Jimin nursed his cup of tea, distracting himself with the wisps of steam.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting on the couch but considering the ache in his knee he figured a while, longer than Jimin had hoped. He’d been working all morning, nose in his myriad of old tomes and he was about ready for a nap.
A familiar caw caught his attention and Jimin pulled himself to his feet, shuffling towards the corner of his small apartment. He avoided the wooden perch (having knocked it over ample amount of times) and pushed open the heavy window. Seconds later a raven flew into the room, the wind ruffling Jimin’s tangerine hair and he sighed at the cool breeze.
The bird landed on its perch, looking at Jimin with expectant eyes and the latter let out a quiet laughter. He faltered after a few moments, realising it didn’t hold the same airy quality it used to.
The raven, having noticed his distress, screeched and nudged Jimin’s shoulder with its head. He eventually caved, using his finger to scratch its head and Jimin swore the bird purred.
“I appreciate you giving me some space,” Jimin hummed, scratching a particular spot that left the raven melting on the spot. “The last few days have been better.”
Jimin stepped back and sat on a nearby chair, giving the raven the room it needed. It was always a joy to observe, to watch feathers melt into soft skin and limbs grow and form. Jungkook seemed to be taking it slow for show and Jimin huffed, crossing his arms and ignoring the silence of his home.
Jungkook’s boots were loud on the floorboards when he swung off the large perch. He cracked his neck, and with stiff limbs he stumbled, leaving a disgruntled sigh in his wake. He was always unsteady on his feet after transforming, Jimin’s familiar collecting himself on one of the many bookshelves.
Jungkook’s hair looked longer than the last time Jimin had seen it, still gelled and so black it appeared purple under certain lights. He winked at Jimin, the obsidian irises glowing, “Anything for you, Jimin-ah.” Jimin found he couldn’t say something clever back, too grateful for Jungkook’s sincerity.
The pair easily fell into their accustomed routine, Jungkook collapsing on the bed for a nap and Jimin retreating to his desk. He ignored the various photo frames he’d placed face down, using all of his energy to continue to catch up on all the work he’d missed. He could nap later. Life didn’t stop for anybody. Jimin wished it did, wished with all his might the world would just give him a moment to get back on his own steady feet and breathe.
He supposed in some ways he did feel more collected.
Jimin was now back on his side of the bed and not using the other pillow, too scared it would lose its smell if he hugged it too often. He no longer cried whenever he woke. But it had been months and Jimin still couldn’t bring himself to look at any of their photos together. It hurt knowing what you’ve lost, Jimin still coming to terms with the gravity of how his life had been upturned so viciously.
The disease had made itself known one cold afternoon, the first of many to come. Jimin had noticed how ashen Taehyung was, a stark contrast to his usual golden skin, and he voiced his concern immediately. I’m fine, Jiminie, Taehyung had said, his fingers gracing Jimin’s cheeks, don’t worry about me.
The next morning Jimin had found him face down on the floor unconscious, his skin as white as the rug below him. (Jimin had later burned said rug.)
That was only the beginning.
Jimin had rushed Taehyung to their doctor with the help of Jungkook, Jimin feeling as if he’d drown in the sinking pit that formed in his stomach. It only confirmed his suspicions, only cemented how truly scared he was of being alone in the world without Taehyung. That day was marked as the second worst in his lifetime.
Nerium Fever was what took Taehyung away from him.
Jimin later learned of the toxic flower that gave the disease its name, its white petals reminiscent of the way one’s skin would pale. It was a rare but grim diagnosis for any witch. With no cure and nothing to even slow it down, it was tough for anybody to swallow yet Taehyung always kept a brave face for Jimin.
It was cruel, how long it took for the inevitable, forty three days to be exact.
There was something in the air that morning, something that clung to the walls of their apartment. It infested Jimin’s lungs, making it hard to breathe. He did his best to ignore it, especially with the way Taehyung had looked better than he had for weeks, his peachy hair not looking as washed out as it usually did. But Jimin could only ignore it for so long, especially when Taehyung had gone quiet.
If there was one thing Taehyung did, it was talk.
He would talk for hours, distracting Jimin from his diagnosis and filling their home with a familiar, warm chatter. And it worked, for the most part. Even if it was only a few minutes Jimin relished in the moments of peace, only knowing of Taehyung’s warm embrace and caring words. One night he’d made Jimin cry, confessing that he just wanted Jimin to remember his voice.
The longer the silence stretched the longer Jimin’s eyes had followed Taehyung’s every movement. Jungkook sat unwavering from his perch, and Jimin felt close to exploding. He knew it was close. Jimin could taste the fear that lathered his tongue, so awfully real and pungent, but he couldn’t accept it.
Jimin had so long to prepare and yet his mind was scarily blank.
Taehyung had curled up beside him on the bed, his body shaking violently and Jimin didn’t know what to do. He had so much he still wanted to say, so much he still wanted to do and see with Taehyung. He never envisioned a life without Taehyung in it. It wasn’t fair.
You’ll be okay, Taehyung had whispered, his grip on Jimin’s hand a lifeline, a lifeline ready to float away and leave Jimin to drown. We’re always okay
I don’t want it to be okay, Jimin was staring down the edge of a cliff, his stomach a bottomless pit. I want you to stay with me. I can’t… I don’t want to do this without you, Tae.
Tell me what you’re doing tomorrow.
Your plans. Tell me, I want to know.
Jimin told him. He told Taehyung about his plans to meet the florist on the corner, wondering what flowers would look best in their apartment. He told Taehyung about repairing Jungkook’s perch as he’d been complaining about an unsteady bracket after a particularly fast transformation. He told Taehyung the rosemary on the windowsill was finally sprouting, and how he had plans to bake Taehyung’s favourite biscuits that afternoon.
Jimin knew halfway through his story that Taehyung was no longer listening.
He could tell by how silent the room had fallen, could tell by the way all light had faded. He could see it on Jungkook’s face from across the room, so frighteningly blank. Jimin had felt it in his chest when Taehyung left him, the grip on his hand lifeless and cold.
Jimin didn’t know how long he’d sat there, cradling Taehyung in his lap. He felt the tears spilling onto his cheeks, relentless tears that burned his skin and left him hollow. Jimin was too numb to wipe them away, Taehyung’s limp body making him colder. The apartment walls had rattled when Jimin screamed, the candles in the corner burning high to the ceiling.
From then onwards Jimin carried the sadness with him like a second skin.
He’d never ached so badly, his core ugly and rotten. He couldn’t even distract himself, Jimin unable to grow anything in the apartment. Everything alive had wilted. There was no rosemary left for Taehyung’s biscuits. One morning a kind woman in his complex had asked him who had broken his heart. Jimin had merely sobbed in the threshold of her apartment, her icy hands unable to soothe him.
Jimin’s heart ached further for the torment he was putting Jungkook through, his familiar dealing with the brunt of his emotions through their connection. He was strong, always putting up a brave front, but for hours on end he would cry, Jungkook’s eyes permanently bloodshot and wounded. It had gotten so bad he couldn’t transform, almost breaking his legs when he tried one night.
That incident was what brought back some of Jimin’s resolve, enough for him to start clawing out of the grave he’d dug for himself. Every morning still felt like a chore, an effort all in itself, but Jimin was trying. God, he was trying so hard.
The paragraphs currently in front of him bled into one, the words fuzzy and Jimin closed his eyes, rubbing his temples out of sheer irritation. He would be of no use to his young students if he couldn’t create his lesson plans, the images of the colourful potions distorted in his blurred vision.
“Rest, Jimin-ah,” Jimin was unsure when Jungkook had woken, startling slightly at the noise. “There’s no need to push yourself.”
“I’ve been resting for months, I need to keep busy.”
“Not at your own expense.”
At the look in Jungkook’s eyes Jimin sighed, accepting his defeat. He took his hand, and let Jungkook lead him to the bed. Jimin’s calves ached when he sat down. They were a shadow of their former glory, Jimin too perpetually exhausted to keep himself active, and it showed in the atrophy of the muscle.
“I’ll wake you if I need to,” Jungkook pulled the blanket up to his chin, his smile tired. Jimin knew nothing would be important enough to wake him, not with Taehyung’s absence, and Jungkook knew that with the way his lips dragged themselves into a grimace.
Jimin rolled over and closed his eyes, begging for a dreamless slumber.
A knock at the door stirred Jimin.
He was groggy, his thoughts laden by fog. The blanket fell down his body in a graceful flow when he sat up, mouth opened in a languid yawn. There were a blissful few moments of nonchalance, his mind still coated in sleep and unable to remind him of his reality. Jimin craved those few seconds every morning.
Jungkook was at the door. He peered through the peephole with curious intent, his silence disturbing Jimin the longer it settled in the air between them. The door swung open, with Jungkook disappearing through it. He entered the apartment with a large package in hand. His face was grim, and Jimin despised that look.
Jimin dragged himself out of bed. He kept the blanket wrapped around his body, using it as a shield between himself and whatever Jungkook placed on the ground adjacent. It was nondescript, and Jimin didn’t understand why Jungkook was looking at it like that.
As if hearing his unasked question, Jungkook spoke, “It feels bad.” Jimin followed his hand as he scratched his wrist. He was uncomfortable, his slender fingers picking at the skin.
There was something else.
“And?” Jungkook’s head tilted out of confusion. Jimin suppressed a low sigh, “What aren’t you telling me?”
Jungkook’s words were slow, careful, “I don’t think you want to know.”
“It…” Jimin heard his swallowed, and he braced himself for the blow. “It feels like Tae.”
Jimin’s world came to a startling halt, “Don’t.”
“I’m not lying, it does.”
Jungkook knew a witch’s aura died alongside their physical body, all of their possessions losing the energy their owners once held over them. It was how plants and gardens immediately wilted, how familiars faded away so rapidly and how potions soured. Jungkook knew it wasn’t a laughing matter and yet here he was, spitting on all the work Jimin had done to rebuild himself.
“That’s impossible,” Jimin repeated, feeling an overwhelming heat building in his stomach that gathered all sorts of ugly emotions alongside it. “Don’t you dare use him for a pathetic joke.”
“I’m not!” Jungkook had started to pace, dealing with both his and Jimin’s emotions at once. Anger, hurt, and grief, so much grief it was palpable. It set the room alight, “I wouldn’t, you know I wouldn’t.”
After a tense moment of silence Jungkook outstretched his hand, begging Jimin closer, “Here, see for yourself.”
Jimin was wary, his steps even more cautious. The package was so inconspicuous it was laughable considering the fear it instilled in them both. But Jungkook looked so earnest, his eyes just as startled as Jimin’s own, and he no longer knew what to think.
Jimin’s hand reached for the cardboard, fingers just scraping the surface. A sudden burst of electricity sharpened his senses, travelling through his body and directly into his beating heart.
Jimin smelled day old rose petals, and the crispness of grass. He heard the crash of steady waves alongside a low, rumbling thunder. Jimin could feel a steadying warmth, could see the butterflies that always gathered in Taehyung’s hair in the spring, safe from harm.
Jimin stumbled back into the bookshelf, his sharp inhale more of a pathetic choke. He couldn’t help the tears that gathered in his eyes, Jimin’s lips downturned and quivering. “Get it away from me.”
Jungkook shook his head, still hovering awkwardly by the box, “We should at least open it-”
“Get it away from me!”
The room descended into an abrupt darkness, the curtains falling over the long windows. At first Jimin thought it was his doing, until he noticed the peculiar red mist that rose from the large box. It hovered still before rising high into the air. Jimin flinched at a particularly loud howl of wind, the protection symbols he’d inscribed on the walls flashing bright before burning away.
Jungkook immediately transformed, squawking loudly and flying over to perch on Jimin’s shoulder. He could feel him shaking, his silky feathers brushing against Jimin’s skin, skin that had swiftly paled.
The wind eventually ceased, the room falling still but neither of them moved, too horrified to even react. The mist quickly swept back to surround the box, taking the unearthly red glow from the walls with it.
Jimin was the first to find his feet, doubting Jungkook would be returning to his human form anytime soon. He eyed the box, collecting himself to prepare for whatever he would find. He glanced back at the wall, fearing the lack of protection but also the wrath of the haze.
His trembling hands struggled to open the package, the thick crimson cloud making it harder than it already was to breathe. He could barely feel Taehyung’s delicate energy over the foul presence the box was emitting, Jimin nauseous at the thought of the two ever mixing.
The tape gave in easily, Jimin closing his eyes as he ripped open the flaps. Jungkook let out a sharp cry, his claws digging deep into Jimin’s shoulder, drawing blood.
Jimin never could’ve prepared himself for what he saw when he opened his eyes.
There was a large mirror in the box, antique looking and brown with golden accents. It looked worn, in desperate need of a helping hand, but Jimin couldn’t focus on the wear and tear. He was too busy gazing into Taehyung’s wide eyes.
His own eyes bulged, Jimin hand flying to his throat in an attempt to stifle his gasp. He should’ve been staring at himself, should’ve been looking directly into his own dazed face and yet he wasn’t.
Taehyung looked exactly how he did before he’d gotten sick, his hair peachy and long and lips tinted a rosy pink. He looked healthy, a particular glow to his cheeks that Jimin missed so dearly. He was clad in one of his many knitted sweaters, white and handmade and Jimin remembered helping him stitch the sleeves.
“I’m dreaming,” Jimin told himself, unable to look away from Taehyung. “This can’t be happening, please.”
Taehyung opened his mouth but nothing came out, his eyebrows furrowing after multiple attempts. He appeared receptive, like he could hear Jimin but not communicate. Jimin’s heart twisted every time he tried.
Jimin placed his hand on the glass, trying to convey his feelings through touch. Taehyung mirrored him, their hands pressed together and Jimin would’ve believed they were touching if not for the chill of his fingertips. The millimetre between felt like an abyss, one Jimin was close to falling into.
Jimin’s voice was low, like he was scared of the world intervening, “What are you doing here?”
Taehyung opened his mouth again. This time a red haze spilled from his lips. It curled around his throat, Taehyung wincing at the pain and Jimin bit his lip until it bled. He dreaded the consequence of breaking the glass, but it was such a tantalising thought he struggled to stop himself.
Instead, he tried to catch Taehyung’s attention, bringing him back from the ache. “If it hurts, don’t.”
Jimin didn’t know if what he was looking at was even Taehyung, whatever it was an excellent replica even down to the details of his moles. Jimin wished he could kiss them one final time, the one on his nose his favourite.
Taehyung kept his mouth shut from then onwards, trying to communicate with Jimin through his eyes. They were raw, Jimin losing himself in their depth. He could taste Taehyung’s sadness on his tongue, could feel it enveloping his body in a cascading assault. It left Jimin feeling more alive than he had in months, nobody ever able to make him feel that way expect the man in front of him.
“It is you, it has to be you.” Jimin studied Taehyung’s face, lingering on his long eyelashes. They were always so soft on his skin, “Or at least, some part of you.”
Jungkook took that moment to transform, his feet landing hard and loud on the floorboards and breaking Jimin from his reverie. He had rushed, evident from the stray, inky feathers on his arm. His dark eyes tearful at the sight of Taehyung, “Jimin-ah, what is this?”
Jimin thought of the mist that constricted Taehyung and broke his protection runes, of the nefarious nature of the box. Deep down he knew this wasn't Taehyung, at least not Taehyung in his entirety. This was not the solid, warm body Jimin knew, the body Jimin had buried.
He thought of the various emotions swirling inside him, of his conflicting thoughts and sheer confusion and grief. His heart sank at the realisation, eyeing off a book to his right. Jimin’s body was fading into numbness, his voice barely audible past the ringing in his ears, “It’s a curse.”
Jungkook was taken aback, his mouth agape, “Who would do this?”
Jimin shook his head, unable to answer the longer he stared into Taehyung’s eyes. He covered his mouth and leaned into his hand, not wanting Taehyung to see the quiver of his lips. A droplet on his fingernail was the first indication that he’s started to cry, and Jimin wondered how he’d lasted that long.
He felt a hand rubbing his back, and Jimin allowed himself to believe it was Taehyung’s hand.
The night that followed was one of the worst in a long while.
Jimin couldn’t move from in front of the mirror, too scared Taehyung would disappear if he looked away for even a moment. Jungkook tried to coax him away with food and water, the steaming pork leaving Jimin’s stomach roiling, but he remained steadfast.
His legs were uncooperative. Jimin wondered if they remembered the day they lost Taehyung as vividly as he did. It had to be why they refused to move. Either that, or the awful cramps that wracked his muscles. He welcomed the pain as it kept him awake, Jimin using every second to try to understand the conundrum of the mirror.
But he could barely think, Jimin sucked into Taehyung’s every breath, and every blink. Old memories resurfaced in waves, as strong as a hurricane and just as devastating. Days filled with joy, and laughter. Nights filled with emotion, and something so raw it was indescribable. Years of love, months of company, weeks of pain.
A cruel part of Jimin told him this was merely a demon taunting him. A crueler part of Jimin told him Taehyung would be trapped in the mirror forever. Admitting his terror was out of the question, but admitting his fear of being unable to help Taehyung stung all that much deeper.
After hours of brooding Jimin managed to crawl to a bookshelf, busying himself with explanations instead of Taehyung’s solemn face.
“Have you figured out who did this?”
It was early in the morning. The apartment was still dark, the clouds unforgiving on the sun. Jimin was rested against the bookshelf, surrounded by dead ends and regret.
He’d come to the realisation a few hours prior. Jimin had been unable to look at Taehyung afterwards, too sickly to even try.
Jungkook spared Jimin a quick glance. He was bemused, like he thought Jimin had misheard him, “I said have you figured out who cast the curse...”
“It was me, Jungkookie,” Jimin motioned to the mirror halfheartedly, barely able to hold his head up. “I did it.”
The room descended into silence, Jimin unsure of Jungkook’s reaction. He was quiet, unbearably so, and Jimin took that as his cue to explain further no matter how little strength he had left. The words were heavy, his mouth sluggish, and Jimin’s fluttering eyes begged for sleep.
“It’s a manifestation of my grief.” Jimin closed his eyes, finally letting his head loll forward, “I don’t fully understand how, it’s rare but it’s possible.” Jungkook settled on the floor next to him. He was close enough that Jimin could run his fingers through his hair, the repetition grounding.
“I found it in one of my oldest texts.” Jimin pointed with his free hand to a large, decrepit book at the other side of the apartment. Jimin had thrown it like it burned him, “If grief is strong enough it can bring back a loved one’s energy, and that energy can take a number of forms.
“I guess I wanted to see Taehyung so bad that-” Jimin’s voice cracked, “-his energy took the form of a mirror.”
“So… it is Taehyung? Or at least partially,” Jungkook’s voice sounded far away, like he was flying high above Jimin’s head. “It’s not a demon or anything bad. That’s good, right? We can work with that.”
“The curse is cruel, Jungkookie,” Jimin swallowed hard, fearing uttering the words out loud. That would make them real. “Taehyung’s soul is in pain, the longer his energy is in that mirror the worse it gets. He’s not at rest, not until we break it.”
Jungkook, most likely having felt Jimin’s intense concoction of emotions, decided to crawl closer to him. He rested his head on Jimin’s lap, the latter continuing to stroke his hair. He wanted to draw from Jungkook’s strength, but he was far too exhausted to do so.
“Does this help you with breaking it?”
“Not really. There were no spells, nothing I could find that could alleviate his pain. It’s like everyone who has dealt with this have just… given up.” I can’t do that, was left unsaid. Jungkook heard it and sniffled, his arms coiling around Jimin’s stomach.
There was no one on earth who knew Jimin better, no one who could possibly understand the love Jimin had felt (and still felt) for Taehyung. He experienced it firsthand, heart beating in tandem with Jimin’s whenever Taehyung smiled at him, emulating the sun itself. He knew it was eating away at Jungkook just as it was eating away at him, the pair of them drowning, enveloped by the pressure.
“We’ll figure it out,” Jungkook’s voice was so quiet, so delicate that Jimin waited for it to break. “You’ll figure it out.”
“What if I don’t?”
Jungkook didn’t have an answer for him.
Instinctively, Jimin searched out Taehyung. He was watching Jimin closely, eyes shimmering, and he had that look on his face. It was a look that spoke of trust, and respect, and Jimin wasn’t prepared to let Taehyung down. The mere idea of having to break the glass of the mirror sent his nerve ends on fire, and Jimin curled into Jungkook’s embrace a fraction tighter.
They stayed there for hours, forgetting the world and the mirror for as long as they could.
Jungkook spent the following days hunting for information.
Jimin gave him a list of witches who could possibly help them, located far and wide with decades and centuries of expertise. There were a few located in Seoul, Min Yoongi the furthest in Daegu, and Jimin hated having to bother them. He doubted they would know anything more than what the ancient tome revealed, but Jimin needed something to cling to.
He couldn’t recall how many times he’d read over the passage about the curse, Jimin more than able to recite it in his sleep. He spoke of it like a rhyme, whispering its secrets as he waded around the house, doing anything in his power to not glance at the mirror. He toyed with covering it with a cloth, but thought it mighty harsh on Taehyung.
Taehyung didn’t do much. On the odd occasion Jimin did sneak a glance he was already staring at him, peach hair seeming to get messier as the days passed. There were no obvious afflictions, nothing for Jimin to have a meltdown over. But Jimin knew Taehyung better than himself. The twist of his lips spoke volumes of his anguish, and a lifetime ago Jimin would have kissed him to relieve it.
Jungkook returned one afternoon with an emerald in his beak. It was jagged, and coarse, like it had been ripped clean from the rock. Jimin took it gingerly, noting how heavy it was in his hand. After transforming Jungkook informed him that it was a gift from Yoongi. He’d charmed it in the hopes of counteracting the red haze that forbid Taehyung from speaking, and sent his warmest regards to the pair.
With the emerald in front of the mirror Jimin waited. He sat wide eyed and expectant beside Jungkook, whose eyes had never looked so tired. It was a tiredness that was bone deep, a tiredness Jimin reflected when Taehyung opened his mouth and the red haze continued to choke him. They kept the crystal by the mirror just in case, but Jimin knew it was futile.
Hope, as it turned out, was a fragile thing, and Jimin’s was fading fast.
Jimin didn’t answer. Jungkook had felt the sadness from the kitchen, the short distance down the hall doing nothing to alleviate the pressure building in his chest. Jungkook had tried to prepare himself for what he knew he’d witness, the scathing tea spilling onto his hands with how he trembled. It didn’t help him cope with what he saw.
Jimin was standing in front of his desk, staring at something. Jungkook followed his gaze, heart plummeting. Jimin was looking at a photo frame on his desk, one that he’d placed face down months ago. The last photo Taehyung and Jimin had taken together was now standing proudly. Even without knowing them the photo radiated happiness, a joy scarcely captured.
Barbed wire coiled around Jungkook’s throat and he willed his tears back. “I made you tea,” he spoke quietly, placing the cup on the bedside table.
Jimin wasn’t listening, standing frozen in the centre of the room. It felt like an eternity before he acknowledged Jungkook’s presence, and a part of Jungkook wished he hadn’t.
“I would do anything, Kook,” the sorrow and defeat in Jimin’s voice made him flinch. Jimin’s emotions were always so loud, near intolerable at times when they coursed into his own veins. Jungkook was unable to fathom how one person could hold so much grief. “Just to see him alive as he used to be, one last time.”
Jungkook hummed a response, unsure if he’d be able to speak coherently. He moved forward, easily scooping Jimin in his arms. Words couldn't do anything, not now, and perhaps not ever. Jungkook didn’t say a word the week that followed Taehyung’s death, and Jimin had never pressured him to try.
Jimin covered his face, curling in closer to Jungkook’s warmth, “The last time I saw him he was just… not Tae, you know? I-I’d like my last memory to be when he was happy, not when he was sick.” Jungkook closed his eyes. He was crying for the both of them, the melancholy too much to bear.
“The mirror’s not the same,” Jimin started on a tangent, Jungkook stroking his back through it. “It’s Taehyung but… it’s not like he’s going to walk through that door if… when the curse is broken. He’s not really there, it’s just his energy taking his face… dammit.”
Jimin abruptly pulled out of his hold, Jungkook only now noticing he was clad in Taehyung’s favourite knitted sweater. It was green and much too big for Jimin (it was always too big on Taehyung), practically swallowing him whole. It no longer smelt like Taehyung, and it was a sobering thought.
“I was just starting to find my feet again.” Jimin’s eyes were red and puffy, his orange hair messier than Jungkook had seen it, “I felt like I was getting through the tunnel but now, now we’re right back where we started. He’s here, he’s stuck, and there’s nothing that can help him. We keep trying, I’m trying so fucking hard and there’s nothing.
“Tae is dead,” Jimin was wounded by his own words, his arms winding around his body to protect the chasm Taehyung’s absence had carved. “He’s dead and he’s not coming back. He’s right there but I can’t touch him, I can’t even hear his voice. He’s not coming back to me.”
The way Jimin’s face crumbled was heartbreaking. Jungkook struggled to stand on his shaky legs, and he could feel the feathers that itched to break skin. He was close to passing out, Jimin’s grief taking his heart and squeezing dangerously, breathlessly. He embraced Jimin like he was his foundation, fearing the result if they didn’t use each other for stability.
Jimin’s wails rivalled the day they’d lost Taehyung. Jungkook wished he could reach into the mirror and pull Taehyung out if it, safe and sound and breathing. Jungkook wished he could fill Jimin’s ears with soothing promises and tell Jimin everything would be okay in the end.
Jungkook wished he was a good liar.
Jimin couldn’t understand how he’d missed the torn page.
After perhaps his hundredth reading of the passage, he noticed the small bit of paper trapped in the gutter of the old text. He traced it with his finger, the tear no bigger than his smallest fingernail, but it told him all he needed to know. A page was missing, a page with answers, and the hope that had faded flickered back to life with renewed vigour.
It took a simple spell to revive it. The smell of dusty, old books gathered in his nose, and Jimin sneezed. When he opened his eyes he was met with a new page, restored and hopefully with the information he needed. It had been a week and a half, and Jimin was willing to try anything.
The incantation was deceptively simple. Jimin sat himself in front of the mirror, Taehyung taking in the scene with curious eyes. Jimin did his best to ignore the way his heart stuttered, especially when he had to focus. He lifted himself off the ground, hovering mid air with multiple books following. The passage he needed was open in front of him, the words highlighted.
It may have been unwise to try any magic without Jungkook by his side, especially when he hadn’t exerted himself in so long, but Jimin was blind in his pursuit. He cleared his throat, cracked his neck, and sent a prayer to his ancestors. Jimin thought of Taehyung’s smile, and invitingly warm presence, and grit his teeth.
The words flowed easily from his lips, ancient and melodic. With time there was a certain roughness to them, the sentences guttural and scathing and barely Korean. The words sounded from another word entirely. Jimin kept his eyes open, hoping to catch any changes in the mirror. Quietly, he hoped to be able to say a proper goodbye to Taehyung this time around.
Minutes passed, and nothing happened. Taehyung remained unchanged, as did the mirror. Jimin tried again. He spoke the words with more passion, enunciated certain phrases more harshly and imagined Taehyung being laid to rest as vividly as he could. Still, there was only more of the awful same.
After the fourth attempt, Jimin knew he’d failed.
He collapsed in front of the mirror, losing the pages he’d marked in his books as everything came tumbling down with him. His knees hit the floorboards hard but Jimin paid it no mind, struggling to breathe through the forming lump in his throat. His lips trembled, body wracked with similar tremors and Jimin refused to look at Taehyung.
He knew what he would say if he could speak.
Jiminie, it’s okay, don’t be so hard on yourself.
You’re doing your best, I trust you.
I love you.
Jimin shuddered, having expected tender hands to stroke his cheeks as they used to. He was met with no warmth of the sort, not that he deserved the comfort anyway.
“God, Tae,” Jimin’s face was pulled into a tight grimace, his shoulders bearing the weight of his sadness. “I don’t know what more to do.”
He finally dared a glance at Taehyung. He was kneeling, his hand pressed against the glass. His hair was astray like he’d been tugging the strands, tears gathered in his long eyelashes.
The lump in his throat was a razor. Jimin choked on a sob as he curled in on himself, rolling away from the mirror as best he could. One of the many books was resting uncomfortably by his neck but Jimin didn’t care, the only thing on his mind Taehyung’s despairing face.
He was unsure how long he laid there, wallowing in his shame, but a loud part of Jimin wanted to desperately to see Taehyung. It was enough for him to clamber to his knees. Taehyung brightened upon seeing him, his smile watery, and for a second Jimin could picture a simpler time.
He pictured Taehyung coming home for a long shift at the antique shop, his glasses covered in grime and his arms full of small treasures he’d later scatter around the apartment. He’d kiss Jimin on the forehead as he passed the bed, speaking of the peculiar customers he’d encountered. He pictured Taehyung confessing his love for him that same night, the words as delicate as the flower he’d planted on their windowsill, so ready to bloom and be alive.
“You were always better at breaking curses than I ever was.” Jimin traced Taehyung’s face, the glass cool on his fingertips. Taehyung fell into his touch, his eyes as teary as his own, “You always knew what to do, always knew exactly what to say. I wish you-” Jimin choked on his words, not bothering to finish his sentence. Taehyung couldn’t help him, without his voice he could only watch Jimin fail over and over with those sad eyes of his.
“You deserve more than this.” You deserve more than me.
Taehyung shook his head, and Jimin bit his lip hard. Taehyung pointed to Jimin, his tears flowing freely down his full cheeks. He repeated the motion over and over, going from his heart to his head and finally back to Jimin. Taehyung grew emotional, hitting his chest and head so hard Jimin darted forward, instinctively trying to reach for him.
“Tae,” Jimin cried, waving his hands frantically. “Stop it, stop. I don’t understand, I’m sorry.”
The red haze spilled from Taehyung’s mouth, but this time Taehyung was unperturbed. His jaw ticked, and as the smoke drifted he used his hand to manipulate it. It soon occured to Jimin Taehyung was spelling something out, the characters barely legible but eventually enough.
The wisps spelt, let go of me, and Jimin inhaled sharply.
“You know I can’t do that,” he said, “don’t make me do that.”
Taehyung opened his mouth again, and scrawled some more. The first spelt, grow, the final read, embrace. It was all too much, Jimin ached for Jungkook’s grounding presence.
He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, Jimin’s hot breath fogging up the mirror. He wiped it away languidly, resting his forehead on it. It soothed his skin, and Jimin counted to ten in Korean, then Japanese before lifting up his head. Taehyung watched him with so much intensity Jimin almost toppled over. He read something in his eyes he wished he misunderstood.
“You want me to forget you?” In the days that followed Taehyung’s death Jimin had thought of a memory spell, but had ultimately broken down before he had the chance. The memories hurt, they ached so badly, but Jimin didn’t want to forget. And neither did Taehyung, as he shook his head, begging the haze back.
I want you to live.
“Not without you, I can’t.”
I need you to.
Jimin begged the ancient text closer. He reread the passage, frowning as one word seemed to repeat itself. Acceptance. The weight of it was daunting, its importance even more so. Easier said than done was an expression that came to Jimin’s mind, tendrils of orange hair falling over his sweaty forehead as he hiccuped.
“It don’t think I can ever accept that you’re gone.”
Taehyung’s smile was a small thing, but the way it enveloped Jimin’s entire being was monumental. With a shaky hand, he wrote, you are strong. Taehyung collected himself with a shake of the head, blinking through his tears, I’ll always be here. His shoulders were soon to shake like he was laughing, and Jimin didn't believe it until he read, I’m still waiting for those biscuits.
Jimin smothered his sob with his hand, and he didn’t trust the smile that bloomed on his face. It seemed both out of place and all too fitting, Taehyung able to bring out the best of him even in his worst moments. Jimin turned to face the photo frame of the two of them, and with Taehyung looking at him the way he was it didn’t hurt as much as it did before. The pang was more of a single strum than an orchestra. There, just not as painful.
When Jimin turned back to face the mirror he startled, his jolt full bodied.
Taehyung was where he left him, although now he was tangible. Sitting in the mirror, his arms stretched outside of it, he didn’t seem so far away. Jimin’s mouth gaped open, wonder in his eyes. Taehyung’s outstretched hand was moving so slow and timid, like he was wading through water, or expecting to touch glass like he had so many times before.
Taehyung’s hand was warm as it stroked Jimin’s cheek, and Jimin melted. “I couldn’t be prouder, Min,” his voice was like honey, dripping into the chasms of Jimin’s gaping chest. “I’m so lucky you loved me.”
“Love,” Jimin begged, the sad smile on his face threatening to tear him in two. “I love you, always.”
The warmth in Jimin’s cheek stayed even as Taehyung pulled away. He drifted back into the mirror, the red haze transforming to gold. It covered Taehyung’s body slowly, coating him carefully and letting Jimin drink up every last inch of him. Jimin could taste his tears when the gold reached Taehyung’s face. It lingered, giving Jimin just a few more moments before Taehyung disappeared into the empty mirror.
Jimin was left alone in the apartment, and yet he didn’t feel so alone. His face lit up as he gazed towards the windowsill, feeling the yellow rays of the sunset grace his skin. Jimin’s eyes watered when he noticed the speck of green, the rosemary that hadn’t grown for months sprouting again. It was both a goodbye and hello, and Jimin took a steadying breath.
Jimin made sure to put one aside when he finally baked rosemary biscuits.