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bloom

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in the morning when i wake
and the sun is coming through,
oh you will my lungs with sweetness
and you fill my head with you

- bloom, the paper kites

*

Seokjin is three years old when he finds his first Seed. It’s a hard kernel that clacks against his teeth in a mouthful of soft noodles, and he whines in pain, dropping it into his open palm from the tip of his tongue.

“Seokjin-ah!” His mother scolds, ready to admonish her son for such poor table manners, but then her eyes catch sight of the small, glossy black object sitting innocuously in his hand. Her gasp is a sharp sound that catches in the air, her chair making a horrible scraping noise against the floor as she stands too quickly. It hurts Seokjin’s ears.

“Eomma, my teeth hurt,” he pouts, staring down at his noodles as if they have betrayed him. But then his glare switches to the little seed in his hand. It hurt him, and he wants to throw it across the room and forget about it forever. Doesn’t it know noodles aren’t supposed to have seeds?

But just as his hand folds around it, his mother’s fingers wrap gently around his tiny wrist, her bright eyes meeting his with unbridled excitement. It makes the place where they’re touching feel warm.

“Oh, Seokjinnie,” his mother gushes, pressing a wet kiss to his forehead that makes him giggle and shrink away. “I knew you’d possess the gift,” she whispers, and he blinks up at her in wide-eyed confusion.

“Gift?” He opens his palm and looks at the seed still sitting against his skin. It feels a little warm, too. “This seed?” He asks with a furrowed brow, and his mother laughs—this light, breezy sound that makes his heart feel full.

“That’s not just any seed, my darling. Come. Eomma will tell you.”

Seokjin is still hungry, and he casts a forlorn glance at his bowl of noodles—even if they had betrayed him. But he goes with his mother, as all good little boys should, one small hand clasped in her big one while the other holds onto the seed. For some reason, it’s making his fingers feel tingly.

It is deep winter outside, the ground cold and hard and covered in snow, and his mother bundles him appropriately in his favorite bright red coat before leading him out to one of the large glass houses that stands in their backyard. They are his mother’s favorite places in the whole-wide-world and, therefore, are Seokjin’s, as well. Not only because time spent there means time spent with his mother, but because it is where she keeps all of her most treasured plants and flowers, and Seokjin loves the long hours of reading them stories and singing them old, strange songs more than anything.

“Jin-ah,” she says, as she leads him to her worktable and the tall stack of empty, porcelain pots she keeps there. “Do you remember how I met your appa?” She asks, kneeling down on the soil-and-concrete ground and collecting dirt and dead plant debris on the knees of her pants. Seokjin nods enthusiastically, his eyes widening with eager delight. The story of his mother singing to her plants until one day his father bloomed out of a flower is one of his favorite bedtime stories, one that rivals every fairy tale and every storybook on the shelf in his room.

“You grew him, Eomma,” Seokjin says with a proud, beaming grin, and she threads her fingers in his hair with a smile. “In your garden.”

“That’s right, Jin-ah. And for Growers, like us,” his mother says, bringing their foreheads together affectionately, “Our greatest stories always start with a Seed.” She gently opens Seokjin’s fingers until the Seed is displayed openly between them, cradled carefully in the small cup of his palm. “And finding our first Seed is a very important moment in our lives.”

“Will Appa grow out of it?” Seokjin asks in awe, lifting the Seed to his eyeline to look at it more closely. It’s so small. It’s hard to imagine anyone being inside of it.

His mother smiles sadly, tightly, her fingers working soothingly over the dark strands of his hair.

“No, darling,” she says softly. “But, when you plant this Seed, when you care for it, your magic and your soul will call out into the universe. And if someone answers, the Seed will bloom.” She brings Seokjin’s other hand on top of the Seed, and his eyes widen when he feels it grow even warmer against his skin. Just like his mother’s touch. Just like her magic. “And the flower it produces will love you the way you have loved it, my Jin-ah.”

Seokjin brings his hands close to his heart, closing his eyes tightly as the Seed grows warmer and warmer, seeming to pulse against his palm like a heartbeat.

“I promise to take care of you,” he says softly. “I promise to protect you.”

“Let’s start by giving them a home, hmm?” His mother suggests, and then gestures towards her stack of flower pots. “Pick whichever one you like.”

Seokjin returns to his bedroom with a white porcelain pot in his hands. It is too heavy for him to carry, but he insists, ignoring his mother’s fond, amused smiles as he drags it up the stairs step-by-step. His Seed has been tucked away beneath the soil just like Seokjin’s mother tucks him into bed, potted with Seokjin’s own fingers as he sang one of his mother’s—one of the Growers—old songs. It’s a little sad that he can’t see it anymore, but when he presses his palm against the topsoil, it feels warm in a way that the normal dirt in the garden doesn’t.

And, for some reason, the warmth makes him feel happy.

“You’ll keep finding Seeds now, Jin-ah,” his mother tells him as she tucks his blankets up to his chin, his flower pot sitting nearby on his windowsill, soaking in the winter moonlight. “Some Growers plant every single one separately and they grow into hundreds of marvelous things.” Seokjin has seen these marvelous things in his mother’s glass houses, has seen the wonderful things they do, the magical things they create. “But you can also keep adding your Seeds to your first blossom, making it stronger, more vibrant, more magical.”

“Is that what you did, Eomma?” Seokjin asks with a yawn, already feeling the encroaching tide of sleep in his mother’s soft voice and the heavy warmth of his blankets. “Is that why Appa was so wonderful?”

“Maybe.” She kisses his forehead tenderly. “I think he always would have been wonderful, though.”

His mother wishes him goodnight, and the stars painted on his ceiling glow reassuringly when the lights go off. The white pot he planted his Seed in seems to glow, too, and Seokjin turns over in bed to stare at it, wondering if maybe his Seed is trying to talk to him, hoping that it isn’t too cold or lonely up there on the windowsill.

With a surreptitious glance at his door, Seokjin quietly crawls out of bed, sneaking over to his window and lifting the heavy pot from its perch and hoping his mother doesn’t hear him. The pot is still just as heavy, but he moves slowly and carefully, bringing it back to his soft sheets and the protective cocoon of his blankets. Topsoil spills over the edge of the pot as he settles it against a pillow, leaving streaks of dirt against his bedding that make him frown.

“It’s okay,” he whispers as he curls up beside the flower pot. “I know you didn’t mean to.” He reaches out to press his hand against the porcelain, and feels that same tingly happiness again. Even the pot feels warm now.

“Do you like bedtime stories?” He asks, and the warmth against his hand seems to ebb and flow like the lilt of a voice—like his Seed is giving him an answer. It makes him smile even wider. His mother says that his greatest story will start with the little Seed in this pot, and he wonders who it will grow. A best friend? Someone loyal and kind and funny? Someone who will look at him the same way his father used to look at his mother?

“My favorite story is about Appa, and how Eomma grew him, just like I’m growing you.” Seokjin lays his fingertips against the pot and, if he closes his eyes, it feels like someone is right there beside him, listening. “He’s not here anymore, but he loved me and Eomma very much. Maybe you will love me like that one day, too.”

In the morning, when Seokjin’s mother comes to wake him, she sees her son curled almost protectively around his flower pot, dirt smudged on the smooth skin of his cheek. And beside him, a small splash of color against the near-black soil, grows a single, sage-green sprout.

She leans against the door frame with a hopeful smile, a sheen of tears in her eyes.

“Your appa was wonderful, Jin-ah, but I have a feeling you are going to nurture someone even more beautiful.”

*

Seokjin cringes as something hard catches between his teeth, rattling his jaw and sending a sharp spike of pain into the bone. Because somehow, even after nearly 18 years, this is just the kind of surprise he has never come to terms with. He carefully rolls his tongue around behind his teeth as inconspicuously as he can, not wanting to draw attention from any of his friends as he tries to discretely remove what he knows to be a Seed from his mouth.

“Ew, hyung, did you just spit food into your hand?” Jimin asks from across the spread of their picnic blanket, immediately drawing the eyes of everyone else. Seokjin’s hand is still carefully cupped against his lips, the small kernel of the Seed safe in his hold, already warm in the most wonderfully familiar way.

But with all his friends openly staring at him, Seokjin can do nothing else but shyly present his palm to the rest of the group, hating how much it feels like exposing a nerve.

“Guess there was a seed in my watermelon,” he plays off cooly, even as the tips of his ears warm under the weight of his not-quite-a-lie. He could’ve been eating kimchi, or french fries, or a piece of bread, and the Seed still would’ve been there. The Seeds, he has found, can turn up nearly anywhere, in any food, always loving to turn up at the most inopportune and awkward times. Although they do seem to favor watermelon, for some reason.

“Hyung, I can’t tell if you’re very lucky or very unlucky. You always have seeds in your food,” Hoseok says, his brows furrowing in concern. “Remember that one time you found a seed in your hamburger? That was just weird.

He picks up a piece of watermelon from the container situated graciously in the center of their circle, splitting it down to the rind and inspecting the meat of it with a consternated frown. “Yah, Jungkookie, I thought you said this was seedless!” He scolds, reeling his arm back as if preparing to throw the chunks of watermelon at him.

“It is!” Jungkook claims, raising his arms across his face defensively, but then wilts, his own face twisting in confusion. “At least, it’s supposed to be,” he mutters, also staring at the watermelon a little too hard for Seokjin’s liking. It’s bad enough that they’ve noticed Seokjin’s proclivity for finding Seeds in even the most unlikely of foods—he doesn’t need them poking into it more then necessary.

“Hey, guys, why are watermelons the saddest fruit?” Seokjin starts, his voice already hiccupping with laughter at his own joke, and he hears Yoongi groan beside him.

“Please don’t.”

“Because they’re melon-choly!” As his friends groan and laugh and Jimin tries to pretend he isn’t having a full-on laughing fit into his hands, Seokjin chortles along, using it as a cover to slip the Seed carefully into the pocket of his jeans. He presses his palm over it gently, protectively, and feels his skin grow warm again. I’ll get you home soon, he promises, and then yelps in surprise when Jungkook shoves him sideways.

*

Over the years, Seokjin’s first blossom has long overgrown that first white porcelain pot, and as Seokjin has come into his Grower abilities, his mother had deemed it appropriate to give him one of her green houses. It had been a hard transition at first, but as the plant grows more and more with each passing day, Seokjin knows that keeping him in his bedroom would have been selfish and ultimately done more harm than good—even if Seokjin does miss sleeping beside him.

“I’m home, Taehyung-ah,” Seokjin announces as he enters the green house, and the massive, sprawling vines that climb up the glass reach out towards him, their tendrils brushing over his shoulders in a gentle greeting. He presses a hand against one vine, smiling affectionately as it curls happily around his palm.

After two weeks of carrying a seedling around in a pot, Seokjin had started openly referring to his plant as a him and his mother had simply ruffled his hair and told him that it was rare to hear a Seed so early—that it showed how special Seokjin’s bond with his Seed already was, and how gifted of a Grower he would turn out to be. And once the embarrassment over his mother’s praise finally passed, Seokjin had set upon the endeavor of naming his seedling—something that turned out to be far more complicated than he realized. It turned out that, not only did Seokjin’s seedling speak early, but he was also rather opinionated. Especially when it came to his own name. Seokjin would spend hours listing off suggestions as he watered his Seed and sang to him, only to feel the small sprouts of leaves turn cold in disagreement every time.

Eomma says you aren’t a star, and that you don’t grant wishes, but it still feels like you’ll grant all of mine one day, Seokjin had said one quiet morning in the early blossoming of spring. So how about Taehyung?

“I brought you something,” Seokjin hums, keeping the vine around his hand as he walks deeper into the green house and towards Taehyung’s roots. When pots could no longer hold him, Seokjin and his mother had carefully transplanted Taehyung into the earth, where his roots have dug deep, have made him stand tall and strong. Seokjin feels the soil first, delicately prodding around the base of Taehyung’s stem and making sure it is still sufficiently damp, and then laughs lightly as another vine twists into his hair. “Yah, don’t be a pest. I missed you, too.” He swats playfully at the plant and it slinks away, leaving him to shake his head.

With careful, practiced fingers, Seokjin shifts aside the topsoil, pressing his newfound Seed down into denser dirt and as close to Taehyung’s original roots as he can without hurting either. He feels the moment Taehyung accepts it, feels the surge of warmth and light and magic seep through the stalk and into his leaves.

A Grower’s first blossom is said to mature at some point between 16 and 20 years, and while Taehyung is right in the middle, he has yet to produce even the sign of a bud. Seokjin settles down against his roots, letting himself be cradled between them, and smiles gently when Taehyung’s leaves brush together in something that is very nearly whispered words.

Soon, he thinks, as he caresses a vine gently with his fingers and begins to sing the old, ancient songs of the Growers. The ones that beckon forth the lost spirits of the realms and bring them back to life, tie them to something real and solid and loved. Taehyung’s warmth is soothing against his back, a pulse of life running through every curling tendril, and Seokjin easily falls asleep in the security of his embrace.

*

One cool September morning, as the sun starts to part the skies at dawn, Seokjin walks into his green house and drops his thermos of tea against the soiled floor. It should be impossible to see in the dim light, and yet Seokjin’s eyes are immediately drawn to a small, barely there pinprick of the purest white he’s ever seen.

It’s a flower bud.

After nearly 18 years, Taehyung has finally started to flower.

*

“It won’t be easy on you,” his mother warns when Seokjin brings her the good news, tears of happiness blurring his eyes. “Taehyung-ssi will need you now more than ever.”

It seems a silly warning, since Seokjin has been taking care of Taehyung since they were both children, but a week later, Seokjin finally understands what she means. Every day the bud grows, the tips of its white petals starting to show the barest hint of yellow, and excitement bubbles inside of Seokjin every morning as he goes to see what progress Taehyung has made overnight.

But then a morning comes when Taehyung’s vines don’t greet him at the door the way they have every morning since Seokjin was 13. Instead, they sit still against the glass, small and sallow and sick in a way that Seokjin has never seen.

It is with an almost crushing, debilitating clarity that Seokjin understands his mother’s words.

Taehyung is dying.

“He’s not dying, darling,” his mother says as she presses her own hand to the lipid vines. They do not so much as twitch at her touch, as unresponsive to her magic as they had been to Seokjin’s. Behind them, the yellow of Taehyung’s blossom has started to bleed into a gentle pink. “It’s quite the opposite, really. Plants only have so much energy, as you know. Even our plants, as large as they get, must be trimmed to keep them healthy. All of Taehyung-ssi’s strength is going into his flowering, now. He can’t support all these vines and leaves anymore.”

Because even as Taehyung’s leaves wilt and brown and fall from their stems, his flower only grows, larger and more beautiful by the day.

“When he blooms,” Seokjin begins with somber understanding, “The plant will die, won’t it?”

His mother looks at him in the same sad, thoughtful way she always does when she must share some hard truth of the world—his father’s death, the necessary secret of their magic—and Seokjin breathes out harshly as she presses a comforting hand between his shoulder blades.

“His vines and his leaves and his roots will be gone, but Taehyung-ssi will be with you,” she promises, pulling him close and tapping their foreheads together. “It is okay to mourn, since this is the only way you have ever known him, but remember that Taehyung-ssi feeds off your energy, my darling. Let this be a happy time for you both.”

His mother helps him prune off the dying vines and leaves, and each cut feels like it falls against Seokjin’s own skin. But Taehyung doesn’t once cry out, even when they sheer away healthy leaves, his warmth a constant, reassuring presence against Seokjin’s searching palm.

When the sun sinks low and Seokjin is left alone between the legs of Taehyung’s roots, he drags his finger tips against the silky petals of Taehyung’s flower.

“I will miss your vines, and your leaves, and your roots,” Seokjin says in a whisper. “But I’m excited to meet you, Taehyung-ah. I feel like we’ve waited so long.” He closes his eyes and feels Taehyung’s warmth circle around him. “Are you excited to meet me too?”

A vine flicks his cheek and Seokjin laughs, his heart swelling with affection.

*

Taehyung’s bloom grows as wide and tall as Seokjin himself is and, on his 21st birthday, the petals turn suddenly and shockingly blue.

“Is something wrong with him?” Seokjin asks desperately, pressing his fingertips against every inch of the blossom as if he might feel Taehyung’s distress along its veins. But all he feels is warmth, rumbling against his hands like the satisfied purr of a cat, and not for the first time Seokjin wishes he could shuck off his friends and his birthday and stay with Taehyung. What if he blooms while Seokjin is gone?

“No, Jin-ah,” his mother assures, kissing his temple. “He’s just settling. I’ve never seen a blue first bloom, though,” she mutters thoughtfully, smiling gently when she sets her own palm against Taehyung’s petals. Seokjin wonders what he says to her. “I always knew your Seed would turn into something special, Jin-ah.”

“Is he going to bloom soon, Eomma?” Seokjin asks, anxiously chewing at his bottom lip, and his mother tuts disapprovingly.

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to ignore your birthday.” She turns him around and starts swatting him out of the green house, even as he tries to resist.

“But Eomma—” Seokjin glances desperately over his shoulder, certain that the second Taehyung is out of Seokjin’s sight, his petals will split and bloom.

“But nothing. Taehyung-ssi won’t bloom without you here, and I think he knows better than anyone that your birthday is worth celebrating,” she says sternly. “Your friends are waiting. Go.”

Taehyung does not bloom that night, no matter how anxious Seokjin gets or how often he texts his mother just in case. His friends coo and tease him, wondering aloud over what or who has captured so much of their Seokjin-hyung’s attention that he’s this distracted even on his own birthday, and Seokjin flushes at their insinuations.

He wonders what they’ll think of Taehyung, when they meet him. He wonders what they’ll think of him, when they find out how much he’s been hiding of himself. But as they crowd him in their arms and sing birthday wishes into his ears, Seokjin finds that he’s not all that afraid for them to finally, finally, finally know who and what he truly is.

*

By the end of December, Seokjin is practically living in the green house, despite his mother’s exasperated assurances that he will know when Taehyung is about to bloom and will he please just sleep in his bed like a normal person? But even when Seokjin tries, this strange anxiety seems to take hold just beneath his skin, drumming in his veins and making his skin too tight, and the only time he feels soothed is when he’s tucked in the familiar cage of Taehyung’s roots.

He has nearly no leaves now, all of his vines having curled in close to his body or withered so badly that Seokjin had no choice but to remove them. But his stem still stands taller than Seokjin, his roots still deep and strong, his flower bud hanging almost comically off the end like a giant, unbalanced teardrop so that the tips of his petals just brush the green house floor.

It is late, the night sky a blanket of stars far, far, far above him, painted around a smiling sliver of a moon. The entire world seems to be holding its breath on the cusp of a new year, and yet Seokjin feels peaceful where he’s nestled in Taehyung’s roots, his fingers moving idly over the elegant blue of a petal. He sings under his breath, the same song he’s sung a thousand times before, the meaning of the words foreign but the weight of them familiar. And yet, something about it feels different this night—something that makes his heart twist and ache, something that makes it resonate deep, deep, deep within his soul, entangling inside of him like the roots of an ancient tree.

Beneath his absent, glancing touches, Taehyung’s petals start to stir, pulsing and shuddering and almost hot. It’s a little strange, but not completely unusual. Even when his roots start to shake, it only causes Seokjin to pause in his song, cracking open a curious eye to say, “Someone is feeling restless tonight.”

It is not until there is something Seokjin can only describe as a touch, vivid and pure and entirely magical, that drags along the entire length of his spine to whisper, Seokjin, into his ear that he realizes something is happening.

His breath catches as he sits up, blinking heavily as if suddenly woken from a dream, an urgency thrumming beneath his neck and the thin skin of his wrists. He turns to Taehyung in belated, groggy alarm, his sluggish brain taking a few moments to realize that the tips of Taehyung’s petals have started to spread—that they are emanating a soft, silver light from the inner sanctum of the flower. Any and all words fail Seokjin as he scrambles to his knees, vaguely aware of how cold and lifeless the roots beneath his hands are becoming as they slowly but surely seep every last bit of energy and magic into Taehyung’s bloom.

After so much anticipation, after so much waiting, it does not end up being the slow unfurling of petals that his mother’s old stories had described, and is in fact hardly graceful at all given how beautiful the blossom is. The petals simply twist together, creasing their silk in a strange, entrancing spiral before holding themselves perfectly still for the length of one long, even breath. When they unwind, it happens so quickly that Seokjin barely sees it, overcome with the sight of petals suddenly springing apart with aplomb, a vibrant display of white-tipped cerulean blue that seeps into a rich, depthless indigo.

And at the center, circled by striations of yellow and pink and held tenderly by long, pitch black stamens, is a boy.

A very, very naked boy.

Seokjin feels like every nerve, every blood vessel, every spark of magic and life in his body, goes completely and utterly still, waiting for the moment when the boy finally gasps, when he tosses his head back with that first breath and opens his eyes.

Eyes that find Seokjin almost immediately, and stun him with their soft, sage color—the same color Taehyung’s leaves had been, his stem, his vines. The same color that has brought Seokjin comfort all his life.

“Seokjin,” Taehyung says, his voice as deep as his roots had grown, as rich as the soil that bore him, that Seokjin had so painstakingly tended. But more than that, it is a voice, one that Seokjin can hear, one that somehow manages to curl around his name with warm familiarity as if it has been spoken a thousand times instead of just one.

Seokjin’s legs feel shaky beneath him as he stands. He has grown up in a world of fairy tales, has spent his life singing magic into the world through Seeds and plants, through Taehyung, and yet he can’t quite believe that this is real. That Taehyung is real, and standing before him not as a plant or a flower, but as a man. His hair is the same shocking blue that his petals had been, curling in his eyes just like the delicate tendrils of his vines, his limbs thin and reedy and wrapped in an endless expanse of honeyed peach skin.

It’s—it’s a lot of skin and Seokjin is embarrassingly very distracted by it.

At least, until Taehyung goes to take his first step towards him, removing himself from the safe, nurturing cradle of his blossom and setting foot onto the green house floor for the very first time. His knees buckle almost immediately, unsteady and clumsy as a newborn fawn’s, and Seokjin nearly falls over himself as he vaults forward, catching Taehyung before he has the chance to hit the floor.

“Careful, Taehyung-ah,” Seokjin murmurs in admonishment, and is then shocked by the solid weight of Taehyung against him. He’s so… Real.

He’s real.

Something like a sigh slips past Taehyung’s lips, and Seokjin feels long-fingered hands move against his chest, up and over his shoulders and into his hair in a stunningly familiar path—one Taehyung has traced before, dozens of times, although it is a shockingly different experience to feel hands moving against him instead of vines.

“You’re so warm,” Taehyung whispers, and Seokjin closes his eyes, hesitantly reaching forward to wrap his arms carefully around Taehyung’s lithe frame, to pull him close and hold him in a way he was never able to before. When he breathes deeply, Taehyung still has the same sweet, earthy tang that he’s had since he was just a seedling, and it makes Seokjin’s throat feel thick with relief. Behind them, Taehyung’s old roots have begun to wither, his stem turning brown, and even the beautiful petals of his flower have started to wilt.

It is a horrible thing to lose, and when Taehyung’s plant has fully and truly died, Seokjin’s green house will be empty again. But there will always be more Seeds, more songs to sing—and Taehyung will still be with him in a way Seokjin has quietly longed for since he was just a little boy.

“You’re beautiful, Taehyung-ah,” Seokjin murmurs, and his eyes flash open with a start as fingers slide along the curve of his neck and explore the soft contours of his face. Taehyung’s eyes are even more stunning up close, and Seokjin wants to grow a million flowers, wants to thread them in Taehyung’s hair and watch them bloom against his brow.

“Am I?” Taehyung asks, his lips the soft pink of cherry blossoms as they spread around a smile. Seokjin can’t help but reach up and touch the warm flesh of his bottom lip, marveling at the sight before him. He could sense Taehyung’s smile before—it is an entirely different experience, being able to see it.

“Yes,” he answers simply, and watches as Taehyung’s smile grows even larger under Seokjin’s careful touch.

“Seokjin,” Taehyung murmurs again, the green of his eyes shaded by the fan of his eyelashes, as thin and delicate as the veins of a leaf. He tips forward slightly and Seokjin holds fast to his waist, afraid that he’s lost his balance again, but Taehyung simply moves to rest his forehead tenderly against Seokjin’s—the same way his mother has always done. “Jin-ah,” Taehyung says this time, and the staccato of Seokjin’s heart and the pulse of his magic seem to beat in tandem.

He does not expect the soft, tentative brush of Taehyung’s lips against his own—does not expect the way it makes his blood sing, the song ancient and unfamiliar. His mother had told him that his greatest story would start with a Seed, and he had always wondered if it would be a love story, like she had had. He has learned, over time, that not every Grower is able to cultivate a soulmate, but he had dreamed, and hoped, and whispered wishes into every Seed he had pressed into Taehyung’s soil. Had left kisses on the tips of Taehyung’s leaves, and loved him, as he so dearly wished to be loved one day.

“My Taehyung-ah,” Seokjin murmurs, his fingers brushing against petal-silk skin, pulling Taehyung closer into the circle of his arms.

I promise to take care of you. I promise to protect you.

“I’m sorry you had to wait so long,” Taehyung says, his fingers still drawing delicate lines along Seokjin’s jaw, leaving trails of warmth in their wake. Seokjin already hates the small divot between Taehyung’s brow, the slight downturn of his lips, and he traces his nose over the bridge of Taehyung’s until he smiles again.

“I’m not,” Seokjin promises, and gently cups Taehyung’s cheek. “Welcome home, Taehyung-ah.”

This time, when they kiss, it is less of an innocent, curious touch and more of an affirmation. Seokjin’s magic surges outward, wrapping them both in its warmth and twining through them like a golden thread until it feels like every part of their beings has been stitched neatly together. Taehyung sighs sweetly against Seokjin’s mouth, his bare skin becoming hotter beneath Seokjin’s touch, his body becoming more pliant with every traded breath, and Seokjin suddenly recalls where they are and how very, very naked Taehyung is.

The urge to drag his lips over every inch of Taehyung, to learn and memorize the very shape of him, is exciting and alarming and so very, very new, but as startling as it is for him, he can’t imagine how overwhelming this must all be for Taehyung.

“You must be tired,” Seokjin says against the perfect, artful shell of Taehyung’s ear. His ear. The fact that he has them at all fills Seokjin up with an almost childlike delight. Unable to help himself, he presses a kiss there, as well, reveling in the gentle, bubbling sound that must be Taehyung’s laughter. “You’ve done a lot of growing in the last several months.”

“Jin-ah,” Taehyung murmurs, and Seokjin loves how unabashedly Taehyung says it, how heavily it weighs with affection. Taehyung tucks his face against the sensitive skin of Seokjin’s neck, the warm brush of his breath making Seokjin shiver. “I’m cold.”

“Then I’ll keep you warm while you rest,” Seokjin tells him, carefully leaning down to pick Taehyung’s thin, shaking frame up and into his arms. For a moment, they just stand there in the green house, clinging to each other, Taehyung’s hair tickling the skin of his cheek. “I’ll keep you safe,” he promises, leaving a gentle kiss against Taehyung’s forehead. “Sleep, my Taehyung-ah.”

In the morning, his mother finds them that way, tucked into the nest of blankets Seokjin had gathered over the months and completely ensconced in each other. They don’t notice her at first, too wrapped up in their own little world, in the soft cadence of their voices as they talk together in the pale dawn light. She watches the brilliantly blue-haired Taehyung press a kiss against Seokjin’s fingertip in almost shy affection, and quietly leaves them be.

Soon, Taehyung will feel the first pangs of hunger that cannot be satisfied by sunlight or soil. It would probably be best for her to start preparing breakfast, and herself, for her beloved son and his soulmate.

*

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says, finally breaking the endless, shocked void of silence created by their speechless friends. “Can you… Can you just run that by us again? Just one more time?”

Seokjin swallows thickly, his fingers shaking slightly until Taehyung grips them all the more firmly. His wispy tendrils of magic, born from Seokjin’s own, provide the kind of comfort Seokjin had never thought he would find outside of his green house. But then, it hadn’t really been about his green house before, had it? It had always been, and always will be, Taehyung.

“This is my boyfriend, Taehyung,” Seokjin says as calmly as he can, and smiles when Taehyung lifts their joined fingers and presses a gentle kiss to the back of Seokjin’s knuckles. “And I grew him.”