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When Jungkook wakes, Jimin is in his arms. His cheek is resting on Jungkook’s forearm and he's still fast asleep. Jungkook nuzzles into his hair and breathes him in. He smells all wrong. Not like their home anymore, not like Jungkook. Although, as he presses his nose against his skin, Jungkook can make out the unique smell that is Jimin, just Jimin. 

He rubs his lips gently across the back of Jimin’s neck. He doesn’t want to wake him because he can feel how peaceful he is, but he can’t stop himself.

The last few days have been such a mess Jungkook barely understands what happened. He had missed Jimin so much he could be sick, and now he is here in his arms, soft and warm and peaceful. He doesn’t know why he starts to cry but he kisses the falling tears into Jimin’s skin, rubbing his nose from Jimin’s shoulder to the skin at the back of his ear.

Jimin squirms at the touch and his eyes flutter open. He tips his head and looks back and, seeing Jungkook's tears, he turns in his arms and raises his palm to wipe them away.

‘Sorry that I woke you.’ Jungkook sighs feeling instantly guilty. 

‘It’s ok. Waking up to you is…I thought I was dreaming.’ Jimin runs his thumb over the plains of Jungkook’s cheek, tracing the tattoo of the sun. ‘I missed you so much.’

Jungkook’s tears start to fall again and he dips his face into Jimin’s hair.

‘I didn’t know I could miss anybody.’ Jungkook whispers into his neck. Jimin stays quiet, tracing his fingers lightly over his skin. ‘Before you came, I think, I never really saw myself as a person. I was just a part of the forest, like any other tree or plant or creature. I was just here to heal the humans. To help things grow. I didn’t realise I could be more than that…that I was a thing with a personality and big feelings and you gave me that…and then you left.’

He feels Jimin’s fingers grip into his skin at those words, he’s turned onto his back so he can look at Jungkook as he talks, but Jungkook keeps his head buried. ‘And that hurt so fucking much...but, I also realised it didn’t go away with you. That feeling of being more…and wanting more. I was still more than I thought, even without you.’

Jimin turns onto his side and nudges their noses together until Jungkook meets his eyes.

‘You’ve always been something, Kook.' He breathes. 'You were something when I first came here, you were funny from the minute I met you. Funny and wild and smart and beautiful.’

‘Ah…I…know. I know I am something now. With or without you. But I don’t want to be. I don’t want you to go. Please don’t go, please don’t ever go again.’

His words are urgent, a little cracked, and he closes his eyes and speaks them into Jimin’s lips.

‘I won’t,’ Jimin whispers, ‘I won’t. I won’t.’

Jungkook feels Jimin’s breath on his lips as he reassures him and then Jimin’s hand on his cheek tilting his face up. He meets his eyes, then leans forwards gently and presses his lips to Jimin’s. He keeps his eyes open for a moment as Jimin responds to his kiss, wanting to watch him. Jimin sinks into it easily, his feelings open and warm - and Jungkook consumes them. His eyes close too and he pulls Jimin into his chest.

They kiss slowly and deeply and Jungkook feels how it burns, how Jimin feels all the same emotions and feelings that he does. They mould into each other, their breathing and heartbeats in sync. Everything about them connects.

It is a different kiss to the ones they shared the night before, hungry in a completely different way. There is still an urgency but it feels like smoke not fire, like silver not gold. Jimin is saying something into Jungkook’s mouth without any words.

They sweat a little, in their bed in the rafters of the hanok, and they’re soon both hard. But being in Jimin’s arms, kissing him, is all Jungkook wants from this moment and Jimin doesn't take it any further either.

After a while, Jimin leans back, his fingers still wrapped in Jungkook’s hair and his lips swollen and pink. Jungkook plants a kiss on the tip of his nose.

‘I, er, really need to wash,’ Jimin murmurs, a small laugh on his lips, ‘Can I? Can we heat some water?’

‘Hmm. I agree. You smell bad.’

‘Charming.’ Jimin flicks his nose.

‘I mean that you don’t smell like me anymore, I don’t like it. But now you’re home.’

‘Hmm.’ Is all Jimin answers, but his cheeks flush pink at the word home.

*          *          *          *          *

‘You’ve been holding out on me.’ Jimin laughs and runs his finger around the edge of the round wooden bath that Jungkook had miraculously appeared with. ‘No bucket of tepid water on the veranda? No icy stream…’

‘You love the stream.’ Jungkook huffs as he tips another full bucket of boiling water into the bath, heated up on the fire outside. ‘And this is way too much fucking effort for a regular thing, not to mention a waste of wood.'

Jimin just laughs, ‘I do love the stream.’

‘Well, it will be too cold for the stream until spring now. But I promise this is not happening all winter.’ Jungkook grins and vanishes back outside with the bucket.

Jimin sinks down, cross legged, and admires the set up. The bath is large and wooden, made from planks of smooth wood fixed together with burnished metal bands. Jungkook had dragged it in from where it had been in storage at the back of the hanok.

He won’t let Jimin help, despite his efforts. So, he sits by the fire, wrapped in a fur, and watches as Jungkook hauls in buckets of water from the fire and fills the tub.

Jimin has also lit the fire inside the hanok and the whole place feels warm and serene. When the tub is two-thirds full Jungkook finally seems satisfied. He rummages through the shelves in the corner and comes back with two little vials of oil and some parcels of herbs. He drops the herbs into the water and swirls his fingers across the surface, then he kneels in front of Jimin.

‘Smell them. Pick which one you like.’ He says, offering up the two vials.

Jimin grins and reaches out his hands. The first has a floral scent, the second is deeper, like herbs and musk.

‘I feel like a princeling,’ he smiles and hands Jungkook back the floral oil, ‘this one.’

‘Well, pretend you are. Just for tonight.’ Jungkook grins over his shoulder as he moves back to the steaming bath and tips the oil into the water, stirring it with his fingertips.

Jimin rummages around the hanok to find his comb, unties his hair and sits back by the fire to brush it loose.

Jungkook fusses over the bath a little longer, then, finally seeming satisfied, comes to crouch by Jimin’s feet.

‘It is ready for his highness.’ He smiles and Jimin wrinkles his nose. Jungkook reaches up and pulls his fingers down through a strand of Jimin’s soft brushed hair. 'I like it when your hair is loose like this.'

‘Will you bathe with me?’ Jimin asks. ‘It’s a big tub…’

‘You want me to?’

Jimin nods. ‘If you want to. It was a lot of effort, and you’re all sweaty from lugging in the water. We should share.’

Jungkook nods and then stands, offering Jimin his hand and pulling him gently to his feet. Then, he reaches for the ties at the front of Jimin’s shirt.

Jungkook undresses him slowly, reverently, dropping each piece of clothing onto the stool by the fire and pressing little kisses across the skin he uncovers. Jimin closes his eyes and allows himself to just feel the warmth of the room, the beautiful scent of the bath and the tenderness and care in Jungkook’s actions. With a kiss to his shoulder blade Jungkook guides him to the bath and Jimin steps in, sinking into the water with a deep sigh.

Jimin has never had a bath in his life and it feels phenomenal. He sinks below the water and tips his head back onto the edge of the tub, eyes shut. Then, he remembers Jungkook should also be undressing and he opens them again hoping to watch.

Jungkook is actually crouched by the bath, opposite him, his arms on the edge and his chin resting on his hands. He’s just watching Jimin in the water.

‘What are you waiting for?’ Jimin smiles.

‘Just…you looked very happy.’

‘I am.’

Jungkook grins and stands to undress. Jimin doesn’t take his eyes off him the whole time. He looks as beautiful naked as he always did but for the first time Jimin feels like he is allowed to look at him shamelessly.

So he does.

Jungkook seems to enjoy his gaze and by the time he steps into the tub his cock has thickened a little and hangs heavily between his legs. Jimin stares at it purposefully with a raised eyebrow until he sinks beneath the water.

‘Come here.’ Jungkook murmurs as he leans back against the edge of the tub and sinks his shoulders below the water. Jimin tilts his head, then obeys, sliding across the water and drawing himself onto Jungkook’s lap, his knees either side of his thighs.

It is an intimate position, even under the water, and he tries to keep a little distance which Jungkook immediately closes, one arm around Jimin’s waist and another sliding up his wet back.

‘Let me wash you.’ He murmurs into the skin at Jimin’s shoulder.

‘Is that just an excuse to touch me?’

‘Do I need one?’ He lifts his head, his eyes earnest.

‘No.’ Jimin smiles and presses a kiss to his pink lips.

It is a whole new type of pleasure to be washed by Jungkook. He takes his time like he is learning all the parts of Jimin’s body and in his characteristic way he doesn’t just use the soft cloths and the salt scrub. Instead, he also runs his nose across Jimin’s skin...and his lips and his tongue and his nails. He scratches his fingers into his scalp as he rinses his hair, kisses along the line of his wrist, circles the pad of his thumb around Jimin’s nipple until it puckers and hardens.

Jimin feels the pain and confusion that had fallen between them being scrubbed away into the sweet floral water, soothed and washed from his skin by Jungkook’s hands.

At some point Jungkook drops the pretence of washing and just pulls Jimin deeper into his lap with a sigh. Jimin can feel Jungkook’s hard cock against the crease of his ass and his fingers, spread across his back, turn needy, urgent. They leave red stripes on Jimin’s skin which blossom in the heat of the water.

‘Jungkook,’ Jimin whispers into his neck, ‘what do you know about sex? About sex between men?’

‘Oh,’ Jungkook gasps and Jimin feels his cock twitch, ‘well, I’ve seen…a little. Saw some men at the edge of the forest once and…um, Yoongi he has some…art and books and…’

Jimin lifts his head with a little laugh and raises his eyebrow.

‘Does he now?’ Jimin smiles, amused. Yoongi’s collection of books must range from the quite tame romantic poetry he had shown to Jimin to some more illicit material.

‘Hmm, yeah. But I don’t really…I know how bodies work. I just, I didn’t really think there was more to it until I met you, I didn’t realise it was uh…that there was, uh-’

His voice cuts off as Jimin's fingers dip under the water and circle around the base of his cock. Jimin squeezes gently and Jungkook's eyes widen.

‘Do you want me to show you? Do you want this to be something we explore?’ Jimin asks. 

‘Oh. Uh. Yes. I want you…I want to touch you…and you, keep touching me…please.’

Jimin smiles. 

‘Do you know what we can do together? Do you know all the ways that we can make each other feel good?’ He whispers as he slowly begins to move his hand up and down Jungkook’s cock.

‘Uh, no.’ Jungkook stutters.

‘Mmm.’ Jimin murmurs, his face sly. ‘Well, let’s think about them together then, shall we?’ He tightens his hand around Jungkook’s cock until he gasps and his head rolls back. ‘Let’s find out what makes you feel good?’

‘Yes. Yes.’

‘So, I guess my hand does? You like my hand on your cock, right?’ As he says the last word he flicks his wrist and Jungkook whines.

‘Yes.’ He breathes, then lets out a noise of dismay as Jimin removes his hand and brings it to squeeze his shoulder instead. ‘Why, why did you stop?’ He pouts.

‘You think that is all there is? Just hands?’ Jimin slides forwards on his lap, pushing their chests and hard cocks together. ‘Think of something else and I’ll do it. What else would feel good?’

‘Uh…’

Jimin can almost see the cogs in his mind turning, Jungkook’s cheeks are flushed with arousal, his pupils blown. He stutters but doesn’t manage any words and Jimin’s grin widens.

‘Let me help you think.’ He smirks, kissing up the side of Jungkook’s face. ‘What feels good about my hand, Kook-ah? When it is tight? Wet?’

‘Yes, that.’

‘Hmm. What else is like that?’ Jimin tilts his head and pouts his lips, then brings the tip of his finger to play suggestively with his bottom lip.

Jungkook zeroes in on his mouth immediately.

‘Mouth. Your mouth.’ He answers, eyes raking across Jimin’s lips.

‘You think my mouth would feel good around your cock? My lips? My tongue?’ Jimin leans forwards and licks across Jungkook’s jaw as he speaks and then drops his hand to wrap around his cock again. Jungkook moans and bucks his hips upwards with a jerk and the water sloshes around them. ‘You like that thought, do you?’ Jimin laughs into his ear.

‘Ah. Ah, yes.’

Jungkook’s pupils are blown, his mouth opening and closing as he tries to form words. He grips one of his hands into Jimin’s hair and pulls his head back a little as if to take a better look at him. Jimin arches his back and lets his mouth drop open and Jungkook’s huffs out a little breath.

‘Well, go on then.’ Jimin smirks.

‘Ah. What? Can I?’

‘Do you want to? Is it something you want to try?’ Jungkook looks lost for words and Jimin softens for a moment and strokes his cheek gently. ‘We don’t have to do anything now. We can just talk about it, don’t let me rush you.’ He soothes.

‘Oh. No. Fuck. I want to, fuck I want to. I just…you’re so fucking beautiful, I’m just…lost.’

‘Ok. Well, ask me nicely then-’

‘-please.’ Jungkook answers before Jimin has even finished his sentence. ‘Your mouth. Please.’

Jimin nods and slides backwards off Jungkook’s lap, rising up on his knees. He tilts his head to the side and stares at Jungkook hungrily. For a beat Jungkook sits there, dazed, and then he stands up in the bath, the water splashing and running off his skin. His cock is hard against his stomach.

Jimin settles in front of him and kisses gently up his thighs and then pauses, his face inches away from Jungkook’s hard cock, to let his lips fall open. His breath dancing across his skin.

Jungkook looks down at him with devotion, smooths his wet hair away from his face with one hand, then takes his cock in the other, his eyes never leaving Jimin’s mouth. Jimin sucks his bottom lip, bites it, then lets it pop back out. Satisfied when Jungkook moans and moves his cock until the head presses against Jimin’s plump lips, dragging it back and forwards.

He feels Jungkook push a little, the head of his cock pressing into his lips and Jimin sucks at it. He draws his lips together to give Jungkook resistance to push against and Jungkook cries out, his hips stuttering and his eyes wide. One of his hands flies to Jimin's hair which he threads between his fingers in a wild grip.

Jimin keeps his eyes turned up at Jungkook as he sinks further into his mouth with a deep groan, his hand trembling in his hair and his head tipped back in ecstasy. Jimin flattens his tongue and draws back and then sinks into his cock again and Jungkook keens and gasps above him. Jimin moves in the same way a few times more, as if to demonstrate and then pulls off to lick down to the base.

‘Take what you want, it feels good for me too.’ He tells him and then takes Jungkook’s other hand and guides it into his hair so he is holding his head in both hands. ‘Use my mouth.’

He pushes his lips back around Jungkook’s cock and takes as much of his length as deep as he can.

And Jungkook snaps, taking Jimin’s permission and running with it. He thrusts into Jimin's mouth wilfully, moaning like he's never felt something so wonderful in his life.

'Fuuck. Fuck Jimin. Fuck.' He chants and Jimin's eyes roll back in his head in pleasure at Jungkook's curses. He sounds half lost. Water splashes out of the bath with their movements but neither of them care.

Jimin grips his own cock under the water and matches his strokes to Jungkook's. He feels mindless in the best way.

'Ah. Can I? Can I… uh?' Jungkook starts stuttering above him and Jimin opens his eyes.

Jungkook is a fucking vision looming above him, his muscles wet from the water and twitching across his stomach and chest as he thrusts into Jimin's throat, deep and wet. His face is carved in pleasure, a little crease on his brow, and his eyes wild.

Jimin locks their eyes together and gives the tiniest nod in answer to the question he thinks Jungkook is asking.

Jungkook makes an animal moan, gripping fiercely into Jimin's hair, and immediately spills down his throat. Jimin cums too, with just a couple more strokes of his cock under the water, utterly captivated by the sight of Jungkook above him still riding out his orgasm and gently thrusting into his mouth.

He licks at Jungkook’s cock a few more times, then let's him fall from his mouth. Jungkook sinks back into the water and his head drops against the edge of the bath, his eyes closed. Jimin creeps back into his lap, wrapping his arms and legs around him and dropping his forehead onto his shoulder.

After a few moments, Jungkook suddenly grabs him tightly around the waist, one hand rushing up to Jimin's hair and his mouth desperately tracing across his neck.

Jimin feels his body begin to shake and he lifts his head to find Jungkook crying. Jimin frowns and reaches out his thumbs to wipe the tears from his cheeks.

'Are you OK?' Jimin asks. Jungkook gasps, tries to pull in a breath to talk over the tears but can't manage it. 'Ssh. Sh.' Jimin soothes and leaves kisses all over his face. 'It's OK. You're OK.'

'I am. I am.' Jungkook swallows. 'They're um, they're not bad tears. Good tears. Good feeling. I just, my feelings are really, really big. I um, I'm feeling a lot. Just hold me please.'

*          *          *          *          *

Jimin is sitting on the steps of the veranda, wrapped in several huge furs, watching Jungkook in the clearing. Jungkook is crouched over a huge iron pan talking to himself as he stirs and adds ingredients.

Jimin had wanted to help but was flatly refused. The fact that Jungkook is even allowing him to sit outside the hanok was the result of a medium sized fight and an eventual compromise.

Though Jimin had recovered well - his wounds healed and his appetite returned - he was still weak and easily exhausted. Jungkook had made it quite clear that, in his opinion, Jimin should never leave his bed and simply sit there like a prince being fed all of Jungkook’s best food and endless healing teas and broths. In all honesty, Jimin was so exhausted he could have agreed to it. He wasn't resisting because he was bored or particularly liked being up, but because he hadn’t been back long enough to cure the itch in his skin if he spent the whole day apart from Jungkook.

He felt soothed watching him work in the clearing. He was so happy watching Jungkook slowly unfurl back into the person he had been in the height of summer, when Jimin had first arrived; funny and weird and effervescent.

Their shared angst over the last weeks had muted that in Jungkook, but now it was coming back and Jimin couldn’t get enough of it.

In the end, Jimin had managed to win the fight by pointing out - correctly - that it was interesting that all exertion was banned in the name of Jimin’s health unless it involved those moments that Jungkook crawled into the sheets with him with a hard cock and desire to get off in some new and interesting way that Jungkook was still enthusiastically exploring.

A very disgruntled and pink faced Jungkook had then conceded that Jimin probably could come out and sit on the veranda as long as he stayed warm and didn’t try to do anything else.

So, that is where Jimin sits and watches Jungkook work by the fire.

Obviously, he had no complaints about Jungkook’s explorations. Frankly, he couldn’t get enough of Jungkook either, of finally being able to express himself physically like he had wanted to for so long.

Jimin had never been able to explore this part of himself. He had never been able to lay sprawled on his own bed in the warmth of a fire and take his time with someone. Actually, Jimin had never even been with someone in the light at all. All his experience had been under the cover of darkness. Hidden. And all overshadowed by believing each to be a test or a trick that he miserably failed.

It couldn’t have been more opposite with Jungkook because here in their home, their haven in the forest, they could do whatever they wanted anywhere they fancied - and they did.

A sharp clang of metal rings across the clearing and Jimin is snapped from his thoughts to see Jungkook stumbling to his feet. In a blink, he skids across the clearing until he is at Jimin’s feet. He crouches on the step below, pushes between Jimin’s knees and flings himself into an embrace, his lips finding Jimin’s.

His kiss is wet and urgent. Jimin laughs and falls backwards onto the wood of the veranda, cushioned by Jungkook’s arms around him and the endless furs.

‘What’re you doing?’ He laughs as Jungkook half mounts him, his mouth hungry and insatiable across his skin and not put off by Jimin’s laughs.

‘Your thoughts,’ he grunts, somewhere by Jimin’s collarbone, ‘I was trying to work but your mind is burning and thinking filthy things. I can’t tune you out. Now my cock is hard and my mind is spinning and you look beautiful and you smell beautiful and ah ah…’

Jungkook palms his hand desperately into Jimin’s crotch before lifting his head to kiss him again. He’s practically riding Jimin’s thigh and Jimin laughs and pushes him backwards by the chest.

‘Gods, calm down you hound. You’ll spoil the brew if you leave it.’ Jimin holds Jungkook above him by the shoulders and grins up at him.

‘I can be a hound if that is what you desire right now,’ he smirks and rubs himself against Jimin’s thigh with a grin, ‘want me to bite you?’

He sinks back into Jimin’s neck to make good on his promise and Jimin’s resulting laughter echoes through the trees.

‘Stop, stop it. Finish your cooking little witch. The villagers gave you such a lovely present and everything.’

After a nasty winter contagion had swept the local village the humans had come together to beg Jungkook for relief - and in return had together bought him a very fancy and expensive set of twelve glass eyes. They were exquisite, each a different and realistic colour, and Jungkook had gone half out of his mind with joy on receiving them.

Jungkook lifts his head with a groan and shakes it forlornly as if trying to clear his mind.

‘Ugh, they did. You’re right. Can’t kill off half a village because I’m cock drunk.’ He sighs dramatically and pulls himself from Jimin’s arms.

Jimin regrets being the sensible one for a moment as Jungkook’s warmth leaves his body, but he tightens the furs around himself and watches Jungkook return reluctantly to the fire.

‘I’ll keep my thoughts as innocent as a child's, though that might be difficult while you’re still hard.’ He nods at Jungkook’s obvious tented trousers with a laugh.

*          *          *          *          *

The next time Jungkook goes to the gate, Jimin insists on going with him, despite Jungkook trying to protest. Whining that he should save his energy.

‘I’m coming. Even if you try to leave me.’ He tells him, stubbornly. ‘Plus, I have some requests of my own to make. Very important business indeed.’ Jimin adds, wiggling his eyebrows.

‘Oh?’

‘Yup. Also, I did think…we might make some requests for Chuseok? Isn't it the full moon next week? So it will be Chuseok…right?’

‘And you want to do something?’ Jungkook frowns. ‘What do humans usually do for Chuseok?’

‘Don’t you do something?’

‘Oh, well yes, I suspect not what you’re thinking of though. It’s an important day, there are some rituals I will do. There’s a shrine, up the mountain behind the hanok, I usually spend it up there.’

Jungkook reaches down and pulls a hemp sack over his shoulder.

‘Ah, of course. Will you spend all day up there then?’

‘Yes. Are you ready to go?’ Jungkook adds, ‘You need more layers on. Go get another fur.’

Jimin rolls his eyes but obeys. As he comes back out Jungkook holds out a hand and Jimin runs forward to take it. They’re quiet as they start their walk through the trees to the white gate.

‘Would you like to come too?’ Jungkook says after a while.

‘Hmm?’

‘To the shrine, on Chuseok?’

‘I could do that?’

‘If you want to, it is very beautiful.’

‘Oh, I would like that a lot.’ Jimin smiles up at him. ‘Can I leave something for my ancestors? You know, as I can’t go home.’

Jungkook nods, then turns his face to Jimin as they walk, his face serious.

‘Do you want to? Go home for Chuseok?’

‘No.’ Jimin says, acknowledging it for the first time. ‘I meant my village, my parents' home. Because…I already am home.’

Jungkook squeezes his hand and goes back to looking ahead.

‘Yoongi-hyung often joins me. Sometimes my other hyungs, though not always. They have their own shrines. But mine is the oldest. It is a very special place.’ He murmurs.

‘Would they…if they came…would they like to eat with us? Afterwards? At the hanok?’

Jungkook looks at him curiously, like he doesn’t quite get the concept.

‘You would like them too?’

‘Uh, yeah.’ Jimin swings their hands as they walk. ‘I’ve been thinking, since I got back, that it would be nice to see them more often. If I…if I am going to live here…forever, I um, would need to see people, you know, in the flesh. I can’t talk to people in my head like you…can’t talk to the trees and hens and the forest either and I’ll go mad eventually. I can’t just talk to you…all the time…forever…’

‘I see.’ Jungkook answers, an unreadable expression on his face. But Jimin sees the tops of his ears flush pink.

They keep walking, sharing no more words, but Jimin thinks he might hear Jungkook murmuring forever under his breath like he is rolling it around on his tongue.

*          *          *          *          *

The thing about Jimin’s illness - that Jungkook wouldn't ever be able to cure it - hadn't been a lie. But, Jimin hadn't really believed him, or hadn't let it sink in. He had still held onto a little flame that there was something Jungkook could do, or that now his life was better, things would change.

And they had. But not enough.

So, the next time Jimin has a flare up, Jungkook watches the hope die in Jimin's eyes, and he hates it.

Jimin hasn't been back long before he finds himself confined to bed, sore and exhausted… and angry. He kicks Jungkook out of their bed, with an actual weak kick to his shins, after Jungkook tries to pepper kisses and comfort into his skin.

Jungkook understands, he can feel the sadness and the loss that Jimin feels - and he can feel it isn't about him - but he hates being useless nonetheless.

He tries to placate himself by doing tasks that will help them - chopping wood, brewing a tea for pain relief, tidying their home - anything that will help Jimin and that Jungkook has control over. But he can feel Jimin's sadness permeating everything around him and it makes him desperate.

For a while, he goes outside and leans against the wall below where the little window of their bed peeps out. He can't solve Jimin's sadness but he just wants to be part of it. He just wants to be close to him.

For lunch, he prepares a whole tray of food: rice, pickles, broth, eggs, kimchi, even some of the fruit leathers that Jimin loves, and two different teas (one for pain and one for rejuvenation). Jimin tends to refuse to eat meat these days, saying the hens look at him with sadness when he eats their friends.

Jungkook sets the food by the pallet bed, which he covers in extra furs, then he climbs the ladder to their bed and rests his chin on his hands at the top rung.

He can feel that Jimin isn't asleep, his body is still, a curled lump under the blankets in the dim autumn light.

'Jimin-ah, I made food. Come down and eat it?'

Jimin slowly sits up and props himself up on his elbows. His hair is loose and falls around his shoulders. Jungkook thinks he's the most beautiful thing in the world, everyday, all the time.

'OK. Thank you.' Jimin’s voice is small and dry.

Jungkook rubs his feet under the sheets and smiles, then descends the ladder.

This time, Jimin let's Jungkook fuss over him. He let's Jungkook wrap him in the blankets and furs of the pallet bed and place the tray of food over his knees. He even eats and drinks without complaint. But he still radiates sadness.

'Thank you. For the food. I'm sorry.' He sighs.

'Ah, no sorrys or thank yous. I want to care for you.'

'Do you? Aren't you tired of it?'

'What is there to be tired of?'

'I just don't feel… equal.' Jimin sighs.

'Jimin-ah. You give me so much. Equal doesn't mean the same.'

He watches Jimin lean back against the wall and bring one of the fruit leathers to his lips.

'I love these. You're a genius.' He smiles a tiny smile, the sweet sucked between his lips.

Jungkook reaches out and tucks a lock of Jimin's hair behind his ear.

'I know I am, little one.'

Jimin pushes his cheek into Jungkook's palm, nuzzling into the skin.

'I'm sorry. I'm sorry for shutting you out. I just needed to let reality settle in. I've spent a lot of my life dreaming of being cured one day. It's hard to accept that I won't be.' He sighs.

'I get it.' Jungkook leans forward to kiss the tip of Jimin's nose. 'But you are you. You're not broken, you're not less. It doesn't help to think of it like that. And we will make a life that suits you.'

Jimin kisses Jungkook's palm, still sticky from the fruit leather. He brings it to his mouth and licks it and is rewarded by the bubble of Jimin's giggle.

'You're disgusting.'

'I know.' Jungkook grins. 'Wait here. I have something for you.'

Jungkook scampers off to a corner of the hanok and comes back dragging a large wooden chest. He pulls it right up next to the bed and then hops on to the pallet, sitting cross-legged at Jimin's feet.

'I, er… haven't told you much about when you were away. Have I?' Jimin shakes his head. 'Well I guess you've figured out that I… broke a lot of things.' Jungkook sighs and runs a hand over his forehead. 'I'm not proud of it, that anger. Anyway, it was… bad.'

'Kook-ah, I'm so sorry-'

'-Shh. Don't be. I'm not bringing it up for you to be sad. I'm bringing it up for this.' He grins and leans forward to open the lid of the chest.

Inside are many smaller wooden compartments and trays, and also some dishes and clay jars. On the top layer Jimin can see beads, twine, feathers, stones, Jungkook's beloved glass eyes - and a huge assortment of other oddities.

Jimin looks at Jungkook in confusion.

'I smashed up a lot of the things I loved the most while you were gone. My creatures and my art.' Jungkook gestures up at the rafters where his creations used to hang. 'Jin-hyung and Hoseok-hyung gathered all the pieces up and carefully brought it all together, like this. They knew I'd miss it and they were right.'

'They're good brothers.'

Jungkook nods solemnly. 'They are. You know, I started making these things not long after my parents left me. I had a lot of… time, and it wasn't good to let my brain have too much space, you know? Making these things helped. And now they're going to help you.'

'What?'

'Here,' Jungkook clears away the crockery and then dumps the empty tray back across Jimin's lap. 'Make stuff.'

'Ah, Kook-ah. I'm not creative like you.'

'So? Just thread some beads together or something. Tie some knots. You'll be surprised.'

Jimin looks at him with an unsure face and picks up some pebbles to roll them around in his palms.

'But these are your things. Your presents. These things are precious to you.'

'Silly. You're precious to me.’ Jungkook laughs. ‘But, fine, say it's a present for me if that helps you. Will you make me a present, hyung?'

Jungkook's eyes glimmer and he's gratified that Jimin smiles and swats at him.

'OK. Will you sit with me? Make something too? Unless you're busy…'

'No! Making art is more important than jobs sometimes!' Jungkook grins and starts crawling across the sheets. 'Move up, I'm coming in!'

*          *          *          *          *

As he so often is, Jungkook turns out to be right about finding joy in making things. Jimin discovers that he loves to thread beads and twine together in strings of knots and plaits. He even works out a special way of knotting twine so it makes a twisted pattern in a spiral and the repetitiveness soothes his brain.

His creations are also very pretty. Jungkook loves them. He hangs each one around the hanok with delight and smiles happily when they knock his face and head as he walks around.

Jungkook has also been creating again and has just finished making a huge creature from gathered wood with a snapping jaw and wings that move.

He gives it a set of dark green glass eyes.

'They must've come from across the sea, the eyes. I've never seen green ones in real life. Have you?' He asks as he ties the beast into the rafters of the hanok.

'No. Never. Only ones like ours.'

Jimin is propped up by the fire making one of his little knotted creations. He looks up with a fond smile as Jungkook crows with happiness at the sight of his now hung up beast.

Jungkook pokes its belly and it bounces up and down gently, its wings moving like it is flying. He rocks on the balls of his feet and claps his hands.

Then he comes to sit with Jimin by the fire. He slumps down and drops his head into Jimin's lap.

'Oh but we have very different eyes, Jimin-ah.'

'What?'

'You said, like ours. But ours aren't the same.'

'Yours are darker. Black.'

'And yours are much prettier than mine. They tell me lots of stories.'

'Oh, do they now? What do they tell you, my little forest urchin?'

'Ah, they tell me the secrets you aren't ready to say with your mouth. They always have.'

Jimin puts his work down and leans his head over Jungkook’s, cupping his cheeks with his palm.

'Is that right?'

'Uh huh.' Jungkook nods, eyes wide and pure.

'Well that's good then. I've always been terrible with mouth-words.' Jimin plants a kiss on the tip of Jungkook’s nose.

*          *          *          *          *

'You're different.' Namjoon smiles.

'Hmm?' Jimin turns to face him as they walk through the trees.

'Can't you feel how you've changed?'

'I have?' Jimin answers, next to him Jungkook squeezes the nape of his neck. He looks as fond as Namjoon.

'You have. You seem like you've… opened up. Like a flower in bloom. Like, you were always this inside but you had to keep your petals closed shut. And now, you are unfurling.'

Jungkook snorts. 'Fuck, hyung. Petals?'

Jimin whacks him in the chest while Namjoon's cheeks darken.

'Thank you, Jooni-hyung.' Jimin nods at Namjoon. 'I do feel better…different.'

It is early morning and they're hiking up the mountain to the shrine. The air is cool, some of the grass and leaves still tipped in white from the frost.

The walk is hard on Jimin, but Namjoon and Jungkook had insisted that if he wanted to come they'd go at whatever pace he wanted.

'It's nice actually, to walk this slowly through the trees,' Namjoon sighs, looking around as they take their third break, 'And taking time to stop and enjoy it. I don't do that enough.'

Jimin just grins at him, he knows that comment was meant to make him feel better. Once upon a time it might have even felt like a dig, but instead he feels the care in Namjoon words.

'We're nearly there,' Jungkook grins. He never sits for their breaks but buzzes around talking to the various trees and bugs. 'Yoongi-hyung is already there.' He crows and rushes off again into the trees.

Jimin and Namjoon both smile fondly, then follow him.

Not long after they pass two beopsu, leering across the path and marking the boundary to the shrine. They all give them a respectful berth as they pass.

The shrine is small and clearly ancient, but breathtakingly beautiful, set as it is on the mountain in the forest. The back wall is painted with a faded picture of a man sitting at the base of a red pine, a tiger at his feet.

They greet Yoongi and Jimin finds a quiet seat for himself out of the way, while the three witches work together quietly.

Sometimes, Jimin forgets who Jungkook is. That, as well as being the funny, peculiar man he lives with in a simple home in a clearing - that he is also a powerful witch with mastery of an entire forest. It is with awe that he is reminded of it as he watches Jungkook perform the gut outside the beautiful forest shrine.

It is strange enough to see him dressed in bright colours, but when he actually dances, when the power of the sanshin and the forest thrum under his skin, his eyes rolled back as he chants - Jimin is captivated.

Jungkook was seseummu, Namjoon had told Jimin - a hereditary shaman. One of his parents had been a shaman, and the other a witch. Though, they left before training him properly, so many wouldn’t count him as such. But, it ran in his blood and worked hand in hand with his magic and Jungkook had grown up to combine it seamlessly.

'Jungkook is very powerful. In some ways even more so because no humans really taught him, instead it is the spirits and the gods that guide his magic. And they like him.' Namjoon had laughed, ‘I think the spirits like his wildness.’

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook carries Jimin on his back most of the way down the mountain, despite Jimin protesting.

'It's quicker this way and I'm hungry, little one, we need time to cook if we are to have guests.' He answers with finality.

Namjoon and Yoongi walk back to the hanok with them, it is still early, only mid-morning at the latest. Jin and Hoseok will join them later.

It had been Jimin's request that they all had a meal together for Chuseok, but now it is here he is nervous. They weren’t doing any of the traditional things, as Jimin would have had he still been in his village. Instead, just coming together to eat and drink.

As usual, Jungkook does all the cooking and leaves Jimin to arrange a place for them all to sit and go through some of the things he requested from the gate for the occasion.

It strikes Jimin, as he goes through them, that they have been prepared with incredible care. He traces a finger over a small bamboo box of songpyeon. They’re beautiful, the soft dough all different subtle colours with flower petals pressed onto their surfaces. Another box, just as carefully arranged, holds maehwa songpyeon, fashioned into the shape of plum flowers.

The villagers took time on these requests. It meant something to them.

‘I think they like you Kook-ah.’ Jimin says, as Jungkook comes in from outside holding a few dishes for the table.

'What? Who?' He looks flustered and a little sweaty, his hair scraped up on top of his head.

'The villagers. They like you.'

'No they don't, they're terrified of me.'

'Hmm. I know you want to think so, but I'm not so sure. These requests, you always called them presents and to be honest, they really feel like they are. Look how carefully they are wrapped. How beautiful these songpyeon are…'

'That's what I asked for.' Jungkook huffs.

'I don't think so-'

'-why wouldn't they like you, Jungkook? You're an excellent witch. You keep them safe and healthy.' Namjoon cuts in from where he is sat by the fire with Yoongi.

'Maybe I want them to hate me.' Jungkook frowns and stomps back out to the clearing. But the others don’t miss the surprised and possibly happy expression under his frown.

*          *          *          *          *

‘I just think you could have been better hyungs and you know, taught him a few things…’ Jimin mumbles into his cup of wine.

It is at least his third. The food has mostly gone and the small group of men are sprawled on the floor around the table.

‘Like what?’ Seokjin asks with the smirk he pulls when he is asking a question he already knows the answer to.

‘Like, life lessons...you know. Things about being a man or, at least like kissing...’ Jimin burns with embarrassment saying the last words and Seokjin snorts with glee.

‘Oh, well, I am sure you are teaching him plenty about kissing now-’ He grins.

Jimin shushes him at the precise moment Jungkook leans away from Namjoon and overhears the last words.

‘What? Kissing? Oh! Yeah, we do that all the time,’ he answers proudly, causing the entire table to collapse in laughter and Jimin to thump his head down onto the wood with a groan. Nothing perturbs Jungkook though. ‘So, you all know about kissing too?’ He seems genuinely thrilled to discover the common ground, ‘I thought maybe you didn’t, I didn’t want to bring it up and seem like a show off.’

Seokjin and Hoseok seem about to expire with their laughter, while even Yoongi cackles. Namjoon is kind enough to tap a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder and say, ‘That was thoughtful, Jungkook-ah.’ But his amusement is just as obvious as the others by the way his dimples have popped out.

‘I mean, I had seen some of Yoongi-hyung’s drawings, obviously, but I always thought they were more like diagrams, you know, for medical purposes. And then Jimin came and I just wanted to put my mouth all over him. Would’ve done sooner if he hadn’t got so upset about corrupting me…’

If Jimin could smash his face right through the table he would.

‘Oh, please tell us more about why Jiminie thinks he has corrupted you...’ Seokjin laughs.

‘Well, it took months before he would let me touch his cock-’

Jimin darts up and slams his hand over Jungkook’s mouth, whose eyes widen. Hoseok is laughing so hard he has fully collapsed to the floor.

‘Fuck, Jungkook. Honestly!’ Jungkook’s eyes peer over his hand, wide like a deer. ‘I am going to let go but you say another word and so help me!’

He releases gently and Jungkook just sits back and grins, taking a gulp of his wine. Jimin lets out the breath he was holding.

‘Honestly, how are you all so normal and he is like this. I thought it was a witch thing but maybe it is just a…’ he trails off as the table falls into an awkward silence. Hoseok pulls himself upright slowly and Yoongi fidgets with his chopsticks.

‘Oh, Kook-ah, I’m sorry,’ Jimin brings his hand up and massages the nape of Jungkook’s neck. ‘I’m just a bit drunk, I didn’t mean to make a joke of it. I’m sorry.’

Nobody says anything for a few moments, then Jungkook smiles.

‘Ah. It’s ok. But you know, what happened to me isn’t a witch thing. Getting abandoned in the forest and everything...which, you know, is why I’m so weird. My parents were just not into children I guess, or something.’

‘Most witches only move somewhere secluded as adults to set up practises,’ Namjoon nods, 'but we live with humans otherwise.'

‘Yeah, I grew up in a city,’ Seokjin shrugs, ‘my parents make shoes.’

It makes Jimin ache for child Jungkook yet again, and he burns with anger at parents so selfish they could leave their child in such a way. If they didn't want him, couldn't they have just left him somewhere with other people? Did they really have to leave him in the forest alone?

‘Who are you angry at?' Yoongi cuts into Jimin’s trail of thought, his head cocked to one side.

‘His parents.’ Jimin whispers, without pause, used to the fact they can all feel his emotions by now.

Jungkook drops a hand onto Jimin’s thigh and squeezes.

‘It is quite something when you do that you know.’ Hoseok adds.

‘Do what?’

‘Burn, like that.’ All the witches around the table nod. ‘You always burn quite hot but sometimes it is almost unbearable.’ Yoongi sounds admiring.

‘It is powerful, definitely.’ Namjoon nods.

‘If you think that is impressive,’ Jungkook adds with a grin like this time he knows exactly what he is doing, ‘you should feel what he feels like when I touch his cock.’

*          *          *          *          *

‘I was thinking about what they said, about me burning very hot, about my energy,’ Jimin hums into the darkness where he and Jungkook are curled in bed.

‘Hmm...’ he answers, sleepy and content.

‘You’ve always said it, since I met you. Now they do too.’

‘It is hard to ignore.’ Jungkook’s reply is muffled in the sheets.

‘Well, I thought you were just being odd. But apparently not.’

‘Ah no. You are hot like the middle of the earth.’

There’s a pause and Jungkook’s breathing evens out like he has fallen asleep.

‘Why?’ Jimin whispers.

Sensing that this conversation means something, that Jimin is anxious, Jungkook rolls onto his back to wake up properly and eyes Jimin through the darkness.

‘I’m not sure, it happens. Everybody has a different soul.’ He sighs.

‘But why, why has it happened?’

Jungkook shifts his shoulders in what would be a shrug if he was sitting up.

‘Who knows? When I first met you, I thought maybe it was a joke by an ancient god. Or that maybe you were in the wrong body as some sort of punishment. But it isn’t that, you are meant to be exactly as you are, I can tell that now.’

‘Am I powerful?’

‘Very.’

There’s no hesitation or lie in Jungkook’s answer.

‘Magic?’

‘Ah no, magic passes through families, you’re born with it.’

‘Really?’ Jimin asks, momentarily distracted, ‘I didn’t actually know that.’

‘Uh yeah. Doesn’t have to come from a parent directly but there’s usually a direct line and it’s there from birth.’

‘But, Seokjin-hyung? He said his parents made shoes?!’

‘Yes? Not all witches take a path like mine or my hyungs. You heard what Namjoon-hyung said, he moved to the forest with the other three by choice. For…most people…this life is a choice. Some witches just choose to use their power to make really, really good shoes.’

They both laugh and Jimin curls back into Jungkook, throwing his arm over his chest.

‘I would feel if you had magic. You don’t.’ Jungkook adds.

‘That’s a shame.’

‘Why?’

‘All this power I have - apparently - but no way of using it. That’s a shame.’

‘What do you mean, using it?’

‘What do you think I mean? I’m just a weak, sick human living in a forest with no use for their power aside from apparently making everything a bit warm.’

‘Jimin-ah, you use your power every day, you have all your life. Typical hu-‘

‘-oh! If you are about to say something like ‘typical human way of thinking about power’ or some shit, I will absolutely knee you in the dick.’

Jungkook’s mouth closes with a pop and a sulky frown.

‘It is though,’ he whispers after a moment and then lurches away with a laugh as Jimin jumps on him. Jimin ends up straddling his waist and beating him with the pillow, shouting about his apparently infinite power.

‘You want to feel my huge power, little witch? Want me to make you all warm inside?’

Jungkook grips the pillow mid swing and peeks over the top of it, eyes glinting.

‘Yes please?’ he grins and Jimin falls on his mouth with a laugh.

          * 

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                    Some months later…

                                                                  * 

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                                              * 

                                    *

Jimin is standing on the veranda, his hair loose and wearing just a long shirt, a mug of steaming sage tea cupped between his palms.

It has been a cold, cruel winter but tonight was surprisingly mild, the sky rich and orange and burnt.

He and Jungkook had just made love, tangled in the blankets on the old pallet bed on the hanok floor that they only really use for such things these days. Jimin rarely finds the sufficient fire to want to fuck under Jungkook's terrifying art and the glass eyes adorning the bed in the rafters. But they sleep up there, warmer in the cold nights.

They both came out to wash up but the sunset had caught Jimin and he stayed, leaning on the pillar. Jungkook had brought him the tea and a kiss and then vanished back inside.

Jimin is barely focusing on anything, instead just feeling the warmth and swell of the forest around him. The sound of the hens roosting above and the forest creaking gently. He feels calm.

And then suddenly there is a figure breaking through the trees and their eyes meet across the clearing.

Neither move.

Jimin can't process why or how he's here. He just stares as the figure takes a few steps, their eyes locked, and then stops. Frozen.

He looks the same as he always did - but shell-shocked, like he's unsure what to do.

This staring between them could have been going on for seconds or minutes.

Then Jimin hears Jungkook speak softly from over his shoulder, from the door of the hanok, and he jumps out of his skin - but he never drops eye contact with the man across from him.

'I let him approach. I let him find us because he knows you. His mind says he does. Is that right?'

'Yes. Yes, he…does.’ The answer seems insufficient of the thousand words Jimin could've used but they’re all lost somewhere in his mind.

Behind him, Jungkook's face screws up as he feels the enormity of what Jimin does about the new arrival.

'Tae.' Jimin breathes at last and it breaks the spell.

They both move at once and meet in the middle of the clearing. Jimin throws his arms around his neck and half jumps into his arms.

They don't move for a while.

‘You are real. I thought you were a ghost or dokkaebi sent to trick me.’ Taehyung breathes into his hair.

Jimin suddenly becomes all too aware he is barely dressed and his bare ass is half out.

'Shit, I'm not dressed. Wait here, don't move.'

'I've seen you in less.' Taehyung answers but it sounds sad rather than jokey and Jimin doesn't stop to acknowledge it. He just rushes into the hanok, throws on trousers and boots, and rushes back out to Taehyung like he might be gone.

Jungkook has gone but Jimin is too confused and overwhelmed to notice.

'Tae, why on earth are you here?' He asks as soon as he's back by Tae’s feet in the clearing.

'You went missing. I've been looking for you for months. You're alive!' He seems happy and surprised by the last bit and rests a hand on Jimin’s shoulder as if to confirm it. 'You’re alive and you look - healthy? Happy?'

The man standing in front of Taehyung - with golden brown skin, full cheeks, even some muscles - is very different from the slim, white boy who left their village at the beginning of summer.

'I'm both.' Jimin answers.

'You live here? Who was that?’ He pauses to look over Jimin’s shoulder and then turns back to him. ‘I've been tracking you and then finally they said at the inn that you stayed there and that there's rumours you went through the gate and never came back. That the forest or the witch, or both, had eaten you.’

'Not dead. Not eaten.' Jimin shrugs, not knowing where to start with months to fill Tae in on.

'And you live here? I'm so confused. Who was that with you before? Do you live here?'

'That was Jungkook-ssi. We live here, together.'

Comprehension seems to dawn on Taehyung’s face. The silence that falls between them holds many unanswered questions.

'Let’s go inside. I'll make us supper.' Jimin offers.

Tae follows him slowly, making a low whistle as they enter the hanok and he looks around curiously.

'It’s quite the place,' he murmurs.

Jimin gestures for him to sit by the table and he does, but he keeps peeking around, as if his questions are just increasing not lessening.

Jimin hurriedly lights more lamps (he and Jungkook tend to live only by the fire in the evenings) and throws blankets over the pallet bed, hopefully, making it less obvious what had happened there just an hour before. He makes them up a table of food and also brings out a small jar of precious soju. Then, he sits opposite Taehyung and serves him. They eat and drink in silence for a few minutes.

'I thought I was coming in here to find your body.' Taehyung finally offers across the table.

Jimin grimaces. 'It was a long way to come just for that.'

'Maybe I just wanted an answer. Everyone else seemed so... unbothered.' He pauses on the last word and catches Jimin's eye, perhaps regretting his phrasing.

'Taehyung, it's OK. I know how my family feels about me.'

'Your sister, she was heartbroken - but she couldn't do anything. And I, I couldn't just leave it. They just said you'd gone to Galsa, there were rumours you were living on the streets there. Or that you were, you know…working in one of the tea houses. I looked for weeks. And then they said you’d gone to the gate and that was it. Trail cold.'

'But here I am.' Jimin says.

'And you live here? You live here…so you can be with a man?' Tae’s cheeks go a little pink at the question and he drops his eyes to his plate of food.

The air is heavy between them.

'Ah, not quite. Though I guess it helps,' Jimin can't help smiling a little, 'this is Jungkook-ssi’s forest. He is the witch here. He's always lived here.'

Tae’s eyes widen and his hand drops to the table.

'But you are, you seemed... is he…'

'Oh. Yes. That too. We are. Together.' Jimin nods.

'And you've been here since summer?'

'Yes. I came at first so that Jungkook-ssi could heal me. I broke in and refused to leave until he did, but somewhere along the line I stopped wanting to leave I guess.'

'And he did cure you? You look so different, so healthy!'

'Ah no. Jungkook-ssi can't cure me. My disease is… complicated - that's what he says - but I had a lot going on that could be cured with some rest and food and medicine.' Tae looks almost sheepish. Guilty. 'He looks after me very well. It should be a surprise to no one that such a change of circumstance improved my health.'

'It isn't. I'm sorry that is all it took.'

'It’s OK, Tae. I was never your responsibility'

'I would have liked it if you could have been.' Tae’s voice shakes as he says it and he finally lifts his face and meets Jimin’s eyes.

They share a smile. One full of sadness for the young men they never got to be.

'It must've taken a lot of courage for you to come in here. The stories about the witch and his forest are wild.' Jimin smiles gently and takes a sip of his soju.

'They are. But I needed to know.'

'Well you're lucky Jungkook-ssi let you through. It’s quite something when he raises the forest against you.'

'Is it...'

'Hmm. He knew you were coming though. Said he let you through because you knew me.'

'How did he know?'

'It’s hard to explain but he can read minds, in a way. Though, that's a very simplified way of saying it. It's more like he can sense what people feel.'

'Oh.' He looks like he wants to say more but holds it in. 'Where did he go by the way?'

'I'm not sure actually. He was probably a bit anxious. He…hasn't met many humans. None actually, apart from me.’

'Oh.'

Saying it out loud Jimin realises the truth of his words for the first time. He’d been too shocked by Tae’s abrupt appearance to notice where Jungkook went but he starts to worry a little that he is hiding. He’ll go look for him once Taehyung is settled.

'You’ll stay the night? It's late.' He turns back to his friend.

'Oh. Yes. I guess so. Is that OK?'

'Of course. I've missed you.'

'I've missed you too. For a long time, even before you left-'

'-Tae...'

'I know, I know.' Taehyung draws in another one of those shaky breaths. Like he keeps wanting to say more but Jimin doesn’t want to let him. He can’t. It won’t do either of them any good now.

'How long have you been gone?' Jimin asks him to redirect the conversation.

'On and off since you left. My wife...my wife will be glad to see me home so she can beat me thoroughly. She's furious. I... I've missed a lot of work. She's had to stay with her mother.'

'Tae... that was, you didn't need to. I'm OK.'

'But what if you hadn't been?'

'And what were you going to do? Turn up here and fight a witch for me?'

'I would have tried.' Taehyung sticks out his chin a little and for a moment Jimin sees the boy that used to fight the other kids in the village to defend him.

'Well thank you. And I'm glad, though it’s selfish. I'm glad I got to see you again. I... don't plan to leave so…'

'This will be the last time.' Tae says and Jimin nods. 'I'm glad you're happy. That I got to see you find happiness. Life was cruel to you.'

'Are you, happy?'

Tae doesn't answer for a while.

'I have a son now too. He was born last month. He's wonderful. His sister hates him.'

He smiles that boxy smile Jimin always loved and it’s pure and real. Jimin is glad that something can make Tae smile like that, even if it isn’t his wife.

As they grin together the door slides open with a snap and Jungkook stands in the doorway framed by the night sky.

Taehyung flinches and scoots away a little across the floor.

Jimin can see how Jungkook might look terrifying to Taehyung. He remembers how terrified he had been to wake up in the hanok and see Jungkook that very first time. His appearance now - looming over them, framed in the doorway, his shoulders heaving and hair wild, covered in tattoos - is intimidating.

But he doesn’t look scary to Jimin, instead, he can see that he looks incredibly anxious.

Tae is only the second human he has ever met and he probably has no idea what to do.

'Kook-ah,' Jimin breathes and reaches out an arm, palm up, towards him. It’s the signal Jungkook needed and he rushes over and sinks under it, pressing his face into Jimin’s neck and breathing deeply.

'Don’t worry,' Jimin breathes, 'just be yourself.'

He feels a tiny nod into his skin.

Tae is looking at them curiously.

What Jimin doesn’t expect is that Jungkook suddenly sits bolt upright, looks at Tae and then throws himself into a bow.

'Hello! I'm Jeon Jungkook!' He half shouts.

It might be the cutest thing Jimin has ever seen and he works very hard not to laugh, knowing how upset that would make his sensitive boy who is trying so hard to be normal.

‘Kim Taehyung.’ Tae bows back looking very unsure of himself.

Jimin reaches up to stroke the back of Jungkook’s hair.

‘I didn’t know you were a Jeon. Funny isn’t it. Never really occurred to me to ask, not since the first day, seems so pointless out here.’ He smiles.

‘I forgot actually. Wouldn’t have known if you had asked. Then, I was out there thinking about how you were supposed to greet people, and it just came out of my mouth. Like muscle memory.’

They both giggle and press their foreheads together. Jimin is picturing Jungkook pacing about trying to remember the polite way to greet a human and is warm with endearment.

They rub noses and Tae looks down at his plate in embarrassment.

It is hard to remember to act with social protocol when it is usually just the two of you and some hens.

In the end, the rest of the evening passes smoothly. Taehyung gets on surprisingly well with Jungkook, the two of them sharing an off the cuff kind of humour that bounces easily between them. Had he stayed longer Jimin imagines it wouldn’t have taken much for him to feel left out.

As it is, Taehyung leaves with the sunrise.

The three of them walk to the gate together, and then Taehyung crosses over to the human side and Jimin remains on the side of the forest. Taehyung smiles warmly, a final time, and then turns away. Jimin watches him until he is out of sight, tears falling on Jungkook’s shirt where he rests his cheek. And Tae never looks back over his shoulder.

Jimin feels full with the enormity of watching the small figure of his once best friend disappear over the horizon. But above all, he feels a closure in their goodbye, like a little piece of his heart is finally at rest.

          * 

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                    *  

                         A few more months later... 

                                                                         *

                                                               * 

                                                     * 

                                           * 

Jimin sits under the awning in the evening light, watching Jungkook work beside him. Jungkook is grinding charcoal into powder, the tips of his fingers blackened, and a spot on his nose to match.

The hens are bothering him, insistent that whatever Jungkook is up to is a possible snack. Occasionally, Jimin throws some rice across the clearing to distract them, but he also quite enjoys watching them harass Jungkook who reprimands them without any sincerity.

Their little family of chickens has grown in number. A few months ago, close enough to what Jungkook decided had been around a year since Jimin came to the forest, Jungkook had presented him with a gift of two beautiful eggs to mark the occasion. Moon had been desperately trying to sit on a clutch of eggs since spring arrived and Jungkook marked the two new eggs with dye and let her sit on them. In the end, Pebble joined her, and the two of them warmed the eggs until they hatched.

One chick grew to be a proud black cockerel that Jimin named Night. The other chick was still fluffy, even fully grown, and was skittish with expressive eyes that often made it look like it was sulking. Jungkook knew very well Jimin had named the hen Plum, but he called her Jimin-ie nonetheless, teasing that the two of them were too similar for him to tell the difference.

‘Okay, this is ready.’ Jungkook says, pulling Jimin from his thoughts.

He holds up a small glazed bowl between his palms, filled with the powdered ash, blended with oil and water.

‘Excellent.’ Jimin smiles and shuffles closer to Jungkook’s knees.

Jungkook grins, placing the bowl down and picking up his tattooing tool.

‘Are you sure?’ He laughs, ‘we are really going from no tattoos, to face tattoos?’

‘Yes.’ Jimin nods.

‘Well, ok then!’ Jungkook laughs and leans forwards, cupping Jimin’s chin in his hand to steady him.

He drops kisses to Jimin’s skin before he begins his work.

The bite of the stick is excruciating. Jungkook works slowly and precisely, dipping the stick in the ink that rests on his knee.

The pain is immense, but Jimin is used to pain and he barely flinches. Even so, Jungkook kisses his lips between every small section he inks across his lover's skin.

When he finishes, he wipes Jimin’s cheeks gently and then leans back to admire the new tattoos.

On each of Jimin’s cheekbones, just below his eyes, are a pair of two half-moons - designed to match the suns on Jungkook’s.

‘Moons, for my moon.’ He whispers, when he is finished, pressing a last kiss to the tip of Jimin’s nose.