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Fated

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The place is magical.  

The wooden floors, ancient but maintained, are nearly a meter higher than the ground, and he needs to jump over or look for the stairs. Pillars of dark wood, the same material as the floor, stand tall, supporting high ceilings. The doors are all slide doors, made of wood and some cloth that is thick enough to hide details but one can still see shadows from behind it when the sky is dark and the room is illuminated.

He walks around the temple, eyes wide, smile big and uncontained. He’s spending the summer before he takes over a higher position in their company here, with a far related branch of his family. It was a suggestion from his father, who noticed how much stress Seokjin was under (or perhaps grew stressed from Seokjin) and Seokjin had reluctantly agreed to take the short trip from Incheon to Bukchon Hanok village. Now that he’s here, relatively far from the chatter of tourists navigating the old city, he admires the traditional Pagoda roofs, breathes in the scent of old wood then agrees with his father. Coming here was a good idea.

The yards and gardens of the temple are a wonder of their own. Flowers in full bloom, arranged in several places, planted to be in the shape of circles and often surrounded by rocks to give a natural look. A small stream cuts through the temple grounds; two red bridges arch over it even though it’s small enough to skip. Seokjin’s heart settles and the remaining traces of exhaustion from his last case evaporate. 

A construction zone in the western area sends knocking and hammering to Seokjin’s ears as he walks to the main entrance.

Hurried footsteps, then several voices, one in particular catches his attention. Something like an excited squeal, a high pitched, happy voice. 

The door slides open and a small man smiles at him, full lips and full cheeks, his eyes have completely disappeared into crescents. His hair is fluffy, dyed bright orange and he’s wearing an oversized white shirt and black jeans. 

“You must be Kim Seokjin-ssi,” he says, he’s the owner of the high pitched voice. “I’m Park Jimin and-”

Before he can finish, someone jumps to hug him from the back. The newcomer is taller than Jimin by a few centimeters, hair jet black and eyes big, he hooks his chin over Jimin’s shoulder and pulls him close, then looks at Seokjin and offers a smile.

“Jeon Jeongguk,” he introduces. 

“Kids, leave him be!” A voice booms. Jimin and Jeongguk separate, and a tall man -not really older than the ‘kids’- appears with an apologetic smile and two dimples. Seokjin smiles back at him. The man has short, brown hair styled as messy spikes, he’s wearing thick rimmed glasses and he sighs long and loud as he turns to Jeongguk and chastises him about his inappropriate behavior in front of visitors. 

“I’m sorry. I’m Kim Namjoon, I’m kinda the manager here. You must be Seokjin-ssi, your father called me. I hope these two didn’t cause you trouble.” Namjoon bows and Seokjin does the same.

“No trouble at all. I’m the one inconveniencing you by dropping here.” 

The two guys duck their heads, their cheeks pink. Seokjin knows shame when he sees it, feels a familiar shame in his gut. “And you two are very cute,” he adds, watching as Jimin and Jeongguk lift their heads to give him a happy expression. The line of Namjoon’s shoulders relaxes, and his dimples make a reappearance.

“Oh no, no. Your family owns the place, we all just work here.” Namjoon leads him inside. A long corridor made of wood and lit by several lanterns fixed to the walls. Curiosity takes root in his chest and Namjoon smiles at him.

“We don’t use electricity here, part of keeping the place as it is. Our living quarters are a large house that isn’t a part of the temple, but is connected to it, you can choose to occupy a room in the temple or we can give you the guest room in our house, if you want.”

Seokjin has a feeling the room offer isn’t extended to all the guests, and he doesn’t know if it’s his readily acceptance of Jimin and Jeongguk or if it’s his relation to the owner of the place.

“Whatever is easier for you guys,” Seokjin replies. Namjoon laughs.

“It can be hard living here with no electricity, only candles at night and no internet connection. I’ll tell them to prepare the guest room.”

“Actually,” Seokjin starts, looking around the place. “I think I want the full ‘living in the past’ experience.”

Namjoon stops walking to look at him with raised eyebrows, then he smiles, dimples dotting his cheeks. “Of course. You seem like a very nice person, Seokjin-ssi.” 

“Thank you. You, too.”

They lead him to the room at the end of the hall, it’s spacious and mostly empty, a futon on the ground, a closet and to the side, a low table with a seating mat. On the table an oil lamp, candles, an inkwell, a brush and some papers.

The room has many windows, all of which are opened and letting in enough light to illuminate the place, the air is clean and refreshing and Seokjin breathes in deeply, relishing the smell of grass and wet dirt. 

“This place is gorgeous.” 

A loud set of footsteps echoes, running towards him, then someone calls “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh,” in a singsong way. Namjoon shakes his head just as the door slides open.

“Yahoo! Welcome!” The skinny, over excited man dances into the room and grabs Seokjin’s hand, shaking it as he babbles, “I’m Jung Hoseok, but they call me J-hope, I’m so glad to have you here, hyung. Can I call you hyung, by the way? I heard you’re two years older than me. And already a very accomplished lawyer, that’s very impressive!”

Seokjin’s smile drops, but he nods at Hoseok, not wanting to look rude. “Thank you for having me here.”

“We’re happy to! A lot of people visit in the evenings, but rarely to stay, and frankly I’m getting bored of these idiots.” He points with his thumb at Namjoon, who huffs and crosses his arms. Seokjin knows that he’s also including Jimin and Jeongguk with “idiots”

“You’re sleeping here, but you’ll have your meals with us, and in case you get scared alone, or you want to catch the civilization and connect to the net, you’re welcome back in the house. Let’s arrange your things here, and I’ll show you around, alright?” 

Seokjin’s drained just listening to Hoseok talk this fast, and his smile is a bit too bright. He dyed his hair brilliant red, cut like a bowl, his fringe falling over his eyes, giving his head the shape of a strawberry. He’s friendly, if a bit over excited. Seokjin likes all four of them. 

True to Hoseok’s word, the four help Seokjin unpack and settle in, then Hoseok takes him around the temple. The place is big even when it’s smaller than the more popular temples. A huge hall is meant for worship and holding ceremonies, in the back there’s a wooden stage, old-fashioned musical instruments lined on the far end of it. Jimin and Jeongguk are there, fixing up ribbons and lanterns. 

Jimin waves at him. “You’re coming tonight, right? We do a traditional dance show almost every night during summer, get tons of tourists!” 

“I’ll be here,” Seokjin answers.

“Great! The place looks stunning during the night, all the candles and the lat-

“Jimin-ssiiiee! Go back to work,” Jeongguk scolds playfully. Jimin salutes, throws Seokjin a smile before he turns to fix the decoration in his hand to the wall. “Jeonggukie, don’t be scary,” he says, and Jeongguk mock growls at him, making him giggle. 

It’s long perfected, comfortable banter and Seokjin misses Yoongi. He can only be this comfortable with his best friend. 

“Come on!” Hoseok calls. They continue their tour around the temple, passing through the gardens again, and past the construction site. Hoseok warns him from going there, saying that the ceiling is in danger of collapsing and the workers aren’t anywhere near done fixing it.

 


 

Just as Jimin promised, the place is indeed stunning at night. Lit by gentle fire from the numerous hanged lanterns and the scattered candles on the floor, and the dramatic torches. A big crowd has gathered in front of the stage, most of them foreigners. Seokjin stands near the wings, closer to the performers than anyone else. Beside him Namjoon is talking to one of the many musicians as they prepare to go on stage. 

Tambourines sound, then loud drums and high pitched flutes, the melody intimidating as if announcing war. A number of performers, dressed in a modern rendition of the traditional Korean clothes, wearing masks and carrying wooden swords mount the stage. They beat with their feet, standing side by side until they form a long row, pulling their swords out they point, and with a sudden movement they all fall to the ground. A graceful dancer jumps over them, and the crowd cheers. 

The dancer is Hoseok, dressed in something similar to traditional clothes, but cut to be more suitable for movement. He dances, leaps and powerful moves, breathtaking performance, then from the inside of his jacket, he pulls out a big fan and throws it to the side. 

Jimin catches the fan Hoseok has thrown and opens it. He waves it around him, twirls with his neck curved back, then falls back, letting the dancers catch him and turn him in the air. They put him down again, and he leads a stunning dance with the fans, his movements fluid and beautiful. 

He closes the fan, the back dancers form something like a chair and before he takes a seat, he unties a white ribbon that was fastened to his belt and throws it to the side. 

Fire effects explode, and another group of dancers flock the stage, Jeongguk appears in the middle, holding two large white ribbons. He dances in complete contrast to Jimin, while Jimin is smooth and subtle, Jeongguk is intense and powerful. The two performances following each other is something stunning, Seokjin’s heart rises with the drums. On the stage Jeongguk is doing a series of leaps and twirls, like he’s fighting, the dancers swirling around him like he’s controlling them. They lift him up and one of them presents him with a mask, and he covers his face with it in the dramatic finale. 

The torches are all put down together, then they are lit again and all the dancers, led by Hoseok, Jimin and Jeongguk stand in a row to bow to the crowd that has gone absolutely insane with cheering. Seokjin is no different, he claps and shouts until his hands are red and his throat is raw, light and excited and inspired. These three are beyond skilled. 

The crowd dwindles, scattering around to see what else the city has to offer them, Seokjin climbs the stage with Namjoon.

“You are amazing!” he gushes. Hoseok smiles at him, while Jimin runs to hug him. 

“Impressed?” Jeongguk asks. Seokjin nods fervently.

“Very! That was...Wow!” 

Namjoon laughs at his reaction, extending a hand he asks: “Want me to take you a picture with them on the stage?”

Seokjin hands his phone, and the dancers line up. He stands in the middle, Jeongguk and Jimin on his right and Hoseok on his left, many backup dancers behind them. Namjoon snaps several pictures. 

Most of the dancers scatter, carrying the musical instruments or removing the hanged lanterns. Seokjin helps them clean up the stage despite Namjoon’s insistence that he doesn’t have to. 

They have dinner in the house they kept talking about. It’s a two storey house, built in the old style, but furnished modernly. There are four rooms: Namjoon’s, Hoseok’s, and Jimin shares the master room with Jeongguk. The fourth is a guest room on the second floor, that according to Namjoon was Jeongguk’s before he and Jimin got together and decided they wanted to sleep in the same bed. 

Namjoon thanks him for his comment to Jimin and Jeongguk, says that the few staying guests they had before weren’t so nice, and once again offers the extra room to him. Seokjin likes them, but he isn’t keen to break their privacy or his. No one was hurt from some lack of luxuries, no electricity could be good for him.

They share a lot of stories over dinner. They share some of themselves with Seokjin. Hoseok and Jimin have been friends forever, both of them took dancing classes in Seoul since they were seventeen and moved here with the job opportunity although Hoseok speaks wistfully of the city, like he might want to go back someday. Jeongguk has recently finished college. He studied photography, and filmmaking and he took dance on the side. Jimin jokingly adds that Jeongguk does everything on the side, from drawing and painting to taekwondo to near professional pottery. 

Namjoon has a business degree, Jeongguk brags about it like it’s his own. He tells Seokjin that Namjoon graduated with honor and got offered a position in a prestigious company. Namjoon steers the subject away from that and Seokjin doesn’t ask how he ended up here in a job that has nothing to do with his major.

Namjoon is a genius. He’s well versed in poetry, literature and history and he even writes poems. Some of them are published under his pen name RM. Seokjin remembers reading one in a magazine once, and he was quite impressed. 

Seokjin offers some information about himself; finishing law school and joining his father’s firm. All the pressure of inheriting it that pushed him to near breakdown and made his father suggest he spend some time away. He leaves out the real reason he’s so against inheriting the company, but the way they all look at him tells him they understand there’s more to it. Luckily, none of them asks. 

“And?” Namjoon asks, “Do you like it here?”

“Yes, I do,” Seokjin says, surprise in his tone. “I was hesitant about this, but I feel better already.” He smiles at Namjoon, who returns it, dimples denting his cheeks. 

Hoseok takes them a selfie with the empty dishes just because. Seokjin sends the photos to Yoongi. 

Yoongi instantly crops the photo so only Hoseok is there and captions it with:

Who’s the eye candy?

Seokjin rolls his eyes. 

Way out of your league, loser.

Give me his number or I will block your ass.

No :)

Fuck you, Kim Seokjin. 

Another eye roll, and he closes the chat. When he lifts his face, there are four pairs of glittering eyes, and suggestive smiles.

“That’s your girl?” Namjoon asks. Seokjin snorts.

“It’s my best friend. I sent him some pictures, and he’s planning to embarrass me already.”

“Oh?” Hoseok asks. 

“He’s actually asking for your number, I’m sorry.” 

Hoseok’s brows lift up “Is he hot?”

“Eh. I guess he’s more grumpy-cute?” Seokjin gets his phone out to show him some pictures, Hoseok makes a give me gesture with his hand and he passes the phone over.

“Oh my God. Give him my number right now.”

Jimin slaps Hoseok’s arms, “You’re so easy.” Hoseok wordlessly shows the phone to Jimin. 

Jimin lets out a thoughtful hum and nods. “Not my type but I get it.”

Before he sends the number, Seokjin gets a promise out of Yoongi that he owes him forever. He takes a screenshot of the conversation in case Yoongi tries to deny it later. 

He goes to sleep in his room in the temple with a light chest and a smile on his face. There’s a lot to worry about when the summer is over but right now as he pulls the covers to his chin and stares at the wooden ceiling he’s in a fantasy world and all his fears are miles away, tucked in a metaphorical box somewhere in Inochen. 

 


 

He wakes up from a vague dream. His throat is dry and his ears are ringing. He doesn’t recall what he’s seen, but there was someone there, trapped, calling for help. He scrunches his nose, rubs his face. He reaches for the bottle of water he’s set beside his futon before he’d gone to sleep and gulps the water down, closing his eyes and enjoying the coolness against his raw throat. He feels like he’s been screaming. His skin pebbles, and he shivers. There’s nothing in the room, and yet when he closes his eyes he hears whispers of a far away song.

There’s a bitter sweetness to it. Voice dripped in honey, deep and melancholic Seokjin’s chest constricts. He removes the covers and lights a candle, then walks towards the sound. 

The song is coming from the eastern end of the temple. Seokjin moves on until he sees a silhouette of a man sitting on the thick railing. 

He steps closer, the person getting clearer as the clouds move and allows the moon to illuminate the way. 

Seokjin loses his breath. 

Chapter Text

 

The boy doesn’t stop his song, like he hasn’t noticed Seokjin at all. Seokjin is thankful, because he’s blatantly staring and he can’t avert his eyes just yet. The boy’s dressed in long jeogori and bajis, unlike Hoseok’s stage wardrobe, which was a modern take, this boy’s clothing is traditional. The jeogori is fixed to his body by a tight, wide belt that empathizes a small waist, reaching down near the boy’s ankles. It seems to be dark purple, with lines that might be golden. Seokjin can’t be sure with the dim light, everything has taken an edge of deep cerulean. 

The boy himself is a piece of art, the smooth lines of his profile, the way his pouty lips move to form the words. Seokjin can no longer hear the song, focusing only on the boy’s mouth as it gives shape to each word. A slow breeze blows, and the boy’s long locks float with it. It brushes against his delicate neck and he moves to tuck the wayward teresses behind his ear. His hair reaches just below his shoulder blades, looks dark brown highlighted with the silver light of the moon. Seokjin opens his mouth to ask the boy if he works here too, if he’s one of the dancers. What comes out is something else entirely. 

“Are you real?” He’s surprised at his words, never having expected to ask this question.

The boy startles, the song coming to a halt. The silence is abrupt and thick, Seokjin’s heart sounds louder that there’s nothing to cover it. The boy turns, and if his profile was stunning then facing him is quite literally breathtaking. Seokjin’s lungs squeeze, air disappears, he forgets how to draw it in. 

The boy looks around him, then back at Seokjin, brows furrowing and nose scrunching up. He stares at Seokjin and blinks his big eyes, then jumps down the railing and walks closer, eyes intent. Seokjin stands his ground, keeps looking at him.

“You can see me!” The boy exclaims. “You can? You can!”

“Em, yes?” 

“Oh gods!” The boy moves towards him, fast steps like he might be planning to throw himself at Seokjin. He does, and Seokjin opens his arms, ready to catch him but the boy passes right through him. 

Seokjin freezes. 

He turns around slowly, blood going cold in his veins. The boy is still there, and now that he’s standing he looks all the more ethereal, bathed in moonlight. 

Unreal. 

Goosebumps rise on Seokjin’s skin, his legs trembling as he rationalizes the situation with himself. He’s still dreaming, this isn’t a ghost, he’s seeing things. 

“So you can see and hear me, but I’m still like this,” the boy whispers, almost to himself. His expression is a mix of wonder and sadness, and Seokjin wants to talk to him. But this is not real. He’s sleep walking.

“My name is Kim Taehyung,” the boy says, bowing down then looking expectantly at Seokjin. Like Seokjin is going to answer this… schizophrenic hallucination.

Seokjin closes his eyes and concentrates on his breathing. This is the result of endless months of stress, it’s normal for it to show somehow. He’s fine. When he opens his eyes, the boy --he refuses to call him by his name, dammit-- is still there, head tilted to the side and considering Seokjin.

Shaking his head, Seokjin ignores it. He walks right through him and back to his room, steps resolved. Once he’s there, he curls under the cover, squeezes his eyes shut and forces his mind blank until he falls asleep. 

 


 

The sound of chirping penetrates the haze of his sleep. Sun rays filter through the white windows, warm light filling in the space. Seokjin groans and flips to his stomach, burying his face in his pillow. The tendrils of a dream tug at the edge of his mind, a vivid picture of a beautiful boy bathed in silver light. He bolts up, rubs his face with both palms then inspects the room. It’s quiet, nothing there but his belongings and his shadow. 

“I bid you a good morrow, my lord.”

He jumps to face the voice, pulling the covers up as protection. Taehyung is grinning at him, his expression one of soft delight and Seokjin feels like banging his dysfunctional head on the floor. 

“Lord?” he repeats, then clamps his mouth shut. He’s not an expert on hallucinations but talking to them doesn’t sound like a good idea. Taehyung answers, anyway. 

“Are these not your family’s lands?”

Seokjin stares at him, dressed in the same traditional costume from last night. Only Seokjin would make up a period-accurate imaginary friend. 

Pressing his lips into a thin line, Seokjin swears to ignore it until it goes away. Never mind that this particular plan has never worked for him before, he will make it work this time. It has to work, or else he’s officially lost his goddamn mind. He gets up, goes to prepare the old-fashioned bathroom, like Namjoon showed him last night. Bring the wood, start a fire, heat the water. Normally, physical tasks numb his mind, but Taehyung refuses to shut up and make it easy for Seokjin to ignore him. He talks about everything, shit that Seokjin didn’t think he even knew but obviously does or else where the fuck has hallucination gotten it from? Taehyung talks about the “modern design of the bathroom”, Seokjin’s faulty technique of cutting the wood, shows endless astonishment at the bottle of shampoo and tries to touch it but can’t. By the time Seokjin’s got the basin filled, he swears his nerves are being fried. 

“You’re too slow at this. Have you no servants? They must help their master,” Taehyung comments as Seokjin drags the giant wooden basin. Seokjin huffs and continues his work; struggling all the way.

“You should’ve moved it before filling it with water.”

Seokjin’s scowl only deepens. He strips aggressively, in his head he’s chanting that Taehyung isn’t real, because otherwise he’d never get this fucking bath done. The endless commentary ceases and Seokjin glances over his shoulder. Taehyung has turned his face aside, a blush covering his cheeks. 

A modest hallucination. Good job, Seokjin. 

He sits down and scoops some water, pours it over his head and shoulders. The heat seeping into his muscles relaxes him. A sound like a squeal but softer leaves Taehyung, he’s wide-eyed and red as he stares at Seokjin. Seokjin rolls his eyes at himself. He didn’t picture himself as the kind of pervert who would dream up a gorgeous boy and make him blush-y and cute. Taehyung’s existence attests to the contrary.

“I…” Taehyung starts, gulps, then averts his eyes, “I shall take my leave and. Yes, you finish.” He walks into the wall, leaving Seokjin with both eyebrows raised. He has no control over his delusion but damn, it’s polite and adorable. 

 


 

“Would you at least look at me? I beg of you, do not ignore me!” Taehyung follows him as he heads to the house to join the rest for breakfast. Taehyung sounds sad and confused, Seokjin refuses to turn and look at him. 

“Morning!” he greets, a bit more cheerful than necessary. Hoseok steps in to give him a hug. Seokjin sputters at the casual invasion of his personal space but he pats Hoseok’s back. Jimin and Jeongguk wave at the same time.

“Namjoon-hyung will be here in a second,” Jimin says, setting a plate for Seokjin. “Vegetable omelet okay? I also made fried rice with eggs.”

“Yes, that’s great. Thank you.” He sits down. From behind him Taehyung gasps. Seokjin bites his lips, resisting the urge to ask or turn around to see what’s the matter.

“How is this house real? What is this!” Taehyung blurs in his side vision, staring at the stove then sticking his head through the refrigerator's door. “Lord Seokjin, this thing has food in it!” 

Seokjin had hoped someone would make a comment on Taehyung, but none of them sees or hears him. Taehyung continues to express his wonder over everything, pointing and asking.

“Good morning.” Namjoon enters the kitchen, he steps right through Taehyung on his way to his chair. Taehyung complains about not being solid and Seokjin’s head starts to throb. 

“Okay, so,” Seokjin starts awkwardly, “what do you guys think about ghosts?”

Jeongguk lifts an eyebrow and shoves another chunk of eggs into his mouth. Jimin shrugs. 

Hoseok pales. “Ah, hyung. I hate the ghost talk.” 

“Why do you ask?” Namjoon says.

“Just trying to open a conversation. Temples are old and stuff. You guys never heard anything?” He hopes someone else is seeing ghosts too. 

“Did you hear something?” Hoseok looks ill, he’s checking his sides suspiciously, like he’s expecting something to jump him. 

“I’m not a ghost,” Taehyung says. Seokjin risks a glance at him. He’s got his arms crossed, pout on his lips and nose scrunched. The perfect picture of sulking.

“I’m just asking, I want an interesting story to tell when I go home.” 

“Hmm, can’t say we have that kind of legend in this place. Sorry, hyung,” Namjoon apologizes. 

Seokjin waves him off and gives his full attention to his food, trying to not look at Taehyung walking around and putting his head through cupboards and drawers. It’s deeply disturbing. The clicking of the cutlery fills the kitchen, blissful silence. 

“I don’t feel hunger anymore,” Taehyung whispers. Seokjin lets out a long sigh.

“You all right?” Jimin asks.

“Yes, I’m good.” Despite his words, he can’t bring himself to finish the food. Taehyung’s eyes are dim and his lips press in a thin line.

“I’m full. Thanks for the meal.”

Jimin averts his gaze to Seokjin’s half full plate then back up at him but he doesn’t speak. Jeongguk takes the plate and empties it into his own. Jimin slaps him on the arm.

“What! He doesn’t want it.”

Jimin shakes his head, gives an apologetic smile to Seokjin.

“He’s right, I don’t want it.” He picks the empty plate up and goes to wash it in the sink. Taehyung points and marvels at the fucking faucet. 

Seokjin feels something building up in his chest, the urge to scream mounting along and Taehyung keeps talking, his words blurring until they’re a buzz in Seokjin’s ears. 

“My lord, I think you’re--”

“Shut up already!” 

The chatter behind him dies down. He spoke to Taehyung, with four people around to witness his crazy outburst. The plate in his hand is shaking, his hand is shaking as he dries the plate and places it back. 

“I’m sorry,” he says without turning.

“That’s okay,” Namjoon replies but he sounds confused. Surprised. Seokjin squares his shoulders and faces them. Jimin’s brows are knitted together, Jeongguk’s eyes have a shine to them and he’s chewing his lip. Hoseok with his cheeks sucked in, and Namjoon looking at him with his head tilted to the side. 

“I...Can I get the Wi-Fi password? I need to open my laptop.” They nod at him in scary sync. No one is calling him crazy or rude but they throw him glances as they move around the kitchen. 

Hoseok scribbles the password down on a stick-it note, then they tell him they have to move along to set up for tonight’s performance. 

He gets the laptop. Taehyung stands behind him, peering over Seokjin’s shoulder. Once he opens the browser, Taehyung gasps.

“What sorcery is this?” 

Seokjin rubs at his temples. He’s losing it, he’s completely out of his fucking mind. 

The more logical conclusion is that he’s got some mental thing going on, so he looks up auditory and visual hallucination. Article after article informs him about spectrums of hallucinations, nothing close to what he’s got but doctors insist that there are no concrete rules and every patient is his individual, unique case. Which is to say, the articles don’t help at all. He’s got none of the usual associated symptoms of any disease that causes hallucination, he’s only got Taehyung. Frustrated, he closes the tabs and starts another search.

Ghosts. 

He’s halfway through an article about people who claim to have touched the paranormal, when he reaches for his phone. Yoongi picks up on the second ring.

“What’s up?”

“Don’t mock me,” Seokjin answers.

“The fuck did you do?”

Taehyung reads one of the lines out loud and protests, “I’m not a ghost.” 

Seokjin looks over his shoulder at Taehyung. Still wearing traditional clothes, he flips his hair back, his cheeks puffed, and lips pouting. 

“I’m seeing things.”

“What kind of things?” 

“An imaginary, really beautiful man dressed in jeogori and bajis, he has long hair and everything.”

“You find me beautiful?” Taehyung whispers, cheeks tainted red. Seokjin sighs.

“Oh, you went insane. So what, want me to recommend a psychiatrist? I don’t really know--”

“--I’m not going to a doctor.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“I read these articles and I--”

“--You seriously self diagnosing according to Google?” Yoongi sounds incredulous and Seokjin’s face goes hot. It’s stupid, but he doesn’t feel sick and he’s not crazy, even when the evidence to the contrary is staring at his cell phone like it might explode. 

“Don’t judge me, Yoongi. I know it’s not a good thing, but I have this feeling...”

“You have this feeling? Why didn’t you say this from the start! This changes everything. You have a feeling!”

“Fuck you. I don’t know why I called you, you sarcastic shit.”

“Are you sure your new friends aren’t playing a prank on you or something?”

“Oh yeah. Taehyung can walk through walls.”

“Damn.”

“I know.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I’ve been trying to ignore him until he goes away.”

“I’m not going anywhere! Stop talking about me as if I weren’t present,” Taehyung huffs. 

“But he’s not going away. He’s driving me insane, he calls me my lord!”

“That’s rough, buddy. At least he’s hot. Or eh “really beautiful’’.” Seokjin can hear the air quote marks and he rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. Fuck off.” 

“Seriously, Seokjin, go see someone professional. I was worried something like this might happen.”

“A hallucination? Seriously?”

Well, not that specifically but some kind of a breakdown. You’ve been under a lot of stress, with taking over the firm coming and you know, ” Yoongi trails off, but Seokjin does know. He doesn’t want to work as the CEO himself, always wanted to give the job to someone else and run the firm from the shadows. He can’t find a logical reason as to why he doesn’t want to be the face of the firm other than the desire for his life to be private. Maybe if he gets that he’d have the courage to face who he is and what he really wants. 

“I’m not qualified for this advice but maybe hiding who you really are and the appearance of a hot, imaginary boyfriend are related.”

“What do you mean?” 

“Just saying, with you refusing to admit you’re gay--”

“Yoongi!”

“--and the sudden appearance of someone who wouldn’t mind that because he can’t be seen and is a part of your imagination is too perfect.”

“First, this is total bullshit because he is not my boyfriend, nor do I like him--”

Taehyung crosses his arms. “I’m not fond of you either.”

“--Second, I’m not gay.” Even as he says it, he can’t convince himself it’s true. 

“If you say so.”

Seokjin sighs, “I’m hanging up. You suck.”

Seokjin wipes out the search bar and starts again. A snorts makes it way out of his mouth as he types in the new line: Home remedies for auditory and visual hallucinations. 

What comes out is advice for doctors, but he reads through them. What happens when he ignores the voices, are they commanding him to do something and many questions of the same nature. There are some explanations to why he might be seeing things, which he appreciates, and some exercises that he writes down to try. 

Like the site suggested, he reads a paragraph, then reads it backwards, the latter cracks Taehyung up. It is funny gibberish but the more Seokjin tries and it doesn’t work the angrier he gets. Taehyung’s continuous remarks don't help any.

“Enough! Stop talking, you’re not real!” The chair topples with how fast he gets up.

“I am real! Please, help me. No one hears me but you!”

“No, no, no, no.” He covers his ears with his hands and squeezes his eyes shut. “You’re ruining my life, you have to disappear! Go away, go away,” he repeats it over and over again, behind his own frantic whispers, Taehyung’s pleading with him to listen.

“Not real, not real, not real.”

“Hear me out, I beg of you! I need your help, I--”

“No! Leave!” Everything goes quiet, Seokjin opens his eyes to see Taehyung’s stunned expression. Tears run down his cheeks, he shakes his head, murmuring something under his breath that Seokjin can’t catch. 

“Please leave,” he whispers. Taehyung covers his face with both hands and nods. 

He walks out of the kitchen. 

Seokjin waits for a few beats, not trusting himself yet. He walks around, looking to both sides.

“Taehyung?”

Nothing.

A relieved sigh leaves him and he straightens himself up and smiles. Finally.

Chapter Text

 

Seokjin busies himself by helping Jimin and Jeongguk set up. Not enthusiastic about examining why he needs to be distracted, and nowhere near ready to deal with what that means.

Laughing with them, eating snacks when they offer. It’s easy, and normal and Seokjin’s heart gets heavier by the second. He can’t breathe properly and the picture of Taehyung’s tear stained face that he so strongly tries to not think about comes back full force and makes his rib cage compress around his lungs. 

The performance is the same as the night before and yet it captures Seokjin’s attention like he’s seeing it for the first time. The sound of drums makes his blood thrum along, and he cheers with the crowd. He’s lighter when it’s all over. Namjoon takes him to a small restaurant a few minutes' walk away from the temple. 

“Are you interested in history?” Namjoon asks as the food is being served. The place is small but clean, tucked in a corner. It’s open to the outside, the workers can be seen behind a wooden bar, moving around and shouting orders. The space is filled with buzzing conversation and the sound of clicking dishes, the aroma of cooked meat and the seasonings makes him hungry even as he’s looking at his food. 

“I guess I can be.” He takes a bite of his Bulgogi. It’s delicious, the meat is perfectly cooked and juicy. 

“It’s the interesting story you’d tell when you get back.” Namjoon winks at him and Seokjin smiles. 

“Our temple,” Namjoon starts, “was originally for the goddess Gameunjang-aegi. When Buddhism got more famous, they stopped doing religious rituals here.” 

Seokjin nods along, only half listening as he chews on another morsel. 

“But it wasn’t always a temple. There was a palace here during the three kingdom period, the man who lived here announced himself independent of Goguryeo and named himself a king. He had the goddess’s blessings, so he got away with it for many years.” He holds Seokjin’s eyes. “Things didn’t end well for him.”

He takes a bite, mumbles around it: “No one knows how they fell out of favour with the goddess but her wrath struck upon them, and the king of Goguryeo marched with his army to retrieve the city. Every member of the royal family was slaughtered.”

“Damn,” Seokjin says. The facts resonate with him like they’re moving a long-repressed memory. He has no real interest in history but something in Namjoon’s words is stirring his curiosity. He’s on the edge of his seat. “What happened then?”

“The king of Goguryeo was scared of Gameunjang-aegi and he ordered for the palace to be rebuilt into a temple for her. He ruled for long, prosperous years, and died ancient in his own bed, so I guess it worked for him.” 

“What about the rest of the palace residents? The servants? The king's concubines?” Seokjin asks, urgency in his voice, and heat in his chest. Someone lived here, someone important. He blinks and behind his lids the picture of a palace flashes, magnificent and full with servants and guards, a room with a futon, the sound of someone asking for help. 

Please, I only wish to go home.

“I don’t know, but it’s safe to assume they were murdered, too. Mercy was a rare thing to show in wars. Still is,” Namjoon trails off and Seokjin feels a lump clogging his throat. 

“Is there anything more to that story?”

Namjoon lifts an eyebrow, “Like what?”

“I don’t know, something,” something important , “something feels missing.” Someone.

“I… You’re kind of right actually. It’s my own theory, but…” Namjoon looks at his now empty plate, then back up at Seokjin, a soft smile on his face “I didn’t really expect you to be so intrigued, I just felt like you needed a pick-me-up.”

Seokjin feels his ears warming, “I didn’t realize I was so obvious. Sorry.”

“No, it's good.” Namjoon’s eyes sparkle. “None of the others listens to me when I talk about this. If you’re really interested, I can show you some stuff when we get back to the temple. We have some real artifacts hung there, we lend them to museums and all!” 

Namjoon is excited, keeps up speaking about accurately portrayed history characters, and how the palace must’ve looked like based on the architecture of the era it was built in. Seokjin files it all for later, his brain cataloging the information like it does when he’s presented with a new case to work on, cataloging information like he does during deposition. 

The meal is done, and Seokjin insists on paying, ignoring Namjoon’s many protests of how he recommended the place. Concealing his excitement and nerves proves to be futile, so he takes Namjoon’s wrist and runs back all the way to the temple, Namjoon sputtering and cursing after him. 

The room Namjoon takes him to is far from the stage, to the back of the praying hall where he first saw Taehyung. It’s small, has many shelves and a big wooden table, its surface covered with antiques, many of which are inkwells and brushes. The shelves are filled with scrolls and crumbling books. On the wall, ink drawings preserved behind thick glass hang in frames, and weapons gleam. 

Namjoon is pointing at something on the table but his words turn into far away noise, as Seokjin sees one of the drawings and his brain comes to a halt.

Taehyung. 

The drawing is old, the paper has gone yellow, fraying at the edges, but there’s no doubt it’s him. He’s got a demure smile, a band of jewelry on his head, his hair looks like the artist spilled the ink over the page. So beautiful, and yet subdued. Seokjin thinks he looks sad even with the smile. 

“Who’s this?” he hears himself rasp. Namjoon takes a few steps to stand next to him.

“No idea. This is the something missing you’ve asked about. I’m not sure what his role is, but judging from his clothes and the band on his hair, he must be of importance and yet this is the only trace of him. He’s not featured in the drawing of the royal family.”

Namjoon rummages around, then retrieves another frame. An illustration of the royal family.

“There’s also the fact that his name isn’t on the drawing, not like the official ones. See this?” Namjoon points at the tail of the paper and sure enough, the names and ranks of the royals were listed.  

“I’m not sure what his part is, but I have a feeling he’s one of the goddess’s priests. I think something bad happened to him and that's why the goddess struck them down.” Namjoon rumbles on some more, many theories, and Seokjin tries, he truly does, but he can’t keep track, his mind stuck on a singular thought.

Taehyung isn’t a figment of his imagination. He’s real. He’s real .

And dead.

It’s like losing someone he’s known all of his life, bitter taste in his mouth and stinging eyes and his heart turning to a heavy rock and falling down. Seokjin’s breath turns ragged. 

Taehyung, who insisted he’s real, who said he’s not a ghost. He’s so young, he was so happy that someone could finally see him. Seokjin clutches at his heart, eyes glued to the drawing on the wall, and he feels the hot slide of tears on his face.

“Hyung?” Namjoon sounds alarmed, but Seokjin doesn’t answer, held captive by the inky lines that make Taehyung’s features. 

“Seokjin-hyung!” Namjoon’s face is in front of him, hands on Seokjin’s shoulders. Seokjin blinks the tears away but can’t speak behind the ache. Taehyung is dead and he doesn’t remember it. Seokjin had screamed at him that he’s not real and sent him away. 

“Hyung, are you okay?”

“No,” he croaks out, taking harsh breaths. 

“You’re having a panic attack!” Namjoon’s voice is high and squeaky, and the look of absolute terror on his face is what brings Seokjin back to the moment. 

“I’m sorry,” he’s still breathing hard, “I’m better now,” but he isn’t unhinged anymore, his heart calming down. Namjoon examines his face before he seems satisfied and steps back. The drawing seems to gaze into Seokjin, deeper than skin and flesh. Seokjin stares back.

He’s going to help Taehyung.

 


 

He read an article about ghosts in passing when he was on the phone with Yoongi, but now that he knows for sure Taehyung is a ghost, he renews his efforts. He takes permission from Namjoon to set camp in their kitchen again. He opens his laptop on the table and starts reading. 

Considering it a case helps him approach it as a neutral party and study all the available data before reaching any conclusion. 

The internet, once again, has many things to say about the subject, ranging from possible scientific explanations as to why people see ghosts to some religious mambo jumbo. He knows what he’s seeing is real, because he’s never seen that drawing of Taehyung before, and the fact that he’s an unknown historical person means that Seokjin didn’t see him somewhere else and forgot about it. He saw Taehyung , in detail, exactly as he looked thousands of years ago. 

He turns off the laptop after one last search of the name Kim Taehyung that reveals nothing, and steels himself to face his reality. 

The temple is eerily quiet during the night, more so now that Seokjin knows it's haunted. He’s always been a coward. The fact that he’s out of bed and actively looking for a ghost, to apologize no less, is irony at its finest. 

The wooden floor creaks under his foot as he steps into the prayer hall, dark and empty. It’s missing the sound of a sad song that he heard only yesterday but feels like ages ago. 

“Taehyung?” He wonders if Taehyung would mind the use of his name like this, he’s young, definitely concludes he wasn’t of noble birth and was called by his name only.  

“Taehyung!” He raises his voice, glancing around the place. “Taehyung, I’m sorry! Would you please talk to me?” No one answers him. His shoulders drop. Maybe Taehyung has moved on, walked to the light or something. 

He turns around, he should leave.

“Ah!” He jumps back, hand over heart.

“What do you want?” Taehyung says, fisting his hands on his hips. 

“Oh Taehyung, you’re still here! Thank God!”

Taehyung’s taken aback for a second then he narrows his eyes, “You’re… different.”

“I’m sorry I yelled at you and I’m sorry I said you’re not real. And sorry for ignoring you.” He bows, hoping it’s enough.

“What changed?” Taehyung whispers, “You were convinced I’m a wisp of your imagination.” 

“I uncovered evidence to the contrary. Let’s just start over, yeah?” 

Taehyung considers him then he drops his arms to the side, “I suppose I have no other choice.”

Seokjin smiles, this is the easy part. The hard part will be discovering how to help Taehyung. He sits down on the floor, and waits until Taehyung does the same, facing him. The question of why Taehyung walks through walls but doesn’t endlessly sink into the ground crosses his mind.

“My name is Kim Seokjin. It’s nice to meet you, Taehyung.”

“Lord Seokjin.” Taehyung smiles, a big, rectangular-shaped smile showing pearly teeth. He looks younger. Seokjin’s stomach flips.

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-two.”

“You can call me Seokjin. Please, enough with the ‘Lord’ business.”

It appears as though Taehyung is ready to protest, but his lips lift up and he gifts Seokjin with another heart-stopping smile. Seokjin goes back to Yoongi’s words, that Taehyung’s appearance might be more than a coincidence. 

The next logical step would be to ask Taehyung about his past but asking someone “how did you die” seems rude. In reality, there’s no rules of decorum to follow when speaking to the dead, so Seokjin goes with his hunch.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” 

Taehyung looks down at his hands, a pained expression on his face. “I don’t know,” he whispers.

A sense of dread washes over Seokjin. Taehyung has no memories, he doesn’t know he’s dead. Seokjin would have to tell him. There’s no easy way to inform someone they’re dead. Up until this morning, Seokjin never thought he’d have to. Relaying bad news is part of a lawyer’s job, however, and he’s learnt a lot over the years. The soft indirect approach often works best.

Perhaps he can push Taehyung to remember his death on his own, then they’ll attempt a guess at why he’s still here. Seokjin doesn’t believe in the afterlife, but he’s in for some serious belief-reconsidering after all of this is over. 

“Come with me.”

He walks around to the room Namjoon had shown him a few hours ago, trying the door, he’s thankful to find it unlocked. 

Taehyung follows him in; tentative. He glances around and Seokjin waits until Taehyung sees the drawing of himself on the wall. 

“I know this,” Taehyung says, stepping closer to the hung frame. “I remember when the prince ordered this to be made. I…” Taehyung frowns. “This is not where I used to live.” 

“It is,” Seokjin says, speaking softly, “The palace was rebuilt into a temple.” 

Taehyung looks confused, then his eyes widen and his lips part, “But how could this be? Why did his majesty allow it?” 

“The king died, Taehyung. Almost two thousand years ago.”

“What?” Taehyung shrills, face paling and lips trembling. Seokjin braces himself to catch him in case he falls, then remembers he can’t. He’s not sure if Taehyung can faint. 

“But I… I’m.” Tears gather at the corners of his eyes, and he shakes his head, “No. I’d remember dying, wouldn’t I? It can’t be true. You… You’re lying! You want me to think I’m a ghost!” Taehyung turns around and starts running.  Seokjin tries to catch him but his wrist passes through Seokjin’s fingers like smoke.

“Taehyung, please wait!” He chases Taehyung to the garden in the backyard, near the construction side of the temple. Taehyung’s staring at his reflection in the small stream. 

“I would remember dying,” he says, but it’s weak. He falls down, curls his legs close to his chest and hides his face in his knees. Seokjin wishes he could place a hand on his shoulder, offer him some comfort. 

“Taehyung, listen. I’m really sorry you can’t remember, but I’m not lying. You’ve seen the refrigerator, right? And the laptop?”

Taehyung lifts his head, “The laptop?”

“Yes, you called it sorcery.” 

“Oh! The magical box.” 

Seokjin smiles, “Yeah. You want to take another look at it? I’ll tell you a bit more about the --eh new inventions.”

Taehyung nods and gets up. Seokjin takes him to his room. He doesn’t have an internet connection in the temple but he has some movies and things downloaded. He powers up the laptop. The battery is decent enough to last three hours although he doesn’t think they’d do anything that might take so long. Taehyung walks into the room with hesitancy, he throws Seokjin glances like he’s waiting for him to shout at him to leave.

“Make yourself comfy, I’ll get the laptop out.” 

Taehyung’s brows knit together, “Comfy?”

“Comfortable,” he explains. Taehyung sits on the floor once again, and Seokjin settles beside him, close enough that he should feel the heat radiating from him. The lack of it is jarring, a sense of loss growing in his chest.

He clicks on the video he took of last night’s performance. It’s not artistic, he used his phone camera, but he’d transferred it to his laptop because he plans on keeping it. 

“Oh, I’ve seen them dance before!” Taehyung says, eyes following Jimin’s dance, “He’s my favourite, he’s elegant.”

“He is, they all are.” Seokjin smiles as he watches Taehyung, very intensely studying the performance. He’s got his lips in a pout, and he’s leaning closer as the drums beat louder, like he’s sucked in by the amazing show. It ends with cheers and Taehyung claps dutifully, making Seokjin’s smile bigger.

“I’d bet they’d love your singing,” he murmurs. Taehyung’s head whips to face him, confusion coloring his features.

“You were singing, the first time I saw you,” he says.

“I know, I do remember. I just can’t seem to think of how they could.”

Dammit.

“I’m sorry, I… I forgot.”

Taehyung looks down, then back at him and gives him a small smile. “So, two thousand years, huh? I don’t feel that old. I only started to feel… alive, for lack of better words, a few months ago, and I remember some things about myself but nothing else.” 

Contemplating the words for a few seconds, Seokjin feels ridiculous for what he’s about to say:

“I read on the internet that people fail to move on when they want revenge or have unfinished business.”

Taehyung cocks his head, “Move on?”

“You know.” Seokjin gestures with his hand, “Go to the afterlife, or something.”

“Or something,” Taehyung says, arching an eyebrow.

“Yah! Don’t make fun of me, I’m out of my depth, too. Not like I was expecting to meet a ghost of all things.”

“But what am I to do now?” Taehyung seems helpless.

“I’m not sure. What do you want to do?”

Taehyung shrugs, chews at his bottom lip. His teeth leave marks when he lets go of it, it’s red and shiny with spit. Seokjin licks his lips, swaying closer despite himself.

“What does your internet say?” Taehyung’s words break him out of his haze and he straightens his back.

“It’s mostly about putting ghosts to rest. Find why they’re here and help them cross to the other side.” 

Taehyung mulls it over, then nods once. When he lifts his eyes to meet Seokjin’s, they’re dim and the smile he puts on is closer to a grimace. 

“I tried talking to him,” he gestures with his chin at the laptop and Seokjin understands that he means Jimin, “he looked nice. He’s always laughing and it’s beautiful. I wanted to be his friend.”

Seokjin’s throat closes up, his skin tightening over his body. He’s never been so helpless, shackled by the laws of the world and too small to question the fate that brought them to this second.

“Let’s attempt that… Moving on.”

Seokjin wants to protest. He feels the words forming, almost tastes them on his tongue. He wants to stand up and yell Objection, your honor , but he’s not in a court and he has no right and the judge of this is too cruel to make himself known. So he grits his teeth against the feeble words, and they crash and hurt his gums but he only bites down harder. 

He’s useless, can only watch as Taehyung gets up, dusts his spotless hanbok and bows down. 

“I bid you a good night, Seokjin.” 

“Good night,” he rasps. Taehyung leaves but it’s a long while before Seokjin manages to fall asleep. 

Chapter Text

 

The village swirls with life, dirt roads crowded with running kids and the occasional farmer crossing to their farm in a wheeled cart dragged by an ox. Sporadic houses along the road, faced with open fields of rice and swarming workers. 

Seokjin spins around, taking in clear endless skies and the noise of a busy working day, the torn clothes of the kids, their bare feet caked in mud and their whining and chatter. He doesn’t know where he is, but he hears a familiar voice and follows. 

Looking evidently younger, Taehyung stands with the happiest smile Seokjin has seen on him, his hair not soft and arranged but messy and half tied in a bun, dust on his white robes and a glint in his eyes. He’s gesturing with his hands as he chats with an older man, who’s asking him to walk through his field to bless the harvest. Taehyung nods, walks in the man’s trail. 

“Taehyung!” Seokjin calls, hurrying his steps. Taehyung doesn’t seem like he’s heard him, he’s looking up at the man and walking farther away. “Taehyung! Wait!” Seokjin runs, then stands directly behind Taehyung and calls again but to avail. Neither Taehyung nor the farmer hear him and he’s about to speak again when a child runs right through him. Another child, chasing the first one, runs through him like he’s made of air. Seokjin’s stomach sinks. 

It’s him. He’s the ghost.

It’s too vivid to be a dream but there’s no other explanation. Seokjin turns to see Taehyung taking his shoes off and stepping into the water of the rice field, splashing it with his foot. His laugh rings clear and easy, and he jumps from foot to foot, stepping on one of the rice buds but doesn’t stop. The farmer doesn’t scold him, he laughs along with him and Taehyung plays in the water and mud until a woman calls him.

Taehyung bows to the farmer and gets out, his feet brown from the mud, he doesn’t bother with shoes. He carries them in his hand and walks barefoot to the woman, who asks him to help her sick child. Taehyung nods and enters the house, Seokjin follows him inside. 

The child is bedridden and shivering with fever. Taehyung’s face softens, a sympathetic expression taking over his features. Taehyung settles beside him on the bed, places his hand on the child’s cheek then leans down, plants a kiss over his forehead. He murmurs some words that Seokjin can’t catch, then pats the child’s chest.

Seokjin’s eyebrows shoot up, his mouth parts without his permission as the child’s shivering stops, he sighs in relief then promptly falls asleep. Seokjin blinks and blinks, trying to make sense of it as the mother checks the child’s fever with a hand on his neck and chest. 

The woman breaks into profuse thanks and bows down to Taehyung as the child’s breathing eases further until he’s the picture of a restful slumber. Even his cheeks are no longer red.

Taehyung’s smile is tender as he looks down at the little kid. He nods to the mother and stands up, offering an apology for the mud he trailed in. She shakes her head and says it’ll be good for the plants she has in the back, they’ll make sure to carry the water she uses to clean the footprints there. 

Once they’re outside, two men greet Taehyung. They’re of similar build, both slightly taller than Taehyung and on the bulky side. One is bald while the other is hairy, a big dark mustache on his upper lip. They argue over who’s going to wash Taehyung’s feet and Taehyung tries to mollify the situation.

“He got to do it last time!” The bald one protests. 

“I need that water, my donkey is sick.” The one with the mustache replies. 

“Please, you can share it,” Taehyung says. The men glare each other down but neither back away and Taehyung’s shoulders slump, like he’s used to people fighting over washing his feet. 

“I have an idea,” Taehyung says, both turn to him, “I’ll go with you and see the donkey, so let him wash my feet and take the water.” 

The men look at each other once again, then nod and turn back to Taehyung, their scowls melting into genuine reverence and awe. 

The spectacle is over and the day moves on much in the same fashion. Wherever Taehyung walks, miracles happen. He spends his time playing with kids and laughing, everyone calling him by name and wishing him a good day.

The sound of hooves catches Seokjin’s attention. The villagers seem alarmed, parents escorting their kids inside and farmers standing in weary preparedness. The horses slow to a trot.The man in the front speaks in a loud, clear voice. 

“His majesty the king wishes to speak to Kim Taehyung. Lead us to his house.”

The villagers share whispers and gasps and reluctance to comply, but the leader orders one of his soldiers to dismount and look for Taehyung. The man pulls his sword out on the nearest farmer and puts it to his throat. Seokjin trembles with fear and anger, equally relieved and livid that he’s invisible and can’t interfere. 

It takes less than two minutes for the soldiers to find Taehyung’s house, then they dismount and give a roll of paper to Taehyung.

“A summoning from his majesty!” the leader of the group announces. Taehyung reads the paper and his face pales. He lifts his head and nods at the soldiers, and one of them steps close and places his arms around Taehyung.

“Stop! Don’t touch him!” Seokjin shouts, walking towards the scene but no one sees or hears him. The soldier lifts Taehyung and places him on the horse and climbs up behind him, holding the reins. They turn then with one order, break into a gallop, speed away and leave nothing but a trail of raised dust behind. 

Seokjin wakes up with a gasp.

Disoriented, he darts his eyes around, heart thumping in his chest, and breaths too fast. The light of the morning has spilled into the room, casting soft shadows and an orange hue. Seokjin’s bottle of water is beside his futon and he snatches it and gulps the water down, forces himself into some semblance of normalcy. 

He dreamt of Taehyung’s past. 

Logic is on the side of his dream being just that, a thread of fantasy brought on by meeting a ghost. Nothing about his meeting with Taehyung is logical. And what he’s seen was too vivid, so many details and things he wouldn’t have pictured on his own.

It’s a memory. 

Taehyung is nowhere to be seen. Seokjin gets up and goes to the bathroom. He splashes water on his face and brushes his teeth, contemplating the idea of getting a bath then imaging the work he has to do and deciding against it. He’ll ask Namjoon to let him shower in the house. He’s starting to understand the generosity of the guest room offer that was made to him when he arrived, but now with Taehyung around, Seokjin needs a secluded room more than ever. If anyone caught him talking to Taehyung, they would definitely think he’s crazy. 

In his room he walks in on the sight of Taehyung sprawled on his futon, his hair spilled over the pillow and his arms spread to either side. He’s staring blankly at the ceiling and Seokjin thinks of how Taehyung’s head isn’t sinking through the pillow, remembers that he was seated on the rail the first time Seokjin saw him. He imagines Taehyung being solid and needing to open doors, being able to touch people like he did that child. 

Being unseen in his dream, standing unnoticed and helpless as the soldiers took Taehyung with them reminds him of numerous times in the past where he wished to be invisible and left alone. What a cruel desideratum that was. The urge to apologize nearly chokes him as he looks at Taehyung. 

“Good morning, Taehyung.”

Taehyung turns to his side, folds his arms in front of him. The light behind him bathes him a soft yellow halo, his edges blurring into the sun rays. He’s made of gold and light, his smile only half as bright as Seokjin saw in his dream.

“Good morning, Seokjin,” Taehyung replies. He gets up, sits with his legs crossed. “I remembered a lot about myself yesterday.”

Seokjin settles opposite to him, in a similar position. “I actually wanted to talk to you about that. I dreamt of your past. Well, I think I did.” Seokjin proceeds to recount the events of his dream. 

“That’s....” Taehyung looks at a loss for words.

“It’s what happened exactly, isn’t it?” 

Taehyung nods but he’s hesitant, or perhaps unbelieving. He seems to be contemplating his next words. Seokjin has a lot of questions, some that Taehyung might be able to answer, and one that he can see reflected back at him in Taehyung’s gaze. One, he knows neither he or Taehyung will know the answer to. 

He recalls Namjoon’s theory, and connects it to what he’s seen Taehyung do, “Are you Gameunjang-aegi’s priest?”

“I’m not.”

“But the villagers treated you…” he gestures with his hands hoping to imply the men fighting over washing his feet and Taehyung healing the child.

“I’m a blessing from her. Or I’m supposed to be. A blessed child.” Taehyung sounds endlessly bitter and unbelieving of his own words that Seokjin has to remind him.

“You healed the kid.” 

 “Not me but Gameunjang-aegi.” 

It’s one of those stories fit for a movie or a fairytale, Seokjin thinks, as Taehyung tells him about it. Taehyung’s mother was pregnant when she saw the goddess in a dream or a vision. The goddess promised beauty and fortune to come with this child. It came to pass when Taehyung was born, a beautiful, lucky child, blessed and favored by the gods. Good fortune followed in his steps, the sky smiled down on whomever Taehyung smiled at. The ruler of the area wanted him to be by his side as he declared his independence and so he sent his guards to take him.

“I don’t recall what happened to me, yet,” Taehyung says, Seokjin reads the unsaid how did I die , “but I remember arriving at the palace. They treated me well, food, clothes, jewels. Whatever I wanted was mine. The prince was exceptionally kind to me. He ordered that drawing you took me to see.”

Seokjin nods. When the easy enquiries run out, Seokjin asks the hard question. “Why me?” 

Taehyung tilts his head, one lock slides over his shoulder, his bangs fall in his eyes. “Why you?”

“Why can I see you, why am I dreaming your memories?”

“I don’t know.” Taehyung lowers his eyes in defeat, like he’s let Seokjin down somehow. 

“Hey, Taehyung.” Taehyung looks up. “We’ll figure it. You’ll remember what happened, and maybe we’ll find a clue there. If not, then we’ll find something else to go on.” Seokjin isn’t the comforting type, he’s a lawyer for God’s sake, the last thing he does is make promises he can’t keep. But he’s unable to bear the sad expression on Taehyung’s face, ready to swear anything to get a glimpse of that sunshine smile once more.

Taehyung’s lips lifts, “Thank you, Seokjin.”

The sincerity in the words is too much. Seokjin stands up. “It’s time for breakfast. I’ll also ask Namjoon to let me shower there.” 

“Shower?” Taehyung says, getting up and following him. 

“Yes, it’s a way to wash up. You’ll see.” A flash of Taehyung, blushing and stuttering as he hurries to leave the bathroom crosses his memory and Seokjin smiles. “I’ll make sure to show you how it works before I strip.” He looks at Taehyung over his shoulder, delighting in the lovely rose that colours the apple of Taehyung’s cheeks.

“Morning, hyung. Who are you talking to?” Hoseok asks, his smile crooked. Seokjin jumps and turns from side to side.

“Me? I wasn’t talking.” 

“You really were, Seokjin,” Taehyung chimes in. Seokjin tries to stealthily glare at him and fails. Hoseok looks in Taehyung’s direction, no doubt searching for what Seokjin is looking at. 

“Hyung?”

“I was just singing!” He’s too breathless to be convincing. He should’ve said he just ended a phone call. He’s a spectacular liar when he has time to prepare, he is a lawyer and that’s a part of his job, but lying when caught off guard isn’t his strong suit. Hoseok takes another look around, catches no one despite Taehyung being right in his line of vision. He nods albeit unconvinced and drops the subject. Seokjin waits until they’re alone then whispers to Taehyung.

“Don’t talk to me when we’re not alone, I’ll seem crazy.” 

Taehyung looks ready to protest but he presses his lips in a line and agrees quietly. 

The breakfast passes smoothly, unlike yesterday’s and Seokjin does end up explaining how the shower works to Taehyung before he’s left alone in the bathroom. 

Seokjin says he has some case files to review so he won’t be able to attend the show tonight or help setting up. A total lie on his part but he needs an excuse to stay in the house. Namjoon leads him to the guest room. 

“I won’t stay here,” Seokjin tells him, “just until I finish, I need the internet.”

“It’s okay, hyung. You’re not intruding so stop feeling like you are.” 

Seokjin thanks him and Namjoon turns to leave.

“Namjoon-ah, do you know what blessed children are?” 

Namjoon stops and faces him, frowning. “Excuse me?”

“Blessed children, like the ones who receive gods’ favour.”

“What are you trying to do?” Taehyung asks. Seokjin glances at him from the corner of his eye, holds his questioning look for a second before giving his attention back to Namjoon.

Namjoon looks to be deep in thought, “They’re part of the religious legends.”

“But what do the legends say about them? Any criteria to why they’re picked? Are they connected to other people? Do they have powers?” 

“They’re picked at random as far as my knowledge goes. No one knows why a god might pick one. They were a thing in old times. I never heard about them possessing powers of their own but they could pass the gods’ blessing and were revered by humans.”

Seokjin nods, “And what happens when they die?” 

Taehyung gasps, every muscle in him locking up, turning him to a statue. 

“They just die. They’re normal people, just luckier. Why do you ask?” 

“I’m curious. I did some reading after you showed me that room. You thought Taehyung was a priest but what if he--”

“Wait, who’s Taehyung?”

Seokjin closes his eyes and curses his stupidity. “The boy in the ink drawing. I’m calling him Taehyung.” 

Namjoon’s eyes narrow, calculating. Staring as if right through him. Seokjin doesn’t know what Namjoon sees, but he keeps his head up.

“You gave him a name?” 

Seokjin shrugs.

“You think he’s the goddess’s blessed child?” 

“Seokjin, what are you doing?” Taehyung asks again, voice strained. 

“Why do you think that?” Namjoon says.

“I’m very intrigued by this place’s history and the mystery boy feels like a connection between everything. I’m thinking about it like a case I’m ready to take into court, so I’m trying to consider every angle.”

“You do offer a very interesting and possible scenario. But we have nothing to back it up.” Namjoon is nearly bouncing on the balls of his feet, his smile getting bigger and his eyes shining with the challenge presented to him. Seokjin wants that on his side, wants all the help he can get solving the mystery of Taehyung’s past. He wants a reason, an answer to why Taehyung is still here almost two thousand years later, why he can see him. And most importantly, if there was a way to help him. 

"Is there anything w e can do to check?" Seokjin asks, "Records, a museum that kept something?"

Namjoon shakes his head, "All that we have is the things in the room I showed you. There's a record but it's about the royal family, so nothing we don't know already."

"Tell me if you think of anything, yeah?"

"Of course, hyung."

With that, Namjoon leaves, the door clicking into place behind him.

"Seokjin?" Taehyung says.

"It's alright, Taehyung. I was just trying to get more information about this. We're assuming you'll remember but what if you don't? I have to get a backup plan ready. Just in case."

Seokjin sits on the bed with his back to the headboard, and plugs the laptop in. He turns to Taehyung and pats the space next to him; Taehyung obediently settles. Like Seokjin expected, the bed doesn't dip but Taehyung doesn't go through it. Like the floor, and the railing, and Seokjin's pillow.

"Can you feel it?"

"Huh?"

"The bed, can you feel the fabric?"

Taehyung looks down at where his hand is on the sheet, eyes widening like he's never thought about it before. "I do. I also feel the breeze and the water of the stream. I put my feet in it sometimes. I could also," Taehyung trails off, cheeks heating. The curious reaction makes Seokjin lean closer.

"Yes?"

"I could smell you on the sheets, this morning when I laid in your bed, I felt your warmth."

"You seem surprised," Seokjin says. Taehyung pouts.

"I can smell things, food and the trees and the flowers but never people. I don't feel their heat either. I tried with Jimin when you were eating breakfast. I went to his room and the sheet smelt like nothing."

Seokjin clears his throat, Taehyung looks at him intensely. "Seokjin?"

Seokjin's ears go hot, "Can you feel me now? My… heat, can you feel me?"

Taehyung's eyes dart between his, then he leans in, their noses aligning. He lets his lids drop, tilts his head and gets closer. Seokjin feels his breath when he inhales right near Seokjin's jugular. His pulse jackhammers, his breaths go astray and his face burns.

"I feel you," Taehyung breathes, "you smell good, like that thing you used to wash your hair."

Taehyung opens his eyes and captivates him. Seokjin can't calm his heartbeats, can't feel his feet. His stomach knotting itself and his lungs shrinking.

"Seokjin?"

"Yes!" He squeals, jumps up and faces the laptop again. "It's weird that it's only me."

"I don't see it as queer," Taehyung says, "only you can see and hear me, you dreamt about my past. This shouldn't come as a shock to us."

It shouldn't, it really shouldn't but Seokjin can't help whatever is building up in his chest, something that’s suspiciously like pride and happiness.

Just him. Like Taehyung is his.

"Okay!" He says, trying to veer off the dangerous path his thoughts were straying to.

"You keep saying that word, what does it mean?"

"Okay?" Seokjin repeats, incredulous. Taehyung nods. It is a new word, it makes sense that Taehyung doesn't know its meaning. "It means all right."

"Ah… Okay," Taehyung says, and he smiles brightly. Seokjin's heart stutters.

Taehyung is bad for his health.

Chapter Text

 

Taehyung is out of place and time, many things confound him. But he’s curious and smart. Seokjin delights in teaching him about everything. 

The gravity and new sciences, the inventions. Taehyung asks about everything, Seokjin tells him what he knows and researches what he doesn’t. He learns a lot in the process of bringing Taehyung to the twenty-first century. 

Taehyung likes many things but one thing he falls in love with is the movies, or the general idea of being able to capture a moment in time like that. Pictures and films are things that seem to leave him in awe and at the same time draw a breathtaking smile on his lips.

With Taehyung by his side, time flows with an ease that has never been before, weeks pass in a blur of Taehyung’s laughter and endless wonder at life and what it has to offer. Some nights they watch the performances, others they walk side by side, Seokjin telling Taehyung about his job and his life, Taehyung speaking of far away times where he lived and worked. 

Tonight the sky is clear, but not enough for the stars to shine through. They lie down on the ground, side by side. The air is crisp, and it smells like grass and flowers, the sounds of the night have taken over, the orchestra of cicadas and frogs mixing with the purl of the stream. 

“There’s no stars in your time,” Taehyung says. His deep voice blends with the night effortlessly. 

“It’s because of the light. We can still see stars, if we go far enough from the city.” 

Taehyung sounds wistful, “I miss the stars. I miss many things; having a tasty meal, embracing someone. But the stars, Seokjin. I had always believed them constant. Never have I thought I’d lift my eyes to the sky and not find them. It seems lonely, somehow. Like they left the moon behind.” 

“What about the ocean?” Seokjin asks.

“I’ve heard many stories but I haven’t seen it.”

It makes sense, Taehyung has lived in a small village then was taken to the palace. There was no time for a trip to the ocean. Back then, it would’ve cost money, effort and time. Not like they could buy a train ticket and make the trip to Busan in less than four hours. Seokjin has many things just because he’s in a different time. Things he takes for granted, like Taehyung thought about the stars.

“I wish I could give you chocolate,” Seokjin says. 

“What’s that?”

They turn to face each other. Taehyung was made to be looked at like this, in dim lights and without distractions. He’s a vision, soft like flowers and yet formidable. This close, his eyes look bigger, his mouth fuller. He’s temptation personified, something that should be a dream.

Seokjin has never allowed himself to look so closely at a man, even when he secretly took men home and fucked them, he was mechanical. Scratching an itch. This gentle fire in his chest doesn’t feel like desire, it builds like something far more dangerous and wild but Seokjin isn’t afraid of it. 

Taehyung is safe, he’s a secret. He’s Seokjin’s only, and no one can judge Seokjin for this. 

“Seokjin? You’re staring.” 

Seokjin laments that he feels only Taehyung’s breath. No warmth, no smell. He scoots a bit closer, eyes crossing to keep looking at Taehyung and if he doesn’t think about it, it’s like they’re not touching as a choice not because Seokjin can’t. 

“I am,” he says. Taehyung blushes, lowers his head in an attempt to hide behind his bangs. Shy but smiling. The smile, coupled with the demure gesture makes Seokjin bold.

“You’re beautiful.” 

Taehyung lets out a short breath, redness on his cheeks darkening. He lets his lids fall, and he looks at Seokjin from under his lashes. “You are, too.” 

“Hyung?” 

Seokjin jumps up at Namjoon’s voice, standing up and feeling his heart going into a frenzy.

“Fuck, you scared me.” He places a hand over his heart and takes calming breaths to compose himself. Taehyung gets up at a slower pace, he’s not the one who was caught lying down alone and talking to himself. 

“I don’t mean to pry but, are you okay?” 

“Of course. Why you ask?”

Namjoon fidgets, “You seem distracted, you spend all your time alone and that’d be fine normally, but,” 

“But?”

“You’re talking to, well, no one.” Namjoon looks apologetic and prepared, like Seokjin might jump him.

“I’m not crazy.”

Namjoon lifts both palms up. “I never said that, but if you’re seeing things--”

“Namjoon, I’m not imagining anything.”

Namjoon sighs, shoulders slumping. “I heard you say Taehyung. Isn’t that your name for the boy in the drawing?” 

Taehyung is glaring at Namjoon, he’s trying to be menacing but to Seokjin, he’s adorable. If he could be seen, Taehyung would definitely stand up for him. Perhaps it’s because he’s come to think of Taehyung as something more , he can’t deny his existence, can’t say he’s not there when Seokjin is seeing him and hearing him and feeling for him.

“That’s him,” Seokjin starts, “Look, Namjoon-ah, this might sound crazy, but I promise it’s real. Taehyung is standing right here.” He points at Taehyung with one hand, like someone might when introducing a friend. Namjoon looks at the space beside him, looking confused and a bit pitying.

“There’s no one there, hyung.”

“Of course there isn’t. I’m the only one who can see him.” Namjoon is ready to argue so Seokjin holds a finger up to make him wait. “I saw him on my first night here, I thought I was hallucinating, remember the day I yelled in the kitchen? I was trying to make him go away. He did, and I felt guilty. You took me to the restaurant that night, and told me about the temple’s story. 

“I swear I didn’t see the pictures before, but it was him! That’s how I know he’s real, I didn’t see that drawing before but I saw him, and he looks exactly the same as the picture!”

“Hyung…”

“And the blessed children! I didn’t research that, Taehyung told me. He is the goddess’s chosen.”

“Seokjin,” Taehyung whispers. Seokjin turns to him. Taehyung's eyes shine with a coat of moisture, his smile tremulous. "That's enough, Seokjin. He looks ready to run for the hills."

Seokjin hardens his resolve. He's not going to do that to Taehyung again, Taehyung is real. Fuck Namjoon and anyone who makes him feel bad.

"I can prove it!"

Namjoon lifts a brow, seemingly unconvinced, "Oh?"

"Yes! Get a paper, go to the prayer hall, write something on it and leave it there. I'll send Taehyung behind you and he'll tell me what you write."

Namjoon is reluctant, he rubs his face with both hands then the fight leaves him, "Okay. But if you can't guess it, we ask for help."

Seokjin smiles. "Deal."

Namjoon goes to bring the paper. Taehyung pouts but the glint in his eyes makes Seokjin happy with his decision.

"You didn't have to do that, Seokjin."

"I know. I wanted to."

Taehyung ducks his head, hair hiding his face. "Thank you."

Namjoon waves the paper in the air as he walks to the prayer hall, Taehyung follows. When they appear again, Namjoon has a smug smile on his face.

"So?" He says.

"What did he write?"

"The paper is blank," Taehyung says.

"You didn't write anything?" Seokjin says to Namjoon, confused.

"No, Seokjin. He wrote: The paper is blank ."

"Ahh! The paper is blank."

Namjoon pales, blinks. "You guessed that. There's no way--"

"--Look, we can do this all night, or you can believe me now and make it easier for all of us."

Namjoon doesn't make it easy, however. He goes inside and makes a paper boat, and when Taehyung relays that he gets so shocked he nearly sways. Then they try again until he gives up.

"I don't know. A ghost?" He says, disbelieving.

"He doesn't remember how it happened. It's why I kept asking you about it. I want to help him."

"Help him do what, he's dead."

Taehyung flinches and Seokjin scowls at Namjoon. Namjoon raises both hands in a surrendering gesture.

"Sorry."

"Taehyung forgives you."

They walk back together, Namjoon complains about it being weird until they part ways. Seokjin doesn't feel bad for him, Namjoon will have to deal with it.

“And don’t say things like ‘Taehyung forgives you’ it sounds really creepy,” Namjoon calls over his shoulder.

Seokjin rolls his eyes.

 


 

Breakfast next morning is a strange affair. Namjoon has decided to share his knowledge of Taehyung. Hoseok is pale and jumpy, he looks side to side as he settles down to eat. Jeongguk keeps humming at every word, shaking his head when he thinks no one is looking. Jimin is all over the idea, like he's relieved he's got something to say, chattering away to Taehyung and waiting for Seokjin to relay Taehyung's answer.

Jimin and Jeongguk aren't talking to each other. There's a tense air as they pull their chairs, not side by side like every day. Jimin's cheer is forced and Jeongguk fills his plate aggressively.

Seokjin develops a throbbing headache ten minutes into it and Taehyung looks at him with helpless, wide eyes.

His phone buzzes in his pocket and he's happy about the excuse to take a few minutes until he sees the caller ID. 

"I have to take this."

He walks out of the kitchen and presses accept. "Hello, mother."

 


 

"Seokjin?"

Taehyung stands in the doorway but doesn't enter, hands clasping and unclasping.

"What's the matter?"

Seokjin's answer seems to end Taehyung's hesitance and he steps in and sits on the floor facing Seokjin.

"Are you alright? It's been an hour since you left the kitchen. They started to worry."

Seokjin averts his gaze, "I'm fine."

"You're lying."

Seokjin whips his head up, blinking at Taehyung. "You seem so sure."

A small smile, "Short our time together may be, but I've come to know you well."

Normally, Seokjin would rage at such an audacious claim, instead he smiles, the heaviness that has settled over his chest disappears and he breathes easier.  Taehyung is a real person, he's lived and died. He has his own problem and compared to it, Seokjin's seems so trivial. But he's regarding Seokjin with an open expression and beseeching eyes and Seokjin has never allowed himself to be weak and selfish with someone else.

It could be the fact that he thinks of Taehyung as his , not in an ugly, possessive way but as an extension of himself, a secret part of Seokjin's soul that no one gets to see.

"My mother wants to know when I return home, she's setting a seon for me."

"Is that bad?"

"I don't want to get married, Taehyung."

"As I recall, a seon doesn't have to end in marriage. You can still decide not to, if you don't like the girl."

"That's exactly the thing!" Seokjin feels heat building up in his veins, his vision blurring. His throat scratched raw, and he's done none of the screaming he wants to do.

"I don't understand."

Seokjin turns to him, makes sure to hold his eyes. "I don't want to marry a woman ."

Taehyung stares at him. Seokjin's leg bounces, jitters go through him until he’s sure he can electrocute someone by touch.

"You want to marry a man?" Taehyung doesn't sound upset, only confused. Seokjin bites his lip and nods, looking at the floor. 

"And that's a bad thing."

"Yes! It's also illegal," Seokjin throws his arms up. "Are you telling me it was okay in your time?"

Taehyung shakes his head. "It wasn't. Unless you have enough power to get away with it."

"What are you saying?"

"Kings had concubines, some of those were men. Everyone knew but acted otherwise. It's a fairly common practice. Used to be, in my time."

"You're taking this too well."

"It's because I'm the same," Taehyung announces. He gives Seokjin a bright grin like he expects Seokjin to praise him.

"The same?" That did not come out as a squeal. No. Not possible, because Seokjin is calm and not in any way freaking out.

"Attracted to males? However you'd like to call it."

He sticks his tongue in his cheek, resisting the urge to pout or start rambling, or burst into grateful tears. He didn’t want Taehyung to react badly but at least then he would've been ready. He doesn't know what to do with this .

"Let's head back, you haven't finished your breakfast yet." And with that blasé attitude, Taehyung walks out of the door.

Seokjin can't find the will to follow him, he curls up on his futon and thinks. Taehyung's easy acceptance of not only Seokjin but himself is a foreign concept. Seokjin has distanced himself from that part, a broken thing that he tried his best to deny, and when he couldn't, hide. He's wanted to be normal. But something is becoming clearer to him, he's never thought of others who like the same sex as abnormal. He wonders why, why is he giving everybody else an approval he's never allowed himself?

Taehyung's way of treating it as a small matter, like it's so unsubstantial, makes him feel foolish.

However you'd like to call it.

Because it doesn't matter and won't change a thing. What he calls himself won't alter who he is or how he feels. It's just a word.

Against his constant desire to be like others, to be seen normal as defined by society, he wants the freedom to just be . Be real, be himself.

Be in love.

Seokjin would never deny anyone that right, so how come he's denying himself?

He bangs his head against the pillow and groans, pulling his phone out. The time gives him a pause. It's been hours since his mother called, the longest he's spent away from Taehyung after that day he sent him away. Taehyung must've realized his need for solitude.

He finds his mother's number, intending to call and tell her not to bother with the marriage meeting. He stares at the screen until it goes dark. Someone knocks on his door.

“Hyung? Are you alight?” It’s Namjoon.

“I am, thank you.”

Namjoon hovers at the door.

“Come on in.” Seokjin waves him inside. Namjoon sits beside him. Seokjin doesn’t want to talk about the call, or anything else. He’s frayed open, too exposed. His only defense is to speak before Namjoon does.

“Why did you leave that internship?”

Namjoon looks surprised so Seokjin elaborates. “Jeongguk said you got an internship at a good company but he didn’t say why you left. Did you not like it?”

Namjoon frowns.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to pry, if you don’t want to talk that’s fine.”

“My father passed away. I’m originally from Ilsan, so I had to leave Seoul and go back to support my mother and little sister.” 

“I’m so sorry,” Seokjin says. He didn’t mean to open this can of worms, he’s only wanted to defer the conversation from himself.

“It’s okay, I don’t mind.” Namjoon cranes his head back, looks at the ceiling. “I wish I got another opportunity, but abandoning my position like that doesn’t look good on paper. And now I’m neither new nor experienced so no one wants me.” He shrugs, trying for nonchalant but Seokjin doesn’t believe it. It’s obvious to him Namjoon still wants to pursue that path. 

Seokjin pats him on the shoulder. “You’ll get your chance.”

 


 

Taehyung remains gone for the whole day, and when they gather for dinner that night, Jimin is missing too.

Seokjin reads the grim mood and doesn't ask why Jimin isn't joining them. Jeongguk has a scowl on his face, both legs bouncing. He stands up, chopsticks clicking on his plate as he puts them down.

"I'm going to look for him," he says.

“Did you try calling him?” Hoseok asks.

“He left his phone in the room,” Jeongguk says. “Fuck!”

"Calm down. He just needs to cool off and then he'll be back. Not like this is the first time he’s taken off after a fight," Namjoon says. He gestures with his head at Jeongguk's food and Jeongguk huffs but sits down again.

Seokjin lifts his chopsticks to his mouth. Jeongguk pushes his plate away and shakes his head, almost freaked. "Something's not right," he mutters.

"Seokjin!"

Taehyung barges into the room, breathless and flushed, eyes brimming with tears.

"What's wrong?" Trepidation fills Seokjin. Everyone looks up at his sharp tone.

"It's Jimin! The construction site, he's...It's."

"Take a breath, calm down. What happened?" 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes but Seokjin ignores him in favour of Taehyung.

"I followed him after his argument with Jeongguk because I was worried. He's been hiding in the construction site. It fell down," Taehyung sobs

" Fuck ." He gets up fast, alarming the others. "Jimin is in the construction site, Taehyung says it fell on him."  

He expects Jeongguk to mock him but he springs up and rushes out of the door before them all. They run to the site, Jeongguk a few meters ahead.  

The place has indeed caved. One of the pillars that held up the damaged ceiling has fallen; moonlight shines through the hole. Plaster dust drifts. Dirt and bricks and wood lay in scattered piles. Seokjin imagines being buried under them and bile climbs up his throat.

"Jimin!" Jeongguk shouts.

"He's here!" Taehyung points and Seokjin doesn't hesitate to follow. They all move together, carrying wood and bricks. Luckily, the rest of the place isn't too damaged, and Jimin has managed to avoid the worst of collapse. His leg is stuck under a wooden pillar that they lift together.

Jeongguk takes him into his arms and stands up, teary eyed and pale.

"I'm not that hurt," Jimin murmurs. He hides his face in Jeongguk's neck and curls closer. Jeongguk turns to Seokjin.

"Where is he?"

Seokjin almost asks who before it clicks that Jeongguk is referring to Taehyung. He points to where Taehyung is standing. Jeongguk marches to him in determined steps, then bows down -Jimin nestled in his arms- and says:

"Thank you, Taehyung. I owe you." 

“Thank you,” Jimin repeats

Seokjin smiles. "You're welcome."

Hoseok drives Jeongguk and Jimin to the hospital, when they're back they share the good news. Jimin's leg isn't hurt badly, just a laceration that would heal in two weeks or so.

"Might leave a scar," Jimin says, later as they gather for dinner again that night.

"My little warrior," Jeongguk teases, leans in to kiss Jimin on the cheek. Watching them, Seokjin wants to ask about the fight but he can't risk ruining the merry mood so he keeps his mouth shut until he's back in his room.

Taehyung has followed him this time, Seokjin turns to him. "Did you know what they fought about?"

Taehyung pouts. "I'm not going to tell you."

"Why?"

"I don't feel comfortable sharing their private conversation, they didn't mean for anyone to hear it. I didn’t hear it all anyway."

The laugh bursts out of Seokjin, loud and carefree. "You really are a good person."

Taehyung scrunches his nose and squints but he thanks Seokjin anyway. 

 


 

The palace is a maze. Long corridors and rooms and many guards. It smells like burning wood, not overwhelming, but a gentle scent. Seokjin hasn't been here but he knows what this is. He's dreaming of Taehyung's past.

Last time this happened, he didn't need to look to find Taehyung but he's nowhere to be seen now. Seokjin follows the corridor, a walk that seems endless, his steps echo on the walls. A young man, dressed in fine clothes makes his way beside Seokjin and turns to the right, Seokjin walks behind him.

The man's steps are determined, his face split between hopeful and something else that Seokjin doesn't know what to name. He stands in front of one of the many doors and nods once before he slides it open, no knocking or hesitance.

"Your highness!"

It's Taehyung.

He hurries to stand up and bow to the prince, and the prince waves his hand at Taehyung. "I told you not to be so formal."

"I can't do that, your highness."

Taehyung is older than he was in the village, taller and broader. His features are more defined. His hair is smooth and shiny, his clothes are colorful and clean and his skin looks healthier. He's not as skinny as he was. But Taehyung's smile is forced, and the glint that was in his eyes has vanished. His beautiful eyes are dim, and he keeps them down, not meeting the prince's.

"You can if I order you," the prince says. Taehyung purses his lips into a thin line and does not move. The prince takes a few steps to stand in front of Taehyung, lifts a hand to cup his face. Taehyung's flinch is almost imperceptible, Seokjin sees it. The prince doesn't.

He lifts Taehyung's face, thumb brushing over Taehyung's cheek. Seokjin's stomach drops. "You won't even look at me."

Taehyung stubbornly keeps his eyes away. "It's not appropriate for a servant to look a prince in the eye."  

That angers the prince. He removes his hand and steps back but before Seokjin can breathe in relief the prince clutches both hands on Taehyung's arms causing him to wince and try to pull away. The prince doesn't let him. He leans down and tries to kiss Taehyung.

Seokjin surges forward, anger burning in his gut. He passes right through the prince, and screams in frustration.

Taehyung is still struggling, but the prince pushes and they fall down, Taehyung's head hits the floor and he winces. The prince is on him, hands pulling at Taehyung's clothes.

"Your highness, stop. Please." Taehyung's plea goes unheard. He catches the prince's hand, attempting to stop him from sliding his hanbok further down. The prince hisses, frees his hand and slaps Taehyung across the cheek with the back of his hand.

Taehyung is looking at him, but he can't see Seokjin. He's only keeping his eyes away. Seokjin falls to his knees and crawls closer, tears flowing down.

"I'm so sorry, Taehyung. I'm so sorry."

Taehyung's hand extends, like he's reaching for something. Seokjin does the same, tries to hold Taehyung's hand with both his, only for him to pass through it like smoke. Seokjin lowers his head, but he keeps his eyes on the unfair scene unfolding in front of him.

Taehyung takes a few breaths, seemingly bracing himself. He fists his hand and throws it up, hitting the prince on his jaw and sending him reeling back. Before he can recover, Taehyung lifts his knee, catching him on the sternum then he follows that with kicking his shin directly into The prince's groin. He pushes the prince and rolls away, standing a few feet from the prince.

The prince gets up, his eyes almost red. "You whore," he snarls and advances. Taehyung lifts both hands.

"Please stay away, I don't want to do this." Taehyung says. Taehyung is stronger than the prince and he hesitated because he was weighing his options.

Attacking the prince means death.

The prince isn't done and he doesn't listen. He walks closer, lunges himself at Taehyung, catching both his wrists. Taehyung doesn't miss a beat, he pulls the prince closer and bites his shoulder. The prince screams and pushes Taehyung hard, Taehyung's back connecting with the wall in a vicious thud. He bites his lip but doesn't scream, keeps the wall on his back and fixes his eyes on the prince who doesn't appear deterred yet. Seokjin wishes he was corporal, he'd beat the bastard to death even if it meant his demise too.

The prince takes a step but the knocking at the door halts him. The voice of a woman sounds.

"Taehyung, the king demands your presence in his chambers. I'll send the girls to help you get ready."

Taehyung and the prince hold eye contact for a few tense seconds then the prince huffs and leaves. Taehyung collapses on the floor and Seokjin rushes to his side even though he can't do anything.

"I am so sorry."

He jolts awake with the picture of Taehyung's smarting cheek and teary eyes vivid in front of his eyes, like he's still in that wretched palace. When he turns around Taehyung is there, sitting against the wall with his knees held to his chest and his chin resting on them.

"I believe we know how I died now."

Chapter Text

 

"I believe we know how I died now," Taehyung says, bitterness clear in his voice. Seokjin goes to him, sits beside him with his back to the wall and he stares ahead. He fists his hands over his thighs. Everything in him screams at him to pull Taehyung close, hold him tight and never let him go but if he reaches out now the only thing he'll see is his hand failing to touch Taehyung in a cruel parody of his utter uselessness.

"I'm sorry." The feeble words offer nothing. Seokjin, despite his willingness to give everything, can't give more than them.

"I'm not," Taehyung says, "I'd kick the bastard in the groin again. I know what I chose. I remember thinking: They will kill me but I'd rather die than give myself to someone I don't want. "

A lump climbs up Seokjin's throat, his eyes sting again. He's so proud of Taehyung's strength, and yet he wants to wail and cry and never stop. He's mourning Taehyung even when he's a few inches away and it occurs to him that it's stupid.

If Taehyung is here, if he can experience emotions and feel the breeze on his cheeks then he's not dead. Perhaps his body is, but his soul is here, a wonderful gift to Seokjin and he won't waste their time together crying and regretting the past. Who knows how long they've got together.

"Get up," he says, standing up and opening his duffel. He throws on a white t-shirt and the first pair of jeans he sees, tucks his wallet and phone in his pocket and turns to face Taehyung.

Taehyung regards him with a question in his eyes.

"Come with me," Seokjin says. Taehyung doesn't ask where, he nods and when Seokjin walks out of the room he follows.

It's pitch dark outside, the night cool and silent save for the insects’ noises. Seokjin checks his phone for the time, almost laughing at his screen. It's little after two in the morning and he won’t let it stop him.

There's no train operating at that time of the night, but Hoseok has told him they hang the car's key near the kitchen door and that he's welcome to use it. Seokjin doesn't hesitate going there and retrieving it. The house is dark and eerily silent, and he feels like a thief. He consoles himself with the fact that they never used the car apart from driving Jimin to the hospital yesterday, and Hoseok did give him permision to use it.

He opens the passenger door for Taehyung and Taehyung eyes him warily before he settles in. Seokjin takes his place as the driver, pleased at the almost filled tank. Hoseok is an angel.

Clasping the safety belt in place, he pulls the car out of the park and puts it in drive and goes.

Taehyung is delighted at the car. He's seen them in the movies Seokjin watched with him and he's wanted to ride in one.

"Thank you, Seokjin." He seems better already, but this is not what Seokjin is trying to do.

"It's not about the car."

Taehyung looks out of the window, entranced by the fast passing scenery. "Where are you taking us?"

"The ocean."

Taehyung goes silent so Seokjin risks a glance. The small beautiful smile on Taehyung’s lips shines like the sun, its warmth reaches Seokjin’s heart and nests there.

Seokjin points them east and goes as fast as the speed limit allows. The west coast is closer but he doesn't mind going farther for a better view. He wants Taehyung to see the white, sandy shore and the crystal clear water. He wants them to sit side by side and watch the sunrise over Sokcho Beach.

It's a two hours and a half drive. Seokjin doesn't make stops and doesn't let up. Taehyung gasps as he sees the sea from the window.

"Seokjin! We're here!"

Seokjin smiles at the excitement in Taehyung's voice. He parks the car, shoots a message to Hoseok telling him he's got the car then turns his phone off and leaves it in the glove box.

It's still dark, the beach deserted, but that's better. Seokjin wants these moments to be only theirs.

They walk side by side until the earth turns to sand, then Taehyung runs toward the water. Seokjin slows down, watching Taehyung's back and the sea behind him. The moon is still high in the night sky, a piece of ivory against navy velvet, stars scattered around it. The sound of the waves and the smell of salt rushes over Seokjin and he closes his eyes and breathes in.

"Seokjin! Come here!"

Seokjin opens his eyes, Taehyung is waving him over and despite how dim the light is Seokjin can see the smile on his face clearly. An answering smile tugs his lips up and he hurries toward Taehyung.

The moon is exactly the same as it was the night they first met, marking it as a month. It feels longer; a lifetime.

"It's so beautiful," Taehyung whispers once Seokjin is standing near. "Thank you." Like the ocean is Seokjin’s gift to him.

Seokjin has the urge to fall on his knees and beg for forgiveness, his throat clogging up. What he does for Taehyung is so little and inconsequential and yet Taehyung offers gratitude so easily. 

The first light of the day shines in the east and they face it, sitting side by side on the damp sand, waves brushing their extended legs. Taehyung places his hand between them and looks at Seokjin. Seokjin stares at his long, delicate fingers, and Taehyung parts them in invitation.

They don't touch, they can't. But Seokjin fits his fingers between the spaces Taehyung's left for him. It's almost enough. They smile at each other then turn to welcome the sunrays of the new day.

Cars drive by on the highway, Seokjin turns to it. He catches their shadows behind them on the sand, closer than them and holding hands. His smile is bitter, the picture taunting him with a dream he can’t get.

A shadow.

He frowns. Taehyung has a shadow. His heart starts drumming in his chest. Shadow means solid, means...

His hand passes through Taehyung and he lets out a frustrated sound. Taehyung faces him, his eyes sad.

"I know," he breathes, leaning close so Seokjin can feel his breath. "It's so unfair that I can't touch you."

Seokjin feels the desire to touch like a pang in his heart, an ache deeper than flesh and bone.

"I want to touch you," Taehyung says. "Seokjin, I think I lo--"

"Stop." Seokjin squeezes his eyes shut. He's trembling, his very foundation is shaking. And there's nothing to hold him together. He knows what Taehyung wants to say, he feels it keenly. Pulsating with every beat of his heart.

It fucking hurts.

"Don't tell me that when I can't… I can't do anything about it."

"I'm sorry."

"No, Taehyung. That's... I..." and this time he can't stop the tears. They flow down his cheeks freely, hot and tacky and he sniffles pitifully and wipes at his eyes.

"This was supposed to be a happy moment," he coughs.

"It is," Taehyung says, "I am happy."

Seokjin lifts his eyes to Taehyung's, gives him a smile. Taehyung returns it.

"I know my past is a horrible one but I still think I'm fortunate. I'm so grateful to have met you, Seokjin."

Seokjin lets out a sob, "Me too. I'm glad I got to meet you, Taehyung."

They give each other small smiles and when Seokjin lowers his eyes they fall on the shadow again.

"You can see yourself in the mirror, right?" He asks. Taehyung looks confused but he nods.

"I see my reflection in the water puddles when it rains," Taehyung says.

Shadow and reflection, so maybe...

"Stay right here!" He gets up and starts running, "I'll be right back."

He curses himself for leaving the damn phone behind but as he runs and his heart gets faster and louder, the thought of light won't leave his brain. Light laws work for Taehyung.

A camera might capture him.

He lets out a triumphant shout when he powers the phone, opening the camera app as he runs back. He stumbles, nearly falls on his face but he regains his balance. Taehyung is standing where he's left him, covering his mouth though the sound of his giggles escapes.

Seokjin would gladly play the fool if that's the result.

"Stay still," he says, holding his breath. He lifts the camera.

Taehyung is there, standing with the beautiful scenery behind him. The camera focuses on his face and Seokjin feels like weeping with relief. He can keep this.

"Seokjin?"

As an answer, Seokjin shows the screen to him. Taehyung grins.

"It's my picture!"

"Yeah, it is."

The camera can capture Taehyung but his voice can't be recorded, so Seokjin takes some pictures and calls it a win. He takes a video of Taehyung taking his shoes off and stepping into the water.

He wonders if whatever bond between them is why he can see the pictures, wonders if they'd look like photos of the beach to the others, without Taehyung standing there.

Doesn't matter, as long as he can see it.

Taehyung spends some time splashing the water and running around, Seokjin content just watching him and taking pictures. They leave when people start flocking. The phone informs them that it's past nine in the morning. Seokjin casts a glance at the path they took, heart sinking at the lonely trail of his steps in the sand.

 


 

Seokjin walks into the house and everyone’s there. He's surprised until he remembers they take offs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"Hey, you're back!" Hoseok says. The house has no living room so they gather in the kitchen. It's large, and they've placed a sofa against one wall where everyone is currently crammed. Namjoon has a book in his hand, Hoseok is probably going through his Instagram. Jimin is on Jeongguk's lap and they're both looking at a phone.

"I filled the tank, too. My drive was long."

"Where did you go anyway?" Jeongguk asks, lifting his face up.

"I took Tae to see the ocean."

"Tae?" Jimin, Jeongguk and Taehyung ask in unison. Seokjin's face heats up.

He glances at Taehyung. Taehyung is looking at the floor, his cheeks tinged red and his mouth is shaping a crescent.

"Which beach," Namjoon asks without looking up from his book.

"Sokcho. I wanted to show you guys something."

He takes a breath and pulls his phone out. Getting the selfie of him and Taehyung, he turns the screen slowly, not knowing what he's wishing for.

"Who's the pretty--" Hoseok starts at the same time as Jimin shrieks: "Is that Taehyung?"

"You can see him?"

Taehyung walks closer and cranes his neck to see the picture.

"He's very beautiful!" Jimin says while Jeongguk hurries to pull out his phone. He lifts it in his hand and scans the room.

"Oh my God!" He exclaims, "Jimin, look! He's right there! This is so freaky!"

"Hello, Taehyung."

Taehyung waves in answer and the kitchen erupts into absolute chaos. There was no doubt from anyone about Taehyung's existence after Jimin's accident but now they can see him.

Taehyung tries to answer their many questions with just gestures, then gives up and turns to Seokjin.

He looks happy. Seokjin’s heart feels lighter.

Chapter Text

 

The days fold like pages, running away from Seokjin in a haze of panic and desperation. The clock ticks on his time with Taehyung, insidious like bone cancer. Seokjin starts losing sleep, and he feels relieved that he's insomniac because he knows what's coming. 

Taehyung acts the same, giving his smiles easily like they aren't the most precious thing this world has.

There's nothing for them to do but live on, despite the looming memory that got Seokjin's marrow liquefying in terror. He knows it's happening no matter how long he tries to avoid sleeping, and he feels selfish for wishing to never see it but he doesn't want to witness Taehyung's death. An unfair execution because he stood up for himself and said no to a fucking rapist.

Seokjin flips between blinding rage and utter helplessness, both having no place to go but build up inside his entrails. He's so close to snapping all the time, worse than standing in a courtroom with a losing case, worse than dreaming about endlessly falling and the trepidation of hitting the ground.

"Seokjin," Taehyung sighs. "Please stop this, you haven't slept in two nights and you're exhausted."

He can barely lift his head, the insides of his lids feel like sandpaper and his sanity is slipping.

"I can't."

"You're trying not to sleep. You keep drinking the coffee thing, I know that's supposed to keep you awake. Seokjin, you'll be sick."

He bites his lip, looks down at his hands. They're trembling. Because he hasn't been able to stomach food. Taehyung prods gently once more:

"Just a few hours?"

"It's morning," Seokjin argues. It's the end of the spectrum of pathetic, that Taehyung is comforting him . Another reason to feel like the failure that he is.

If he doesn't get the dream, if their time together isn't coming to an end like his quavering heart is pushing him to believe. Maybe it can work. They have nothing but talk and Seokjin won't mind this forever. Live alone with Taehyung, be the crazy old man in love with a ghost. He can even take the firm, won't have to face who he really is because Taehyung isn't seen and Seokjin will gladly be invisible alongside him.

They can be together until the ache to touch Taehyung grows too big to endure, finally killing him. Perhaps then they could move on to the next life together.

It's a nice idea. 

"Seokjin, I beg of you," Taehyung says, a note of exasperation in his voice. "Sleep."

Seokjin doesn't ever remember being on the verge of tears for as long as he has been since their visit to the beach. The tears are constantly close, waiting for him to lower his guard so they can rain down. He nods at Taehyung and lies down, feeling his lungs transforming into lead and his heart to rock. He closes his eyes with the idea that if he sees Taehyung's death in this dream, he won't wake up.

 


 

He's in Taehyung's room. Taehyung's clothes are the same ones Seokjin's used to seeing. The deep purple and gold hanbok.  A maid is fixing a band of gold to Taehyung's hair, and he's putting on the same earrings he's now wearing. Seokjin pauses.

They're dressing him up. The maid even has something that he's sure is lipstick, smearing it around in a small dish with a brush. Taehyung shakes his head when she tries to apply it for him, gently pushes her hand down.

She nods. On the ground in front of him, she places a vial of clear liquid, then she bows her head and leaves. Taehyung's blank gaze is glued to the small container. He slaps it away and it hits the wall and shatters, spilling its contents everywhere. It's some kind of an oil.

Then Seokjin remembers the last thing that happened before the prince left.

The king asked for Taehyung.

Seokjin feels bile burning its way up his esophagus, his limbs getting cold. This family is insane. It wasn't enough that the prince has tried to force himself on Taehyung, his father wants a turn too.

Or maybe that's what pushed the prince to this. He knew his father wanted Taehyung and he wanted to come here first.

Seokjin wishes he lived in their time, so he can fucking murder them both. He feels some cold part of his soul delighting in the knowledge that they were slaughtered like pigs when the king of Goguryeo took the land back. Only for it to crash and howl in pain. Their death didn’t change Taehyung’s fate.

"I'm not going," Taehyung mumbles. Getting up, he faces the mirror in the corner, undoing the work the maid has done on his hair, and furiously tugging at the jewelry. They fall to the ground one by one, the band and the bracelets, the ring.

He's about to take the earrings off when he stops. Like he's turned into a statue, every movement has ceased. He's not even breathing. Then slowly, he turns his head to his closet. He walks with mechanical steps, hands trembling when he lifts them and opens the closet's door.

He retrieves a dagger, unsheathes it with a jerky move.

Seokjin's blood goes icy cold in his veins, the beats of his heart getting heavy and slow and he can't feel his breath anymore. Like the flow of time is altered.

Taehyung inhales, puts the peak of the dagger under his chin and closes his eyes, tears streaming down his cheeks. Seokjin wants to move, wants to scream but he can't. It won't change a thing even if he could. He's nothing here and this is a memory.

He closes his eyes, starts shaking. His hands balls into fists, nails digging deep into his palm.

This can't be it. He feared this memory, didn't want to see Taehyung getting killed but this is infinitely worse.  Taehyung holding the dagger to his own neck.

"Drop the blade, foolish human."

Seokjin's eyes fly open. Taehyung is pale and tremulous. A woman stands in front of him, but she's no human.

She's luminous, the tail of her dress and the ends of her locks float on air, and Seokjin can see through her. The most striking thing about her is that she has no face, blank skin where her features are supposed to be. She extends her hand and the dagger flies towards her then turns to dust as he flexes her wrist.

"You arrogant little thing. I gave you what everyone else would give their souls to have." Her voice resonates through the walls and Seokjin's bones. She steps with no feet, stands closer to Taehyung. Taehyung's red eyes flood once more.

"I didn't ask for this. I didn't want any of this," he sobs.

"How dare you!" she booms.

"They're hurting me! Please, don't let them do this to me. Please, I only wish to go home."

Everything in Seokjin is throbbing with pain. He goes to Taehyung even if he can't touch him, falls to his knees behind him and wraps his arms around Taehyung's shoulders. He doesn't touch, just places his arms in a circle. It soothes some of the hurt in his heart to pretend. He'd give everything he has and then some, if he can just change Taehyung's fate. Give him a happier life.

 "I gave you fortune and beauty. People love you."

"If this is what fortune and beauty results in then I'd rather they never see me. I'd rather vanish."

She falls silent. Taehyung remains frozen where he is. The goddess tilts her head and murmurs: "You shall fulfill what you're fated to be. You shall learn that good fortune comes in many shapes, though you might not realize it. Such is the nature of humans. Always hasty, forever lamenting what they don't have and never cherishing what they do own until it's too late."

She disappears, leaving Taehyung sitting on the wooden floor.

The knocking on the door makes Taehyung flinch. He gets up and Seokjin stands too, staying close behind. The beats go on but Taehyung doesn't answer. Then the door opens and two maids rush in, looking around the room.

"Taehyung?" One of them calls.

"Yes?" Taehyung answers, but they pay him no mind. They keep calling and walking around the room, checking the closet before they call the guards.

No one can see Taehyung standing in the middle of the room. He’s invisible. Just like he is in Seokjin’s world.

"Where is he?"

"Search everywhere!"

"The king will be furious!"

Seokjin jolts awake. His heart bruising his ribs, his breaths unstable.

Taehyung never died. He's alive .

He's...

"Seokjin!"

Seokjin Doesn't move . He opens his mouth but words evade him, so he stays as he is and stares at lap.

"She was unfair to you," Seokjin says at last.

"No, she's right." Before Seokjin can protest, Taehyung goes on: "Seokjin, don't you see? I am fortunate. She brought me to you. This is the fate she was talking about. It’s you ."

A lump forms in Seokjin's throat. He's not good enough to balance all the bad things that's happened to Taehyung.

"She said that we only focus on what we don't have, but I don't want to do that anymore, Seokjin. We're here now, we're together. Even if we can’t touch each other, even if no one sees me but you. Can that be enough?"

Seokjin turns to face him, heart lurching in his chest at the sight of Taehyung's teary eyes and red nose.

"I know I'm asking you for too much. I have no right to your life and you can--"

"You do, Taehyung. I'll give it to you, anything you want." He stands up, takes a step toward Taehyung and Taehyung gasps, looking down at one hand then back at Seokjin.

"Seokjin," he whispers, takes a step closer. The sound of his shoe hitting the floor is jarring . His steps didn’t have a sound before...

Taehyung extends his hand. 

Seokjin's heart stutters, his legs stumble. He reaches out, holding his breath as the tips of their fingers align. They stop moving, both their eyes locked at where their hands hover.

It starts with their fingerprints, one after the other until they're palm to palm. Warm and solid. 

Real.

The world disappears in the rush of blood that surges in Seokjin.

They're touching.

He slides his hand around, catches Taehyung's wrist, pulls and Taehyung collides with him. Seokjin gasps at the contact, holds Taehyung as close as he can, burying his face in his hair and inhaling his scent. Taehyung burrows closer, hands curling over Seokjin's shoulder blades. Seokjin squeezes his eyes shut, molds them together, harder still until he can feel every ridge in Taehyung's body.

"God," he breathes. Can't believe the warmth between them, Taehyung's breathless inhales and the feel of his frantic heart against Seokjin's. He clings, an arm around Taehyung's waist and the other gripping his shoulder.

Taehyung turns his head, his lips catching on Seokjin's jaw. A soft kiss followed by a sweet puff of air.

"I love you."

Seokjin chokes. Taehyung pushes a bit, no way Seokjin is loosening his hold. Their foreheads slide together as Taehyung turns again, nuzzles his nose against Seokjin's.

"You wouldn't let me say it before," Taehyung says, his breath warm on Seokjin's lips, humid and more real than he's ever felt it. Seokjin stares, entranced by the way Taehyung's mouth shapes words, his thick eyelashes and sparking eyes are more vivid. "You told me not to say it when you couldn't do anything about it." He draws closer, their lips not quite touching but aren't apart either, they brush as Taehyung talks.

"I'm saying it now, so what are you going to do?"

Seokjin crushes their lips together, groans at the first taste. Taehyung curls closer, fingers twisting into the fabric of Seokjin's pajama shirt. Seokjin licks forward, pries Taehyung's lips open and sucks his tongue, doesn't know which of them moans at the contact. He's still clinging to Taehyung like his life depends on it and he’s sure it does, he's sure his heart will give out if he lets go. The kiss is deep, wet and messy and Taehyung tries to match him, clumsy but determined. Seokjin wants to slow the kiss, be gentle because this could be Taehyung's first but he can't. His blood scalds him from the inside, his heart aches, everything demanding more, more, more. He's falling apart, splitting at the seams and he can only breathe if he’s stealing the air from Taehyung.

His lungs are burning, he's getting dizzy with lack of oxygen but he doesn't break the kiss because it's more vital. The second their lips detach, Taehyung whimpers, slides his arms around Seokjin's neck and buries his fingers in his hair. He yanks forward, forcing their mouths together again, sighing in relief like the distance physically hurt him. 

Seokjin's hand smooths over Taehyung's back, up until he wraps those soft, long locks around his fingers. He tugs and Taehyung follows, craning his neck back and allowing Seokjin to trace his lips over the edge of Taehyung's jaw, down to his neck, sucking kisses and tonguing over tendons. Taehyung is trying to get his shirt open, letting out a frustrated sound as the buttons give him trouble.

"Seokjin," he whines, breaking away. He fists his hands on either side of Seokjin's waist and wrenches the shirt off over his head. Seokjin helps by untying Taehyung's belt, letting the hanbok fall down one shoulder.

They kiss as they walk backwards and Seokjin lowers them to the futon, careful as he lies on Taehyung. Taehyung parts his gorgeous, long legs and reaches out with both arms, holding Seokjin with everything he has as their lips reconnect. Their chests line, slip over each other as Seokjin thrusts. Taehyung moans into the kiss, bucking up, seeking more. His legs tighten around Seokjin, pulling him closer, rocking against him.

"Seokjin," he calls, eyes half lid and dark with desire. He's always beautiful but like this, he's beyond words. Spread on Seokjin's sheets, hair spilled over the pillow like ink. His cheeks are pink and he's panting. He looks up at Seokjin like he's never going to avert his eyes. His hands fall off of Seokjin's back and settle on either side of his head in the perfect picture of surrender. No. Not surrender, something far more precious.

Trust.

Seokjin leans down, kisses Taehyung's forehead, his eyes stinging as he closes them. He knows how monumental this is, how much it means that Taehyung is lying under him, willing and wanton.

"Thank you," he says, lips brushing Taehyung's skin. Taehyung nods, grazes the tips of his fingers over Seokjin's chin.

"Take me," he breathes. Seokjin trembles. Taehyung's voice raspy and deep, like his throat is scratched. He kisses Taehyung, managing a slow, sweet kiss. Taehyung drops his jaw, allows him to lick another taste.

Pulling back, Seokjin undresses then reaches to his bag. He doesn't have proper lube, only hand lotion.

Taehyung follows every move. He squirms to get fully naked too, smiling at Seokjin and biting his lip; looking from behind his lashes. The coy act makes Seokjin want him impossibly more. He settles back between Taehyung's legs, sets his lips to trail paths over the unblemished skin. He kisses Taehyung's heart, down to his navel, licks around then inside of it. Taehyung writhes, muscles of his abdomen quivering with every peck and brush of lips.

He sucks a mark over Taehyung's hip, enjoying the way Taehyung's thighs tighten and jerk. Taehyung's skin is burning hot, scalding Seokjin's hands as they massage and grip. Taehyung's panting. Fingers clenching in the sheets.

"Seokjin," he moans. "I'm losing my mind." He sounds delirious, pupils dilated, hair stuck to his face and neck with sweat, his lips worried raw.

"I'm nowhere near done, Tae." 

Taehyung's cock is hard, beads of pre-come sliding down the length. Seokjin licks it then swallows it down. Taehyung's hips buck up, he lets out a high pitched moan. Seokjin takes him further, bobs his head and hollows his cheeks.

"Seokjin, Oh God, what are you--" he breaks off on another moan. Seokjin lifts his eyes, catches Taehyung's wide, surprised look. He's got his fingers in his hair, messing it up and he's shaking. Keeps jerking up. Seokjin holds his hips down as he deep throats him, closing his eyes and reveling in Taehyung's heavy taste and gorgeous moans. 

He gentles down the motion of his head, retreating so only the tip is in his mouth and gets the lotion. Coats his fingers and rubs at Taehyung's hole. Taehyung lets out another choked off gasp, whining and shivering. He's so responsive, every touch has him breaking apart and Seokjin relishes his reactions.

He slides a finger in, slow and careful. Taehyung stops the rocking of his hips, takes a deep breath.

"Seokjin," he says, "come here."

Seokjin complies, crawls up. He thrust his finger in and out, taking every little change in Taehyung's expression. The furrow of his brows, his white teeth biting his lip. He pulls Taehyung's bottom lip with his teeth, traces the indents Taehyung's made with his tongue. Taehyung's making these little hurt sounds like it's so good he can't help it. Seokjin takes his finger out, pours more lotion then breaches Taehyung with two. Taehyung spreads his legs wider, panting. He cups Seokjin's cheeks and guides him into a kiss, desperate and heated. Seokjin feels faint, he's losing himself in it and he wouldn't care if he faded into this, If he died here, surrounded by Taehyung's heat,  breathing in the scent of his sweat and arousal.

Another finger, Seokjin breaks the kiss to look down at his hand but Taehyung whines in protest.

"Keep kissing me," he says. Tugs at Seokjin's ear.

"Taehyung."

"Please don't stop kissing me, just..." Taehyung pulls him down again, licks at his lips. Hunger in his eyes mirrored in Seokjin's soul. He presses them harder against each other, wishes he can fuse them together so they'll never have to part again.

Their fingers thread together, Seokjin uses his other hand to line his cock with Taehyung's hole. He sinks in with a long, smooth push. Keeping his mouth on Taehyung's.

Breath leaves him when he's all the way in, Taehyung's thighs shaking on his flanks. He takes Taehyung's other hand, twines their fingers too and pushes both up above Taehyung's head, leaning down until they're touching everywhere. He pulls back just enough to lock their eyes, his heart constricting as Taehyung's lashes clog with tears.

"Does it hurt?" he whispers. Taehyung shakes his head, face contracted into a pained expression.

"It's so good, you feel so good, Seokjin."

A kiss on Taehyung's forehead then Seokjin lets go of Taehyung's hands, fingertips following the insides of his forearms, arms then down to his waist. Taehyung's hands hold on to his biceps, squeeze. Taehyung folds his legs closer to his chest, calves sliding higher on Seokjin's waist, pushing him deeper. Taehyung hisses, nails digging into the flesh of Seokjin's arms.

"Move," he pants.

He starts slow and gentle but the heat builds up fast and his frantic heart and Taehyung's moans urge him on. He throws himself into it, the rocking of their bodies, the mixture of their sweat and loud breathing and groans. It has no rhythm or control, it's not even about how good it feels. The need to be closer claws at his insides, each time he draws back his soul scream at him to slam in, fuck deeper until they're one.

They fold together so tight there's no air between them, chests lined, Taehyung's hard cock grinding against Seokjin's abdomen, getting wetter with every thrust. Taehyung's moans turn to constant choked noises of Seokjin's name. A mantra of Seokjin, Seokjin, Seokjin that clouds his mind and drags him under. His hips jerk, Taehyung gasps, muscle spasming as he comes between them. His walls clench hard around Seokjin, pushing him over.

Seokjin whites out for a few seconds, feels the sting of tears burning behind his lids as he comes down. Taehyung is holding on, panting wetly into his neck. Almost sobbing Seokjin's name now.

"Shhh, I'm here. I'm right here." He kisses Taehyung's eyes, wipes at tears with his thumbs. Cups Taehyung’s cheeks and kisses the bridge of his nose, the end of it, then his chin.

"I love you so much, Seokjin."

Seokjin kisses him, his stupid smile uncontained.

They clean up and curl around each other, holding on tight enough to bruise. Calm washes over Seokjin and he sinks into a deep, dreamless sleep.

When he wakes up, Taehyung is gone.

Chapter Text

 

It's a nightmare.

"Taehyung!"

It has to be.

"Taehyung, where are you?"

He's running, heart pounding against his ribs as hard as his feet pound the wooden floor. He shouts but he can't hear himself. Frantic beat of his heart sending icy dread into his veins and there's no sound but the deafening roar of it.

"Taehyung!"

Door after door. The halls, the stage, the yard. 

"Taehyung! Please answer me!"

Another door slides, his muscles protest to run more. He runs anyway. His throat hurts. He screams anyway.

"Hyung?"

"Taehyung! Taehyung?"

"Seokjin-hyung what's wrong?"

Hoseok is wearing only sweatpants, his hair messy but his eyes are wide and sharp. Seokjin stops moving.

"I can't find Taehyung," he says. He sounds small and scared, like a kid who lost his mother in the middle of a crowded market. 

"Did you have a fight?"

"No! No, we were fine, we..."

We finally got what we wanted. He was finally able to touch Taehyung.

"It's my wish," he says, his heart rhythm growing faster. He can barely breathe. The goddess gave them this. It's a conclusion to her lesson.

You shall learn that good fortune comes in many shapes, though you might not realize it at first. Such is the nature of humans. Always hasty, forever lamenting what they don't have and never cherishing what they do own until it's too late .

She gave them what they wanted and took what they already had. Seokjin had wanted so badly to touch Taehyung, too busy crying over the fact that he couldn't. He failed to see what a blessing just having him around was. And now he's gone.

She took him away.

"Oh God," he sobs, covering his face with both hands. He weeps like he's never done before, pain like no other vibrating through his body and he doesn't pay mind to the fact that there are witnesses to his pitiful misery. He cries until his voice disappears and his eyes burn, face tacky from salty tears. Cries until he can't anymore, he begs and swears to never ask for more, he knows what he has. Knows he's lucky and he'd give it all up if he'd just got Taehyung back.

No one answers him.

Hoseok and the others leave him alone when they realize they can’t console him and he loses time.

He wakes up curled on the floor where he broke down, muscles aching from sleeping in an uncomfortable position. The room has no trace of Taehyung, his clothes have disappeared with him. Seokjin crawls to his futon and buries his face in the pillow, inhaling the remnant of their mixed scent. He wants to keep the last breath he has of Taehyung forever, make the few seconds he can protect this scent go on for eternity.

He holds the air, his lungs fighting against him and his eyes tearing up again. It hurts but he refuses to let it go, gritting his teeth against his body's need for oxygen. He fails, the exhale escaping from him.

A heavy sense of loss settles in the space between skin and muscle, ache slots through his marrow. He accepts defeat.

 


 

Everyone stands up when he enters the kitchen. It's past nine but there's no sign that anyone has eaten breakfast. He'd be guilty for worrying them but he has no place beside the pain.

"I'm going back to Incheon. Thank you for having me." He bows and turns to leave. Someone follows him out.

"Do you need me to drive you?" It's Jeongguk. Seokjin faces him.

"I called a cab."

Jeongguk ducks his head, hands fisted and shaking by his thighs. "Is he..."

Seokjin chokes. "He's not here anymore."

Jeongguk's face contracts into a pained expression, eyes going liquid. He opens his mouth but clamps it shut before any words come out. He nods once, turns away.

"I'll leave him flowers in the hall."

They're sitting in front of Seokjin's laptop, watching a stupid romance movie that Seokjin would never have considered if Taehyung didn't like the description. The heroine got white roses and Taehyung smiled.

"They are beautiful."

"He likes roses."

"Roses it is."

 


 

Seokjin's apartment is too big for him and yet the walls close in on him as soon as he steps into the place. It's clean and furnished lavishly. Seokjin would rather have that empty room in the temple with just a futon and an oil lamp, Taehyung's chatter filling the place.

He showers and dresses in a formal suit, slicks his hair back and pockets his phone. It's a forty minutes drive to his father's office.

His phone rings as he settles into his seat. ID telling him it's his mother. He's meant to pay her a visit after he speaks with his father but if he's ripping off the band aid, might as well do it now.

"Hello, mother."

 


 

"You're insane!" Is the first thing Yoongi says as he sits down. They're in a small cafe in the middle of Seoul, Seokjin using Yoongi's insistence to meet as an excuse to run out of his office.

"Well, hello to you, too. I've been good, thanks for asking."

Yoongi rolls his eyes. Seokjin signals the waiter to their table.

"Being sarcastic is my job."

Seokjin shrugs. He busies himself with the menu despite having already ordered. He knows what Yoongi wants to talk about.

"I'm really proud," Yoongi says once the waiter moves away. "You've been back for three days and you're already flipping shit. I almost lost hope."

Three days since he's left the temple, left a dream and stepped back into reality. The first thing he did was tell his father about his sexuality and his plan for the company and when his father's refusal and expected disapproval made an appearance Seokjin didn't care.

He simply didn't have place for more when everything in him ached with the loss of Taehyung. There's been a fire in his chest and he used it to snap back at his parents.

His father capitulated, allowing Seokjin to have his way. His mother told him she never wants to see him again. It would've hurt before.

"I'm regretting it." The place is buzzing with noise. Smell of coffee in the air, and the clicking of glass on glass. It’s too dim, stuffy. The shadows sneaking from under the chairs, Seokjin keeps his eyes there. 

"You said your dad agreed to let you put a front and just continue from behind the scenes."

"That's not why I'm regretting it," Seokjin sighs. "Dad only agreed because he doesn't want his company to go to someone out of the family. He's been showing his annoyance by sending shitty cases my way while scheduling meetings with employees who might work as my CEO." He’s exhausted, hasn’t slept well in so long.

Yoongi whistles. "Did you find one, yet?"

Seokjin opens his mouth to answer but his phone rings and interrupts him. He pinches the bridge of his nose, answering without checking the name. It must be his assistant informing him of another meeting.

"Kim Seokjin,"

"Hyung!"

"Hello, Namjoon." Seokjin almost winces at his impatient tone.

"Did I catch you in a bad time?"

"I'm sorry," and he means it. "It's been a horrible couple of days. How's things at the temple?"

There's a pause in which Seokjin hears nothing, then Namjoon asks:

"Something happened?"

"A lot happened. I kind of had a fight with my father and drowned in his shit storm. I’ll need some time to wrap things up."

Another long pause, hushed sounds on the other side like Namjoon is fighting with someone.

"How long?"

"Namjoon-ah, what's wrong?"

"I actually wanted you to come over this weekend."

"I'm sorry, I'm really busy." Seokjin isn't lying, he is busy this weekend but he's got no intention of going back to the temple anyway. He can't . Staying there without Taehyung...

"When will you be abl--"

"I don't know. I'll call and tell you when I can. I really have to go now."

He catches Yoongi's disapproving look as he hangs up. "Don't start."

Yoongi clicks his tongue. "That's true for the next weekend, but you're not planning on going at all."

A scowl takes over his face, Yoongi lifts a hand to shut him up before he can say anything. "Don't even think of lying to me, I've known you since we were seven. You made friends there, don't lose them."

Seokjin purses his lips, fingers tightening around his cell phone. He nods his head and pulls his now lukewarm coffee. They don't speak again until Seokjin says goodbye.

 


 

Work winds down from piles and piles to nothing. A case won, a case lost. Two deferred to other dates. They're both hard but not hopeless like the one he lost, so Seokjin keeps his files organized and hopes for the best.

It leaves him with more time than he'd like. Namjoon calls twice more, insisting that Seokjin visit as soon as he can. 

The night descends like a thick blanket. A suffocating thing that takes space and energy. Quiet settles in. Seokjin paces in his kitchen, waiting for the water he’s placed on the stove to boil. 

The cup clicks on the counter. Seokjin opens an envelope of instant chocolate and empties the powder in the cup. Pours water over it, steam rising and warming his face. He lifts the beverage up, and before it reaches his lips.

“I wish I could give you chocolate.”

He throws the cup in the sink and marches to his room. 

No lamps on, under the covers, he gives in. The light from the phone blinds him, his eyes dry. His thumb hovers over the app. He flips to his side, opens it. 

Taehyung smiles at him in the picture. He’s laughing as he plays in the water. Seokjin keeps his eyes on the phone until he no longer can.

In the morning he calls his office and tells them he’s not coming in today or tomorrow.

Dressed in all black and with a bouquet of twenty two white roses on his passenger seat, he sets out to Bukchon Hanok village. He doesn't plan on spending the night, it’s an hour from his apartment but he knows he won't be able to get up and work after visiting the temple like he's visiting a grave.

The thought makes him park aside, queasy . His pulse runs thready and his skin clammy, his hands shake where they're gripping the wheel. Cars pass and honk, the colour of the sky changes. He gets himself under control, the scent of the roses filling the car helps tether him but the thorns settle in his heart and press deeper with every beat.

He arrives with the sunset, parks the car as orange and red spill over inky blue and bruising purple. The birds quiet, the dark settling in, his steps getting louder in the corridor leading to the prayer hall.

The place is exactly like he's last seen it. It should be darker and emptier, sadder. But it's the same.

Seokjin bites his lip, feeling ridiculous about the bouquet he's carrying. He stands in the middle of the hall, wondering if he should say something.

"Hello, Tae." His throat clicks. "I'm sorry it took me this long to visit but I--"

"Shouldn't you look at me when you apologize? I’ve waited so long."

Seokjin turns so fast he stumbles, the roses fall near his feet. Taehyung is standing by the entrance, holding a candle to light the way.

"Taehyung?" Seokjin whispers. Taehyung steps inside, sets the candle on the floor.

"A month and you can't recognize me anymore. I'm hurt, Seokjin." He shakes his head, but his smile is soft.

"You… you look different." More than anything, Seokjin wants to run and hold him, see if he's really there or if maybe coming back has set Seokjin's imagination free and now he is hallucinating. Taehyung laughs.

"It was Jimin's idea," he says, ruffling his now short hair and pointing to his modern clothes. "Hobi-hyung thinks I should dye my hair blue, I'm not so sure about it though."

"Hobi...hyung." Seokjin repeats, still rooted to the spot. "Hoseok?" Yes, that's what Jimin and Jeongguk call him, Hobi hyung.

"So that means, you..." His eyes tear up, his heart stutters and he finally takes a step. "Are you real?"  

Taehyung laughs again, but it's softer, happier. "You keep asking me that."

The spell Seokjin's under releases him and he runs with his arms outstretched, Taehyung meets him halfway in a bruising embrace. He buries his face in Taehyung's neck and remembers the first time he got to do this, tightens his grip.

"How long have you been here?"

Taehyung hums, "It took me two days to get back to the temple."

"Two days?" Seokjin grips the upper of Taehyung's arms and pushes him back to look at his face, "Two days?" he shrills. "You've been here the whole time and no one fucking told me? I thought you were gone!"

Taehyung's shoulders go up. "Namjoon called you but you said you're busy. I knew if I talked to you, you'd leave everything and come here and I didn't want to ruin your work, so I waited."

Seokjin digs his fingers and Taehyung winces. "Damn right I would’ve left everything. I don’t give a fuck. Ruin my work? Are you for real? And the other assholes are all okay with letting me mourn you for a whole fucking month?"

Taehyung cups his face and Seokjin wants to lean away but he can't. He sighs into the gentle kiss, chases the feel of Taehyung's lips when he pulls away.

"I'm sorry," Taehyung whispers. "I felt like it was important, that you needed to sort out your family matters." He brushes under Seokjin's eye. There's wetness gathering there and Seokjin feels the hot tears sliding down.

"I missed you," Taehyung says, leaning in for another kiss. Seokjin holds him closer, can't stay angry when they're this close. When he's been wishing for nothing but this the past month. They break the kiss and Taehyung burrows closer, Seokjin's heart finally settling.

"I can't believe you didn't tell me. You suck."

"Jimin says that sometimes, I don't know what it means but judging from the circumstances I'm gathering I should be affronted."

Laughter bubbles in Seokjin’s chest, he thought he'd never laugh again. He turns his head, whispers the meaning of the insult in Taehyung's ear.

"Really?" Taehyung says but he doesn't sound as scandalized as Seokjin imagined. "I didn't think that was a bad thing. And here I was looking forward to doing it for you."

Seokjin chokes, Taehyung laughs.

"You are so unfair."

Taehyung takes his hand and bends to retrieve the candle. "Come on, let's go to the room I'm staying in."

"The room you're staying in?"

"Ah, it felt wrong to call it my room since it's only temporary until you come and get me," he says.

They walk into the house, everyone is out this time, preparing for the performances so they go directly to the stairs. Taehyung stops in front of the door, hand squeezing Seokjin's.

"I am coming with you, right?"

His shoulders are tense, his head ducked down. Seokjin's heart lurches, orders him forward. He wraps his arms around Taehyung, pulls him so his back is plastered to Seokjin’s chest.

"As if I'd ever go anywhere without you again." He kisses Taehyung's shoulder twice. Stepping back, he smiles at Taehyung. Taehyung returns it and opens the door, pushes Seokjin to sit on the edge of the bed and kneels down between his legs.

His hand goes to Seokjin's belt and he looks up at him with a glint in his eyes.

"Now about the sucking you mentioned."

 


 

They end up sweaty and sated, wrapped up in each other. Taehyung's head pillowed on Seokjin's chest.

"I still don't understand what happened," Seokjin says "if she didn't intend to take you away, why did you disappear that night?" He clings harder to Taehyung, just the memory of waking up to an empty room sending his heart into a frenzy. Taehyung slides his hand up, stops right over the drumming beats and pats twice. It works like magic, Seokjin relaxes onto the mattress and Taehyung cuddles closer.

"She was giving me what I wished for," Taehyung says. "When I begged her to save me, I told her that I only wished to go home. After I realized what the meaning of her words was, I felt grateful for what I already have. For meeting you, and so she granted me all of my wishes, as a reward for learning the lesson. First wish was to be able to touch you, and the second one was going home."

"But where is home?" Seokjin asks.

Taehyung shrugs against him, nuzzles into Seokjin's neck. "I believe it's the location of my village. I woke up in the middle of a forest. I had to walk a long while before I saw a road and even longer to find a city. I had to sell one of my earrings to get back here." Taehyung chuckles.

Seokjin remembers him standing in front of the mirror and removing his jewelry. He's so thankful that Taehyung left the earrings be. He kisses Taehyung's crown, tightening his hold on Taehyung's waist.

"Must've been hard."

"The worst part was arriving here to discover you were gone. Hobi-hyung screamed so loud when he saw me at the door, he jumped higher than I thought possible, he was really scared. It's fortunate that you showed them my pictures. Jeongguk hugged me and cried."

Seokjin laughs at that. "I wish I didn't leave so fast."

"It was for the best," Taehyung says.

Seokjin turns so they're facing each other, frames Taehyung's cheek and pulls him into a kiss.

"Yeah."

 


 

The chatter in the kitchen is loud and happy, laughter mixing with the clicking of cutlery. Taehyung and Jimin bicker like they've always been friends while Jeongguk insists that Hoseok should call the scout who attended their performance and offered his card. Hoseok seems hesitant, looking at Namjoon as if seeking his opinion.

"You don't need my permission to apply, Hoseok." Hoseok rubs the back of his head, averting his gaze. Namjoon goes on: "You wanted to move to Seoul for a while, truth is, I don't want to stay here either. I was thinking of trying business again."

Seokjin perks up, a smile taking over his face without his consent, "Namjoon-ah, that's actually wonderful! I have a position to offer you."

The kitchen goes quiet and every head turns to Seokjin. "As I mentioned earlier, my father has agreed to let me choose a CEO and work from behind the scenes--"

"You want me to be your CEO?" Namjoon exclaims, hands slamming down on the table and rattling all the glass on it.

"You have some experience, a degree and I trust you."

"By experience you mean that two months internship?" Namjoon sounds incredulous, not that Seokjin blames him. No one would do what he's doing.

Seokjin counts on his fingers. "You have no problem running this place. You will learn what you need to learn in no time. I will help you of course, since ultimately all the real decisions will be made by me. And, I'll get you good assistants."

"This is great, hyung!" Jeongguk says, "You should accept!"

"But if Hoseok and I leave then what about you two?"

Jeongguk and Jimin exchange looks. They smile, Jimin blushing and ducking his head. Jeongguk covers his hand on the table.

"Actually, we're moving to Seoul, too," Jeongguk starts. "Jimin auditioned for an entertainment company and he got accepted. And I'm working as a freelance photographer."

"Hey, you got him to go!" Taehyung cheers. When everyone turns to him he shrinks in his chair. His face goes red, "That's what they were arguing about the day Jimin went to the construction site."

"So you did hear them!" Seokjin points. Taehyung gives him an apologetic smile. Jeongguk waves his hand.

"That's not all," he says. He glances at Jimin who smiles shyly and hides his face in Jeongguk's shoulder. "We're getting married."

"Oh my God!" Hoseok shouts. Namjoon stands up and Taehyung is already trying to hug Jimin.

"We know we can't make it legal but," Jimin shrugs. "We want a small celebration and of course all of you are invited. Once we decide the details."

"That's wonderful, congratulations!" Seokjin says. Hoseok leaves his seat so he can slap Jeongguk on the back, repeatedly.

"You dog! You were trying to convince me to accept so you'd feel less guilty about leaving!"

"Ouch, hyung! I genuinely want the best for you. You can do so much better than this."

Hoseok considers him for a second then pulls both Jimin and Jeongguk into a hug. "I can't believe you guys are getting married. I'm older and just now got into a relationship. I hate you."

Across the table Taehyung's smile lights up his face. He slides his hand to Seokjin and they entwine their fingers. There's much to consider, it's a new step for each one of them.

But it's a step forward and they're taking it together.

Seokjin tightens his grip on Taehyung.

He's never letting go.




-End