“No, for the fifth time today,” Namjoon says, voice heavy with tired frustration, “You cannot bring your cat into my store. She eats everything, she knocks everything over, and she sleeps on me whenever I sit down. No.”
“But Joonie,” Hoseok wheedles, presenting a hopeful smile between hands cupping his chin as he leans across the table towards Namjoon, who’s shuffling a worn tarot deck with a dark expression painted across his face, “Luna loves it here! She gets so happy. And then my rituals always work better. Please, please, please?”
“No.” Namjoon’s final word is dull and blunt. With a deft hand, he withdraws a card from the deck, and places it down with a pointed thump against the wooden tabletop.
Jimin leans over to let his eyes travel over the inked lines of the card, the steam from his peppermint tea rising into his face. The Eight of Cups. The only part of the painted figure visible is his back, as he walk away from the stacked line of goblets behind him. His shoulders are hunched, determined. He won’t look back.
Jimin feels a shudder pass through him, despite himself. At least it’s upright.
“Ugh,” Hoseok pouts, casting the card a dirty glance, “If you had a familiar, you’d get it.”
“I don’t want a familiar, because then, they’d eat everything, knock everything over, and sleep on me whenever I sit down.” Namjoon fixes Hoseok with a pointed look, and Yoongi chuckles from where he’s sat at his boyfriend’s side.
“Sorry, Seok. He’s right.”
“But you love Luna,” Hoseok says, poking Yoongi’s cheek in protest, soliciting a suppressed smile. “Why won’t you help my case?”
“Because I like being allowed to hang out in Joon’s store,” is Yoongi’s answer, and Hoseok finally sighs, slumps back in his seat, and shuts up.
“You could help me with this,” Namjoon grumbles, gesturing the deck towards Hoseok. “You’re the divination master, after all. Can’t you make it clearer or something?”
“Sorry, Joonie,” Hoseok snipes back, simpering. “We all need to undergo constant self-improvement, don’t we?”
“Your cat could do with some self-improvement.”
“Shush,” Yoongi soothes, covering Hoseok’s hand with his own where it rests on the table, stroking a smoothing thumb over the knuckles. They lapse into a warm quiet, and Jimin silently thanks the goddess and god for the peace.
In the sudden quiet, the rain pattering down against the windows is audible, the lit candles on the table casting shadows in the dark of the closed store. When it’s past opening hours, and they’ve all got nowhere to be, being here together while Namjoon sighs at his tarot deck and Hoseok complains and Yoongi placates feels awfully homely.
Taehyung sits to Namjoon’s right, opposite Jimin, and scrawls leisurely across a page in his small, leather-bound book that’s not quite a Book of Shadows and not quite a to-do list. From where Jimin sits, the loops he’s creating with his black biro could just as easily be terrible doodles as the sigils they’re all always mocking Tae for, and then asking about in the same breath because they always work better than anything even Yoongi could create. And Yoongi’s the one who does chaos magick the best out of all of them.
A noise disturbs the sleepy air; the door swings open, the little bell above tinkling out an announcement of entry, and Jin carefully manoeuvres through, clutching a large tupperware underneath one arm and holding a cloth bag with the other. Jimin watches as he somehow manages to slide through, shimmying through the store to the table in the corner, and wonders how Jin always looks like he’s busy and yet never affected by it.
“Jin, Namjoon won’t let me-“ Hoseok starts, before Jin rolls his eyes and slams the box down on the table in front of him.
“No, you can’t bring Luna here. It’s my store too. And I,” He pats Namjoon on the head in that sweet, strange way that’s so ordinary for them but would be so odd for anybody else, “Agree with Joonie about what’s best for our place.” Namjoon reaches a hand to meet Jin’s in a distracted yet affectionate manner.
Hoseok pouts and slumps, eyes falling to watch Namjoon shuffle the deck. “You need to switch some round. They’ll all be upright.”
Before Namjoon can snipe back, Jin hastily rips the lid off of the box and asks, “Nutmeg and rosemary cookies, anyone?”
“Thanks,” Jimin says as he takes one, “You’re my favourite kitchen witch.”
“I’m the only kitchen witch you know,” Jin rolls his eyes, but grins. “But thank you. Tae, do you have that sigil I asked about?”
Taehyung starts, pen stuttering across the page and cutting through whatever he was drawing. “Oh, yeah. Here.” Leafing through the book, he tugs out a loose sheet with one clean, looped symbol scrawled across. Jimin looks at it, feels a fuzzy, calming wash of slow pass over him, like being on the brink of sleep, and yawns.
Taehyung gives him a satisfied look. “It works. Nice.”
“What’s it even for?” Jimin asks, as Jin pockets the paper.
“My bread keeps burning,” Jin answers, giving Taehyung a grateful look. Jimin doesn’t quite buy it, as Namjoon absentmindedly takes Jin’s hand across the table and intertwines their fingers, but he doesn’t push it.
It’s at that point that the little bell above the door makes its customary fairy-chime sound, and they all look around to see the door being pushed open.
Jimin’s first impression of the intruder, when he’s closed the door behind him and brushed a hand through dark hair, carrying a general air of damp chaos around him, is holy fuck, he’s hot. Also, earrings.
Silver rings pierce all the way up the side of the person’s ear that Jimin can see, catching what dim light it can that drifts in through the store windows, and Jimin’s eyes catch on them for a few moments, unable to look away.
“Hello?” The guy says, looking around the space before seemingly noticing them all, sat around the table in the corner. “Are you open?”
For a couple of seconds, they just look at him. Jimin realises that they probably fit the bill of the store, with Jin’s sprig of rosemary poking up from the front pocket of his jeans, stood eating a herb-speckled cookie, Taehyung scrawling runes out in his little leather notebook, Namjoon cutting his deck. Yoongi narrows his eyes at the stranger. Hoseok blinks. Jimin’s hand finds his pentacle, hanging from the chain around his neck, before he can think about it, and he catches mysterious guy’s gaze drifting to the motion. He looks slightly amused.
Namjoon is the first to snap out of his daze. “Uh- no. Hi. Sorry. We’re closed.”
“Oh,” the guy says softly, sound breaking to a soft laugh. “Sorry. I was just going to ask about readings. But I can come back when you’re open if that’s better.”
“No,” Taehyung says, and they all blink at him, surprised. He’s in his own world, the one where he speaks in ink and leaves little traces of prophecy behind him wherever he goes, and the sudden, unprompted sound is jarring to Jimin’s ears. “It’s okay. I’ll do you a reading.”
The stranger breaks into an easy smile, adjusting his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. “Really? Thanks.”
Hoseok pushes Yoongi over a seat, the white-haired man scowling in complaint but allowing himself to be moved, and tugs the chair out for the stranger. He sits, and Jimin notices a line of black ink creeping up underneath his left ear, just visible and calling into question more mysteries that aren’t open to being solved right now. “What’s your name?” He asks, and the guy meets his gaze easily.
“Jimin,” he replies, “and this is Namjoon, Taehyung, Jin,” he gestures, “and Yoongi and Hoseok.”
“Thanks for letting me in your shop,” his eyes flick over all of them, before he seemingly makes a decision and turns to Namjoon. “Namjoon. And,” he looks around again, “Jin?”
Ah, Jimin thinks, as Hoseok catches Yoongi’s gaze and shares in his wry smile, Jeongguk isn’t any curious street-wanderer. He must be new; the only witches Jimin knows of in town are those in the room. Including now, apparently, Jeongguk.
“Yes,” Jin nods, smiling dryly. He stands, like he’s too uncomfortable to stay. “Tea? I can do peppermint.”
“Sounds great,” Jeongguk says, and his voice is sure, confident. He’s evidently unsettled them more than they him.
As Jin bustles out, Namjoon slides his deck off the table, into their velvet pouch, and Taehyung reaches into his bag and draws out his own. Taehyung doesn’t do readings for other people often, which makes this all the more confusing; he prefers to sit alone for hours, drawing out cards and staring at them, blinking and rearranging. Sometimes he’s hopeful; at least, whenever Jimin’s been in the room as he does it, he has been. Jimin doubts any of them have seen the hopeless side of Taehyung’s readings.
While Hoseok is, by far, the best at divination out of all of them, sigils and shapes seem to guide Taehyung with whatever he does. Jimin swears the cards speak to him in penned loops and numbers.
Jimin’s eyes wander besides himself, from where Jeongguk sits, all clad in black and silver jewellery, to the cards as Taehyung shuffles them out onto the table. Unlike Namjoon’s, with their traditional, clear-cut lines and carefully-kept clean edges, Rider-Waite and traditional, Taehyung’s deck is unconventional. The cards are larger than normal, yet thinner, all black card covered in spiralling, wiry lines that cut out pictures across the deck. The edges are all soft and feathered from use, and Jimin’s always had the overwhelming urge to touch them, but simultaneously the unnerving instinct to never do it.
“Any preference of spread?” Taehyung asks, looking up at Jeongguk and shuffling perfectly at the same time.
“Basic three-card?” Jeongguk suggests. “It’s been a while since anybody’s given me a reading. Might be for the best.”
Taehyung nods slightly, and cuts the deck with smooth grace.
As Taehyung spreads the cards out into an arch in one hypnotising sweep, Jimin looks up at Jeongguk for a moment, and his stomach lurches as he meets his eye. He watches as Jeongguk drops his gaze, implicitly, down to the pentacle at Jimin’s neck, and then looks back up to give him a wry half-smile. Jimin feels distinctly unsettled.
“Pick a card,” Taehyung says, “That draws you. Think of your past. Where were you two days ago? Two weeks, months? Why? How? Choose.”
Jeongguk nods and sweeps his gaze over the arch of cards, black backs ordained with simple little line drawings of each minor arcana - a goblet, a sword, a branch and a coin - scrawled in gold. After a few moments, he reaches out to hover a hand over one slightly to Taehyung’s right. “That one.”
Taehyung pulls it from the arch deftly, and turns in onto the table before Jeongguk. “The tower, upright.”
Jin chooses that exact moment to reenter the room, placing a steaming mug of greenish tea on the table by Jeongguk, and looks down at the card, letting out a small, quiet, “Oh.”
The tower in Taehyung’s deck is a thin, twisting building, with branches made up of what Jimin thinks is fire bursting from either side of it. The sky behind it is devoid of any sun or stars; in fact, all that’s on the card is the writhing building and its flames.
“The tower,” Taehyung says, voice empty of expression and face looking entirely blank. “Uproar, overturning of systems, chaos, disaster. Your life changed in the worst way possible. Whether that’s for the worst, though, isn’t clear.”
Jeongguk, looking entirely unsurprised despite the worried faces they’re all giving him - except for Taehyung and Yoongi, who’s gazing off into the distance - nods. “Right.”
“Next card,” Taehyung drones, hands folded on the table in front of him. “The present, you in the now. Who are you? Who are you playing currently? What face are you wearing, and how strongly is it sticking?”
Sometimes, Jimin wonders if the reason Taehyung doesn’t often offer readings is because of how uneasy he renders his clients. But Jeongguk just nods, and reaches out to indicate the next card.
“Ace of swords,” Taehyung announces as he flips it over. “Upright. A fresh start, unexpected and opportunistic. You’ve taken it? Or you should, either way. It’s a good thing, here.”
“Is it?” Jeongguk asks, and it’s the first time he’s sounded anything but completely sure of himself. Jimin watches as he leans forward ever-so-slightly, taking in the thin sword drawn on the card, a circlet of flowers adorning its tip.
Taehyung nods. “Clarity is here, talking to you. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
Jeongguk laughs, short and quiet. “I guess you could say that. Future, now?”
Taehyung nods. Jeongguk barely hesitates before he reaches out towards the card that lies right in front of Jimin. Taehyung flips it.
“Two of cups, upright.”
At that, Hoseok leans forward, blinking down at the card, then up at Jeongguk, then to Taehyung. “Jiminie?”
“Jimin?” Jeongguk asks, as Taehyung and Hoseok share a wordless, moment-spanning conversation in that language of theirs that Jimin could never speak. “How?”
“Hoseok’s always said it’s his card,” Yoongi grates out, making an unexpected return from his daze into the present reality of the store. “It speaks like him. Whenever it turns up in any of our readings, Jimin’s there somewhere. Buried in our futures.”
“Buried in my future,” Jeongguk mutters, and smirks up momentarily at Jimin. Jimin wonders just what new beginnings the rain has delivered this afternoon.
“Mutual love between two,” Taehyung says. “Romantic, most likely. Trueness. Negotiation is needed, you’re two winding paths that have crossed in the middle of a forest. Sudden and yet cooperative. They fit together.”
“Ah,” Jeongguk muses, looking over each card slowly, then up at Jimin. His face is laughing, amusement painted across, but Jimin knows that there’s something else lurking underneath the smirk. He just can’t figure out what. “Well, this town isn’t all bad so far, I guess. Thanks, Taehyung,” he says, seemingly as an afterthought.
“You’re new here?” Namjoon asks as Taehyung packs away the cards.
“Yeah,” Jaeongguk says, offering up nothing else. Jimin sees Namjoon and Jin exchange glances out the corner of his eye. “How much?”
Taehyung regards him for a moment, as he rises from the chair. With his black hair, silver adorning his ears and neck and fingers, dark clothes and the hints of a tattoo up around his neck that Jimin isn’t sure the rest of them have noticed, Jeongguk looks every inch the witch. But not the kind that Jimin is used to associating with. There’s something darker, just underneath, edging up under the surface, that makes Jimin want to clutch onto his pentacle yet again.
“On the house,” Taehyung says finally. “Don’t worry about it. But stop by, when you can. We’re always looking for more witches.”
Jeongguk nods, looking round at all of them. “Well, thanks. I will.”
He turns and retreats to the door, but just as he’s about to slip out, he looks back at Jimin and adds, “Keep an eye out for my path, Jimin. See the forest through the trees.” And, with a smirk, he’s off into the greying evening outside.
They all sit in silence for a moment, until Jin breaks it with a short, “Well then.”
“Why did you tell him to come back?” Yoongi asks Taehyung, seemingly curious. There’s no malice in his voice. Jimin wonders why, when Yoongi’s always so quick to express his disdain for strangers.
“To keep an eye on him,” Taehyung replies, relaxing back into the chair. “Besides, he seemed okay. It’s always fun to meet more magick people. This town is so grey.”
Namjoon laughs, suddenly, and whatever that was left of the still atmosphere Jeongguk had brought into the shop with him evaporated. “Too true.”
As the others fall back into their easy conversation, Jimin looks down at the spot on the table where the Two of Cups card had laid, and wonders if he’s the only one that felt the odd darkness wrapped around Jeongguk.
Jimin has been an adult, living in a town he hasn’t grown up in, away from his family, doing his own goddamn grocery shopping for two years, and he still hasn’t figured out why there are so many brands of oat milk.
“You’re just oats and water,” he whispers, even though it’s past eleven at night and he’s pretty sure he’s the only shopper left in the store. “Why are there so many of you?”
After he’s done with his heart attack, Jimin turns around to scowl at a smirking Jeongguk who, holding a bag of garden sage in one hand and pink Himalayan salt in the other, looks far too pleased with himself. “You scared me so much, holy shit.”
Jeongguk laughs, looking past him at the shelves. He hasn’t got the rings in his ears tonight, Jimin notices, but instead a line of little, shiny black studs, that Jimin is ninety-percent sure are hematite. To be fair, reality has always been a bit removed in this town- streets seeming to taper off into nowhere, covered in fog, with ivy climbing up every house and residents in a permanent state of blinking slumber. Jeongguk taking every measure to ground himself is understandable.
“Oat milk,” he reads, looking back at Jimin. “You’re vegan?”
Jimin nods, fiddling with the handle of the basket on his arm. “Yeah. I’m, um, Wiccan. And I take the Reed kind of literally.”
“I’d noticed,” Jeongguk says, and, leaning closer, taps the pentacle hanging from Jimin’s neck. He can’t really remember the last time he took the necklace off. Jeongguk seems to be emanating warmth, in the cold store, and his eyes are darker than Jimin had expected, this close- almost black. “‘Harm thee none, do what thee will?’”
Jimin nods, and feels the root of defensiveness take hold in him, despite himself. Mockery of his religion has followed him everywhere he’s gone, from the last words mother said to him - “Come back when you’ve found the real God!” - to his garden centre colleagues, who he (thankfully) only has to see twice a week. Jeongguk adding himself to that list would make an already burdensome thing even heavier.
“Hey,” Jeongguk says, as Jimin’s face grows stormy. “I’m not judging. Come on, you know I’m a witch too. I did my cool figuring-out-the-shopkeeper thing. So mysterious. Magick to the core.” He strikes his chest dramatically, and Jimin laughs even as he tries to stay annoyed at this leather-wearing hematite-bearing guy that he knows nothing about besides a tarot-written connection to with himself.
“Besides,” Jeongguk continues, “I’m a satanist, so. I get all the hate too.”
“Oh,” Jimin blinks, and notices the silver baphomet hanging from a chain around Jeongguk’s neck for the first time. “Yeah, you must.”
“Thanks,” Jeongguk snorts.
“No, sorry,” Jimin sighs. “I just meant- you get it from everyone. Including us, I’m guessing.”
“Yeah,” Jeongguk says derisively, but the edge has gone from his voice, disappeared as quickly as it came. “So, are you all Wiccan? In the shop?”
“No, just me,” Jimin replies, and, grabbing the nearest oat milk container to him, without checking the brand or price or oat-to-water ratio bullshit that drives him crazy, and moves up the aisle. Jeongguk follows. “And Jin, a little bit. He’s more just about that bit of the Reed, though- harm yee none. Big kitchen witch energy.”
“I don’t think he liked me much.”
“Jin just has to get used to people,” Jimin defends, as they reach the self-checkout. “He will. If you stick around.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Jeongguk says. He scans the sage, the salt, and dumps them into the black backpack he’s been carrying. “I’ve got an apartment and everything. For six months, at least. And what about you? Do you need to get used to me?”
Jimin pauses halfway through scanning a box of cereal. Jeongguk gazes at him steadily, and underneath the soft lights of the grocery store, he looks prettier than Jimin can stomach.
Jeongguk seems satisfied with the answer. “Well, I’ll see you around. Jimin.” His name falls softly from Jeongguk’s mouth, like that of a deity or an angel, as if Jeongguk is offering up an altar and a soul to him. It makes him stare at the black-haired witch, eyes wide and stomach dropped.
Then, Jeongguk is gone, off into the dark night, and Jimin is left looking out onto the empty parking lot.
The street lamps cast bright light onto the cement, but the shadows are longer than he can remember them being. He shivers.
Jeongguk is following him.
Not literally - at least, he doesn’t think so - but in more of a spiritual sense. Coincidence, if Jimin hadn’t stopped believing in the concept years ago.
But it’s moments like this, when he’s sat in Yoongi and Hoseok’s garden while they lounge together on the grass and he and Jin replant the mint that’s gotten too big for its own good, and everyone is talking about Jeon-damn-gguk again.
“I wonder if he’s theistic or not,” Jin muses, easing roots from soil with gentle hands.
“Nah,” Yoongi sighs, moving Hoseok’s hands to rest on his stomach as he half-lies on his boyfriend, head nestled in the crook of his neck. They look so idyllic, Jimin wants to throw dirt at them. “I don’t think so. He radiates a very angry atheist vibe.”
Luna nestles in the grass nearby, sunbathing and purring. Jimin remains bitterly jealous of the life the cat leads; even being the familiar of Hoseok, who’s always half-likely to be flipping tarot cards in the dead of night, and living under the same roof as Yoongi, a literal chaos witch - Luna always remains in a quiet state of sleepy contentment.
“He didn’t have a problem with my Wicca,” Jimin says, and Hoseok snorts.
“No, but I don’t think it’s for him. Doesn’t give off a very Gerald Gardner feel.”
“Not all Wicca is Gardnerian,” Jimin corrects automatically, then sighs. “Well, I don’t think he’s anti-Wicca. Maybe he just doesn’t like me.”
“Are you kidding?” Yoongi snipes. “He didn’t stop looking at you for that whole reading. I don’t think he exactly hates you. And he didn’t laugh at you for getting annoyed at oat milk. Basically an angel, to be honest.”
“Two of cups,” Hoseok pipes up, wafting a hand through the air in a dazed fashion. “Your card. His future.” Yoongi pulls his arm back down to wrap around his waist, and he laughs. Looking at them so disgustingly in love makes Jimin stab the soil of the pot so hard he catches a few mint leaves. Jin smacks his hand away lightly as he prepares to lift the plant over to its new home.
“Well, you’ll be seeing him more,” says the kitchen witch, and with a shared heave between them, the mint is settled into its new pot. “Six months?”
“Six months.” Jimin nods and brushes his hands off on his jeans.
“Thanks,” Yoongi offers up, lounging back into Hoseok and sunning himself. Jimin flips him off as he follows Jin back into the house through the open glass doors.
“That hurt my feelings,” Yoongi calls after him. “Three bad things are coming, Wiccan!”
“Karma likes me more than you,” Jimin yells back, and Jin snorts. Luna raises her head to look at him in a disgruntled manner. He pointedly ignores her.
They get busy in the kitchen, or, Jin gets busy and Jimin washes the vegetables to create an impression of helpfulness. Jin’s always been the better chef, as the kitchen witch among them; when he cooks, it’s the same as watching Hoseok flip rune stones and Yoongi meditating to a state of gnosis and Namjoon finishing off a long and complex Latin-based ritual from four hundred years ago. Food is Jin’s way of weaving magick together.
“So,” Jin starts, as he peels an onion with careful vigour. “Jeongguk.”
“Again?” Jimin says. Jeongguk is, indeed, following him. “He’s a satanist, got a spooky tarot reading from Tae, and is now going to be hanging around with all his jewellery and black clothes for half the year. What’s there to say?”
“All of that, apparently,” Jin says, a smile hanging at the corners of his mouth. “What do you actually think of him? Minus all the Satanist and Wiccan extras.”
Jimin stops washing a carrot for a moment, and thinks. With Jin, conversations like this have always been easy. He’s got none of Tae’s half-scary half-crackhead energy, or Yoongi’s sarcastic deflections. “I think he’s okay. But there’s something about him.”
“Yeah. Like a,” he stops, and looks up to see Jin watching him contemplatively. “A darkness, kind of. Wrapped around him. A vine.”
“Is it him doing it?” Jin asks. “Is he bad?”
“No,” Jimin bits his lip, staring off into the distance and thinking back to how endless the dark of Jeongguk’s eyes seemed. “It’s hurting him. He’s carrying it, not making it.”
“Huh,” Jin says. “Well, you’ve always been perceptive.”
“Jin,” Jimin says, and meets his gaze steadily.
“Is Joon okay? I know the sigil wasn’t for your bread.”
Jin sighs, laughs, and slices the onion in two. “Ugh. You are perceptive. It’s so annoying.”
“Yeah,” Jin says. “It was for him. He’s been having problems with nightmares again. It makes him wake up and panic.”
“Oh. Fuck.” Jimin watches as the line of Jin’s shoulders slumps, and he can almost feel the worry rolling off of him in waves. “Anything specific?”
“Just bad memories. It’s that time of year, after all.”
Jeongguk thinks about late spring, about the earthly promise of new beginnings faded by now, and all they’re left with is rain, rain upon rain, sheets of water falling and washing away any shields they’ve tried to put up. Washing the paint from their faces. Spring is unforgiving, as it moves to summer, and the heat crawls like flies and truths he’s tried to forget against his skin. There’s no running from the past, in spring.
He sighs. “Yeah. It is.”
“Do you think that’s what’s around Jeongguk?” Jin asks, quiet and careful. “What he’s come from? The Tower?”
Jimin thinks of Jeongguk’s unsurprised look down at the chaos card, the defensive way he hides behind his black clothes and baphoment charms, and nods. “I think it is.”
They get no more than ten minutes of thoughtful silence, before the doorbell is ringing and Taehyung has let himself in, bounding and wrapping his arms around Jimin, and Namjoon is back-hugging Jin with soft affection. It’s all so gentle, fuzzy at the edges, with Tae swinging up to sit on the counter and the lovers here and out in the spring sunshine, where the secrets can’t be hidden.
Jimin thinks of Jeongguk, running from his tower card, how alone he must be right now, and suddenly feels desperately sorry for the satanist.
What has he left behind- and, more importantly: why won’t it stay there?
The next time Jeongguk’s existence invades his life again is, unsurprisingly, not even three days later.
He’s lining up plants on the wooden shelves of one of the greenhouses of the garden centre, silently begging the tomatoes to not tip back over, when a voice behind him erupts in realisation.
“You’re a green witch.”
Jimin, not allowing himself to convey the effects the Jeongguk-related surprise are having on him this time, turns around and says, “Well, what else was it going to be? I’m lame as fuck.”
“You’re so mean for a Wiccan, even to yourself,” Jeongguk pouts. “And a green Wiccan. You’re getting cuter by the minute.”
Jimin shelves the last few tomato plants with anger, hoping he doesn’t look too much like a growling puppy. It doesn’t seem to be working.
“Aww,” Jeongguk teases, laughing. “You‘re adorable.”
“And you’re annoying,” Jimin shoots back. “And your piercings look dumb.”
“Is that why you’re always staring at them?” Jeongguk replies, smirking.
Today, he’s got little clear stones, fake diamonds set in gold, and they sparkle madly in the sunlight streaming through the greenhouse roof. Jimin stares for a moment, then catches himself, and glares at Jeongguk’s laughter. “Go away.”
“Nah,” Jeongguk sighs. “You’re too cute. Little green Wiccan.”
“How did you know?”
“This place,” Jeongguk gives him a disbelieving look and gestures around. “The plants. They all feel like you.” He adds quickly, “Small, cute, slightly grumpy.”
Jimin pouts. “Do you even like plants?”
“I mean, I’m at a garden centre,” Jeongguk points out. “And I didn’t come for you- sorry to disappoint. I was looking for sage.”
“You don’t grow it already?”
“I didn’t exactly bring all my plants with me,” Jeongguk replies. Jimin can see his walls going back up quickly, the joking smirk becoming less genuine and more masking by the second, but he can’t help probing at the opportunity.
Jeongguk’s eyes wander from him, to the cucumber plants a few rows away. “I left in a rush. It’s fine. I’ve never been good at growing plants. They all die in the end.”
“Well,” Jimin shrugs, fiddling with the cuff of his sweater, “That’s how mortality works.”
Jeongguk laughs, short and almost disbelieving. “You’re such a Wiccan.”
“I-“ Jimin starts, watching how Jeongguk looks up, and realises that he doesn’t look as out of place here as Jimin would have expected, all black against the leafy green cool. It almost seems to be reaching out to embrace him. “I can help you, if you want. To grow new plants.”
Jeongguk’s brows lift, so subtly Jimin almost misses the motion. “You sure? I don’t want to burden you.”
“I’m literally helping you pot some plants,” Jimin rebukes, steadying the last tomato plant and brushing dirt off of his sweater where it stands out against the cream-coloured lightness. “And maybe not kill them. Of course you’re not burdening me.”
Jimin gets halfway down the greenhouse aisle before he realises that Jeongguk isn’t following. He turns, and the witch is still stood there, staring at the tomato shelves at the spot where he’d just been standing. Jeongguk seems to have frozen, shocked still, and Jimin’s words suddenly taste sickly in his own mouth.
“Of course you’re not burdening me.”
“Jeongguk?” His voice comes out unsure and quiet, and he winces.
Jeongguk startles, snapping from his daze and looking round at Jimin. He looks a little bit lost, in that moment; a rabbit caught in headlights.
“I- I will help you grow the plants,” he says, and it feels like a promise that he should whisper, keep sacred. “What’s your number?”
“I-“ Jeongguk blinks, looking half like he’s about to cry and half like the universe is rearranging itself around him. “What?”
“So I can bring them over,” Jimin says, and furiously hopes he’s not blushing. It feels like his skin is prickling, hot, and he’s just so desperate for Jeongguk to say yes. Yes to everything.
Wordlessly, Jeongguk takes his phone as Jimin offers it in a hand he forbids to shake, types in a number, and passes it back heavily. Like there’s a weight on it, now.
“Text me your address?” Jimin asks. He hopes he doesn’t sound like he’s begging. He hopes he doesn’t sound like how he feels, how he wants to bring the plants to Jeongguk, yes, but also maybe try to help this boy in front of him grow and blossom too. Surrounded by all this life, green and breathing, all raised by Jimin and so full and sharing of everything that makes up the fabric of him, Jeongguk looks so very broken. In need of fixing.
Jimin’s never been good at avoiding broken things. They all find their ways to him, somehow.
“Okay,” Jeongguk says, and the word is so simple, murmured, but Jimin feels something inside of him and yet a universe away light up. A lamp in a dark room, illuminated. “I’ll text you.”
And as Jeongguk walks away, down the length of the greenhouse before disappearing amongst the green, Jimin wonders if he’ll ever stop trying to fix every piece of hurting energy the universe sends his way.
Jeongguk’s apartment, the address of which he texts to Jimin with a little smiley face that makes him smile a little too much, is the floor above a small, grey coffee shop that looks like it’s seem better days. Jimin takes one look at the steamed-up windows and tired face of the girl behind the till and any thought of getting coffee to bring up to Jeongguk withers and dies.
“Hey,” Jeongguk says easily as he answers the door, revealing a set of thin stairs that have all the cosy charisma of the cafe next door. “Here, let me take the bags.”
Before Jimin can protest, the two bags he’s been dragging along from the bus stop at the end of the street are whisked away by Jeongguk, and briskly carried up the stairs. Jimin’s eyes linger for a moment on the lines of Jeongguk’s biceps, subtle yet defined, as he whisks the load up easily, before he shakes his head quickly - not helpful at all, Park Jimin - and follows.
“Sorry it’s so bare,” Jeongguk says as he opens the door at the top of the stairs and pushes through. Jimin follows, pushing it shut gently and feeling that instinctual rush of relief he always does when he’s shut away from the outside world. It’s a bad habit of circumstance.
The apartment is clean, sparse, with a large, worn black couch taking up most of the space, and a tiny kitchen nestled by one wall. But there’s a large window in the back wall, looking out onto the jigsaw puzzle of rooftops and small, green squares of garden behind. It all feels like a calm, organised state of chaos.
“I like it,” Jimin says, and watches as Jeongguk carefully toes a box of crystals to one side. Since the garden centre meeting, three days ago, he’s yet again changed out his earrings, the glass stones replaced by plain silver studs. They catch the afternoon light in a gleaming way, shining like little suns.
Jeongguk flashes him a smile, short and sweet and fierce, and it makes Jimin’s heart hurt.
“Okay, so,” Jimin says after a moment of silence, not exactly awkward but instead strung between them in a golden way. “I brought you sage,” he reaches into the bag, carefully drawing out the pots one by one. Jeongguk watches him, eyes soft and attentive. “And rosemary, and thyme.”
Jeongguk kneels besides him, and chuckles, brushing dirt off the rosemary with gentle hands. “You grew them, didn’t you?”
Jimin tries not to blush, and fails. “How did you know?”
“They just,” Jeongguk shrugs, “Feel like you.”
They replant the herbs in ceramic pots that Jeongguk found at the secondhand store down the road, mismatched but each painted a soft blue, while the sun gets lower and lower in the sky outside, cutting golden beams of light across the room. As he gently pats down soil, he can feel Jeongguk’s eyes on him, resting and gazing, and he turns to meet them.
In the low sunlight, Jeongguk looks heavenly, black hair all fire-crowned and dark eyes liquid. Jimin wonders if he looks like that, all so different in the skin with golden hair and his soft shell of sweater, but the same on a deeper level, where iron runs through both their veins alongside all the magick of a dying star.
“You look like the sun’s kissing you,” Jeongguk says, voice all gentle with hard edges, like he’s biting down on the words so that Jimin will know they mean something. Jeongguk reaches over, and cups Jimin’s chin. The curve of his long fingers nestles like a rib cage around a beating heart. Jimin wonders if he can feel his own pulse, the beat washing up around his ears.
Jimin has never been brave. Right now, he can’t breathe, looking up at Jeongguk and feeling like he’s burning where they touch.
Jeongguk’s eyes trace over his face, eyes, cheekbones, linger for a long moment at his lips, then travel further to rest on the silver pendant hanging on its slim chain at the base of his neck. He traces a thumb over the star, with its five points encircled. “You wear this a lot.”
“It makes me feel safe,” Jimin replies, voice soft and spilling at the edges. “Protected.”
“There’s a lot of power there,” Jeongguk murmurs. “How do you feel about power, Jimin?”
“It scares me,” Jimin says, and it comes out as a whisper. Here, in this room, with Jeongguk close enough to see the tiny mole on his nose and the dark fringe of his eyelashes, Jimin feels the urge to rip out his guts and throw them down onto the floor; freedom and fatality in one.
Jeongguk hums lightly, tracing the shape of the pentacle. “Other people’s? Or your own?”
“Both,” Jimin whispers. “But mostly… my own. The thought of it.”
Jeongguk smiles for half a moment, so briefly Jimin’s almost sure it never even happened, twisted and bitterly sad in a strange, melancholic way, and then he’s pulling away, further back, and resumes patting down the sage plant. “Is that a Wiccan thing?”
“What?” Jimin says, caught off-guard. It feels as though Jeongguk just replaced the roll of film he was running on, like the laughter track of now-dead people has switched to silence.
“Power,” Jeongguk says, and his smile is back, but it’s the same one he walked into the store with and called Jimin cute through; the mask is back up, and Jimin feels a stab of frustration spread through his stomach. “Fear of it. Is it a Wiccan thing?”
“No,” says Jimin shortly. “It’s a me thing.”
Jeongguk laughs, loud and surprised and sweet, and it breaks the choking spell that Jimin is half-sure neither of them had meant to cast upon the space between them. Strangely, it feels like a whole lot of accidental and all too few purposeful things are to blame for him being sat here, next to Jeongguk and potting thyme, at all.
That night, Jimin dreams.
The woods lie out, open, before him; they surround the town, with one road in and one road out, standing cold and whispering when he looks away. He’s not on the path, on any path. The ground is black beneath his feet, damp with the rain of late spring. He’s not sure when he lost his shoes, or maybe if he ever even had them at all.
The moon watches from above the treetops; her gaze being cut through by the bone-white branches and yet spilling silver out over Jimin, his arms, his hands when he clutches at the nearest tree, recoiling as it crumbles to ash beneath his palms. He doesn’t quite fall, though, and stumbles on. His feet seem to barely touch the ground.
Minutes span eternities, in the dreamland, even to Taehyung and Yoongi and all the most adept plane-travellers, and for Jimin it takes at least three lifetimes for him to fall out onto the open stretch of land where the trees end.
The lake exists in physical life, Jimin is sure of that. He pulls himself back to his feet. They’ve all been there, him the least- it’s an annual thing; he only moved a couple of years ago. When the summer solstice hits, they all take Namjoon’s pickup truck down to the lake together with cheap champagne and build a bonfire near the water’s edge. Last year, Jimin woke up the next morning curled up in between Tae and Yoongi, and he’d never felt quite as happy.
Here, in this dream space caught between worlds, the lake is a glassy mirror, black depths painting back the unforgiving moon above. A mist hangs above the still water, not rising or creeping, just lurking. Ticking.
And Jeongguk sits, at the edge of the water, staring right at him.
“Jeongguk?” He says, but it comes out hoarse, his throat closing. Jeongguk isn’t just still, he’s unmoving; his chest doesn’t rise. He doesn’t blink.
“Hello, Jimin.” His voice is beautiful and terrible here. It rings like faerie bells, out over the water and bouncing back, a hundred false echoes. “You look scared.” His head tilts, ever so slightly, to look up at Jimin. Jimin feels a shudder travel down the back of his neck. “Why?”
“I don’t know.” Jimin whispers. Jeongguk stands, slowly, rising to meet him at eye level. He has no earrings, here- no hoops, studs, gems. Nothing.
“Is it me?” The words are hushed, smirk-full and smug.
Jimin tries to reply, but his throat clenches and he gags, breath rattling. He tries to think back to what Tae has told him about dream-walking, about how he must never talk to the whispers of the unconscious. Yoongi telling him to never walk to the middle of a scene. He feels distinctly like he’s let them down.
Jeongguk laughs, an awful, harrowing peal, and reaches to trace the line of Jimin’s cheekbone with one ice-cold thumb. His hand is smooth, but hard as stone as it presses into his face. Jimin would cry out if he could. To who, he doesn’t know.
“Why are you scared, Jimin?” Jeongguk whispers, stepping back and drawing Jimin with him. Jimin doesn’t notice he’s following until his feet hit the water’s edge, cold and yet not as cold as Jeongguk’s hand, cupping his neck. “What are you scared of?”
“I-“ Jimin starts, his voice croaking, “I’m not scared.”
“You can’t lie here,” says Jeongguk. They move further into the water. “The others might believe you. But you can’t fool yourself, can you?” Jimin notices, too late and with a punch to his stomach, that Jeongguk’s eyes are black. Not just the dark iris of the physical world, but the whites and all. Glassy black mirrors.
“Not of Jeongguk.” The words feel like resistance, rebellion. Dream Jeongguk’s smirk grows a little sad. “I’m not scared of him.”
“Maybe not. But what about the parts of you that you tried to kill?” Jeongguk murmurs. “The pieces that he won’t let go of in himself?”
Jimin tries to scream, but the dream’s night is folding in around him. His heart is in his throat, unforgiving and pulsing; he can’t breathe. Jeongguk grips his shoulder with a stone hand, and pulls them both down into the surface of the lake.
Jimin falls for a few eternities, the universe opening in his stomach and spreading to his fingertips with all the cold shock of a frozen lake at nightfall, and hits his bed like a stone falling through water.
Consciousness is a shock, sending him reeling back across the tussled sheets, and his heart races up around his ears. The pulse is the only sound in his silent room, as the moon quietly illuminates with a soft glow.
For a moment, he lies there, staring up at the ceiling and hoping Tae is asleep next door, or outside staring up at the stars, or somewhere else away where he hasn’t heard him probably cry out in his sleep. Bonuses of living with another witch: they’re all just as likely to be out at night as in the daytime. His heart takes a while to slow. The image of Jeongguk, the unreal Jeongguk, looking at him with those terrible depthless eyes, burns bright whenever he closes his own.
He knows that dreams, or at least his dreams, aren’t anything more than a conversation with the unconscious. A meeting ground for the flesh and spirit. But Yoongi’s always told him that his unconscious should be his truest guide, and it’s worked so far. Or rather, his ignoring of it has been marvellously effective. So for once, he decides to listen.
So he picks up his phone, and calls Jeongguk.
“Jimin?” Jeongguk’s voice, made slightly tinny by the bad reception surrounding Jimin’s woodside home, is softer and sweeter than Jimin could have imagined. It hurts. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Jimin replies. His heart is almost normal now. His phone feels heavy in his hand, like it holds the weight of the world. His world. “Uh, sorry. It’s late.”
“Yeah,” Jeongguk laughs softly, yawning. “It is.”
The image of dream Jeongguk, beautiful and awful and dragging him down into the icy water, is falling apart as Jeongguk speaks, like the warmth of this, real Jeongguk is simply washing away the one Jimin’s unconscious decided would be great to terrify him with. Jimin leans back into the pillows, sighing.
“Jimin?” Jeongguk sounds perplexed.
“Sorry,” Jimin says, rushed and running. “I was just wondering if- well, it’s almost Litha, and-“
“The summer solstice?” Jimin frowns. “You don’t know it?”
“Of course I know the solstice,” Jeongguk retorts, and Jimin rests in how warm and laughter-filled his voice is, here at night over the phone when they’re allowed by some universe-given law to be vulnerable. “I just don’t use all the weird names.”
“They’re not weird, asshole,” Jimin bites back, “You’re such a fake witch.” Jeongguk laughs, quiet and real. So real. “But for Litha, do you want to celebrate with us?”
“I mean, sure,” Jeongguk says. “It’s not like I’ve exactly got any other plans. But why are you asking now?”
Jimin sighs, looking out of the bedroom window and up at the moon. She watches, her gaze comforting, here. “I had a dream.”
“That you should ask me to celebrate the solstice with you?”
“Kind of,” Jimin laughs back. “So, you will?”
“Yeah,” Jeongguk says. The words feel heavier than they should; promises given over a pillowcase under the cover of night. “Okay. I’d love to.”
“Perfect.” Jimin feels something deep in his chest unfurl, loosen, with sweet relief. “Goodnight, then.”
“Night, Jiminie.” The nickname falls from Jeongguk’s mouth easily, accidentally, and he hangs up.
Jeongguk is something warm in Jimin’s chest; the promise of no more nightmares. Like the moon, but real. Real.
Jimin rolls over, and falls back into sleep.
“So, you do this every year?”
Jeongguk’s question is posed easily, casual. Jimin watches as he leans back into the side of the truck’s back, where they’re all piled together while Namjoon and Jin occupy the driver’s cab. Above, the sunlight cuts through the branches and the June foliage, filtering like a shuttering camera lens as they drive through the forest.
“Yeah, it’s kind of a tradition,” Taehyung replies. “First it was just Joon and Jin and me, then those two,” he throws a box of matches from where it’s been dumped near his feet at Hoseok and Yoongi, as the older of the two lounges over the other, head in the crook of his neck. Yoongi flips Tae off. “They showed up, like, five years ago. Then Jimin, obviously.”
“When did Jimin,” Jeongguk flashes him a smile, bright and laughing, “show up?”
“Two years ago,” Tae grimaces. “Then the plant invasion started. I preferred it when I could walk around my own home without murdering a eucalyptus or something.”
“Our home. And eucalypti are trees, idiot,” Jimin shoots back, “Your dumb little house couldn’t fit such a majestic example of flora if it tried.”
“You two live together?” Jeongguk questions, and fixes Jimin with a look he’s pretty sure says, dear god, you poor guy, how are you alive. Jeongguk’s only spent half a day with Taehyung so far, minus the spooky tarot meeting, and he’s watched him tip over a candelabra and almost set fire to Namjoon’s coveted bookcase, nearly spill hot tea all over Hoseok, and crush the box of honey cakes Jin painstakingly spent hours preparing. Jimin is unsure as to how he’s managed to survive so long under the same roof as Taehyung.
“Unfortunately,” both Jimin and Tae say simultaneously. Hoseok bursts out laughing, and Yoongi scowls and tries to twine himself impossibly closer to his boyfriend. Jimin frowns at the two of them, and feels even more lonely and loveless than he usually does.
“In the woodland shack,” Jimin sighs, leaning back to rest his head on the edge of the truck.
It’s a clear day, blue peeking through the canopy of green above.
“Not a shack,” Taehyung grumbles, and Yoongi kicks his shin.
“Definitely a shack.”
The argument continues until they reach the lake. As they near the opening of trees out into the open space, Jimin’s stomach contracts painfully, a shudder travelling down his spine. He sits up straight, trying to push down the sick feeling that’s starting to spread through his chest. This is real, he tells himself. Real.
“Jimin,” Jeongguk says, and it snaps him back to the here and now. “Are you okay?”
They pass through the trees. The clearing opens around them. Everything is fine.
“Yeah,” he replies, unclenching his fists. “All good. Sorry.”
“For what?” Jeongguk asks. He shifts over from where he’s sat, opposite Taehyung, to face Jimin. The toes of their shoes, Jimin’s soft brown boots and Jeongguk’s black doc martens, press together. “Your dream?”
“How did you know?”
“Obviously,” Jeongguk smirks, “I sold my soul to the devil for my spooky powers of perception. You should try it, I hear he lowers prices for pretty witches who give their friends free sage.”
“I didn’t even pay for the plants, I just took them because I work at, oh yeah, a garden centre,” Jimin retorts. He pointedly decides to ignore the fact that Jeongguk called him pretty.
Jeongguk gasps, shaking his head. “Your Wiccan principles have been found dead, Park Jimin.”
Jimin just rolls his eyes and tries to not notice the way Jeongguk’s earrings - today, small studs that look like tiger’s eye, golden and mottled, very appropriate for the solstice - gleam in the sunlight. Jeongguk himself is glowing, black hair catching the golden light with all the radiance of a sunflower.
Jimin tears his eyes away and internally groans. Fuck. He noticed. He keeps noticing.
The truck pulls to a stop at the edge of the water, the sandy path disappearing into the stillness - and silvery lightness, Jimin points out to himself - of the lake. Namjoon jumps out, driver door swinging open and slamming shut.
“Alright, witches, everyone take a box and start setting up camp.” He scuffs a hand through his currently-purple hair and waves away their groans with flippant hands. “You’re all lazy. Shut up and move shit.”
Jimin eases the crate full of Jin-brewed apple cider from the truck, and buckles under its weight as it falls too quickly. Before it can go crashing to the floor and they lose it all, Jeongguk grabs the other side, hefting it up easily. Jimin breathes a sigh of relief and wonders how Jeongguk already fits in here, with them, so smoothly, despite only having met them all less than two weeks ago.
They set up nearer the trees, by the lake’s edge, and between Yoongi grumbling and Jin fretting and Tae dropping everything, they get everything out of the truck and into the little makeshift camp. It’s a nest of blankets, crates of food and drink and candles, and one big tent that Jimin is pretty sure Namjoon stole from the old dude who lives next door to the store. It’s just as haphazardly perfect as Jimin remembers from last year. Except, Jeongguk.
The witch in question watches as Taehyung rambles off into the woods, Yoongi in reluctant tow as Hoseok laughs, and looks at Jimin in disbelief. “How is that the same guy that gave me that scary-as-fuck reading?”
Jimin laughs, open and free out over the lake. In the woods, here, in the physical world, it always feels like he can just breathe. “Tae’s always been like that. His magick is as scary as he is… chaotic.”
Taehyung and Yoongi get back eventually, dry wood piled in their arms, and they set about creating the bonfire. Jimin gets up to help sift through the tubs of fresh herb cuts Jin packed, laying them carefully in between the woodpile as Namjoon builds it; elderflower, with the little white flowers bursting open, lavender, and fennel. He looks up to see Jeongguk watching him, and raises an eyebrow.
Jeongguk just looks at him, smirking in a way so totally different from the bone-cold one worn by the Jeongguk conjured up by Jimin’s unconscious; this smirking Jeongguk makes Jimin notice all over again the way the sun falls over Jeongguk’s cheekbones, his hands, his earrings.
He looks away quickly, not missing how the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth creep further upwards.
By the time the light falls golden, the fire is lit and beginning to flare up. As the sun touches down towards the lake, it paints across the sky in a blur of pink-orange-blue, with all the breath-stealing wonder of the Sistine chapel and then some, and yet Jimin feels his eyes drifting towards Jeongguk.
He sits by Jin, helping to slice the cakes. His jacket lies discarded in a black heap by his feet, arms out and muscles toned further by the flickering casts of shadow by the fire. He looks so in place, so easily fitting, among them, and it makes something in Jimin’s chest warm and spill over, like the blood in his veins has turned to molten gold.
“You wanna stare any more?” Yoongi mutters, taking a swig from the bottle of champagne that he’s stolen from the crate. Hoseok plays with the ends of his white hair, as they sit in a limb-bundled heap. Jimin doesn’t remember the last time they arranged themselves otherwise.
“Joon, you should be careful with how much alcohol you give Hoseok and Yoongi,” Jimin says, raising his voice and watching gleefully as Yoongi’s eyes widen almost undetectably. “They might end up banging in the woods again.”
“Again?” Jeongguk says, disbelieving, as the others laugh and Yoongi’s scowl darkens further.
“I was traumatised,” Jin shakes his head sorrowfully. “Memories I’ve tried so hard to repress. They won’t go away.”
Yoongi lobs a pillow at Jin. Jeongguk collapses into giggles, and Jimin’s heart hurts.
Eventually they manage to set up the point of them being there at all- the collection of objects Hoseok carefully lifts from their box and arranges as they accumulate in a circle. Jimin watches as he places the Sun card from his own Tarot deck, all golden and luxurious, in the centre.
“What’s this ritual for?” Jeongguk asks, settling at his elbow and watching him softly.
“Abundance, thanks, hope.” Jimin remembers Namjoon telling him, two years ago, and how safe and golden he felt in the moment, when they stood together in the sun and the woods were open and warm and home. “What Litha’s all about.”
“Hmm.” Jeongguk reaches out and brushes a loose strand of blond hair out of his face, fingers brushing his face ever so slightly. Something inside him melts, hot and aching and sweet.
There are candles lit and they sit in a circle, Namjoon chanting half in Latin and Hoseok flipping cards, the herbs on the fire burning high and sweet. The sun drips down molten gold on them, and then the stars pull through the fabric of the sky and night comes, in all her dark majesty. Yoongi and Hoseok are all over each other, Jin holds Namjoon’s hands and they fall together gently, and Taehyung lies by the fire, looking up to the heavens.
Everything is cold and clear, yet warm as Jimin presses closer to Jeongguk and nestles his head into the curve of his neck. The world is quiet around them, the trees making up a universe that’s theirs to breathe in. Everything is laid out and waiting.
Everything is open, and Jimin can only feel Jeongguk next to him, with his earrings and his darkness and his hope.
“Do you love him?”
Jimin fixes Yoongi with a look. The store is empty except for them, Namjoon and Jin gone for the day and the others lurking elsewhere. Yoongi is sat on the counter, looking up at him from under his mess of white hair that Hoseok never stops messing with when the two are together.
“I’ve known him for a month.”
The store is quiet; the street outside is almost vacant. A quiet Sunday night. Yoongi’s in that antsy mood where he’ll ask questions that make Jimin unsure of who he is without flinching. It’s hazy at best.
“So do you?”
Jimin groans, wishing that Yoongi would fall into a void for a while. The Reed rhymes back in his skull - “ever mind the law of three, what yee send out come back to thee” - and inwardly he tells it to fuck off. “Why’re you asking if you already know?”
“Then,” he sighs, feeling so very hopeless all of a sudden, “I don’t really know.”
“No,” Yoongi laughs, dry and smug and yet not quite mean, “You really do.”
Being friends with witches, Jimin decides, is never a good idea. Even if he happens to be one himself.
It’s mid-August when the first storm hits.
A nighttime flurry, the clouds draw over quickly, almost in a rush, swallowing the waning crescent of the moon wolfishly. Jimin watches from the kitchen, clutching a mug of apple-blossom tea as the dark curtains are pulled across the starry ceiling by great, transcendent hands.
Tae is upstairs, in his room, designing sigils that he’ll sell over his Tumblr and Twitter and Instagram later on, and brag to all of them about how he’s making a solid living off of his craft. Then Namjoon will throw a book at him - “Where the fuck do you spend half your life?” - and ban him from the store for another week. Jimin will watch from the corner and cry laughing.
Right now, though, the sky above is gloomy, and it hangs ominously. Jimin has never liked storms; they destroy everything in their paths, sweeping up foliage and plant life like it’s nothing, and leave wasteland behind.
The rain begins to beat down, hard and fast and knocking on the glass like a ghost waiting to enter, and he shivers underneath his sweater.
The first flash of lightning cutting across the sky doesn’t so much cause his stomach to flip as to plummet. Then, the thunder rolls across the heavens, reckoning and dooming.
And then, the door. A sharp, quick knock.
At first, Jimin manages to convince himself that it’s just the wind. A fox. A fallen branch. But it keeps going, and going, and his heart jumps into his throat. He places down his mug, and tries to stop his hands shaking.
Where is Tae? Why can he never be here for things like this? He’s the one that lived in the fucking woods to begin with. This is all Tae’s fault.
Jimin sets his shoulders, inhales sharply, and wrenches open the door.
As the initial shock of seeing the witch turn up on his doorstep, in the literal dead of night, wears off, his drenched nature becomes apparent. His hair is soaked flat, rain running rivulets down his face, water collecting in the curve of his collarbones that his black shirt leaves exposed.
His eyelashes, Jimin notices, clump together, and he looks terribly helpless.
“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk says, voice breathless, “Can I come in?”
That snaps Jimin out of his trance. He stands aside. “Yeah. Yes, sorry, please.”
Jeongguk stands, dripping rainwater onto his kitchen floor, and Jimin quickly bustles away to fetch a towel. When he gets back, Jeongguk is staring out of the window, up at the storm that’s now in full force. Along his ear lobe, black hoops catch the low light of the lamp in the corner.
Silently, Jimin goes about drying him off, pointedly ignoring how Jeongguk watches him with soft eyes, head cocked to the side and guard down.
“Thank you,” Jeongguk murmurs, and his hand comes up to cup the side of Jimin’s face. He’s transported back to the apartment, with Jeongguk looking through his eyes and into his soul, asking him how he feels about power. He shivers, and where Jeongguk’s hand meets his cheek, his skin burns. Burns in the same way a lone candle lights up a dark room; hopeful and hopeless in equal measure.
Jimin stops towelling at his hair.
“Would you like some tea?” The words are quiet, opening. “It’s apple.”
Jeongguk nods, slowly, and lowers his hand. Jimin very suddenly feels the urge to cry.
He busies himself with the kettle, measuring out dried blossoms and cinnamon, watching Jeongguk’s reflection in the glass of the window, as he watches him carefully.
“Thanks,” Jeongguk says as he accepts the mug, sinking down into one of the chair around the rickety table that Tae had found in a flea market, half a year ago. “Sorry for turning up so randomly. I’m not used to the storms yet.”
“They’re fast,” Jimin sighs, “Welcome to town. Pack your anorak twenty-four-seven, or nature will make you regret your existence.”
Jeongguk laughs into his tea, the corners of his eyes lifting and making Jimin suppress a fond smile.
“Why were you even out there?” He asks, carefully curious and staring at the wall behind Jeongguk’s head.
Jeongguk sets down the mug, slowly. Jimin feels something heavy in the air between them settle, like the first snowfall of December.
“I was looking for animal bones.” Jeongguk’s words are clear, open, and carry the weight of exhausted trust: this is me, you already know, and now it is tangible. “I’ve seen the bears. I wanted to find deer- deer skeletons. I use them in my craft.”
Jimin looks at him, this witch who has worked his way into his life in a matter of months and called him sun-kissed and made him notice everything about him, earrings and darkness and light, and sees everything his parents told him he was. Everything he shouldn’t be. He sees the way Jeongguk dares anybody to pin him down, tell him who he is. Jimin sees freedom.
“My parents are why I left home,” he says, and well, it’s all out and his guts are spilt across the kitchen table, and he feels free.
Jeongguk nods silently, looking entirely unsurprised and entirely thoughtful. Jimin takes a deep breath.
“I’ve only been doing this - witchcraft - for a few years,” he starts, looking up to Jeongguk quickly, feeling self-conscious all of a sudden. Jeongguk just looks back, and nods again, subtly. “At first, I didn’t let them know about it. I mean, they’ve gone to church for their whole lives,” he laughs bitterly. “Not exactly the most tolerant.”
“But then my mom walked in while I was doing something,” he sighs, running a hand through his hair just for something to do, something other than tell this stupid little sob story. “Just some candle spell or whatever. Would have taken, like, five minutes. And then she flipped.”
Jeongguk reaches across the able, not saying a word but laying his hand over Jimin’s. It makes something in his chest stutter, caught on a heartstring.
“And then,” Jimin’s throat catches, and he swallows a growing lump. “Her and my dad, they start screaming, shit like devil-worshipper, soul-seller. ‘Find a real god’.” His breath comes out uneven. “How they were only just managing with me being gay, that this was too much, how could I expect them to cope.”
Jeongguk squeezes his hand, gentle and warm and quick. It feels like an arm around him. Comfort.
“I saw the power their religion gave them,” he sighs. “How it let them hurt other people. So I told myself I’d never try to be like them.”
Jeongguk’s eyes widen, ever-so-slightly.
“I already knew Yoongi and Hoseok, we met on Twitter or something. I was done with school. I hadn’t really got anything at all back there. So I just packed up, got on a train, and crashed on their floor. Then I met Joon and Jin, then Tae, who I was terrified of, and then he offered me a room because his house was all lonely and he needed help to maintain it and all that. So then I was here.” He finishes. Such a short story for such a huge thing. His life laid out before Jeongguk. “And it’s been two years.”
Jeongguk still doesn’t say anything, but he rises from his seat, comes round to where Jimin sits, and wraps his arms around him silently. He’s warm, and Jimin fits against him perfectly, head on shoulder and arms around his middle. He smells of burnt sage and something sweeter, like frankincense.
Jimin breaks, like a tide through a dam that has been slowly cracking ever since Jeongguk first walked into the store, little more than a month ago. And he cries, sobbing into Jeongguk’s black-clad shoulder. He breaks.
The kitchen is quiet, with the short, chest-heavy sound of Jimin’s tears whispering through the air. Outside, the storm rages on, and Jimin thinks that maybe sometimes a little destruction is needed to piece something back together in just the right way.
It’s Yoongi and Hoseok who make him finally realise just how fucked he is for Jeongguk.
Surprisingly, it’s not another witty comment on Yoongi’s part, or Hoseok flipping an upright Two of Cups and smirking at him. It’s him, so caught in his ways that he doesn’t bother knocking before opening their front door.
Afterwards, he doesn’t even remember why he’s there; maybe to rant about Taehyung abusing his plants or about a colleague at the garden centre or at Yoongi for whatever annoying thing Yoongi had done that day. Something dumb, inconsequential.
He pushes open the door, and stops stone-still.
The way their house is designed, the door opens up into a hallway, which leads into the kitchen, and it’s this goddamn floor plan that allows Jimin’s heart to fall out onto the wood laminate below.
They’re kissing, all over each other. Yoongi’s up on the counter with his legs around Hoseok’s waist, fitting into the curve of his hips like they were moulded to piece together into one bigger, more beautiful thing. Hoseok’s hands are at Yoongi’s waist, pushing up the blue of his sweater and pressing towards bare skin, while Yoongi’s fingers twine through Hoseok’s brown hair and pull him closer, closer, impossibly closer.
Jimin’s seen them like this a thousand times. It’s old news, unsurprising. He should walk in, groan loudly and cover his eyes, throw whatever’s in arm’s reach at them and laugh off their retorts. He should.
But there’s something about this, right now, before him; it’s a something that rests in how gently Hoseok holds Yoongi, the trust in being soft. It’s in how Yoongi smiles as Hoseok chases his mouth, how their eyelashes flutter against cheekbones and they look like an Icarus and his Apollo, fully-winged and sun-blessed.
It’s the love he sees, that emanates from them, and how sickeningly true it is.
It hurts so much.
And all he can think about is Jeongguk.
He’s like gold in Jimin’s veins, short-circuiting and sparking, copper wires fizzing without hope and so hot it burns. Like a kickstart back to life, amped up too far. Burns, burns, burns. Jeongguk is a thought that won’t stop ricocheting around the curve of Jimin’s skull; a stray bullet, unrelenting.
Fuck, he thinks, I might be in love with Jeon Jeongguk.
Yoongi and Hoseok, so close and intertwined and bitterly in love, haven’t even noticed him. He collects his heart, pulls himself back together, and slips silently back out of the house.
“How do you know you love someone?” Namjoon echoes back, as Jimin slumps in the corner of the store and feels thoroughly glum. “Why?”
“Just wondering,” Jimin shrugs back, pouting up at Namjoon.
The store owner scratches the back of his neck in an affected manner, tussling purple hair. “Well, you just-“ He cuts off, and looks across the store to watch as Jin carefully smooths labels over jars of dried lavender and lemongrass. His eyes are liquid when Jimin looks into them, warm and swirling and honey.
“I don’t know,” Namjoon says simply, not looking away from Jin. “It’s just a feeling. In your bones. Like everything is suddenly alright with the world. Y’know?”
“Obviously I don’t,” Jimin snaps back. He’s so surrounded by adoring couples that he thinks he may vomit. He tells himself he’s laughing. He thinks maybe he might be jealous.
Namjoon chuckles, and finally looks back to him. His gaze is piercing, searching, and Jimin knows he could never hide anything from any of them, his friends and curious little family he’s collected, let alone the one who looks after them all the most. “Yeah, you do.”
In the end, it’s Jeongguk who breaks the final distance between them.
It’s just a text, short and sweet, opening a doorway.
JEONGGUK - [17:32]
hey, do you wanna help me with a ritual?
It almost scares Jimin, how familiar the comfort it brings is.
ME - [17:32]
Sure, I’ll be there in ten minutes.
JEONGGUK - [17:33]
“Going to Jeongguk’s?” Taehyung teases, as Jimin pulls on his boots and makes a beeline for the door. He fixes the sigil-scrawling witch with an exasperated glare.
“How the fuck do you know?!”
“I’m a witch, Jiminie,” Tae admonishes, smirking. “So are you. So figure it out.”
Jimin escapes before he can hear any more spooky bullshit. But Tae’s words don’t leave his head as he makes the trek down the drive, through the woods, to the main road, flags down the bus. They burn themselves into his skull, making him sigh as he stares out at the trees flickering past.
How has Jeongguk become such a central path for his line of thought, constantly running, in just a few months?
He hasn’t cared for someone this way since the first boy back home - not home - when he was dumb and young; or maybe just dumber and younger. And that had ended with his parents finding out, splintering apart something that made him half-whole with a tirade of lazy ignorance. Love is dangerous, he has learnt, when the love you feel does not match the mould the world gives you to fit into.
Jeongguk is a boy. Jeongguk is a witch. Jeongguk is a satanist. And Jeongguk is freedom.
He’s waiting at the top of the stairs when Jimin arrives, with little orange carnelian studs up his ear and all the devastation of Jimin’s undoing.
“Thanks for coming,” Jeongguk says. “I thought it would be better with two.”
“Isn’t everything?” Jimin presses down on the rising flurry in his stomach, butterflies brushing against ribs and up his throat.
Jeongguk laughs softly, and lets him in.
The wide space of the room is open, the couch pushed to one side, and a circle in marked out on the floor with white chalk. Five lines cross from set points, overlapping and smooth- a pentagram. At each corner, a red candle stands, black salt around the base. And in the centre, on a black cloth, stands a bloodstone, a sprig of yarrow, and the strength tarot card from Jeongguk’s deck, golden lion with its mouth open in full roar.
“Courage ritual,” Jimin cuts in, meeting his eyes. “Right?”
Jeongguk nods, slowly, and grins. “Yeah.”
While Jimin dresses the candles with the bottle of fennel oil Jeongguk tosses to him, Jeongguk goes off in search of something. When he’s done, he looks up to see a small, black-covered book in his hands, with one image emblazoned on the front: a red, inverted pentagram.
“It’s the satanic bible,” Jeongguk explains. He doesn’t look away, but instead steadily continues. “That’s okay, isn’t it?”
Jimin looks at the book, how naturally it fits in Jeongguk’s arms with his black clothes and the essence of his existence. He nods. “Of course.”
They sit, opposite, in the circle. Jimin watches the line of Jeongguk’s body, smooth and strong and domineering as he raises two fingers, commanding.
“The circle is open.” He looks straight at Jimin, and his eyes are darker and yet brighter than the Jeongguk of his dream’s could ever be. “May it never be broken.”
And they begin.
It’s like a spark is set off between them, burning somewhere between the bloodstone and the curve of Jeongguk’s collarbones. The air is charged, as Jeongguk’s chanting weaves together a fabric destined to bend the laws of the universe to his own will; such a small piece of existence, but they are alive. The two of them here, in this circle, alive and breathing and bending.
Jeongguk’s right hand lays splayed across the bible, a silver ring bearing a tiny, blood-red stone that glimmers in the candlelight around his index finger. His left is in Jimin’s, firm and steady and grounding as their magick weaves a net to catch the wind and ensnare fate.
“Courage I demand,” Jeongguk chants, tone forceful and making Jimin close his eyes, because it’s too much to see and he has to just feel this around them, the circle and the energy rising and Jeongguk, his presence immovable and permanent and demanded. “The stars I command. Bend to the will of us who can speak, the earth rage and high heaven weep.”
Jimin loses himself in the flow of Jeongguk’s words, an impossible heartbeat, iambic and beating. It’s like if he reached out into the sky, he could catch a star. He could take anything. He could make what he wanted from the gold of suns, the beauty of a silver moon. Freedom.
“This I ask,” Jeongguk says, and now he’s louder, filling the room with his voice and his presence and his existence. “This I will take. This I will make.”
With his spare hand, Jimin takes the fennel branch, and waves it through the fire of a candle. Jeongguk watches intently as he smooths it through the air between them, smoke rising. It smells of burning, sweetness, bravery. The smoke tumbles and dances. The stars don’t seem so far away.
And then, Jimin pushes it down onto the floor with a flourish, and Jeongguk finishes,
“So mote it be.”
He swipes a finger through the chalk of the circle, and it’s over.
Jimin just sits there, silent and breathless, as Jeongguk quietly pinches out the wick of each candle. The sun rests low in the sky- time has slipped away, abstract and unnecessary. How long have they been here? He decides it doesn’t matter.
Jeongguk kneels back in front of him, snapping him back into the here and the now. He looks devastating, burning.
“Thank you,” he whispers. His eyes are so dark, so impossibly dark. Jimin wants to fall into them; black wishing wells.
Jeongguk’s gaze drops, landing on his pentacle where it hangs against his skin. He traces it with a slow finger, the crossing lines that make up the foundation of everything Jimin has built his hope upon.
“You don’t need to fight between this and me. You don’t have to choose. Light and dark have to exist together.” Jeongguk’s words are no more than a low murmur, but they fill Jimin’s ears, rushing up like a freezing tide. “Yin and yang. The new moon and the full. You need shadows to see the light.”
Jimin can’t speak. His throat feels like sandpaper, dry as a desert without honey. The weight of this moment hangs heavy in his chest. Irreversible laws are being written, somewhere in a universe far away, that he cannot and will never be able to change.
“Don’t you ever want to push it?” Jeongguk asks softly, trailing fingertips lightly down the side of Jimin’s face. His ring grazes his cheekbone, the metal burning. “You’ve got all this power, this vision. Who would you hurt? What’s stopping you from just reaching out a little further?”
It strikes Jimin suddenly that he is very, very afraid. There’s ice in his veins and his mouth is static-dry and his heart may have just dropped to his knees, and he knows why. He knows the answer he should give to Jeongguk: the universe, karma, ethics and morals and principles.
And he knows the answer that isn’t a complete lie. He knows the answer that would push it all over, this fragile peace he’s made with himself to keep on this god-fucking-self-righteous path.
“Ah,” Jeongguk smiles softly, and Jimin’s eyes snap up to meet his. He imagines how he must look; a rabbit caught in headlights, panicked but unable to flee. “You do know, don’t you?”
Jimin, kneeling there and noticing how the brown of Jeongguk’s irises looks more black in the wan dusk sunlight cutting into the apartment through the windows, thinks two things in this moment.
He thinks: fuck, it’s all falling apart, no, there are rules, power is dangerous, this is bad, bad, very very bad.
He also thinks: fuck it.
Jeongguk doesn’t seem surprised when he pushes forward, body searching for something so eternal and aching and leaning into the very thing. It feels like water after a lifetime of wine, self-medication via guises of luxury. Jimin’s spent so long getting drunk on righteousness that the hangover feels like it’s splitting him in half and Jeongguk is the only thing holding the pieces of him together. The only way he can jump from this doorway he’s trapped himself in and breathe.
Jeongguk’s mouth is warm and his hands find their way to Jimin’s hips, settling and strangely familiar, making Jimin sigh into Jeongguk’s mouth as he explores, searching, figuring out the small complexities of Jeongguk; satanist, left-hand, dangerous- kissing him, here, in his apartment and grinning against his lips.
His back meets the floor as Jeongguk gently pushes him backwards, crowding in as though the bonds he’d tied to keep himself back, woven through incantations and decorated candles and potions drunk, had finally snapped.
He knocks a candle, hears it go rolling away across the floor, and they don’t stop kissing.
It feels ritualistic, as Jeongguk tugs up his sweater and traces over the plane of his stomach, his chest, where his heart is beating so fast and loud and hard that it’s all he can hear, along with Jeongguk’s ragged breaths and his own whimpers as Jeongguk bites down on his bottom lip. They’re at a state of gnosis, where any tiny thing will spring beauty into reality, where Jeongguk is all over him and fitting together into him, hands searching and in hair and pushing into waistbands against hips.
“Can I,” Jimin breathes against Jeongguk’s mouth, relentlessly searching and discovering and mapping out the shape of him, and Jeongguk whispers back,
Jimin tugs up the black of Jeongguk’s shirt, pulling it over his head and off, throwing it away to the side, into a void somewhere. His hands are everywhere, over the expanse of bare skin that feels like Jeongguk offering up everything to him, heart up into his palm.
“Wait,” Jimin murmurs, and pushes upwards, moving Jeongguk slowly back so that he can kneel up against him again. He tears his lips away, and Jeongguk’s eyes are suddenly confused, uncertain, drowning. “I want to see- your back.”
Jeongguk’s mouth twists into a grin, and he presses up against Jimin again quickly, kissing him hard and imprinting, and then he slowly turns around.
His back is covering with black lines, harsh against his skin and yet soft in how they flow, weaving together an image that Jimin can’t quite pin down as he looks; flowers, great roses with thorns and lilies and sunflowers, and then the curve of a bird’s wing - but then he looks again, and it’s the slide of a mountain range, and then it turns to a crescent moon rising. Stars, five-pointed and seven-pointed and exploding, dying and being born all in one. It looks so full, rich, dark and yet bearing great light. It looks just like Jeongguk.
“It’s amazing,” Jimin breathes, tracing the lines with a gentle hand. “When did you get it done?”
“A few years ago,” Jeongguk says, and the words are tentative, like this is his final nakedness to bare. “Hurt like a bitch.”
“What is it?”
“It’s everything,” Jeongguk replies. “The last one the guy ever did. All and nothing.”
Jimin presses the flat of his tongue against Jeongguk’s back, and traces the tattoo, tastes the salt and the sweetness of Jeongguk, the frankincense and the candle wax. He bites down on his shoulder, teeth soft and then pressing, and Jeongguk snaps.
He turns back round, fast and sharp, and their mouths meet again. Jimin’s sweater is yanked up, pulled off and thrown aside. Jeongguk pulls him into his lap, hands undoing his jeans and shoving them off in a tumbling flurry of limbs. Jimin can taste desperation, the promise of euphoria and freedom.
They’re naked when he pulls back and looks at Jeongguk, looks at how his dark hair and dark eyes have the impression of Jimin all over. How those earrings seem to glow. He slowly, slowly, bites down on the lobe, and feels Jeongguk swallow against where his hand curves against his neck.
“Can I have you?” Jeongguk asks, voice cracking and desperate. “All of you?”
“Yes,” Jimin breathes, and Jeongguk lifts him, standing, and pushes him backwards.
They arrive at the bedroom eventually, and Jeongguk pushes him down onto the bed, crawling up over him and catching his wrists above his head. Jimin moans, loud and out and he can’t help it anymore, he needs everything. Jeongguk looks down at him, pupils blown and lips bitten. Jimin hopes he looks like that; he hopes Jeongguk can tell how badly he needs him.
He hears the pop of a lid as Jeongguk reaches over to pull something out of a draw, and then he’s chanting, like Jeongguk earlier but his voice is wrecked and pleading, “Please, please, please-“
Jeongguk grins against his lips, and slides a finger into him. Jimin’s legs come up to encircle his waist, clinging on for dear life because if he lets go now, he’s going to drown. His hands clutch Jeongguk’s shoulders, nails digging in, and he cries out as a guttural noise crawls from the back of Jeongguk’s throat. He’s got everything, between him and in him and above him, everything he needs.
“Can I,” Jeongguk starts, and Jimin cuts-
“Yes, yes, please-“
Jeongguk quickly adds another finger, then another, until Jimin is a mess below him, moans harmonising with his heartbeat. He rolls on a condom, fast and sure and hands-shaking desperate, and slides in slowly.
Jimin could cry, right here, right now; it’s fulfilment, like he’s broken apart and made whole again. Like the sun and moon embracing, lighting up a sky together and casting the deepest shadows. Jeongguk moans against the skin beneath his ear, hands holding on like he’ll never let go.
“Move,” Jimin cries out, half-broken on a whimper. “Please.”
And he does.
The rhythm they find is a heartbeat shared, Jeongguk pushing him down against the mattress and deeper into him, mouths hard and hands in hair and raking nails down backs and legs tight around waists, fitting into the curves of hips like ribs around lungs. When Jeongguk finally hits it, the place inside him that tears apart the thread holding him together, he cries out, Jeongguk’s mouth catching the sound and holding it all, his euphoria and his love and his freedom.
“You’re so good,” Jeongguk rushes out, voice ragged against his lips, “You’re so good, Jiminie, you’re everything-“
“Don’t stop,” Jimin cries.
This is light and dark, him and Jeongguk, the pentacle necklace and the satanic bible strewn together on the floor in the other room and them here, laid out across Jeongguk’s bed. This is completion.
He comes when Jeongguk gets a hand around his cock, warm and sure and everything, and Jeongguk follows with a final groan into his mouth.
Jimin pants, laying back against the pillows as Jeongguk ties off the condom and throws it lazily in the bin. He watches the shift of Jeongguk’s muscles as he comes back to him, looking at him with all the radiance of the full moon.
They twine together, Jimin’s head on Jeongguk’s chest and his hand over where his heart beats, strong and sure. The sun lowers in the sky, casting the room into gold, and Jimin thinks, this is freedom.
“Light and dark,” Jeongguk murmurs. Jimin laughs softly.
“Light and dark.”
They fall away, lowering into a drowsy sleep, but Jimin doesn’t stop feeling the beat of Jeongguk’s heart. It follows him into the realm of dreamless slumber, a pulse to hold him down in heaven.
When Jeongguk holds him, warm and safe in layers of soft black sweater, Jimin watches the Tower card, the dark, hurting vine wrapped around Jeongguk, wither and die.
It’s Samhain eve, and they’re all back at the lake, with considerably more layers of clothing to fight the late-October cold. The fire is smaller this time, but seems to burn brighter below the moonless sky.
Jeongguk’s earrings are amethyst, purple and polished and perfect for letting go of drowning weights. He gazes into the fire, then back at Jimin, and his eyes are so soft that Jimin just wants to sleep in their watch.
“Can I tell you,” he begins, voice low, “Why I came here?”
Yoongi is asleep in Hoseok’s lap, the divination witch watching him fondly, like there’s too much love in the world and he just can’t help it. Tae is pressed to Jin’s side, while Namjoon’s chin rests on top of his head. Everything feels soft and safe and hopeful.
“Yes,” Jimin answers, and Jeongguk opens the final pages of this book they’ve written between them, scribbled in kisses and thyme and hope.
“My home town is small,” Jeongguk starts, voice steady, “Really small. Think small, and then halve it. I knew the name of everybody there. Most of them came to my baptism. Very religious. Big fans of taking the pieces of the bible that made their hatred look okay.”
“There was one guy who was different, though.” Jeongguk laughs, low and tired. “He wasn’t from there, he’d run from someplace else. Like me now. And he was a little bit older, really fucking beautiful, and he loved me.”
Jimin watches as Jeongguk swallows heavily.
“I didn’t feel the same about him. Not really. But we had a thing, when my parents were out and he wasn’t busy. He worked at the post office, but he was an artist. He called, one day, and showed me this sketch he’d done, all black lines and a mess. And then he put in on my back.”
Jimin suddenly feels very cold, the air around him turned still. White noise rings through his ears. Jeongguk’s words from before, when Jimin had traced the tattoo with his fingers and then his tongue, ring back.
‘The last one the guy ever did.’
“They all found out, after a while,” Jeongguk says. The words are flat. “Obviously. They blamed him, for corrupting me, ruining me. They chased him out into the woods and beat him. Pitchforks and all. He wasn’t there when I went to look for him. But then he showed up in the funeral announcements next week.”
Jimin tightens his arms around Jeongguk, trying to transfer all the warmth he can give. “You don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“I do,” Jeongguk replies. “I have to tell you. So it can rest.”
He stares into the fire for a while, eyes lost, before he continues. “They didn’t even say anything else. Just carried on with their lives. The police were in the fucking mob that killed him.” He laughs, dark and hurt and twisted. “So I took my dad’s wallet, all I could fit into a backpack, and I left.”
He takes Jimin’s hand. “And now I’m here.”
Jimin is quiet for a moment, and then, “Do you think about him?”
Jeongguk considers. “Yes. But more them than him. I don’t even know if he’s dead. Maybe he got away and they just didn’t want me to go looking for him. But I think about them all the time.”
His voice catches. “They told me I was an abomination. I was a sinner. I’d burn in hell. So I went into a bookstore, found the satanic bible, said fuck you to their god, and then it all started. My witchcraft.”
“I love you, you know,” Jimin says, and it’s the biggest thing he can offer up, the making tangible of this light and darkness between them. “All of you.”
Jeongguk taps his pentacle lightly. “I know. And I love all of you.”
And just like that, it happens. It’s almost as if Jimin can see it, the darkness draining from Jeongguk. Not the good darkness, the shadow side of him that made him who he is, but the coldness. The vine retracts, withers away, and Jimin kisses him.
It’s all cold lips and warm hands and hearts, Jeongguk’s tears salty on his tongue. He swipes them away with a gentle thumb.
“You’re here,” Jimin says, and his voice is quiet but it’s steady. “With us. With me. You’re safe now.”
Jeongguk buries his face in the curve of Jimin’s neck, breathing in the soft scent of rosemary. They stay like that for a while, Jimin watching the fire and Jeongguk warm against him. It’s magick of the deepest degree, unchangeable and unmoving. Spun around them like the sun and the moon, woven together.
“Will you stay here?” Jimin asks, and now he’s whispering. “With us?”
Jeongguk pulls away and looks at him. He looks happy. Free. “You’re my Two of Cups, Jiminie. I’m not going anywhere.”
Samhain is the new year, Jimin thinks, where all the ghosts of the past come out to say their final goodbyes. The veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest it’ll ever be. Jeongguk’s ghosts are laid free, between them, and they fall away into nothingness somewhere over the fire and in the mist sleeping above the lake. There’s only hope, and balance, and freedom left behind.
Jimin squeezes Jeongguk’s hand, and the new year takes them together. Two of Cups, a sun and moon looking down upon an earth laid out before them. Free.