“We’re going to take you apart cell by cell until we find out just what you are.”
Jimin understands now why Seokjin feared the humans.
Humans have a phrase for situations in which the stumble into an unpredictable circumstance that could have been avoided had they practiced caution over their intuition to learn.
Curiosity killed the cat,is how Seokjin phrased it.
Curiosity is one of the few traits humans share with pixies. Despite knowing what humans are, Jimin stumbled into an unpredictable circumstance that could have been avoided had he heeded Seokjin’s warning. Jimin will never seek to observe a human in its natural habitat, and as of tonight, the doctors will study Jimin no longer. As much as the doctors poked, and prodded, they would never understand Jimin. No matter how diligently he study his insides, they will never understand him like he understands them. From the moment the man with fake eyes suppressed Jimin’s dust he no longer had a pixie strapped to the operating table. Not quite human, but something in between, something inconceivable even to beings as intelligent as humans.
With the last suppressant weakening in his system, Jimin can feel a small resurgence of his dust. Not enough to use under Terra’s disagreeable atmosphere, but enough to know his aching, bleeding human body is still capable of producing dust. The white lights and tight straps that kept his body stretched in the operating table are nearly preferable compared to the cramped jowl of an unknown beast carrying Jimin far away from the operating room.
“The humans outside are much worse,” the man with fake eyes reminded him. “They’re cannibals. Close your eyes. Can you hear them clawing at the walls? They all want a taste, my little cricket.”
Even louder than the last words Jimin heard before his escape is his own frantic human heart, and all he can feel is a low rumble making his body buzz in the compact, sweltering closed jaw.
Jimin’s body jerks to one side and he rolls hard into the edge, similar to the feeling of being yanked around corners on a gurney.
The blue and yellow lights Jimin saw when he left the lab flash in front of his eyes as he’s thrown into the air and his head makes contact with the surface above him. The last image in his mind before it went dark—the angry creatures zipping past him quicker than he could react, and the terrifying amount of humans that were outside the operating room—appear behind his eyes.
Jimin’s human body bruises easily without the protection of his dust or his wings, but when he attempts to cocoon himself in their fibers, a shiver runs down his spine where his wings should be.
They took his wings.
Jimin feels what Seokjin referred to as panic. Panic is an emotion exclusive to humans and the other mammals that populate their realm. Jimin has felt panic before. When he thinks of the word, an image of sharp silver flashes in his mind. The glass jars filled with razor sharp glass shards tossing all around his body in an attempt to make him bleed, the moments when the man with the fake eyes laughed over Jimin’s exposed human insides when he discovered how to suppress Jimin’s dust. Jimin knows panic, but he never gets used to it.
As humans do when they experience panic and pain, Jimin wants to scream, but that would only make the man with fake eyes satisfied.
“You may scream if you want. In fact, please scream. It’s encouraged on this ride.”
It was the doctors favorite phrase. He knew how to illicit the reaction he desired. Sometimes, Jimin would bite his tongue and hold his breath not to give the doctor reason to revel in his discomfort, and other times he screamed until his throat felt raw.
Adrenaline comes next—a hormone release that offers a burst of excess energy into a human’s system that allows humans to accomplish otherwise impossible tasks under duress or states of panic.
Knowing the man with fake eyes would revel in Jimin’s panic, Jimin feels adrenaline overtake him from the inside and he kicks his legs hard into the surface above a few inches above his face, denting it upwards. He tries this again on the wall to his right, then his left. Jimin’s body shakes and tumbles in the toothless mouth but the creature doesn’t slow.
The third time Jimin kicks the top he manages to break his foot clean through surface.
A rush of fresh air relieves Jimin of the humidity of the cramped space. The hole is small, just large enough that Jimin could fly out in his own body, however, the transformation requires more dust than he has.
With both feet, Jimin kicks next to the hole he created and the jaw unhinges like a snake. The creature roars louder, runs faster.
He lunges into the fresh air and lands on his arm on a rough surface before bouncing and skidding to a hard stop. Instead of turning back to swallow Jimin whole again, the creature continues on its course. Two glowing red eyes fix on Jimin and before fading behind a human structure.
As the growling subsides and Jimin realizes it won’t be coming back for him, he rolls onto his back and breathes, deep and quick, to accelerate the oxygen intake to his brain. There are no respirators here like there are in the operating room. Jimin’s body has grown unaccustomed to refilling on oxygen naturally. Before he can go back for his wings, Jimin will have to explore the limits imposed by his human body. Above him the sky is dark, but he can make out a cluster of dim stars. It’s true, what Seokjin said about the sky above Terra. They have far fewer stars. It’s why Seokjin refuses to return.
Warm human blood drips down Jimin’s arm and blooms red across his skin. The blood-stained blue of his paper thin sleeve drips onto the rock below him.
Humans bleed a lot and for a variety of reasons, often relating to pain. Humans need their blood to survive because without it their bodies will refuse to operate, and if enough blood is lost before collecting more, eventually, the body will die and decompose. The exact amount of blood Jimin can lose without facing fatality is unknown. The man with fake eyes had infinite access to human blood to pump into Jimin when he spilled too much into the grates under the operating table.
On his first day in the operating room, Jimin made the man with the fake eyes bleed when he pulled out a pair of scissors and Jimin fought back. The doctor laughed and continued with the incision. Laughing is a sound humans make when they have made another feel powerless. It’s a form of taunting unique to humans. A pixie’s laugh sounds nothing like a human’s.
When Jimin stands, he feels light headed the way humans do when they can’t keep enough blood in their bodies to circulate properly to their brains, or when they move from one operating table to another too quickly before given a chance to recover the blood they lost. He sways on his human legs without the balance his wings offer. He hasn’t used his legs in a while. His first step sends him tumbling back toward the ground. Jimin is powerless even against a force as weak as gravity. Powerless won’t get his wings back. Powerless isn’t how he escaped the operating room.
Looking around as much as his stiff neck will allow, he focuses and unfocusses his eyes on the glyphs lining the structures looming over him on all sides, casting swirly neon shadows across what appears to be a human’s version of a street.
Jimin’s panic subsides. Seokjin told Jimin there were no creatures of magic on Terra Firma, yet there are magic shops here as well as Jimin’s home. He believed the existence of magic to be an unfamiliar concept to humans. Perhaps a mage has expanded their market to the humans. Jimin has nothing to offer the magician in return for healing his arm. He can’t offer his dust, the strongest conductor of magic known to mages, or his speed, unmatched by even the strongest of humans.
Despite pressing his hand onto the wound, he can’t keep all his blood inside his arm. A contract with the mage in the shop his only option.
Jimin stumbles to the door underneath the swirly purple and yellow letters. He never opened the door in the operating room, but he observed how they work. By applying pressure to the right area, humans can coax doors to move to the side and grant access to new rooms. These doors are different in size, color, and opacity, but appear to operate in a similar behavior, displaying two bars attached to the surface for humans to hold.
Jimin’s grip on the bar is slick with blood and it smears red all over the handle. He pulls with the little strength he has left in him, but the door refuses to budge. He pulls again, leaning his whole body away from the doors, but they remain closed.
Jimin notices instructions scribed into the door behind the handle.
“P-u-sh...” Jimin reads.
He grips the bar one more time, pushing with his whole body. The doors open for him and swing out to reveal a warm, dimly lit room with the strangest shapes and objects displayed on the walls and on every surface. Much like the potion shops back home, there are patterns on the walls and floor, mixing warm browns and reds and soft yellow lights to create an atmosphere significantly less intimidating than the white walls to which he grew painfully accustomed.
There are several round black tables crowding the space, each set equidistant from each other with chairs matching in shine and smoothness pushed neatly underneath.
As the doors swing closed of their own free will behind Jimin, he locks eyes with a human before he hears its panicked heartbeat. Two heartbeats. There are two humans in the room, and both stare at him with an emotion Jimin doesn’t recall studying. Something similar to confusion.
Confusion is what humans feel when encountering a situation unfamiliar to them. These humans have heartbeats that sing a tune mixed with confusion and panic to form an entirely new, unfamiliar emotion.
The cold droll that every human heart in the operating room possessed is nowhere near as gentle as the two staring at Jimin. One of the humans sits in a chair with his feet on the table. His features appear similar to those of the sidhe, but his lack of wings and dust tell Jimin he is, without a doubt, a human. Jimin had no idea human’s hair could appear mint green like a fairy’s. The other human is hidden behind the mint haired human’s feet but he appears as tall as a warlock. Still, his heart reads human.
Disappointment. Jimin experiences disappointment when he hears only the two human heartbeats. There is no mage here, and absolutely no magic.
Suddenly, the soft yellow lights become too bright for Jimin and a splitting headache rips through his skull. He manages to keep one eye open should the humans attack. Neither of them move.
“I thought you locked the door,” the tall human says. His eyes hold steady on Jimin, pinning him in place. Without dust Jimin can’t propel himself out of the fake magic shop, and as he continues to lose blood he fears he won’t have the energy to run either.
“I did,” the mint haired human says. He then turns back to Jimin and shouts, “Did you bust my fuckin’ door?”
Confusion. Fear? Panic. Jimin’s mind reels through the human emotions so quickly he’s unable to pinpoint which, exactly, he is feeling at one time. It’s as if he can feel multiple at once, despite his human anatomy, restricted to one at a time.
“Hey, buddy, are you good?”
Buddy? Is Buddy good? Was that the question?
“Holy shit, that’s a lot of blood!”
Jimin doesn’t know the proper amount of blood he should be losing. Apparently, this is too much. Jimin clenches his fingers tight around his arm in an attempt to keep his blood in his body. Neither of the humans move to attack him. Their hearts are absent of hostility, and for the first time since entering the human’s domain, Jimin senses no danger from the melodies within their heartbeats.
A different breed of human.
Doctors are vicious creatures, unpredictable and void of empathy, but the two humans in front of him seem to offer a wider range of emotions. There are some he’s never studied before. There are emotions singing from their hearts unlike any of the thirty-three emotions of which humans are capable.
The shorter human rushes to Jimin in a display of speed he has never observed in a doctor. Jimin’s reflexes are slow. Human bodies rip and break too easily for speed. If all it took for Jimin to be rendered immobile is a bit of lost blood over the course of just a few minutes, it’s a wonder how Jimin stayed alive in the operating room despite the man with the fake eyes stealing bag fulls of his blood every day.
“Easy, easy,” the taller one says, suddenly next to the other in front of Jimin.
The human with mint hair presses his hands against Jimin’s shoulders and squeezes lightly. There isn’t much Jimin can do against two humans without his dust should they attack—he can barely open his eyes after blinking let alone fight back against the humans’ viscous killing instincts.
“Don’t fucking touch me,” Jimin says. His voice scratches his throat and comes out a soft whisper. Despite his use of aggressive wording and tone, the humans in front of him appear unintimidated.
“We’re not going to hurt you,” the human with the mint hair says.
Humans are skilled liars and known for their manipulation tactics. They tear down each other’s defences with their words in a way that outmatches bodily damage while also affecting their cognitive decision making skills and rationality.
“Are you dizzy? Here, sit down.” The taller human pulls a chair from under the nearest table and slides it behind Jimin.
He refuses to sit. Trust on Terra is a dangerous illusion.
“It’s okay, Hoseok is a doctor.”
Doctor. A human who has excelled in the field of human physiology, psychology, and biology and knows every way to harm a person, like the man with fake eyes.
The human called Hoseok may be different breed of doctor, or may be deceiving him like the doctors in the operating room.
Jimin refuses to sit. The human called Hoseok pushes the chair into his knees from behind and the human with mint hair lowers Jimin into it. The cushion he falls into is almost comfortable and it takes the strain off his legs. He no longer feels light headed.
“Please,” Jimin whispers against his will, as if humans are capable of empathy. Humans don’t respond to surrender. They do as they please, but still, Jimin tries. If he can buy enough time to regain enough dust to combust the surrounding area he can escape.
“Please,” he tries again. It’s a word unfamiliar to humans, but the two in front of him react, their hearts softening.
“I’m sorry.” Another phrase humans have and rarely use.
“I’ll go back.” It’s what they want. If they think he will cooperate, they might not hurt him any more.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers again, pressing his fingers deeper into his arm.
“He’s going mad.”
“Yoongi, get him some water,” the human Hoseok, apparently their leader, instructs the man called Yoongi.
Neither of the humans touch Jimin once he has sat down. Yoongi disappears behind a door in the back of the room, leaving Jimin alone with the doctor. He bends down and looks Jimin directly in the eye. Within the dark brown eyes hums a tune akin to that of a gentle breeze.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Hoseok says. His voice is softer than a doctor’s voice, absent of the bite and threat of the others like him.
When Jimin blinks his eyes stay closed longer than intended. Yoongi appears in front of him, offering glass filled with water as if expecting Jimin to interact with it.
Jimin doesn’t. Yoongi sets the water on the ground.
“I couldn’t find the first aid kit,” Yoongi says to Hoseok.
“Jungkook must still have it. Shit,” Hoseok says. “Call him? See if he can bring it over.”
Yoongi leaves Jimin’s fading line of vision again.
“What’s your name?”
“You may not have my name,” Jimin says.
How arrogant for a human to assume he can steal the name of a pixie.
“That’s fine. Can I see your arm? You shouldn’t hold onto it like that. You’ll get an infection.”
Hoseok’s hands match the color of his face and arms unlike the doctors in the lab with their cold, textureless blue hands. Hoseok’s are warm as he lowers Jimin’s hand to see the raw skin where Jimin held a vice grip
Hoseok gasps. “How did this happen?”
Concern. An emotion humans often fake to lower the defenses of the humans around them. It’s a trap, but Jimin doesn’t want to appear suspicious of the humans. He has to appear weak, like they can throw him around and rip him open whenever they felt like it. Keeping the human under the illusion of power will buy Jimin time. He hopes.
“I escaped,” Jimin says.
Hoseok’s heartbeat skips and speeds up, ringing with confusion and something Seokjin would call pity. When humans view another creature as fragile or broken, they take pity on them. It’s humiliating—another emotion that Jimin feels under Hoseok’s gaze.
How dangerous would it be to trust just these humans, Jimin wonders.
Curiosity killed the cat.
Jimin decides it isn’t worth finding out.
“From the hospital? Were you in a fight?”
“No,” Jimin says.
“A domestic dispute?”
“It doesn’t matter. Just...help me?” Pathetic.
“I’m trying to, but I need to understand what caused this damage.”
Maybe, Jimin thinks, Seokjin was wrong when he preached about all humans being vicious, selfish creatures. Hoseok is the complete opposite. And more than Seokjin, Jimin trusts his own instincts.
“One of the...things with the shining red eyes ate me. I escaped.” Jimin winces at the memories as they catch up to him. His arm suddenly hurts more than it did when he made contact with the ground that caused the blood loss. “I scraped my arm on the rock outside. Fix it?”
Distrust. Confusion. An urge to understand. Jimin can read Hoseok’s feelings like he is seeing his thoughts painted on his chest, which means his dust is returning. Slowly, but finally.
“I’ll be right back.” Hoseok stands up, towering over Jimin for a moment before walking behind Jimin where he loses sight of him, and his body is too stiff with pain to turn.
A sound like running water comes from the back of the room, and Hoseok comes back with a dripping red cloth, wringing it out all over the floor in his hurry back. None of the red bleeds from the cloth. The blood stained into it has been there too long.
Hoseok lifts Jimin’s arm to study dirt-filled gash and uses the red cloth to wipe away the excess blood. It doesn’t do much to rid his gown of the stain. It stings and sends shivers up and down his arm but he doesn’t convey any sign of pain. He’s lowered himself enough.
“Looks like it’s already begun to clot up. You shouldn’t be losing any more blood. Sorry we don’t have anything on hand, but Jungkook should be here soon with a first aid kit.”
Hoseok lifts the water to Jimin’s face.
“You’re probably dehydrated. When was the last time you ate?”
The last time Jimin ate anything with his mouth was at home around ten calendar years before. Since entering the human’s domain he hasn’t been offered any food. The only nutrition he received was through a tube stuck in his arm. The man with the fake eyes said if he consumed food or liquids through his esophagus it would get in the way of his research and might spill out of his stomach when he made incisions.
“It’s been a long time,” Jimin says.
“Jungkook said he’s on his way!” Yoongi bursts back into the room, startling Jimin.
Stupidly, Jimin acts on instinct in fear for his life, forgetting about his plan to appear weak in front of the humans and, using the dust he just regained, pulls a chair out from the table nearest Yoongi.
It skids to a stop between himself and the human. For all the arrogance and ego humans possess, this one lacks the basic coordination it takes to gauge the distance between himself and the chair, acting too slow and stumbling over the chair.
A thin cloud of dust cloud falls to the floor from the chair in a shimmering display of pale brown and covers every surface surrounding Yoongi.
“Yoongi!” Hoseok shoots off the ground and runs over to his subordinate. “What did you just do?”
“I...I don’t know,” Yoongi stutters and pats down his body, sending more clouds of dust into the air. He waves his hand through the plume and inspects the dust caught on his fingers. “Glitter?”
These humans don’t know what dust is. The humans Seokjin told him about were threatening and as intelligent as some wizards. Hoseok and Yoongi lack even basic observation skills.
The way Seokjin described his experience with humans doesn’t align. If the humans wanted to hurt him or eat him or force him back into the operating room, Jimin would sense their intentions.
“Don’t breathe it in,” Jimin says, standing from the chair to match the humans at eye level. “Humans can experience allergic reactions to exposure.”
“Humans?” Hoseok asks. Skepticism.
They can’t keep up. Not all humans are as intelligent as Jimin thought.
“Humans aren’t built to be able to ingest dust.”
“Dust,” Yoongi repeats, incredulous.
Disbelief. Fear. Jimin can hear their emotions louder than before. His dust is returning. He won’t have to feign helplessness much longer. He might not waste dust to kill these humans if they had no intention to kill him.
They are still afraid. Fear can turn hostile if it lingers. Jimin has to offer them a level of decency to stagnate their fear before it festers into agression.
“I wasn’t trying to kill you,” Jimin says. “You have a kind heartbeat. I have no intention of hearing it stop.”
“Ah, you must have hit your head pretty hard out there,” Hoseok says, his voice shaking.
The humans can’t even see what’s right in front of them. The injury is on Jimin’s arm, not his head.
“I didn’t hit my head,” Jimin argues. “I injured my arm on my way out from that creature’s jaw. My head never made contact with your streets.”
“Creatures?” Yoongi asks. His fear spikes with every word Jimin says. The density they display tests Jimin’s patience.
“It has four round legs and bright red eyes. It ran away after I escaped.”
Behind his back, Jimin gathers a swirl of dust in his palm. If he chooses, he can send it at the humans and they would burn where they stood, and their home, presumably made of wood judging by the warm colors and patterns, would crumble. Jimin lets go of the dust and it falls to the floor behind him. He doesn’t need it yet.
“Is he describing a car?” Hoseok whispers like he thinks Jimin won’t hear him from across the room.
Yoongi does what humans do to convey uncertainty and raises his shoulders and shakes his head. He turns Hoseok by his arm so they face away from Jimin. Any creature with a sliver of intelligence would never turn its back on a potential threat. Jimin begins to wonder if Hoseok and Yoongi are humans at all.
“That’s definitely a hospital gown,” Yoongi whispers. “I don’t think he’s...all there. We have to take him back to the hospital,” he turns back around to face Jimin, displaying no caution in his stance, “And where the hell is Jungkook with that first aid kit?”
When his eyes fix on Jimin, Yoongi’s heart beats with a vague hostility. Before he moves into an offensive position, Jimin wraps his dust around the leg of the nearest table and blocks the path between Yoongi and himself.
“You’re confused,” Jimin says. The humans flinch. “And you’re scared, but I have no reason to hurt you. You helped me heal without bonding a contract so I will repay your kindness by leaving you unharmed.”
Somehow that terrifies the humans even more. Hoseok and Yoongi’s fear turn to terror.
Jimin waves the table back into its original spot, making the humans retreat further away to the back of the room.
“How are you doing that? What’s with the glitter?” Yoongi swipes his hand over the nearest chair to collect the dust, and he brings it to his face to smell it.
“Don’t!” Jimin warns. Yoongi drops his hand. “I told you already, pixie dust can make humans sick.”
Hoseok keeps his eyes locked on Jimin like he’s afraid that if he looks away Jimin will pounce.
“Are you saying you’re...a pixie?” Hoseok utters, his voice low and heart trembling. Disbelief, again.
“Don’t pixies have wings?” Yoongi asks Hoseok.
“How the hell would I know? They don’t exist,” Hoseok says.
These humans know about wings, yet not of a pixie’s inability to lie. If they sense dishonesty, Jimin fears they won’t hold back any longer.
“I’d show you my wings but they.…” He feels a pang in his chest. The skin on his back where his wings should be suddenly feels raw. “They tore them off.”
“Your wings,” Yoongi repeats. “Hoseok, do you think he escaped from some lab?” he whispers.
Jimin’s human heart speeds. The words make him dizzy and the world closes in around him, halting all his progress of escaping.
They know about the lab. And about Jimin. And they are going to send him back.
Jimin was wrong. How could he be so ignorant to believe he knew better than Seokjin? That he should reject his advice and let these humans think they were assisting him? Without any dust left, Jimin is again at a disadvantage. His body is useless in this form.
“Let’s call the cops,” Hoseok whispers.
It’s time for Jimin to go. He’s never heard of a cop before, but the from the implications Jimin knows they would mean bad news for him. If someone as ruthless as a doctor would call on a cop for help, Jimin fears he will never make it out alive, not in this form.
Just as Jimin turns to run, the doors behind him swing open and slam into the walls on either side. Jimin jumps and a plume of purple dust shoots from his body and settles on the floor around him.
“Did I hear a fucking narc in here?” a voice booms from the doorway.
A human with the heartbeat of a young but frighteningly independent soul bounds through the doorway. He holds a bag over his shoulder that clanks when he moves and stands taller than any human Jimin encountered before.
Jimin’s immediate reaction is to throw himself at the human with all his strength and knock him out against the floor. But he never jumps, frozen in place as the human kicks the doors shut behind him.
Is this a cop?
“Jungkook! What took you so long?” Yoongi yells.
Jimin can hardly hear the hearts behind him over the heavy sound of Jungkook’s rhythmic, familiar beat—the sound of a battle drum used by warriors at home to signify their intent to war with their enemies. The beat does its job to paralyze Jimin.
“Secret reasons,” Jungkook says. Even his voice is reminiscent of a sound that to Jimin means bloodshed.
When Jungkook meets Jimin’s eyes, Jimin feels a rush of insecurity. He hears nothing but the strong beat of a warrior’s heart from the human’s chest. A brazen power within his soulful brown eyes akin to that of a deer Jimin once met.
Jimin is terrified, but it’s melded with another feeling, one Seokjin has never described to him before. There are too many emotions to compartmentalize and it makes Jimin dizzy to think about.
He fights to stay upright, to show he isn’t afraid of a human, to stand his ground when his instincts tell him to lower himself and plead.
“Who’s the fairy?” Jungkook asks.
Jimin might die here, mistaken for a fairy, of all creatures, at the hands of the humans. Pixies can’t be killed, but humans can. Jimin already feels like he’s about to take his last breath.
“This guy broke in and threw glitter everywhere and thinks he’s a pixie,” Yoongi says quickly. “And, I know, it’s crazy, but he’s been doing some crazy shit. I think he’s on drugs, so—”
“So you were going to call the fucking cops?” Jungkook barks.
Jimin’s human body cowers inwards but he holds his stance.
“He’s shaking. What the fuck did you do?”
Jimin swallows hard. He can’t leave now, can’t even see the door behind Jungkook.
“He—” Hoseok starts, but Jungkook cuts him off.
“Hoseok, look at him. He’s terrified.”
“Terrified?” Jimin snaps. “Do I look terrified to you?” He can’t lie to say he isn’t.
Of all the humans he has encountered, Jungkook intimidates him the most. If he perceives Jimin to be terrified of him it means he knows Jimin is weak right now. It means he knows can overpower him.
“Yeah,” Jungkook says, “You look terrified. You also look like you ran away from a hospital with a batshit insane story to tell. What did they do to you? Did Hoseok treat your arm? Let me see—”
When Jungkook reaches for Jimin’s arm, Jimin reacts before he can process what he’s doing. He dodges and swipes the back of Jungkook’s hand. The contact with the human burns.
Jungkook winces and steps away. If he thinks he can just proke and prod at Jimin like the doctors in the lab without Jimin putting up a fight, Jimin still has a chance to catch him off guard.
“Sorry, I should have asked first.” Jungkook drops the bag from his shoulder and it lands on the ground with an unexpected thud, sending Jimin into the air as he emits another cloud of purple dust.
The bag buzzes as Jungkook pulls a tab from one end to the other, then he reaches inside and takes out a white metal box with a red symbol on the front made up of two intersecting lines, matching perfectly with the symbol he saw engraved into various surfaces in the operating room.
Unconsciously Jimin drops to his knees. His power drains again. He can’t access his dust. This time it isn’t because of an injection. When he tries to summon a cloud of dust between himself and Jungkook, he can’t find any. Fear appears to act as a natural suppressant to his dust.
“It’s okay, you’re fine. You’re here.” Jungkook drops down to his level, too close. Much too close. “What’s your name?”
“He won’t tell us—”
“I didn’t ask you, Yoongi.”
“I won’t let you have my name.” Jimin’s voice is embarrassingly uneven, broken, and he doesn’t meet Jungkook’s eyes.
“I’m not going to write it down or anything. I just want to know what it is so I can address you the way you want to be addressed. Is that okay?”
The tone of his heart suggests innocence, though the box with the red symbol still sits right in front of Jimin, a reminder of what Jungkook is. The mark does something to his psychology that brings his mind to the very edge of his consciousness. It hurts. He can’t stop heaving. He doesn’t stop shaking until minutes pass and Jungkook makes no offensive advances. His heart plays less like a drum and more like a heartbeat accompanied by the song akin to that of a harp’s melody.
“It’s Jimin. “
“Nice to meet you, Jimin. I’m Jungkook.”
Jimin can’t slow his breathing. He doesn’t even remember falling to the floor.
“You said you’re...a pixie, right?”
“It doesn’t make a difference if you believe me or not. If you’re going to kill me, you’re going to kill me.”
Jungkook makes a sound similar to the way a pixie would laugh. Not a human laugh—not the cruel intentioned cackling that doctors make before they make an incision. There is no evil in his voice.
“I’m not going to kill you. Sorry for calling you a fairy. Your hair is orange, I thought I was being clever.”
“You were wrong.”
“That happens sometimes. Can I see your wound? Yoongi said it was on your arm?” Jungkook makes no move to restrain Jimin. He reads only intrigue and curiosity in Jungkook’s heart.
Jungkook takes Jimin’s arm in his hand after Jimin ignores his question. The blood rushing under his fragile human skin stings like static when they make contact again. Jungkook doesn’t seem to feel anything, or at least, doesn’t seem bothered by the shock.
Jimin bites his cheek in the way his human body reacts to anxiety when Jungkook opens the white box and takes out a small package that Jimin can smell from where he sits. It’s the same substance doctors use to sanitize Jimin’s skin after they wash away his blood. The cloth is cold and wet as it soaks up the dried blood, revealing Jimin’s last tattoo, smooth and unbroken on his shoulder. He forgot what the conditions of the contract were when he entered Terra, the tattoo serving as the only reminder that he has one left unsatisfied.
“Unbelievable,” Yoongi breathes.
“I heal fast.” Jimin yanks his arm away and stumbles backwards until his back hits a chair.
“I thought pixies were supposed to be tiny,” Jungkook says as he bunches up the cloth and sets it on the table by his head.
“I’m not supposed to be anything. What would you know about pixies?”
“Clearly nothing,” Jungkook says.
“Clearly,” Jimin says.
“Hey, I’m trying to help you. Play nice, okay?”
“If you’re going to try to take me back to the operating room, I’ll kill you,” Jimin seethes and involuntarily exhales a plume of dark crimson dust like ash. He hopes it intimidates Jungkook.
Jungkook holds his hands in front of him, palms facing Jimin in a gesture that Jimin recognizes, a common occurrence in all creatures. A defensive position, or a surrender. Not in fear the way Jimin hoped he would feel, but in another form of pity Jimin hasn’t encountered before.
“I’m not taking you anywhere you don’t want to go.”
“Don’t mock my intelligence. I know what that is.” Jimin’s eyes lock onto the box, on the red symbol. No matter how terrible the sight of it makes him feel, his gaze is stuck, unhindering despite the rest of his body screaming at him to kick it across the room and fly out the door.
Jungkook covers the symbol with his hand.
“Jimin,” he starts slowly. “Can I help you up?”
Shock. Failure? Jimin can’t tell.
Clouded by so many unfamiliar human emotions, Jimin is numb to his instincts. When Jungkook stands up he takes Jimin’s with him. There is no static this time. There is no hostility, no dishonesty in the touch as Jungkook coaxes him up from the floor and into the nearest chair.
“Hoseok, would you brew some coffee?” Jungkook asks.
Jimin forgot there were more humans in the room. His spacial perception and basic instincts are shrouded in human feelings that his body was never built to undergo.
“Coffee? It’s two in the morning.”
Yoongi tugs on Hoseok’s sleeve and tilts his head towards the door at the back of the room. Yoongi displays an understanding that Jimin doesn’t feel safe around them. Jungkook understands this too. Hoseok doesn’t. He follows Yoongi anyways.
When Jimin is alone with the human Jungkook, he starts to relax. He shouldn’t be relaxed. He should be on his way back home with his wings on his back and his dust filling his veins, not sitting across a table from a human he knows nothing about.
Trust on Terra is a dangerous illusion. He isn’t ignorant enough to forget that.
“So,” Jungkook says. He rests his chin on his hands and stares into Jimin’s soul from the other side of the table. “You’re you’re the reason for all this glitter?”
“It’s dust,” Jimin corrects. “It’s…” None of your business. “It’s what helps me use my magic. It works different in your realm.”
Too much information. Jimin needs to leave.
“My realm?” Jungkook asks as if he doesn’t know how to address his own domain.
“The human realm, Terra.”
“You don’t believe me.” Jimin feels what Seokjin would call disappointment.
To be disappointed, a human has hoped a situation would turn out in their favor, only to find out that the outcome was less desirable than anticipated. Jimin remembers every one of his lessons and applies them best he can to what he’s feeling, but studying emotions and feeling them are vastly different in practice.
“So, show me something that’ll make me believe you.”
“Why?” Why not just kill me?
“Because I’m curious. Because I’ve never met a pixie before,” he lies.
It isn’t because he is curious. Jimin can hear a hidden intention. Jungkook is helping Jimin for his own human ego—to prove to Jimin he has power over his future.
Regret rings in Jungkook’s heart.
“Someone has misplaced their trust in you before,” Jimin says. “And you want to prove to yourself that you’re stronger now.”
Jungkook stiffens, his heart reflecting his panic.
“I promise I won’t hurt you,” Jungkook says, “And I won’t tell anyone about you either. So, show me something that will make me believe in magic?”
An opportunity to intimidate.
Jimin concentrates the minuscule amount of dust he has recovered at the bag Jungkook carried in, left to lie forgotten on the floor. Using his dust he carries the bag through the air and onto the table between himself and Jungkook and lets it fall, shaking the table. The disbelief in Jungkook’s eyes was to be expected. Jungkook, though perhaps a different breed from the kind Jimin has studied, is still human, and has limited control of how far he can suspend his disbelief to accept unfamiliar situations.
Using the rest of his power, Jimin lifts the box with the evil symbol and, curling his hand into a fist on finger at a time, crumples the box under the pressure of dust. It creaks and crunches in the in the air next to Jungkook’s head. Watching the red sigil deform and crumple under his power brings a new human emotion into the mix in his head.
Pride is a word similar to what he feels when Jungkook looks at him with the emotion that sounds like excitement.
“Incredible,” Jungkook whispers, tapping on the side of the ruined white box before Jimin lets it crash into the ground. “Where are you from?”
Jimin doesn’t dare utter the name under the human sun. But as a pixie with the inability to lie, and as a human eager for further connection to other humans, Jimin has to give an answer.
“A place I can’t reach,” he says.
“What’s stopping you?”
“They have my wings. My body is basically human.”
If Jimin didn’t know any better, he’d say that the human Jungkook was very close to displaying signs of empathy. Seokjin would be impressed.
“That must have hurt,” Jungkook says, his sympathetic tone matching his expression. Humans show their emotions on their faces as well as in their hearts because other humans lack the ability to read heartbeats. However, humans can fake expressions. Their hearts tell no lies.
“You wouldn’t know about hurt.”
“That’s not a fair assumption. I broke my femur and my knee at the same time doing rooftop parkour once.”
“Fancy tumbling. Humans will do anything if they’re dared to. It was ridiculously stupid.”
Jimin reacts how humans react to outlandish tales they find incredulous, and he scoffs.
“I’m serious, it was awful! They had to sew my leg back up, I still have scars from the surgery.”
“You’ve had surgery too?” The human urge to connect is stronger than his pixie instincts to remain silent. “Were you in the operating room?” This explains how he acquired the box with the evil symbol? “How did you escape?”
“Escape? Nothing like that. They let me go after the numbing agents wore off.”
“You got numbing agents when they cut you open?”
Horror rings feintly in Jungkook’s heart. His eyes widen. Humans have an affinity for harming those different from them, but the more similar a being or another human appears to them, the better treatment they receive from one another.
“Who would do that to you?”
“Humans. Doctors. They’re not like you,” Jimin says, and though he is unsure whether or not he believes himself, it has to be true. “If you ever met a doctor you would understand. You should be careful around them.”
“Hoseok is a doctor.”
“Must be a different breed.”
Jimin doesn’t understand why Jungkook is looking at him like that. Like he’s trying to understand. Like he’s calculating. Like he could feel the pain behind Jimin’s words.
“Yeah, must be.” Jungkook is unsure. He stares past Jimin and they sit in silence.
The air in the room is heavy on Jimin’s shoulders, the sudden change in aura kicking him in the gut. Jungkook feels awfully pitiful towards Jimin and it’s making Jimin uncomfortable.
It was never Jimin’s intention to speak so many words to the human. Seokjin won’t believe Jimin’s story when he gets back home—how he met an entirely different subspecies of human for them to study.
If he can make it back home, and if they don’t reject him upon the sight of his damaged wings.
“I’m sorry you’ve had shitty experiences with humans, but whatever they did to you—most humans, we aren’t like that.”
“I’ve studied humans for longer than you’ve been alive,” Jimin says. It’s not a lie if he isn’t sure, more of a bluff based on how his spirit has barely aged. “This is not a debate you’re equipped to win.”
Jungkook is too young to have a clue about Jimin. About himself, about doctors, about the rest of the worlds around him. It’s irritating how arrogant humans are.
“Who taught you about humans?”
“Seokjin…” Jungkook nods. Suspicion. “Okay. Well, if you’re stuck here, like you say, maybe you could try to learn about humans for yourself? I don’t know what kind of humans Seokjin studied, but I think they got a lot of things about humans wrong.”
Outside of the operating room, none of the knowledge Seokjin shared matches up. And perhaps the human Jungkook is right, Jimin might not know anything about his breed of human.
A scary, gut wrenching thought crosses Jimin’s mind when he thinks of returning home. Without his wings, he is landlocked, and without his dust, he is useless against the doctors in the lab who have his wings. He considers his current anatomy and the common human strategy known as “safety in numbers” and wonders if it applies to him, a pixie in a human’s body. He wonders if Jungkook could be considered an ally in his fight against the doctors to recover his wings.
“I want to help you,” Jungkook says.
“You can’t do anything for me.”
“I can help you get home.”
“You think you can help me get my wings back? You think you can change my mind?” Ridiculous. Jungkook is as dense and insane as Hoseok and Yoongi. There is no way this species of human is related to doctors.
“I’ll help you.”
Safety is in numbers. Intelligence aside, Jungkook starts to look like a realistically reliable ally that Jimin would want on his side.
“If you betray me, I will end your life. Do you understand that?”
“I believe you. Yoongi and Hoseok will help you too.”
“I don’t need their help. I don’t trust them.”
“But you trust me?”
“No. But you haven’t killed me yet, even though you clearly have the advantage over me in the state I’m in. You’re strong compared to the humans Yoongi and Hoseok.”
Jungkook laughs softly and leans back in his chair.
“I don’t trust you,” Jimin reiterates, “I only want to survive. I’m sure as a human you can understand this. We all share the same instincts at our core—protect ourselves.”
“And protect the ones we love.”
Jimin stiffens at the word.
Love is an emotions unique to fauna of Terra. Love is what enables humans to be cruel to one another. It’s a word they use to describe possession and power. Seokjin never taught Jimin about love. He learned the word from the man with fake eyes.
“So, how do we get your wings back?”
“We can’t yet. I need more dust.”
“Okay, so, how do we get you more dust?”
“I have to wait.”
He is giving the humans too much information. He’ll either definitely die at the hands of the doctors alone, or probably die among these humans. Jimin will take his chances with the weaker humans.
“Okay, we’ll wait. In the mean time, do you wanna, like, go throw bricks at cop cars with me?”
Jimin doesn’t recognize several words Jungkook used.
“What is that?”
“It’s uh, a fun bonding exercise.”
Jungkook isn’t lying.
Yoongi pushes through the door with his back, balancing two cups of coffee filled to the brim, one in each hand. When he turns, he sees the cafe is perfectly clean and rearranged in its original format. There is an impressive amount of glitter, making the room look like gays on their way to pride parade, a balled up first aid kit on the floor, and a missing pixie. Jungkook’s bag is gone too.
“Where did they go?” Hoseok asks, scoping the room. “Do you think the pixie…”
“Do I think he killed Jungkook? No. I think it went much better than that.” Yoongi smiles.
Jungkook is most adventurous young man Yoongi has ever met. He knows what Jungkook uses that bag for. And if he knows Jungkook at all—and he takes pride in knowing him like his own brother—he knows that not only is he safe, but he is about to show the pixie one of the many joys of being human.
Jungkook shines in a way Yoongi can’t explain when people come to him for support. As if helping every person who has busted through the front door of the Magic Shoppe, bleeding and afraid, gives him a chance to redeem him from his guilt over the one he couldn’t save.
“Are you sure we didn’t just get drunk or something? Were they even here?”
Yoongi sets the cups on the counter and wipes some of the fine glitter onto his fingers. It looks more like eyeshadow than actual dust.
“They were here. And they left a huge fucking mess for us to clean.”
”Why do you carry these with you?” Jimin asks, aiming what Jungkook called a brick at the busted sheet of glass on the front of a police cruiser parked outside of a mall.
Jimin is excited to destroy one of the creatures kin with that which tried to eat him. Even if it’s with a human he can’t trust, even if his better judgment is telling him to remove himself from the situation and concentrate on finding his way back home. His pixie demands revenge and his human revels in the excitement of new experiences.
Using dust, Jimin propels the brick into the glass. It shatters the shield to pieces and burrows deep into one of the seats.
“I don’t always, but I was on my way to avenge a friend.” Jungkook hops into his throw and flings the brick hard enough at the hood of the car that the sound of contact booms and echoes off the structures around them.
He turns back to Jimin, winding his arm and grabbing another brick. “I was actually on my way to use these on a friend’s ex’s car shop,” he tosses the brick lightly to reposition his hold, “But this is more fun—destroying one of these fuckers with someone else who hates them.” He flings the brick into the front and shatters a sheet of glass. “That Seokjin person who taught you about humans probably met a cop or two. I bet that’s why they hate us.”
Humans, for all their creations and creativity and vast knowledge of structure and science, also have just as much drive to destroy the things that they have built. Humans are at a constant war with their surroundings. They build and raze in a never ending cycle, and the human side of Jimin wants to comply with the pattern.
Jimin opens Jungkook’s bag to find that Jungkook already threw the last brick.
“Aw, shit,” Jungkook sighs, “I should have brought more. We didn’t even set the alarm off yet.”
“Isn’t the ground made of this stuff?” Jimin bends down and pokes at the ground, trying for a weak point he can use to unearth a piece.
“The street? That’s concrete. The roads here are all concrete. What we just threw was hardened clay. So—”
A shriek like a mermaid out of water resounds down the street that has Jungkook’s heart vibrating loud in Jimin’s ears. He finds himself in a similar state of panic when, from around the corner of one of the concrete structures, flashes of red and blue overlay the structures. Jimin loses more dust in a cloud of purple at the sight and sounds growing nearer.
Jungkook smiles, his eyes ablaze with excitement.
“What’s that? Did you summon it?”
“No, we gotta go!”
Grabbing Jimin’s arm and the empty bag, Jungkook yanks Jimin off of the street and weaves between structures. The humans here are much quicker than the ones he learned about at home.
Jimin doesn’t know what it is they’re running from, or why Jungkook is excited at the idea of a chase. Jimin thought that was something unique to pixies. Though pixies don’t feel emotions on the same physical scale as humans, pixie bodies experience stimulation in a similar pattern. Jimin hasn’t run from a snake or a star since entering Terra. It’s familiar. Without his wings, running is as close as he can come to flying.
Jimin paces himself along side Jungkook as they sprint. Had he his wings, he would be far away from the shrieking.
Had he his wings, he wouldn’t still be in the human’s realm.
“Quick, left,” Jungkook says and tugs Jimin aside by his sleeve, dragging him in between two tall structures that tower as high as trees above them. There are no forests, no plants aside from a few saplings lining concrete street. Everything is clean cut and structured with intention, which makes it hard for Jimin to keep track of where they came from.
Jungkook pins Jimin to the wall under his arm in a position that would have had him reeling any other moment, but right now, Jungkook is the only one who knows how to combat the flashing lights. Jimin doesn’t know what cops are capable of, but if they have someone with a heartbeat as bold as Jungkook’s running in fear, Jimin isn’t keen on finding out. He still hasn’t regained much dust. The constant injections in increments of eight hours have dulled many of his abilities, rendering parts of him that remains pixie docile.
Safe and frightened at once. It shouldn’t be possible. Mostly, Jimin thinks, what he is feeling is exhilaration.
Jungkook’s breathing is heavy, matching Jimin’s own, when he drops his hand from Jimin’s chest to slide down the wall and catch his breath. He displays signs of exhaustion.
“Ha!” Jungkook laughs like a pixie again. “Dumb fuckin’ narcs.”
“What’s narc?” Jimin asks.
“A narc is a cop or an apologist.”
“What’s an ap—”
It happens so quickly, in what humans would call the blink of an eye, that Jimin sees one of the cop cars passing the street beyond their hiding place. They’ve been found.
Jungkook is in no condition to brace for combat. They’ll die if Jimin doesn’t react.
In that second, Jimin summons his dust and uses it to halt the legs of the cop car. It screeches and kicks back at the sudden deceleration.
“Wait,” Jimin says.
From Jimin’s understanding, it is highly frowned upon for a human to kill another human, despite their constant urges to attack each other. As a pixie, Jimin has never felt remorse in taking a life, but for Jungkook’s sake, he waits until the humans—the cops—in the car step out to investigate their sudden deceleration. Their hearts have no tune. They just beat to pump blood through their veins.
Jimin snaps his fingers to light a spark and the car combusts into flames, engulfing the entire street in a bright orange light.
“H-Holy shit...” Jungkook breathes.
At first, he doesn’t seem as pleased as Jimin predicted, but then he starts smiling. Jimin can hear Jungkook’s heart beat to the tune of elation.
Elation is beyond happy for humans. Elation is the feeling humans get when their happiness extends beyond their mind and fills their whole body with something stronger than just an idea or emotion.
“That was beautiful,” Jungkook says.
Pride. Jimin’s favorite emotion. He was under the impression humans couldn’t conceptualize beauty.
“But lets bail. They’ll find us if we stick around.”
Jungkook displays an expert understanding of the space around him with the way he quickly jumps between and around structures, making sure Jimin is right beside him the whole time.
Once the heat and flames are out of sight, the sirens are out of range, Jungkook slows down to a brisk walk, and eventually they stop along the street. He keels over while Jimin scopes out the area, seeing it clearly for the first time, not zipping past his vision.
The structures are now scarce, with larger gaps between them. There are no more neon glyphs or symbols, and there are absolutely no cop cars to be seen. Behind Jimin is a structure twice the height of the Magic Shoppe with stairs leading up and around it to provide humans without wings access to higher parts of the building.
Across the street is a field of tall grass, unkempt and dying, with little floral embellishment. It’s dark, and in his human body Jimin’s vision isn’t as sharp as his natural eyesight, but he thinks he might even see a wall of trees beyond the dead grassy field.
“This,” Jungkook says, his breath still catching up with him as he points to the building with the stairs behind them, “Is where I live.”
“You live on this structure?”
“Not on it, inside. Five floors up.”
“Do you ever fall off?” Even Jimin wouldn’t attempt to climb that high without wings.
“That’s what the walls are for. I live inside the building.”
“It’s hollow? Like a stump?”
“You live in a stump.” Jungkook doesn’t sound surprised. “I thought so.”
“I didn’t say I lived in a stump, I said stumps are hollow.” Humans lack of word comprehension is embarrassing.
“They can be, sure.”
“They are.” What would Jungkook know about trees?
“Stumps are hollow,” Jimin says, folding his arms and shooting a glare ignored by Jungkook.
“Yes,” Jungkook agrees finally. “Sometimes.”
Jungkook reminds reminds Jimin of a fairy. He’s mischievous in an obnoxious way. He knows what he is doing is harmless but that Jimin will react defensively. Jimin didn’t care about being teased by a fairy when he had nothing to feel. Being teased by a human is frustrating.
Jimin huffs and a cloud of dust puffs out. Though he can’t see the color under the dim light of one lamp high up on a smooth, limbless tree, he knows it’s green. If humans are as perceptive as they think they are, they could potentially observe Jimin’s feelings by his dust, just like he can read from their hearts.
Naturally, a pixie’s dust reflects the color of their intent. Jimin learned long ago that his pixie part doesn’t know how to handle the way his human part reacts to his emotions, and he loses precious dust with each strong burst of emotion.
“You’re wrong,” Jimin says.
“Okay, they’re hollow.” Jungkook sees Jimin’s dust settle on the ground, but he doesn’t react. Ignorant as a human should be.
“They’re also not hollow.”
“I’m not lying,” Jimin snaps. “I can’t lie. Stumps are hollow.”
“How do I know that’s not a lie?”
“Fine,” Jungkook holds up his hands, “Fine. I believe you. Let’s go inside, I’m cold.”
Jimin resists the urge to battle with a human who lacks the wits to make it fair and drops the stump discussion.
Jungkook is asking Jimin to enter his home. Jimin isn’t sure he is even allowed into a human’s home by the laws of nature. He might not make it past the entrance.
“Are you inviting me into your home?”
“Ah, sorry, I didn’t mean to make it weird. That’s not what I meant.”
“Why would that be weird?”
“It’s not,” he lies, “I mean, like, if you, you know, need a safe place to stay while your dust regenerates, or whatever, you can stay in my apartment.”
Jimin scoffs. “And why would I want to stay here?” Something about the way Jungkook can be so wrong with such confidence—it’s astounding. It’s unpredictable. Humans may not be intelligent, but they are chaotic if nothing else.
“Because if you didn’t, you would have shaken me off already.”
“You don’t know that.” He’s not wrong, but he doesn’t know that.
“Let’s go inside?” Jungkook motions to the door at the base of the building.
Jimin doesn’t move. “You first,” he says.
Jungkook reaches behind him into a pocket in his clothes and pulls out a small ring tying together two pieces of metal shaped like keys and offers one to the handle. He turns the door’s handle using the metal key and the door swings open on creaking joints.
Jungkook steps through. Jimin lingers under the doorway. This is the biggest risk he has taken since escaping the operating room. It might prove just as fatal as remaining outside, however, as he fears any other humans he encounters might not be the same breed as Jungkook. If he were to encounter a doctor or a cop without Jungkook, he might never make it back home.
Jimin eyes the outline of the door. No salt, no sheep’s blood, no mushroom circle. No being of magic has been sealed in or out.
“Do I have to invite you in again?” Jungkook asks from the hallway. “Is it like vampire rules? You’re invited.”
“I’m not a vampire.”
Not because Jungkook challenged him, but because Jimin is eager to learn more about the insides of a human home, he takes a breath and lifts his foot gently up the step into the doorway. His leg is still intact on the other side of the frame, so he presses forward.
The door slams shut behind him, officially sealing him inside. Without one of Jungkook’s metal objects to offer, the door won’t allow Jimin to pass back through. He may be putting too much trust in Jungkook.
Safety in numbers. Safety with Jungkook.
Inside the building is small, cramped, and dark, and the walls are patchy and not nearly as neat and pristine as the ones in the operating room or the Magic Shoppe, and certainly nothing like his home. Despite the darkness, Jimin finds comfort in these walls. The energy inside the hollow building is low and almost indistinguishable from the street outside. It smells like humans.
Jimin follows Jungkook up the stairs that switch directions four times, passing many doors with different numbers and energies radiating inside. They stop in front of a door with the numbers 5 and 8 engraved on a plaque.
Jungkook offers the ring to the door again, using the second, smaller metal key and the door grants him access, swinging open to reveal a room similar in shape to the Magic Shoppe, though only about half the size and not near as crowded with furniture.
“After you,” Jungkook says as he steps aside.
“Why?” Jimin steps away.
A trap. It’s a trap.
“It’s not a trap,” Jungkook assures him.
“Prove it,” Jimin says.
Jungkook does what humans do when they feel agitated by another human and rolls his eyes. Jimin doesn’t appreciate how the gesture makes him feel.
Once on the other side of the doorway Jungkook spins around to face Jimin, holding out his arms to welcome Jimin in.
Inside it’s dark but cozy and more specious than the operating room.
A flash of light, and suddenly the room is lit from above. In front of Jimin are dark red walls covered in large pieces of paper arranged in a specific, aesthetic order according to color and size, each featuring different texts, other humans, and abstract objects that have no correlation to each other. To the left there is a large red couch—the largest Jimin has ever seen in the human world—and in front of it sits a thin black box, what Jimin assumes is a piece of human decor or technology based on the cords running along the wall behind it, not dissimilar to the bright screens they wheeled into the operating room on occasion. Unlike the screens in the operating room, these cords are plugged into a wall and not to Jimin.
There are two doors in front of him, and to the right there is a kitchen. Jimin has never seen a kitchen in person. He learned about them from Seokjin, and the way humans use chemistry and physics in the room, much like a lab, to produce the most efficient form of nutrition. It’s called cooking.
“It’s probably nothing like whatever sort of log or mushroom you live in,” Jungkook says.
“You think I live in a mushroom?”
“Or a log.”
“I don’t….” It’s not worth it.
“One day I’m going to show you a not-hollow stump.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” There are not stumps on Terra. Trees on Terra aren’t given the opportunity to grow to their full potential before humans destroy them.
Jimin scans the room again for any indication of a trap or cage or gurney.
“You’re right, my home looks nothing like this. It’s nowhere near as…” Jimin fumbles with the human terms he knows, trying to pick out the right one to capture the way this room makes him feel.
“Wow, you’re not really one to pull your punches, are you?”
“I’m not going to punch you.”
“I meant verbally.”
“I wasn’t going to insult you, either. I’m looking for is ‘cozy,’ I think.”
“A pixie thinks my home is cozy.” Jungkook whistles low and his heartbeat registers at something along the lines of pride, then his heart rate spikes suddenly.
“What’s happening?” Jimin asks. He faces Jungkook, who, for the first time since meeting him, doesn’t look him in the eye.
“What do you mean?” Jungkook asks. “Did you see something?”
“You’re feeling embarrassed about something.”
“What?” Jungkook says. His heart beat doubles in speed. “You can read minds?”
“It’s your heart I can read. Humans can’t hear songs in each other’s hearts, let alone translate them into emotions.”
“I had no idea you could do that.”
“You seem to think you know anything about me.”
Jungkook bites his lip.
“Yeah,” he agrees. “I mean, we met, like, what, two hours ago? And all we’ve done is throw bricks at cop cars and run around the city. We know nothing about each other.”
“That’s not true.” Jimin says. “I know you. I’ve been studying humans for most of my life. I understand everything about you.”
Jungkook raises his eyebrows and looks at Jimin like he just told him he’s a pixie for the first time. He doesn’t look upset, and his heart beat doesn’t register faster than normal.
For the first time since meeting, their situation finally seems to catch up to Jungkook and the reality sets in that Jungkook is nowhere near as knowledgeable about Jimin as Jimin is of him. He’s at a tactical disadvantage in wits and combat and he’s finally realizing it. The room grows quiet enough that Jungkook’s heart beat echoes off the walls and meets Jimin’s ears clearly with no disruption.
In a situation like this, what is referred to as stressful, humans need reassurance. Jimin doesn’t understand everything that entails, but he understands that as a pixie iin the body of a human, capable of empathy unlike real humans, he won’t be happy until the others in his environment are happy as well.
“I can’t go back home any time soon, so, we can learn more about each other. I’m curious to know what humans think they know about pixies,” Jimin offers with a sleight of fake enthusiasm. If it works, he’ll remember this tactic for the next time Jungkook feels upset.
“Why can’t you go home?”
“I told you. He took my wings.”
“‘He’? No, wait, sorry. That’s probably painful. You don’t have to explain.”
Jungkook huffs, unsure of what to do with himself. Jimin is unsure as well. Humans use their homes to sleep and eat and store their possessions, whereas pixies use their homes to reconnect with themselves in solitude. He doesn’t know what to do inside a human home.
“Do pixies take baths?”
“What’s baths?” Jimin asks, catching the feint change in tune in Jungkook’s heart. “Is it dangerous?”
“Not at all.”
“Your heart sped up.”
“Possibly,” Jungkook says.
“I told you what would happen if you betray me.”
Jungkook laughs a laugh that makes Jimin feel like he’s hearing a bard tell a joke. It’s inhuman.
“Taking a bath is something humans do because we’re smelly and we need to wash away the dirty stuff that collects on our bodies all day. It’s because of societal norms, and all.”
“Do I smell bad to you?” There’s a hint of defensiveness again, this time from Jimin himself, accompanied by something else. Possibly embarrassment. The human part of him doesn’t like the idea of smelling unappealing to other humans.
“Let’s see.” Jungkook leans closer to Jimin than he’s ever been, the closest a human has been to him without the accompaniment of certain metal tools and needles.
Jungkook sniffs at Jimin’s neck before Jimin can warn against it, inhaling a plume of pale green dust that settles on his face like glitter before he coughs it up in a storm.
For the first time since leaving home, Jimin laughs too. It’s small and quick and it happens naturally. He laughs at the way Jungkook loses his composure and swats around him to rid the air of the dust. He laughs at the impulsiveness that Jungkook displays. His motivations aren’t clear, and they aren’t as cold and calculated as the doctors and the man with fake eyes.
“Did that do anything for you?” Jimin asks.
“You smell like rain, I think. You know, that smell after it rains when the air is fresh?”
“That’s called petrichor.”
“You’re so smart.” It’s a compliment, but Jungkook’s tone and forced smile implies a double meaning to his words.
Jimin is being teased. Like Jungkook is a fairy, and he’s teasing Jimin.
“I’m going to take a shower,” Jungkook says, “But, feel free to make yourself comfortable. There’s snacks in the fridge.”
“What’s snacks in the fridge?” Jimin asks.
“That’s food and where humans keep food. I’ll show you.”
Jimin follows Jungkook into the kitchen, where Jungkook pulls open a metal door on a box taller than both of them. Inside glows white and various bags and containers full of human food line the shelves, all different colors and shapes and smells.
“Do you like…” Jungkook pushes aside containers and boxes and circular human foods and pulls out a small bottle with a red cork-like top, “Banana milk?” He holds the bottle out to Jimin.
Jimin doesn’t know if he likes banana milk.
“If not, I also have some crackers in the pantry that you can dip in this.” He then pulls out another container, this one flat and round and clear along the edges. “Pixie’s aren’t vegan, are they?”
“What’s vegan? What’s in there?”
Jungkook closes the fridge and set the container on the counter next to it, then reaches above the fridge to open a smaller wooden door and takes out a box that rattles.
“This is called cream cheese. And these are crackers.”
Jungkook sets the box of crackers next to the container of cream cheese.
“There’s also some strawberries, but they might be moldy. I haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while. Didn’t expect to have company any time soon, sorry.”
“You haven’t done anything to be sorry for,” Jimin says. He can’t take his eyes off the banana milk in Jungkook’s hand, and Jungkook notices him staring. It smells sweet like nectar.
When Jungkook twists off the cap and holds the bottle out to Jimin, the smell fills the room, similar to fruit.
Jimin hesitates. It could be poison. It could be delicious. He doesn’t take the bottle.
“You drink it first,” Jimin says.
Jungkook raises an eyebrow. He can’t seriously have thought Jimin would let down his guard just because Jungkook has shown Jimin hospitality not commonly found in humans.
“I thought pixies were supposed to be curious and mischievous.”
“I told you already, I’m not supposed to be anything. I am what I am. What would you know about pixies?”
“Clearly, nothing,” Jungkook says.
Jungkook stares at Jimin to make sure he’s watching and takes a sip, then he hands the bottle to him.
It tastes just as sweet as it smells.
“Do you like it?” Jungkook asks.
Jimin nods and finishes the bottle. He waits for the poison to kick in, for his limbs to fail and vision blur. He waits for a blackout that he will wake from in the operating room.
It’s not poison. If Jungkook wanted to kill him, or take him back to the man with fake eyes, this would have been his chance. Jimin’s dust is low, and he appears unsuspecting.
It’s not trust. It’s survival. His instincts were correct. Safety is with Jungkook.