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all these woes

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“oh, hyung!” yoongi exclaims. he’s just stepped out of the store after giggling at seokjin’s antics—insisting with a rather lavish bow that yoongi walk out the door first, only to then go back on his word and claim that there’s a kiss toll and that yoongi is very overdue on his payment, when—

yoongi nearly steps on something fluffy, something rolled up into a ball, something that’s crying very softly; something that’s breathing, although very shallowly and much too quickly to be normal.

“oh, the poor thing…” yoongi sinks to his knees. he bends over the fluffy animal with a worried expression. it looks like a fox, although he can’t be sure, what with the way it’s completely curled in on itself.

“hyung, look, it’s hurt…” yoongi frowns up at seokjin. “what do we do? should we take it to a vet?”

seokjin lowers to his knees. there’s something grave in his expression that doesn’t have anything to do with worry. yoongi catches it, and his frown deepens. what has made seokjin look like that? “we can’t take it to a vet, babe…”

“why not? it’s hurt. it needs our help. it’s bleeding!” yoongi looks back down at the poor fox. it’s started to whine lowly now. the noise pulls at yoongi’s heartstrings and he has to push down the immediate urge to pat its little head in comfort.

“look at the tails,” seokjin tells him slowly.

yoongi looks. where he expects to find one fluffy tail, there are nine. he blinks slowly, rubbing his eyes to see if the tails are actually there. maybe he’s just seeing double? nonuple? “a… a gumiho? it can’t be. we’re in the middle of seoul. a gumiho? what? how can that be?”

seokjin merely shrugs. he scratches the back of his neck and frowns so severely that yoongi’s momentarily worried it’ll be etched onto his face forever.

“i’m—hyung, stay here,” yoongi orders, getting up and hurrying back into their shop. he ducks behind the counter in search of a clean towel. before he heads back out, he grabs a coffee cup and fills it to the brim with water.

“do you want some water, little friend?” yoongi coos, as he carefully kneels back down and sets the cup in front of the fox’s tiny head. the fox doesn’t even look up. “fuck, okay. okay…” he sits up to unzip his jacket most of the way, and leans over to very, very carefully drape the towel over the animal’s body.

“wait, what if—” seokjin begins, alarmed as he watches yoongi pick up the fox as gently as possible. “what if it attacks you? it—don’t they eathuman flesh?”

yoongi hadn’t really thought about that, but it’s too late now. he’s already holding onto the fox. he mirrors seokjin’s earlier shrug. whatever happens, happens. he’s set on saving this fox now, he can’t just leave it to die.

“hyung, zip up my jacket for me?” he asks, as soon as he’s carefully pressed the towel-covered, shivering fox to his chest. he uses part of his jacket to keep it secured in place, but he needs more support than that.

seokjin looks extremely apprehensive. yoongi can see that he’s five seconds away from scolding yoongi and telling him to put the flesh-eating fox down, but he complies, slowly zipping up yoongi’s jacket about three-quarters of the way. the shivering package is still peeking a little out of the jacket, but it’s wrapped up tightly enough that it can’t move too much.

“i’ll lock up. don’t move,” seokjin mumbles, eyeing the fox with narrowed eyes. he snatches the cup of water off the ground and takes it back inside.

yoongi waits impatiently for seokjin to come back out, who locks up quickly and rushes back over to him. he ignores yoongi’s complaints and helps him to his feet.

the two walk back home as quickly as possible. yoongi keeps his hand to the lump under his jacket. the fox has stopped shivering momentarily, but now it’s just gone back to whining softly and pitifully. yoongi is ready to start crying himself—he feels awful that he can’t do anything to take the pain away.

the keening coming from yoongi’s chest seems to have gotten rid of seokjin’s frown, too. he no longer looks worried that yoongi might end up getting eaten alive—he just seems to take pity on the creature now. he bites his lip frantically as he places his hand to yoongi’s lower back to steady him. he urges yoongi to walk a little faster.

 

they make it back home without yoongi getting bitten. the poor fox doesn’t stop whining, it seems to have gotten worse, if anything.

“where do we…” yoongi begins, once he steps in. he looks around, considers the dining table and the kitchen counter… the carpet in the living room, the couch…

eventually, seokjin walks over to the coffee table and swipes everything off its surface. he waves yoongi over. “let’s just put it down here? we can try to find out what’s going on and then… and then…” he shrugs. “fuck, i don’t know. it’s not like there’s a guide to this. do you think gumihos need the same treatment as foxes do?”

for a moment yoongi just stares at seokjin with a frown. he wraps his arms around the shivering ball of fur pressed against his chest. “why are you asking me? i don’t even know how to take care of a wounded animal, what makes you think i know how to handle a wounded supernatural creature?”

seokjin pulls a face. “just lay the hurt not-fox down, please?”

yoongi walks over. “get some more towels, though. it should have a comfortable surface to lie on, right?”

seokjin agrees with a nod. he hurries out of the living room and comes back a mere few seconds later with a whole stack of them. he layers three of them and looks up questioningly.

“help me out of the jacket, hyung.”

together, they manage to lay the fox down. it’s panting wildly now, having stopped whining for a bit. the labored breathing can’t be good, but they don’t really know what to do, other than worry uselessly.

“should we call jungkook over? surely as a vet he can… do… something… ?” seokjin looks to yoongi as though he’ll know the answer, despite the fact that yoongi looks as lost as he does.

yoongi considers it carefully while he sinks to his knees in front of the table and looks over the fox. “how are we going to explain this?”

“we’ll just… tell him the truth. we’ll say that we found what looked to be a fox in front of our café, but then surprise! it had nine tails and we realised it wasn’t actually a fox, which is why we didn’t go to a vet. can you please look at our injured gumiho and set aside the fact that it may feast upon your flesh if you make a wrong move?” seokjin’s reaching for his phone even before he’s finished talking, looking down at his screen and scrolling through his phone contacts until he finds jungkook’s number. before yoongi can stop him, he’s already dialed jungkook’s number and told him to come over and that it’s urgent and that you’re not allowed to ask any questions, but please bring some vet equipment or whatever it is you guys use, thank you love you see you soon.

“really?” yoongi asks, raising a brow.

seokjin shrugs. “he’s our best shot…”

“what do we do while we wait? do you think it’s okay to touch it?”

“i don’t know. i know you’re not supposed to touch... birds… ? but foxes… ?”

the two of them sit in silence for a little while, looking at the fox that’s started emitting low whines and the occasional keen.

“fuck it,” yoongi eventually mumbles. “i already had it wrapped up in my jacket against my body. my scent must be all over it already, so it doesn’t really matter anymore.” he reaches for it gently, hovering his hand over the little fox head. he hesitates, but caves very easily and strokes the creature just between the ears.

the fox stops mid-whine once yoongi pets it softly. yoongi freezes, but the fox goes back to making pitiful noises soon after and yoongi relaxes just slightly.

“are you in a lot of pain, buddy?” yoongi asks in his softest baby voice. “we’ll get you help soon. hang in there, okay?”

seokjin ends up stroking the back of the fox’s neck, staying far away from where its fur is matted and red with blood.

they pet the fox quietly, not stopping until seokjin’s phone lights up with a message from jungkook to let him know he’s downstairs, asking seokjin to buzz him in.

 

“why’d you ask me to come over, hyung?” jungkook asks, as soon as seokjin throws the door open. “did you two do some weird sex thing and now you’re too embarrassed to go to the emergency room? please, say no. please… i’m begging.”

seokjin pulls a face. “okay, one: what the fuck. and two: why did you even come if you wouldn’t have helped had it been a weird sex-related accident?”

“i didn’t say i wouldn’t help,” jungkook counters, pushing past seokjin without waiting to be let in. “i’m just hoping that’s not what this is about.”

seokjin nods slowly, a wide grin growing on his face. “yoongi got his dick stuck in—”

“i take it back,” jungkook interrupts him. he turns back toward the still open door. “i’m leaving and never coming back. please, delete my phone number, forget my face… forget my name…”

seokjin grabs jungkook by the arm and pulls him back with a snort. “dramatic much... “

“what’s this really about, hyung? obviously it’s not sex-related, because it’d be you i’d have to help, not yoongi-hyung.”

seokjin decides to let the comment slide, but not before huffing indignantly. “it’s better if i show you. i don’t think you’ll believe me if i tell you.”

jungkook squints at him warily, but he follows seokjin into the living room without asking any further questions.

“what’s so unbelievable about a hurt fox?” jungkook asks, as soon as he sees what yoongi’s petting.

yoongi just shakes his head slowly, nodding toward the tails. they’re just out of sight from where jungkook and seokjin are standing, though. to jungkook, the creature on the coffee table looks undeniably like a fox. “come closer, jungkook-ah… it’s not a fox. not really.”

“what do you mean it’s not a—why the fuck does it have…” jungkook stops to count, “...nine tails? that’s eight tails too many. is—what?” he sits down opposite yoongi and bends over the table with wide eyes. his lips move while he silently counts the tails once more. “i don’t understand. did you frankenstein a fox? is this a failed experiment? what’s going on? and why is it bleeding?”

“it’s… it’s not a fox,” yoongi says again. “well, it is. but it’s a nine-tailed fox. we think. it would explain the extra tails, at least…”

jungkook laughs. “nine-tailed foxes don’t exist, hyungs. what do you think this is? a fairy tale? don’t be ridiculous.”

“whatever it may be, will you please examine the wound? we don’t know what happened, we just found it like this. we didn’t look at where the blood came from, but it looks like it’s in pain. will you please have a look? pretend it’s a normal fox, if you want.”

jungkook shoots seokjin a dirty look, but he does reach into his bag to pull out a pair of gloves. he goes for the bloody area, only to change course and stroke its back first. “be careful, it might get defensive…” jungkook warns, before he gently examines the fox.

“it must have gotten bitten by something at least twice its size. looks like it has a cracked rib… the breathing sounds kind of weird, too. d’you hear that wheezing? maybe the rib pierced a lung? i don’t… know.” jungkook sits up and sighs very heavily. “it has nine tails. the tails are real, by the way. i don’t understand why it has nine tails.”

“that’s because it’s a nine-tailed fox, we already told you. what’s not to understand?” seokjin shakes his head.

“what do we do now, jungkook-ah?” yoongi asks carefully, trying to steer the topic back over to the very serious looking wound. he knows what unbearable loops seokjin and jungkook can get stuck in sometimes, but now is not the time.

“i have no idea,” jungkook answers earnestly. “normally, i’d tell you to go to an actual vet’s office, instead of sketchily having your vet friend come over, but…”

“but?”

“it has nine tails!” jungkook exclaims.

“i know. we’ve counted them already,” seokjin says usessly. “could you give us any useful information, such as how to care for it and not let it die in our apartment? surely, you can do something useful while you’re here.”

jungkook looks down at the fox with a heavy frown. “i mean, i could—” he begins, as he reaches for the wound again. he stops short just as he’s about to push the fur aside again and inspect the wound some more. “does the wound look smaller to you?”

yoongi and seokjin just frown at him in confusion.

“i swear, i…” jungkook tries again, but he stops talking again and slowly shakes his head. “i could easily stick my finger in there before, but… it...”

“it stopped whining,” yoongi notes softly. he strokes the fur on the back of its neck. “and it’s no longer panting.”

“the wound is… closing up.” jungkook rubs his face in the crook of his elbow, before he looks down at the animal again and confirms his ludicrous observation. “it’s healing extremely fast. impossibly fast. like, right in front of my eyes fast. i don’t understand. i don’t understand...”

“it’s a gumiho,” seokjin explains.

jungkook and yoongi nod slowly. “i guess it is…” jungkook says. his voice sounds faint and unsure. his eyes have grown wide—wider than before, at least.

“do we… wait for it to heal itself?” yoongi asks.

“i don’t know,” jungkook says again.

seokjin snorts. “you’re supposed to be a vet.”

“none of my textbooks have ever mentioned supernatural creatures! what do you want me to do?” jungkook pouts angrily.

“i don’t know!”

“seems like no one knows, then.” jungkook narrows his eyes at seokjin. “don’t be an asshole, hyung. i’ve never been prepared for something like this.”

“oh,” yoongi exclaims softly, so softly that the other two don’t hear him. he watches as the fox lifts its head cautiously. it blinks up at him slowly and purposefully. “hi there, little friend. are you okay?” he holds his finger up to the fox’ snout and laughs softly when it sniffs his finger carefully.

“well, maybe you should have—” seokjin counters, voice a little louder, but yoongi holds up his free hand to catch their attention and shut them up.

“guys, look,” yoongi says, effectively shutting them up like he’d intended to.

“oh,” sighs seokjin.

oh,” jungkook coos. “what a cutie.”

the fox is licking yoongi’s finger now. yoongi’s close to tears, unable to handle any of it, especially when the fox closes its eyes partway, blinking sleepily and moving on to nibble very gently on yoongi’s pinky finger.

 

seokjin sees jungkook out. he listens carefully to whatever tips jungkook has to take care of the fox, while yoongi stays in the living room to pet the fox and stare at it lovingly.

by the time seokjin’s made it back inside, yoongi has already made the trip to and from the kitchen to fetch a small bowl of water. the fox is finally drinking now, slowly lapping up water under yoongi’s watchful eye.

“hyung, what do you think, should we try giving it a bath? its fur is caked in blood. if we wait any longer, it might become even harder to clean.”

“what if it freaks out because of the water and bites us after all?”

“i don’t think it will. it’s very friendly. we can take it very slowly? if we see any signs of distress, we can stop?”

seokjin rubs his chin in thought. he regards the fox with a curious expression. “yeah, okay. we just have to be very careful, okay? i don’t want it to bite your pretty fingers off. if you bite my boyfriend,” he says, lowering until he’s at eye-level with the little creature, which has now stopped drinking water to blink at seokjin in surprise, “i’ll bite back. you may look cute, and harmless, and so adorable that it makes my heart ache, but don’t be mistaken, i always get my revenge.”

“hyung,” yoongi hisses, a little scandalised. “don’t be mean. it’s not going to bite me.”

“we’ll see,” seokjin sniffs. “i’ll draw a bath.”

“we only need a small layer of water, okay? and the water should be, like, lukewarm.”

seokjin hums noncommittally. “i got it covered. don’t worry, babe. i’ll even pick out the prettiest bath bomb for it.”

hyung!

“i’m kidding! we’re out of bath bombs.”

 

yoongi carries the fox into the bathroom once seokjin calls him over. the fox goes very willingly, hanging limply in yoongi’s hands and looking around with a very slow and sleepy curiosity.

the wound seems to have disappeared mysteriously; yoongi can’t find any traces of it, other than the dried up blood. “those are pretty good healing skills you’ve got there,” yoongi murmurs. he tucks the fox against his chest. “that’s neat. i wish i healed that fast.”

seokjin’s sat next to the bathtub, sleeves pushed up to expose his toned forearms and prevent his shirt from getting wet. he shakes his head almost imperceptibly at the way yoongi’s clutching the fox to his chest again, so close to his heart and throat and face, so close to everything the fox might want to take a little bite out of. while seokjin knows that every part of yoongi is delicious, only he is allowed to bite. only seokjin. no fox.

“we’ll wash the blood off of you, alright? we’ll be as gentle as possible.” yoongi sinks down next to his boyfriend and feels the water first, making sure seokjin hasn’t botched it—seokjin snorts at this and bumps his shoulder into yoongi’s. he complains that he’s taken care of everything and that he’s been careful and that yoongi should trust him a little more because i know how to draw a bath, baby, the temperature is perfect and i’m affronted that you don’t trust my judgement.

yoongi merely sighs. he wipes his hand on his shirt and takes the little fox, lowers it until it’s hovering just over the water with its tiny, white paws. the little fox looks down, spots the water and looks back up to yap loudly at yoongi.

“oh!” yoongi exclaims, so startled by the sound that he nearly drops the fox into the water. he chuckles softly. “is that good or bad? i can’t tell. what do you think, hyung?”

“just lower it into the water already,” seokjin grumbles, annoyed that all the precious attention his boyfriend has to offer is now being handed to a fox on a silver platter. what has this fox done to receive yoongi’s love? all it’s done is be sad and bleed all over yoongi’s shirt and look cute. seokjin can do that, too.

yoongi finally tears his eyes away from the fox to eye seokjin with an amused expression. “hyung,” he begins, and he’s grinning widely in a way that seokjin hates—grinning wide like a stupid, yet handsome cheshire cat. “are you jealous of a fox?”

“of course i’m not,” seokjin lies. he wishes he could stop grumbling, wishes he could stop pouting, but he’s faced with immense difficulty. he’s jealous of a fox.

yoongi coos. he bends over to press a kiss to seokjin’s cheek. “how cute,” he drawls, in an infuriatingly condescending tone.

“just bathe the damn fox, hm? don’t be swayed by how cute it looks, just get on with it.”

yoongi offers him another smile, but he does as seokjin tells him to, lowers the fox slowly until its paws are dangling in the water. for a moment, the fox looks rather startled, but then it wrestles out of yoongi’s hand and plops unceremoniously into the water. it squeaks excitedly, all nine tails getting wet. the bath water quickly turns an eerie sort of pink from the blood that washes off and mixes in with the clean water. it looks pretty, but it’s also highly disturbing.

“i think it doesn’t mind getting wet, hm?” yoongi tugs at seokjin’s wrist, pulling him closer until seokjin drapes himself over yoongi’s back, hooking his chin over yoongi’s shoulder and trying his very best not to smile fondly.

“it’s kind of cute,” seokjin admits in a quiet whisper, before he buries his nose in yoongi’s neck and sighs in annoyance.

yoongi only laughs and turns toward the fox, lying on its belly and splashing its paws in the water. it sticks its snout underwater and blows bubbles, before it tries to bite at the bubbles in order to catch them.

“we should try to scrub it clean,” seokjin suggests, although he doesn’t move to help—he just tightens his arms around yoongi’s torso and cuddles closer to him uselessly, content to sit there and let yoongi do all the work while he busies himself with hugging his boyfriend.

yoongi hums softly. he reaches for the fox again, hand dripping water, and pats its back. the fox freezes for a moment, looking up and around itself, before it relaxes again once it meets yoongi’s eye. yoongi moves his fingers through the white fur, staining it pink while he works silently and diligently to get all the blood out.

“you work so carefully,” seokjin praises, landing a kiss to yoongi’s nape. “what a lucky fox.”

the fox looks a little like a wet rat now, fur hanging in limp, wet, clumped together strands while yoongi washes the last remnants of the blood away. the bathwater is stained a deep red by now, and yoongi mumbles that they’ll need to refill the tub if they truly want to clean the otherwise pristine white fur.

seokjin doesn’t let go of yoongi, he just leans off to the side to drain the water and then fill the tub with some more clean water for yoongi to use.

eventually, there are no more signs of the wound left on the fox. the blood is gone, down the drain, and now there’s only the very wet and clean fox in its wake. it sits sleepily in the tub with its nine tails curled protectively around its tiny body. it shivers a little.

yoongi lifts the fox out of the tub and sets it down on a bath mat. he takes the towel seokjin offers him and gently pats the fox dry. it sits quietly, obediently, eyes slipping closed and tiny body swaying as sleep drags it down. both yoongi and seokjin look at it with soft expressions.

“i felt jealous of it before, but i’ve changed my mind,” seokjin sighs, slowly shaking his head. “i’d happily die for it.”

yoongi just nods. he understands.

 

yoongi suggests they let it sleep between them on top of the sheets. he argues that they’ve bathed it, that it’s clean now, and that it was badly hurt only hours before. the poor creature needs all the comfort it can get.

“it’s a gumiho. it can sleep on the floor, or on the couch. it doesn’t need to share a bed with us,” seokjin whines.

“you said you’d die for it,” yoongi counters.

“i haven’t changed my mind, i just don’t feel like i should have to share my bed with it.”

“hyung…” yoongi tries. he pouts in the most devastating way he can muster and pulls his brows together in a miniscule frown, eyes big and pleading, in a way he knows seokjin won’t be able to ignore or resist.

seokjin splutters. the tips of his ears go red and he looks away, down at their feet where the sleepy fox is staring up at him, too, with its beady eyes. suddenly, four eyes are on him, begging him to let the fox sleep in their bed, and seokjin is absolutely helpless to it all. “okay, fine. but just for tonight.

 

the fox sleeps curled up between them while yoongi and seokjin settle on the couch for a bit before they go to bed. they’ve decided to watch a series while they order in and snuggle up. yoongi idly scratches the fox behind its fluffy ears while seokjin scratches yoongi’s scalp, fingers tangling in his hair and slipping down every once in a while to trail down his nose or the side of his face.

since they’ve had a long day at the coffee shop, they don’t stay up for very long. yoongi’s the first to get to his feet and wash up, while seokjin stays with the sleeping fox and eyes it every once in a while to check whether it isn’t just pretending to sleep and look cute. maybe it’s actually waiting to pounce and feast on their delicious flesh once they let their guards down.

seokjin snorts. they’ve already let their guards down, really. all the adorable fox has to do is open its eyes, uncurl itself and unlock its jaw and— “that’s enough imagining for one day,” he whispers, shaking his head. “sorry, buddy, i’m sure you just have a bad rep, is all.” he pats the little head and watches it snooze undisturbed.

yoongi eventually comes back and takes the fox with him. by the time seokjin’s washed up and turned all the lights off, yoongi’s eyes are already closed. the fox lies curled up next to him, smackdab in the middle of the bed.

“in the middle? really?” seokjin complains, softly so as not to wake his boyfriend up.

“hyung…” yoongi huffs sleepily. he turns on his side and pats seokjin’s pillow, realises seokjin’s not in bed yet and cracks open an eye. “it’s fine. the fox is tiny, it hardly takes up space.”

“what if i roll on top of it in my sleep?” seokjin challenges, crawling under the covers and taking yoongi’s hand in his to kiss his fingers one by one.

yoongi rests his hand on seokjin’s cheek. he closes his eyes again. “you won’t. just go to sleep, hyung. work tomorrow…”

seokjin hums vaguely. he closes his eyes, too, after turning his bedside table lamp off and snuggling under the covers. he can feel a vague lump somewhere next to his hip where the fox is. he searches for it in the dark and pets it for a while, until he eventually dozes off.

 

seokjin wakes in the middle of the night. he’d fallen asleep with his hand resting on top of the fox’s back, but he doesn’t feel fur under his fingers now; he feels… skin? hot skin, like unbearably hot. he’s so sleepy that, for a moment, he thinks it must be yoongi, that yoongi’s burning up. “fever, baby?” he slurs, rubbing his thumb over whatever part of skin he’s touching. through the haze of sleep, he rolls onto his side to turn on the light, leaning heavily on his elbow while he tries to get his sluggish limbs to move. he has to squint when the light’s turned on, rubbing his eyes until he can look safely.

“baby, you okay?” seokjin asks, turning around to look at yoongi.

surprisingly, yoongi’s not there when he turns around. well, he is. yoongi’s still on his side of the bed, sleeping peacefully. his lips are parted just slightly and he’s snoring softly. his hair’s a mess and, for a moment, seokjin just stares at him fondly, but then the man in between them squirms in his sleep, and seokjin’s gaze is pulled back toward him.

where there’d been a tiny fox in between them, sleeping soundly and taking up absolutely no space whatsoever, there’s now a full grown, whole-ass adult in its place.

seokjin immediately realises it must be the gumiho. he remembers the myths, remembers that they’re supposedly shapeshifters. while he remembers all that, it’s very hard to equate the beautifully sculpted and tanned, tall yet dainty, incredibly naked guy to the small fox they’d bathed earlier. perhaps it’s the size, maybe seokjin had pictured a child, instead of a whole man.

once seokjin’s over the shock of the figure in their bed—the oh so very naked one. seokjin respectfully tries to ignore it, but it’s difficult—he notices the blood. the gumiho is pretty badly torn up, around the same area the fox had been hurt before it’d so conveniently healed.

“hey,” seokjin tries, in a soft whisper. he takes the gumiho’s arm and shakes it gently. “hey, fox man…”

the gumiho whimpers. his pretty face twists into a frown, which then contorts in pain once he squirms some more. he opens his eyes a little, looks up at the ceiling first, before his eyes sweep the room. his eyes finally land on seokjin, bending over him in concern, but it doesn’t look like he’s really seeing seokjin. his eyes are so feverish that seokjin doubts he’s aware of anything at all.

“hi,” seokjin says. he touches his hand to the gumiho’s forehead and is immediately concerned by how hot his skin is. “you’re burning up.”

“it hurts… make it stop. please,” the gumiho sobs, shaking his head from side to side. tear tracks mix with the sheen of sweat on his face. seokjin wipes his face dry with the hem of his shirt, as gently as possible.

“hyung?” yoongi mumbles. he stirs, rubs his face in confusion. “you’re lying so close to me,” he sighs. “where’s the fox? did you squash it?”

“yoongi,” seokjin says softly. “look.”

yoongi looks. he doesn’t see anything at first, too blinded by sleep, but then he presses the heels of his palms to his eyes and rubs them. finally, he sees what seokjin’s trying to show him. “oh. that’s not hyung,” yoongi whispers to himself.

“he’s hurt.” seokjin finally sits up. “i’m going to call jungkook. baby, i think he’s running a pretty high fever, could you go wet a towel and—”

yoongi’s already stumbling out of bed, eyes closed again, still half asleep, yet finding his way to the bathroom. “on it,” he mumbles.

by the time yoongi makes it back to bed, having fetched a washcloth and a thermometer and filled a bowl with water, seokjin’s talking to a very grumpy and very sleepy jungkook.

“i know this isn’t about an animal,” seokjin grumbles, “but surely you know something that could be useful? he’s bleeding. it looks pretty bad, like it’s a pretty big gash and he has a fever and—”

hyung…” jungkook whines. he’s so loud that even yoongi, sat on the bed and carefully patting the gumiho’s overheated body with the cool cloth, can hear him. “if the wound healed quickly in his fox form, what’s not to say it won’t in his human form? please, use your brain for a few seconds. why the fuck did you wake me for this…”

seokjin gapes at yoongi, who looks over at him with raised brows, wondering what revolutionary thing jungkook had told him for seokjin to look like that. “oh… but what if it doesn’t work? what if he bleeds to death?”

“hyung,” jungkook sighs. “you’re dealing with a gumiho. you saw how fast he healed. they’re shapeshifters, right? coax him back into his fox form, or, or, i don’t know!”

“if he wasn’t bleeding as a fox, why is he bleeding as a human?” seokjin asks. “does—what does… why do you know nothing about gumihos! you’re a korean vet! if there’s anyone who should know, it’s you!”

“i’m hanging up. hyung, keep pressure on the wound. clean it. if he’s still bleeding tomorrow morning, go to the hospital. i don’t know. good fucking night.”

seokjin hangs up with a grumble. he looks over at yoongi, who has covered the lower half of the gumiho’s body with their sheets. he’s stroking the gumiho’s hair with one hand, while wiping him down with the other.

“what did he say?”

seokjin shakes his head. “i’m giving him up for adoption. ungrateful brat.”

yoongi sighs. “what did he say, hyung?”

“he reasoned that the wound would probably heal on its own, like it did before.”

“huh. he might be right…” yoongi nods at the wound. “it stopped bleeding, and i checked his temperature. it’s gone down already.”

seokjin just stands there silently, blinking very slowly and sighing to himself to keep his annoyance at bay. jungkook would have a field day with this, he just knows it. “we’re not going to tell him this. i don’t want him to know he was right.”

yoongi just snorts. he strokes the gumiho’s hair some more, before dropping to his side with a sigh. “i’m tired, hyung.” his eyes are closed by the time seokjin joins him on the bed, although he’s still making a halfhearted attempt at wiping the damp cloth over his skin.

“sleep,” seokjin murmurs. he bends over the gumiho’s body to press a kiss to yoongi’s forehead and takes the cloth from him. “i’ll take over.”

 

seokjin wakes up with the cloth still clutched in his hand. his arm is draped over a warm body, and there are doe eyes staring at him when he opens his own.

“good morning,” seokjin whispers. he blinks the sleep out of his eyes. “you’re not dead. good job, fox-man, you survived the night.”

“where am i?” the gumiho asks. his voice sounds rough, but it still has a pleasant ring to it. it doesn’t surprise seokjin very much. the stories did always say gumihos were exceptionally beautiful, so it’d make sense for the gumiho in their bed to still sound like something akin to a god, despite the hell he must have gone through.

“you’re in our home, in our bedroom. we found you outside and took you home.”

the gumiho looks around slowly. he spots yoongi on his other side, looks at him for a good while, before he turns his head toward seokjin again. “that’s right. i remember now. your partner bathed me.”

seokjin kind of wants to grumble. there’s something about that statement coming from such a beautifully sculpted human-looking creature that doesn’t sit right with him, but he probably shouldn’t even go there. the gumiho hadn’t asked for yoongi to bathe him—he hadn’t asked for any of this to happen.

“what are you going to do with me?” the gumiho asks after some hesitation. his eyes narrow a little, but seokjin realises he’s not trying to look threatening at all. no, the gumiho just looks… scared, if anything, maybe confused. seokjin can tell he’s trying to mask both the fear and the confusion, but he can’t win from the ever-observant seokjin—not even the sleepy version.

“nothing. we just took you home because we were concerned about you. well, my boyfriend was. that’s all. speaking of...” seokjin finally sits up. he notes only now, a blush creeping onto his cheeks, that his hand has been on the gumiho’s stomach this entire time. he pulls it back quickly. “how are you feeling? let me have a look at… oh. it’s gone.”

“what is?” the gumiho tilts his head. he casts a glance down his body to see what seokjin’s staring at, but he only finds the mess of dried up blood on his skin where there’d been a wound not long ago.

“the wound,” seokjin explains. he traces his fingers over the miraculously healed skin. “it’s all patched up.”

“oh.”

“let me go get some fresh water and i’ll clean you up a little, okay?” seokjin pats his side, offers him a careful smile and slides out of bed.

by the time he comes back, yoongi’s awake. he’s staring at the gumiho sleepily, while the gumiho stares back with unbridled curiosity. both his fear and confusion seem to have gone, he doesn’t seem scared at all, not even when yoongi reaches out to stroke his hair and face.

“yoongi-yah…” seokjin says.

“hm?” yoongi blinks. he looks at his hand, his fingers on the gumiho’s face, and freezes as though he only realises now what he’s been doing this entire time. faster than ever, yoongi sits up and brings a hand to his mouth in shock. “i’m so sorry, i don’t know why i did that. i’m—” he shakes his head.

the gumiho just shakes his head. he doesn’t seem to have minded particularly.

as seokjin sits back down and tries his very best to clean the former wound, yoongi tries talking to the gumiho who is staring at him with his wide, innocent eyes.

“what happened to you? how did you get hurt? it looked really bad. you were in a lot of pain, weren’t you?”

the gumiho just keeps looking at yoongi. he doesn’t seem very willing to talk. “i don’t remember.”

“you must remember something, right?” yoongi tilts his head in confusion.

“i don’t remember,” the gumiho insists.

“oh. okay. uh… where are you from?” yoongi tries next.

but the gumiho just opens his mouth again and gives him the same answer. he doesn’t remember, he claims, and yoongi realises he’s going to receive this same answer no matter what question he decides to ask.

“what do you want from me?” the gumiho asks. he frowns. both yoongi and seokjin note the faint hostility in his voice.

yoongi shakes his head. “we just wanted to help. you were hurt, we didn’t want to leave you.”

“why?”

yoongi shrugs. “because you were hurt.”

why?

again, yoongi shrugs. he wishes he had a better answer, but he doesn’t. he has no reason for any of this, no good reason to explain why he thought it’d be a good idea to bring a wounded supernatural creature into their home. “because… you were all alone. i didn’t want to leave you on your own. you were extremely small, i didn’t want you to get preyed on.”

the gumiho doesn’t really know what to say to that. he looks between yoongi and seokjin. whatever he finds in the way they carry themselves—in the careful and diligent manner in which seokjin is cleaning him up, and the gentle tone of yoongi’s voice and the sincerity in his eyes—seems to put him at ease enough. he relaxes slightly.

“what’s your name?” yoongi asks.

the gumiho just shakes his head.

“you don’t have to give me your real name. it can be a nickname. just something to call you by.”

“tell me your names first,” the gumiho says firmly, like knowing their names will give him some sort of leverage.

“i’m yoongi, and that’s my boyfriend seokjin.”

for a while, yoongi thinks the gumiho isn’t going to say anything, but then he opens his mouth and speaks softly: “hoseok. my name is hoseok.”

 

hoseok isn’t willing to say anything else. they don’t know anything other than his name, and even giving them that piece of information seems to have been a difficult decision for hoseok. he shuts up after that and doesn’t say another word. whatever he’s been through, he’s obviously still very weak and the distrust in his eyes is very clear—he looks like the only thing stopping him from bolting is the fact that he probably can’t get up.

yoongi and seokjin understand. they don’t want to push him, so they just sit for a short while, talking in sleepy mumbles about the most mundane things. hoseok lies in between them, slowly turning his head to look at them while they speak. he’s clearly listening, soothed by the quiet rumble of their voices and the soft strokes of the cloth while seokjin cleans his skin of the last dried up remnants of blood.

the comfortable lull of the room is rudely broken up when both of their phones’ alarms go off, alerting them of the time. this isn’t even their first alarm—it’s their last one. they’re supposed to be dressed and fed by now, ready to leave for work.

“fuck,” yoongi and seokjin say at the same time. seokjin stumbles off the bed and into the bathroom, while yoongi rushes to their dresser and starts pulling out clothes.

“where are you going?” hoseok asks curiously. he seems a little startled by the sudden movement, lifting his head up a little to crane his neck and look at what yoongi’s doing.

yoongi whips his head around, looking momentarily surprised to find hoseok in bed. “oh. uh. work. we run a small coffee shop.”

“the place you found me outside yesterday?”

yoongi nods. he’s starting to shed his pajamas without thinking twice, not at all fazed by hoseok’s eyes on him while he strips clumsily and nearly faceplants while he hops on one foot, the other one still stuck in his sweats.

“so you’re leaving?” hoseok asks in a small voice. his brows furrow. he looks sad, and a little scared. while he doesn’t seem to particularly trust them, the thought of being alone is one he likes even less.

yoongi halts his struggle immediately, balancing on the one foot as he looks over at hoseok. he finally lowers it to shuffle over to the bed and sits down. “you can stay here, if you want? to regain your strength?”

hoseok shakes his head. “i don’t want to be alone. i don’t like being alone.”

“i can…” yoongi considers his options carefully. “i can stay behind? i’m sure hyung won’t mind manning the place on his own for a day. or hyung can stay here, if you’d prefer that.”

but hoseok is quick to shake his head. he doesn’t want to be an inconvenience, when he’s already being a major inconvenience just by lying in their bed and bleeding all over their sheets. “can i come with?” he bites his lip. “i’ll be very quiet. i’ll… i’ll even help out? i just, i just don’t want to be alone,” he admits quietly.

yoongi stares at him for a while, feeling a strange sort of fondness when he looks at hoseok. he knows absolutely nothing about him, not about his personal life, nor of his nature, yet hoseok seems so gentle of a being that yoongi can’t help but feel extremely protective of him already. “okay. yeah. but… don’t you want to freshen up first? one of us can stay behind with you while you do?”

hoseok just shakes his head again. “i don’t want to be an inconvenience. it’s okay. i’ll just come with you now.”

yoongi kind of wants to argue with him, maybe convince him to take it easy and that it’s really no bother, but they’re already running out of time, so… “okay. let me get you some clothes, at least. you can’t go like this.”

hoseok peers down at his body. he sits up slowly and laughs shyly. “yeah, i guess i can’t.” he waits for yoongi to offer him a pile of clothes, and then lets him maneuver and dress him.

seokjin watches from the door opening, keenly interested in the way hoseok studies yoongi’s face, and the way yoongi is so extremely careful when he dresses him. he doesn’t say anything when yoongi notices him and asks what he’s staring at—he just shakes his head and smiles and tells them to hurry up.

 

“we’re running a little late,” seokjin mumbles once they’re outside. “i’m gonna hurry along, you two take your time, okay? i’ll be fine. take it easy, fox-man. don’t bite my boyfriend.”

hoseok’s brows furrow. “why would i bite you?” he asks sadly.

yoongi laughs softly. “he’s kidding. he’s just like that, he doesn’t mean any harm. hyung’s very gentle, i promise.”

“oh.” hoseok hangs his head a little to hide a sweet smile. “so he doesn’t think i’m evil?”

“evil?” yoongi asks incredulously. “not at all. you saw the way he cared for you, didn’t you? do you think he would’ve done that had he thought you were evil?”

hoseok doesn’t seem to know what to say to that, so he just shrugs.

“what happened to you? why would you ask that? and how did you get hurt?” yoongi tries again, even though he already knows it’s probably futile to ask. he shouldn’t even be prying in the first place.

hoseok, naturally, doesn’t say anything. he walks slowly, head still hung and shoulders pulled up to his ears. it looks like he’s trying to make himself as small as possible, and yoongi wishes he knew what to do, how to make him feel more at ease.

“so you run a coffee shop?” hoseok asks, clearly trying to change the subject.

yoongi nods. “we do. it’s been five years now.”

“and you’re… together? dating?”

“we’re dating, yes. hyung is my boyfriend of…” yoongi sighs while he tries counting. he gives up very quickly, since it’s way too early to do any sort of math. “many years. i don’t know. feels like it’s been an eternity.”

hoseok looks at yoongi with an unreadable expression. it seems like yearning for one moment, and then he frowns like he’s angry, and then he just looks… sad. yoongi can’t make anything of the strange mix of emotions. “and you love him?”

“very much so.”

hoseok nods slowly. he looks ahead of him and smiles wryly. “that must be nice.”

yoongi follows with a nod of his own. “i think so.” after a few moments of hesitation, he reaches out to pat hoseok’s shoulder. “are you hungry? do you want me to make you some food when we get there?”

“i don’t want to—”

“it’s no bother. hyung and i have to eat, too. the three of us can eat together, hm?” yoongi rubs hoseok’s back once he nods reluctantly. he offers hoseok a smile and slows down his walking pace even more once he realises that hoseok’s breathing is laboured. his body must still be catching up to whatever had happened to it. after linking his arm through hoseok’s, yoongi walks him to the café slowly. they walk in silence, but yoongi doesn’t mind—the silence isn’t an uncomfortable one, they’re both just too tired to speak.

 

yoongi gently guides hoseok to a seat tucked away in a corner, where potential customers won’t walk past him too much, but where yoongi and seokjin can still see him easily. it’s partially because hoseok seems relieved to still be able to see seokjin and yoongi, but it’s also so that yoongi feels more at ease that way. he wants to be able to glance over and see how he’s doing.

“what do you want to eat? do you have any preferences?”

seokjin joins them, too, smiling lightly as he looks down on the still sleepy hoseok, who is swaying gently in his seat while his eyes constantly drift closed. he looks seconds away from falling asleep. it’s kind of endearing.

yoongi lists a few things that they have on hand, things that they eat, too, but hoseok doesn’t seem all that interested in eating.

“ramen?” seokjin adds jokingly, as yoongi’s not getting any response whatsoever. even when they’re in a hurry for work and they have little time to eat, they don’t tend to have ramen for breakfast, but they still keep it around for rainy days.

hoseok pipes up a little. his eyes open wide and he looks up at seokjin with interest. “yeah? you like ramen?” seokjin asks with a playful smile.

hoseok hangs his head to hide his flushed cheeks. he nods timidly. “i like ramen.”

“okay! three cups of ramen coming right up!” seokjin says.

“i’m—” hoseok says quickly. he rubs the back of his neck. “i’m not very good with spicy food. um…”

“that’s okay! we have non-spicy.”

hoseok nods gratefully. once seokjin leaves to fix them some food, yoongi joins him at the table. he watches sadly as hoseok looks at him briefly, before pulling up his shoulders again and trying to make himself look smaller.

“you just rest here while we work, okay? if you’re hungry, or thirsty, or you’re in pain… or, or you want to talk, just let us know.”

“why are you being so nice to me?” hoseok asks quietly. “i don’t understand. i can’t offer you anything. i don’t have any useful powers. i have nothing to give.”

“because…” yoongi sighs while he thinks of an answer, but he doesn’t really have one. he doesn’t have a reason to be nice to hoseok, he just… “i think everyone deserves kindness, and you looked like you needed it.”

hoseok just stares at him after that. he relaxes his shoulders a little, and his face takes on a more open expression. he still seems cautious, but yoongi’s doing everything in his power to come across as disarmingly as possible.

seokjin ruptures the quiet moment between them when waltzes back in carrying three cups of ramen. he sits down and lets three sets of chopsticks clatter to the table. his chipper mood brightens the air around them almost immediately.

while hoseok hadn’t seemed hungry earlier, uninterested in yoongi’s list of food, he sniffs the air as soon as there’s ramen in front of him. he finds the chopsticks, mumbles out a meek thank you and digs in before yoongi can warn him of how hot it is, and to please wait at least a few seconds.

hoseok devours his ramen. he doesn’t look up at all, face nearly pressed into his steaming pile of food. yoongi’s worried that he’s not even breathing, and that he’s burning his tongue and every other part of the inside of his mouth, but by the time yoongi pats his shoulder and pulls him back to get him to slow down, hoseok’s already done inhaling his food.

seokjin gapes at him. yoongi gapes at him. hoseok blinks between the two, before he opens his mouth and sucks in a deep breath. once he’s done that, he sticks his tongue out and grimaces cutely.

“did you burn your tongue?” seokjin asks, biting his lip in order not to laugh.

hoseok nods, tongue still stuck out. he pouts as much as he’s able to.

yoongi laughs quietly. he gets up to fetch hoseok some water and holds the cup up to his lips once he’s back. “okay, just take small sips. don’t drown yourself in water, like you did with the ramen. there you go…” he places his free hand to the back of hoseok’s head and tilts the cup a little more.

hoseok sighs gratefully once he’s done, although he does keep his tongue flopping out of his mouth.

“you heal fast,” seokjin comforts him. “i’m sure it’ll feel better in a minute.”

hoseok just nods again, nose wrinkling in displeasure. yoongi and seokjin laugh at him, but hoseok doesn’t seem to take it as an insult.

“d’you want my ramen?” yoongi offers, once hoseok’s tongue no longer seems to hurt. he pushes the cup in hoseok’s direction. “i’ll just have some coffee for now; i’m not that hungry.”

“are you sure?”

yoongi nods. “go on. but only if you promise to eat slowly. i don’t think you breathed at all just now.”

hoseok seems a little embarrassed, but his hunger ultimately wins it from his embarrassment. he accepts yoongi’s offering with a timid smile and begins eating. he makes sure to lift his head in between bites now, breathing in deeply every once in a while and glancing over at yoongi each and every single time.

“cute,” seokjin mumbles, getting up once he’s done eating. “i’m going to start preparing. you just sit and relax, okay? let us know if you need anything.”

 

eventually, yoongi gets up, too, but only after instructing hoseok to stay seated and get some rest. hoseok nods obediently at that and watches him leave with curious doe-eyes that yoongi nearly coos over.

both yoongi and seokjin glance over at hoseok every once in a while, in between customers. seokjin comes over a few times to make sure he still has water, only to find that yoongi’s already topped him off, or that he just barely beat yoongi to it.

hoseok just lets it all happen. he seems too tired after the food to do much of anything. he’s awake for the first hour, blinking up at them whenever they check on him, but after that he folds his arms on the table and rests his face on them.

the next time yoongi checks on him, hoseok’s snoring softly. seokjin catches him stare, and then he watches as yoongi pads back over to seokjin, stands in front of him and catches the sleeve of his jacket between two fingers.
“hyung,” yoongi says, tugging on seokjin’s jacket. “take your jacket off.”

“hm?” seokjin asks, even as he wrestles out of his apron and slides his jacket off his shoulders. he thrusts it out to yoongi. “you cold, babe?”

yoongi doesn’t respond. he just walks back over to hoseok and drapes the jacket over his shoulders. he rearranges the hood until hoseok’s neck is covered and he’s sure hoseok won’t get cold. only then, does yoongi seem satisfied.

“ah,” seokjin sighs. “the fox-man.” he waits for yoongi to join him back at the counter, before nudging him with his elbow. “you’re very protective of him.”

yoongi hums. “he’s very tiny.”

seokjin shakes his head. “you’re tinier than him, you realise that, right? the tiniest boyfriend.” he comes to stand behind him and wraps his arms around yoongi’s shoulders.

“he’s a tiny fox,” yoongi just sighs, ignoring seokjin completely. “so tiny. very small.”

seokjin can’t really argue with that. “yeah, that’s true.”

 

seokjin wakes poor hoseok up a few hours later, shaking him softly by the shoulders and helping him sit up gently. he takes hoseok’s hand in his and forms his fingers around the chopsticks, pushing a new cup ramen his way and encouraging him to eat something.

“just for today,” seokjin says, sitting down next to him, “you can live off ramen, but we can’t do this every day, okay? it’s not great for you.”

hoseok wrinkles his nose at seokjin, obediently blowing on each bite he takes because seokjin’s warned him not to burn the inside of his mouth again.

yoongi watches from afar; he looks up every few seconds, even while helping out a customer. there’s something really endearing in the way seokjin, so very gruff when they’d first found hoseok as a fox, is so readily taking care of him now. it’s not even been a full day.

yoongi’s not entirely sure what he likes so much about the sight of seokjin looking after hoseok, about hoseok accepting seokjin’s help without saying a word and looking up at him with half-lidded, sleepy eyes. but he likes it. he likes looking at the two so much that he nearly spills scalding coffee all over his hand. the customer he’s helping doesn’t seem too pleased at yoongi’s carelessness, but he finds that he doesn’t mind too much. there are more important things to focus on, such as seokjin telling hoseok a joke, laughing loudly and ruffling hoseok’s hair. or other important things such as hoseok hanging his head to hide his smile.

 

yoongi also gets his turn to wake hoseok up, but this time to get him to drink some water. “we can’t have you dry out. you need to drink something, hm?”

hoseok just nods slowly. he lets yoongi sit him up again and doesn’t even bother to take the cup from yoongi—he lets yoongi hold it up to his mouth, and tilt it while hoseok drinks slowly.

since business is a little quiet, yoongi allows himself to sit down with hoseok again. they don’t really talk, it’s mostly yoongi chattering quietly about seokjin and about their business, about whatever keeps yoongi busy outside of work and seokjin.

yoongi’s not usually a talker. he prefers listening, or silence—he prefers the peace of a quiet room over the bustling of a busy one—but hoseok seems to like hearing him talk. yoongi’s voice seems to put him at ease. so yoongi talks. for once, yoongi fills up the silence.

he sits with hoseok until it’s time to lock up. seokjin and yoongi are both tired by now, so clean up is slow and lazy. they take their time.

hoseok watches them for a while, before he gets up slowly and helps seokjin lift the chairs and hang them face down from the tables. seokjin tries shaking his head and telling him to sit back down, that he’s got it covered, but hoseok straight up ignores him and quietly helps out until their café is a strange sea of chair legs sticking up into the air.

seokjin and hoseok wait in the door opening for yoongi to finish mopping the final corners of the room, before they walk out and seokjin locks up. “ready to go home?” he asks both yoongi and hoseok.

seokjin and yoongi flank hoseok on the way back home, glancing over at him every so often to see how he’s doing, looking seconds away from rubbing his arm or his back in comfort. they don’t, because they don’t know hoseok and it’d be weird, but they definitely think about doing it.

 

once they’re home, yoongi has hoseok lie down on the bed for him. he wants to inspect hoseok’s body and see if there are any wounds left to take care of. hoseok doesn’t protest, he doesn’t seem to mind at all and lies pliantly while yoongi strips him down to his underwear and looks him over critically.

“no wounds. not even bruises,” yoongi mutters in a surprised tone of voice. “i’m jealous of your healing ability. i wish i healed that quickly.”

hoseok just smiles, only to promptly yawn so big and violently that his whole body seizes up. once he’s done, he just looks at yoongi in surprise, like he’s not sure what’s just happened.

yoongi feels like he’s about to combust. he bites his lip to stop from cooing, but he does end up snorting and hiding his mouth behind his hand in an attempt to hide his laugh. once he’s collected himself again, he tugs hoseok to a seat. “come on, there’s still some dried blood left that hyung missed this morning. how about a bath?”

hoseok lets himself be led to the bathroom, where he stands quietly while yoongi rummages around and draws him a bath. there’s no shame when he eventually peels off his underwear and lets yoongi steady him when he steps into the warm water, nor when yoongi’s hands, firm on his sides and his hot skin, hold him tight and help him sit down.

“just relax, okay? do you mind if i wash your body? or would you prefer to do it yourself?” yoongi asks, procuring a small cloth from behind his back and holding it up for him to see.

hoseok just pulls his hand out of the water, holding it out for yoongi to clean. “you can do it.”

yoongi doesn’t need to be told twice. he starts cleaning slowly and meticulously, gently dragging the cloth over hoseok’s skin to get every inch. he tries not to let his fingers wander, tries not to let them linger unnecessarily on the smooth skin, but it’s hard. hoseok’s skin is so soft under his touch; yoongi wants to keep touching, he wants to keep exploring. he wants hoseok to lean just a little more into his touch. he wants to hear more of the deep purring that seems to be coming from somewhere inside of him.

“thank you,” hoseok says after a while. yoongi’s not sure what he’s being thanked for, but he doesn’t want to ask—he doesn’t want to disrupt the calm silence that’s filled the bathroom.

eventually, seokjin wanders in. he complains jokingly about yoongi paying more attention to hoseok than to him, but he stops in his tracks once he gets a good look at hoseok, at his bare chest, wet and clean and no longer the pale colour it’d been when seokjin had first seen it that morning. even then, hoseok’s body had looked so artfully sculpted that it’d taken seokjin’s breath away a little, but it’s even more mesmerising now, with all the colour returned to his skin.

hoseok’s beautiful. it’s not very hard to notice.

seokjin sits down beside yoongi, leaning against the side and staring at the two softly. “d’you want me to wash your hair?” he asks. he smiles when hoseok nods straight away, not even taking the time to think about it.

hoseok stares at seokjin and yoongi in turn once his hair and face are all wet, water dripping down his face in small rivulets, strands of hair sticking to his forehead. seokjin laughs softly at him and wipes the drops of water threatening to fall from his brow into his eye. hoseok blushes in return.

 

they end up on the couch once hoseok’s all clean. he sits in between them and accepts a plate of curry, even though they proceed to feed him from their own straight after and hardly let him eat on his own.

“i’m not a baby,” hoseok mutters, pouting slightly, only to to open his mouth when seokjin, mouth full, holds a spoon up to his lips.

“uh-huh,” seokjin humours him.

yoongi snorts a little, before he shakes his head and sighs forlornly. “hyung, why do you not feed me like that? it’s so unfair.”

seokjin doesn’t say anything. his cheeks are all bunched up like a chipmunk while he chews diligently, but he multitasks by reaching over hoseok with a full spoon and holding it up for yoongi.

stop,” yoongi complains, opening his mouth solely so that seokjin will stop trying to push the spoon past his lips.

“you said you wanted to be fed! stop whining, you big baby.”

“who is a big baby? you’re a big baby.”

hoseok turns his head left to right to look between them, bearing witness to their childish whining. they’re both a little tired, and they both love annoying each other like this. it’s perfect. hoseok seems to like watching it play out, too.

they eventually wind down once they’re all done with their food. they watch some tv, and hoseok wonders out loud what humans find so entertaining about watching it. “it’s just people moving on a screen,” he mutters. “it’s not even real.”

seokjin opens his mouth to explain what’s so interesting about it, but he closes it again when he realises he doesn’t really have that great of an answer. “it’s… a good way to pass the time? it’s fun to watch other people do stuff sometimes, especially when you’re not doing anything yourself.”

hoseok blinks at him for some time, before he turns back to watch the people on the screen do things, while he does nothing. “that’s kind of weird,” he mumbles.

yoongi guffaws, while seokjin merely gasps indignantly.

eventually, hoseok’s had enough of watching the screen. he transforms into his fox form without warning and turns around a few times in his seat until he’s found the best position to sit in. he lies down gently and drapes his tails around himself elegantly.

“tired?” seokjin asks. he scratches hoseok behind his ear, only to leave his hand resting comfortably on hoseok’s back, while yoongi idly plays with one of his tails, glancing down every so often to see how he’s doing.

“fluffy,” yoongi notes to seokjin.

“hm.”

 

“i’m tired,” yoongi mutters, stretching his arms above his head and yawning big and loud.

seokjin just hums noncommittally. while he agrees, while he’s tired, too, the implication behind yoongi’s words is that they go to bed, which would require him to get up and… do stuff.

“you not tired?” yoongi asks, slowly lowering his arms.

“yeah, no… but… lazy.”

yoongi laughs softly. “i’ll carry you to bed.”

seokjin whines. “brush my teeth first.”

“fine… fine,” yoongi sighs. “what are we gonna do about hoseok?” he looks down between them, where a tiny, white fox lies curled up between them. hoseok’s sleeping peacefully, has been for the past hour.

seokjin rubs his chin in thought. “he’s sleeping so peacefully. we should probably leave him here, right?”

yoongi pulls a face, not sure whether he’s on board with that idea or not. he doesn’t really want to leave hoseok alone, even if he’ll probably be fine and won’t notice that they’ve left.

“we’ll build him a nest,” seokjin suggests. with hoseok’s comfort in mind, seokjin finds the energy to get up and fetch some blankets. he gives half to yoongi and begins artfully and carefully forming his own blankets around hoseok, even going so far as to drape one of them over hoseok’s tiny body, until the only part of him sticking out is his snout and his tiny little ears.

yoongi slowly shakes his head even while he follows seokjin’s lead. “i can’t believe you’re building a nest for a person you met yesterday, and yet… have you ever built me a nest? no.”

seokjin’s gaze slowly pans over to stare at yoongi. “stop being jealous. you’ve never built one for me either, so… i don’t know why you’re complaining.”

 

“c’mere,” seokjin mumbles, as soon as the two are finally in bed. “you said you wanted a nest, so i’ll be your nest.” he doesn’t wait for yoongi to turn around and crawl into his arms, he just goes ahead and pulls him into a stifling hug and then grins obnoxiously when yoongi immediately starts complaining.

yoongi shakes his head softly. “you’re so annoying, hyung.”

seokjin hums. “do you want me to stop cuddling you?”

“no.”

seokjin laughs loudly and presses a good night kiss to the back of yoongi’s head. yoongi turns his head slightly, waiting for seokjin to press a kiss to his mouth, before he mumbles a sleepy good night and falls asleep soon thereafter.

they’ve been asleep for a few hours when hoseok wakes up alone amid a nest of blankets. the living room is dark and silent and he blinks sleepily while he tries to find his bearings.

where are they? hoseok thinks, before sniffing the air and jumping off the couch to follow their scents.

one of the blankets gets caught between his tails while he walks to the bedroom, but he doesn’t bother to stop and pull it off. it’ll get loose eventually, or maybe it’ll fall when he jumps onto the bed.

what if they don’t want me there?

hoseok decides to ignore that thought. he’s not going to be staying much longer. he’ll probably be out of their hair the next day, so why not indulge for now? they’d accepted him so far; they’d let him stay in their bed when he was hurt and took care of him; they’d taken him to work and fed him; they’d bathed him.

just one last time, before i go, hoseok reasons. looking up at the bed and standing quietly for a moment while listening to their quiet snores. he’d gotten lucky to collapse in their vicinity. he’s not sure he’d even be here had they not found him.

i wish i could offer them something. i have nothing to give.

hoseok jumps onto the bed. they’re on their sides, hugging very loosely. when hoseok peers between their bodies, he notices there’s just enough space for him to crawl between them.

would they mind… ?

“hey, foxy…” seokjin mutters sleepily. he stirs only slightly and doesn’t even crack open an eye. “why are you awake? are foxes nocturnal? i have—” he yawns. “—no idea.”

hoseok sits at the foot of the bed, blinking at seokjin and wondering if he’d be okay with hoseok sleeping in between them. would he kick him off the bed?

“what are you waiting for, fox-man? there’s enough space between us, or, or—” seokjin yawns again. “—wherever.”

hoseok pads over and watches as seokjin lifts the covers for him to crawl underneath. he hesitates for a moment, until seokjin makes a noise of encouragement and lifts the sheets a little more. he crawls underneath and settles between seokjin’s chest and yoongi’s back.

just before hoseok dozes off again, he notices yoongi turn gently until he’s facing hoseok, too. he doesn’t say anything, but he does pat hoseok on the back, before sighing sleepily and, presumably, falling back asleep.

 

when they wake up the next morning, there’s no longer a small, white fox lying curled up between them, but a very human looking hoseok. both yoongi and seokjin are curled toward him, yoongi with his head on hoseok’s shoulder and seokjin with his arm draped over hoseok’s stomach.

“sorry…” yoongi mutters, rubbing his eyes and slowly getting off hoseok’s shoulder.

“it’s okay.” hoseok doesn’t get up, but only because seokjin doesn’t look like he has any intention of pulling his arm back.

“you didn’t want to sleep alone?” yoongi asks, trying to make conversation to get rid of the awkward situation of waking up on top of him.

hoseok just shakes his head slowly. “i’m sorry for climbing in. you left me on the couch for a reason, i should’ve stayed there.”

yoongi shakes his head, too. “we left you there only because you were sleeping peacefully. we didn’t want to wake you, is all. hyung told you to get in, didn’t he?”

hoseok nods.

“well, then.” yoongi smiles. “are you hungry? do you want some breakfast? i’m going to make you some breakfast. how’re you feeling?”

hoseok gapes at yoongi, wondering which question he’s supposed to answer, or whether he’s supposed to just accept the breakfast. “uh… i’m—i’m feeling better. my body doesn’t feel tired anymore.”

“does anything hurt?”

hoseok shakes his head. “i feel good.”

“i’m glad to hear that.” yoongi sounds relieved, which makes hoseok feel… it makes him feel… nervous. but in a good way? or a bad way? what do they want from him? are they really just being kind, or is there more to it than that?

“‘m gonna fix you some breakfast,” seokjin mumbles, when yoongi makes no move to get up, rolling to the other side and pulling his arm off hoseok.

they let hoseok eat by himself this time, although they do watch him closely to make sure he eats enough by giving him another portion of rice and taking turns offering him different side dishes. they’re not content until hoseok sits back with a loud sigh and rubs his full stomach quietly.

 

when seokjin and yoongi are done eating, too, hoseok sucks in a deep breath to prepare himself for what he’s about to say. he hopes they won’t be angry, or sad, or… “thank you for looking after me. i’ve overstayed my welcome, and i should really get going now. i’m sorry for all the inconvenience i might have caused you. i don’t… have anything to offer you right now, other than my thanks, but i’ll forever be in your debt.”

“you don’t have to go,” seokjin tells him softly. “it’s no bother to us.”

hoseok shakes his head. there’s no way this is all out of kindness. there’s no way anyone could be that kind, which means that they have some sort of ulterior motive. it’s not very hard to figure out what that ulterior motive is—it’s about hoseok and his powers, maybe about the fox marble and the knowledge it offers humans when they swallow it. they want something from hoseok, when hoseok has absolutely nothing to give. everything’s already been taken from him.

“i’d better move on,” hoseok just says.

“are you sure?” yoongi asks. he looks sad. he looks like he doesn’t want hoseok to go. do they not realise how little hoseok truly has to offer? he couldn’t even give them his fox marble if he wanted to.

hoseok nods. “i’m sure.”

both seokjin and yoongi look like they want to keep trying to convince him to stay, but they don’t say anything and just look to each other with frowns that hoseok can’t decipher.

“accompany us to work before you go?” yoongi finally asks, looking for all the world like he wants to say something completely different. but he doesn’t. he just smiles gratefully when hoseok says he’ll accompany them and then spends the entire walk over not saying a word. he doesn’t know what to say, or what there is to say. yoongi doesn’t know hoseok, so why should this goodbye be hard at all?

it shouldn’t be hard, yet yoongi feels so sad to see him go. one look over at seokjin, on hoseok’s other side, tells him that he’s feeling similarly. seokjin doesn’t want hoseok to leave, either. but they can’t force him to stay—if hoseok wants to leave, then they should respect his wishes.

so when they reach the café and hoseok turns to face them, head hung so that he can stare at his feet and not at their faces, neither seokjin nor yoongi know what to say other than goodbye and please be careful and take care of yourself. they can’t resist adding you’re always welcome with us, okay? if you ever need anything, you know where to find us.

“thank you,” hoseok just says. he still doesn’t look at either of them. “thanks for being so kind to me. thank you so much.”

they watch him leave, until he disappears around the corner of a building, and then they stand outside a little longer.

yoongi slips his fingers between seokjin’s and leans into him. “i’m sad to see him go. i kind of wanted him to stay a little longer.”

“me, too. i hope he’ll be okay.”

“do you think he has anything to go back to? he seemed so lonely.”

seokjin shakes his head softly. “i don’t know, babe. i hope he does, but i don’t know.”

 

their day doesn’t go much differently from any other. compared to how their days usually go, this one isn’t out of the ordinary at all. but it feels weird. it feels like there’s something missing. someone. it feels like someone is missing. hoseok is missing, and yoongi and seokjin are so acutely aware of this that it feels a little like the axis their world spins around has tilted just slightly—enough for them to feel that something is wrong, but not enough to pinpoint the actual problem.

yoongi keeps glancing at the seat in the corner, where hoseok had sat only yesterday. seokjin notices and then does the same thing only moments later.

it feels so very strange, when hoseok had only stayed with them for a day. it’s not like they know him. they don’t really know anything about him, including where he’s from, what it’s like being a gumiho, why he was hurt or why he’d seemed so lonely. they know nothing, apart from his name.

“do you think he’s okay?” yoongi asks, later that night, when it’s just the two of them in their home.

seokjin shrugs. he hides his face a little and laughs softly. “isn’t it strange how i’d tried to convince you to leave him on the sidewalk, convinced he was going to eat your face off, only to…” he doesn’t finish his sentence, but yoongi understands what he’s trying to say.

“maybe it’s because he’s so tiny. makes you feel like you want to protect him?” yoongi muses.

“perhaps. i don’t think he trusted us fully. he seemed… scared, at times. what do you think he’s been through to be scared like that?”

yoongi kind of wishes he knew, and that he could make it better, but he realises it doesn’t really matter anymore. hoseok’s gone now. they probably won’t see him again.

 

hoseok doesn’t really know where to go once he’s left seokjin and yoongi behind. there’s no place for him anywhere. he ran away from his clan, his only home. he doesn’t know anyone outside of it, other than seokjin and yoongi.

but he can’t really go back to them. he can’t stay with them, because, as kind as they’ve been, how long until they decide to demand more from him? he has nothing to offer them, he can’t pay them back in any way, so… so it’s better to leave now, before it’s too late.

but where is he supposed to go now? there’s no place for him, other than home. his clan. his family. would his family take him in again? would they accept him, after what happened? could he convince them to leave with him? he has to try.

 

it takes a while to get back, but with each step he takes, his dread sinks in more, until his shoulders are so heavy he doesn’t think he can take another step. what’s going to be waiting for him there? is he going to be attacked again? what if they kill him this time?

hoseok only barely got away last time. even now, he’s not sure whether they meant to kill him at the time, or simply scare him off. he wants to believe it was to chase him away, but he has so little faith in his clan that he’s not convinced at all. they’d left him for dead. they’d wanted him dead. hoseok is walking into a potentially dangerous situation, but he can’t even bring himself to care. he has nowhere else to go.

before he manages to psych himself up, hoseok reaches the edge of the woods. beyond the line of trees looming over him, the clan’s territory begins. beyond this line of trees separating human from gumiho territory, hoseok’s not safe at all. but then he’s not really safe anywhere.

except maybe with them. i felt safe with them.

hoseok pushes the thought away as he shifts into his fox form and shoots between the trees. the one advantage he has over most of his clan is that he’s very small—smaller than most—so he can slip in largely undetected. the disadvantage he has is that his fur is stark white. it stands out if he’s not careful enough, but he has a method for that. it’s not the most refined one, especially not for a supposedly noble creature such as himself, but it’s always worked for him; it’s always allowed him to blend in.

hoseok doesn’t mind the long trek around to get to the small lake tucked away between the trees. he’s always liked coming there, even if it’s on the very edge of the territory. not a lot of his people come here, which means it’s safe for him. at the lake, no one will ever bother him.

while hoseok has spent many hours, sometimes even days, at a time at the lake, he knows he can’t stay here now. he has to go see his family. so when he arrives, he only allows himself enough time to jump into the water to thoroughly soak his fur, and then he’s climbing out again and finding a dry patch of dirt to roll around in.

hoseok’s caked in mud by the time he moves on from the lake. he no longer stands out in the forest—his normally pristine fur has been dirtied beyond recognition.

 

despite the fact that he’s muddy by the time he makes it to his family’s home, his mother recognises him immediately. she doesn’t look happy to see him at all—she looks angry, if anything. she looks around them to see if anyone’s around, but it’s just them. they’re all alone.

still, she takes him by the scruff and pulls him inside quickly. he doesn’t feel welcomed at all when they both shift and she pushes him into a seat at their small kitchen table. “what are you doing back here?” the accusing tone stings. hoseok has to use all of his will strength not to flinch.

“i came back for you,” he says softly. he looks down into his lap. seokjin’s pants are staring up at him. hoseok wishes he could give them back, but seokjin had refused to take them back. they were hoseok’s now, seokjin had said.

why? why would you do such a thing?”

“we shouldn’t stay here,” hoseok says. “the clan’s not a good place to stay. they’re not good foxes. none of them are.”

“that’s not for you to decide. just because you’re different, doesn’t mean the rest of us are bad.”

the rest of us.

hoseok had used we to allude to himself and his family, but his mother doesn’t see it that way. to his mother, we means her family and the clan. hoseok’s not sure she even considers him part of her we anymore.

so which we does he belong to, then? has he ever belonged to any? will he ever?

“they trick people and lure them here to eat them. they murder people.”

maybe it’s stupid that he’s even trying to argue with his mother. his parents had allowed hoseok to be born in the clan. they would have taken him away from this place had they thought it an unsafe place for a kit to grow up in.

hoseok’s never going to be able to convince them to leave, but he can’t stay here, either. so where does he go, then? what’s left for him? does he no longer have a home? did he have a home in the first place?

we,” she corrects him. and then she says: “this is how we do things here. we’ve done things like this your whole life. we’re not the problem. you are. you think differently than us.”

“but how do you not see how wrong this is. you must see that this isn’t right. please? this isn’t a matter of different opinions,” hoseok pleads. he’s crying. he doesn’t try to wipe his tears away, and neither does his mother.

“hoseok-ah, everyone’s at the feast now. it won’t be long before they’re back. you should leave now, while you still can. you have to get out. you were lucky to make it out alive last time.”

“feast?” hoseok feels nausea bubble up at the mention of a feast. how many people had they lured into the clan this time? what was the occasion for such a grisly celebration? “what’s going on?”

his mother’s frown evaporates temporarily. she even smiles. “your father has been accepted as a council member. the feast is in honour of your father.”

hoseok presses his palm to his mouth, feeling the bile rise up his throat. he’d come here to ask them to get out with him, but they’d wormed themselves deeper into the clan, instead. there’s absolutely no way they’d ever leave with him. they would die before they’d ever think of leaving.

“you must get out now, kit,” she says. she doesn’t look so angry now, and she’s still not frowning. she looks sad, if anything, that it’s come to this, and her smile reflects that heavily. “i love you, but this is no place for you. it has never been. you’ve never belonged here, and for that i’m sorry. i’ve failed you.”

hoseok knows that she loves him. it’s not a good kind of love, but it is love. a skewed kind of love. while she loves him, he knows she’s othered him so much so that she probably doesn’t really see hoseok as her child. not really. he holds that title, but it doesn’t have much meaning to it. not anymore. “let me at least take my little sister with me. she’s so young, this is no place for her to grow up in, hm? please. she can still get out. it doesn’t have to be like this.”

the smile vanishes instantly. “your sister is at the feast. she lured her first prey tonight. she lured one just for your father.”

hoseok bends over to press his face to his knees. his shoulders shake wildly while he sobs. she doesn’t offer him any support at all, other than to let him cry in peace until he’s able to speak again. “but she’s only seven. she’s only seven years old.”

“i always thought my genes were bad,” she says, almost dreamily. “because i gave birth to you and you wouldn’t fit in anywhere. you were uninterested in our ways, you were repulsed by them. i tried to raise you to be a good boy, i convinced everyone you were just a late bloomer… i really thought it was me, until your sister came along. she’s not like you, hoseok-ah. she’s like us. you have to accept that.”

his sister belongs to the we that hoseok doesn’t belong to, no matter how hard he’s tried to keep her away from it all. has he failed her? has he not tried hard enough to teach her a different way to live?

“go. i can hear them coming,” his mother says. “get out, and don’t come back.”

hoseok gets up, but it’s already too late. the door bursts open to reveal his little sister. her pretty little white dress, the one she’s always loved so much, is covered in blood. she doesn’t seem to mind much. she’s smiling. “oppa!”

hoseok can’t even get a word in. he wants to sink to his knees in front of her and convince her to come with him, but his father steps in before he can. unlike his mother, his father isn’t interested in talking. he sees the way hoseok looks at his sister and knows instantly that he’s going to ask her if she wants to run away with him.

“i thought i’d told you not to come back,” his father says. there’s a dangerous edge to his voice that hoseok registers immediately. he knows to back away if he doesn’t want anything bad to happen, but it’s so hard when backing away means he has to let his sister go.

in the short moments hoseok takes to consider his options—whether he has any at all—his father yanks him out of the house by his arm. hoseok’s not fast enough to shift, but his father is. he feels the teeth in his ankle before he’s fully aware of what’s happening; his father is brutally dragging him away from the house.

not just him—hoseok spots others out of the corner of his eye. other clan members. some of the ones that’d attacked him last time. they’re going to kill him this time, hoseok knows that with chilling certainty.

his father lets go of him once they’re a little ways away from the house, but hoseok can hear his sister screaming from where he’s lying on the forest ground. she’s crying, begging her parents to let go of her brother. hoseok’s father either doesn’t hear her, or he doesn’t care. he walks around hoseok, until he ends up somewhere at his throat.

hoseok notices the others now. they’re closer. they’re forming a circle around him. they’re all snarling at him, including his father. hoseok is the only one shifted into a human now, and hoseok thinks, with dizzying clarity, that he’s never seen a more accurate representation of his role in the clan. other. it’s always been like that. there hasn’t been a moment where he’s felt connected to any of them, except to his immediate family, and even that connection has shattered beyond recognition.

his father closes in on him—his jaw drops open to reveal a row of sharp teeth, coming ever closer to his throat. hoseok watches dully as the teeth approach his neck…

don’t hurt him!” his sister wails. she’s so loud that everyone around him stops what they’re doing for a moment. it’s only a short moment, but it’s enough for hoseok to come to his senses and shift immediately.

hoseok’s fox form is so tiny that he easily slips between them. he’s still muddy enough that it’s hard for them to spot him. they can pick him out by scent, sure, but he has another advantage on his side; he doesn’t smell like hoseok anymore. hoseok smells like seokjin and yoongi and hoseok. the mix of smells is just confusing enough for hoseok to win some time and flee.

 

hoseok ends up at the lake. they haven’t followed him all the way out here, of that he’s sure. he would’ve heard them. hoseok’s safe for now.

he collapses on his back, panting harshly. his ankle hurts from where his father’s teeth have sunk in, but the pain is insistent enough for him to focus his full attention on. if he focuses on this pain, he won’t have to focus on the bigger picture. it’s easier to cry because of his hurt ankle, instead of his lost family. his lost home. can you lose something you never had, though?

hoseok stares up at the sky while he cries. everything about this is so eerily similar to last time that he’s a little angry at himself for even trying. what had he expected? they were never going to change. hoseok had been a fool for trying.

 

“it’s time, hoseok-ah. you’ve held off for long enough—you must lure someone home. your first victim. we’re all waiting.”

at twelve years old, hoseok only held back his tears long enough to escape out to the lake. he cried there, but he came back eventually because there’d been no other place for him to go.

“i’ll find someone soon, dad. i promise.” and hoseok managed to hold it off for another four years.

at sixteen years old, they dragged him from his bed in the middle of the night. they claimed to have a gift for him. a gift in the form of a drunk guy, stumbling around just on the edge of the woods. they clearly lured him here, but it was up to hoseok to guide him home the rest of the way.

he didn’t have a choice; they would kick him out otherwise; so hoseok lured the guy all the way into their den, where he watched them tear him limb from limb. he’d seen a carnage like this before, but it’d never left such a bitter taste in his mouth before, since he’d never been the direct culprit until then.

but this person they were eating? hoseok had brought this person here. it’d been his indirect kill. it was supposed to be a celebration, but it didn’t feel that way to hoseok at all. he’d never felt sicker in his life.

at eighteen years old, hoseok was made to take his first bite. normally, his kind had their first taste at a much younger age—some before even reaching their teens. hoseok resisted, though, and they let him for the most part, but… he’d become a man, which meant it was no longer acceptable. hoseok had to consume part of his victim if he didn’t want to be kicked out his clan.

hoseok ate the liver. and then he puked it all out only minutes later. they all laughed at him and told him it was fine—he would learn to eat them. as soon as he got over the idea, he’d realise just how delicious humans were.

he never did learn. he never acquired the taste. but he was still made to eat. if he wanted to stay; if he didn’t want to be kicked out...

hoseok endured for years, until he finally snapped; until he couldn’t take it anymore. there was nothing special about his last victim, other than that they were completely innocent, but it was the last straw for him. if he was made to lure one more human, he was sure he’d lose it once and for all.

his clan didn’t take kindly to that at all. they attacked him, with the intent of getting rid of him altogether. while they managed to wound him in both of his forms—a strategy meant to prevent a gumiho from shifting into their healthiest form and getting away—they hadn’t quite managed to do an effective job. hoseok got away. he fled all the way to the lake, where he collapsed for a while.

at the time, he spent some time on his back, looking up at the sky while he slowly bled all around him. he hadn’t stayed for very long, afraid that they’d find him and finish what they’d started.

 

hoseok doesn’t want to run away from the lake this time. the lake is his only safe place in these woods, it’d been foolish to ever think they’d find him there. except he’s very wrong this time. he underestimates their anger and determination by quite a bit.

hoseok hears them approaching long before he sees them. he scrambles to his feet; he doesn’t want to wait around for them. they won’t let him go this time. they’ll finish the job.

the only thing he can do is run away from the first safe space he’s ever had, right back to… his new one. will they accept me?

they’d told him he was always welcome. hoseok didn’t really trust humans—or anyone, really—but… they’d said so, hadn’t they? you’re always welcome with us. hoseok hopes they were telling the truth.

 

seokjin and yoongi are in for a surprise when they find a familiar figure sitting just outside the café building three days later. hoseok’s knees are pulled up to his chest. he’s hugging them close and hiding his face in between them. he looks like he’s sat there all night, like he’s slept like that. he looks miserable.

“hi,” yoongi says softly, crouching in front of hoseok and cocking his head in an attempt to meet hoseok’s gaze. “have you been out here long? come on, let’s go inside. are you hungry? thirsty? are you cold? did you sleep out here? come.” he gently takes hoseok by the elbow and pulls him up.

seokjin holds the door open and smiles at hoseok in what looks like relief. “you couldn’t stay away from us, huh? was it my handsome face? did you miss my perfectly sculpted facial features and charming personality? i understand. it’s hard to be away from me. yoongi-chi can’t stomach it either.”

hoseok frowns slightly, but he bites his lip like he wants to laugh along with seokjin.

yoongi merely sighs and shakes his head, muttering darkly while he pulls hoseok along. “don’t listen to him. he’s obnoxious in the morning, something about not getting enough sleep really brings out his worst qualities.”

seokjin follows them in, complaining loudly the whole while. yoongi ignores it, while hoseok looks over his shoulder every so often with poorly hidden amusement written all over his face.

once they’ve sat hoseok down and he’s got a glass of water in front of him and seokjin’s gone to the convenience store just around the corner to get him something to eat, hoseok rubs his thighs nervously. he seems to want to speak, either to explain or to… they don’t know, but seokjin stops joking around to give him enough room and quiet to speak if he so desires to.

“i don’t have anywhere to go,” is the first thing hoseok says to them since they found him outside. his voice wobbles and he’s not looking at them. he seems ashamed to even admit it, but he thinks it’s necessary. he should try to explain, at least. “you—you said i was welcome and… i don’t want to… i don’t like asking for help, but i don’t know what else to do,” he admits in a soft voice.

hoseok sounds hurt in a way yoongi and seokjin can’t put their finger on. had something else happened in the three days he spent somewhere else? or is this hurt just a remnant from whatever had brought him to their doorstep all torn up? it’d only been a few days since he’d come to them first, so it wouldn’t be entirely far fetched if it were the latter.

“you are,” seokjin reassures him. “we meant that. you’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”

hoseok opens his mouth to ask them why once more. it still doesn’t make sense to him, nor does he think it ever will, but the three days away have been enough time to wonder about them. it’s been enough time to come to the conclusion that, perhaps, they really don’t mean any harm. maybe they’re actually just kind people, for no other reason than to be kind. maybe there really is nothing else behind it but kindness, about wanting to help hoseok out.

hoseok desperately wants to believe that, because there’s nothing there for him otherwise, so instead of pulling their kindness into question once more, hoseok ends up nodding slowly. they don’t ask him what happened, not in the last three days, nor before they’d met him. they simply tell him to drink some more water and suggest he eat some more and if he’d like something else to eat, because they’re happy to go to the convenience store again to buy him something else.

“my kind lives in clans,” hoseok says in response to all of that, after shaking his head to decline the food. “a clan is like a family, except… multiple families together and the clan is more important than your actual family. to be honest, your true family doesn’t hold as much importance as your clan. that’s how important a clan is. we stick together until we die, and everything we do, we do for the good of the clan. it’s… a gumiho thing.”

“you ran away from your clan?” seokjin asks carefully.

hoseok bites his lip. for a moment, it looks like he isn’t going to say anything else, but then he surprises both himself and seokjin and yoongi by opening his mouth and continuing to speak. “my clan, they… well, my kind in general, they feed on humans. humans are… they’re our prey. not all clans think of humans the same way, some don’t feed on them, but they’re rare. my clan isn’t one of those rare ones. far from it. they’re very cruel. they thrive on cruelty. if you’re not cruel like them it’s hard to fit in and you’re more often than not vilified.”

“you’re the very opposite of cruel,” yoongi says. “they kicked you out? is that how you got hurt?”

hoseok nods slowly. “they ordered me to trick a person. they were trying to trap someone and i was supposed to lure them into the trap. it was a test for me, basically, to show that i belonged in the clan, but i refused. i was attacked for it and driven away.”

“you were hurt in both human and fox form, how did that happen?” seokjin asks, before he seems to catch himself and hastily adds: “you don’t have to explain if you don’t want to. i’m sorry, we don’t mean to pry.”

“they attacked me while i was in my human form at first. i shapeshifted in hopes of getting away, but i have a very small build compared to my clan members. they caught up to me easily.”

neither seokjin nor yoongi know what to say to that. they both look horrified at what had happened to hoseok, angry that his supposed clan had attacked him like that, when they were supposed to be family.

“i’m…” hoseok says, stopping to gather his thoughts. “i’m saying this now, because you so graciously let me into your home when you didn’t know anything about me. i owed you an explanation.”

seokjin shakes his head. “thank you for telling us, but you really didn’t have to. you don’t have to explain anything. it’s okay.”

hoseok can’t help himself this time. “but you don’t know me. you knew—you know nothing about me. i know you humans have your own stories about us, most of which include how we eat your kind. you must have known those stories, so why—i’m sorry.” he sighs slowly. “i’m sorry, i don’t mean to question you at all. i’m being rude. it’s just that i don’t understand how you could let me inside, despite your tales about us.”

“you seemed really helpless when we found you. and then, when you got better and you were more… responsive to us, you just…” yoongi shrugs. he doesn’t really know how to explain his reason for taking hoseok in without giving it another thought. not even to seokjin. “you just seemed really gentle.”

“but we’re tricksters. it’s what we do.” hoseok frets over their trust for a different reason now. it’s not about their ulterior motive, so much as it’s about their misguided trust. what if hoseok really had been like the rest of his clan? what if hoseok had attacked them? what if another of his kind showed up to hurt either of them? what if his clan came after them because they’d taken hoseok in? “you can’t just—”

they both laugh softly. “we’re not that trusting, it’s just that… you…” yoongi still doesn’t know how to explain, so he just shrugs again.

hoseok sighs and shakes his head softly.

“where did you go when you left?” seokjin asks after a while. “you were gone for three days.”

hoseok bites his lip. “i went back for my family.”

“how… how did it go?” seokjin seems almost afraid to ask.

all hoseok does is shake his head. “my family’s just like them. they fit right into the clan. why else was i born in it, if they didn’t agree with their beliefs?”

“i’m sorry…”

“it’s okay. i probably shouldn’t have gone back at all. it was stupid of me. but now i know. i’ll… i’ll move on now.”

“i’m really sorry, you deserve better,” yoongi says. he lifts his hand to pat hoseok’s head slowly, and then pulls it back to thumb at a lone tear that rolls down his cheek. “it’s okay to cry,” he reassures hoseok.

hoseok shakes his head at first. he doesn’t want to cry. he’s already cried enough these past three days. but seokjin and yoongi are so compassionate that he finds himself crying all over. they hold him for a while; they wipe his cheeks and stroke his hair and rock him slowly.

 

hoseok spends the rest of the day with them at work. he helps out here and there, lending a helping hand wherever he can without getting in the way. they show him the ropes a little, but hoseok seems too tired and upset to retain any information.

they both assure him that it’s fine and force him to sit and rest a little, much like before. they make sure he drinks enough and eats a little, and when they get back home later that day and they’ve had dinner, seokjin physically has to restrain yoongi from walking hoseok to their guest bedroom and tucking him in.

“he’s not a baby, yoongi, he’ll be okay,” seokjin whispers, just after they’ve bid hoseok goodnight and watched him shuffle into the guest bedroom.

“but—” yoongi tries.

seokjin just shakes his head. “no. come on, let’s go.” he pulls a struggling yoongi along and even goes so far as to push him onto the bed and sit on top of him until he relaxes just slightly.

“do you think we’ll get a fox visitor tonight?” yoongi whispers into the dark, once they’re both in bed.

“i don’t know. he has his own bed now, doesn’t he? i don’t think so, but who knows?”

seokjin’s right. when he wakes up the next morning, the only other person in his bed is yoongi. suddenly, the bed feels a little too big for just the two of them.

 

hoseok feels strange in their guest bedroom at night. he’s grateful to have a place to stay, a comfortable bed to lie in and a space safe from harm. while hoseok is still alone in a room, it feels so much different from his lonely days spent at his clan.

foxes are social creatures, and so are gumihos—but only if you’re like them. only if you fit in. hoseok’s never fit in with them, not even as a kit. even as a kit, he remembers looking at his elders and not recognising himself in them at all.

his parents would tell him that he’d learn to like it, that he’d grow into it, that he’d acquire that taste for blood that all his peers seemed to develop so quickly. it’ll come, hoseok-ah. you’ll learn, kit. but he never did. the older he got, the bigger those differences became.

it didn’t just mean that he was seen as other and that hoseok didn’t relate to any member of his clan very well, it also meant that they excluded him almost entirely. he stopped having very many friends, and clan members his age stopped hanging out with him. hoseok was still the same social fox like the rest of his clan, and the rest of his species, but he found no friendship and no love there. no one was willing to give it, because he was just too different.

hoseok spent all his nights alone, until it was something he became used to. it didn’t mean he didn’t still long for it—for love and companionship, for a simple touch—but it made it easier.

since it’s easier for hoseok, he’s strong enough to stay in bed now and successfully fight the urge to sneak out and into their bedroom. while, inexplicably, there’s nothing more he wants than to crawl between them and snuggle up to them, he stays firmly in place. he doesn’t want to invade their privacy anymore than he already has.

even now, all alone in a room, hoseok already feels so much less lonely. despite the fact that he’s in such a big bed on his own, he’s not really alone. yoongi and seokjin are only in the other room, they’re so very close he could probably hear them breathe if he focused enough on his heightened senses.

he doesn’t. he doesn’t try to use his excellent hearing to make sure they’re still sleeping only one door away, because he knows they are. he can feel them. he can feel their warmth, and the love they’ve filled their home with. it’s everywhere. every single room is overflowing with it. with... them.

it’s very strange to hoseok, but it’s lovely all the same. he thinks that’s what’s taken away all his distrust for them in one fell swoop. hoseok doesn’t trust humans at all—he’s not sure he trusts anyone—but… they’re different. they feel different. they’re gentle and very genuine in everything they do and, most importantly, he can feel the love radiate off of everything they do.

he doesn’t really know them at all, but he still feels strangely… loved.

 

“it’s really okay,” seokjin reassures hoseok while trying not to laugh. “you don’t have to help out, okay? if you just want to do foxy things, then you go do foxy things, hm?”

hoseok’s been staying with them for a few days now, and each day so far has been a struggle to convince him to take it slow. that seokjin and yoongi are doing okay and that hoseok doesn’t need to help them out at the café—they’ve got it covered and they’d much rather see hoseok relax and work through the possible trauma of nearly being killed by his clan and losing his family.

“but i want to help,” hoseok says, in what seokjin can only describe as pout. “you haven’t let me help at all. i’d rather be busy, and it doesn’t feel good not to do anything.”

“well—” seokjin begins, but he just ends up sighing and gesturing vaguely. “fine. fine. come with us to work again. i’ll work you to the bone, fox-man, just wait and see… you’ll wish you’d stayed home.”

hoseok’s very diligent once he’s at the café. he’s constantly on the lookout to see if anything needs cleaning, if yoongi or seokjin need help with anything… he stands cutely behind the counter, next to whoever is manning it. his hands are clasped behind his back and he bounces on his heels every so often, watching curiously while coffees and other drinks are being made.

“do you want to try making one?” yoongi asks, when he feels hoseok’s eyes on him.

hoseok nods eagerly, although he seems to regret it a little when yoongi shows him how to use the machine and it makes a loud hiss as the steam is released. he jumps at the noise, bumping into yoongi and promptly hiding behind him.

hoseok gets better at it eventually. he comes to expect the different noises the different machines make and learns how to use them quickly and with ease. he starts helping customers on his own, too, to the point where seokjin and yoongi joke that they might as well stay home, now that hoseok’s got it all covered.

“you can,” hoseok says seriously. “you can take a day off.”

“and whose cute face will i stare at then, huh?” seokjin challenges him.

yoongi’s mouth drops open in fake indignance. “mine, hyung. mine.

 

jungkook shows up at the café one day. hoseok doesn’t recognise him, and jungkook has never seen him, but he puts two and two together and quickly comes to the realisation that the person making him a latte must be the wounded gumiho he once examined.

“are you…” jungkook starts. he looks behind him to check that there’s no one in line behind him, before he leans over the counter a little and lowers his voice to a dramatic whisper. “the gumiho? you’re living with yoongi- and seokjin-hyung, aren’t you?”

“how… do you know that?” hoseok asks warily. he’s so weirded out by the fact that a stranger has correctly guess his nature that it doesn’t even occur to hoseok to play dumb.

jungkook straightens and laughs sheepily. “oh. they called me over when they found you. i’m a vet. they thought maybe i could help you, since you were beat up pretty badly.”

“ah…” hoseok feels slightly less wary, but he still doesn’t trust the stranger all that much. “they’re out back, would you like me to get them for you?”

before jungkook can nod, however, the two of them show up miraculously. they greet jungkook like an older couple would their estranged teenage son, except a little more aggressively. it’s a weird display, but it doesn’t take hoseok very long to realise this is someone they hold very dear.

seokjin and yoongi drag both hoseok and jungkook to a seat. it’s such a quiet hour that they can afford to sit down together. the only reason hoseok lets them is because they seem excited for hoseok and jungkook to finally meet.

“so you’re hoseok, huh?” jungkook asks. there’s a kind smile on his face, and his eyes sparkle in a way that’s quite mesmerising. if hoseok weren’t so nervous about having a human’s attention on him for longer than a few minutes, he’d probably study jungkook in greater detail. as it stands, however, hoseok can barely look up from where he’s folded his hands in his lap.

“hoseok-ah,” yoongi says, nudging him gently. “this is our friend jungkook. “we called him over when we first found you.”

hoseok nods. “he said.” after a few moments of psyching himself up, hoseok finally looks up long enough to make eye-contact with jungkook and bow his head in thanks. “thank you, jungkook-ssi. thank you for examining me at the time.”

jungkook shakes his head with a smile. “don’t thank me. i didn’t do much. you did all the healing yourself. that was pretty impressive!”

“thank you,” hoseok says again. he smiles softly. his eyes are trained on the table between them.

“you’re kind of shy,” jungkook notes. he’s still smiling. “that’s okay. i am, too.”

“i’m not very good around… humans,” hoseok says earnestly. “i’m sorry. it’s nothing personal.”

“it’s okay. i wasn’t planning on hanging out for very long, anyway. i’ll get going now. maybe if you’re comfortable enough around humans in the future you’ll allow me to get to know you better? no pressure, just—” jungkook shrugs.

hoseok looks up slowly. he cocks his head a little while he tries to take in jungkook’s words. it shouldn’t come as a surprise that yoongi and seokjin’s friends are as lovely as they are. they must be friends for a reason. even if jungkook’s only making an effort for his friends, hoseok feels touched by his words.

hoseok’s still wary when jungkook gets up and leaves them behind, but—

“hoseok-ah, what’re you smiling for?” seokjin asks, smiling.

“hm?” hoseok hadn’t even realised. “oh. i don’t know...”

 

it takes a little while for hoseok to feel comfortable enough around yoongi and seokjin and inside of their house to shift freely. he starts off slowly, by just shifting and finding a nice place to sleep, or to run around or, in rare cases, to chase one or several of his tails.

seokjin likes watching him when he’s in a playful mood, laughing from the sidelines. eventually, he shows up one evening with his hands behind his back. there’s a mischievous glint in his eyes when yoongi asks him what’s up, and he starts grinning widely when he presents hoseok with a squeaky toy.

“you can’t be serious,” yoongi says. “what do you think he is? a dog?”

but hoseok doesn’t mind at all. he watches the toy with keen interest, listening to the squeaking and wanting nothing more than to shift then and there and go to town on it. seokjin notices the way hoseok looks at it and grins smugly, before squeezing it once more and throwing it across the room.

hoseok leaps off the couch. he shifts midair and nearly topples over as his center of gravity shifts abruptly. it’s fine, of course, he lands on his feet, but his paws skid over the floor in his haste to adjust his course and fetch his new toy.

“i don’t know,” seokjin snorts. “i think he likes it.”

hoseok feels comfortable enough after that to wrestle with both of them—although seokjin seems to like it more than yoongi does, who prefers hanging back and watching seokjin and hoseok play.

“he’s laughing!” yoongi hears from the study one day, while the other two are in the living room. “yoongi-yah! come here!”

hoseok is, of course, not really laughing. he’s just happy to be playing and he’s chattering away, but that doesn’t stop seokjin from losing his shit over what sounds like a laughing fox. yoongi has to admit, it’s a really cute sound.

“you’re so cute,” seokjin coos, scooping hoseok up and pressing his nose to hoseok’s soft belly. hoseok just squirms out of his grip and lands ungraciously on the floor. he snaps at seokjin’s ankles playfully.

yoongi looks at them fondly, sitting down on the couch to watch comfortably as they continue to play for a little while. when both seokjin and hoseok seem a little winded, seokjin falls down next to yoongi, while hoseok jumps into yoongi’s lap and climbs all the way up to bury his nose in yoongi’s neck.

oh,” yoongi exclaims, not expecting hoseok to feel comfortable enough to leap into his arms. he laughs softly, and hesitantly places a hand on hoseok’s back. he waits a few moments to see if hoseok’s okay with the embrace, only for hoseok to press his snout into yoongi’s neck a little more insistently in an attempt to find a good place to nap.

seokjin leans his head on yoongi’s free shoulder. “he’s got a good point,” he mumbles. “you really are an excellent place to nap…”

 

they start taking him out to have fun after a short while, too, once they know he’s getting comfortable in their home and around the café. they start off very slowly, by going for walks with him in areas that are fairly secluded. there are still people around, but it’s doable.

once they’ve got that down, they ask him whether he wants to go grocery shopping with them. hoseok seems a little nervous, but also intrigued. he’s never been to a supermarket before, and the concept of it is wildly fascinating to him.

the first time they go grocery shopping, things are a little scary. there are a lot of people around, despite the fact that they try to go at a quiet hour, and the environment of the supermarket itself has so much going on that poor hoseok gets extremely overwhelmed.

hoseok perseveres, but only because yoongi instructs him to push the cart and lean on the handle. he stays next to him the entire time and alternates between squeezing his hand and placing a reassuring hand on his back.

they try to take him with them a few more times, before they come to the conclusion that hoseok and supermarkets don’t really mesh well. hoseok gets used to them, sure, but he still doesn’t like them. he doesn’t like the fluorescent lights and the shrill announcements that blare through the place every so often. what he hates the most, though, is the incessant beeping of the scanner at the check-out. the first time he hears it, he nearly transforms on the spot to bark angrily at it—the only thing stopping him had been seokjin’s quick thinking as he’d asked yoongi to take care of check-out on his own while he ushered hoseok out of the store.

luckily, hoseok’s hatred seems to stop there. he likes being outdoors, and they find out quickly that he doesn’t mind being around people that way. they start out in the local park first, before they take him out shopping, claiming he should pick out his own wardrobe.

it’s while they’re out shopping that they run into a group of street performers. they’re dancing, and they’ve gathered quite the crowd.

“hoseok-ah…” seokjin nudges a stunned hoseok, who has stopped walking to curiously watch them dance. “do you like dancing?”

“i’ve never really tried. not like that.” hoseok cocks his head. he’s inching forward without even realising, eager to get closer and have a better look at what they’re doing. “they look like they’re having a lot of fun.”

“you can go to dance classes, you know,” yoongi suggests. “if you wanted to. we have a friend who dances, maybe he can show you a thing or two?”

hoseok doesn’t seem comfortable enough to do such a thing—he isn’t comfortable enough around humans who aren’t seokjin or yoongi to do anything of the sort—but he quickly figures out how to use the internet to his advantage and starts practicing on his own.

seokjin and yoongi are happy to see him do his own thing. while they appreciate him helping them out, and while they realise hoseok seems genuinely happy to help them, they much prefer to see him do something for his own enjoyment. there’s just something extremely tender about hoseok’s smile when he’s practicing on his own and thinks they aren’t watching. even when he’s not smiling, when he’s frustrated beyond repair and close to giving up, the way he scrunches up his face while he frowns… it’s something they secretly coo over.

“did you see the way he smiled to himself today when he finished memorising all the steps he was trying to learn?”

seokjin hums. he smiles while he turns on his side to look at yoongi. they’re both in bed, thinking about hoseok. “he looks amazing when he’s having fun. he looks…. really sweet. isn’t he just so lovely? he’s—he’s so gentle with everything he does. the way he speaks and how he behaves... even when he’s playing with me, he’s still being gentle, even though he’s a savage when he plays.”

yoongi nods. “he has a really pretty smile, too. did you notice he has dimples sometimes?”

have i noticed?” seokjin asks incredulously. “have i noticed? really? the first time i saw, i nearly started crying.”

“hyung,” yoongi laughs softly. “don’t be dramatic.”

“i’m not being dramatic,” seokjin says while pouting, dramatically. “i’m being honest. seeing him smile cutely, showing his dimples? just because? it broke me.”

yoongi shakes his head softly, waiting for seokjin to eye him before he rolls his eyes as exaggeratedly as possible. seokjin flicks his forehead in response.

“yoongi-yah…” seokjin sucks his bottom lip into his mouth while he thinks about what he’s going to say. his eyebrows are furrowed heavily, and the shift from a smile into such a serious expression is a little jarring. “i… hm… you’re into him, too, aren’t you? i’m not the only one?”

yoongi nods almost immediately, like he’s been expecting this question for a while. “you’re not the only one.”

“okay…” seokjin rolls onto his back slowly to stare up at their ceiling. he’s trying to gather his thoughts, but they’re so scattered he can’t distinguish any of them, other than those about his crush on hoseok, and how cute the sound effects he made this morning were.

“i don’t think we should act on it, hyung,” yoongi says softly. he rolls into seokjin to sling an arm and a leg over him and buries his face in seokjin’s shoulder. “as much as i’d love to… it just feels… wrong. we took him in when he was hurt, and then we continued to take care of him and, i don’t know. i don’t want him to get the wrong idea. i don’t want him to think we took him in with hidden intentions, you know? i just don’t know how to make it clear to him that isn’t the case. i—and what if he doesn’t like us back, but he feels obligated to, because he’s staying with us?”

seokjin sighs loudly. “yeah. you have a good point. i wish you didn’t. i wish you were being dramatic.”

“i could never beat you in that department,” yoongi tells him gruffly.

seokjin grumbles something unintelligible, before sighing softly and wrapping his arms around yoongi. “so we keep it quiet?”

“we keep it quiet.”

 

hoseok starts paying more attention to the way seokjin and yoongi interact with each other the more he’s around them. he sees them get more affectionate, either through physical touches or sweet words. he’s not sure whether they’ve always done this and he’s just never noticed, or that they seem to get more comfortable around him the longer he spends with them.

either way, hoseok loves watching them. he loves watching them smile at each other, loves watching them hold hands or hug. he likes watching seokjin put his hand on yoongi’s lower back when they walk back home in the evening, and he likes yoongi casually putting his hand on seokjin’s thigh when they’re sit next to each other and leaving it there, squeezing or stroking it every so often.

he doesn’t want them to know that he watches them like that. it feels creepy even while he does it, but he can’t stop. every little display of affection between them seems to be a magnet for hoseok. he has to watch, he has to inch closer. he has to study it all meticulously.

he realises soon enough that he feels compelled to watch because he wants what they have, but the problem is that he only wants it with them. hoseok can’t picture holding anyone else’s hand, he can’t picture kissing anyone else, or sharing a bed with a person who isn’t either seokjin or yoongi. hoseok’s not interested in anyone but them.

but they’re already taken. they’ve been with each other for years. he’s heard all the stories multiple times; how they became friends and how they started dating, who confessed first and how they realised their feelings for each other. he loves hearing those stories over and over, but he can’t help but listen with at least a small amount of jealousy.

it’s them he wants, but he can’t have them. all he can do is stay up at night and think about them, or picture himself with them. he knows it’s creepy, he knows he shouldn’t be doing it, but he can’t seem to stop. whenever he manages to go a day without thinking about them in that way, they inadvertently do something—either with hoseok or just between the two of them—that reminds hoseok of his feelings.

it sucks, especially since all hoseok’s ever wanted is to be loved. it’s all he’s ever wanted and all he wants now. he wants to be loved the way yoongi loves seokjin, or the way seokjin loves yoongi.

perhaps, he even wants to be loved in his own way. he wants yoongi and seokjin to love hoseok in their own way, even when he doesn’t exactly know what that looks or feels like. he just thinks it would feel wonderful. he really does.

 

“hyung, tell me the story of how you two met again,” hoseok says, as he’s done a few times. because even if he’s never going to experience what it’s like to be loved by those two in his own way, he can always live vicariously through them. it’s a small indulgence he allows himself.

seokjin smiles, and yoongi just rolls his eyes fondly. “again?” seokjin asks. “we’ve told you this a million times over already.”

“again,” is all hoseok says. “please?” he makes his eyes go all wide and shiny in a way he knows they won’t be able to resist. it’s something in his face; something that makes them unable to say no to him, no matter what he asks of them.

seokjin groans like he’s incredibly annoyed, but his smile hasn’t left his face yet. he doesn’t mind at all. he loves telling this story. “so, when hyung and i were in university…”

hoseok knows the story word for word by now. he knows it so well that the words go in one ear and out the other. but then none of this had ever really been about hearing the story he knows by heart. asking them to tell their love story again is more about watching them, and the way they look fondly at each other while they recall what had happened. that’s hoseok’s small indulgence. watching them, even when they’re not doing anything at all but quietly loving each other.

he considers what it would be like if they loved hoseok in their own way. maybe it’d be seokjin doing whatever hoseok asks of him, because he can’t resist hoseok’s puppy eyes. maybe it’d be yoongi fondly rolling his eyes at him. maybe seokjin and yoongi loving hoseok would be them letting hoseok into every aspect of their life—opening their home to him, and their arms, and their hearts.

maybe.

 

hoseok’s seen them do a lot of stuff together, but he hasn’t really seen them kiss yet. he’s seen them peck each other’s cheek or forehead, and he’s seen them give each other a chaste kiss on the lips, but that’s about it. any kissing they do, they do out of hoseok’s view, which he completely understands. just because he lives with them, doesn’t mean he should invade their privacy even more.

but that doesn’t stop him from imagining what they’d look like. he feels guilty for even thinking about it, but once he’s started, he can’t stop. once he’s thought of yoongi and seokjin kissing, it takes every ounce of effort within his body not to constantly stare at their lips.

it gets really bad, to the point where they’ve both caught him staring multiple times and asked him if there was something on their face, only for hoseok to panic and suppress the urge to flee the room.

it’s mostly just the two he imagines kissing. he imagines what their lips would look like, pressed together. he imagines where they would place their hands, how they would hold onto each other. he imagines the ease with which they’d kiss. they must know perfectly by now what the other likes—kissing each other must be so comfortable and easy by now.

but there are times when he doesn’t just imagine the two of them. sometimes, hoseok imagines himself in there, too. he imagines the two of them holding him, crowding him between their bodies while they kiss him gently. he can perfectly feel their hands on him, exploring every part of him and driving him crazy. when he thinks about kissing them, he usually has to walk away to calm himself down until he no longer feels like he’s about to combust.

hoseok doesn’t expect he’ll ever get to actually witness them, not even accidentally; he knows how careful they are with these things. they do a very good job of not being so affectionate with each other that hoseok feels left out.

it comes as a big surprise when he does walk in on them one day, though.

hoseok’s been out for a few hours, wanting to get some fresh air, and when he comes back home and calls out to them, he gets no reply. have they gone out themselves? but they would’ve texted him had they gone out, so why… ?

he gets his answer soon enough, when he walks into the living room in search of them and he finds them sat on the sofa, making out. he’s looking at them from the side, so he mostly sees seokjin’s back. he’s turned sideways just enough to face yoongi, who has one leg pulled up on the couch, and the other one thrown over seokjin’s lap.

hoseok’s first thought is: i was right. they look amazing together. and then his second and his third ones are: i want to be there with them. but i can’t be here, i should leave them alone.

either hoseok thoughts are extremely loud, or perhaps seokjin simply feels his presence. he stops kissing yoongi long enough to look behind him and spot hoseok standing there, watching them with wide and curious eyes. hoseok knows that he should look away, that he can’t let them catch the yearning in his eyes while he looks at them, but seokjin’s gaze holds him captive.

yoongi realises soon enough, too. his hands are still on seokjin, one on his thigh and the other in his neck. his lips are red and shiny and parted. his eyes are hooded at first, until hoseok’s presence finally sinks in and he opens them a little bit wider until he looks surprised.

“i’m sorry,” hoseok says softly. “i didn’t mean to disturb.” he knows that they’re too kind to just kick him out like this, even if they might want to. they wouldn’t ever tell him to leave, so maybe hoseok should just walk back out? he can go on another walk. he can get some more fresh air and hope his flushed cheeks calm down, that his breathing and his rapidly beating heart will slow.

before hoseok can turn around and leave quietly, yoongi lifts his hand from seokjin’s thigh and beckons hoseok with it. “hoseok-ah, c’mere…” he murmurs.

hoseok goes immediately, all thoughts of leaving at the very back of his mind. he sits down in the empty space they’ve created between them and looks at them without saying a word.

yoongi’s leg is now dangling off the couch, knee pressing into hoseok’s thigh. hoseok’s sat just on the edge of the couch, seokjin sliding in behind him to place his hands lightly on hoseok’s sides. he’s pulled one leg up like yoongi, knee flat on the couch cushion. hoseok can feel his knee, too, except it’s poking at his ass, rather than his thigh. with the hands on his sides, seokjin pulls hoseok closer to him gently.

“do you want to kiss us, sweet fox?” seokjin asks. his voice sounds a little rough, but it rings pleasantly in hoseok’s ears. he nods slowly.

it’s yoongi who places a hand on his chin to turn his head gently. he moves his face in slowly, until their lips are very close to touching. “are you sure? you can stop us at any time. you’ll let us know when you’re uncomfortable, won’t you?”

hoseok nods again. he’s not looking at yoongi’s eyes. as pretty as they are, yoongi’s lips are all he can focus on.

when yoongi’s mouth finally slots over hoseok’s, and he feels seokjin’s chest press at his back, hands on his waist and chin hooking over his shoulder, hoseok slumps against him in relief. so this is what it feels like to be kissed by them. it’s exactly like he’s imagined, yet so different at the same time.

hoseok could have never imagined just how soft and how warm yoongi’s lips would feel on his. he could have never imagined how gentle seokjin’s kisses would feel in his neck, or how ticklish he would be.

yoongi stops kissing him to let seokjin have a turn. hoseok lets them turn his head and body however they like, happy to be kissed after yearning for what feels like ages. they’re so gentle with him—their kisses are soft and light and their fingertips barely there as they touch his face and neck.

hoseok likes that. he likes that they take things slowly and that they allow him to set the pace of the kiss. despite the fact that they’re the one moving him however they like, hoseok realises that they’re leaving him in control of everything. they don’t even move past close-mouthed kisses until hoseok parts his lips for them, until he pushes his tongue past seokjin’s lips and later sucks on yoongi’s bottom lip.

they’re so gentle, so loving with him that hoseok feels extremely overwhelmed. he has to sit back for a while, against seokjin, while looking at yoongi without knowing what to say.

“did we cross a line, hoseok-ah?” yoongi asks softly, after hoseok hasn’t said anything for a while.

hoseok shakes his head. “i’ve wanted to kiss you for a while.”

seokjin noses at his pulse point and tightens his arms around hoseok’s chest. “so did we.”

“oh.” hoseok hangs his head to hide a sweet smile.

yoongi moves in again, smiling lightly, to press his lips to hoseok’s forehead. “so this was okay?”

“yeah. more than okay.”

for a while, yoongi just looks at him with that same smile, eyes raking over every part of his face, until he settles on hoseok’s eyes again and cocks his head. “you look like you want something. what is it? you can ask us.”

it takes hoseok a few deep breaths, before he voices what he’s been thinking about. “i want to… see you… kiss…”

yoongi hums appreciatively. “do you like watching?”

hoseok looks embarrassed, quickly opening his mouth and shaking his head to tell them to forget about it, that maybe his request is very weird and creepy and that he’s out of line, but seokjin simply rearranges hoseok until he can more easily reach for yoongi.

they make sure hoseok can see everything, kissing as slowly as possible, as lewdly as possible because of their open-mouthed kisses. hoseok can clearly see every time their tongues press together, and how red seokjin’s lip comes back after yoongi’s taken it between his teeth.

“yeah…” hoseok finally says, sighing dreamily. “i like watching.”

seokjin bursts into laughter against yoongi’s mouth, and yoongi has to turn away to prevent their teeth from clacking while he laughs as well.

 

“d’you want to come home with me, baby?” that’s what they’d always said, when meeting hoseok for the first time.

hoseok has experience with flirting, with kissing, with seducing. he hates it, but he’s good at it, because it’s in his nature. people at bars and clubs would follow him home easily; he barely even had to talk to them, other than to promise them a warm body and a good time.

while hoseok had always gone for both men and women, he’d always had more luck with men. they were easier. they asked less questions. they looked at him and found him so innocent-looking that they thought themselves the luckiest men to have walked the earth. they saw hoseok and thought he’d be easy to manipulate, easy to coerce. they never realised that the manipulating and coercing wasn’t done by them; that it was hoseok who did all the luring. they never considered the fact that they were the prey, not the predator.

luring people home had always been so scarily easy. they went without much coaxing at all, right up until the edge of the woods, where they’d sometimes get a little more confused. all hoseok would do is kiss them, and that’d be the final push to drag them home the rest of the way.

hoseok avoided having a taste of them whenever he could. he didn’t want to. eating his victims repulsed him as much as the luring did.

while hoseok never felt anything for these people he lured, other than a strong sense of guilt that he’d learned to suppress over the years just to survive, there were some he did have feelings for. the people that took longer to lure, the ones he was told to invest time in. some of them, a handful, he befriended, and others he fell for.

it never ended well. either his clan found out, or the humans themselves found out about his nature and figured they’d use him for their own gain. so hoseok learned to stop, but not before having his heart broken multiple times.

hoseok had told himself it’d never happen again, but that was before seokjin and yoongi came along. it’s a little scary, how readily he’s opening himself up to people again, but maybe that’s because they make it feel anything but scary.

seokjin and yoongi had taken him home, too, right off the bat, but it’d never been about self-gain. it’d only been about helping hoseok. everything they did, they did to help him. there wasn’t a selfish bone in their body, it seemed.

so everything progresses very naturally from there on. once they kiss hoseok, they don’t really want to stop, so they simply... don’t. hoseok doesn’t seem to want them to, either, so who are they to deny him?

aside from kiss him, they hold his hands, too, and hug him close and cuddle with him wherever and whenever. hoseok sleeps in his own bed still, but they pull him back to theirs more frequently, until hoseok barely sleeps on his own anymore.

he doesn’t mind at all—there’s nothing he loves more than to sleep next to them. it makes him feel safe and comfortable, and makes him wonder if this is what it was supposed to be like to be in a clan.

they do everything between the three of them at first, like they’re trying desperately to keep things balanced, like seokjin receiving one more kiss than yoongi is going to ruin everything. it’s a silly thought to have, but then they’ve never had another person in their relationship like this before. they’re just trying to figure everything out without breaking the pre-established thing between them in the process.

it takes a little while, until they’re able to split off into pairs sometimes. it’s like they have to learn how to be okay with not always being together again, like they’re learning how to be in a relationship all over again—this, despite the fact that they don’t really discuss anything. they don’t make anything official, which everyone seems okay with. they’re all still trying to adjust to everything, so putting a label to anything seems like the last thing on everyone’s mind.

eventually, hoseok kisses seokjin when yoongi’s not there. and then he kisses yoongi when seokjin’s not there. and he holds their hands without the other being present and… it feels like they grow closer that way. seokjin and yoongi learning to be intimate with hoseok without the other being around is very scary, but they figure out something new that way; their relationship is strong enough to handle this. seokjin and yoongi’s relationship is strong enough to expand just so that they can allow a hoseok-sized person in.

 

“hob-ah…” seokjin begins one day. “yoongi and i have been talking.” he waits for hoseok to look up from where he’s wrapped all around seokjin, his face buried in seokjin’s neck. “we have a few friends we’d like to introduce you to. would you be up for meeting them? it’s okay to say no. we know you don’t really like being around humans, but… we just wanted to ask, since we’ve noticed you’ve become more comfortable around them.”

hoseok spends some time frowning deeply while he thinks about it, to the point where yoongi strokes his back and tells him he doesn’t have to answer at all, and that they understand if meeting their friends sounds too scary still. in the end, hoseok shakes his head. “no, it doesn’t. i’d like to meet them.”

“you would?” yoongi scoots over until he’s plastered all over hoseok’s back. hoseok’s squished between the two of them now, but he doesn’t seem to mind very much. “you’re sure?”

hoseok nods. “they’re your friends. you trust them, right?”

“we wouldn’t introduce you to them otherwise,” seokjin says, nodding slowly.

“i don’t normally trust humans,” hoseok says, unprompted. “which might be hypocritical of me.”

“‘why would that be hypocritical?”

“because i’ve lured a good few to their deaths. if anyone shouldn’t be trusted, it’s me. i think… when i came back to you after seeing my family… i made it seem as though i hadn’t tricked anyone before they made me and i refused, but that wasn’t true. i have tricked people before that. they weren’t good people, i think. they didn’t seem like good ones, but still. i lured them back to my clan. and sometimes they’d make me eat them, despite the fact that i always puked it all back up.”

“what made you refuse that last time?” yoongi slides his arms around hoseok’s waist to hold him close, as though he wants to remind hoseok that he’s there.

“they wanted someone more innocent for a change. they figured, since i was the most innocent of the clan, they’d order me to do it.” hoseok snorts.

seokjin nuzzles the top of hoseok’s head. “i’m sorry they made you do that.”

“why are you not repulsed?” hoseok asks. he drops his head back down to seokjin’s shoulder and sighs. “i just told you i’ve tasted human flesh before.”

“because you didn’t have a choice. you were coerced. did you do any of these things of your own volition?” seokjin asks.

hoseok shakes his head. “but i could have refused.”

yoongi nudges hoseok in the side. “you did. and it almost got you killed.”

“i should’ve refused the first time,” hoseok sighs.

in an effort to change the subject, seokjin brings up what hoseok had said earlier. “you said you don’t normally trust humans. we’ve noticed how you’re not really comfortable around anyone but us. is that… guilt? or…” he doesn’t really know what else it could be, so he lets his sentence dangle unfinished between the three of them for hoseok to fill in if he wants.

“no. i mean, a little. but… it’s not really that. those of your kind who know more about mine try to take advantage of us. we can grant powers and knowledge under certain circumstances, so some humans will seek us out and try to trick us.”

“have you been tricked by anyone before?” yoongi presses a kiss to the back of hoseok’s head.

“a few times,” hoseok admits. “they tricked me into thinking they loved me. and they tried everything in their power to make me love them back, and… some of them succeeded. aside from a broken heart, i’d sometimes deal with broken bones when i got back to my clan and they learned of what happened.”

“i’m sorry,” yoongi says. he doesn’t know what else to say, and neither does seokjin. “i’m so sorry that you’ve had to endure so much shit. you don’t deserve any of that.”

“it’s alright. i guess i kind of deserve it. i tricked your kind, and they tricked me right back. i can’t really blame them; they did teach me that a lot of you… only handle out of self-interest. it made it easier for me to trick them, because… because i thought you were all as bad as i was. i didn’t think there were any good people until i met you.”

seokjin and yoongi remain silent after that. hoseok has rendered them speechless. he looks up after a few minutes of silence, showing them both his worried glance, wondering if he’d accidentally insulted them by talking about their kind like that.

yoongi presses his face in the crook of hoseok’s neck, pulling him even closer, while seokjin takes hoseok’s face between his hands and presses a kiss to his forehead. hoseok lets it happen, until he sees seokjin’s eyes go teary. “i’m sorry,” he murmurs. “i didn’t mean to insult your people.”

“not at all…” seokjin says. he presses his forehead to hoseok’s. “not at all.”

“thank you,” is all yoongi says. his voice sounds a little shaky. “for trusting us.”

“are you sure you want me to meet your friends after what i just told you? you still want us to meet?” hoseok confirms. he can’t imagine they’d want to introduce their friends to a creature like him. he’d understand if they told him they’d changed their minds, even though it’d kind of hurt.

“they’re going to love you.” seokjin kisses him softly.

 

seokjin and yoongi set up a meeting at a barbeque restaurant. hoseok seems a little nervous, and they ask him every hour leading up to it if he’s still up for it, but he only nods quickly and firmly. these aren’t bad nerves, he tells them. he’s just excited.

just before they enter, when the three stand outside of the restaurant and yoongi points out that the other four are already there, hoseok stops them by tugging on their hands. “can i sit between you two, please?”

they both nod immediately. “of course, foxy babe,” seokjin grins.

“i wish you’d stop calling me that,” hoseok says, shaking his head. he doesn’t mean it, really, and yoongi and seokjin know this, too, but it’s still fun to complain about it.

“you can pry this pet name out of my cold, dead hands,” seokjin mutters darkly. hoseok and yoongi merely shake their heads and fondly roll their eyes at him, after which they walk in together.

their friends are lovely. one of them, a really pretty guy named taehyung, gasps and whispers loud enough for everyone to hear: “he’s so pretty? this is fucking unfair…”

and hoseok can’t help but laugh at that, especially when the rest of them nod in unison.

“this is hoseok,” yoongi says, smiling proudly, once the three have joined the others at the table. “please be gentle with him, he’s very precious to us.”

hoseok blushes at that. he greets them all when they tell him their names, and the distinct first impression he gets from all of them is that it makes sense that they’re friends with seokjin and yoongi. it makes sense for the kindest people to have the kindest of friends.

 

hoseok feels so comfortable around their friends that it doesn’t take long for him to meet them without seokjin or yoongi around. he starts off slowly, by sitting down with jungkook for a coffee to thank him properly for coming around to check up on him when he’d been hurt.

jungkook seems touched that he’s the first hoseok goes to, but assures him one thank-you was enough, that he just did a favour for his hyungs. when they leave, jungkook asks hoseok if it’s okay he calls him hyung, too, and hoseok likes that a lot.

they meet up again, at a pc bang, where jungkook introduces him to the wonderful world of gaming, but hoseok realises quickly what he likes more than gaming is watching jungkook play—it’s fascinating.

similarly, he finds out that jimin dances, which is how the two of them start hanging out to talk about their shared interest.

there’s taehyung, too, who also likes gaming and comes along with jungkook and hoseok one day. hoseok likes watching taehyung play games, as well, but what he likes more than that is watching him paint in his small studio.

the fourth and final friend is namjoon. namjoon’s really thoughtful and well-spoken, and he gets lost in his head a lot, and hoseok likes that about him. what he also likes is that namjoon raps. hoseok’s always had an interest in rapping, and namjoon’s eager to show him everything; the stuff he’s made himself, underground clubs he likes to go to… everything that hoseok’s willing to see.

it doesn’t take long at all for jungkook, jimin, taehyung and namjoon to stop being seokjin and yoongi hyung’s friends and become hoseok’s friends, instead.

 

it’s shortly after that, that hoseok throws up the most cursed item of all. he’s always thought it inconvenient and strange that fox marbles are formed in the stomach. why there? why did they need to go through hell just to spit the wretched things back up? most of them were way too big to come out comfortably, so they risked getting the marbles stuck in their throats, too. hoseok’s heard the horror stories—of gumihos getting it lodged in their throat and choking on them.

to most, the pay-off is worth going through hell for a few minutes, but not to hoseok. hoseok doesn’t want the power it could give him. he doesn’t need it, nor does he need the marble.

while he hates the agonising moments he spends throwing up not one, but two marbles—while he hates what the marbles stand for and all the grief they cause, hoseok cries for an entire different reason when he’s rinsed them off and holds them in his palm.

there are two marbles, for two loves. these are seokjin and yoongi’s marbles. the marbles can only form out of love. hoseok’s love.

up until this point, the marble—because it’s always been one. he’s never considered he’d ever create two, but it makes sense—had wrecked so much havoc on his life. he’d been beaten and manipulated; he’s had his heart broken more times than he can count. but now there are two, and for the first time hoseok thinks they might not be a curse.

hoseok still doesn’t want to keep the marbles. looking at them makes him remember everything that’s happened, but… there’s also a nice memory attached to the idea now. two nice memories. memories that aren’t memories at all. just yoongi and seokjin, who have made hoseok fall in love with them without meaning to.

does he give the marbles to them? he wants to. hoseok wants to give them the marbles as a token of his love, but it’s also about not wanting the marbles on him. even though these particular ones have come from something good, something great, hoseok doesn’t think he can ever forget about the pain the previous ones had come with.

would they accept the marbles if he each gave them one for safekeeping?

 

hoseok makes a mistake when he finishes staring at the marbles and comes to the decision that he’ll give them to seokjin and yoongi. when he goes to put the marbles away because he hears them come back from grocery shopping, he doesn’t pay close attention. hoseok doesn’t realise he only puts away one, and that the other one drops to the floor and rolls a little ways away. he hides them so hastily that he doesn’t even look back to check to see if they’re both there, safely tucked away.

hoseok forgets about the marbles for that day, and the next day, and the one after that. the lost marble stays hidden just out of sight underneath the couch, while the other one hangs out in the coffee table drawer.

when hoseok finally remembers and he has them sit down so that he can explain what the marble is all about and how he wants them to both have one, his heart drops instantly when he finds only one. he has immediate flashbacks to past marbles, and all the hurt they’ve caused. he remembers the pain—the pain he thought he’d never relate to seokjin and yoongi, and yet… here they are. one marble is missing, and hoseok knows he didn’t take it.

one of them must have. had they been lying to him this entire time? were they aware of what hoseok could grant them? of what his fox marble could grant them? had they taken him in to take advantage of the situation? had they purposefully made him fall in love with them?

hoseok’s hands shake as he pulls back and sinks to the floor. his body trembles along with his hands, and he pulls his knees up to his chest and hugs onto them tightly. hoseok starts sobbing, while seokjin and yoongi sit on the couch just behind him and don’t understand what’s happening.

“hoseok-ah? hey...” seokjin slides off the couch to wrap his arms around hoseok’s shoulders. he rubs his back and his hair, a worried frown on his face. he doesn’t know what to do. he doesn’t know what’s wrong.

“please, please, please… get away from me,” hoseok cries, doing a poor job of wrestling out of seokjin’s arms. “i can’t believe i fell for it again. i told you, and yet you—” the rest of his words are muffled as seokjin pulls him into his chest and rocks him slowly.

“what’s going on? what happened?” seokjin looks over hoseok’s head at yoongi. he sees panic there and knows their facial expressions are mirroring each other.

hoseok weakly tries to pry seokjin’s arms off of him, but it’s no use—seokjin holds on tighter—so he gives up in the end and cries and shakes harder, to the point where he’s near-convulsing.

yoongi sits down next to the two of them slowly. “just take deep breaths, hm? it’s okay. it’s going to be okay. do you want some wa—” he looks down at his hand, partially under the couch, fingers resting on the floor. there’s something in between his fingers that he doesn’t recognise. a weird sort of marble. has it always been there? whose is it? yoongi has never seen it before. “what’s this marble?” he knows he shouldn’t get distracted by a randomly found object under his couch when poor hoseok is struggling to breathe, but he can’t help it—his interest is piqued the more he looks at it.

seokjin looks up from hoseok, too. “what’s that?”

hoseok freezes. his head whips up, nearly hitting the top of it on seokjin’s chin, to look at yoongi. had he heard that correctly? “hyung?” he croaks.

yoongi holds the thing between his thumb and pointer finger. the white inside of it swirls menacingly, tauntingly. see, it seems to say, you can never trust anyone. your love is fake. i’m only for show.

“oh, no…” hoseok, surprisingly, feels his heart drop once more. he presses a trembling hand to his mouth as the sobs start back up. “i’m sorry, i’m sorry… i’m so sorry. i don’t know why i doubted you. i’m fucking awful, i should’ve…”

“hey, hey… no,” seokjin shushes, focus immediately pulled back to hoseok. he wraps him up once more and holds him to his chest. “none of that. it’s okay, just cry it all out. we’ve got you.”

yoongi’s arms join around hoseok’s shaking frame, too, although they pull back quickly enough to ask him whether he wants to lie down. hoseok just nods. he doesn’t look up to meet their gazes, he doesn’t think he can with the heavy shame pulling his head down. still, he’s grateful when they help him to his feet and walk him to their bedroom, where they help him lie down and cage him in between their warm and comfortable bodies.

he doesn’t deserve to be lying there between them after doubting them like that, but he can’t bring himself to pull away from them. so he doesn’t—he just continues crying while they hold him close and press faint kisses to whatever parts of him they can reach.

 

“do you want to tell us what happened?” yoongi asks, once hoseok’s calmed down sufficiently. he’s no longer crying, just sniffling every once in a while, but he’s still buried in their arms so that he doesn’t have to look at them directly. he feels too ashamed to.

hoseok sucks in a deep breath, before he spills his awful thoughts immediately. it’s better not to skirt around it; it’s better to get it off his chest immediately. “i thought you were using me.”

seokjin presses his nose to the back of hoseok’s neck. “why’d you think that?”

“the marbles,” hoseok whispers. “there are two. the one you found, and the one in the drawer. i thought they were both in the drawer, but i must have dropped one when i put them away. when i only saw one, i thought one of you had taken it.”

“there are two?” yoongi asks. they’d both just seen the one yoongi had found on the floor. hoseok had never had the chance to take the other one out.

hoseok nods.

“what are they? they seem special to you...” seokjin notes. it’s a useless observation to make—if they hadn’t been special, hoseok wouldn’t have freaked out like that.

“do you want me to get them for you?” yoongi asks. he gets up to go get them when hoseok nods again, and comes back with them rolling in his open palm. he looks down at them curiously, until he reaches the bed and hands them to hoseok. “what are they?” he asks again.

“have you ever heard of fox marbles?” hoseok asks. his voice is muffled in yoongi’s shoulder, but he ends up pulling back and sitting up against the headboard to look down at the two innocent-looking marbles.

seokjin and yoongi shake their heads.

“you know how i told you i’ve been tricked by humans before? that they’d try to get me to fall in love with them? i didn’t really explain why, what they got out of it. this is what they were after. my fox marble.”

“what does it do? is it just… because it’s pretty? i don’t understand.” seokjin frowns down at the objects in hoseok’s hand, but even after studying them for a while he can’t for the life of him figure out what’s so special about them, other than the fact that whatever’s on the insides moves in an elegant swirl. what could be so precious that you’d willingly trick a gentle being like hoseok? seokjin can’t fathom it.

hoseok hands them both one so that they can inspect them closely. he feels lighter, somehow, now that he’s no longer holding onto him. “these can grant you knowledge. sometimes power. it differs from everyone. swallowing it will grant you those things. the only way for a fox marble to be produced, though, is… to make a fox fall in love with you.”

the silence that follows stretches on for some time. seokjin and yoongi look at their respective marbles first, before they both look up at hoseok, who can’t seem to look at either of them.

“there are two of them,” seokjin says, in the end.

“one for both of you,” hoseok confirms, with a small nod. he picks at the fabric of his sweats, still unable to make eye-contact.

yoongi places a finger under hoseok’s chin. he pushes it up gently. “that’s why they tricked you. and why you thought we’d used you. right?”

hoseok nods minimally. he closes his eyes to avoid yoongi’s gaze. “i’m sorry,” he says softly. “i feel so ashamed for jumping to conclusions.”

“it’s okay,” yoongi tells him. “i don’t blame you. it’s not personal; you’ve just been shaped by bad past experiences. that’s not your fault.”

hoseok opens his mouth to apologise once more, but seokjin cuts him off with a wet kiss to his cheek. “no apologising. we understand.” he wipes the new tears away and kisses his temple.

yoongi holds out his marble to hoseok. “here, take it. you should keep it.”

hoseok shakes his head. he pushes the marble right back into yoongi’s hand. “it’s yours, hyung. it exists because of you.”

“but these marbles have caused you nothing but pain. are you sure?”

“we don’t need power or knowledge, or whatever. just you,” seokjin adds. “we already have everything we want.”

“they’re yours,” hoseok insists. “i don’t want them. i don’t like having them on me. i feel better without them.”

they seem to understand that. they both nod slowly and look down at the foreign objects again. since they don’t bring up the power that’s harnessed within, hoseok decides to do it himself. “if you want to unleash whatever’s inside, i can help you swallow it.”

seokjin cocks his head. “what? by forcing it down our throats?”

despite his glistening cheeks and his wet eyes, despite the fact that his tears have barely stopped, hoseok giggles. “no, hyung. you’re supposed to pass it back and forth between the fox and the human while you kiss. whoever swallows it reaps the benefits. for foxes that’s usually power, and for humans it’s knowledge.”

“that’s… kind of hot,” seokjin whispers. “not the swallowing part. but, but…”

yoongi nods slowly.

“when are you supposed to swallow it?” yoongi asks, intrigued now.

hoseok shrugs. “when you think it’s right. there’s no magical number, you just… pass it back and forth and eventually someone swallows it.”

“huh…” yoongi rolls the marble between two fingers while he stares at it in interest.

“would you like to swallow it, hyung?” hoseok asks yoongi. “it’s yours to do with as you please. you can, if you want.”

yoongi hangs his head to hide his face. when he looks back up, his cheeks are flushed pink. “i don’t want to swallow it, but i’m… curious… about the process.”

seokjin laughs softly. he hides his face in hoseok’s neck to stop himself from giggling uncontrollably. yoongi and seokjin are on the same page, it seems, although yoongi has the decency not to giggle about it like a teenager.

“now?” hoseok asks.

yoongi nods.

hoseok doesn’t say anything. he simply opens up his mouth and sticks out his tongue for yoongi to place the marble onto. once yoongi brings his face closer after giving hoseok the marble, hoseok places a hand to the back of yoongi’s head and tilts it enough to make the passing of the marble easier. he presses his tongue with the marble on it to yoongi’s and pushes it into his mouth with practiced ease.

up until now, seokjin and yoongi have always been the ones to guide kisses. they were the ones to set the pace, to maneuver hoseok however they liked… hoseok didn’t seem to mind leaving it all up to them. but hoseok’s the one to take the lead this time. he’s the one to push his tongue past yoongi’s lips to retrieve the marble, and also the one to push it back into yoongi’s mouth, until yoongi gets more used to the feel of having the smooth marble passed between their hot mouths.

they kiss deeply and slowly and intensely, while seokjin hugs hoseok from behind—hands wandering under his shirt, kissing the side of his neck—until yoongi eventually pulls back with a gasp. his mouth is still open, tongue sticking out a little. the marble lies on his tongue, and he tilts his face down just slightly to let it drop into his waiting hand.

“how was that?” hoseok asks. he sounds breathless and he smiles a little. his lips are slick with saliva.

yoongi huffs out a small laugh. he presses a short kiss to hoseok’s upper lip. “hot.”

“you really don’t want to swallow it?”

“no. but we should probably try more often. maybe i’ll change my mind,” yoongi teases, mouth quirking into a smile.

hoseok laughs, before he looks over his shoulder at seokjin. “hyung, do you want to try?”

“i thought you’d never ask,” seokjin mumbles. he pushes the marble past hoseok’s lips, except he doesn’t pull his fingers back and waits for hoseok to clamp his lips around them and suck on them teasingly.

when seokjin’s had his fun with his fingers, he presses his mouth over hoseok’s. he’s more forthcoming than yoongi, but that may have something to do with the fact that he’s already seen yoongi and hoseok make out; he’s seen the marble passed between them, so he knows what’s going on. he’s very eager to take the marble, and to pass it back, and…

yoongi, meanwhile, watches them curiously. his hands wander to stroke their hair, and their sides and backs. eventually his fingers slip under their shirts, because he wants to feel their hot skin underneath his fingertips. they shiver at his gentle touches, but don’t break the kiss.

eventually, seokjin mirrors yoongi’s actions from before; he breaks the kiss and spits the marble out. he doesn’t want to swallow it either. “too big to swallow,” he explains, pulling a face.

“you’ve deepthroated me before,” is all yoongi says, which seokjin scoffs at.

“that’s different!”

“uh-huh…”

the three end up lying down on their sides on the bed. hoseok in the middle, facing seokjin, while yoongi is wrapped around him from behind. they’re so close that they can talk in whispers.

“i didn’t understand why others found the marble so precious that they’d intentionally try to hurt you,” seokjin says, after a comfortable quiet. he strokes hoseok’s forehead. “but now i understand why it’s so precious.”

hoseok lifts his brows.

“because it’s your love,” seokjin clarifies. he shuffles impossibly closer to press their faces together, until the tip of his nose brushes hoseok’s cheek. “it’s a physical representation of your love. i can look at it whenever i want to know that you love me.”

yoongi hums in agreement. “it’s far too precious to consume. i love you, too.”

“yeah. me, too,” seokjin agrees.