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The Great and Lonely Guardian

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Warmth touched Taehyung’s skin, and when he opened his eyes, the gentle haze of sun kissed his cheeks. He was sitting in a field of wheat that extended far beyond where he could see. Sandy grass fluttered in the wind, ebbing in and out like the ocean. The smell of baked earth and summer was thick in the air. It was comforting.

It felt like home.

Behind him, Taehyung could feel arms wrap around his waist, and a chin leaned on his shoulder.

“Five more minutes, Taehyungie.” The voice was male, much lighter than Taehyung’s own, but filled with a depth that made shivers travel up his spine.

Crooked fingers wrapped around Taehyung’s hands, pale and callused next to his own. Taehyung could feel him lifting those hands up to his lips. He closed his eyes, and pressed a light kiss to each knuckle.

“Stay with me, Taehyungie,” the voice whispered in his ear, so sweet, so comforting. 

“You know I would if I could,” he heard himself reply. 

Plush lips pressed to Taehyung’s cheek, then traced a line down from his face to his neck, to the dip by his collarbone.

Shivers again. 

“I love you,” the voice whispered.

Taehyung could feel tears welling up in his eyes. He opened his mouth, so ready to say the words back, to print the words into the other boy’s skin.

But instead, he woke up.

~~

Jimin was staring at him when he opened his eyes. 

“You were murmuring in your sleep, are you ok?”

A cool hand pressed light against his forehead.

“Hmm,” Taehyung groaned, nudging into his best friend’s touch. A peal of giggles echoed through the room, and Taehyung grinned at the sound.

“Come on, Taehyungie, you’ve got to get to work,” Jimin grinned.

Taehyung groaned again. His bed was so warm, and images of a beautiful ocean of wheat fields and the ghostly touch of crooked hands against his skin were still taking up too much space in his mind. Work seemed far less inviting than melting back into his bed, and trying to reclaim whatever remnants he could of that picturesque dream.

 “I don’t wanna…” Taehyung whined.

He could sense Jimin’s eyes roll even without seeing it, but a smile was in his friend’s voice when he responded. “Too bad, Hoseok-hyung would be upset if you don’t show up and you know I can’t give your excuses for you.”

Taehyung pouted, but then dragged his body up so he could stare at his friend. 

A little wrinkle was pressed between Jimin’s brow, and Taehyung frowned at the sight of it. He lifted one hand up to smooth it away.

Jimin always felt so cold compared to him, and even now he hated the way the touch felt… vague. Wispy. His friend had such a solid presence in his life, so the lack of solidity in his body felt so inherently wrong to Taehyung.

But, that’s what happened when your best friend was a ghost.

“You ok Jiminie?” Taehyung asked softly.

Jimin looked up at him, and his smile was warm and bright, a positive fountain of love and support that never-ended. 

“Better now,” Jimin grinned. “And even better once we get to work.”

Taehyung rolled his eyes, but forced his body up and out of bed. “I see what you did there, and I’m too tired to protest but just know that it’s not fair.”

Jimin giggled again. “Life’s not fair.”

Taehyung sighed. 

That was definitely true.

~~

Taehyung dragged himself through his morning routine, quickly splashing water on his face, brushing his teeth and shoving on an eclectic array of clothing that Jimin tried very hard to not look too judgmental over. He grabbed the piece of toast that Jimin prepped for him and munched on it as he walked to work.

He arrived at Hope’s Future: Emporium for Connecting with Lost Loves and Choosing Your Best Path, just after 10. Right on time.

He made his way in, leaving the door open for Jimin to follow, then flipped the sign from “closed” to “open” on the door behind him. 

When he turned, the familiar sight of the little, cozy shop greeted him. It was a small place, with only two rooms for meetings with their customers, and a tiny little entranceway that connected them. They shared their bathroom with their neighbors, the hairdressing boutique that was covered ceiling to floor in pink satin. 

The door to Hoseok’s room was open, and Taehyung could see his hyung sitting inside, mindlessly shuffling the tarot cards in front of him. 

“Hi hyung,” Taehyung said softly, not wanting to disturb Hoseok if he was in too deep. 

But Hoseok looked up at the words and smiled wide. “Morning Taehyungie. Is Jimin with you?”

Taehyung looked over to Jimin, who moved to the front door and dragged his fingers through the bells hanging from the door. At the chimes, Hoseok’s smile turned even brighter. “Good morning to Jiminie too, then!” Hoseok chirped. 

Another chime echoed from the door as Jimin returned the greeting. 

“Did you have a nice night, hyung?” Taehyung asked, walking over to the little electric kettle they had in the hall so he could make some instant hot chocolate for himself. 

“Hmm…” Hoseok replied, and when Taehyung turned around, Hoseok’s gaze had taken on its telltale distant, far-off look. 

“Are you seeing something? Do you want me to give you some space?” Taehyung asked softly, but Hoseok’s eyes shifted vaguely back towards him. 

“No, Taehyungie, thank you,” Hoseok replied, voice tinged with a dreaminess that showed he wasn’t quite as there as he wanted to be. “It keeps coming and going, and every time I try to grasp onto it more, it slips away. I think I need to just let it go and hopefully it’ll make itself known when it needs to,” Hoseok said with a little sigh. 

He was still smiling, and his expression was warm as always, but Taehyung had been working with his hyung for years now, ever since he and Jimin had left their hometown after high school and made their way into the city at the tender age of 18. Even though Hoseok was good at smiling through his troubles, Taehyung could always tell when things were bothering him. His dimples wouldn’t show up despite his smile, and the corners of his lips would pull down just the slightest. On his worst days, Hoseok would begin to compulsively organize his belongings, trying to print some sort of rhythm or pattern into them that would make sense to his clouded inner eye. 

Hoseok was showing all the signs today. And based on the way Hoseok’s eyes kept trailing down towards the cards in front of him, Taehyung could guess that it had something to do with the ephemeral future that kept whispering just out of his reach. Taehyung and Jimin exchanged a look, both silently communicating, trying to figure out if talking would help, or if pushing would only worsen Hoseok’s mood.

Luckily, neither of them had to decide, since with no warning the door beside them opened with a sudden bang, and in burst a tall, muscled boy with wide eyes and a bunny smile. 

“Hi hyung! Oh and Taehyung hyung and Jiminie too!” The boy, Jungkook, said, pink flooding into his cheeks as he turned to look at Hoseok, who returned his gaze with an almost sickening level of fondness.

“Yah, it’s Jimin-hyung to you,” Jimin snapped, but Jungkook’s eyes stayed fixed on Hoseok. They were practically glowing hearts.

“Hi Jungkookie! How’s my favorite customer? Are you here to have your horoscope read?” Hoseok asked with a warm grin. 

Jungkook turned, if possible, pinker, and nodded so eagerly it looked like he was about to give himself whiplash. Taehyung rolled his eyes, and barely covered the snort when he heard Jimin mutter “whipped” from beside him.

Totally whipped. 

Taehyung finished getting his hot chocolate organized then nodded to Jungkook and Hoseok. 

“I’ll be getting ready for my first appointment. Have a nice day guys.” 

Both of them seemed too caught up in smiling at each other to hear him, so Taehyung rolled his eyes good-naturedly once again and made his way into his little office, making sure to shut the door behind him so he didn’t have to hear Jungkook coo over Hoseok. Again.

As the door shut behind him, he could feel himself settle. The stillness of the room calmed him. 

Hoseok and Taehyung were very different types of “mystical counselors.” Where Hoseok was a fortune teller, Taehyung was more gifted at looking into the past - finding the souls of people’s lost ones and mediating between them and the living in the hopes of giving closure. Where Hoseok’s room was neat and organized, all a part of his obsessive need to find control in the twisting paths the future spelled out before him, Taehyung’s room was very much his own space. 

Odd art covered the walls, and trinkets lay over nearly every surface. All of them were oddities, pieces Taehyung had collected through years of lovingly combing thrift stores to find anything from preserved animal skeletons, to books of forgotten hand-written love letters, or even to random decapitated figurines from animes he liked. There was no rhyme or reason to the decoration, beyond the fact that they were all things that made something deep within Taehyung thrum happily. Things that held memories.

And so, with all the relics of people’s pasts surrounding him, he moved towards the table with his cup of cocoa in hand, waiting for his first customer.

~~

His morning remained relatively slow. Two customers came in, one who missed his wife, another who needed to know that her passed son was at peace. Neither of the spirits had crossed over, both wanting to get final closure with their loved ones. 

Which made it easier for Taehyung. 

He was able to easily mediate between the spirits, pass on their final words to their loved ones, and allow them to say their final good-byes. 

When the sessions were over, he watched as Jimin took the ghosts hand in hand, blinking out and leaving the room notably emptier. Taehyung knew Jimin was leading the spirits to Namjoon, who would help ease their transition from this world on to the next.  

Ignoring the twinge of loneliness that always overcame him when his better half left, Taehyung said his last goodbyes to the customers and ushered them out, before settling back at the table with a sigh. 

Jimin would be back soon, but in the interim he wanted to try to get his energy back up. As much as he loved what he did, dealing with the heady emotions of those who so desperately missed their loved ones was a lot. 

And Taehyung wasn’t always the best at guarding himself from those emotions. He was a person that felt a lot, always. If he was tired, he was extremely tired. If he was happy, joy would bubble through him infectiously. If he was sad, his whole existence felt scraped raw. If he was in love…

Well…

He didn’t have too much experience with that one. 

Memories of his dream pulled at him. He had wanted to say ‘I love you’ in it, before he’d woken up. Wanted to so desperately, in a way he’d never felt in real life before. He could still remember the hot brush of those plush lips against his neck, and he felt a shiver as the ghost of the touch seemed to pulse along his skin. 

Taehyung had always had vivid dreams, but this one had felt like something… more. Something almost too real. 

He closed his eyes and was greeted with the sight of the sandy wheat stalks waving gently in the warm breeze again. An intense longing pulled at something deep in Taehyung’s chest. 

It had felt real, but also so incredibly beautiful. Why did he feel like he missed it, when it was nothing but a dream?

The sound of the bell jingled at the door from the entranceway again, and then a sharp knock echoed against the door to his room.

Taehyung sighed, expelling the thoughts of his dream from his brain. 

Now was not the time to get so fixated on it. He had work to do.

~~

The customer’s name was Lee Ji Eun.

She was beautiful. Long dark hair, pale skin, large cat eyes. She was small, but elegant, and she held herself carefully, with a grace that hinted at something more wild, barely contained by her stiff posture. 

“This one’s not going to be easy,” Taehyung heard Jimin say from beside him. The boy had arrived shortly after Ji Eun had entered the office, appearing at his shoulder with a suddennes that would have startled anyone other than Taehyung. 

Taehyung nodded.

“Your sister crossed over, which means it’s not an easy task to reach out to her and pull her out from against the current of death,” Taehyung said, trying to instill gravity into his tone.

Finding spirits who had crossed over was treacherous. It involved going into a semi-trance, where his spirit would cross over and take one step into the river of death, while the rest of him would remain back with the living. From there he would call out to the spirit, and hope that they would arrive - but if they didn’t, or if he stayed too long straddled between the worlds, the frigid water would drag the rest of him on to the end of his journey. 

He needed Jimin to help him stay tethered to the real world, but that alone had its own risks. Jimin wasn’t alive, and therefore could only provide a vague and wispy tether. And if anything went wrong, or Taehyung couldn’t find the spirit, they could both end up losing their grip and be cast into the dark waters that spelled only death.

The girl in front of them scoffed. “Does that mean you’re trying to get more money out of me? Fine, how much? I’ll pay whatever you need.”

Taehyung’s lips thinned, and he could feel Jimin tense beside him. “It’s not just an issue of money. I’d be risking my life in the process, I need to make sure it’s for a worthy enough reason.”

Ji Eun rolled her eyes. “I want to talk to my sister, who seduced my fiance then left before I even had the chance to confront her. I need closure.” Ji Eun’s gaze was cold and haughty.

Jimin huffed beside him. “Tell her to fuck off, we don’t need that kind of attitude.”

Taehyung snorted at his friend, but Ji Eun’s eyes narrowed. 

“I’m very serious about this. I’m willing to pay double, even triple your usual fee. But I’m also happy to post a review online about how you’re a quack. I need to speak with my sister.”

Taehyung felt a twinge of unease at her words. Hoseok had worked incredibly hard to make sure their online reviews were positive. People loved writing fake stuff about fortune tellers and mediums, but they’d managed to get a surprising amount of support. Their loyal customers knew that they were authentic, but it wasn’t enough if new customers were turned away by a bad review. He couldn’t be responsible for hurting Hoseok’s business.

And honestly, they could use the money. 

He looked over to Jimin, and the two of them silently communicated in the way only they could.

“You’re thinking of doing it aren’t you?”

We need the money… and also the positive review… Taehyung responded mentally.

He watched as Jimin’s full lips pulled into a pout, but the boy was soft hearted, and Taehyung knew that he never wanted to do anything to hurt Hoseok. 

“Fine,” He responded. “Let’s do it if we have to. But just know I’m not happy about it. And she pays triple.”

Taehyung grinned, and turned back to Ji Eun.

“Fine, we’ll do it. But you’re gonna have to help.”

~~

Taehyung opened his eyes to the perpetual dusk at the edge of Life and Death. The familiar shock of cold water tugged at his legs, beckoning him to let the current guide him down the river and towards his final rest. Hazy fog surrounded him, making the air seem dimmer, darker, and as always, eerier than he was fully comfortable with.

A shiver traveled up his spine. 

Disembodied whispers echoed around him. Snippets of memories and imprints of souls that were no more, repeating rhythms of words that were now familiar to Taehyung, though he still had no idea what they meant.

‘Have you met him yet?’

       ‘Your fated one?’

               ‘The one who has been waiting for you for centuries?’

                           ‘The one you have to set free?’

                                         ‘The soul that only you can help pass on?’

                                                         ‘Find the man with the sword in his chest’

Taehyung felt a gentle pressure on his hand, and the warmth that tethered him to Life pulled him back into the present. Jimin, Taehyung realized, and smiled softly, before straightening his shoulders, forcibly shutting the voices out. They weren’t important. He had other things he needed to focus on. If he got too caught up in those tantalizing whispers, with their promises of information and prophetic insight, he’d find himself treading too far down the river to be able to pull himself back. 

He couldn’t lose sight of what he needed to do.

Taehyung closed his eyes and brought his hands up to form a small diamond in front of him. He focused his energy on the space within the diamond, until he could feel the heat of his own life force centralizing within it, creating the beacon that announced his presence to all those on the river. 

‘To In Na, sister to Ji Eun, I call you to visit the Living. Follow this light and this warmth as your lighthouse,’ Taehyung said softly.

He could feel Jimin’s warmth press against his back again. Now was the tricky bit. In order for this beacon to actually be effective, Taehyung needed to target it towards Ji Eun’s sister. The only way he could do that was with Ji Eun’s help.

He needed to use her memories. 

It was a skillset he didn’t use too often. Most customers who came to visit him had spirits tailing them who had recently passed, and he could easily mediate between them. But for the trickier customers, the ones whose loved ones had been gone for a long time, or for those who didn’t even know what they were looking for, he needed to be able to connect to their past.

And at Hope’s Future: Emporium for Connecting with Lost Loves and Choosing Your Best Path, while Hoseok was known for seeing the future, Taehyung could look into anyone’s past. 

He had asked Ji Eun to focus only on memories of her sister while Taehyung was straddling the border between Living and Death, so that he could use those memories to feed the beacon for her sister. 

And as he stood there, cold water pulling at the back of his knees, in the dim light of the dusky ethereal sky, he could feel the cool trickle of memories begin to flow through him. 

Images of Ji Eun and a girl who must have been In Na laughing together as young girls, running through puddles and playing on swing sets. Then the images switched. The girls were older, in high school maybe. Both were looking in a mirror, getting ready, DBSK playing in the background. They danced around as they put lipstick on. 

The images switched again. Ji Eun was pale, eyes cold and furious. “How could you!?” She was screaming, and In Na was shaking her head, begging her sister, reaching out to grab her hand, saying it wasn’t what she thought. She hadn’t meant it. But Ji Eun was ripping her hand away.

“I never want to see you again,” Ji Eun spat out, then turned, stalking off into the night, never turning around. 

The stream of images ended, and Taehyung opened his eyes.

In Na was standing in front of him.

She hadn’t aged much from the last image that Taehyung had seen. She must have died soon after her fight with Ji Eun, because she was still young, even in death. Her hair was long, and her skin was pale. Her eyes were bright, and sparked with an almost irresistible charm and wit.

“You called for me?” She asked. Her voice sounded dim, as though it was coming through to him from a distance. 

Taehyung nodded. “Your sister wanted to see you one last time. For closure.”

The woman bit her lip. “She’s still mad?”

Taehyung winced. “I think so.”

The woman nodded, and let out a loud huff of air. She then looked up at Taehyung and reached out her hand for him to take. “I’ll go.”

Taehyung grabbed it, and pulled her back into the Living. 

~~

When he opened his eyes, Taehyung was greeted with the sight of Ji Eun, whose previously composed face had turned ashen. Clearly going through her memories had had an unexpected effect on her.

“Is she here?” Her voice shook.

Taehyung looked across the table. To his left sat Jimin, brow still furrowed from the exertion of tethering Taehyung to this world.

To his right, Taehyung could see the imprint of In Na.

Her shape was less solid than Jimin, or even the other ghosts that he’d helped this morning. He could see the vague outline of his bookshelf through her, and any color that had been visible when they were still in Death had seeped out of her as they’d crossed over. 

But she was here, and her eyes were fixed intently on her sister.

“She is,” Taehyung responded, and gestured towards where In Na was sitting.

Ji Eun turned to look at what must have seemed like an empty chair. “Can she hear me if I speak?”

Taehyung nodded. “While you may not be able to see or hear her, she is experiencing this room just as the rest of us are.”

Ji Eun nodded. Her fists were clenched, and she seemed hesitant. All her haughty confidence from before was now completely replaced with a tangible anxiety. 

Taehyung could feel his stomach dropping. He hated mediating sessions that involved arguments. People, even in death, held onto the most toxic grudges. He knew Ji Eun wanted to confront her sister, but after seeing all those memories that showed how close they once had been, it hurt to see the distance and hate that had built up in their last moments.

He looked down, waiting for Ji Eun to start her accusations. 

“I’m sorry.”

Taehyung’s eyes shot up. 

Ji Eun was sitting at the end of the table with tears streaming down her face. 

“I’m so sorry, unni,” she cried out. “I should never have let him come between us. I was so, so mad, but I knew you’d always loved him, and we’d been having problems for so long. I couldn’t look beyond my pain to see how lucky I was to still have you in my life. And by the time I realized it you were already gone. I miss you so much.”

Taehyung’s heart wavered, and a wave of emotions swelled within him. Ji Eun had wanted closure. That hadn’t meant to fight her sister. She’d wanted to apologize. She’d wanted to fix their problems. 

Taehyung looked to see In Na’s reaction. 

The woman had tears streaming down her face, but there was a warmth and fondness etched into her expression that spoke volumes. She reached out her hand and let it drape elegantly over Ji Eun’s.

The girl breathed in a gasp. She turned to Taehyung. “Is that… I feel something?”

Taehyung nodded. “She’s holding your hand.”

Ji Eun’s eyes grew wide, and even more tears fell down her face. “Is she saying anything?”

In Na turned to look at Taehyung. “Will you repeat what I have to say to my little sister?” She asked softly. Her voice still sounded muffled and far off, but there was a desperate longing that not even death could remove. 

Taehyung nodded, and began repeating what she said.

“My beautiful sister. I love you so much. I’m sorry I hurt you, and I’m sorry I left before we could make up.” In Na brought her other hand up to cup Ji Eun’s cheek gently. Ji Eun’s eyes widened even more, and her own hand went up to hover over the cold touch. 

In Na smiled. “The greatest joy in my life was having you as my little sister. Thank you so much for being born to my family. Let’s find each other in the next life.”

Ji Eun whimpered at the last words, but nodded fiercely. 

“I promise I’ll find you and be born as your sister again.”

At her words, the most beautiful, loving smile formed across In Na’s face. And with a last whispered “I love you,” she faded away, pulled back to the river that would speed her on, finally able to rest in peace. 

When she was gone, Ji Eun let out a broken cry, feeling the cold pressure against her skin disappeared. 

“She’s gone,” Taehyung said softly, though he knew Ji Eun had already guessed. 

Ji Eun nodded, swallowing back the choked sobs trying to force their way out. 

Taehyung pushed a box of tissues towards her. “You can let it out. You’ve finally let her be at peace. Now you should find yours.”

Ji Eun nodded and grabbed a tissue. “T-thank you,” she gulped, and then her sobs broke out. 

~~

After Ji Eun’s tears had subsided, and Taehyung was confident she could leave without breaking down again, he escorted her out of the little shop and returned to his office. 

He was exhausted. It was already getting late, and he knew he didn’t have enough energy to help any other customers that might wander in, so he started cleaning up and getting ready to close. 

The good thing about working with Hoseok was that they both implicitly understood how trying using their powers could be. Taehyung knew that packing up a bit early wouldn’t be a problem. 

As he went through to organize his things, his mind kept sifting through the events of the day. 

Ji Eun’s struggle with her sister, and the dichotomy of a woman who was so hurt but also who missed her family so much struck a nerve deep within Taehyung. Something in the pit of his stomach felt empty and aching, almost like a ghostly phantom limb pain for a hurt he didn’t even know he had.

Because the thing was, despite how inherently familiar Ji Eun and In Na’s struggles seemed to him, he knew that couldn’t be possible. Taehyung had never experienced anything similar. He was an only child. The closest thing to a brother he had was Jimin, but Taehyung didn’t have to miss Jimin. 

Jimin was right beside him to this day. 

So where was this ache coming from? Was he just imagining it? Sympathizing with his customer so much that he had somehow taken on some of her pain? 

That didn’t feel right either. 

Darkness began creeping in along the corners of his vision, and suddenly the world tilted. Something in the back of his head gave out, and he felt as if he was falling even though he knew he was still standing upright. 

Memories were pulling him under, but they weren’t his memories. 

It was a similar sensation to when he sifted through the memories of his clients, but this time it was so much more intense. Unlike when he was with his customers, where the images came through to him in muted colors, everything was crystal clear in his mind.

He could smell the faintest hints of incense in the air. He was in a grand room, with huge ceilings, draped in red and gold embroidered fabrics. In front of him stood a man wearing the beautiful silken array of an emperor. 

His hair was white blonde. A scar marred the left side of his face, pulling from his forehead down over his eye to his cheek.

His gaze was cold and fierce.

“You took him away from me and now you’re trying to steal this?” The man spat. “How could you? You’re the only person I trusted and now you’re stripping me of all the things that I cared for.”

Taehyung felt panic and fear and an overwhelming sadness sweep over him. 

The image flickered in his brain, and suddenly pain pierced through him like a blade.

He gasped and opened his eyes, only to find himself in his office, clutching his stomach, with Jimin hovering by him, eyes worried.

“Are you ok!?” Jimin asked.

Taehyung nodded. “I’m fine, sorry, I don’t know what that was,” he said, trying to calm his rapidly beating heart. The ghost of the white hot pain was slowly ebbing away, leaving him sore and achy, but nothing more. 

Had he imagined that? No… he had clearly slipped into someone’s memory.

But whose? It looked like it had been from centuries ago. How did that make sense? And he’d never experienced pain like that in one of his trances before. 

“We should go home,” Jimin said, expression still printed with worry.

Taehyung nodded slowly, then looked up at him. “Aren’t you supposed to be getting ready for your date with Namjoon-hyung right now?” He asked, trying to let the ghostly memories fade so he could focus back in the moment.

Jimin’s cheeks pinked. “It’s not a date, Taetae.”

Taehyung rolled his eyes. “Totally is a date.”

“No it’s no-”

“Jimin, he tripped three times trying to ask you if you wanted to spend the evening with him. It’s definitely a date.”

Jimin’s cheeks pinked even more, and Taehyung suppressed a smile. 

“How would that even work though? A ghost and a reaper?” Jimin asked softly. 

A surge of fondness spread through Taehyung, and he leaned over to pull Jimin into a hug.

“As long as there is a will to make it work, you’ll be able to find a way,” He said into Jimin’s shoulder. 

Jimin’s arms tightened around him, and then they pulled away. “Are you sure you’re going to be ok?”

Taehyung nodded. “I’ll be fine. I’m going to go right now. I’ll be safe in the apartment in ten minutes, don’t worry.”

Jimin bit his lip, searching Taehyung’s face for any sign that he needed to stay. Taehyung reached over and flicked Jimin’s forehead gently. 

“I’m serious. Go.”

The tiniest of smiles pulled at Jimin’s lips, and he finally nodded and leaned over, pressing a light kiss to Taehyung’s cheek.

“Love you, see you later!”

“Love you too! Don’t come home too early! Get your seduction on Park Jimin.”

“Shut up I hate you!” Jimin cried out with a light laugh before he flickered out, leaving Taehyung alone in the room.

In the safety of the empty room, Taehyung grimaced at the hollow ache centered deep in the pit of his stomach. Taehyung let out a shaky sigh. 

I’ll be ok , he said to himself, before getting up and grabbing his bag to leave.

He turned out the lights in his office and walked into the hallway. Hoseok’s door was open, signalling he didn’t have any customers either. 

Taehyung walked over to it and looked in. 

The light was dim in the room. The curtains were drawn and the only illumination came from the candles surrounding Hoseok, who sat at the table in the same position from this morning.

The tarot cards were splayed out in front of him, and the corners of his mouth were pulled down. 

“Hobi-hyung?” Taehyung asked softly, and Hoseok jumped, then looked over to Tae.

“Oh, Tae,” he said soullessly. “You startled me. Are you ok?”

Taehyung hesitated, then nodded to Hoseok. 

“I don’t know, you tell me,” he responded gently.

Hoseok’s mouth pursed, and he looked back down to the cards in front of him.

“I don’t know,” he exhaled. “Something is coming, but I can’t figure out what. Some change. Something big. It feels important but I can’t see it. No matter what I do all I can see is a dark shape looming over us, totally unavoidable.”

Taehyung felt the hairs along the back of his neck stand up, and distantly he heard the voice of the boy in his mind again. 

“You’re the only person I trusted and now you’re stripping me of all the things that I cared for.”

“That’s not terrifying at all,” Taehyung said lightly.

Hoseok let out a humorless laugh. “I know… but not all unknowns are bad. I know I work in knowing the future, but having seen so many paths out there, I know firsthand that not all things that seem terrifying really are. Sometimes the things that seem the scariest turn out to be the most important factors of positive change.” Hoseok let out a sigh, despondently looking at the cards in front of him.

“Well, that’s at least what I keep telling myself.”

And as Taehyung remembered the blazing eyes of the boy from his trance, and the white hot pain in his stomach, he sent up a quiet wish to anyone that might be listening that Hoseok was right.

He certainly hoped it wasn’t as terrifying as it seemed.

~~

Warmth touched Taehyung’s skin, and when he opened his eyes, the gentle haze of sun kissed his cheeks. He was sitting in a field of wheat. Sandy fields surrounded him as far as the eye could see, and the smell of baked earth and summer pulsed around him. 

“I love you Taehyungie,” a voice whispered into his collar, and Taehyung closed his eyes.

He wanted to say it back. He wanted to say it back so badly.

He opened his eyes and he was in a room. A man stood in front of him, hair long, almond-eyes sparkling with love and affection, lips so plump Taehyung wanted to surge forward and devour them. He was wearing what looked like an ornate, traditional jeogori, with a light leather armor across his broad shoulders and chest.

“We have to take a stand, Taehyungie. I’m sorry. You know if there were any other way I would choose it.”

Taehyung could feel himself nod. “I know. I just don’t want to hurt him.”

The man’s face crumpled, and he stepped forward, folding Taehyung into a tight hug. His shoulders were so broad it made Taehyung feel small, protected. 

Home.

Taehyung buried his face into the crook of the man’s shoulder. “I love you so much Taehyungie,” the man whispered into his head.

So many emotions were roiling through Taehyung’s chest that he found it hard to keep track of them. A desperate sadness was settling over him like a suffocating blanket, but there was something else in there too.

Taehyung wanted to say the words back. He wanted to tell the man he loved him. 

He opened his mouth, waiting for the words to come out.

The image flickered. He was standing in a grand room. A man with a scar gracing the left side of his face was staring at him with an icy cold gaze. 

“Don’t do this,” Taehyung heard someone beside him plead.

It was the man from before, with long hair and beautiful, warm eyes. Only now tears were streaming down his face. 

Taehyung blinked. He didn’t want the man to cry. It hurt seeing him cry. It was so painful.

Pain radiated through him, scratching at his stomach like something was splitting him open. 

It took his breath away. Darkness was clouding his vision, and he heard the panicked voice of the man cry out. “No, please Taehyungie, please stay with me!”

Taehyung didn’t want the man to hurt. 

Taehyung opened his eyes.

He was back, standing in a field of wheat. Sandy tall grass stretched out far beyond where his eyes could see. He extended his palm and felt the scratch of the wheat against his skin. The sky was changing, painted with oranges and pinks as the day grew colder. The gentle warm wind from before had turned harsh and chill. 

In front of him stood a man. 

He had big, almond-shaped eyes, and sinfully plush lips.

He looked exactly like the man from the previous images, but instead of wearing traditional clothing, he stood before Taehyung now wearing a pale lavender button up shirt and simple slacks. 

His long hair had been cut, and famed his face in a modern swoop, showing off the tiniest glimpse of a pale forehead and strong brows. 

And stuck through his chest was a ghostly sword.

He was staring at Taehyung, face twisted in pain.

“Why are you here?” He asked, voice full of a heady emotion Taehyung couldn’t understand. “Why are you finding me in my dreams now, after all this time?”

Taehyung wanted to respond. He wanted to say those words that had been evading him. He wanted to reach out and soothe the pain that seemed to radiate from the man in front of him.

Instead, he opened his eyes.

And woke up to find himself alone in his dark bedroom.

It had all been a dream.