their way onto the stage, their muscles rippling under the sheer cloth of their dance clothes, Taehyung relaxed. The moon was bright as ever, watching over her children without a cloud in the sky. He knew he was where he had to be.

 

 

Taehyung stuck his things in his bag, being quiet so he wouldn't disturb the extensive conversation Jieun was having with Elder Choi. One of her nieces lived in another clan and was due to get mated during the next full moon, giving them just over two weeks, and Elder Choi only trusted Jieun to make their mating robes. The seamstress of that clan just wouldn't do, oh no.

Hoseok shared Taehyung smile as Jieun nodded, taking down notes of what the couple wanted. "Will they be coming to visit me, or are we to speak through you?"

"I know best," Elder Choi said, puffing out her chest. Her hands were folded daintily on the table in front of her, and she looked like the picture of elegance. Not a single hair was out of place, slicked back in a tight bun, and her clothes were equally as pristine. "The boy works as a guard at one of the portals, so he isn't able to travel much. Hears all the gossip."

Jieun lifted a brow, her pen scratching against the paper. "Oh?"

"You know Ulsan? Along the coast?"

"I do," Jieun said, glancing at Taehyung and Hoseok. Neither of them moved, and her shoulders dropped. Taehyung realized that she was probably trying to remember if either of them were from around there. "What happened?"

"They were hit with that sickness that's been going around," Elder Choi said, lowering her voice as if Taehyung and Hoseok couldn't hear her loud and clear.

Taehyung paused, taking a seat again. He didn't mean to be nosey, but he couldn't help it.

"Oh," Jieun mumbled. "How sad."

"A cure hasn't been found yet," Elder Choi continued, clucking her tongue. "I don't think they have the resources. The priestesses are doing their best, but there's not much they can do without medicine. Prayers only get you so far."

"Elder Choi..."

"Don't you start with me," Elder Choi said, shaking her head. "They don't give more rations to the sick, and there's still fighting going on. They can't expect to get better at this rate."

"I'm sure it's been hard for them," Jieun said.

Taehyung stood up, biting his cheek as he finished shoving the rest of his things in his bag. Hoseok eyed him from across the room, jaw clenched and lips downturned, and Jieun cleared her throat. Elder Choi paused, looking over at him. "Are you leaving?"

"Yes," Taehyung said, his voice sounding foreign to his own ears. "I'm...Yoongi hyung is waiting for me."

Elder Choi smiled at him, so unlike the disdain that she had shown the other humans, and it made Taehyung shuffle from foot to foot. "Travel home safely, dear. Tell Yoongi I said hi, okay?"

Taehyung smiled, and from the way Hoseok was looking at him he knew it didn't reach his eyes. "I will, Elder Choi. Good night."

Jieun and Hoseok mumbled their goodbyes as Taehyung left, his anger thinly veiled behind his clenched jaw and tense shoulders. Yoongi was waiting for him outside, sitting on one of the crates that Jieun kept forgetting to tell Hoseok to bring inside. He smiled when he saw Taehyung, and it faltered.

"What's wrong?"

Taehyung shook his head, his upper lip twitching. "Nothing. Let's just go home, hyung."

Yoongi looked like he wanted to say something, but he kept quiet. He lifted himself off the crate and extended a hand. Taehyung didn't hesitate the take it, shuffling his satchel around so it wouldn't slide off his shoulder as their fingers intertwined. "Okay. Let's go home."

They walked in silence.

Taehyung felt a little guilty, knowing that Yoongi was probably worried, and he didn't want to be a burden. Still, he didn't trust himself to open his mouth and not say something unkind. It wasn't the kind of person he was, certainly wasn't the type of person his mother raised him to be, and he didn't want to come to a childish display of anger because he was upset.

Yoongi made them tea as Taehyung curled up on the couch with Nabi, calming himself down with the sounds of her purrs. It was comforting, and the more he calmed down the more ridiculous he felt.

He sat up when Yoongi came over, watching as he placed the teapot and their two cups on the table in front of the couch. "I'm being melodramatic."

"I'll be the judge of that," Yoongi said, sitting next to him and pulling Taehyung's legs over his lap. Taehyung smiled, fixing the pillow behind him so the metal armrest wouldn't dig into his back. "Tell me what happened."

He handed Taehyung a cup of tea, and Taehyung didn't have to taste test it to know that it was just as sweet as he liked it. "Elder Choi mentioned the spreading sickness. In the human realm."

Yoongi's face pinched. "Ah."

"She just...I didn't want to be disrespectful, hyung. The way she talked about us...humans like we deserved it because of war and all that. It made me feel so angry. And sad. Mostly sad."

"I get it," Yoongi said, wrapping his hand around one of Taehyung's ankles. His own cup on tea was still on the table, untouched. "It felt like she was talking about the people you love."

And. That was it. Taehyung huffed out a shaky breath, taking a sip of his tea at a weak attempt to calm himself down. The steam made his face feel sweaty, and he tipped his head back. "More and more rumors keep getting spread around about this illness, hyung. It wasn't as bad when I left home."

"I know," Yoongi said, squeezing Taehyung's ankle. "The Elder Council has been discussing it. You know that."

"I know," Taehyung mumbled. He had asked Yoongi about it, before. He didn't like to think about it often. "I just wish there was something I could do."

"Hey. Look at me."

Taehyung did so, and the coolness of Nabi's nose against his arm sent goosebumps along his skin.

"What you can do is stay healthy. You're safe here. I'll try to talk to my grandfather, yeah? There's a chance they might send provisions and mages over to try and figure out a cure. We don't want humans to die out."

Taehyung laughed, a miserable little sound at the back of his throat. "I would hope not."

Yoongi smiled, and it was as humorless as Taehyung's laugh. "I'll try my best, yeah?"

"Yeah," Taehyung said. The tea was still hot, but he gulped it down. "We're supposed to go flying today, hyung."

Yoongi raised a brow, tapping his fingers along Taehyung's skin. "You still want to go?"

"We packed food," Taehyung said, leaning forward until he could press his nose against Yoongi's cheek. Yoongi stilled, and Taehyung listened to the sweet sound of his calm breathing. "It would be a waste to not go."

"We can still go," Yoongi said, brushing his thumb up Taehyung's calf. "But if you want to stay, we can stay."

"I want to go. We haven't been able to since your injury," Taehyung hummed. He pressed his lips to Yoongi's cheek. "Finish your tea, hyung."

Yoongi snorted, but he did as he was told. Taehyung relaxed back against the pillow, and he smiled as Nabi started to knead at his side. He pet the top of her head, watching the way Yoongi's neck muscles moved as he swallowed down the rest of his tea. His skin felt hot as he remembered the way Yoongi's neck looked the previous night as Taehyung touched him, thrown back in a moan, and he had to avert his eyes to keep his thoughts pure.

"You're predictable," Yoongi said, patting Taehyung's thigh before gently shoving his legs off. "Having impure thoughts about your hyung?"

"No," Taehyung said, so fast that Yoongi laughed out. "I'm not!"

"Liar," Yoongi purred, leaning in to kiss Taehyung on the lips. "Come on. Let's get going."

Taehyung held the blanket and the basket of food as Yoongi shifted, grunting low at the back of his throat. He didn't bother to turn around, entranced by the movement of Yoongi's muscles under the moonlight. He used to think that watching the shift would disgust him, but there was nothing but admiration bubbling in his gut as he watched the way Yoongi grew and grew and grew. It was impressive and terrifying, but Taehyung wasn't really scared.

Yoongi huffed when he was done, stretching out his limbs as Taehyung threw the blanket over his back before slipping into the saddle. Taehyung helped him once it was on, tightening the cinches and making sure everything was where it needed to be before latching on the basket and the saddlebags. Taehyung patted Yoongi's shoulders before lifting himself up, getting comfortable in no time.

Yoongi waited for his signal before taking off, a low content rumble making Taehyung vibrate a little. He laughed, throwing his arms around Yoongi's neck as the trees got smaller next to them. It was so easy to get lost in the sounds of Yoongi's wings batting against the night air, the soft gusts of wind that hit Taehyung because of them.

The meadow was as they left it, the flowers waiting for them with their pretty petals and the moon blinking down at them. Taehyung fitted himself against Yoongi's chest, playing with Yoongi's fingers as they ate and laughed and talked about the silliest of things.

It was then that he realized that he wanted to stay like that forever. He thought back to the knife hidden amongst his things, and how he wished it could be put on display like the knives in Namjoon and Seokjin's home and Hoseok and Jeongguk's home. Yoongi was his, yes, but Taehyung wanted Yoongi to be his in the way that mattered most to the clan. Their people.

Taehyung brought Yoongi's fingers to his lips. A promise.

Chapter Text

"You know what this month is, right?"

Junhee looked as excited as a kid who got an extra sweet, and Taehyung couldn't help but smile. "September?"

"That's not what I'm asking," Junhee whined, flopping back against the couch cushions. Yoongi was stomping around the kitchen, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. The scent of a long workday stuck to them like glue, and while Taehyung wanted nothing more to bathe he knew better than to try and slip away without eating first. "I taught you about this, remember?"

Taehyung's lips parted with an ah. "Oh, the festival on the fifth? Celebrating the creation of the clan?"

"Yes," Yoongi answered, looking at them over his shoulder with a knowing smile as Junhee clapped his hands together. "It's our eighty-second anniversary."

Taehyung hummed, slotting his hands between his thighs as Junhee's smiled grew. "It's fun, hyung. Even though we aren't having a Full Moon Festival this month, we'll have this festival. It's a lot more fun than usual, because we even have fireworks and competitions."

"To bring the clan closer," Taehyung said, tilting his head with a smile. "I remember you telling me all about it."

"The kids like it," Yoongi said, a sizzle sounding from the pans as the food was finally tossed in. "I think you'll enjoy it, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung smiled as an idea began to tickle the back of his mind. He listened as Junhee went on to tell him more about the celebration, glancing at Yoongi with a blooming excitement in his chest.

 

 

Hiding things from Yoongi was no simple task.

Yoongi was very observant, especially when it came to Taehyung. He was intelligent, frighteningly so, and knew all of Taehyung's ticks. Still, Taehyung thought himself quite clever as he wrapped his coat around himself, bundled up underneath with his festival robes. Yoongi looked handsome as ever under all the cloth, and Taehyung didn't even bother trying to resist pecking him.

It was tough making sure that Yoongi kept warm when his arm was still sensitive. The sling was off, thankfully, but Taehyung couldn't help but be extra careful in fear of breaking him. Yoongi swore up and down that he was resilient and that his arm had healed back stronger than before. While Taehyung didn't doubt that, he didn't want to take any chances.

It gave him a chance to baby his hyung, too, and Taehyung couldn't help but want to do that when Yoongi had been so sweet to him.

"Namjoon and Seokjin will be waiting for us by the treeline," Yoongi hummed, breaking Taehyung out of his thoughts. "Let's go, I don't want to hear them complain."

Taehyung smiled, slipping their hands together. "Alright, hyung. See you tonight, Nabi!"

Nabi responded with a croaking meow, curling up in one of the armchairs. Yoongi laughed against Taehyung's shoulder, gently pushing him outside until they were well on their way towards town.

Namjoon and Seokjin were waiting for them, as expected, and Taehyung greeted them with gusto as the sounds of the town drifted through the trees. He could hear the fireworks starting, and his stomach rumbled as he remembered Elder Lee describing all the different foods he was going to be bringing.

"I'm sure Hoseok and Jeongguk have been busy all day," Seokjin hummed as they settled on the path. "Jeongguk spent all week hunting in preparation."

"He works hard," Yoongi said, pride coating his words.

Taehyung smiled, squeezing Yoongi's hand against his side. "Hoseok said he was happy to help since they usually only do the hunting for the Full Moon festivals."

"Hoseok likes to cook, apparently," Seokjin said. He gestured to Namjoon with a thumb. "He's been teaching this one."

Namjoon's cheeks were flushed pink, and Taehyung couldn't tell if it was from the cold or embarrassment. "It's fun. I didn't have a chance to learn how to cook back home."

Seokjin pinched the skin under his chin, cooing. "You're already doing amazing."

Namjoon batted at Seokjin's hands as Yoongi snorted and Taehyung snickered. His pout deepened while the pink of his cheeks burning brighter. "Come on, we're going to be late."

Hoseok was standing proudly behind a table with Jeongguk by his side, passing plates to newcomers or piling food onto waiting plates. The meat smelled fresh and heavily spiced, and Taehyung's mouth watered in anticipation. Hoseok smiled when he spotted them, waving them over while Jeongguk politely smiled at a group of kids grabbing more food.

"You're just in time," Hoseok said, resting his hands on his hips. "Jeongguk-ah, plates?"

"I got it," Jeongguk called, retrieving plates for the four of them with a goofy smile.

"You're calling the shots, huh?" Seokjin joked, making Hoseok snicker.

"If it works," Hoseok said, leaning in to press a kiss against Jeongguk's cheek. Jeongguk smiled at him with a sweetness that made Taehyung's heart clench.

"Come find us when you're finished up here," Namjoon said once their plates were full. The warm smell of meat and spices and rice cakes had Taehyung's belly rumble in anticipation, but he was polite enough to not pick at his food before they found seats. "I want to beat you in some games."

It was said to Jeongguk, and their youngest grinned at the challenge. "Get ready to lose, hyung."

Seokjin laughed, clapping his hand against Namjoon's nape. More people were starting to gather around, looking forward to the warm food. "We'll get out of your way. Finish up soon, alright?"

They found seats near the card games, watching the elders trick the younger kids while their parents groaned from the sidelines. It was fun, Taehyung had to admit, and he focused on stuffing his mouth full while Yoongi wrapped an arm around his waist. It was his good arm, so Taehyung placed his free hand on top of Yoongi's hand and relaxed back against his chest.

It was still shocking to him that he could express affection towards Yoongi without being called obscene. The dragons were much more tactile than Taehyung was used to, but he liked it. He liked that he could be affectionate towards Yoongi and his friends and not be glared at by the elders.

They finished their food in record time, only standing up when members from the Elder Council passed them by to pay their respects. Elder Min stopped in front of them, his smile warm and inviting, and Taehyung felt Yoongi straighten out beside him. Their hands were still clasped together, and Taehyung squeezed Yoongi's fingers.

"Did you eat well?" Elder Min hummed, eyeing his grandson carefully. His eyes lingered over Yoongi's left arm, where he had been injured, and Taehyung smiled knowingly.

"We did," Yoongi said, his voice calm. "I'm recovering well."

Elder Min smiled, pleased with the answer. "Good." He turned to Taehyung. "Are you enjoying yourself?"

Taehyung nodded, his heart light with affection. "Very much so, thank you." A firework went off above them, and Taehyung looked up to smile at it before eagerly grinning at Elder Min. "We never had these back home."

"Then I'm glad you could see them here," Elder Min hummed, his voice content and proud. "Take care of this one. I know the only reason he's healed is because you've been watching him."

Seokjin snorted, and Yoongi let out an indignant huff. "I'm not daft."

"No," Elder Min said, "but you are stubborn."

"Just a little bit," Taehyung teased, pressing his shoulder against Yoongi's. "He's been behaving, I promise."

"Good," Elder Min laughed, the sound throaty and rugged with age. He turned to follow Elder Moon, who was chatting with a few of the kids playing cards. "I'll leave you boys to it. Will I see you for dinner on Monday?"

"You will," Yoongi assured. His voice was soft with affection, and Taehyung squeezed his hand again.

"I'm actually surprised you healed that fast, as well," Seokjin commented as they sat back down. The noise returned as the Elder Council passed, games and conversations picking back up. "Usually you're bad about these things."

Yoongi huffed, his cheeks puffing out. "It's not that bad."

"It is," Namjoon laughed. "He'll work and shift before he's supposed to."

"Taehyung didn't let me shift until this past week," Yoongi grumbled.

"I didn't want you to aggravate your injury before you were fully healed," Taehyung whined, poking his finger against Yoongi's ribs. Yoongi wiggled away from him, his lips curling up.

"I know," Yoongi grumbled. "That doesn't mean I have to like it."

"Let him take care of you," Seokjin said, waving his hand. "I'm sick of doing it."

"You haven't been," Yoongi gruffed. "That's why I sprained my elbow in the first place."

Taehyung dodged Seokjin's playful smack sent their way, knowing fully well that Seokjin had terrible aim when he was laughing, and Yoongi whined as he tried to follow to bury himself in Taehyung's chest.

"Aw," Taehyung cooed as Yoongi curled up against him. "You're upsetting the baby."

"Please stop," Seokjin gagged, pressing back against Namjoon. "Please stop."

"You started this," Namjoon said, snickering as Taehyung pressed a kiss to the top of Yoongi's head. "This is your fault, hyung."

"I forgot how disgusting it is to see Yoongi like this," Seokjin groaned. "They've figured out my weakness, Joon-ah. I'm appalled."

"Shut up," Yoongi mumbled. "Leave us alone."

"Oh, now he wants us to leave them alone," Seokjin said, throwing his hands up as a few giggles slipped out from Taehyung. "I feel disrespected."

"Be quiet," Namjoon said, pressing a kiss against Seokjin's shoulder with a smile. "Come on, hyung. You told Junhyung that you were going to beat him in racing today, didn't you?"

Seokjin perked up, as if he had forgotten, and Taehyung rolled his eyes with a light smattering of laughter. "You're right. Let's go, Joon-ah, before my performance is tainted by Yoongi being disgusting."

Yoongi sent an obscene gesture his way as Seokjin and Namjoon left, which made Seokjin jokingly send a kick his way, and Taehyung pinched his side. "Hyung!"

"They're gone," Yoongi said, pulling back to grin. "Finally we'll have some peace and quiet."

Taehyung snorted, lacing his fingers through Yoongi's hair. "Come on, then. Let's find somewhere more quiet."

They disposed of all their plates, returning the greetings of passing kids as they raced around with sparklers and balls, and Yoongi slipped his hand in Taehyung's with a glint in his eye. "I have some place in mind."

"Do you?" Taehyung said, his eyes widening with excitement. "Show me, then."

Yoongi looped their fingers together, tugging Taehyung beyond the main scenery of the celebrations and towards the back of the town. It was farther than Taehyung usually went, and it reminded him of when they had travelled to the infirmary. It was a warm memory, and it had Taehyung press closer to Yoongi as they walked.

Any attempts to get Yoongi to tell him where they were going were shot down, and Taehyung gave up with a pout. The moon was bright in the sky above them, even if it wasn't as full as Taehyung was used to it being during a festival.

"Here," Yoongi said, a smile blooming on his lips as he pushed Taehyung ahead. Taehyung stumbled, catching himself as his boots stomped over the pebbled ground. As he straightened out, ensuring he wouldn't fall, he finally realized where Yoongi brought them.

"Oh, hyung."

They were at the edge of town. The buildings were less densely packed together, a few gardens planted behind tiny metal fences, and at the center of them was a group of benches. There was a trickle of water Taehyung could hear, too, and he suspected there was a stream flowing somewhere beyond the buildings.

He could see the sky clearly, and he nearly jumped as a few fireworks exploded in the sky. It was a much clearer view than it had been in the center of town, without trees or canopies or awnings to block their view, and Taehyung smiled as he lowered himself down onto one of the benches. "This is nice."

"I think I'm getting selfish," Yoongi said as he plopped down next to him. "I want you all to myself."

Taehyung laughed, resting his hand on Yoongi's thigh. "A little selfish, hyung."

His heart began to race as he thought of what was pressing against his hip, the coolness of the metal doing little to calm down his heated skin. It was a perfect moment, of course, but Taehyung was having a hard time getting over his nerves.

"Hyung," Taehyung started, wincing when his voice cracked. Yoongi regarded him with a raised brow, and Taehyung was grateful that he didn't mention it. "Um."

Yoongi leaned in, his nose brushing against Taehyung's, and Taehyung let himself be lulled into the comfort of a kiss. "What do you want to tell me?"

Taehyung sucked in a breath as Yoongi pulled back, his smile soft and sincere. He looked so beautiful with the moonlight curving around his face, highlighting the smooth slope of his nose and the curve of his lips. Taehyung wanted to kiss him again and again, but he knew that if he got sucked into that he'd never say what he wanted to.

He pushed his fingers through Yoongi's hair, brushing his thumb along Yoongi's hairline as he exposed his forehead. Yoongi's hair usually hung above his eyebrows, but Taehyung liked being able to see his whole face. He looked handsome no matter, even if Taehyung was a bit biased.

Yoongi leaned into his fingers, a kitten like purr sounding at the back of his throat, and Taehyung bit his bottom lip to stop himself from cooing. "Hyung," he started, confidence building like a steady fire in his gut. "I never expected for us to turn out like this, you know?"

Yoongi hummed, his eyes half closed. "I know."

Taehyung sucked in a shaky breath, his heart beating so hard in his chest he thought it might leap out of his throat. He continued to pet through Yoongi's hair, hoping it would calm him down, but it didn't do much other than—

"I love you," Taehyung said, the words falling from his tongue like melted sugar.

Yoongi's eyes widened after a half a second, Taehyung's words settling in, and Taehyung dropped his fingers from Yoongi's hair as unease crawled under his skin. "What?"

"I love you," Taehyung repeated, averting his eyes as Yoongi straightened up and stared at him with parted lips. "I, um—"

"I love you too," Yoongi rushed out, nearly stumbling over his own words as he grabbed Taehyung's retreating hand and held it between his own. His hands were cold, but Taehyung didn't dare resist his touch. "I've loved you for months now, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung sucked in a breath, a chill rolling down his spine despite the warmth of his heavy coat and robes. "Hyung." It was watery, happiness threatening to force tears from his eyes, and Yoongi leaned in to kiss him. Taehyung pulled back a few seconds later, reluctantly so, and laughed at Yoongi's confusion. "Wait. I'm not done."

Yoongi pouted, and it took all of Taehyung's strength to resist plopping another kiss on him as he shuffled through his robes until he got a firm grip on the metal pressed against his hip. He slid it out of the protective bag, careful not to cut himself as he brought it out from underneath the confines of his robes.

Yoongi stilled as he realized what Taehyung had in his hands, and for a moment Taehyung had an irrational fear that Yoongi was going to reject it. "Your knife," Yoongi forced out, his words torn with emotion. "Taehyung..."

"You said you were prepared to give me your knife," Taehyung said, his confidence rushing back as Yoongi took the knife from his hands and ran his finger over the flattened edge. It was shining so beautifully in the light, showing off the combination of Yoongi and Junhee's craftsmanship. "I'm finally prepared to give you mine."

Yoongi pushed out a long and slow rush of air, his shoulders shaking as he brought the knife to his chest. He pressed it there, closing his eyes for such a short time Taehyung would've thought he was just blinking if he weren't watching so closely.

"I love you," Yoongi said, his voice thick as he leaned in to press his forehead against Taehyung's. "I'm yours. Indubitably."

Taehyung giggled, reaching up to slid his hand under Yoongi's rob to hold onto the side of his neck. His skin was heated, and Taehyung was finding it hard to control his emotions with how happy he was. "That's a mouthful, hyung."

“Shut up, I wanted it to be memorable.” Yoongi tilted his head, pressing an open mouthed kiss against Taehyung's lips, and Taehyung leaned into him with a happy sigh.

"We probably shouldn't keep this to ourselves tonight," Taehyung said as Yoongi pulled back, his cheeks pink. "It's a good enough time to celebrate, right?"

"Mhm," Yoongi hummed, brushing his thumb over Taehyung's bottom lip to wipe off the spittle that had gathered there. "Ah, sorry."

"It's okay," Taehyung laughed, tipping his head to the side. "Put the knife away first, hyung. I don't want you getting hurt again."

Yoongi snorted, but he followed Taehyung's directions and stored the knife in the bag Taehyung had brought it in. He slipped it in one of his pockets, safeguarding it against his thigh with a proud smile. "We can tell everyone soon, but let's sit together and watch the fireworks for now, yeah? I brought you here for a reason."

Taehyung didn't hesitate before burrowing himself against Yoongi's side, slipping an arm under his coat to hold Yoongi around the waist. He nuzzled his head against Yoongi's shoulder, happiness bubbling under his skin.

 

 

"They already love you," Yoongi said, smiling as he smoothed down Taehyung's hair. He leaned in as he did it, lips pursing with concentration. It was times like these that Taehyung realized just how beautiful Yoongi was, with his vertical-slit eyes and his dark scales and his pretty lips. "You have nothing to be afraid of."

"I know," Taehyung said, sucking in a breath. He glanced down at Yoongi's waist, where his courting knife was safely on display. Yoongi's knife was on Taehyung's belt, proudly on display, and it made him a little more confident. "That doesn't help me, though."

His hands shook as Yoongi helped him put on his coat, and Yoongi brought his fingers up to plant kisses on them. "They see you as a member of the family, you know?"

Yoongi pressed a kiss on the tip of his nose, and Taehyung couldn't hide his giggle. "You're being kind, hyung."

"I'm being serious," Yoongi huffed, running his hands down Taehyung's sides. He intertwined his fingers with Taehyung's and squeezed. "Come on. I want to show off my promised."

Taehyung's ears burned with embarrassment as they said goodbye to Nabi, who was curled up on one of the armchairs atop the new cushion Hoseok made for her, and headed out. It was a bit chilly outside, but not enough so that Taehyung had to completely wrap his coat around him. His shirt underneath was lightweight, and he caught Yoongi glancing at his figure more than once.

"Stop that," he hissed, pressing a biting kiss to Yoongi's jawline.

Yoongi huffed, dodging the kiss with a playful jab at Taehyung's ribs. "Stop what?"

"You know," Taehyung whined, his cheeks turning pink. "Let's hurry, hyung. We're already late."

Yoongi laughed against his shoulder, but he let himself be dragged down the path. Taehyung was eager to get there early so they could help out, and the sooner they got there the sooner the Mins could tease them.

He heard the kids before he heard them, and Taehyung bit his lip as apprehension built in his gut. They were out playing as usual, bundled up in coats and boots and scarves, while their parents watched from the porch. One of the younger kids heard them approach first, and she immediately ran over and clambered at Taehyung's side until she was picked up. "Oppa!"

"Seoyeon!" Taehyung cooed, bouncing her on his hip as he released Yoongi's hand to hold her better. She pressed an open mouthed kiss to his cheek, and Yoongi laughed as he pressed his hand to the small of Taehyung's back.

"Someone's happy," Yoongi hummed, brushing a few stray hairs from Seoyeon's eyes.

"Grandma wants to see you," Seoyeon said to Taehyung, her bottom lip jutting out as a seriousness passed over her face.

Taehyung returned the serious expression, knowing she probably thought she was delivering a very important message. "Then we better hurry to her, right?"

They greeted the adults on the porch, avoiding their teasing words with clear laughter and pink cheeks, and walked inside until they found Yoongi's mother seated in the living room with a few of the kids curled up beside her. Some of Yoongi's aunts and uncles were with her, playing cards around the small table in the center, and they all greeted them with knowing smiles.

Taehyung forgot his nerves as he greeted them in return, meeting Yoongi's mother's calm eyes. "There they are."

"How are you, mother?" Yoongi hummed, leaning in to press a kiss to her brow. Taehyung's heart warmed, and he didn't protest when Seoyeon wiggled until she let him down so she could crawl into her grandmother's lap.

"I'm wonderful, especially now that you two are here," she said, beckoning Taehyung forward until she could press a kiss to his cheek. She looked down at the knives Yoongi and Taehyung were showing off, and her expression morphed into one of delight. "Look at you, darling."

Taehyung flushed. "I wanted to make a good impression tonight."

"It's your first dinner here as Yoongi's promised, but everyone here already has a wonderful impression of you," Yoongi's mother said, laughing behind her hand. "You're always a fun face to see here, Taehyung-ah."

Taehyung smiled, his heart warming with affection. "Thank you."

"Listen to me," she said, pointing a finger right at him. "I want you to call me mother from now on, alright? As far as I am concerned, you are a son of the Min household."

Taehyung's lips parted in surprise, and he swore he heard some of Yoongi's older relatives laugh kindly behind him. "I-Thank you, mother."

She opened her arms to him, and Taehyung didn't think twice before bending down to accept the comfort of her hug. It was so similar to the way his mother's hugs used to feel, and he blinked rapidly to fight the tears that were threatening to spill over. No, she wasn't his mother. Her eyes were darker, her hair short, and she had the same black scales Yoongi did to frame her lean face.

Still, she had been the closest thing to a mother figure Taehyung had while in the clan, and Taehyung treasured her for it. She had raised Yoongi, as well, and Taehyung couldn't be more thankful towards her for that.

"Take care of him," she mumbled against his hair before pulling back. “I’m so happy for you two.”

Taehyung straightened out with a smile, watery and full of emotion, and nodded. "I will. I promise."

"And you," Yoongi's mother said, pointing a finger to Yoongi. "I expect you to take good care of Taehyung."

"I will," Yoongi mumbled, lowering his eyes and rubbing the side of his neck. Taehyung smiled and reached for his hand again, squeezing it to his side.

"He does," Taehyung hummed, rubbing his thumb over Yoongi's knuckles. "We should go help set the table, right?"

Yoongi glanced at him, his ears red as his relatives congratulated them and whooped and hollered, and nodded. Taehyung smiled, resisting the urge to kiss him on the cheek, and tugged him down the hallway to the back of the house. He realized belatedly that they were still wearing their coats, and he pushed Yoongi to the side so he could slide the coat off his shoulders.

"You're babying me," Yoongi mumbled, his face still pink from embarrassment. He didn't resist, though, and that was enough to make Taehyung smile and cuddle Yoongi's coat to his chest.

"I can't help it," Taehyung chirped. "I see you and I just want to baby you for hours."

Yoongi rolled his eyes, and Taehyung stilled as Yoongi pressed a kiss to his lips. "Come on, love."

Taehyung melted against him, barely remembering to take his own coat off as they continued their journey to the kitchen. They stored their coats in one of the hallway closets before heading to the dining room, where Namjoon and Seokjin were already seated chatting with some of Yoongi's cousins. The table was already set, so Taehyung took it upon himself to head to the kitchen to help them bring out the dishes as Yoongi went to greet them.

Namjoon and Seokjin were smiling when he returned, hands full of hot food, and he beamed in greeting. Hoseok and Jeongguk joined them shortly, and Jeongguk decided it was a great time to show off just how many plates of food he could hold. They narrowly avoided a disaster when one of the babies jetted through Jeongguk's legs, Hoseok catching one of the dishes that slipped through Jeongguk's hands, and were promptly banned from entering the kitchen for the rest of the night.

That had been enough to melt away all the remaining apprehension in his bones. Even when Yoongi's father approached, a proud smile adorning his face, Taehyung greeted him with gusto.

"Look at you two," he laughed, resting his hands on his hips. "I'm proud of you, Yoongi-yah."

"Thank you, father," Yoongi said, smiling shyly. He didn't avert his gaze, though, and Taehyung was proud of him for it.

"Your grandfather was supposed to be here by now, but he sent word earlier that the council meeting would be running late," Yoongi's father sighed, shaking his head. "He should be home after we're done eating."

"There's a council meeting today?" Yoongi said, furrowing his brow in surprise. Taehyung shared the look. The Mins held family dinners on Monday because council meetings were regularly held on Wednesdays, or Thursdays if it interfered with a festival.

"They called one at the last minute, though I'm not sure why," Yoongi's father hummed, pursing his lips in thought. "I'm sure your grandfather will explain when he's home."

"Alright," Yoongi mumbled, although the disappointment was clear in his tone. Taehyung squeezed his hand, offering a smile, and he was glad when Yoongi returned it.

Despite the minor setback, dinner went off with a hitch. Taehyung eventually got used to all of the people coming up to look at their knives and ask questions about when the mating would be and congratulate them. Taehyung took it in stride, putting himself forward to allow Yoongi to take the backseat for a little bit. As much as he enjoyed a flustered Yoongi, he didn't want him to be uncomfortable.

They ate until their bellies were full, straining against their trousers and making their tongues feel heavy in their mouths, and Taehyung found himself nearly dozing off against Yoongi's shoulder when they moved to the living room. Hoseok and Jeongguk were matched up against Namjoon and Seokjin in a game of cards, and while Taehyung would have liked to play he was much happier just watching them.

He wasn't sure how long they stayed there for, but his attention was caught when Yoongi's father wandered in with a confused downturn to his lips. "Your grandfather's waiting out back," he said to Yoongi, his voice lowered. "On the porch. Take Taehyung with you."

Yoongi looked up at him, his eyes clouded with the same drowsiness Taehyung felt, and he stood up. Taehyung grabbed his hand, following him with a polite bow to everyone else in the room, and didn't stop to think about why Elder Min wanted to see them in a secluded part of the house.

Yoongi grabbed their coats before they went out back, and Taehyung was grateful for it as they stepped outside to the chill night air. It wasn't so cold that he wanted to go back inside, but he knew if he didn't have his coat he would have started to shiver.

"Grandfather?"

Elder Min was seated on the swinging bench, staring ahead at the treeline that was barely illuminated by the moonlight, with his hands folded neatly on his lap. Taehyung couldn't read his expression, and he blamed that on his sleep deprived mind.

"Sit," Elder Min hummed, gesturing at them with a tilt of his chin.

They did as they were told, even though the bench had barely enough space to fit three grown men. The hilt of the knife dug into Taehyung's hip as he sat down, squished between Yoongi and the armrest of the bench, but he didn't dare complain.

"What's going on? Did something happen?" Yoongi mumbled, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Taehyung held onto his other arm, rubbing circles into Yoongi's skin at an attempt to wake both of them up.

"This is a blessed time for our family, and I hate to end the night on this note. The priestesses sent word this morning," Elder Min began, continuing to look straight ahead. "You know of the disease that's been spreading through the human realm, do you not?"

"Yes," Taehyung answered, sharing a dissatisfied look with Yoongi. It was a sore subject in their household, even if Yoongi was more understanding of Taehyung in recent times. They tried to not talk about it as much as possible.

"Yoongi spoke to me about sending medicine to your realm," Elder Min said to Taehyung, meeting his eyes. Taehyung was shocked that Yoongi had done it so quickly, but at the same time he knew better than to question Yoongi's determination. "We began preparations for it, but without an official meeting nothing was set in stone."

"That's understandable," Yoongi said, the question clear in his tone. What was missing?

"We anticipated the provisions would be sent at the end of the month, or the beginning of next month at the latest. The priestesses sent word this morning the disease had spread faster than we had previously thought possible."

Taehyung blanched, his lips parted. "Which priestesses?"

Elder Min paused, as if he suspected Taehyung guessed what he was about to say, but the desperation in Taehyung's eyes must have made him continue. "From your hometown, Taehyung."

Yoongi looked over at him, his eyes soft with something akin to sorrow. "Oh, Tae."

"I know you still resent us for the process," Elder Min continued, looking back to the treeline. "Personally, I don't blame you for it. We've taken you from your home without a prior explanation. However, we do have an agreement that if anything is to happen to someone in your immediate family that you have the right to know about it."

Taehyung's heart froze, and he barely registered digging his nails into Yoongi's skin. "What happened?" His voice cracked, and he barely had the mind to loosen his grip at Yoongi's wince.

"Your youngest brother fell ill," Elder Min said, his voice hollow in a way that did not befit him. "There are a few others that contracted the disease, as well. As of now, the rest of your family is healthy."

Taehyung felt a bubble of anger, hot and acidic, burst inside of him. It was quickly overtaken by a rush of sorrow, and he barely registered Yoongi grabbing his hands. "No."

"I'm sorry," Elder Min mumbled. Taehyung didn't want his pity.

"We need to go home," Taehyung rushed out, tripping over himself as he stood up from the bench. It rocked with the force of his movement, and Yoongi stumbled as he got up to follow him. "I need—"

"It's okay," Yoongi said, shushing him gently as Taehyung starting to sway. "Come on, Tae, let's go home."

Taehyung wasn't sure if Elder Min reacted to them leaving, or how long it took them to go home. Yoongi guided him inside with gently words, holding him around the waist as they kicked their boots off. Nabi peered at them from the couch, and Taehyung choked on a sob at her sweet croon.

Yoongi led them to his bedroom, and Taehyung stood still long enough for Yoongi to carefully take off their courtship knives and place them on the dresser. Taehyung didn't have the energy or thought to shove off his coat as he buried himself in the sheets. The pillows smelled like Yoongi and Taehyung, and it only made Taehyung yell louder as fury racked through him.

Yoongi was silent, petting down his back with a hand that shook as much as Taehyung did. Time passed by like it didn't exist, and Taehyung only sniffled when Yoongi turned him on his side to wipe at the fat tears trailing down his cheeks. "I'm here, Tae," Yoongi mumbled. "I got you, darling."

"Why did it have to be him?" Taehyung choked out, the words sounding foreign. "He's a baby. W-Why?"

"I know," Yoongi said, leaning in to press their foreheads together. "I'm so sorry, Taehyung."

"I'm stuck here," Taehyung cried, holding onto Yoongi's shoulder as a way to ground himself. His heart felt like it was being torn apart by a mixture of guilt and anger, and he didn't know which one to focus on. "I can't do anything, hyung. What kind of hyung am I?"

He closed his eyes tight as Yoongi combed his fingers through his hair, making soothing little chirps against his skin at an attempt to calm him down. His face felt tight as the tear tracks dried on his skin, but he didn't make an attempt to wipe at them as he snuggled in closer to Yoongi.

"This isn't your fault." Yoongi said the words against his skin, and even though they were muffled Taehyung heard them loud and clear.

"I agreed to come here," Taehyung replied, curling his fingers around Yoongi's shoulder with a vice-like grip. "This is as much my fault as anyone else's."

"Tae..."

"Hyung," Taehyung said, pulling back to meet Yoongi's eyes. "The only thing I can do for them is pray to the gods that they survive. What good is that when they aren't looking over them in the first place?"

"That's...that's not true, Taehyung-ah," Yoongi said, picking through his words carefully.

Taehyung sniffed, mustering up the energy to wipe at his face and eyes. "It is true, hyung. What good can I do for them when they don't even know if I'm okay?"

Yoongi paused, and Taehyung looked back at him to see him looking at the space between them in contemplation. "I meant that praying isn't the only thing you can do," Yoongi said, his lips thin.

Taehyung's lips parted, confusion gripping him. "What else could I possibly do?"

Yoongi met his eyes then, and the strength there caught Taehyung off guard. "I can take you to them, Taehyung."

Taehyung's hand dropped from Yoongi's shoulder. "What?"

"I can," Yoongi said, following Taehyung's hand with his own. He held onto Taehyung's hand tightly, and for a second Taehyung thought his heart might burst. "I'll find a way. Please, Tae. Let me do this for you."

"I don't know what you intend to do," Taehyung said, his voice thick with emotion. "If we're found out you'll lose everything, hyung. I can't do that to you."

"What's everything, Tae?" Yoongi said, tilting his head with a fire in his eyes that had Taehyung sucking in a breath. "If we're found out I won't lose you. I won't lose my family, or our friends. They might be upset, but they won't exile us. My place in the hierarchy doesn't matter. Our intentions are good, are they not?"

Taehyung shook his head, his face heating up. "Hyung..."

"Please." Yoongi grabbed both of his hands, resting them on the sheets between them. "I love you, Taehyung-ah. You've done so much for me, so let me do this for you."

Taehyung let a sliver of hope into his heart as he looked into Yoongi's eyes, burning with determination. There was so much unsaid between them, but he couldn't even begin to ask the questions that needed to be answered. He was exhausted, both mentally and physically, and he didn't think he could handle the disappointment that might come from those answers. "Okay," he breathed. He trusted Yoongi with his life. He had to think that they could do this if he was going to be okay. "We'll try."

Chapter Text

"This is a great deal of medicine for a household of two," the elderly woman croaked, her experienced hands grinding herbs. Taehyung didn't know her name. He had introduced himself when he walked into her store, but she hadn't bothered to do the same. He figured the sign outside, reading Kim Apothecary, said enough. "You said your on business here with your promised? I'm assuming no children, and you two must have been given some land if he's a blacksmith."

"My promised has a large family," he explained, his smile as charming as ever. "The winter is going to come in strong, and I'd rather stock up now than wait until it's too late."

She hummed, the red of her scales sparkling as the lamp above her station swung with the vibrations of the earth. "You're smart, then. Midseason is the worst time to look for medicine here, since everyone falls ill. It's nice for me and my kin, as we get a lot of goods for our herbs."

Taehyung thought of the bag of leather goods he had offered her, along with the slip Yoongi provided with his signature promising to redo the iron gate outside that guarded the garden. "It's a good business to be in this time of year."

"It is," she hummed. "The human realm would do good to have someone like me there, but don't let those snippy dragons on the council hear it. I suppose you must agree with me."

Taehyung's grip tightened on his knees as he forced a smile, pain massaging at his heart. "I do."

 

 

Namjoon's birthday was an intimate affair at his and Seokjin's home, and Taehyung felt guilty as they celebrated knowing that he would be the cause of unrest if they got caught. He felt incredibly selfish, and no matter how many times Yoongi told him that it was his right to care for his family he felt like he was hurting his new family in the process.

Perhaps he felt guilty because of how excited he was to go back home and see how everyone was faring. He missed his parents and his siblings and Nayeon and Jimin so much it hurt, and he hoped the new relationships he had forged in the dragon realm wouldn't suffer because of it.

"To health," Namjoon said, toasting with his cheeks pink and icing spread across his cheek.

Yoongi smiled at him across the table, and Taehyung returned it even though he felt like there was a rock sitting in his gut. Hoseok was smiling at him, and Taehyung wished he could bring him along. He knew the more people they took would only risk them being found out, though, and he couldn't take that risk.

"To health."

 

 

Jeongguk was young and naive, but he was by no means stupid.

He took one look at them, hands on his hips and a frown on his lips, and quirked a brow. Taehyung felt a little queasy whenever he was in Jeongguk's workshop, surrounded by Jeongguk's most recent hunt, but he did his best to remain steady. "What do you need my identification for?"

"I had hoped you'd let me borrow it without question," Yoongi sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. Taehyung smiled sheepishly.

He hadn't wanted to ask Jeongguk, as he knew Hoseok would find out, but they had no other choice. Yoongi had a plan. It had to work. They were nearing the end of the month, and Taehyung feared they were running out of time.

"My brother's sick," Taehyung said when Yoongi faltered. Yoongi looked at him, sympathy and pain in his eyes, and Taehyung averted his gaze. "Yoongi's going to try and take me back."

Jeongguk's mouth fell open as shock pulsed through him, and Taehyung struggled to maintain his gaze. "You're what?"

"We got medicine," Taehyung said, rubbing at his forearm. "I can't let him die if I can do something about it."

"That's— hyung, you can lose your position—"

"I know," Yoongi mumbled. "It's what should be done, Jeongguk."

Jeongguk's shoulders deflated at the finality in Yoongi's words. He glanced over their heads at the house behind them, where Hoseok was likely working on lunch. "Does Hobi hyung know?"

"No," Taehyung said, guilt nipping at his heels. "I wasn't sure if I should tell him, and if he knew he would have told you."

"I have to tell him," Jeongguk said, a frown tugging at his lips. "I can't keep something like this from him."

"I wouldn't expect you to," Taehyung said, touching his hand to Jeongguk's shoulder. "But I don't want to drag more people into this if I don't have to."

"They don't take a record of what identification is being used to enter the human realm. They'll see the mark of a hunter and let us through without question," Yoongi explained. He was playing at confident, but Taehyung knew him well enough to know what the hands hidden in his pockets meant.

"How are you going to get Taehyung through?" Jeongguk asked, his frown deepening. "The hunter's mark will only get one of you through the portal."

Yoongi smile was lopsided. "I have a plan for that. I think the less you know, the better."

Jeongguk faltered, and for a second Taehyung thought he might turn them away. He sucked in a deep breath before turning around, and Taehyung peeked over his shoulder as Jeongguk shuffled some things around in one of his drawers. He pulled out a flat piece of cloth that was dyed red, and as he lifted it up Taehyung recognized the symbol of a hunter that Jeongguk often had stitched onto his clothes. Three claws.

Yoongi accepted it with a smile, and Taehyung couldn't help but lean in and drag Jeongguk into a hug. "Thank you, Guk," Taehyung mumbled, squeezing him as tight as he could.

Jeongguk laughed, and it sounded a little empty. He looked older than he was, then, and Taehyung squeezed his shoulder at a weak attempt to get their silly kid back. "I'd like to think I'd do the same for Hoseok, if prompted. Just make sure you two come back. Please."

"We'll come back," Yoongi said, ruffling Jeongguk's hair. "What makes you think we won't?"

 

 

It was hard for Taehyung to continue with normal life while they waited for the day the hunters were allowed to cross over to the human realm to trade their meat for precious metals and other items only available there. Still, he knew the only way the others wouldn't suspect them was if they abided by the rules. They took the meat from their storages, trading some more from Jeongguk as well, in preparation of what was to come. Jeongguk almost refused their goods, but Yoongi refused to take his identification and his meat without anything in return.

Yoongi crawled into bed, and Taehyung thought of the cold sheets in his own room. He couldn't remember the last time he slept in there alone. He didn't want to go back to that any time soon. "Hyung?"

Yoongi curled into him, resting a hand over Taehyung's bare torso. His hand was warm, but it still sent a shiver down Taehyung's spine. He was tired, that much was evident, and Taehyung almost wished that they hadn't gone on a flight that evening. He knew Yoongi needed it, though, to get out his pent up energy. It was calming to see Yoongi in his dragon shift, too, as it made Taehyung feel protected. "Yes?"

"I love you," Taehyung said, his body relaxing into the sheets despite the worry clawing at his heart. "I don't know what I did to deserve you."

"You were born," Yoongi hummed, making Taehyung smile despite everything, "and you grew into the man you are today. That's enough for me."

"You sappy dragon," Taehyung cooed, leaning down to press a kiss to Yoongi's brow bone. "Are you still sure?"

"Tomorrow can't come soon enough," Yoongi hummed, drawing circles against Taehyung's skin with his pinky. "To be honest, I'm a little nervous your family won't like me."

Taehyung laughed, tilting his head back into the pillows. His family didn't even know about his preference for men, but he found that he didn't care. He knew they would love him no matter what. They had to. Just as he had to save his little brother.

"And for the record, Tae?"

"Hmm?"

"I love you too."

 

 

"This is your last chance to back out," Taehyung said, a calm smile stretching over his face as he followed Yoongi to the back shed. They had spent all morning loaded up the saddle, the cargo saddle, with meat and pelts and various goods they had nabbed from Jeongguk in hopes of looking more legit.

Yoongi looked at Taehyung over his shoulder. "I'm not backing out. We're doing this together. Now come here."

Taehyung wrinkled his nose as Yoongi wiped him down with blood, eventually covering his face to resist the urge to vomit as the scent hit him. "Please hurry."

"I'm doing my best," Yoongi mumbled, his hands coated in red. He didn't look as disturbed as Taehyung did, for one, but Taehyung had seen Yoongi bring home a kill of his own every once in a while. Yoongi was used to it. Taehyung was not. "I can't risk them scenting you at the portal."

"I know," Taehyung moaned, opening his eyes at Yoongi's final pat to his bicep. "Done?"

"Done," Yoongi said, pulling back and looking at his work. Taehyung was fully covered in it, and if he were to go by Yoongi's nostrils flaring he would say there was no scent of human to be detected. "Come on. I have a cloth to put over you and the bag of medicine, and we need to hurry so the meat doesn't spoil."

Taehyung did as he was told, climbing into the saddle and sticking to the side as far away from the carcasses as he could. Jeongguk was a neat hunter, but Taehyung didn't think even the neatest kill would be able to not make him queasy. He could handle raw meat, just not in such large quantities. He looked up as Yoongi started to pull the cloth over his body, the medicine bag fit neatly at his side. "You're okay to put the saddle on yourself?"

"These were made for solo use," Yoongi hummed. He leaned in, nosing at Taehyung's cheek despite the blood. It left a smear on his nose, and Taehyung would have wiped it away if his hands weren’t dirty, as well. "Stay as still as you can. Don't move until I've shifted and told you it's safe, alright?"

"I know, hyung."

Yoongi cast him a comforting smile before pulling the cloth over his head, guarding him from the sun and sky and the gods that were surely looking down on them. He could hear the shuffling as Yoongi disrobed, and his nerves had him wincing at the sound of the shift. He had many fears, but he had to stay strong. For his sake and for Yoongi's, he had to stay strong.

Taehyung remained still, plugging his nose against the thick leather of the medicine bag, as Yoongi slid the carrier onto his back. The sound of Yoongi's wings pushing them up into the air was more comforting than Taehyung thought it might be, and he allowed himself to fall into the easy memories of his and Yoongi's nightly escapades.

It wasn't long before they were nearing the portal, and Taehyung did his best to go still as Yoongi lowered to the ground. He heard the muffled greeting from the guard and kept his eyes shut, his heart beating so hard in his chest he feared he might pass out.

"Hello, hunter?"

Yoongi's gruff reply came in form of a benevolent growl. He must have gestured to the identification woven onto the front strap of the carrier. Taehyung had been careful putting it on, doing his best to hide Jeongguk's name and only show the hunter's mark.

Silence stretched, and Taehyung's heart leapt to his throat as he waited. "Alright," the guard hummed. There was no suspicion in his voice, only bland friendliness. "Be back before sundown."

The carrier began to shake as Yoongi walked forward, and Taehyung let his body relax. They were going back. They hadn't failed yet. It was going to work.

Taehyung felt nothing for a very long stretch of time, only hearing infrequent clicks and growls from Yoongi and the movement of his claws against the hard ground. Yoongi said he wouldn't be able to tell once they travelled through the portrait, since the magic numbed their senses, and Taehyung was surprised to find he was right. He supposed it was better that way. He would rather feel nothing than pain.

His lungs tightened with fear as Yoongi's wings had them ascend again, and he thought back to all those months ago when Yoongi and Jeongguk had made the initial trip back to the dragon realm with Hoseok and Taehyung as their cargo. They had been knocked out then, given special herbs by the priestesses, and Taehyung selfishly longed for them.

Realistically, he knew that he wouldn't be okay sleeping through the entire journey while Yoongi did all the work, but it was a nice thought. His skin felt sticky and hot, and he wished for nothing more than to sit up and begin to wipe himself down, but Yoongi's warning rang loud and clear in his memory. He would stay as still as he could for as long as Yoongi needed him to.

It didn't mean he had to enjoy it, though.

Time passed by like it didn’t exist at all, the itch growing and growing until Taehyung had to dig his nails into his wrist to keep himself from wiggling about. To his relief, Yoongi's wings slowed as they started their descent. He knew it was too soon to arrive at Taehyung's hometown, but he could probably get out of the meat and cleanse himself.

Yoongi landed with a huff, and Taehyung heard the swishing of his tail before it melted away into the cracking of bones. He didn't wince, but his stomach turned. He kept quiet, not wanting to risk anything, until the cloth was pulled away from his face. Yoongi looked down at him, sweat on his brow and an uncertain smile on his lips.

"Hey," Yoongi said, his voice hardly above a whisper. "Come. There's a stream you can wash yourself off in."

Taehyung let out a sigh of relief.

He sat up, and he couldn't help but feel disappointed by their surroundings. They were still in a forest, one similar to the one back home, and there was nothing around that differentiated the human realm from the dragon realm. He could see no path around them, and he figured Yoongi hadn't wanted to risk being seen.

"The merchant town is near here," Yoongi explained as he helped Taehyung out of the carrier. "The priestesses and merchants meet the hunters around here, so us being here wouldn't be a surprise."

"We'll have to be quick," Taehyung sighed, scrunching up his face as Yoongi pointed to the stream a few feet away. The clearing was hardly big enough for Yoongi to have landed in, and he frowned when he saw a few cuts on Yoongi's arms. "Hyung."

"I'm alright," Yoongi said, sensing Taehyung's discomfort. "They're just scratches. Come on, I have clothes for you to change in to."

Taehyung did as he was told, but not without another frown directed to the cuts. The water made him shiver, and he longed for his heavy coat. They had a plan, though, and that plan included Taehyung throwing on merchant robes.

"These look expensive," Taehyung mumbled, pulling the trousers over his freshly washed skin. He still felt sticky, as they couldn't risk bringing soap or anything like that along with them, but it was better than being covered in blood. "I'm surprised Hoseok trusted us with them."

"He trusts you," Yoongi said, brushing his fingers through Taehyung's damp hair. "Put on the hood, you'll get sick like this."

Taehyung pulled the clothes tightly to himself, fearing the shivers that were already working down his spine. Yoongi ended up pulling the hood up himself, and his smile was enough to make Taehyung calm down a bit. "How far are we?"

"Not far," Yoongi assured him. "Climb on my shoulders and hold on tight. You know the drill, yeah?"

"Yeah." Taehyung leaned in, stealing a kiss he needed to feel okay, and Yoongi let him with a sigh. "I love you."

"I love you," Yoongi said, his smile making Taehyung's heart beat. "Hold on tight."

Taehyung took a step back, giving Yoongi the much needed room he needed to shift. He didn't look away as the shift took over Yoongi's body, watching with wonder as his promised melted away into a flurry of scales and claws and wings. So long ago, just the sound of the shift was enough to scare Taehyung into worry, but now watching the shift had his shoulders rolling back in pride.

He climbed on when Yoongi began to stretch his wings out, being mindful of his feet. Yoongi made a noise at the back of his throat, a question, and Taehyung pulled the hood down over his eyebrows before latching onto Yoongi's throat. "Let's go, hyung."

Taehyung suppressed a squeak as Yoongi lifted into the air with one powerful movement of his wings, holding onto him tighter despite the cold slap of wind against his face.

The human realm looked so similar to where Taehyung had been residing over the past months that he could hardly tell the difference, but as they flew over the merchant town he remembered the environment he had grown in. The wooden buildings, for one. He wondered if there would ever be a world where dragons and humans could live harmoniously.

He shelved those thoughts at the back of his mind, not wanting to disappoint himself.

Taehyung made himself as small as possible on Yoongi's shoulders, watching the ripple of light as it traveled across the scales in front of him. He was sure the merchant town saw more dragons than any other town, but he didn't know how often a dragon had someone else riding on its shoulders. Not a human, certainly, and he didn't want anyone to think he was an injured dragon. Rumors spread fast, and something like that would surely find its way back to the clan.

Yoongi assured him he flew too high to be seen, though, so Taehyung placed his trust in the clouds to conceal them from the people below.

Taehyung felt his anticipation build the farther they travelled, and with the way Yoongi let out little growls and chirps every now and then, he must be feeling the same way. Taehyung smiled, forgetting all the risks they were taking as he pictured the expression his mother might make as he snuck back home. He wondered if they could risk visiting Jimin, but he knew Yoongi would say no. That was too much, even by Taehyung's standards.

Taehyung jolted as Yoongi started to descend, tightening his thighs around Yoongi's neck and pressing his fingers against his scales. He never feared falling off, but he never rode Yoongi without a proper saddle, either. "Hyung," he called, not expecting an answer.

Yoongi continued downward, and Taehyung glanced over the side at the clearing below them. His heart sped up as he recognized the pool of water he had visited so many times as a child, and he looked farther at the drying stream he used to bathe in. The water level was terribly low, and Taehyung feared the gods were angry at them.

He slipped off as soon as Yoongi landed, his blood burning beneath his skin as he hopped towards the pool. He bent down as Yoongi shifted behind him, pressing his fingers to the cool water. "Hyung. Hyung, we're here—"

"I know," Yoongi said, groaning. Taehyung looked over his shoulder, eyeing the cuts on Yoongi's arms, and returned to grab at the clothes Yoongi had stored for himself in a saddlebag hanging off the side of the carrier. He grabbed the medicine bag, as well, wrinkling his nose at the scent of blood there. "Help me."

Taehyung did, pushing the robe over Yoongi's shoulders after Yoongi pulled on his trousers and shirt. He fastened the strings of the hood around Yoongi's neck, carefully pulling the cloth over his forehead to hide the glimmering scales underneath. Yoongi ruffled his hair, pulling it forward to hang above his eyebrows.

"No sudden movements," Taehyung said, cupping his hands on either side of Yoongi's face. His stomach was turning, acid threatening to push up his throat, but he told himself he couldn't cry. Not when they were so close. "Stay close to me. It's lunch time, so the majority of people will be out working or inside their homes eating."

"I'll keep my head down," Yoongi mumbled, turning his head to press a kiss against Taehyung's palm. "We can do this."

Taehyung smiled, his heart shaking as he turned around and headed towards the beat up path he had walked so many times.

As Taehyung expected, all was quiet. Yoongi kept a few steps behind him, and even though Taehyung longed to hold his hand he knew better. They were in a different world, much more hostile than Taehyung remembered, and if they wanted to keep a low profile they would have to get to Taehyung's as fast as they could without making any mistakes.

The sounds of wheels had Taehyung's gaze jerk to the side, but luck was on his side as an elderly man pulled it out from his home's yard in the direction opposite of them. He let out a small breath of relief, eyeing Yoongi carefully before picking up the pace towards home.

The familiar narrowing road had hope blossom in Taehyung's mind, and he quickened his steps. The walls were the same walls he had seen his entire life, and they made his heart squeeze with longing to see his family more than ever.

Taehyung put his finger up to his lips as they reached the walls of his childhood home, and he couldn't fight the tears that lined his eyes as he pushed the gate open and slipped in. Yoongi came in after him, keeping his eyes to the ground, and Taehyung sucked in a deep breath before walking over to the front door.

"Who's there?"

The door slid open suddenly, and Taehyung found himself face to face with his father.

Taehyung's heart leapt into his throat, and his eyes widened in shock as his father's did. He dropped the medicine back, shock overtaking function, and his father stumbled backwards. He looked thin, and Taehyung wasn't sure if he was thinner than he had been when Taehyung left or if he had always been that way. Neither option was good. "T-Taehyung?"

"What?"

Taehyung started to shake as Jimin appeared behind his father, his cheeks looking hollow and his eyes dull with exhaustion. His lips parted in surprise, and Taehyung barely registered the sound of Yoongi taking a step closer.

"I—I need—"

"Inside," Yoongi interrupted with a hand to the small of his back, casting a woeful look at the world around them. Taehyung followed his gaze, relieved to find no one there. He knew that wouldn't last for long, though. Taehyung's father reacted first, grabbing Taehyung's wrist and pulling him inside as the first tremors started to make their way down his body.

Taehyung shoved his shoes off before allowing himself to fully go inside, not wanting to taint the childhood home was so precious to him, and he choked out a laugh as Yoongi sheepishly did the same. Jimin slid the door shut behind them, and Taehyung was shaking in his father's arms as the world came crashing down around them. His mind raced with all the questions he wished to ask them, all the possible answers making his heart pound with anticipation. He wanted to speak, but the words were caught in his throat like barbs.

"Breathe," his father whispered into his hair, brushing his hand down the back of his neck. "You're home, Taehyung-ah. Breathe."

"I can't stay," Taehyung choked out. He felt the familiar hands of Yoongi and Jimin on his shoulders, and he shook violently. "I'm sorry, I can't stay."

"How?" Jimin wondered, his voice thick with tears. “How are you here, Taehyung-ah?”

"Is there something—"

Taehyung's head whipped around at the voice of his mother, and she stared at him from the hallway as if he had gained an extra head in his time away with the dragons. She, too, was thin. Taehyung felt so guilty, knowing that his belly was soft and healthy, but he remembered the meat they had brought and prayed it would be enough to last his family through the next month or two.

"I'm back," Taehyung breathed, turning fully to face her. "I'm—"

"Taehyung-ah," she crooned, nearly collapsing as he raced forward into her waiting arms. "Oh, my baby."

"I'm okay," Taehyung stuttered out, the words heavy on his tongue. "Th-They told me, about—"

"We brought medicine," Yoongi said, speaking up as Taehyung's words failed him. He held up the medicine bag that Taehyung had dropped, and Taehyung realized that the hood was still hiding his identity. Jimin was staring at him, though, with a suspicious glint to his eye that had Taehyung clear his throat.

Jimin's gaze snapped towards him, flushing as he realized he had been caught. "Who is this?"

"Yoongi," Taehyung said, simply. "Yoongi helped me come back."

That had Jimin's hackles drop, but Taehyung had known him all his life. He knew Jimin was still wary of him. He supposed he couldn't blame him. "Thank you," Taehyung's father croaked, reaching for Yoongi's hands and bringing them up to his chest even as the medicine bag hit him awkwardly. "Thank you for bringing my son back."

"I can't stay," Taehyung repeated, the words stinging his mouth like acid. His mother tightened her grip on him, as if that could keep her son at her side, and he let out a shaking breath. "I'm not supposed to be here."

"You need to explain what's going on," Jimin asked, his kind tone returning as he looked towards Taehyung.

"We should— The medicine, first," Taehyung said, meeting his mother's eyes with a worried frown. "Is he..?"

"Stronger than yesterday, but we needed medicine," his father explained, releasing Yoongi's hands so they could take the medicine out. Taehyung could smell the herbs, and they made his nose twitch with unease. "People have been falling sick left and right, though. It hasn't been easy."

"I know," Taehyung said, licking his lips. "I...I probably shouldn't see them."

"The kids are at your cousin's," his mother explained, frowning as she accepted the medicine from her husband's hands. "I couldn't risk them getting sick as well. He's unconscious, anyways, and I don't think he could wake up to see you even if he wanted to."

"Can I see him...?"

Taehyung followed his mother as she nodded, turning around without another word. The others followed after, Yoongi taking a few long strides to step beside Taehyung. He felt a little guilty that Yoongi was on the outside looking in, but there were so many things they needed to explain before his family would understand what was happening.

Jeonggyu looked so fragile curled up on the bed. All thoughts disappeared into the background as Taehyung stared at him, soft breaths puffing from his cracked lips. Taehyung's heart burned with anger and fear, and he pressed his shoulder against Yoongi's as his mother prepared the medicine. Jeonggyu made a face as their mother parted his lips to pour the medicine down, and even Taehyung calmed down as she cooed.

They stood there for what seemed like an eternity until Jeonggyu was peacefully sleeping again. Taehyung couldn't resist squeezing his hand once before he was forced out of the room, his mother adamant against any of them contracting the disease.

Yoongi stood behind him as they returned to the main room, and Taehyung let out a sigh of relief that they hadn't been too late. "I'm sorry."

"What are you sorry for?" his mother cooed, bringing him over to the cushions. They were worn out and rough, but Taehyung didn't mind. "You're going to save him, my angel."

Taehyung looked over at Yoongi, who was staring at his lap, and back at his mother. "I hope so."

"Taehyung-ah," Jimin started, sitting down on the cushions with an unsure frown, "what's going on? We...We didn't even know if you were..."

Alive.

Taehyung sucked in a breath. "The dragons took me in," he said, in lieu of a long winded explanation. "Yoongi was my mentor, and I've been living with him this entire time. They taught me how to make a living for myself, and it's...it's a whole new world over there."

His father frowned, his eyes shifting to Yoongi. "Over there?"

"My people reside in another realm," Yoongi mumbled, finally lifting his eyes. His hands pulled down his hood, exposing the glint of his scales, and Taehyung winced when his parents gasped. Jimin only stared, awe sparkling in his eyes. "Our population has been dwindling, so we've chosen to bring humans over for work and hopes of mating them, or for them to mate with each other."

"Mating them?" Taehyung's mother repeated, her voice higher than usual. "I don't suppose—"

Her gaze fixed on Taehyung, fear sparking in her eyes, and Taehyung shook his head quickly. "It's completely consensual, mother. I'm promised, but it was my choice and—"

"Promised?" Jimin interrupted, his eyes going wide. "To who?"

Taehyung supposed he should have seen that coming. Yoongi cleared his throat, and Taehyung met his eyes. He was smiling, and he looked down at his lap after a few more seconds. He stayed silent, and that was enough for Taehyung to know that Yoongi was giving him a way out. Taehyung straightened up, rolling his shoulders back. That was even more of a reason to tell the truth.

"I'm promised to Yoongi hyung," he said, the shake to his voice betraying him. Jimin's shoulders slumped, and his parents stared at him like they were seeing him for the first time. "He's taken care of me, and he's the only reason I was able to come back. He's the reason Jeonggyu is going to live, and he's the reason I've been able to live this entire time."

His father continued to stare at him, his brows drawn in tightly, but one look at his mother was enough for Taehyung to know that he had won her over. "Has he now?" Her words were quiet, and she looked at Yoongi with a softness that made her look young again. "You've taken care of my boy?"

"I've done my best," Yoongi said, his words clear and strong. He lifted his chin up, and Taehyung couldn't help but smile. "For my people, taking a mate is a declaration of love rather than an intent to reproduce. I hope for Taehyung to stay by my side for the rest of my life, if you'd allow me."

He bowed, then, dipping forward until his forehead hit the ground, and Taehyung burned with a mixture of embarrassment and pride. His mother choked out a laugh, surprised, and his father guffawed. "Sit up, Yoongi."

Yoongi did as he was told, his cheeks that red color Taehyung had grown to love so much, and he shared a sheepish smile with Taehyung. Taehyung's father sighed, placing his hands on his knees as he shook his head. His face was slack with mirth, and Taehyung was reminded of the days of his childhood when everything was so much easier. "You've saved two of my sons," he said, smiling as he looked at Yoongi head on. "I can't say no to you for that reason, even if I am...very surprised."

"I've lost my son once," Taehyung's mother continued. She reached forward, and Yoongi looked down as she grabbed his hands. "I refuse to lose him because of something like this."

"Thank you," Taehyung choked out, his hands shaking as his father leaned forward and dragged him against his chest. "I wish I could stay."

"We're not supposed to be here," Yoongi explained, his frown returning as the severity of the situation washed over them yet again. "I wanted to bring Taehyung here to bring you medicine, but we also brought plenty of fresh kill. It should last you for a while, enough to save some money over the winter."

Jimin's eyes sparkled. "Taehyung-ah."

"I couldn't leave you like this," Taehyung said. He sniffled against his father's shoulder, melting at the circles being rubbing into his back. "There are some pelts, too. You can sell them when times get tough."

"Will you get in trouble?" Jimin asked, leaning forward with his hands flush against the ground. His brows were furrowed with worry, and Taehyung wished everyone could just stop worrying.

"Not if we don't get caught," Yoongi said, eyeing Taehyung carefully. "We left the provisions by the dried out pool in the forest. Taehyung said no one goes over there now, so it should be safe until nightfall. I wish we could stay that long to help, but you'll need to get everything and dismantle the carrier we brought them wish. If that's found, they'll know a dragon is here. It's simply built, so it won't take long, and you can probably sell the metal scraps and leather."

"No one lets their kids run around now, if they're still here," Taehyung's mother affirmed them. "Everyone is working and returning home, hoping the sickness will leave as soon as it came. They think the water is polluted, as well. People have been talking, there’s so much fear..."

"I have tools," Taehyung's father said, locking eyes with Jimin before looking back at Taehyung. "We'll get rid of the carrier. Jimin's been over here, helping us. Since you've been gone."

Taehyung's heart swelled with affection for his oldest friend, and he wiggled forward to grab onto his hand. "Jiminnie."

"I couldn't abandon them," Jimin explained, his cheeks flushed. "My family’s okay, anyhow. We helped each other cope."

"Thank you," Taehyung breathed. "I wish I could have brought more. The medicine should be enough to cure Jeonggyu and anyone else that might get sick."

"You brought plenty," his mother assured him, squeezing Yoongi's shoulder when he smiled at her. "Seeing that you are alive and well is enough for me to be content, Taehyung-ah. I want nothing more than that."

“How’s Nayeon?” Taehyung asked, holding onto Jimin’s hand for dear life. “I...I wish I could see her.”

“She’s fine,” Jimin said, his lips curling into a smile. “Her family’s smart, they left town when things started to go south in hopes of retrieving medicine from her aunt out east. It’s...been a month, but they’re good people. I’m sure they’re alright.”

Taehyung laughed breathlessly, and he sat up despite his wish to curl into his father's warm embrace and rest there until the moon was high in the sky. They were running out of time, though. "We need to leave. I wish we could stay."

"I know," his father hummed, brushing Taehyung's hair away from his face before moving to bring the hood over his face again. "Come on, son."

“Wait,” Taehyung said, his feet glued to the ground. There was still so much he had to say, so much he had to ask. “I’m— Yoongi told me. About you two.”

Taehyung’s parents looked at each other, recognition flashing in their dull eyes, and Taehyung’s heart panged with grief at what could have been. “We were young,” Taehyung’s father started, his words slow. Jimin looked between them, confusion blooming in his eyes. “Our families relied on us at that time, Taehyung-ah. We knew the dragons were good, but when we received the consideration…”

“We couldn’t leave,” Taehyung’s mother finished for him, resting her hand on her husband’s arm. Her eyes were gentle, but the pain behind them made Taehyung want to cry all over again. “We wanted to start a family, but we couldn’t do that without the people we would have to leave behind.”

“Our future would be uncertain,” Taehyung’s father said after a moment. “Our families weren’t chosen, and even if the dragons would have provided us with a better life we couldn’t leave them.”

Taehyung sucked in a breath, guilt making him tense up. Yoongi and Jimin reached out, their hands comforting on his heated skin. “I’m sorry—”

“I wanted you to be chosen,” his mother interrupted, her frown firm. “My only regret was bringing children into this cruel world. I hoped that one of you would be chosen in hopes of a better life, and you were. That was one of the happiest moments of my life, Taehyung-ah.”

“I wish you could come with me,” Taehyung croaked, swallowing down his sadness as Jimin rubbed his palm against his skin. “I wish I could do more.”

“You’re alive,” his father said, brushing Taehyung’s hair away from his eyes. “That’s enough for us. Keep living, Taehyung-ah. We’ll be fine.”

“Hard times always pass,” Jimin said, even though his gauntness made the words seem false. “You told me that all the time, Tae. Don’t tell me you didn’t believe your own words?”

Taehyung laughed, his shoulders shaking. Jimin hugged him tight, his eyelashes wet against Taehyung's cheek, and Taehyung loathed to let him go. He knew that it was the last time they would ever see each other again, and it hurt even more than the first time he said goodbye. Still, he felt happy knowing that his family knew he was okay. That would be the one thing that got him through the tough times.

"I love you," Jimin sighed, squeezing his hands around Taehyung's biceps as they parted. "Don't forget me, alright?"

"I won't." Taehyung's laugh was watery and humorless, but seeing Jimin smile made him feel hopeful. "If Yoongi and I ever adopt we'll name the baby after you, I swear that."

Jimin laughed, too, and he dragged Taehyung into another hug before pulling back to allow Taehyung's parents some time. Yoongi's gaze was lowered to the ground, but Taehyung could see the slight twitch of a smile on his lips.

"I’m sorry you had to learn about our past from someone else. But I need you to be careful," Taehyung's mother said after she released him from a hug, lowering her voice as she tightened Taehyung's hood around his face. His skin was burning from their goodbyes, pain tugging at his heart like the first time he had left the warmth of his childhood home all those months ago. "The farther the disease spreads, the farther anti-dragon sentiment does. Get Yoongi out of here safely, do you hear me?"

A chill worked its way down Taehyung's spine as he looked at Yoongi, who was avoiding his eyes. "Okay. We'll get home safely, I promise you."

She placed a final kiss to his forehead, his father pressing a hand against his nape and Jimin squeezing his forearm, and Taehyung gave his childhood home a final look over before heading back down that narrow path.

Chapter Text

"Keep your head down," Yoongi reminded him, his voice barely above a whisper. The roads were still empty, but neither of them wanted to take that chance. They forest was too close. Once they were in that clearing, they could go home. He wished they had the cover of the night to disguise them, but the guard had been specific. Return before sundown.

Anticipation shoved its way back into Taehyung's stomach as they walked, his boots kicking up loose dirt and rocks. His skin still tingled with the warmth of his parent's and Jimin's affection, and he supposed he felt closure. He had been lucky that Jimin was there, but in his heart of hearts he knew that his parents would have let Jimin know somehow. Even if they wouldn’t have told him explicitly, they knew how much Taehyung meant to Jimin to withhold that information from him.

"Taehyung?"

Taehyung froze, but Yoongi's hand at the small of his back shoving him forward made him keep moving. He stumbled over his feet, but he couldn't stop walking. He heard wrong, surely. If they kept going the person would forget that they thought they saw him and it would all—

"Taehyung! Oh gods, Taehyung, you're back!"

The person's boots scuffed the ground as they ran to him, reaching a hand out to latch around Taehyung's wrist. Taehyung flinched, jerking his hand back, only to stop at the familiar face. "Jinyoung—"

"It is you," Jinyoung said, his eyes widening in shock. He was thin, too, and Taehyung stilled at the sight of a dagger hanging from his belt. There was a group of people behind him, some faces Taehyung recognized and some he didn't, and his blood ran cold as one of them narrowed their eyes towards Yoongi. "What're you doing here?"

"Leaving," Taehyung hissed, lowering his voice. "Jinyoung, please let me go—"

"Who's this?" one of the strangers said, stepping forward with his arms crossed over his chest. He was taller than Jinyoung, with a narrow face and hard eyes, and Taehyung figured he must be a few years older. He had a dagger, too, and Taehyung's heart fell to his stomach.

"A friend. He's very sensitive to the sun so please don't—"

It was an awful excuse. The stranger reached forward, pulling down Yoongi's hood, and the rest of the group let out little gasps. Even Jinyoung jerked, and he looked back at Taehyung with fear in his eyes. "Taehyung, thank god we caught you in time."

"What?" Taehyung cried, struggling as Jinyoung grabbed ahold of him and started to drag him away from Yoongi.

Yoongi was staring at the stranger head on, his fists clenched at his sides, but there was no mistaking the black scales that framed his face. Taehyung pulled away from Jinyoung, stronger than him since Jinyoung was nothing more than skin and bones and a dagger, and stumbled towards Yoongi.

The stranger pulled out his dagger just before Taehyung could reach him, and he held it to Yoongi's throat. Yoongi remained still, his gaze never falling from the stranger's. "What are you doing with him, scales?"

Yoongi growled, and the dagger pressed into his skin. He winced, and Taehyung sucked in a breath. "I'm taking him home," he said carefully. "This isn't what you think."

"And how am I supposed to believe that? You took him from us, fed him, and now what? Going to sacrifice him to your damn gods?"

"No," Yoongi said, barely holding off the growl. He glanced at Taehyung, urging him to stay in place with desperation darkening his eyes. "I'm taking him to his home."

It was smart of Yoongi to refrain from mentioning that they lived together, but that only served to make the stranger angrier. He clenched his jaw, not taking his eyes of Yoongi even as the rest of his group started to talk amongst each other.

"Hyunshik—" Jinyoung looked between them, as if realizing something was off. Taehyung took a step forward, but Hyunshik pursed his lips and tightened his grip on the dagger.

"His home is in the opposite direction," Hyunshik said, narrowing his eyes. "So where are you taking him?"

Taehyung waved his hands in front of him. "Not that home, he's talking about my new home."

"He can't be trusted," Hyunshik said, nudging his chin towards Taehyung. Yoongi jerked, and Taehyung's heart stopped as the blade pressed into his throat enough to draw blood. Hyungshik seemed pleased, but the smile didn't last on his face. "They've brainwashed him, damn demons. Hold him."

Jinyoung faltered to follow the command, but two of the men from the group surged forward to grab onto Taehyung's arms. He fought against them as Yoongi's curses rang in his ears, shoving them off until a dagger was thrust up against his throat. He stilled, fear making his vision spot, and the men on either side of him sighed.

"You'll be fine soon," one of them murmured. Taehyung knew him, vaguely, and he didn't know why they weren't listening to him. “We won’t hurt you.”

"Please," he cried, willing himself not to start shaking. "Please, don't hurt him."

"We won't," Hyunshik hummed, urging the other men to grab Yoongi. "We’re on your side, Taehyung. I think a prize like this is enough for the priestesses to start giving us some answers, hm?"

Yoongi didn't fight them, even as Taehyung wished he would, but Taehyung knew he wouldn't with a blade against both of their throats. Yoongi was strong, with fire and claws on his side, but he wasn't stupid. He had too big of a heart to risk their lives for that.

Taehyung turned to Jinyoung, realizing that he was still staring at them with confusion in his eyes, and struggled to even out his breath. "Go get my family. Please, Jinyoung. They'll know what to do. Please."

Hyunshik eyed Taehyung with a smile, and Taehyung realized that he probably thought Taehyung was breaking out of whatever brainwashing the dragons had him under. "Yes, go get the kid's family. He was probably trying to escape and got caught by the scales." He gestured to another man, someone that Taehyung recognized but couldn’t put a name to the face. “You, go fetch one of the priestesses. Bring them to us.”

Taehyung didn't bother to refute him, knowing it would only help if Hyunshik believed what he wanted, and while Yoongi's nostrils flared he didn't say anything. He stumbled as Hyunshik ordered them to follow him, keeping a tight grip on Yoongi's shoulder with the dagger still pressed against his skin. Jinyoung set off without another word, throwing a worried look at Taehyung over his shoulder.

"How did you find me?" Taehyung asked as they continued walking, the town looking more and more deserted the deeper they went. The group walked in a tight circle around them, and the ones that weren't holding onto him or Yoongi had hands on their daggers. They glanced towards Hyunshik, waiting for him to answer or give them permission to. Hyunshik grunted towards one of the younger boys, a stranger to Taehyung.

"We've been patrolling the area in between work," he said, looking at Yoongi with disdain. "We figured the dragons must be hunting in our forests and taking all the prey, so we've been hoping to catch one in their human shift and take them captive. We stumbled upon the carrier full with fresh kill and that made us gather a patrol."

Yoongi's shoulders tightened, and Taehyung shut his eyes as anger flushed through him. How could they be so stupid? The forest had been abandoned while he still lived in the town, but he should have known that things could have changed in the time he was gone. He let his excitement cloud his judgement, and now they were going to pay for it.

"If we don't get the answers we want, we'll kill him," one of the boys assured Taehyung, unknown to the way Taehyung's heart stopped in his chest. "They're loyal, even if they're nothing but scales. They won't want to lose one of their precious dragons." He glared in Yoongi's direction, but Yoongi didn't flinch. He stared on, and all Taehyung could focus on was the smear of red across the side of his throat and the edge of the blade.

Taehyung shook with fear, hoping to the goddesses that they would get out unscathed.

 

 

"This is for your own safety," a boy told him, smiling kindly as he bound Taehyung's hands with rope. "We don't know how close you are to this dragon, how much he's ruined you. We’ll get you home soon, promise"

Taehyung bit back a remark, falling back against the wooden wall. It was so cold inside. He wanted to be back home, curled up with Nabi and reading while Yoongi sketched. Who knew if he'd ever be able to do that again? He had ruined everything.

They shoved Yoongi down next to him, binding his arms and legs. Yoongi grunted, wincing as his shoulders hit the hard wall, and Taehyung shut his eyes. He couldn't bear to look at him, knowing that he had ruined everything that Yoongi had worked so tirelessly for. If they made it out of the situation alive, then there was no chance that the Elder Council would forgive them.

Their guards remained at their sides, knives pressed against their throats, and Taehyung supposed it was naive to wish that they would leave them alone. He wished to talk to Yoongi, to apologize for dragging him into everything. He knew Yoongi would only refute him, but Taehyung couldn't help the guilt that was eating at him.

Yoongi looked at him, as if sensing his turmoil, and his gaze softened. Taehyung wanted to look away, but he couldn't bring himself to. He wanted to hold Yoongi's hand and hear that it was going to be alright.

Taehyung struggled to keep his composure as the guard forced Yoongi's gaze away from him, grumbling out an obscenity, and he dropped his gaze down to the ground. They were in a shed at the outskirts of the town, and Taehyung figured they were close to the priestesses on purpose.

They didn't think he wouldn't use his fire on them in fear of losing his human, but they weren't positive.

"It isn't the dragon's fault the disease hit," Taehyung tried, only to get two glares thrown his way.

"It's their fault it's spreading," Taehyung's guard hissed. "None of the priestesses ever get sick. I'm sure they know a cure and aren't giving it to us."

Taehyung thought of the Elder Council. They were preparing to send provisions, but Taehyung couldn't say that. Besides, he couldn't fault them for being mad. He was angry, too, that the dragons hadn't done much to help his people. Their anger was justified, if not poorly executed.

Yoongi kept silent, looking up at the ceiling, and Taehyung forced himself not to look at him for too long.

A sudden shouting outside had them all flinch, and Taehyung gasped as the dagger dug into the soft skin of his neck. Yoongi growled at the back of his throat, and Taehyung figured he must have scented the freshly drawn blood. "I'm okay," he stuttered out, glancing at the door. The shouting was getting louder, and Taehyung lurched backwards as it was thrown open.

A priestess was staring at them, fury dancing in her eyes as she marched in. "Release them," she hissed.

Hyunshik walked in behind her, looking all too proud. "Do as she says."

The guards dropped the daggers, cutting at the ropes binding Taehyung and Yoongi, and Taehyung shuffled to his feet haphazardly. Yoongi stood in a calmer manner, and Taehyung watched with bated breath as the priestess beckoned them forward.

"Come," she said, her voice flatter than it had been before. "We're to meet at the temple. Your family will be there as well, Taehyung."

Taehyung dropped his gaze as she looked at him, not wanting to displease her, and they all followed her as she turned and headed back out. Taehyung immediately reached for Yoongi's wrist, ignoring the muttering of Hyunshik and the two other men behind them.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, hoping no one else could hear him as they took long strides after the priestess. Yoongi didn't look at him, and he didn't dare hold his hand.

"I know."

Hyunshik's men were waiting at the temple, sitting at the base of it while the priestesses all waited at the top. The High Priestess was staring down at them, her aquamarine scales shimmering in a way that reminded Taehyung of the day he had got chosen all that time ago. Her face was twisted in displeasure, though, and it made Taehyung’s heart squeeze.

The priestess that had fetched them guided them up the stairs, taking her position at the side with the rest as Yoongi and Taehyung stopped in front of the High Priestess. They both bowed, falling to their knees, and even Hyunshik showed the proper respects.

"What are you doing here?" the High Priestess started, placing her hands on her hips. Her white robes ruffled in the wind, and Taehyung focused on the fabric at her feet in fear.

"Taehyung's younger brother fell ill," Yoongi explained, his voice exuding a calm that Taehyung envied. "We feared that he would die to it and brought them medicine along with provisions."

"Your grandfather sits on the Elder Council," the High Priestess said, something akin to disappointment thick in her words. "You know as well as any that you cannot cross into the human realm with your position."

Yoongi stiffened beside him, lowering his head deeper. "I know," he said. "I could not let my promised suffer. If his brother died I would never forgive myself."

The High Priestess paused, and Taehyung looked up to see that she had focused her eyes on Hyunshik. Taehyung followed her gaze, and frowned at the confusion on Hyunshik's face. "I suppose you have questions."

"I do," Hyunshik mumbled, looking between Taehyung and Yoongi. "Why do you continue to take our people?"

"The dragons do not breed as easily as humans do," the High Priestess said, easier than Taehyung expected. "We need your people to ensure our species continues."

Hyunshik stared at her. "So you use humans for breeding stock?"

The High Priestess laughed, not unkindly, and Taehyung flinched as Hyunshik's eyes darkened. "No, you silly child. We do not force that. We bring humans in hope that they will mate with one of ours, but it is not always a guarantee. If they do not breed, they contribute to our society in other ways." She gestured to Yoongi and Taehyung. "I don't expect Taehyung and Yoongi to bring a child into this world, after all."

Taehyung's skin burned as she revealed the truth, and Hyunshik gaped at her. Taehyung interjected before he could, turning his entire body towards him. "They didn't keep me captive anywhere," he rushed out. "They all took care of me, teaching me a craft and how to take care of myself. I lived with Yoongi, but I could have left at any time. I didn't, and that was a choice I had made. The other humans there are happy, too, I swear to you. Hoseok, the man chosen along with me, is living happily with the dragons. It's not a curse."

"We hoped to keep it a secret," the High Priestess sighed, shaking her head. "Your kind was a threat to ours, many moons ago. A weakness like a reduced population could threaten us, but I believe that taking humans has only shown how harmonious a society can be with both of our kind in it. Of course, I don't sit on the council..."

"You still took him from his family," Hyunshik argued, his mouth gaping at them as if he couldn't process what he was being told. "There's no proof, either."

"Aren't I proof enough?" Taehyung huffed, anger rising in his chest. "You're not a bad person, Hyunshik. Please, can't you believe me?"

"There will be proof soon enough," Yoongi interrupted, and Taehyung knew it was to calm him down. "The truth has been revealed, and it will spread. Change will need to occur."

"Disease is crippling us," Hyunshik said, shaking his head. His eyes still burned with the anger of his cause, and Taehyung feared they wouldn't be able to reach him. "The dragons haven't tried to help us."

"The Elder Council was going to send medicine soon," Taehyung said, uncertainty wringing at his heart. "I know it's late, but...the effort was there. They're traditional, but Yoongi's been talking to his grandfather in hopes of sending relief here. It was finally working."

"Then why are you here?" Hyunshik asked.

The High Priestess looked at him, as well, and Taehyung burned with shame. "I couldn't risk my brother dying," he mumbled, meeting Yoongi's eyes for confidence. "He's barely two years old. The sickness would take him faster than any other child or adult."

Yoongi reached for his hand, then, and Taehyung melted at the much needed comfort. "I know what we did was wrong, but I couldn't let my mate suffer," Yoongi said, repeating the same sentiment from before.

"I suppose I can't fault you for wanting to help your family, hm?" the High Priestess sighed, shaking her head. She pursed her lips, regarding her lower priestesses with a low hum. "What are we going to do with them, then?"

A commotion at the base of the temple had Taehyung's head turn, and his heartbeat sped up as he saw his parents and Jimin race up the steps. He sucked in a breath, struggling to his feet. Jimin reached him first, grabbing at his hands frantically. "Taehyung!"

"Jimin," Taehyung whined, looking to his parents for any type of guidance. They stared at him, looking as uncertain as he did. "Where's Jinyoung? Jeonggyu?"

"We left Jinyoung to watch over him," his father rushed out. He looked at the High Priestess, his hands shaking as he held onto his son's wrist. "Please, do not harm my son."

She raised a brow, a kind smile stretching over her face. "He won't be harmed."

His parents and Jimin deflated at that, and a surge of anger seemed to overtake Jimin as he walked over to Hyunshik and shoved at his shoulder. "Why couldn't you have just let them go?"

Hyunshik swatted at him, huffing as he scrambled onto his feet. "How was I supposed to know that the scales wasn't trying to brainwash him further?"

"He hasn't brainwashed me at all," Taehyung grumbled, anger licking at his chest. "He wouldn't have brought me back if he truly wanted me brainwashed."

Hyunshik frowned, averting his eyes as Jimin glared at him. "Well, what happens now?"

"The Elder Council will have to be alerted," the High Priestess said, levelling Yoongi with a look. "I cannot tell you what they'll do from here. For now, you'll all remain here, at the temple."

Hyunshik looked down at his men, who were mumbling to one another. "Here?"

"There's a possibility the Elder Council will want to keep the truth contained to you all," the High Priestess explained, waving a hand. Her lower priestesses started down the stairs, guiding Hyunshik's men to the side where doors led inside the temple. Taehyung had never been inside, in fact none of them had, and judging off the surprise on their faces they never expected they would. "It’s unlikely, but I don’t want to risk it spreading if that’s the case. For that reason, we'll keep you here until a decision is made. Word will be sent that you are working for the temple, cutting firewood for the winter."

"My son is home with one of his men," Taehyung's mother reminded her, narrowing her eyes. "Will we be allowed to retrieve them?"

The High Priestess hummed. "I hadn't forgotten. One of my priestesses will go there to watch over them, and once your son has recovered enough to travel he will come here if the decision has not been made by then." She looked down at Yoongi, who was still seated in front of her feet. "You'll pray with me tonight, Min. I should hope you don't lose your position. Regardless of whether or not you broke the rules, I can't fault you for wishing the best for your mate."

"I would appreciate that," Yoongi murmured, dipping his body in another bow before straightening out and standing up to join Taehyung's side. "There is a carrier full of meat by the drying pool that leads to the stream that needs to be taken care of as well. Please pardon our intrusion. I know the temple doesn't allow humans in it very often."

The High Priestess laughed, and the sound of it caught Taehyung off guard. It made her look younger, but she still had an intensity in her gaze that demanded respect. She shook her head, waving them along. "No, we don't. Come, we have many beds to make. I'll send a few of the priestesses to gather the meat."

Yoongi intertwined his fingers with Taehyung's, and Taehyung looked up to catch his smile. There was a twinge of sadness there, and Taehyung felt guilt tug at his heart. He kept quiet as the High Priestess led them down the steps, his mind racing as they all disappeared inside the temple.

 

 

"Would you look at me?"

"I might die if I do," Taehyung said, staring out the window. It was dark, dark enough that he could hardly see anything but the moonlight. It was better than staring at Yoongi's eyes full of uncertainty. "Hyung..."

"Stop blaming yourself," Yoongi said, coming up from behind and wrapping his arms around Taehyung's waist. Their hair was damp from the bath they took, and Taehyung felt embarrassed remembering how he had stared ahead at the wall while Yoongi scrubbed his back and washed his hair. "It's not your fault."

Taehyung rested his hands on top of Yoongi's arms, closing his eyes as Yoongi pressed a kiss against the side of his neck. It only made Taehyung think of Yoongi's blood smeared over Hyunshik's knife. "You could have gotten hurt today and it would have been my fault, hyung. Your family would never have forgiven me."

"They wouldn't have blamed you," Yoongi sighed, flattening his palm over Taehyung's belly. "And I didn't get hurt. We're all okay, aren't we?"

Taehyung made a little noise as Yoongi turned him around. He didn't fight it, as he couldn't resist Yoongi's needs for long. "Hyung. We weren't supposed to get caught."

"I know," Yoongi said. Despite everything, Taehyung could say he didn't hear any regret in Yoongi's tone. "We weren't. But maybe we were supposed to, Tae."

Taehyung met Yoongi's eyes for the first time since they entered the temple, tucked away in a room all to themselves as the rest of the rag tag group got comfortable with the priestesses looking after them, and frowned. "What do you mean, hyung?"

"This has to end some time," Yoongi said, brushing his fingers through Taehyung's damp hair. "It's not fair to keep taking you from your families. We can't expect this system to continue forever, can we? Something has to give."

"I don't think I expected us to catalyze that change," Taehyung said, pressing his cheek against Yoongi's warm palm. "The Elder Council is at liberty to do whatever they want, hyung."

"I know," Yoongi said, a frown gracing his already troubled expression. "But I have faith in them to do the right thing. I can only pray so hard."

"I'm sorry," Taehyung said, resting his hands on Yoongi's waist. He drew him in, seeking comfort in the warmth of Yoongi's neck. Yoongi threaded a hand through the hair above his nape, wrapping the other around Taehyung's hip. "I love you."

"I love you too," Yoongi said, pressing a kiss on the top of his head. "It's going to be okay, Taehyung-ah. Whatever is meant to happen will happen. I don't blame you for anything."

"Promise me you'll stick by my side?" Taehyung asked, his words muffled against Yoongi's skin. The familiar scent was calming, lulling Taehyung into a sense of security that he so desperately needed.

Yoongi smiled against his hair, a gentle hum falling from his lips. "I promise. That's why I gave you my knife, love. I'll always be with you."

A soft bubble of laughter made its way up Taehyung's throat, and Yoongi joined him as they made their way to the bed, cold and unlike the one waiting for them back at home. No matter what awaited them on the morrow, they were prepared to tackle it side by side.

Chapter Text

Days passed.

Jeonggyu was brought to the temple three days after the incident, and seeing his brother healthy and moving around on his own was the only thing that was able to properly calm Taehyung down. He did his best to hide his fears, out of respect from Yoongi, but it was clear that they were all shaken up.

They mainly stuck to their room, or Taehyung's parent's room or Jimin's room, since Hyunshik's men did little more than stare at them. Taehyung wasn't sure if their stares were from curiosity or contempt, and he didn't want to find out.

With Jeonggyu, the priestess relayed the information that some of the excess medicine Yoongi and Taehyung brought had been given to others in the town. It made Taehyung feel better, since their actions were at least going beyond his selfish act. The majority of the infected were children, after all, and Taehyung couldn't live with himself if another child died while he had saved his brother.

"I'm sorry," Taehyung said again, mumbling into Jeonggyu's hair. The boy was asleep in his lap, arms heavy against his sides, but Jimin looked up from where he was across the room. Yoongi, surprisingly, was with his parents helping prepare dinner for everyone. Taehyung had volunteered to watch Jeonggyu, and Jimin followed.

"Stop saying that," Jimin said, putting down the book he had been leafing through. It was a book they had found inside the temple library, and the priestess that minded it had been more than happy to let Jimin take it. Taehyung figured she was impressed they could both read the ancient language.

"I've talked to Yoongi hyung about this," Taehyung said, brushing his fingers through Jeonggyu's hair, "but I still feel guilty. He was willing to give up everything for me, and now he will. My actions aren’t just affecting me."

"He's your partner," Jimin said, getting up from the desk and coming over to sit next to Taehyung on the bed. The mattress dipped, and their thighs pressed together. "He loves you. I can see that. Everyone can see that. Were you selfish? Yes. Was it for the right reasons? Also yes. You can't blame yourself for wanting to do the right thing. You wanted to help your family, and you did. Whatever happens now is up to the gods."

"I could have waited," Taehyung said. He tipped his head over, pressing his cheek into Jimin's shoulder like he was accustomed to. He missed it. "They were going to send medicine here. I could have waited for that."

Jimin was silent for a second, before reaching over to slide his palm over Taehyung's knee. His gaze dropped down to Jeonggyu, and his other hand cradled the boy’s shoulder. "He would have died before then. You know that, and Yoongi knows that. That's why you came. You couldn't have waited."

Taehyung let out a shuddering breath. "It still doesn't make me feel good."

"You did the right thing, even if it was under the wrong circumstances," Jimin assured him. "Enough of that, Taehyung-ah. We're here now. You can't change the past, but you can be positive for the future. Right?"

Taehyung hummed, even though his heart hurt. "You're right."

Jimin pressed a kiss to the top of his head, squeezing his knee. "I know, Tae. Now, tell me more about the dragons? You’ve been sulking and haven’t told me anything! What kind of best friend does that?"

Taehyung laughed despite himself, keeping it down so he wouldn’t startle Jeonggyu. Leave it to Jimin to keep that childlike intrigue even in the darkest of times. "Well, where do I begin?"

 

 

On the eve of their fifth night in the temple, a messenger arrived. Her hair was tied back, showing off her sharp features, and Taehyung could do little but stare at her bright yellow scales as everyone gathered in the main foyer. News of her arrival spread like rapid in the temple, so it was no surprise that everyone wanted to see who had come and what they had to say.

Yoongi's hand made its way around Taehyung's wrist, and the grip tightened when the messenger glanced over the crowd until she landed on the two of them. "Min Yoongi?" Her voice was calm, but Taehyung knew better than to rely on that.

"That's me," Yoongi said, his lips flat as she approached. Her hand extended to offer him a folded piece of paper. "Who is this from?"

"Elder Min," the messenger hummed, urging him to read it. "The rest of the Elder Council, as well."

Yoongi turned the paper slightly as he unfolded it, so Taehyung could have a look at it as well, and Taehyung braced himself as he looked over the first lines inked on the parchment.

To my grandson,

When I had learned of what you and Taehyung had done, I was shocked. Angry, even. I had blamed Taehyung, at first, but the more I had thought about it and the more I discussed it with the others...I blamed myself. We brought your human here as an opportunity for a better life, but we disregarded the impact his past might have on him. Not only him, but others as well. Was it fair to put the needs of our people above ours? Was it fair to assume that the humans would easily forget their previous lives and families because they had food and homes and work? We pride ourselves on being wise and fair, but our practices as a society have been nothing but unjust. I was angry, yes, but I was angry at myself. I failed to understand the depth of what we were doing. I'm sorry that I didn't listen to you sooner, both of you, and I'm grateful that you are a better dragon than I am. We raised you with these biased thoughts, but you were willing to overcome that due to your love and patience with your human. While I am not proud of what pushed you and Taehyung to do this, I am proud that you did it.

I'm sorry that it took something like this for us to understand that change needs to happy. A few days is too little to make serious change, of course, and we are still arranging meetings with the others clans. I cannot promise an immediate solution to all of the problems within the human realm, but I can promise sanctuary in our clan for the people in Taehyung's town in the meantime. I am relying on you, Yoongi, to work together with the priestesses and lead these people to their new home. Be honest with them, and make them understand that we are working to be better. I know it's not a lot, but it's time for us to begin our amends. We have sent provisions with the messenger which you are to share with the rest of the town.

However, we cannot let you and Taehyung go unpunished. You broke our laws, despite your intent, and both of you will lose your standing until we believe you have shown your loyalty. You will live in the communal houses with the rest of the town until they are properly integrated into our society, and will be tasked with making sure all of them know their place with us. Luckily, you already have experience in being a guide. I’m sure your friends will want to help, as well. The hunter’s mark you used to get into the human realm will be disregarded, but only this time.

We will be waiting for your return, and where we go from here will be up to the gods. May the moon bless you.

Elder Min

"Oh, gods," Yoongi breathed, his grip tightening on the paper. Taehyung stared at it, disbelief tightening around his heart.

"They want to bring us? All of us?" Taehyung said, making Jimin's head snap towards him.

"What?"

The messenger smiled, nodding her head. "The Elder Council wishes to grant your town sanctuary while they discuss how to move forward with the other clans. Our clan has made our stance known, and our mages are fully prepared to help these humans adjust."

"Mages?" Jimin whispered. "Taehyung said mages sent wishes to the stars. Are you a mage?"

"I am, my name is Chaeyoung. We do send wishes to the stars, but we do a lot more than that," she said, her smile growing wider. "We'll be in charge of settling our newcomers in the communal houses."

"Communal houses?" Hyunshik echoed, his men speaking quietly to one another. "We...we'll be given homes?"

"Yes," Chaeyoung said, resting her hands on her hips. "Your families will be given apartments, and you're free to stay there while you adjust. You'll be free to work, of course, and...well, there's a lot I'm leaving out. There's a lot for you to learn."

"I'm so sorry, hyung," Taehyung whispered as Jimin and the others bombarded her with more questions. "We're...losing our home."

Yoongi let out a sigh, folding the paper and putting it into his pocket. "We're not losing our home, Taehyung-ah. Isn't it better this way? Your people will be afraid and confused, just like you were. You being there to guide them is a blessing, not a curse."

"You worked so hard to build that home," Taehyung said, squeezing Yoongi's wrist. "You're okay with this?"

Yoongi smiled, nodding his head. "Of course I am. I made the choice to come with you, Taehyung. The consequences are mine. This is much more than you and I, you know that. We're doing this for everyone. We’ll have our home back eventually, and I’m sure we’ll be able to take Nabi with us."

Taehyung pressed his forehead against Yoongi's cheek, breathing out a sigh. "You're really something special, hyung. How did I get so lucky?"

"Ask that again when we have to explain the truth to everyone," Yoongi said, snorting as Taehyung let out a gentle puff of laughter.

 

 

The Head Priestess called the town to the temple the next morning, and even though Taehyung was exhausted from the previous night's events he couldn't disregard the excitement bubbling underneath his skin. It felt unreal, and even if they managed to save his town he was proud of what he and Yoongi had done. He knew it wouldn't be so easy to save everyone, but it was a step in the right direction.

He stood at the top of the steps as the town shuffled in, and that familiar hurt panged at his heart as he saw faces he had known his entire life slim and sickly. He wondered if they had all gotten medicine, and he feared that they looked worse beforehand.

Jimin had gone to retrieve his parents, and Taehyung knew from the gasps that he hadn't told them a thing. It was better that way, but he found himself searching for Yoongi's wrist to ground himself as they all began to talk amongst each other.

The Head Priestess cleared her throat, and the silence was deafening as she smiled and took a step forward. "Thank you all for coming. I'm sure you're all surprised to see Taehyung back, and that will all be explained in a moment. It is time for complete transparency, and I want you all to listen with an open mind and an open heart. Taehyung?"

Taehyung looked at Yoongi one last time, glancing at his parents as well, before nodding and stepping forward. "Thank you, High Priestess." He looked at the crowd, scanning over everyone. Memories popped up in his head as he looked at everyone, and it made him that much more secure with what he wanted to say. "I know that you all never expected to see me again, and I'm sorry for all the pain that has been forced on us all this time. When I was chosen, I wasn't sure if I was going to survive until the next day. I didn't know what was intended for me, and I was scared. But...the dragons took me in. They clothed me and fed me and gave me a nice place to stay, and they introduced me to other people who wanted to keep me healthy and happy. It was nothing that I could have ever expected."

He looked back at Yoongi. The smile that was there warmed him from the inside out, and it gave him the motivation to look back at the crowd. There was confusion there, of course, so he continued. "I thought that it was all a trick, maybe, but they proved me wrong. I was allowed to work, to do what I always wanted, and make a living for myself. I...fell in love, and I made friends who supported me no matter what. I was introduced to their world, and despite how different it was I was able to develop bonds that I wouldn't give up for the world. They took care of me but...I couldn't stay there, knowing what I know now about the sickness."

The crowd broke out into murmurs, and Taehyung knew that tone of anger and confusion. The High Priestess cleared her throat, and he smiled sheepishly at her before continuing. "That's why I'm here now. Yoongi, who is standing beside me, helped me bring medicine and food. We intended on giving it to my family and returning so we wouldn't get caught, but Hyunshik and Jinyoung and the others ran into us on our way out. They captured us and brought us to the priestesses thinking that I was being held hostage."

Hyunshik avoided his gaze when Taehyung looked back, but Jinyoung offered him a thumbs up. Taehyung laughed to himself, looking back at the crowd. They looked curious, and there was a haze of anticipation settling over them that had Taehyung suck in a shaky breath. "The priestesses had us stay in the temple while the council back with the dragons decided what to do. I know it's always been confusing where the dragons live, and that's because they live in a separate realm from ours. The dragons are able to travel between the realms using portals scattered around the land, and that's why we've never been able to figure out where they are."

Jimin's father stood up, and Taehyung knew from the look on his face that he was going to say something before he even spoke. "They've been hiding that this entire time?"

Jimin grabbed his father's shirt, tugging him back down, and Taehyung smiled sheepishly as he nodded. "They were going to send medicine here, but I couldn't wait for that. My brother would have..." Yoongi placed a hand on his shoulder, and Taehyung cleared his throat. "Well, you know. Us coming here wasn't allowed, but it sparked a conversation with the council. They want to offer everyone a place with them. Food, homes, medicine, all of that. It's time that the truth comes out, I think, and this is a step in the right direction. They want to help us, and we can do good there."

"You likely wouldn't have to stay there forever," the High Priestess said, taking a step forward and folding her hands in front of herself. "The council of our clan is hoping to come to an agreement with the rest of the clans, but for now they are offering refuge to your town. It's been a long time coming, yes, but they're realizing their wrongs."

"They took us in the first place because they needed a stronger population," Taehyung explained, rubbing the side of his neck. "It's harder for dragons to conceive, sometimes, so they brought humans to create better lives there and work. Things like that, but..."

"But it's time we pay you back. You've helped us, and now it's time to help you," Yoongi said, speaking up for the first time. He slid his hand down Taehyung's shoulder, down until he could slot their fingers together. "It's long overdue, but we need to make this right."

Jimin stood up, looking down at his parents and brother before beaming up at them. "I'll go. We can't pass up a chance at a better life."

Taehyung laughed behind his hand, appreciating his best friend's display. "I'll go, too. There's no reason to stay." Taehyung turned, and Hyunshik finally met his eyes. They shared a smile, and the rest of Hyunshik's men echoed their agreement.

"How do we know you're not lying?" A voice called, and Taehyung met the eyes of one of the mothers he saw frequently working hard in the dried out farmlands trying to feed her children.

"Because I'm alive and well. The majority of you have known me since I was born, and you know my character," Taehyung said. He turned to look at his parents and brother. "My brother is healthy, as well. The circumstances aren't good here; you know that as much as I do. This is the opportunity for all of us to prosper."

She looked down at her children, huddled together in front of her with pale faces and skinny arms, and sighed. "Then I'll go, too. Even for the...chance that this might be right."

The rest of the townspeople trickled in their agreements, and Taehyung felt something akin to pride swell in his chest as he watched them stand together. "Okay," he whispered, clapping his hands in front of him. "Okay, good. Perfect."

"There will be preparations made to retrieve children or close relatives that were sent away from here," the Head Priestess said, and Taehyung nodded along.

"We'll have to leave by tomorrow, though, so please...write letters to those you wish to come with you and we'll do our best to bring them with us. My own siblings have been sent away, so I promise you that we'll retrieve them."

The crowd murmured their understanding, and Taehyung stood at the top of the temple with his heart fluttering in disbelief as the High Priestess said her final instructions that sent them back home to pack. Jimin met his gaze as he exited with his family, and the grin on his face was enough to make Taehyung laugh to himself. He turned to his family, and Yoongi squeezed his hand.

"We did it, Taehyung-ah," he whispered. "It's going to be alright."

"It's going to be alright," Taehyung said, laughing again as he shook his head. "The battle is far from over, though."

"No," his mother said, coming in to pet his hair down. "It isn't, but you've done amazing, Taehyung-ah. I'm so proud of you."

"I hate to break up the family moment," Hyunshik said, stepping forward with his hands behind his back, "but I wanted to take this moment to...apologize."

Yoongi raised a brow. "Apologize?"

"For being so spiteful," Hyunshik said, shrugging his shoulders. "On one hand, I'm grateful that we did catch you because it lead to this, but I treated you poorly. So I apologize for that."

Taehyung looked at Yoongi, knowing that he was the one that truly deserved the apology, and Yoongi hummed. "Thank you, then. But I've long since forgiven you. I know you were put in a tough spot."

Hyunshik’s eyes softened. "Good. I'm going to meet my family, so I'll see you all tomorrow."

"See you," Taehyung echoed, watching his figure skip down the steps of the temple. He looked back at Yoongi once everyone was gone, save a few of the priestesses and his family, and sighed. "Well. We should go pack as well."

"You stay at the temple," his father said, shaking his head when Taehyung moved to say something. "No, no. They need you here to prepare. We'll take care of the house, Taehyung."

"Okay," Taehyung said, smiling. His parents already looked more full of life from a few days of a good diet and rest, and he couldn't wait to see what months of a solid routine would do for them. For Jeonggyu, who was asleep in their father's arms.

They said their goodbyes, and Taehyung didn't protest when Yoongi led him back to their temporary room. Taehyung wandered back to the window, and as he looked out it seemed brighter outside. The trees didn't seem so dull as they had the previous days. Yoongi shuffled behind him, presumably folding the borrowed clothes they had used over the past few days.

"Am I dreaming, hyung?"

Yoongi stopped, and Taehyung turned to see him smiling. It was a typical Yoongi smile, soft and pretty with the slightest upward curve to his lips. "No, Tae. You're not."

"It seems like it," Taehyung admitted, sitting on the windowsill. Yoongi approached him, leaving the clothes on the bed in favor of caging Taehyung up against the wall. Taehyung leaned into him, and he reached up to brush his fingers along the scales lining Yoongi's forehead."Doesn't it?"

Yoongi hummed, and his eyes closed halfways as Taehyung continued to pet him. "It does. It's going to be better now, Tae."

"I know," Taehyung said, leaning in to press a kiss against Yoongi's brow bone. "I hope Seokjin hyung and Namjoon hyung aren't too mad at us."

Yoongi snorted, shaking his head. "Oh, I know Seokjin hyung is livid enough for the both of them."

Taehyung laughed, and Yoongi followed. "Well, hyung. I bet you weren't expecting this, huh?"

"No," Yoongi said, leaning in to press his cheek against Taehyung's chest. "No, I wasn't. It's for the best, though."

"Yeah," Taehyung said. The residual anxiety and fear was still there, but he felt better. He wrapped his arms around Yoongi's shoulders, brushing his fingers through his hair. He smelled like soap, since they had bathed together that morning, and it was a comforting scent. "Thank you, hyung. You're my strength through all of this."

Yoongi was quiet for a second, but he brought his hand up to rest against Taehyung's hip. His fingers drew circles there, lulling Taehyung into a sense of calm. "I always knew that you were special, Taehyung-ah. I'm glad that you're getting the opportunity to show that to the rest of the world."

Taehyung squeezed Yoongi tighter, pressing his face against Yoongi's hair. They would stay like that for what felt like an eternity, before being pulled around to fulfill various tasks around the temple in preparation for departure. Rumors had to be spread to explain why an entire town disappeared, hopefully the last lies that would need to be told before both realms could coexist peacefully.

Taehyung knew that it was the beginning of the end. The dragons had taken him in and taught him so many things, and now it was time for him to return the favor.

As he rode in the cargo saddle the next day with Jimin next to him, gripping his hand like a vice as his mother and father laughed louder than his younger brother, he thought of those he regarded as family within the dragon realm. He thought of Nayeon, and the letter he had written to her. It was impossible for Taehyung to be the change the world needed all by himself. With everyone he loved by his side, however, he knew they had a fighting chance.