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And then the flowers said

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The wisps showed up on the first warm day of spring and weren’t wisps anymore. Yoongi frowned, first in surprise and then for show: the wild grins on both Taehyung and Jimin’s faces stopped him from immediately showing that he was excited for them.

“Ta da!” Taehyung shouted, fluttering around excitedly. Jimin put his hands on his hips and thrust out his chest, grinning wider.

They weren’t adorned in their affinity clothes and tools for the trade yet, which meant they’d only recently grown into their forms. Yoongi himself only ever needed satchels for seeds and pollen, shears, a trowel, and a container or two for carrying water or nectar -- all of which were easily attached to his belt. For garden fairies, that was enough, but for Jimin and Taehyung it wouldn’t be. Jimin was going to be traveling often as an exploring fairy, and Taehyung’s weather affinity would require him to get a kite for navigating and directing the wind. They’d need plenty of tools, more than Yoongi did.

But that wasn’t really Yoongi’s concern. Let the head fairies of each affinity sort through that. “Congrats,” he told them dully, and once they faltered in their excitement he let himself grin wide. “I’m joking. Seriously, you’re both stunning. So? What are your specialties?”

Now Jimin was fluttering, more -- and more aggressively -- than Taehyung had. The flower he was nearest let Yoongi know it was vaguely wary that Jimin was going to bruise its stem.

“Calm down,” Yoongi warned, smile faltering.

Jimin didn’t. He nodded obediently, but his wings still went a mile a minute, and next to him Taehyung flailed in his excitement. Yoongi gave it up as a lost cause and nodded an apology to the flowers.

“Sorry!” Jimin said. “But, no Yoongi listen -- ”

Listen,” Taehyung echoed, somehow more emphatic.

“I'm listening,” Yoongi insisted, amused.

Jimin beamed. “Right, so I’m scouting. Get to go to all the new places, see all the new things -- ”

“Get to chart stuff,” Taehyung threw in. “Have fun!”

Jimin frowned and shoved Taehyung, who went sprawling before bouncing back immediately. “Yeah, well you’re star counting, you have to chart stuff too.”

Taehyung gasped and slapped a hand over Jimin’s face, “You can’t tell Yoongi what I am before me! That’s not fair!”

Yoongi laughed. “Okay okay, settle down you two, seriously.”

Reading the stars to decide on the weather for Taehyung, always intrigued and a little out there, seemed fitting. And Yoongi had absolutely no trouble seeing Jimin, all hands on and curious, going far and wide to learn about and feel out the world. It was exciting, that he'd get to see them settle into their roles. It was also weird that he’d practically seen them grow up. A good weird, but still, very unlike raising his usual fare of kids. Yoongi patted the nearest flower’s stem appreciatively.

“You look good,” Yoongi repeated. “But if you can't stay out of the way, I'm kicking you out.”

“Understood,” Jimin chorused together with Taehyung’s “Aye aye captain,” and for a moment it felt like nothing had changed.

The wisps were still themselves -- but it was odd, now that the weren’t actually will-o-wisps anymore. They’d matured into the next stage of their lives, no longer new to the fairy realm. And it was just so strange. To look them in the face and there be a face, expressive and distinct, staring back. To have to squint and look for the glow of their hue, Jimin’s orange and Taehyung’s translucent (but there, like the air above a fire), after them being nothing but their hues -- tiny orbs of light drifting along with every gentle breeze -- for so long.

“How’s Namjoon holding up,” Yoongi remembered to ask, as he turned back to his work, rifling through a satchel for seeds. If Jimin and Taehyung had grown into their forms, it meant all the wisps their age had left the will-o-wisp dens as well. And Namjoon was a great den mother, but he was also a little sensitive and Yoongi knew from experience that it always got to him when a batch left the dens, grown. Yoongi was planning on visiting Namjoon, once he got some time and settled into the season better.

“He’s excited for us,” Taehyung said with an assured nod. Then his face fell slightly. “But... I do think it’s a little raw for him?”

“We asked him for a story, for old times’ sake, this morning,” Jimin confessed, and Yoongi smiled to himself.

Namjoon was a softie but Jimin and Taehyung tended to try their best in reciprocating looking out for him, even if the job of a den mother didn’t really demand that of the wisps they helped to rear. It was cute, in a way, to see that little makeshift family in the making. Yoongi had, after all, had a front seat to it over the years. Technically he could be considered part of it, but he’d never admit that out loud -- and no one else was really going to call him out on it.

The wisps -- not that they were wisps anymore, and it was going to be a hard remembering to not call them that from now on -- stuck around, despite it being spring and therefore one of the busier times for fairies. They’d just formed, so Yoongi wasn’t surprised they didn’t have their jobs or any work yet -- again, they didn’t even have their appropriate attire and tools.

As it were, they chatted about nothing, flitting a few wingflaps behind Yoongi as he went about his work in the garden, checking up on how the kids were adjusting with the change of season, new sproutlings everywhere and his older kids bouncing back from winter’s cold best they could.

As Yoongi was feeling out how nutrient dense the soil was shaping up to be so far, he thought to himself that really, it was almost like nothing had changed. This was practically the same thing the wisps always used to do whenever they came to visit him before now, back then just little orbs of light floating by his head and asking him question after question. Now, It was funny -- at least at first -- to see how unused to corporeal forms they still were. They kept occasionally misjudging the distance between themselves and blades of grass or the flowers. Or, on quite a few occasions, between themselves and Yoongi himself.

“Alright, I’m sure there’s stuff back at the court waiting for you,” Yoongi said, slightly annoyed, at the fourth time Jimin bumped off of Taehyung and flew into Yoongi’s back with a little ‘oof!’. Yoongi pushed Jimin’s hands off his shoulder and Jimin laughed, delighted, before landing on his newly formed feet and taking a few steps back.

“Not really,” Taehyung said with a shrug, also landing. “There’s a whole ceremonial coming of age thing come the next new moon, but we just have to learn our rites, go to the dress rehearsals beforehand, and then show up.”

Yoongi had forgotten about the coming of age ceremony, since it had been ages since his own. He’d have to remind Namjoon to remind him about it, so he could go.

In the meantime Yoongi tried to fill out the role of responsible older fairy. It was a weird fit. “Well, shouldn’t you be meeting and chatting with other fairies from your affinity? Things are gonna change now that you aren’t wisps.” Yoongi gestured to himself. “I’m not even part of a court -- ”

“Debatable but alright,” Jimin chirped helpfully because he was a little troublemaker if nothing else.

Yoongi squinted, unappreciative, at him. “ -- I’m ignoring that -- but I still have duties. Things that have to get done, so I do them.”

Sure Yoongi was a garden fairy, which seemed less important than some affinities like light and weather, and then he was loner at that, which meant he didn’t even have the honor or prestige of saying he worked on the world’s gardens, the wide open Earth and all the wild nature out there. But he had chosen this little garden, this patch of nature, and it and his kids needed him, so that was that. That was enough.

“Are you getting ready to lecture us?” Jimin asked suspiciously, arms crossing.

“Sounds like it, which is kind of uncalled for,” Taehyung said, in that somehow gleefully petulant way of his.

Yoongi grunted at an iris in early bloom pointing out that Jimin and Taehyung always tag teamed him in order to avoid Yoongi getting a point to stick. “Yeah, I don’t know why I even try sometimes,” Yoongi mumbled, then couldn’t help but smile at the way both of them beamed up at him, Jimin resting a chin on Yoongi’s shoulder and Taehyung tugging at his arm.

“We’re joking,” Taehyung felt the need to explain and Yoongi laughed.

“I know,” he said. “Wisps.”

Yoongi was sure one, or maybe both of them, would have objected to the term of affection -- seeing how they were all grown up now -- but then Yoongi heard the distinct sound, loud in the near distance, of a door swinging open.

All three of them paused and looked in the direction of the sound, and then Yoongi was grabbing Taehyung and Jimin and pulling them into a denser thicket of overgrowth to be out of view.

“I didn’t know you had a human,” Jimin said uncertainly to Yoongi, as the three of them watched, sure enough, a human carefully descend the little three step stoop into the garden. He was peering curiously at the garden that, to the human, probably looked to have been abandoned since the last tenant -- however long ago that had been. There had certainly not been someone in the house since Yoongi had moved in -- or at least no one who had been interested in coming out back into Yoongi’s patch of wild garden.

“He’s new,” Yoongi muttered. “Keep your voice down.” He’d ask them to dim their glow, but they probably hadn’t gotten the hang of that yet. He figured the natural misdirection magic that flowed through them would be enough, as long as no one flew straight in the human’s face. Which...

“No funny business,” he told them sternly. The human was carefully stepping into the garden, looking around and steadily shuffling closer to their hiding spot. “We hide, we wait, and then when he goes back inside you go home.”

Taehyung hummed, which wasn’t immediate obedience -- which was worrying when it came to Taehyung. “Taehyung I’m serious.” Yoongi hissed, and his heart leapt into his throat when the human came to a stop near them.

Taehyung hummed again, even as he carefully leaned forward to reach out and put a hand on the toe of one of the rubber boots on the human’s feet. The boots were pink and, more importantly, Taehyung was touching them.

Taehyung.” Taehyung only stumbled a little as Yoongi pulled him back.

“But I mean,” Taehyung struggled to explain as Yoongi glared at him. “I don’t think we have to be afraid. He’s got on gardening gloves.” Taehyung lit up, turning to reach out and put a hand on the boot again. “I think you really are getting a human.”

Yoongi hurriedly pulled Taehyung back into the overgrowth. “Taehyung, I swear -- ”

“He doesn’t seem like the type to, I don’t know. Pluck your wings off,” Jimin said hesitantly, staring up at the human too, though he stayed safely tucked back in the thick grasses. “And Taehyung’s pretty good at judging people.”

“I have a good feeling about this one!” Taehyung insisted, still tangled up in Yoongi’s firm grip on him, bodily pulling and holding Taehyung back in the safety of their hiding place.

From up above, the human was mumbling to himself, and said most clearly, “These actually don’t look half bad.”

Yoongi fought the urge to roll his eyes at the sort of insult. Half bad -- the last winter chill had only just passed them over. Yoongi was nowhere near done helping the garden reach its full potential yet.

(He seems to mean well, a wayward sprig of lemongrass reminded Yoongi, and Yoongi pretended he didn’t hear.)

“Whatever, listen,” Yoongi said. “I’m not taking chances. Once you get to my age you start to learn it’s not worth it if you can help it.”

The human was still mumbling and he crouched down to begin gently parting the grasses and wildflowers. Yoongi grabbed Jimin as well, and pulled both him and Taehyung further away from the searching giant hands, even as the plantlife murmured its appreciation for his gentle touch.

And Yoongi figured: alright fine, that was a point in his favor. The human was careful in the garden, so far, and in the grand scheme of things that could be a very good thing. Yoongi still wanted to be careful and keep the wisps and himself out of sight.

“I know I unpacked my watering can the other day...” The human said to himself, standing full height again and turning to head back towards the house. Yoongi had to grab both Taehyung and Jimin again and pull them out of the way, just to be sure they weren’t underfoot -- just in case.

They didn’t seem bothered by all the manhandling. “Wow, he’s so big,” Taehyung whispered in awe, craning his neck back to watch.

Jimin immediately followed up with an equally as hushed, “Right?”

And Yoongi sighed, glad the ordeal was over but exhausted already by the wisps’ interest in something potentially dangerous. “Oh for the love of -- come on then.” He flapped his wings, fistfuls of Jimin and Taehyung’s clothes still in hand, and tugged them into the air with him. “Let’s go, before he waters the flowers and we get our wings wet and can’t fly.”

The admittedly half-attempted threat got little to no reaction from them, as they tittered about humans and ‘Yoongi’s gotten one -- though what do you do with a human, actually?’ the whole way back.

“No one in our court has a human,” Jimin lamented, as they landed at the tree knothole entrance of the court. Jimin sighed heavily. “We don’t even have any changelings or sprites, how sad and boring is that?”

“How about I make a changeling, first chance I get?” Taehyung offered, tone innocent but eyes sparkling mischievously, and Jimin’s eyes went wide.

Jimin leaned forward to take Taehyung’s hands into his own and asked, tone one of the truly impressed, “You would do that?”

“Just for you,” Taehyung singsonged, and then in drop dead seriousness: “Jimin, let’s raise a changeling together.”

“You’d need me anyway to have something to swap out for the changeling to begin with,” Jimin pointed out, matter of fact. He let go of one of Taehyung’s hands to begin stroking his chin thoughtfully. “But it’s an idea...”

“Please don’t,” Yoongi cut in immediately. “And I am reporting all this nonsense to Namjoon, just so you know.”

That certainly got them to shut up.

 

 

The court of this domain was not Yoongi’s -- he wasn’t born into it, wasn’t raised in its dens, and had no loyalties, technically, to any of the den mothers. The ‘technically’ was important, because also technically, Yoongi had some kind of loyalty to Namjoon -- Namjoon who was a den mother. More specifically, Namjoon was Jimin and Taehyung’s den mother -- but to Yoongi he was only a very good friend, and there was some less official loyalty etiquette to be observed there. Not that Yoongi observed it, really.

Loyalties weren’t really a big deal since you could choose to break them and leave your court, as was the case with Yoongi. But they were an on-off formality that was a give and take sort of thing. A ‘I choose to respect you and the things you tell me to do, and you choose to respect me and not ask too much of me’ sort of deal. And Yoongi didn’t totally mind that -- not when he got to choose who he afforded loyalty to and when and how.

(Yoongi was all about choice. Most solitary faeries were, and it was usually why they chose to leave their courts.)

That being said, being a near-honorary member of a court he chose for himself was pretty much perfect for him. Even if he was currently on his way to complain to Namjoon about Taehyung and Jimin.

He ducked into the wisp den, its clean air and cool lighting comfortable and familiar. Usually the main room was lit up by all the wisps glowing, but because so many wisps had just left the nest, so to speak, it was much much darker than usual. The wisps remaining were scattered in other tunnels within the den, most likely. Or perhaps they had left to venture outside, as Jimin and Taehyung had been so fond of doing, coming to visit Yoongi at all times of the day in every season and in all sorts of weather.

“Yoongi,” Namjoon greeted him happily. The den was so dim that Namjoon’s ruby red hue, the proud colors of an art affinity fairy, stood out as though he were angry and purposely turning it up. However, the relaxed smile on Namjoon’s face said otherwise. “Hey! You seen Jimin and Taehyung yet?”

“Sure have. They look good,” Yoongi said, watching bemusedly the way Namjoon puffed up from the compliment to his kids. Never one to leave well enough alone, Yoongi quickly followed up with, “They were also completely obnoxious.”

Namjoon rolled his eyes, smile still languid and in place. “Alright, I'll bite: what'd they do?” Namjoon paused for a moment, then said, “Though you do know I can't really control them any more now that they've left the dens, right?

Yoongi snorted. “You couldn't really control them before either, actually.” At Namjoon's skeptical look, Yoongi got on with it. “But seriously, they wanted to -- I don’t know, meet with this human in my garden? I don’t know.”

Namjoon lifted an eyebrow. “Wanted to -- huh.” Namjoon shook his head, and shrugged. “Well... they’re young and curious, I suppose, and you were there to stop them. Thanks.”

Yoongi crossed his arms, not really sure what he expected from Namjoon, who was good in a pinch but mostly lax and easy-going with his mothering. “No wonder Jimin and Taehyung walk all over you.”

Namjoon waved a dismissive hand. “Their affinity heads will sort them out on the curiosity versus needless risk thing.” Namjoon tilted his head towards Yoongi. “So you’ve got a human now?”

Yoongi sighed, running a hand through his hair, uncomfortable with the prospect. “I guess? He just moved in, I think.”

Yoongi started to think about it, and found that really, he didn't want to face the reality that he was getting a neighbor. Yoongi shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and focused on the lesser of evils here: Jimin and Taehyung being horrible listeners.

“The wisps were talking about changelings and sprites -- and making them,” Yoongi said feeling petty and like a tattler, but oh well. “That might have been a joke, but keep an eye on those two. They're too young for all of that.”

Namjoon laughed. “I promise you, it was one hundred percent a joke. They’re little jerks who like making me and you sweat, if they can.” Namjoon tilted his head again, lips curling up at the edges. “Yoongi, did you really come all this way to whine about small stuff?”

Yoongi paused. It was part him hand delivering Jimin and Taehyung straight home -- something the other weather and exploring fairies had appreciated because, like Yoongi had said, there were things for them to do (and of course they were already delinquents) -- and part. Well...

“The jig’s up, huh?” Yoongi said, more softly than he intended, annoyed but mostly resigned to admitting that he had emotions and soft spots of his own. “No, I. Wanted to check on you.” Yoongi gestured around the barren den. “They can be a pain, but without them -- and the others, I'm sure -- it’ll be quiet huh?”

Namjoon snorted, but it wasn’t all that callous when he looked so touched. “Without those two here, maybe some of the wisps who want to appreciate my talents of storytelling will actually be able to hear my voice.”

Yoongi scoffed out a laugh, “True.”

Namjoon shrugged, smile as strong as ever. “Really, it’s the natural process. It’s fine. The new batch will be here before we know it.”

Yoongi nodded, but he still handed Namjoon a spare satchel filled with pressed petals for his tea-making. Namjoon liked the roses the best, and Yoongi knew where and how to get the best ones. “Whatever softie, hang in there.”

Namjoon accepted it with a knowing grin. Yoongi didn’t give his loyalty and affections freely. Yoongi knew it, Namjoon knew it, and Yoongi knew Namjoon knew it and was dying to make some smart remark about it.

Instead Namjoon only said, “Thanks, Yoongi,” and offered to give him a tour of the new additions to the den.

Yoongi scuffed his feet against the ground and hemmed and hawed on whether to accept or turn down the offer, toying with his toolbelt for a long moment and eventually muttering that he'd finished his the work for the day, “so whatever.”

Yoongi ended up following Namjoon quietly, at Namjoon’s laughing urging for him to do so. Pale green mingled with pink-red, as they descended deeper into the den together, light and easy conversation beginning to strike up between them both.

 

 

The human was called Seokjin, and he wasn't half bad. He planted new things and was trying his best to work with the plants already growing, wasn’t simply uprooting everything like Yoongi had figured he would, annoyance having prematurely flared up. Seokjin was...nice, Yoongi supposed. he was trying, and the gentleness he’d first approached the garden with had stayed ever present.

Of course Seokjin also sometimes did stupid things. Like used too cold or too hot water, shocking the kids or nearly boiling everyone’s roots. And he had tried to plant a butterfly bush which Yoongi had had little other choice but to stunt and kill in admittedly cold blood, because he was not going to let that kind of invasiveness wreck havoc on his garden and slowly strangle the life out of his kids.

But Seokjin was trying, and from what Yoongi could tell, he really wanted this garden to do well. He was outside messing with it nearly every evening, and there were even some days -- mostly weekends Yoongi had gathered -- when he would start as early as the morning and do anything from messing with the plants (Yoongi shadowing him diligently, ready to correct mistakes and watching with vague interest) to putting out little decorations and setting up a sitting area for himself to sit and read at.

Spring turned into summer, summer blistered into fall, and as fall began to fade into winter Yoongi found that getting used to Seokjin, learning to work with Seokjin (because what other choice did he have, beyond adjusting to Seokjin’s attempts of creativity and bursts of innovation) had been easier than he’d thought it’d be. Learning Seokjin’s habits, guessing them -- like how Seokjin tended to chat with the flowers about his day especially when he was feeling down, singing softly to them while spreading mulch or weeding or trimming off dead leaves that Yoongi had yet to get around to -- changed from a chore to second nature. In turn Yoongi had come to notice that Seokjin seemed to be adjusting to what was, to Seokjin, an invisible force. He was learning, making fewer mistakes, not nearly drowning the garden to death, and the plants he attempted to add to the garden were more likely to fit in with the kids and not be nastily mean towards them.

It’s symbiosis, it’s natural you’re getting attached, one of his more precocious kids (because bluebells tended to be as such) sniped at him, and Yoongi pointed a warning finger at them. “Don’t even start,” he said in warning, and then he went back to preparing everyone from the quickly coming winter.

The usual task was less daunting than usual, because Seokjin was trying his best to prepare for their first winter together as well, sitting out with stacks of pamphlets that Yoongi knew, having managed to once sneak a look at them, contained pictures and words upon words about trimming dry stems down to the soil; about digging up and preserving plants; about getting the kids through the oncoming cold and snow.

Seokjin was doing it now: sitting in the dirt, staring at his papers and muttering to himself. Yoongi watched with interest, sitting in one of the hanging baskets of flowers that Seokjin had put out in the early days of summer.

(These hanging baskets were one of Yoongi’s favorite additions by Seokjin, seeing as they were cozy, hosted some of the sweetest of the kids, and were a good vantage point as well as hiding place for Yoongi. He’d on more than a few occasions tucked himself in a basket for sleeping, a home away from his actual home: the little dug out burrow in the corner of the yard.)

“You’re gonna -- just you wait!” Seokjin said suddenly to the shrub in front of him. The shrub voiced its apparent amusement, and Yoongi snorted quietly to himself as well. Seokjin looked so frazzled but also incredibly determined. In a way, it was just as well that Seokjin had taken up such dedication, since shrubbery was admittedly outside the realm of Yoongi’s flower specialty.

Seokjin shook his bangs out his eyes, mouth a stern line and eyes squinted. “I’m going to get you through winter, all of you.” Seokjin looked back to his paper, nodding to himself.

It was...sweet. Appreciated, Yoongi quickly corrected himself, as the kids tittered at his slip. “Quiet all of you,” Yoongi mumbled, fluttering his wings in the slightest agitation.

Watching Seokjin struggle to identify which leaves were diseased and which weren’t on his freshly planted violets (Yoongi would come through behind him and take care of anything he missed plucking off), Yoongi could see himself having few objections to living in this easy companionship.

Might as well, Yoongi groused to himself in quick explanation. It wasn’t like Yoongi was going anywhere, and Seokjin seemed like he was going to be around for a while.

~~~

“Hoseok,” Seokjin said carefully, as they sat in Seokjin’s kitchen. His mother had been by, and Seokjin wasn’t going to be able to eat all the contents of the fruit basket she’d brought him by himself. Well, he could, if he wanted to and tried, he just wasn’t going to when he could share with Hoseok. He’d probably end up giving some to Jungkook too, next time he came over. “Quick question: do you think my garden is wildly and ridiculously impressive?”

Hoseok raised an eyebrow, but ultimately didn’t look up from his apple slices. “Wow, you know, when I first met you three years ago I would have never known you had a conceited streak a mile wide.” Hoseok pretended to dab at his eyes. “I thought you were the sweetest little thing.”

“I’m both older and taller than than you, Seokjin reminded him, more out of habit and less because he actually cared or thought Hoseok was listening to him. “Anyway, no I meant -- when my mom stopped by, she was in awe of what I have going on out back.” Seokjin shrugged. “And I don’t have the greenest thumb, so...I don’t know.”

Hoseok selected another slice after much deliberation, and popped it into his mouth. “Well, you’ve been messing around with it for a while,” he said around a bite of apple, tone still somehow delicate. “You’re a long way away from the frantic stranger knocking on my door, brandishing gardening gloves and bribe-threatening me with free dinner or else.”

Seokjin looked up from his own plate of fruit at that, almost exasperated. Just shy of it, because really Hoseok never meant any harm and it was hard to fault someone with mostly good intentions. “Bribe-threa -- we’ve been over this, the first frost had come way sooner and I needed help, and you did get free dinner.”

Hoseok grinned, holding up a slice of apple demonstratively. “Yeah I can always count on you for food.” He bit into the apple with a satisfied crunch. “But I mean, what's the big deal about your garden being good? Isn’t that a compliment? Shouldn’t you be happy?”

Seokjin took a moment to wonder why it did unsettle him. He definitely worked hard on his plants, and anyone noticing that was always well-liked and highly appreciated. If he had to put it into words, Seokjin would guess it just sort of felt like undeserved praise, the extent of his mother's surprise at the apparent quality of his garden. Maybe that was to be expected though, when she had always been well acquainted with his previous attempts at sustaining plantlife; it had never gone that well before, beyond succulents.

Seokjin fumbled for the words, anyway. “It's just that I'm still not that great, and I know it. And. It’s just a stress reliever after work, and...”

And yes, he had wanted to be good at it and researched a lot and worked hard but it all felt like a lot of chance. He wasn’t that good yet. His mother had acted like he was now a botanical genius, when getting far beyond ‘I can barely remember how much I've watered my bedside plant’ wasn’t exactly impressive instead of just a little sad . “...And I think it’s just luck, that it’s any good.”

Hoseok hummed, sucking juice off his thumb. “The garden, Seokjin? It’s good -- and anyway, it's all trial and error, right? You’ve killed a lot of plants.” Hoseok’s expression became wry. “Doesn’t that prove you still suck?”

Seokjin choked on the abrupt laughter that bubbled up. “So supportive, Hoseok, thanks.”

Hoseok mock saluted with two fingers. “Any time!” Hoseok finished up his apples with a flourish. “But hey, maybe you’ve got a little help.”

Seokjin frowned, confused. “I’m...not following you? You have never, ever helped me after I had to apparently extort you that first time. Do you mean the internet?” Because yes, the internet had been Seokjin’s saving grace for a long time for sure. “Or is this your way of bringing up how you think I’m taking advantage of Jungkook? Because he comes over because he wants to.”

Hoseok grinned widely. “I mean magic! The supernatural and unknown! And now that you bring it up, if there’s anyone who’s a victim to your bribe-threats it is definitely Jungkook!” Seokjin glared, but Hoseok paid him no mind. Instead, he stabbed the leftover apple core with his paring knife, cutting out the apple seeds with something akin to surgical precision, and calmed down slightly after his initial exclamation. “But -- yeah, like, maybe you’ve got a little garden fairy or something helping you out.”

“...Seriously?” Seokjin was skeptical, because no way Hoseok was serious.

Hoseok looked up from his plate, eyebrows wriggling. Ignoring the systematic way he was murdering an apple, he almost looked innocent. “If you feel like it's so impossible for you to have kept your head above water with the whole not-killing your garden, then what's left?”

Seokjin snorted and pulled a clementine out of the basket. “Hoseok, I never took you for the type to talk about magic.” He sunk his thumbnail into the skin of the clementine and began unpeeling it. “And thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Hey, you started it first, not believing in yourself and all,” Hoseok wasted no time in pointing out.

Seokjin threw a piece of peel at Hoseok. “Fine whatever, I'm not good but I have improved, thank you very much. And I'm learning all the time. So,” Seokjin scrunched up his nose. “No, my garden isn’t hanging in there only by the grace of god or something.” Seokjin was doing something right. A couple of somethings, even.

Hoseok smiled, finally putting down his desecrated apple. “Yeah, you tell me what's what. Like this whole conversation hasn’t been you fishing for compliments or anything.”

Seokjin put a clementine segment on Hoseok plate to quiet him. After a moment of thought, he added the rest of the fruit, and plucked out a new clementine to peel for himself. “Shush, no it hasn't. It’s just not big deal, like you said. I was thinking too hard about it, earlier.” Seokjin preened, trying to pull the citrus peel off in one long strip that time. “I'm awesome at gardening.”

Hoseok hummed again, reaching for his hush money in the form of clementine segments, clearly amused. “Okay, then. So Jungkook is a non-factor, then?”

Seokjin paused. “...Jungkook is a huge and very very very helpful factor,” he admitted. “But just not a magical one.”

Hoseok could only laugh at that.

 

 

Seokjin’s office job wasn’t anything exciting or wildly stressful, but it was work. It had its ups, it had its downs, and at the end of the day Seokjin wasn’t clamoring to stay longer than he had to. Sometimes the awareness that he was just a cog in a wheel was grating, but Seokjin had long since made peace with his lot in life. And that lot seemed to be alright pay, alright benefits, alright -- if not slightly tedious -- work. He had an apparently killer garden, though. So there was that.

“My mom thinks you’re ‘a good influence’, though,” Jungkook said, making sure to put down his trowel to perform the air quotes. “With the steady nine to five job and stuff. She also thinks that I should ‘thank you for keeping me out of trouble’ and ‘try to follow in your footsteps’.” More air quotes.

Jungkook liked to pretend he only came over from his house down the street and helped Seokjin with gardening begrudgingly at the request of his mother. This was despite the fact that Jungkook had been coming over since two years ago, and that Jungkook was arguably more attentive to the workings of the garden than Seokjin. He kept an incredibly detailed gardening journal, tracking the perennials’ lifespans, noting watering schedules and growth progress, and sketching out mockups to ‘perfect the backyard ecosystem’. Seokjin had never heard of a soil test kit until Jungkook started being a regular fixture in his gardening efforts, and Jungkook made sure to test and write down the results for the soil (soil zones, Jungkook would be sure to clarify) at least once a week. This was, even in Seokjin’s possibly meager opinion, excessive.

Seokjin wasn’t going to inadvertently pick a fight by challenging Jungkook on it, though. Jungkook was adorable, and Seokjin enjoyed having him around, even in his play-act of belligerence. Seokjin wasn’t entirely sure who Jungkook was trying to save face in front of, since it was just the two of them usually, but Seokjin knew teenage pride was a strange and powerful thing.

“Tell your mom it’s no problem. I like having you around.” Seokjin nudged Jungkook playfully, if only because he couldn’t ruffle Jungkook’s hair without getting dirt in it.

Jungkook bit down on a smile, which made Seokjin laugh. Watching Jungkook seem almost at home in the garden reminded Seokjin that he wanted to ask Jungkook something. “Hey, but your mom has been telling me that you’re looking into majoring in botany for college? Really?”

Jungkook picked up his trowel again and shrugged, seeming bashful all of sudden. “I’m thinking about it. I don’t know yet.”

Seokjin nodded. He’d only brought it up wanting to be supportive, not overbearing. “Well, you have plenty of time. But if you do choose this kind of stuff that’d be really cool, Jungkook.” Seokjin gestured at the flowers thriving around them, when Jungkook scoffed. “Seriously! You seem to like the science and details part of this -- and it works. I just guesstimate and hope I don’t mess anything up too badly.”

Jungkook shrugged a second time, less bashful and more unsure, standing up. “I don’t know. This college stuff is all weird.” He was quiet for a moment, staring at their handiwork in front of him.

“Sometimes,” he started quietly, slowly. “Sometimes I’m really into this. But sometimes I get all -- I don’t know.” He looked at Seokjin, who helplessly stared back, unsure where Jungkook was going with this.

“I feel like I want to do something...else?” Jungkook eventually settled on. “Maybe with ocean science stuff or something, you know? Even though I don’t actually know anything about that.”

Seokjin frowned. “Do you think you want to look into it?”

Jungkook shifted from foot to foot, uneasy. “No? Other times I think it’s actually nothing. So...I guess I just need to think about it some more.” He tossed his trowel down lightly, and slowly turned towards the house. “Hey, we’re probably ready to start watering. I’ll go get the watering can from the kitchen.”

Seokjin nodded, recognizing an attempt to shelve an uncomfortable topic and allowing Jungkook to withdraw as he needed. Seokjin simply took the hint and went back to patting the dirt, packing in the newest additions to the corner of the garden. He didn’t pay any mind to Jungkook, until he heard a quiet, “Um?”

Seokjin looked up, then twisted around to glance at Jungkook. Jungkook was two steps up the stoop, looking down at something. “What is it?”

Jungkook bent down, and said, “What’s this?”

Seokjin blinked and wandered over, peering over Jungkook’s shoulder as he held up whatever it was in his hand, carefully between his forefinger and thumb.

Seokjin squinted and realized it looked like a little bundle. It was the leaves and pressed petals of something, but they were folded up and bound together by a twisting dried stem.

“Weird,” Jungkook said, turning it over to examine it.

Seokjin blinked and stared uncertainly. “Maybe it’s something the next door neighbor cat left? I swear, they let that thing wander any and everywhere, all times of the day.”

“It’s usually taking bites out of your plants, not coughing up strangely perfect stacks of,” Jungkook paused and sniffed it. “Mint, I think?”

Seokjin frowned and took the little bundle from Jungkook. On even closer inspection, it was still a mystery. “Huh. Who knows, I guess.” He nudged Jungkook. “Weren’t you getting the watering can?”

Jungkook stood eyes lingering on the -- whatever it was in Seokjin’s hand. But he still obediently and inevitably said, “Yeah.”

As he scampered inside, Seokjin looked at the little thing in his hand once more before shrugging to himself and slipping it into his pocket. He was puzzled by what exactly it could be and where it had come from, but he could figure out what it was -- and if he was going to do something with it, like keeping it or throwing it away -- later. Or not; it was only a handful of leaves. It wasn’t important, probably. Maybe? Who was to say.

Seokjin pushed it out his mind when Jungkook came stomping from inside the house, a nearly overflowing watering can in hand.

 

 

Though Seokjin loved his garden and the way his backyard was coming together, especially with how exceptional it was shaping up this particular spring, it wasn’t the main focus of his life. The way Hoseok was over at his place at least three nights a week, the way he was unofficially mentoring a sweet but naturally stoic kid like Jungkook -- these weren’t exactly the so called ‘big, important things’ either.

The way he was half vying for the latest open position in the human resources department at work, the reports piling up throughout the day to be processed and churned out like clockwork, the way his family kept asking about his personal life and the next time he was planning on visiting home and playing the good son -- these things, for better or for worse, took more precedence.

But his gardening was a little private sanctuary from all of that -- one that he occasionally chose to share with Jungkook. And Jungkook and Hoseok themselves, in their own ways, were sanctuaries for him as well, little spaces in his life where he could just be himself. It was a breath of fresh air, both literally with the gardening and figuratively with the sincerity of companionship, a moment to take a step back from being responsible and put together. His life wasn’t hard, but it was still nice to have the space and time to unwind and just be.

Seokjin sang some old song he half remembered from his childhood under his breath while he checked the trilliums’ soil and spritzed it moist with a spray bottle. He’d grown up hearing that singing and talking to your plants made them grow better, and though he also heard plenty of skepticism towards the idea, he kept it up anyway. Maybe the garden was thriving on pure luck and good fortune, helped along by Jungkook’s knowledgeable but increasingly infrequent helping hand. Maybe all of it was just a gamble that Seokjin would blink and lose one of these days. But the resounding at peaceness Seokjin felt, humming and tending to the plants, was reliable enough.

 

~~~

“Yoongi,” Namjoon said, looking completely amused but also somewhat no-nonsense. He was freshly off duty, and maybe Yoongi had been asking for trouble trying to get Namjoon’s opinion on the best tea combinations he had managed to throw together throughout the years. Especially when Namjoon was tired and even less likely to beat around the bush than usual.

Yoongi crossed his arms and tried not to feel bad at how Namjoon really did look tired and ready to drop. “What? I make amazing teas, I just want to know -- ”

Namjoon sighed and leaned back against the smoothed over bark of the wall, eyes tracking Yoongi carefully. “How to make the best teas for your human?”

Yoongi began to pointedly avoid eye contact with Namjoon, because he wasn’t in the mood to feel talked down to. “Wow, how do you even deal with living in a tree,” he said in the least subtle topic change ever, mainly because he wasn’t sure how to shake Namjoon’s expectant gaze. “It smells like sap in here.”

No it didn’t, because the inside of the tree had been enchanted to house a fairy court for hundreds of years by now, if not longer. But Yoongi had to commit to his playing dumb routine, and he cleared his throat uncomfortably. Was this how Namjoon’s wisps felt when he caught them doing something they weren’t supposed to and he went his version of tough on them? Well, joke was on Namjoon, Yoongi wasn’t a wisp and he wasn’t going to respond to Namjoon’s ludicrous accusations --

“Yoongi,” Namjoon said patiently. “I know you’ve been leaving gifts for your human.”

“I really think living underground is the way to go.” Yoongi would have been content to continue on having a separate conversation -- but then he couldn't help snapping back, “And also Namjoon you don't know anything, shut up.”

When Namjoon smiled faintly, though tiredly, Yoongi sensed he had made a fatal error and avoided Namjoon’s eyes even more. Because talk about a bad sign.

And sure enough, Namjoon's next words were: “Yoongi, Jimin told me he saw you doing it.”

Yoongi cursed under his breath. Jimin certainly had caught him in the act. Jimin certainly had also been sworn to secrecy immediately afterwards, so good to know that he was a blabber mouth who couldn't be trusted. “Well, I’m sure Jimin exaggerated and made it seem like a bigger deal than it is. Because it's not that big of a deal.”

Namjoon didn’t look convinced. “Right. How many seasons has it been since he moved in and you were openly complaining about his every misdeed and mistake in your garden, the domain of the almighty solitary fairy Min Yoongi?”

When Yoongi refused to volunteer a response, Namjoon pushed himself off the wall and put a heavy hand on Yoongi’s shoulder, telling him solemnly, “It's been a handful of years, Yoongi. And he's grown on you.”

“He’s been learning,” Yoongi protested. “And when someone does well, they deserve a little praise. And I know he already likes tea, so -- ” Maybe Yoongi shouldn’t be including his varied knowledge about Seokjin’s likes and dislikes that he'd been picking up over those ‘handful of years’, if he was trying to deny accusations of getting too close with Seokjin.

Namjoon was kind enough not to mention that, though. He still cut in with, “So you go through the trouble of gathering premium ingredients in order to leave him gifts that he has no idea where they come from, probably can’t figure out what they are because let’s face it, humans are dense -- and more than likely won’t stick it into hot water and drink it.”

Yoongi frowned and retracted any thoughts of Namjoon being kind. “You...are kind of pessimistic for someone who raises the next generation of fairies. Shouldn't you be all joy and delight and happiness all day long?”

Namjoon pulled Yoongi in to throw an arm over his shoulder, and Yoongi buckled slightly under the weight before catching himself. “You're thinking of healing fairies. But Yoongi, tell me again how exactly Jimin exaggerated this and how exactly it’s not actually a big deal?”

Yoongi grunted and leaned into Namjoon, agitated that the touch was comforting in a way. “It’s not a big deal. It's that he’s learning fast, he’s actually some help, especially come winter, and...”

And I like him, Yoongi couldn’t say because it was just the sort of thing that would get blown up completely by Namjoon -- and inevitably by Jimin and Taehyung once they heard. Yoongi was already avoiding thinking too hard about how he wasn’t leaving gifts for Jungkook too -- a tidbit of information that would mean nothing to Namjoon, who didn’t know anything about Jungkook. But Yoongi kept explaining it off to himself that it'd be hard to differentiate the gifts for them, or that Seokjin would probably share his own tea with Jungkook (if he ever figured out how to use the tea bundles, that was).

Namjoon sighed. ”It’s not a problem Yoongi, honestly. I just...I’m amazed, because you’ve warmed up to him pretty quickly for your standards. And as much as I love you getting attached to another living thing -- ”

Yoongi bristled and began to struggle out of Namjoon’s hold. “My kids -- !”

“That aren’t your plants,” Namjoon easily corrected, unfazed, letting Yoongi go so suddenly that Yoongi unceremoniously stumbled. He ignored Yoongi’s glare. “As much as I love it, because I love you, I just want to warn you to be careful. He’s a human. And maybe he means well, but...”

“But we don’t know,” Yoongi finished up for Namjoon. He flapped his wings as he righted himself, and pushed Namjoon half-heartedly in mild revenge. “Don’t worry Namjoon. Sure, I like Seokjin, but I’m not going to reveal myself to him.”

Namjoon was eyeing him funny, so Yoongi tried to explain further. “Seriously, the gifts only are to say ‘job well done’. And Seokjin picks up pretty well on patterns, so I thought maybe he’d start to get that it meant the last thing he did was great and needed an encore -- ”

Namjoon faintly repeated, “You like Seokjin. You just said that. Those words voluntarily left your mouth -- ”

Ugh, oops. Yoongi flicked his wings out in a ready-flight position, officially over the conversation. They were inside the tree, nowhere for Yoongi to actually fly, but the gesture still not so kindly carried over his intentions of leaving as soon as possible. “Whatever, I have things to do and so do you. Mainly sleeping, for you.”

Namjoon laughed and gave Yoongi a little push, before yawning widely. He waved a hand. “Yeah yeah -- you’re just trying to worm out of this conversation, but I do feel like I'm about to drop.” Namjoon winked, exaggerated and greasy. “I'll drop by your place one of these days when I can get away from work, try and lay eyes on this human that’s got your heart.”

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “Oh, whatever Namjoon.”

 

 

But Namjoon...wasn’t entirely wrong. Not about Seokjin growing on Yoongi. On Yoongi not being really too critical of Seokjin. Yoongi could admit that to himself.

Jimin and Taehyung still came to visit him -- when they could, by now fully fledged fairies with plenty of duties of their own -- and more often than not, if they stopped by during Seokjin’s little stints in the garden, the three of them would simply sit tucked away in the flower baskets to stay out of the way and watch.

“I have never seen you so hands off with your garden before,” Taehyung said as he swooped in on a late-summer gale, dismounting and shelving his kite with a kind of practiced ease that was becoming more and more familiar to see from Taehyung as of late.

“Never seen that kite before,” Yoongi countered, automatic and a slight bit defensive. “Really? Ragwort? Are we going for the ironically outdated as a joke or...?”

Jimin reached over and pawed at Taehyung. They did that, pawing at each other for no reason, not really grabbing at each other but just touching one another briefly. Yoongi had some things he could say about that, but for now it wasn't worth it.

“Taehyung has a new kite every season because he’s a brat, and the other weather fairies let him get away with it because he’s so cute.” Jimin explained, nodding very seriously.

“I am super cute, thanks,” Taehyung cooed to Jimin. “But you know, it takes a cutie to know a cutie -- ”

“Okay, wow,” Yoongi interrupted Jimin’s sparkling eyes and no doubt ridiculous reply. “I’m sorry I mentioned the kite, then.”

“So can we get back to you and your human, in that case?” Taehyung asked brightly, tucking himself in with the flowers.

Yoongi dragged a hand down his face, not in the mood to fight on this. “Ugh, fine, what?” He turned and glared at Jimin. “Thanks for not keeping a secret, also.”

Jimin fluttered his eyelashes at Yoongi, not at all apologetic. “You’re welcome.”

“He told me too,” Taehyung volunteered helpfully. “Jimin doesn’t do secrets all that great.”

“Great to know now,” Yoongi said, seriously not in the mood to fight or have this conversation.

“Well what did you expect? Your human, and your human’s human are just doing whatever they want and you're... okay with it,” Jimin said, nodding specifically at Jungkook, who Yoongi knew almost as well as Seokjin by now. Because how could he not, with Jungkook spending as much time as he did around here? He was a definite blessing, with his welcomed efficiency in the garden.

“I really don’t know what any of you want me to do,” Yoongi countered. “I couldn’t actually chase Seokjin -- or Jungkook -- off if I wanted to.”

“Ah!” Jimin said. “But that’s the thing. You don’t want to.”

“Not even a little bit,” Taehyung added in agreement. “Not even at all.”

Okay no, Yoongi didn’t. But he would not ever, ever admit that of his own free will, so he pointedly looked away.

“We are also being gracious in not bringing up the gifts thing,” Taehyung said, tone thoughtful. “Because we’re nice and don’t believe in beating a dead horse...that, and you’re mean when you’re squirm-y.”

Yoongi sighed and leaned back into the embrace of the flowers, who were trying to soothe him. Which was silly; he didn’t need to be soothed, because why should he be upset about something that was just fact? And the facts were: Seokjin (and Jungkook) were going to be in the garden, and Yoongi had long since accepted it.

“Listen,” Yoongi said with a sigh, looking at both Jimin and Taehyung’s mischievous faces. “Seokjin is...nice. He likes my kids, and he’s doing a pretty good job, and it’s too much work to be malevolent and try to get him out of my hair. So yeah, I don’t mind him in my garden. And Jungkook has a good head and great taste, I never minded him, so he’s fine too.”

Taehyung frowned and Jimin gathered his knees to his chest, examining Yoongi carefully. Yoongi tried to stare impassively back, but Jimin had never been easy to fool. Taehyung either.

But, for better or for worse, whatever it was about Yoongi’s disposition that they saw, it made them wordlessly drop the topic. Taehyung splayed himself out, stretching like a cat.

Meanwhile, Jimin peeked over the edge of the basket and latched onto a new thread of conversation. “So Jungkook, huh?”

Yoongi looked to Jimin in question at the quiet, inquisitive tone he had. At first Yoongi would have assumed it to be a non sequitur (and would have been thankful for it), but then he saw that Jimin was staring intently at Jungkook, head tilted.

“Jimin?”

Jimin blinked slowly. “You know...have you ever really looked, at Jungkook? He’s not here all the time when I come visit, but...I never noticed, you know?”

“Noticed what?” Yoongi wondered lightly. He frowned and sat up to look -- ignoring that Taehyung was more preoccupied with sliding Jimin’s fairy sword from his belt than the ongoing conversation. It was thankfully still sheathed as he began to mindlessly fiddle with it, so Yoongi left him to his own devices and set about examining what there was to notice about Jungkook.

It didn’t take too long to find it, once he started, as Jimin said, ‘really looking’. “You know...” Yoongi squinted, now also staring at Jungkook. “I never noticed it, but he must have some fae in him.”

There was a faint pink hue beginning to halo him, flickering in and out very sporadically, barely there -- and clearly invisible to his fellow human, since Seokjin was making no mention of it. That was a sure sign of someone of mixed fairy and human descent.

But even for Yoongi, as a fairy, he was finding that he had to look hard for the faint glow to notice it, which maybe explained why Yoongi never had before. He was always more concerned with the kids, and what Jungkook and Seokjin were doing with the kids, rather than looking for potential magic imbued in either human. A quick check (just in case) of Seokjin proved that no, he was just as human as Yoongi had always thought him to be, no hint of a hue or a glow of any kind.

“Took you both long enough to notice,” Taehyung said gleefully, because of course. Taehyung boasted like no other, when he picked up on things first. “It’s been faint but there ever since I first saw him. I think it’s getting more noticeable because he’s getting older -- what age is the coming of age for humans? He must be hitting it.”

The three of them looked at each other with blank expressions. “I’m...not sure?” Jimin eventually admitted. Taehyung nodded in quiet acceptance, and then they both looked expectantly to Yoongi.

“You both keep saying I have a human,” Yoongi said, eyebrows ticking down in annoyance. “But that doesn’t mean I know all about them. I couldn’t even tell you how old Jungkook is, never mind when they come of age.”

“Huh,” Jimin said, going to unhook Taehyung’s kite from his back, in a strange sort of tit for tat as Taehyung still had his sword. Taehyung leaned forward obediently to help Jimin in his endeavor. “Pink? What’s that? Seashore fairy?”

Yoongi nodded, “Yeah. Interesting that he’s so good in a garden then.” Then, rubbing idly at his side and glaring after Jimin accidentally kicked him in trying to get Taehyung’s kite, muttered, “Calm down you two, you’re going to rock the basket.”

“It’ll just look like it’s the wind,” Taehyung said confident and dismissive, a near expert on the wind and its methods of misdirection due to his affinity. “I wonder how many generations removed from fairies he is, if his latent affinity doesn’t really affect him.”

Yoongi shrugged, pretty unsure and more than a little baffled that he'd missed it for so long. If Jungkook’s hue came in any stronger over the next few days or weeks or seasons, it'd prove him to be more than just some generations removed halfling -- so he'd...maybe keep an eye on it.

“You know something,” Taehyung said slowly, pointing Jimin's sheathed sword in his face. “You have your thinking face on.”

“Stop that,” Yoongi said, batting the sword tip away from his cheek. “No, I'm just confused that you noticed Jungkook before me, when it's my garden.”

“And your humans, yeah,” Taehyung shot back far too innocently to not be trying to instigate. So Yoongi ignored him.

“I’m gonna ask Namjoon when we get back,” Jimin said firmly, finally in possession of Taehyung’s kite and looking very smug about it. “How this all works. Stories and legends are his thing, he has to know.”

“Go for it,” Yoongi said stretching languidly and enjoying the sun on his skin. Having help has made you lazy, one of the kids, newly blooming asters full of themselves and ever so slightly sharp tongued, accused only half jokingly and Yoongi rolled his eyes. “Watch it, you. The summer heat’s not over yet, and I’d hate for you to have to change your tune.”

Jimin laughed, light and twinkling, and Taehyung scoffed.

“You’re such a prickly softie,” Jimin stage whispered to Yoongi. “You’re smiling while you’re threatening, if anyone’s a cutie here it’s you.”

“Takes one to know one, Jimin, you’re the cutest!” Taehyung insisted, repeating his words from earlier.

And Jimin gasped, replying with a happy little, “Thanks Tae Tae!”

Yoongi snorted at the both of them, but let them be. It’d already been years and the two of them had really grown into themselves, but they were still the silly wisps that Yoongi had watched over all this time. There were things that were changing and things that were staying the same, and Yoongi didn’t mind either of them.

 

 

If Yoongi were to pick out the general point where things for him and Seokjin actually, truly began to change, it would be when, in early fall, Seokjin fell sick.

Seokjin getting sick wasn’t new in and of itself; he’d been sick before, Yoongi noting Seokjin’s wilted demeanor, dimmed enthusiasm, and the coughs and sniffles as dead giveaways for when he was. What was new this time was that Seokjin didn’t come out to the garden. Yoongi was confused but shrugged it off the first day, and then the second. But on the third, Yoongi was concerned that he still hadn’t seen even a hint of Seokjin.

“Strange,” Yoongi mumbled to himself, as the third day bled into the fourth. But it was none of his business. Humans got sick more often than fairies, and then they got better...unless they didn’t. But it had only been three days. Maybe Seokjin would come out later today. Or tomorrow, or...

Just ask the plants out front if they’ve seen him, the hanging basket flowers chorused together, nothing but sincere and sweet so Yoongi couldn’t even get defensive and shoot them down for it. And anyway, it was a good idea because at least he'd stop fretting but not fretting about it, but --

But? But what? What better alternative did he have here?

“Thanks,” he told them, then fluttered down into the grass, mission in mind. He took care to keep close to the ground as he flew, passing between the slates of the backyard fence easily and rounding the corner of the house on quick , but definitely not frantic, wings.

When he asked, the tree out front told Yoongi solemnly that no, Seokjin had not been outside or left the house to go to work in the past few days -- though the next to door neighbor had been by.

The information wasn't ideal, however enlightening, but Yoongi thanked the tree for the help regardless. But what now? Yoongi wasn’t sure what to do next -- perhaps nothing? He couldn’t actually do anything for Seokjin. And it was autumn, so there was plenty of preparations left for him and...

And Yoongi looked up as the front door swung open and there was a -- well, a halfling it looked like, from the gentle purple pulsing strongly around them, the soft periwinkle of healing fairies -- propping the door open and calling something back into the house. That had to be neighbor, he worked out -- and then Yoongi must have momentarily lost his mind, all senses and bearings and, and everything, because --

(You flower fairies never have much sense about you to begin with, the tree pointed out, too mature and wise for it to be sly, exactly.)

Yoongi dismissed that, along with just about every other instinct in his mind and body, and quickly flew into the house, zooming past the halfling's feet, too quick to be noticed.

Immediately once inside Yoongi -- not so much panicked, but everything inside him went sort of stricken with realization of the choice he had just made. Eyes scanning the lay of the land quickly, without skipping a wing beat he flew to the first hiding place his eyes landed on: ducking under a couch and landing in a crouch behind the leg.

Catching his breath, Yoongi watched as the door slammed shut behind the halfling, and he quietly reassessed. Okay, Yoongi thought to himself. Okay okay.

Hello, a windowsill fern reached out sleepily. Ferns and vines were always sort of sleepy and soft in nature. Yoongi immediately clung to the familiarity and ground himself in it.

“Hi, can you help me?” Yoongi asked it, peeking from around the couch leg. If he was going to be here in the house (trapped, his mind supplied helpfully), he might as well lay eyes on Seokjin. At the very least satisfy the impulse that drove him to do something so reckless. “The human who lives here...”

Is sick, the fern said in agreement. Hasn’t properly gotten out of bed in a while. The neighbor’s been feeding me. I’m getting too much sunlight though, since he hasn’t moved me back to the kitchen counter where I’m supposed to be. The fern sighed. But you can’t really help with that, right?

Yoongi nodded in pity. “I’m more flowers -- and outside gardening -- sort of specialty. If your soil is in need of some fixing up, I could...”

The fern hummed a gentle rejection. I’m alright, it said. If you're looking for my human, you’ll need to follow the hallway to the end.

Yoongi hesitated, then stepped from under the couch, eyes sweeping for pets, giant feet, or any signs of danger -- ready to take flight at a moment’s notice. When the calm remained undisturbed, Yoongi sighed and let the tension in his shoulders ease slightly.

“I’ll see what I can do about your situation,” Yoongi promised, nodded at the fern’s fuzzily afforded gratitude, then flapped his wings and began a careful trek towards the hall.

Yoongi was more used to keeping low in the grass for cover, but here inside the house it seemed more prudent to stay high, flying up against the ceiling, a hand trailing along the wall as he pressed himself as close to the ceiling as possible. Finding Seokjin was easy, though: the hallway wasn’t long, and the door wasn’t shut.

So Yoongi dipped under the doorframe, then veered up to land and perch on the top of the frame and take stock of his surroundings. There was, most importantly, a bed in which Seokjin was sleeping fitfully. Beyond that there was: two dressers; a strange little machine in the corner nearest the door making an odd sound and smelling of wet and warmth; a lone-standing basket at the bedside, filled with crumpled paper reeking of illness; a lamp and a small desk and a bookshelf --

Yoongi flew quickly to the bookshelf and found an alcove between books to step into and look out from. As he looked on at Seokjin, who mumbled in his sleep and shifted, Yoongi wondered what the plan here was. He wasn’t a healing fairy, and he couldn’t nurse Seokjin back to health. Best he could probably do was whip up a tea that might imbue Seokjin with some basic protection against misfortune, boost his immune system, simple things like that. And he wasn’t going to do that when Seokjin had his halfling neighbor checking up on him.

So plain and simple, Yoongi didn’t have a plan. And admitting that he simply had wanted to see Seokjin and make sure he wasn’t actively dying was troublesome when Yoongi had spent so much time trying to convince himself and others that Seokjin was merely convenient to have around. Yoongi didn’t want a human, and as it were Seokjin was not his human. Yes, Seokjin was the human that Yoongi was perhaps a little too fond of, but that didn’t mean --

Yoongi started at the sound of the front door creaking open and slamming shut, and he instinctively ducked further into his hiding place. It only took moments before the door to the bedroom was also creaking open, and Yoongi was not surprised that it was the halfling. Yoongi dimmed his glowing as low as it could go: he wasn’t highly familiar with halflings because he’d always kept so much to himself, but he knew the more fae they had mixed in them, the more attunement they had for those kinds of things going on around them.

“I have come bearing gifts and my own humidifier, oh royal one,” the halfling said brightly, though in hushed tones, going to set up on the opposite side of the room a similar looking contraption to the one already in one corner of the room. Yoongi realized suddenly -- if he was going to get out of the house, he’d need to move now to lie in wait for when the halfling left, so he could tail them easily.

Yoongi gritted his teeth, checked that the halfling was still preoccupied, and booked it for the door, low enough that he wouldn’t catch any eyes, but high enough that he wouldn’t get trampled if, perhaps, someone else were to burst in the door or come suddenly around the corner.

Yoongi was nearly out the door, flying over the strange machine when it whirred and -- and squirted a cloud of water up into the air that Yoongi flew straight through. It took less than a moment for Yoongi to realize, as his bangs fell into his eyes, damp, and his clothes quickly collected moisture -- that his wings --

He couldn’t help the little shout he made as his wings, wet by the mist, became useless, and he lost control and careened towards the floor. The hardwood was not as forgiving as even the more frozen ground -- though it was smoother than concrete pavement, so there were small blessings to be counted here -- and Yoongi thumped painfully twice against the floor before sliding to a stop.

Ouch, he thought dully, disbelief rather than full blown panic causing his mind and emotions to go soft and cottony and slow-moving. He tried to flutter his wings, to no avail. They weren’t soaked, but it would take more than a few minutes before the were fit for flight again, and --

“Huh,” came a loud voice from above and behind him, and Yoongi sighed and glared over his shoulder at, of course the halfling. Said halfling was now crouching down onto their haunches in the doorway, staring down at Yoongi with curiosity. “So there you are.”

Huh? “...There you are?” Yoongi repeated to himself, instantly confused. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that I sort of figured Seokjin had a garden fairy, and that I’m right after all,” the halfling said cheerfully, shocking Yoongi with that they’d understood Yoongi’s words. This halfling had a lot of magic in them, then. “I am surprised you’re in the house, though. Bad habit of yours?”

“Seokjin hadn’t come outside in a few days,” Yoongi said low and defensive, more dumbfounded than anything. His survival skills were somewhat pathetic, Yoongi was starting to realize. He'd have to come to terms with that later, seeing how there were currently more pressing things to investigate here. “You understand fae?”

The halfling grinned and tucked their hands under their chin. “Sure can; I’m a man of many talents. The name’s Hoseok, and one of my moms is a fairy.” This Hoseok untucked one hand to wriggle his fingers demonstratively. “Healing, I’m sure you noticed. I’m literally a halfling, half and half human and fairy, so...” Hoseok gestured from Yoongi to his own ears. “Yeah, I can understand you.”

Yoongi nodded, as he sat up. He was beginning to sense that he wasn’t in too much danger here. “Yoongi. I’m not -- doing anything to Seokjin, you know, Yoongi said cautiously. “I’m not casting misfortune on him or anything. He’s not bad to have around the garden.” Yoongi didn’t know how to explain to Hoseok what exactly had made him decide to come inside the house, but that admission alone seemed important, in case Hoseok got the wrong idea.

Hoseok hummed agreeably, and placed a cupped hand on the floor next to Yoongi. “I figured, with how the garden’s been going. You don’t seem like you’re planning on putting a curse upon this household or anything any time soon, not with those mums in the works.”

Yoongi eyed Hoseok’s hand suspiciously without moving, and Hoseok wiggled his fingers in enticement. “Come on. You’re worried about Seokjin right? And you’ve got to wait for your wings to dry, right?”

Yoongi fluttered them uselessly, annoyed. Hoseok laughed. “Sorry, if I'd known you were here, I wouldn’t have put the humidifiers on spray mode. Come on!”

In the end Yoongi didn’t have much choice, so he climbed carefully into Hoseok’s hand and hoped it wasn’t a trick so Hoseok could crush him or something.

But Hoseok only carefully cupped his other hand in front of Yoongi as a wind buffer, so Yoongi wouldn’t be blown off balance and fall to his death, and carefully stood, turned, and walked them to Seokjin’s bedside.

“Here you go,” Hoseok said pleasantly, depositing Yoongi with utmost care in the open space right next to the pillow -- and therefore Seokjin’s head. It was all so practiced for Hoseok that Yoongi couldn’t help imagining a younger, human child-sized Hoseok toting around his fairy mother with similar delicacy.

“I’ll let you out when you're ready to go, but I have to go heat up soup for Seokjin first, so I can get him to take his medication later.” Hoseok shrugged. “He’s hopeless at taking care of himself when he’s sick, but he’s got me, so…”

Yoongi nodded to show he was listening, even while he was looking at Seokjin. Yoongi had never been this close to him before. It was strange but exciting, even though Seokjin’s hair was messy from bedrest and his skin had a thin and sickly-pale sort of look to it. Yoongi felt an urge to place a hand on Seokjin’s cheek, and then froze in horror at how he almost began to reach out on impulse.

Hoseok sensed Yoongi’s hesitation, and didn't leave the room right away. “Hey look, you don't have to sit right there exactly, but you're at least staying until you dry off. So I just think you’ll feel better after keeping an eye on him.”

Yoongi fluttered his wings to remind Hoseok that he was limited to his feet, and then gestured at the bed. “I'm trapped up here,” Yoongi said pointedly.

Hoseok shrugged heartily. “And Seokjin’s probably not going to wake up -- or remember you if he does. So if you’re worried about him knowing about you...don't?” Hoseok grinned again, huge and sincere. “Not that he'd mind, or do anything to you. But...if it really bothers you, I'll put you somewhere else.”

Yoongi paused and, after a long moment of inner turmoil, placed a very tentative hand the rounded end of Seokjin’s nose. Seokjin’s nose twitched briefly, but nothing else happened. His skin was warm under Yoongi’s fingertips.

“...Alright,” Yoongi finally conceded. “Only until I’m dry.”

Hoseok made a tiny happy noise and turned to leave. Yoongi remembered something suddenly and called after him, “Hey, but move the fern on the windowsill to kitchen. You’re giving it too much direct sunlight.”

Hoseok stopped, looked back at Yoongi with an intrigued expression, and then grinned somehow wider. “Will do, thanks.”

After that, waiting to dry and for Hoseok to finish up making food, Yoongi didn’t do much. But then again, neither did Seokjin. He just stayed mostly asleep, snuffling now and again and shifting around. He blearily half-opened his eyes exactly one time, gaze unfocused as he looked almost straight through Yoongi. All he did was make a small, hoarse noise in his throat before his eyes slid shut again, so Yoongi wasn’t worried about it, just like Hoseok had suggested.

Yoongi stayed and watched him, occasionally murmuring nothing particularly special to Seokjin, in a way maybe similar to how Seokjin talked to the kids. Yoongi wouldn’t sing like Seokjin did, but he’d talk in soothing tones for him, occasionally giving in to the urge and patting Seokjin’s cheek.

~~~

“I feel like I should make him come inside,” Seokjin said, more into his mug of hot chocolate than to Hoseok, who was carefully and dutifully picking out his choice pieces from the tins of gourmet popcorn. “It’s cold.”

Hoseok waved a hand. “It’s chilly, at most. And if he likes to bond with nature while doing his homework, I say let him.”

Seokjin’s fingers tightened around the mug. “But it’s cold.”

Jungkook had taken to camping out in the sitting area of the garden and doing his schoolwork this past autumn, which Seokjin had reservations about from the start about because then it had been actually chilly. Now that the gray skies were threatening to snow any day now with no warning, and Jungkook showed up on Seokjin’s front step bundled up in his winter coat and knit hat and scarf only to bound straight through the house and go directly back outside, Seokjin was worried that Jungkook would catch a cold or a chill -- or something.

Hoseok wasn’t as worried. “You always collect him around the thirty minute mark anyway, so give him his thirty minutes to be a weirdo.” The way Hoseok was half smiling to himself made Seokjin feel like he was being left out of a joke or something, but pressing Hoseok if there was something he didn’t know about had already proven to be no good. Hoseok only shrugged it off as nothing every time Seokjin asked.

Seokjin sipped more hot chocolate, not convinced. “It’s just. What brought this on?” Jungkook had always loved working in the garden, but usually they started out with snacks and chatting, then went out back, and eventually wandered back inside for more snacks and homework before Seokjin sent him home. “I can’t wait until the spring hits so I don’t have to worry about him getting sick.”

Hoseok aw-ed, closing the popcorn tins one by one. “Seokjin, the baby is growing up, you gotta let him spread his wings and soar.”

Hoseok kept a straight face for half a second before he cracked up, and Seokjin shot him a nonplussed look. “You’re not that funny.”

“Sure I am,” Hoseok said with a shrug, tossing a piece of popcorn in his mouth. “You have no idea.”

Seokjin opened his mouth to say something crossly, but something outside caught his eye. Seokjin turned back to the window to check, but there was nothing there except Jungkook hunched over his books, mouth moving as he mumbled to himself.

Hoseok tossed another piece of popcorn, up into the air this time before catching it neatly in his mouth. “What’s up? Did Jungkook shiver? If he looks cold you can go get him -- ”

Seokjin blinked. “No I -- thought I saw something? Like a flash of light. Must have been the glare from the sun.”

“Yeah?” Hoseok sucked a kernel out from between his teeth loudly, getting up and joining Seokjin at the window and looking out as well. “Don’t see anything, so guess so.”

Seokjin hummed, not really convinced. He’d been doing that ever since he’d gotten horribly sick in the fall, seeing the occasional flash of light out the corner of his eye. If it kept up, he’d have to go see an ophthalmologist about it. Maybe the fever had messed with his eyes somehow, or maybe he needed a new prescription for his glasses.

Seokjin shivered, from the chill coming off the window, and it snapped him out of his reverie. “Alright, he’s done, he’s coming in,” Seokjin decided sternly.

Hoseok only laughed, stepping back to give Seokjin a clear path to the door. “Lead the way.”

So Seokjin, unhindered, marched to the door, peeking his head outside and calling out, “Jungkook, come on, come inside and warm up.”

Jungkook blinked, looking up wide-eyed and surprised, but nodded and stood, hand plucking his cell phone out of his lap and depositing it onto the patio table as he did so. “Okay, if you say so,” Jungkook said, not quite sullen, but not far enough off that it didn’t get to Seokjin sometimes.

Seokjin raised an eyebrow, as Jungkook collected his open books, unfortunately more at the dead leaf peeking out of his coat pocket than the by now familiar way Jungkook seemed put out yet again by Seokjin’s request for him to come indoors. He had to focus on something to lighten his heart at the way Jungkook was maybe beginning to outgrow him.

“Why do you come over anymore if you don’t want to talk to me? And what’s with the leaf?” Seokjin, half joking, asked further, “What, do you need samples for something?”

Jungkook blinked, arms full of textbooks, and he looked down at his own pocket. “Uh no, I just. Picked it up, I guess.” He carefully placed his books back onto the table, then pulled the leaf out of his pocket with that same delicateness. Seokjin watched, amused, as Jungkook held it up in the air for a moment before letting it go, and it fluttered away gently in the wind.

Seokjin smiled and laughed, confused. “Alright, kiddo.”

Jungkook screwed his face up in distaste at the nickname, and behind Seokjin Hoseok laughed, delighted. Seokjin would have said something further to pick at Jungkook in good-nature, but he blinked at another flash of light in the corner of his eye. When he spared a quick glance, there was nothing there (besides the leaf drifting off into the distance, floating on the wind), like usual.

Filing away for the nth time that he needed to call and make an appointment to see about his eyes, Seokjin looked back to Jungkook and nodded into the house. “Come on.”

“Yeah yeah,” Jungkook said with a tiny smile to himself, pocketing his phone and re-gathering his books. “Okay mom.”

“Does that make me the agony aunt,” Hoseok chimed in. “Since you always whine about your schoolyard troubles to me?”

Jungkook shrugged as he shuffled in, and Seokjin shut the door behind him. “If that’s what makes you happy.” He brightened, eyes zeroing in on Seokjin’s mug. “Hey, is there any hot chocolate for me?”

Seokjin laughed and reached over to ruffle Jungkook’s hair. “Of course there is.”

 

 

There wasn't anything wrong with his eyes apparently according to the doctor, a month later. This both was and wasn’t a relief.

“The thing is, I swear I'm seeing something, Hoseok.” Seokjin said over the sizzling of the grill. They had gone out -- for once -- for barbeque. Hoseok was not subtle when it came to caring about people, and he had obviously picked up Seokjin’s general unease about his eyesight going weird all of a sudden. “But not even my current prescription is wrong, apparently. I think they think it’s half in my head.”

Hoseok flipped over the meat meticulously, nodding along. “Okay, well maybe in a way there isn’t anything wrong with your eyes. Maybe you should be looking harder, maybe you are seeing something, but you just keep missing it.” Hoseok paused and laughed, and gestured widely and indistinctly with the tongs. “Wow, okay, listen to me trying to sound mystical and vague and be helpful -- I’m trying to say that I believe you’re seeing something, even if the doctors don’t.”

Seokjin picked up a spare lettuce leaf and began to shred it into little strips. “I don’t know if it’s better or worse for it to be my imagination.” He grimaced. “They ended up just giving me eye drops for it.”

Hoseok shook his head and held up a piece of meat for Seokjin to eat. “Sounds like my advice is just as useful then. Or not-useful, I guess.” Hoseok beamed. “Surprise, I’m your doctor now!”

Seokjin threw the remaining half a leaf of lettuce at him. It floated down onto the grill and began to char, curling at the edges. “Wow, so funny and so helpful. Don’t burn the rest of the meat, doctor.”

Hoseok batted his eyes and presented his sizzling cut of meat more pressingly, holding it so close to Seokjin’s lips he could feel the heat and residual smoke wafting off it against his lips. “Seriously, try your eye drops and keep a closer eye on the world around you. It's gonna be fine Seokjin.”

Seokjin shook his head in exasperation, but still smiled and, never one to turn down food, accepted the meat. Hot deliciousness exploded across his tongue, and Seokjin thought for probably the hundred thousandth time that Hoseok was a good friend -- even if he didn’t always totally make sense with his whole new age ‘you can shape the world through a constant optimistic perspective’ approach sometimes. But Seokjin was willing to humor him this time. “Okay. I'm not really...worried -- just annoyed, I think -- but okay. If you say so.”

Hoseok grinned wider, spearing another ready to eat piece off the grill and depositing it on Seokjin’s plate.

 

 

“You know something,” Seokjin told his garden, not even working in it or reading anything or thinking even, but sitting at the table and looking out into the neat rows of plantlife, mind wandering as he let himself just be. It was definitely cold by now, in the dead of winter. But Jungkook had found some kind of merit in being outside despite the weather, so maybe Seokjin could too. “Guys? You want to know something -- not really all that interesting about me?”

Seokjin waited a moment, and then said in a quiet, pitched up voice, “Yes, we do!”

Seokjin paused, then laughed at himself. This was all probably silly and would look to someone else as a slightly pathetic use of his free time, but Seokjin didn’t feel like going to see if Hoseok was free, and he certainly was not about to tap into coworkers on his phone for companionship. He kind of just wanted to be off on his own today, and anyway talking to his plants never seemed...pathetic to him. Maybe borderline weird, okay sure, he’d admit that.

Seokjin sighed and rested his chin on his hand. “I think,” Seokjin said slowly and carefully, sorting through his words and his quiet, slightly off mood, even though no one was there to judge him for it. “I think that my life is...kind of not all that interesting. Even my medical emergencies are generic and boring.”

Seokjin scratched idly at his chin. He hadn’t shaved yet today, and he had stubble growing in. It was one of those sort of days, lazy and slow. “Not that I want to be slowly going blind or have leftover, I don’t know, trauma from a fever or something.”

Seokjin stretched further onto the tabletop, resting his cheek on his own arm, the slippery waterproofed material of his winter coat cold under his skin. But it wasn’t like he particularly even wanted something interesting to happen to him. He was content, but he was also... aware. Aware that nothing was ever happening in his life, not really.

Seokjin sighed again. “I don’t know if I should be grateful or bored, but really all I feel is nothing particularly strong about it. It’s just how things are.” Seokjin smiled and sat up abruptly, looking to his garden and addressing the plants directly. “But hey! I’ve got a garden to die for, right? You guys are the real superstars in my life.”

The wind blew and Seokjin blinked furiously against the way his eyes watered. Something flashed in Seokjin’s peripherals again, and he glanced -- like always -- to see if it was actually a concrete thing he could catch more than a glimpse of. Like maybe he hadn’t been looking hard enough all this time, like Hoseok had sort of suggested, joke or not. This time the flash shimmered and blinked out, but not immediately like usual. Seokjin frowned.

Getting up with a shiver -- he really needed to head inside soon -- Seokjin trudged over to the corner of the garden where he’d seen the flash of light. It had faded out gradually enough for Seokjin to register color this time -- a faint sort of green. Maybe, he thought suddenly, suspicious, this was all some neighborhood kids playing pranks on him with a laser pointer or something -- though as soon as he thought up the idea it seemed unlikely, since he’d been seeing random little flashes around town, too. But maybe he was wasting his time or playing into the hands of some practical joker, or...

Oh, who cared about logic and all of that, Seokjin decided right then and there. Instead he went right on with searching in the corner of the garden. But carefully parting the snowdrops and lifting their leaves (with murmured apologies for disturbing them), proved fruitless: the only thing he found was one of those weird leaves and petals bundles he occasionally found laying around, scattered in the backyard every now and then.

Seokjin scoffed, mostly in the same bewildered amusement he always felt when happening upon these strange little things. They were too small to be of use and if someone was making them -- well, that didn’t make any sense. But it didn’t look like something naturally occurring...so Seokjin had mostly just decided it was either some weird bug thing -- something like how spiders made webs, but with little folded squares of leaves and petals -- or simply something unexplainable. Or maybe Jungkook was pulling some elaborate, weird, gaslighting kind of a joke and Seokjin would find out at Jungkook’s graduation party next year that he was a big sucker who just accepted mysteries for what they were and went along with them. That was frighteningly possible, truth be told.

But regardless, Seokjin picked up the bundle just in case it was important (because they sort of had started to feel important to Seokjin, for some reason), like he always did. Shivering at the latest winter gust, and seeing there was nothing else buried in the flowers, he decided to go inside.

Shutting the door behind him and sliding off his shoes, Seokjin kept examining the stack of leaves and pressed flowers -- and suddenly, something slid into place. Seokjin found himself having a moment of startling clarity.

“Oh,” he said to himself. “Oh, maybe...?”

Shuffling into the kitchen, he switched on the stove and set a tea kettle on the burner. “I,” he declared to the kitchen. His countertop fern didn’t seem too judgmental of him, but still. “Must be crazy.”

But he boiled the water anyway, poured it into a mug once it was hot, and then dropped the little mystery bundle into it while trying not to think too hard about what he was doing. Three or so minutes later, after letting it steep, Seokjin carefully brought the mug to his mouth and tentatively sipped -- if he keeled over and died from accidental self-poisoning and, well, stupidity...

But then Seokjin only hummed, as the taste of jasmine and something almost citrusy settled on his tongue. Huh, he thought to himself. So that was delicious.

“I take it back,” he muttered into his cup, already lifting it for a second sip. “My life is actually kind of weird.”

~~~

It was a testament to Seokjin’s progress in the garden that this spring he had favorites.

“Doesn't that just mean he's a bad parent?” Namjoon asked, truly confused. “You're not supposed to have favorites.”

Yoongi pulled loose the thistles stuck in his clothes and sprinkled them in Namjoon’s hair, grinning at Namjoon hissing and quickly brushing them out. Taehyung didn’t even blink, as some landed on his cheek, only turning his head to shake them off and spit out the few that landed in his mouth. Yoongi shrugged at the unintended collateral damage. “You’re lying to yourself if you say you don't have favorites.”

“I try to be fair -- especially since it's my job to basically be a good parent,” Namjoon said, all seriousness.

And all hypocrisy too. Yoongi had to work very hard not to point out that they were spending Namjoon’s precious off time on the observatory branch for rather specific and obvious reasons, fueled by favoritism at its finest. Instead he idly swung his feet from where they were dangling as they sat on the edge of the flat, and currently empty platform. It was cleared of stargazing equipment for now, since the sun was out, and only served as a takeoff and landing platform in the daytime.

Taehyung, head propped up on Namjoon’s thigh, felt no such obligations of leaving Namjoon alone. He lifted a dutiful hand and patted Namjoon on the side of the face, smiling sleepily. “It’s okay, we know you have to pretend I’m not your favorite -- and that Jimin’s not a close second, of course -- because of job politics -- ”

Namjoon gently flicked Taehyung on the forehead, then rubbed the spot better after Taehyung flinched. “Why don’t you actually afford me some respect, if you want me to even consider you being my favorite?”

“Jimin and Taehyung are your favorites,” Yoongi said, unable to resist. “You’re very fair mostly, I’ll give you that, but don’t try to deny that you favor Jimin and Taehyung.”

Namjoon rolled his eyes, even as he kept fixing Taehyung’s bangs. Taehyung grinned at Yoongi, and Yoongi mouthed ‘brat’ to him. Taehyung stuck out his tongue (and snatched his feet away when Yoongi tried to pinch his ankles).

“Stop it you two,” Namjoon said, a distracted aside before he got to his main point. “Taehyung and Jimin come check in with me the most from their batch, so any so-called favoritism is more that they won’t leave me alone.”

”Aw,” Taehyung said, grabbing the front of Namjoon’s clothes to almost violently leverage himself into a sitting position, and then sidled up to Namjoon and rested his head on Namjoon’s shoulder. Namjoon, used to Taehyung’s forcibly touchy-feely tendencies, sighed, but tangled a hand in Taehyung’s hair with a faint smile.

Yoongi raised an eyebrow at the display, as if to say ‘see?’ and Namjoon suspiciously averted his eyes. Taehyung just yawned. It was no wonder though: he had come in at dawn today, according to Namjoon, and hadn’t gone to bed yet, having gotten mixed up with and pushed into some errand concerning the morning dew conditions for the next few days. Yoongi and Namjoon had come out onto the observatory branch to wait for Taehyung’s return from that job, because Namjoon wanted to check that his run in with the dew fairies hadn’t ruffled him too much. Yoongi knew from experience (lodging complaints, rather) that dew fairies were hard to one, push around, and two, say no to. As Taehyung yawned widely again, Yoongi reflected on that he truly didn’t miss living in a court, despite all the securities and comforts in provided. There really were job politics to navigate when you did.

“Tae, you should go to bed,” Namjoon murmured, hand still in his hair. And to Yoongi: “It’s not like I can help doing my job and mothering the kids who still stop by, Yoongi.”

“But they’re still your favorites, because they come see you,” Yoongi pressed, no end goal in mind beyond being obnoxious and passing the time. He was arguing for argument’s sake, because sometimes that was what he and Namjoon did, shooting the breeze. “And that’s the big thing, right? That you’re going to end up with favorites no matter what you do. But if you're self aware in the ways some of your kids outshine the rest of your kids, I figure then at least you can try and be fair about it.”

Namjoon stared at him in faint disbelief. “I know you’re trying to guilt me right now, which I don’t appreciate -- but, to make this about you...seriously? That's the way you approach having however many flowers every season depending on you for their survival, upbringing, and well-being?”

“Unlike you, my kids don’t go anywhere,” Yoongi said, partway smug in the way only seeing an opening for a debate checkmate could make him. “I mean until they die in the great circle of life, they stay put. So I can’t hide behind that same excuse of yours and say I’m still fair.”

“Shut up,” Namjoon said no heat, no real comeback. Yoongi grinned, feeling victorious, and Taehyung, clearly drifting in and out, gave him a double thumbs up.

Namjoon sighed, world-wearily, “Shut up. You know what? Why don't you just go back to telling me all about how Seokjin loving his pink peonies more than the rest of your precious dual custody children is the greatest thing ever? Hm? How about that?”

“Wow, what a hateful fairy,” Yoongi confided flatly and not at all secretly or quietly to Taehyung, who sleepily nodded in agreement.

 

 

“Hey -- anyone out here?”

Yoongi recognized Jungkook’s voice, quiet and hesitant for once. The fact that he was deliberately and verbally asking for any fairies to show themselves, no matter how softly, meant Seokjin wasn’t around. Convinced it was safe to show himself, Yoongi flew towards the flowertops and poked his head out. “Just me,” he said holding up a single finger to demonstrate.

Jungkook squinted and sighed. “...Oh.”

Yoongi frowned and turned his hue up bright and sharp, in actuality only a little irritated and mostly doing it for show. “‘Oh’, I'm not good enough for you?”

Jungkook laughed and leaned down to pat Yoongi on the head. It was a little too forceful, causing Yoongi to bob under the weight ungracefully. “No no don’t be mad. It’s that with finals -- end of the year tests, I mean -- coming up, I'll barely able to make it out here for a while, and I wanted see you all before that.” He frowned, nose scrunching up. “Seokjin’s going to make me study for sure whenever I come over, so I wanted to say a quick ‘see you in two weeks once I'm free’ sort of thing. So...tell Jimin and Taehyung for me?”

Yoongi nodded in acquiescence, then waved Jungkook off as Jungkook beamed, took a deep breath and turned to head back inside. Yoongi watched him make his way back into the house and silently wished Jungkook luck -- and agreed with the kids that Jungkook had a good head on his shoulders and was good at handling challenges. He’d do fine with any tests coming his way.

“Never thought I’d end up adding another wisp to my collection,” Yoongi mused as he returned to tending to the flowers. “A confused changeling, at that. Between you kids and those three, I could practically be a den mother myself, huh?” The primroses he was collecting pollen from didn’t find him too funny. Ah well, some flowers were tougher crowds than others.

Yoongi kept on working with little distraction until he heard the back door, and Hoseok’s loud voice calling out with, “I just want to check out your mega glorious garden, am I not allowed to go back there all the time, too?”

This time, because Hoseok was obviously talking to someone, Yoongi didn’t breach the flowertops. He carefully flew just below them and to an edge of a thicket to peek out without being seen.

And sure enough, Hoseok was descending the back steps, with Seokjin right behind him and saying something about, “ -- Jungkook’s not going to study until he’s done eating his snack anyway, so I might as well come out with you, Hoseok-- ”

Yoongi only watched as Hoseok nodded, and his eyes scanning the garden until they locked onto where Yoongi was just barely out of sight. Since Hoseok knew what he was looking for, and could easily see Yoongi’s hue, it wasn’t difficult for Hoseok to find him, and now that he had Hoseok was making a beeline straight for the bunches of primroses. Yoongi raised his eyebrows at his popularity today.

Crouching down, Hoseok said over his shoulder, “Really Seokjin, your stuff looks great.”

Then quietly to Yoongi, he said, “What’s up? Things are good?”

Yoongi nodded, peeking his head out more since Hoseok’s body was blocking him from Seokjin’s field of vision. Hoseok’s smile was amused and fondly exasperated. This was an expression of his that Yoongi was overly-familiar with, as it mostly had to do with Hoseok finding it hilarious and absurd that Yoongi was still insistent on hiding from Seokjin’s plain view.

It was probably Hoseok’s warped sense of humor and his compulsive need to meddle that had him choosing his next words. “Seokjin likes your gifts, by the way,” Hoseok said very very casually, a smooth murmur as he reached out to run a finger gently over a bloom. “Said he doesn’t know why he keeps doing it because ‘it’s probably gross’, but the tea’s really good and he has no self control when it comes to food and drink.”

Hoseok’s bright smile broke out at the way astonishment floored Yoongi so much that he landed abruptly, hue sincerely bright and sharp this time. Yoongi couldn’t even find it in him to be annoyed as he stared up at Hoseok with wide eyes. Seokjin had figured it out? Seokjin liked them? Yoongi didn’t know what to think.

“Dim down, if you’re still serious about being a secret,” Hoseok advised happily, and then called to Seokjin, “You should enter competitions or something, Seokjin! These look great.”

Seokjin’s voice came from the back steps, laughingly. “No, that’s all serious business and intense -- trust me, I looked into it briefly and was promptly frightened away.”

As Hoseok laughed, Yoongi leaned heavily against the primroses -- who worriedly asked if he was okay, to which Yoongi nodded dumbly. Seokjin had figured it out finally, after pocketing who knew how many gifts. The real question here was probably why had Yoongi kept making them, getting bolder and bolder about how he left them, if Seokjin hadn’t worked it out until now. But that didn’t matter now that Seokjin had in the end.

Well, yes it did. Of course it mattered. Because Seokjin was half seeing magic nowadays, becoming aware of it in his garden and around his house and surely seeing flashes of in the rest of the world around him. That was probably why he had understood what to do with the tea bundles all of a sudden after seasons -- years, Yoongi realized suddenly -- of nothing. Seokjin was picking up on magic, surely because of his and Yoongi’s close encounter last fall, and that was both frightening and exciting. What was Yoongi going to do about it?

For now, he reasoned out to himself, probably just get back to tending the garden.

“Good luck,” Hoseok whispered to him happily. “Again, it’d be easier to just show yourself, but I support whatever strange thought process you have that leads you to whatever strange conclusion and probably horrible course of action.”

Yes, Yoongi thought firmly, shooing Hoseok off and slipping back out of sight. He definitely would just get back to his work, and deal with the mounting Seokjin issue later.

 

 

“I'm boreeeed,” Jimin whined lounging on a leaf of a flower that was threatening to drop him.

“Jungkook isn't coming out to play for a few more days,” Yoongi told him distractedly, focusing on watering the soil. Seokjin, helping Jungkook inside with studying, hadn’t made it out yet either, and Yoongi was picking up the slack. “And anyway, don't you have things to do?”

Jimin made a cutesy face, eyes crinkled and lips pursed. “Not really, no.”

Yoongi wet his hand and flicked it in Jimin's direction, to which Jimin only stuck out his tongue. “The world isn't exciting enough for you? Nothing left to explore?”

When Jimin only shrugged, wriggling his whole body yet somehow still managing to stay balanced on the (wholly unamused flower’s) leaf, Yoongi threw in casually, “Where's your soulmate?”

Jimin sighed and finally rolled off the leaf catching himself mid air with a gentle flap, floating gently til his feet touched the ground. Jimin was the picture of grace in a way that sometimes had Yoongi envious.

“Taehyung’s busier than me,” Jimin said, stretching his arms above his head with a satisfied groan. “Everyone’s busier than me!”

Yoongi flicked more water at Jimin, this time in his face and Jimin sputtered, wiping it off. “That’s because you're a slacker.” Jimin wasn’t, not really even a little bit, but this was how they joked and this was how Yoongi showed affection. He knew Jimin understood that, because he easily played along.

“Ha ha,” Jimin said, with a pout that quickly turned into a grin; Yoongi’s only warning. Jimin threw himself onto Yoongi’s back, slightly bending Yoongi’s wings as they were trapped between the two of them, Jimin draping his arms over Yoongi’s shoulders. “You're lazier than me, mister using-your-human-to-do-your-dirty-work.”

“Ha ha,” Yoongi began to shoot back at Jimin --

But then the flowers were -- yelling -- warning --

“There’s -- ” Yoongi tried to say but Jimin (who had gone stiff, Yoongi suddenly noticed ) was taking off, fingers vice grips in the front of Yoongi’s shirt, half dragging him into the air.

Cat,” Jimin whispered urgently, letting Yoongi go once his own wings were free to flap.

“I know,” Yoongi said, just as urgently, grabbing Jimin's wrist as they cleared the flowertops and pulling him towards the nearest flower basket, eyes scanning furiously.

But it didn't matter. Because at that moment, the cat leapt out at them from a rustling patch, leapt straight at them and there was no time to dodge or change direction or --

Yoongi brought the hand clutching onto Jimin around and, as hard as he could, he flung Jimin away and, hopefully, out of danger.

(“Yoongi!” Jimin cried out desperately as he went sprawling. Yoongi didn’t have time to see where he ended up -- because the cat was upon him the next moment.)

The heaviness of the paws pressed to his chest didn't fully register until Yoongi landed on his back in the dirt, cat above him and the flowers wailing.

“Hello,” the cat said, tail flicking, eyes alit with amusement. “I came for plants as a snack, but what a surprise.”

The paws pressed harder still, and Yoongi gasped for air. “You’re usually in that hole or in those baskets. What a surprise.”

Yoongi, still struggling to breathe, stared up at the pointed smile of the cat as his hand scrambled to his belt for his shears. He wondered if this was the end. “Why don't we just live and let live?” Yoongi suggested, even though he was ready to go down fighting. He winced as the paws crushed him down impossibly harder, his breath completely leaving him and one of his wings folding awkwardly and painfully underneath him.

“No,” the cat said, slowly leaning in. “No, I don't think so.”

But then the cat howled -- Yoongi saw an angrily bright orange and put two and two together -- and with a hiss took a paw and slammed it into Yoongi’s side.

The blow smacked him across the garden, and he gritted his teeth against the pain as he tumbled through the dirt, until he a cluster of woody stems caught him in the stomach. It knocked the barely regained air out of him, but it brought him to a stop. He gazed up blurrily at the peonies as they whispered a fearful apology -- such sweethearts no wonder they were Seokjin’s favorites…

Immediately Yoongi shook his head, snapping at himself to get it together and stop acting like he was about to die and his life was flashing before his eyes. Yoongi took a deep breath, leaned heavily against the peonies’ stems, and clambered back onto his feet.

“It's okay, it'll be okay,” he whispered to the peonies, to the whole garden, as Jimin landed by his side. Yoongi eyed him carefully, but Jimin looked no worse for the wear, only serious and alert. All business and every trace of gentle playfulness he usually had completely gone. Yoongi had never seen him like this before.

“I'm alright,” Yoongi told Jimin, eyes snapping forward and back to the slowly approaching cat. It was crouched low to the ground, delight from the chase of prey in its every movement. From the corner of his eye, Yoongi saw Jimin nod and steel himself.

Unexpectedly, his next words weren’t to Yoongi. “Taehyung,” Jimin whispered, words steady and sure, and Yoongi wondered why Taehyung; Taehyung wasn’t a fighter. That was Jimin, and Jimin was already here. “Taehyung, get to Seokjin’s garden. There’s a cat. Me and Yoongi and a cat, okay?”

The wind could only pick up key bits, key phrases, a handful of words. The wind could only blow so hard and so fast. Taehyung wasn't a fighter (did Jimin think they were going to die and wanted to get in final goodbyes if he could?), Yoongi was practically useless as he was (he wasn’t going to be able to fly like this, and a grounded fairy was an incredibly vulnerable fairy), and there was a too playful cat advancing on them with unwavering focus (but Yoongi wasn’t going to let Jimin die here because of a cat, not if he could do anything about it).

“Jimin...” Yoongi said carefully, eyes on the yellow irises of the cat, the flicking tail. Jimin had his blade drawn, and Yoongi couldn’t help but wonder how many times he had used it before now.

“Yoongi get behind me, as slow as you can,” Jimin told him, voice low and calm and sure. “If Taehyung gets here he can try and fly you out. Between me and him, we could get it to work.”

Ah. Taehyung’s kite was fine tuned for one fairy, but Jimin was right about that maybe working, if Jimin helped to lessen and carry the load. But...Yoongi didn’t think Taehyung was going to be able to get here fast enough, even in the best case scenario.

He didn’t bring that up: being pessimistic wasn’t going to help anything. So instead he followed Jimin’s instructions to get behind him (‘as slow as you can’...Yoongi couldn’t move any way but slow: his wing was bent and his whole body was bruised, and he was barely hanging onto consciousness through the sheer need to be attentive, adrenaline rushing through him), despite not wanting to put Jimin in harm’s way. Yoongi knew he was a liability, and he didn’t want Jimin’s attention split any more than it had to be.

“You should fly,” Yoongi said, even though he knew it was pointless to ask, and Jimin wasn’t going to listen. He had to try and get Jimin to save himself, anyway. “I can’t, but -- ”

“I’m not going to leave you,” Jimin said, completely no nonsense, no room for argument. “Stay behind me, and if I can I’ll try and fly us both as far away as I can -- but you have to get a running start so I can pick you up and go.”

Yoongi was startled at that. “I’m not going to leave you -- ”

But Jimin nudged him sharply; the cat was poised to strike any second and Yoongi had no alternative. Arguing with Jimin could get them both killed, so.

So Yoongi trusted him. Trusted Jimin not to die, turned and tried not to hate himself while he ran. Behind him, Yoongi heard the jingle of the cat’s collar tags and Jimin’s battle cry.

Yoongi was running for only a few (long, long) moments when Jimin, like promised, zoomed up behind him and looped his arms under Yoongi’s underarms. He veered sharply upwards in an instant, trying to get height on their side, breathing heavily but in controlled, almost calm puffs. A complete world away from Yoongi’s labored, frantic gasping.

They were making headway, but then the cat leapt into the air again, undeterred and swiping at them -- and Jimin dodged, but their combined weight meant Jimin’s flight balance was off. He overcorrected, then had to dodge another attack by the cat, and it became clear in an instant that they were going to hit the ground again.

Before they crashed, Jimin managed to half toss Yoongi in an attempt to keep him out of harm’s way, and Yoongi skidded across the dirt and stopped up against the steps of the stoop. But when Yoongi looked up, the cat was upon him anyway.

It slammed a paw down him again, still playing. The flowers were screaming. Yoongi couldn’t find his shears fast enough, and it didn’t seem like it mattered either way --

But Jimin appeared, determined as ever, flying and swooping down on the cat, blade shimmering in the sun.

Whatever he did with that sword, Yoongi didn’t see clearly, but it had the cat screeching, and it spun around to try and bat Jimin down out of the air. Yoongi gasped as his chest could expand without the inescapable weight on him, and he scrambled to his hands and knees, woozy but just as determined as Jimin to survive, for both of them to live through this.

With flight, Jimin stood a chance, Yoongi thought blearily as he watched Jimin bait the cat away from him. Yoongi didn’t, in that case, flightless and bruised. The flowers weren’t screaming anymore, but they were upset and frightened and --

And Yoongi had to stop being a liability. It was the only way he could help Jimin: stay out of the way so Jimin could save them both, unhindered. Without his wings working, that meant Yoongi needed to hide, or to get as high up as he could, somehow. Yoongi blinked, and looked at the stoop he was leaning against. Ah.

He struggled to climb the steps, crawling on all fours and dragging himself forward, his good wing fluttering hard for counterbalance. Behind him, he heard the cat spluttering and hissing, crying out when Jimin presumably landed blows. Yoongi didn’t know what Jimin was doing, but he hoped Jimin won. He had to believe Jimin would, because Jimin was tough and smart and the only other alternative was unthinkable. Yoongi climbed the topmost step, wheezing and knowing, just knowing, that Jimin would be okay.

“You give that cat hell, wisp,” Yoongi breathed out, then fell forward, unconscious.

~~~

Jungkook looked towards the backdoor, at the cat’s yowl, brows furrowing. “What the heck is going on with your neighbor’s cat? It won’t stop.”

“It’s being louder than usual...” Seokjin agreed, looking towards the backyard cautiously. Eventually he shrugged. “It’s not eating my plants though, because it wouldn’t announce its presence if it were.”

And then, just as suddenly, the noise stopped. It was strange, since it had been continuous keening for a near full two minutes. Seokjin blinked. “Maybe it was a cat fight?”

Jungkook frowned and got up from the couch slowly. “Yeah but I only heard one cat...”

Seokjin looked at Jungkook’s schoolbooks, and then to Jungkook slowly approaching the door like there was something dangerous on the other side. “I can’t help but feel that you’re just doing this as an excuse not to study.”

Jungkook shook his head seriously, hand already on the knob. “No, I’m just going to open the door and check that everything’s alright out there, promise.”

Seokjin couldn’t fault that, and he gave Jungkook a go ahead kind of nod of the head. Jungkook pulled opened the door and peeked out.

Seokjin heard more than felt the spring breeze that blew in, and he saw more than fully registered the way Jungkook stiffened. And then Seokjin blinked and realized -- wait. “Jungkook? Is everything -- ”

Jungkook spun around, face pale and eyes wide. “I have to go get Hoseok!” He said, panicked and high-pitched and not an explanation, worrying Seokjin further as he sprinted towards the front door.

The back door was left swinging open, and Seokjin torn between watching Jungkook go and seeing what outside had evoked such franticness in Jungkook. “Jungkook, what is it?”

“On the back step -- get him!” Jungkook called over his shoulder, no more an explanation than before, as he left the house.

Seokjin frowned and turned back to the back door. At first glance, he didn’t see anything, especially not the dying animal he thought might be out there. Get him? Seokjin stood and took a tentative step closer. Nothing...

...And then a tiny person-shaped thing flew right up in his face, hands immediately latching onto his bangs and tugging frantically.

Seokjin yelped and pulled back in shock, but the little...person didn’t seem to care, following him easily with an iron grip on his hair. At this close Seokjin could see their expression, open and worried, and how their mouth was moving frantically. But all Seokjin heard was shrill, bell-like sounds.

The bells instead of words made Seokjin remember childhood fairytales and...Peter Pan. Fairies? This little person had wings, and was glowing a soft orange. It all seemed to fit the bill, so fairy. This maybe was a fairy. “Am -- are you the ‘him’ I’m supposed to be getting?”

The fairy -- maybe -- tugged harder, making Seokjin wince in slight pain, and started pointing to the backyard.

“Alright, no I take it,” Seokjin said, reaching up to pull his hair out of the fierce grip. Jungkook had said something about the back step, and now this fairy was pointing towards it frantically. So Seokjin could take a hint, even while rolling with the punches of ‘magic is real and fairies exist, probably, considering the latest evidence circa thirty seconds ago’.

Seokjin carefully approached the open door again, feet light and eyes searching, not sure what to expect. As he got closer, the bell ringing became frantic and the fairy started pushing on the bridge of Seokjin’s nose in the opposite direction. Seokjin stopped immediately.

“Okay,” he said, going crosseyed trying to look at the orange-glowing fairy. “I do get it. You have a friend somewhere and you’re afraid I’m going to step on him, right? Because I’m already trying not to do that, you know.”

The fairy paused for half a second, taken aback. Then they nodded, quickly flew down, coming back up to Seokjin’s eye level to point downwards, and flew down again.

Seokjin followed obediently with his eyes -- and gasped when he was led straight to another fairy. This one was laying, battered, on his back steps, unmoving.

Shuffling over quickly, Seokjin bent down and hovered worriedly. The orange fairy had landed as well, and dropped to their knees by the unconscious fairy’s side, one hand touching their friend’s shoulder gently. Even at first glance, things didn’t look good. One wing was folded over strangely, and they showed no signs of consciousness. This injured fairy (a familiar green, this one, a familiar...something -- everything?) didn’t move at all at the contact, completely out cold.

“Is your friend okay?” Seokjin asked, voice a whisper, even though obviously the answer was no. “What can I do?”

The fairy shook their head, silent as they looked up at Seokjin. Seokjin knew enough to recognize the universal stony and regretful ‘there’s nothing we can do’ stare.

Seokjin, feeling awful about being useless, looked closely at the fairies before him. He figured maybe at least his presence was keeping away anything big and dangerous to the fairies -- oh, the cat, all that noise must have been it attacking them -- and hoped that was enough. He knew nothing about fairy vitals, but the unconscious fairy had a very faint glow. That was probably a bad sign.

Unsure what to do, he realized the orange fairy was now making little soft, melodic ringing sounds. Without understanding what was being said, and even Seokjin found them calming. It must have been a song or a mantra or something. A ‘hang in there, help is coming’ type thing.

“It’s going to be okay,” Seokjin said softly, trying his best to do all that he could do, even when that was nothing.

Luckily for them, there was no need to wait long. “I’m here, I’m here!” Came Hoseok’s voice, and Seokjin looked up in time to see Hoseok hurry in from the front door, Jungkook trailing him looking worn through but alert.

Seokjin immediately backed out the way, and Hoseok took his spot immediately and crouched down. Seokjin found Jungkook slipping into the open space next to him, whole body quivering. Seokjin didn’t know if it was nerves or from physical exertion.

Hoseok took one look at the fairies on the steps and sighed, upset but focused. He ordered smoothly and delicately, “Jimin, back up.” And the orange fairy nodded and obeyed immediately.

Seokjin didn’t know what was going on, as Hoseok held a hand over the injured fairy and started murmuring unintelligibly in a way that half sounded like wind chimes. Seokjin frowned in disbelief at the faint pale purple that Hoseok’s hands began to glow -- but once Seokjin had a second to think about it, it wasn’t all that shocking, actually. If Seokjin could have found it in him, he might have laughed, because oh.

Seokjin sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. He’d have his freakout later. After he knew what all was going on, and after he knew this strangely familiar green fairy was not possibly about to die.

“I’ll explain,” Jungkook murmured weakly to Seokjin, giving in and leaning against Seokjin like the kid searching for comfort that he was. “We’ll all explain everything.”

 

 

Hoseok was explaining -- how his mom (“My other mom, not the mom you’ve met,”) was some kind of healing fairy (and that, “No, fairy reproduction doesn’t work the way you think it does, okay,”) -- when another fairy flew in through the open window. Riding on a makeshift kite of some sort, no less.

This fairy didn’t seem to have a noticeable color, Seokjin thought as they landed by the little makeshift bed they had made for Yoongi (Yoongi, Jungkook had told Seokjin, to which Hoseok had agreed, and Seokjin had nothing to do but to accept that the closest people in his life already knew about and were on first name basis with this fairy that lived in his garden) and started jangling-talking furiously.

“Whoa okay,” Hoseok said. “Okay, Tae?”

The newest fairy didn’t seem to hear Hoseok, still going off, and Jungkook sighed. “I’ve got this,” he said wearily, and then suddenly -- suddenly, his skin shifted and Seokjin felt a little gasp escape him when just as suddenly Jungkook was a bird.

A bird. A...bird? Said bird flew from the puddle of clothes on the floor and landed lightly on the table, next to -- Tae? Hoseok had said Tae.

“I.” Seokjin said. “Huh, right, okay”.

Hoseok let out an uneasy, somewhat sheepish laugh. “Uh -- that one’s Taehyung. Jimin,” The orange fairy was called Jimin, Seokjin had sorted that out just fine already. “Whispered what happened on the wind so Taehyung would know, but he could only get here now. And he’s upset.”

Seokjin nodded along nicely, then pointed to bird-Jungkook, who was tucking his feet under him to sit comfortably on the table, and Taehyung was apparently conversing rapidly with him. Jimin stepped around bird-Jungkook, ruffling some of Jungkook’s feathers as he passed by in a way reminiscent of how Seokjin often ruffled Jungkook’s hair, and wrapped his arms around Taehyung’s waist.

Seokjin watched, still in a daze, at how Jimin leaned heavily on Taehyung, using the same soothing sound as before, calm and quiet. Like this, Seokjin could see Taehyung’s -- hue, Hoseok and Jungkook (who. was. a. bird. he was still waiting on an explanation for that, don’t think he wasn’t) had called it -- better now, as Jimin’s orange was distorted by Taehyung’s sort of transparent hue.

This was a lot to take in, Seokjin though faintly to himself. He took a deep breath, and pointed more insistently at Jungkook, looking to Hoseok with all the expectations in the world.

Hoseok blinked, and got the hint. “Oh! Jungkook’s not a halfling like me, but a changeling. It means he can only really understand fae speak when he shifts.”

Hoseok seemed to remember something, and laughed, all sheepish again. “Oh -- all that time he’s been out back ‘doing homework’, he's actually been hanging out with those two.” Hoseok nodded at Taehyung and Jimin. Hoseok mimed typing on a phone in the air. “Texting, you know.”

Seokjin rubbed a hand over his eyes, the motion practiced by now. “Yeah. Texting. Fairies. Halflings and changelings. Okay! I need to sit down.”

So, he thought to himself, to recap, he had a fairy in his garden and the flashing vision problems he'd been having had been him seeing but not-seeing magic going on around him. And then in the same moment of finding that out, he had also found out that this fairy -- an unseen friend of sorts who had been leaving him gifts of tea for years, his partner-in-crime-slash-gardening -- almost died at the hands (or paws) of his neighbor’s cat. That his best friend was magical offspring. That his for all intents and purposes adopted little brother was a changeling --

“What is a changeling, actually,” Seokjin asked weakly after Hoseok sat him down and had gotten him a glass of water.

Hoseok hummed, watching Jimin and Taehyung, tangled up together and talking in quiet chimes as they nestled themselves under Jungkook’s wing, all three staring at the rise and fall of Yoongi’s chest. “Ah, uhhh it’s...when fairies steal a human child and switch it with a fairy wisp? So Jungkook’s body is the body of the infant his human parents had, but the soul isn’t the same?”

Hoseok slouched deeper into the couch, opening a bag of chips. He had mentioned using magic drained him, and his eyes looked like bruises by this point. “And that’s because fairy...babies, if you will, don’t have solid forms like human babies. But the souls are sort of the same, so they pull out the human baby soul and put the fairy baby soul in there instead. That’s why Jungkook can’t understand them like me.” Hoseok tapped his ears. “I’m special.”

Seokjin raised an eyebrow and accepted the chip Hoseok fed to him. “That sounds a little sinister, Hoseok. The whole stealing a child and swapping them out thing.” Seokjin licked his lips clean and watched Jungkook chirp something to Jimin and Taehyung -- now one fairy under each wing for whatever reason. “Why? What’s the point?”

Hoseok shrugged, popping a chip into his own mouth and crunching thoughtfully. “I don’t really know why some fairy do it, to be honest? I think it’s curiosity about raising a human like a fairy -- and then that sort of putting some of our own out there among humans might encourage, I don’t know, better results of fraternization and fairies revealing themselves when they need or have to. But that’s all me guessing.”

Then Hoseok brightened, and sucked salt off his thumb enthusiastically. “But that’s what makes sprites! The human souls that the fairies take home after swapping. Sprites never get forms and don’t have magical affinities or anything, but they tend to learn some fae magic. So it’s not bad or sinister, promise.”

Seokjin shifted in his seat and didn’t know about agreeing with it not being bad, necessarily. Jungkook had explained earlier on that he hadn’t known about being a changeling, and that hitting sixteen had brought about a whole lot of magic and changes that he hadn’t been sure how to deal with. Hoseok -- and all the fairies that had unknowingly been in Seokjin’s life -- had explained things to Jungkook and been walking him through it ever since, which was great -- but very very coincidental for Jungkook. And that all sounded like changelings, at the very least, got shortchanged in some very unfortunate ways.

But Seokjin wasn’t going to jump headfirst into arguing ideology about fairy...culture, or whatever you’d call all this. He was just trying to keep up. “Okay. So changelings are practically human, but not really, and halflings are kids of fairies and humans. Got it.”

Hoseok nodded, encouraging as always, grabbing a handful of chips. “Yeah -- kids or grandkids, great grandkids, great great grandkids -- you got it. Halflings are called halflings no matter how little fae they have in them. But you’ve got it!”

Seokjin sunk deeper into the couch, trying not to feel overwhelmed. “Yeah, I...am getting it.”

 

 

Yoongi hadn’t woken up yet, and in the meantime Seokjin had met another fairy -- Hoseok and Jungkook were kind of surprised by this Namjoon too, explaining to Seokjin that he’d never gone out of his way to leave the court and come out to meet any of them before.

“He likes you,” Hoseok said Jimin was saying as he perched in Hoseok’s hair and rang-spoke excitedly, when Namjoon sized Seokjin up from the couch arm.

“He’s not saying anything, I think Jimin is being optimistic,” Seokjin mumbled, carefully eyeing Namjoon and his bright red glow. Namjoon was tiny, but he had a no-nonsense face and Seokjin didn’t know how to read his almost scary expression.

Unsure of protocol here, Seokjin finally just offered his pointer finger for Namjoon to shake, saying, “Sorry I didn’t know about Yoongi. I would have...done something. About the cat.”

Namjoon looked at the finger, looked to Seokjin’s face, and back to his finger before placing a surprisingly gentle hand to it. It was accompanied by an equally as surprising gentle smile, and a nod.

“Um, the sentiment is appreciated,” Hoseok translated, as Namjoon spoke carefully and calmly. He had stayed pretty calm this whole time through, though Seokjin assumed it helped that he had come in after Yoongi had been through the critical part of it all.

Jungkook, back to being fully clothed and human, and drained from his own magical stints, called from the armchair, textbooks opened in a farce (like he was actually even trying to play off that he wasn’t studying and instead playing on his phone with Taehyung), “Namjoon’s basically these two’s mom, and Yoongi’s best friend. I think you need him to like you.”

“And you need to study,” Seokjin shot back. “But hey.”

Taehyung said something, and Seokjin was learning that he in particular jangled more than chimed, like Jimin. Namjoon tolled something back at Taehyung, and Hoseok translated, “Taehyung says Namjoon ‘likes you for sure’ and Namjoon is telling Taehyung that he’d have to wait and see.”

Hoseok paused, as Namjoon looked at Hoseok and said something very deliberately, turning back to Seokjin and nodding. “...but he thinks he’ll probably like you, in the end ‘since Yoongi does already’.”

“That’s...good,” Seokjin said as amicably as he could. It was strange to hear about a sort of one-way relationship years in the making from everyone but the main person -- fairy -- themselves. Not that Seokjin didn’t want to get to know Yoongi, it was just another layer of strangeness, on top of all these new concepts of fairy courts and will-o-wisps and magic affinities.

“Jungkook, you said he’s really good friends with my, um, neighbor, right?” Seokjin had been struggling this whole time in his head, trying to figure what to call Yoongi. ‘Neighbor’ seemed neutral and inoffensive -- and accurate -- enough, for now. “So I hope that means we can be good friends too.”

Namjoon beamed up at Seokjin, saying something in his deep rings that had Taehyung leaving Jungkook’s lap, flying and landing deftly onto the table, the opposite end from Yoongi unconscious in his bed to leave him undisturbed. Taehyung brightly (and literally, in Seokjin’s ears) chimed in, arms waving demonstratively as he looked up at Seokjin with a huge grin.

“They like that you’re calling Yoongi your neighbor,” Hoseok explained, then hissed slightly as Jimin tugged at his hair (Seokjin was sensing a pattern there, with Jimin) and said something. How bells could manage to sound petulant, Seokjin didn’t know.

“Jimin likes it too,” Hoseok said, hitting Jimin lightly with one finger to the top of Jimin’s head. “He’d like you to know, at the expense of my personal well-being, Jimin.”

Seokjin found himself shrugging helplessly. He didn’t know what he was doing, and lucky word choices were not something he felt safe in assuming would keep happening for him. “It just seemed sort of appropriate and respectful,” he said carefully, uncertain. “Yoongi is the only reason my garden didn’t die first thing when I moved in, I bet.”

“You would have worked it out, probably,” Jungkook said, kindly really considering how Seokjin knew that he quite probably wouldn’t have. At least not as fast.

“A lot more plants would have been unfortunately sacrificed,” Seokjin argued. “So. I’m glad we dodged that bullet, I suppose.”

Hoseok was trying to pluck a squirming Jimin out of his hair, and he scoffed lightly, not at all unkindly. “Trust me, Yoongi’ll love to hear that. All your undying gratitude and sentiments of putting the garden first.”

Seokjin frowned, at Hoseok’s apparent familiarity with Yoongi. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was...just another weird thing to have to deal with. “Don’t start,” Seokjin said warningly. “Seriously. Before you start making fun of me, you better remember that I should probably be mad at you for keeping, I don’t know, two hundred secrets.”

Hoseok made a tiny hurt noise, eyes wide. In his hair, Jimin began talking a mile a minute. On the couch Jungkook was making himself tiny, hunching in on himself. Seokjin half-regretted his words, especially when he wasn’t really angry in the slightest.

“I said you might have a garden fairy,” Hoseok protested sadly. “And then it became a secret that wasn’t mine to share.”

Seokjin sighed and waved his hand. “I was joking, kind of -- though, you know, you could have mentioned you were being serious before you found out. And you definitely could have mentioned that you are magical -- ”

Before Hoseok could defend himself further, all attention in the room was diverted by Yoongi sitting up suddenly in his little bed, his hue lighting up intensely in what Seokjin would assume to be the shock of coming back to after a traumatic experience.

Yoongi was peering around wildly, and Jimin immediately flew to the table, quickly joining Taehyung in crowding his bedside. Seokjin thought it was interesting that Namjoon was keeping his distance, staying by Seokjin, silent on the arm of the sofa. With Taehyung and Jimin worriedly and loudly fussing at Yoongi, Seokjin didn’t really blame Namjoon for giving him some space.

Yoongi’s jerky movements didn’t ease up, as he looked from Jimin and Taehyung, to Jungkook, to Hoseok, to Namjoon, to Seokjin -- and then he froze.

Seokjin blinked, cleared his throat. Waved a little. Yoongi was tiny, but his stare was intense, and it made Seokjin nervous. “Hi. Um. Glad to see you’re okay?”

Yoongi stayed silent for another second, then in a very low and intense voice (ring? Seokjin was still struggling with the details here) said...something. Whatever it was, it had Jimin flinching, Taehyung’s mouth opening in a little ‘o’, and Namjoon flying over, his voice rushed but still sounding soothing in quick but sure jingles.

“Uh he kind of just cussed.” Hoseok translated briefly. “A lot. And uh, violently? This might take a second to sort out, maybe you should...” Yoongi absolutely shouted something, and Hoseok was the one who flinched this time. “Oh my god, Yoongi, we were all a little preoccupied with saving your life, okay, sorry -- ”

Jungkook sighed and stood, gait a little unsteady as he walked from the armchair to the couch. “Hey,” he said lowly, hand on Seokjin’s elbow. “This really probably is going to take a bit to sort out, so can we step outside for a second?”

Seokjin nodded slowly, confused why Yoongi seemed livid about the whole thing. He hadn’t done anything to upset Yoongi yet...had he? But with Hoseok in the middle of arguing with Yoongi, Seokjin was only getting one-fifth of the conversation, a bunch of overlapping bells and Hoseok’s tight ‘I hate arguing, but I will if I have to’ voice -- and there was no point in trying to figure things out like this. “Yeah, of course Jungkook.”

Jungkook didn’t say anything until the back door shut behind them, and even then he paused and seemed to be gathering his thoughts.

Seokjin gave him his time and space, glancing around the garden absently. The fact that Yoongi and Jimin had fought for their lives back here mere hours ago was barely apparent. Most of the plants were still intact and only a little dirt was kicked up. There was one potted flower near the stoop that was knocked over, and Seokjin bent over and righted it.

“Sorry,” Jungkook finally decided to say quietly, as Seokjin stood back up. “It’s -- I. I didn’t really work out that I was, you know, a changeling until recently -- ”

Seokjin nodded, confused again. They had covered these basics. “Yeah, you already said that.”

Jungkook shifted nervously from foot to foot, and Seokjin realized he just needed to let Jungkook get this out his system, whatever it was. “Yeah, but...just. I think the details would help. So. It was only this past fall, I think?” Jungkook appeared to think about it, then nodded to himself. “Yeah it was. Hoseok told me what I was, I think because he bumped into Yoongi and made nice with him. And I guess it made him realize how easy it is to miss out on that world.”

“Uh-huh, it’s incredibly easy to miss out on magic happening literally right in your own backyard.” Seokjin said, aiming for good natured ribbing as he gestured around them.

Jungkook only sighed, still all antsy, nervous energy. “Yeah, but it’s -- listen. I suddenly had this explanation for all these weird things that had always been going on with me and I just. I know how it feels to not know, and then find out and then feel all stupid.”

Jungkook finally stopped fidgeting and dropped his head apologetically. “What I’m trying to say is that I should have realized how it would feel when we were doing it to you. I’m so sorry.”

Seokjin frantically shook his head, hands searching out Jungkook’s and lacing their fingers together in reassurance. “No, Jungkook I’m really not mad. It’s a lot to get used to and I’m getting used to it -- I mean, you can shapeshift into a bird, how am I supposed to react to that on top of Hoseok being half fairy and -- and Yoongi, and the rest of them?”

Seokjin snorted, squeezing Jungkook’s hands and smiling at Jungkook squeezing back. “And, oh yeah, that you’ve apparently been texting fairies right in front of my face for almost half a year now?”

Jungkook burst out into surprised laughter. “That’s not exactly -- geez, when you put it like that it sounds hilarious.” Jungkook swung their arms briefly before carefully unlacing their fingers, and he shuffled his feet shyly. “If it helps, Yoongi would never partake in the so-called texting.”

It was Seokjin’s turn to laugh, less in the amused kind of surprise and more the beside himself breed of the emotion. “How -- how would that help, Jungkook? I have to get to know this tiny, grumpy fairy and he clearly hates me. Which is great.”

It was upsetting to come to terms with the apparent fact Seokjin had -- he’d guessed, based on how unpleasant the mere sight of him was to Yoongi -- made a poor impression all this time they’d been raising this garden sort of together (though Seokjin hadn’t known it most of the time). Everyone had been mistaken, it seemed, about the reasons Yoongi hadn’t shown himself to Seokjin up until now.

“Oh my god, no, he doesn’t hate you. Yoongi’s just...” Jungkook smiled fondly. “He’s being shy.”

When Seokjin rolled his eyes, Jungkook shook his head. “No, really! This is all actually great, because maybe you’ll really get to know each other and he can stop pining.”

Seokjin frowned at the way Jungkook clapped him on the shoulder, nodding determinedly. It all seemed a little more over the top than this all warranted. “Jungkook...the dramatics are a bit much. Pining? Come on.”

Jungkook pulled a face, “Okay fine, less pining, more ‘I like this human but how should I say hello one of these days’. It’s maybe a fine line.” Jungkook dropped his hands from Seokjin’s shoulders, shoving them in his pockets, laughing humorlessly to himself.

Seokjin frowned at the turn around in emotional response from him. “Jungkook?”

Jungkook didn’t look up, though he sighed, almost inaudibly, shoulders sagging down. “I guess I’m realizing that I shouldn’t pick on someone who barely made it out of a fight with their life today.”

Seokjin looked at him, really looked at him, and saw how much Jungkook resembled his age for once. It didn’t happen often, with Jungkook’s usual stoicism and maturity in place. That just made Seokjin’s heart ache worse. “Hey, he’s okay,” Seokjin said firmly. “And I promise you that I’m not mad at you for keeping secrets.” Seokjin put a gentle hand on Jungkook’s arm, peering at Jungkook until Jungkook met his gaze with a hesitant smile.

“Though, I have to ask,” Seokjin said thoughtfully, trying to carefully guide the conversation somewhere safer. “Have you always been able to do the bird trick?”

Jungkook’s smile turned into something strong and steady, eyes lighting up at fond memories. “No, Jimin and Taehyung figured I had to have some kind of misdirection magic in me and Yoongi walked me through the basics of shapeshifting and -- ”

Jungkook threw his hands up over his head, smiling wider. “And do you even know how relieving it is to have you be in on this now? Because I’m practically human and Hoseok kind of is too, but he grew up with all this and they don’t seem to hear themselves sometimes, and how weird they sound to me -- ”

Seokjin laughed and figured, sure this was all completely unknown territory for him but really, how bad could it all be?

 

 

Yoongi, it turned out, had only been freaking out because he was under some kind of impression that the amiable partnership he and Seokjin had been working with would only continue to work if Seokjin stayed in the dark about Yoongi.

“It’s pretty silly,” Hoseok said, and then he obediently translated that Namjoon was saying that, “Yoongi’s shy,” there was that word again, shy. “And he’s cute and he likes you, promise.”

Seokjin wasn’t as convinced -- and Yoongi was glowering at everyone -- but he could only reply with, “If you say so.”

Hoseok was nodding along in agreement with Namjoon’s words, and added, “Namjoon’s right, he’s super cute and super shy -- but all prickly on the outside. Think about all those succulents you used to raise before you learned to really garden! Like that. Treat him like a cactus.”

“Treat him like a cactus,” Seokjin repeated dumbly. “Hoseok...”

Hoseok was having none of it, not even Yoongi yelling god knew what from the living room table, still confined to bedrest. Hoseok focused on ushering everyone else out instead, and Seokjin could only watch him abandon him. Hoseok was a force of nature when he put his mind to it.

Hoseok was already halfway out the door, Jungkook and an armful of fairies in tow. “Okay, have fun, get to know each other, and sorry I couldn’t get your wing back in tip-top shape, Yoongi!”

And they were gone. Just Yoongi and Seokjin.

That had been a few days ago.

So. So now, Seokjin looked at Yoongi, who was standing on the windowsill and staring into the backyard, little feet tapping impatiently. He hadn’t let his prickly demeanor drop yet, and Seokjin wasn’t going to try and force him to do anything he didn’t want to -- beyond keeping him indoors, that was.

Yoongi noticed Seokjin looking, and he looked to Seokjin plaintively (but angry, somehow still angry) and hit a little hand against the window. Yoongi wanted to go back outside now that he wasn’t on bedrest, and Seokjin wanted to wait until Yoongi could fly with no wing equivalent of a limp. Hoseok said that might take an extra day or two, but Yoongi was trying to fight Seokjin on that.

In one way Seokjin felt he might need to be grateful for the disagreement, because otherwise Yoongi withdrew into himself and watched Seokjin silently, refusing to engage. Seokjin was starting to see the shyness in it, though. He was starting to think that Yoongi just didn’t know how to act around Seokjin, now that it was a two way street.

“Um listen,” Seokjin explained calmly for the probably tenth time in as few as days, as Yoongi banged against the window again. “I just feel a lot better with you staying inside for a little while, maybe one or two more days, promise, while we make sure the cat’s not out to get you.”

Yoongi hmph-ed -- that sound came out unhindered by bells for some reason, and it was...kind of cute, in a slightly exasperating way -- and crossed his arms.

Seokjin rolled his eyes and pulled out his phone, holding it out to Yoongi. “You could talk to me, if you really want to voice your complaints and do something about them. I’m not letting you back out into the wild until maybe tomorrow, though. Doctor Hoseok’s orders.”

Yoongi glared, and Seokjin glared back, because yes he was patient, but only to a certain point. And this was getting ridiculous. “Yoongi, a cat almost killed you. Come on, work with me.”

Yoongi squinted unpleasantly, finally turned to the phone -- and then very precisely typed up a curt ‘well, that’s nature, isn’t it?’.

Seokjin sighed, frustrated that their immediate bonding wasn’t going better. In Seokjin’s opinion this was almost solely due to Yoongi’s pride and the way he couldn’t quite figure out how to interact with Seokjin in a way that wasn’t instigatory and antagonistic. Hoseok hadn’t been lying about him being prickly, though really, Seokjin hadn’t needed help working that one out.

But right. Yoongi was shy, prickly, and unsure on how to connect with Seokjin. That was the whole problem, really, when Seokjin kept trying to reach out and start a friendship that was long overdue. But Seokjin was toying with a last ditch idea the longer Yoongi’s guard stayed up -- because if it was a problem with connecting, well...they had that covered in a way, hadn’t they?

Seokjin figured now was the time for last ditch ideas -- because once he let Yoongi back outside, it was too easy to imagine Yoongi purposely never letting Seokjin see him again out of spiteful embarrassment. And not only was that too sad, but it was also infuriating to imagine because this was, in essence, a fight between them. Yoongi had started it and Seokjin was being cordial, but he was not about to lose a fight with Yoongi by letting Yoongi run away, because what the hell? No, no way.

So Seokjin was going make this little prickly jerk of a fairy (that...Seokjin was interested in getting to know better because he probably had a lovely personality and was interesting and kind and look this was sort of a warped situation right now) get over himself and open up. Keeping the phone held out, Seokjin said plainly, “Okay look. I’m going to go out in the garden then, if you’re going to be difficult.” Seokjin pressed his lips together in a thin line, and reiterated, “Yoongi, I am going to garden without you, alright?”

That made Yoongi pause for a long, long moment. Seokjin figured this could go one of two ways, and he hoped Yoongi wouldn’t blow up on him, offended and insulted when really, all Seokjin wanted to do was get on friendly terms with him.

Finally, Yoongi quickly backspaced his previous message in the chatbox, and re-typed, ‘don’t water the pansies, I already did before the cat showed up the other day’. He paused again, then hurriedly typed a closing of: ‘and tell the kids I’m okay since you won’t. let. me. go. outside.’

This was more than Yoongi had said -- typed -- to Seokjin in the whole time of Yoongi being conscious and intentionally interacting with Seokjin. “The kids? You mean the flowers?” Seokjin questioned, amused, and when Yoongi’s head snapped up, eyes narrow and angry, Seokjin laughed. Smiled.

“The kids,” he said again, testing it out. It was an easy endearment. “The kids, huh?”

Yoongi pointed accusingly at Seokjin as if to warn him, but Seokjin raised one hand disarmingly, keeping the one holding the phone outreached in case Yoongi had anything to say. “Hey, I like it, promise. Am I also allowed to call them the kids, or is there a rite of passage I have to go through first?”

Yoongi paused, suspicious. When Seokjin stared back him expectantly, waiting for an answer, Yoongi seemed to pick up that, no, really, Seokjin liked it and wasn’t making fun of him. Seokjin gestured to the phone, still waiting.

Yoongi faltered, then eventually typed in, ‘if there’s any rite of passage, you probably passed it a while back. hey, can I go out with you? that’s fine, right?”

Seokjin grinned and offered his other hand to Yoongi, for him to climb on and give his healing wing a rest. “Of course you can, you just had to ask.”

Yoongi didn’t look amused with that, but Seokjin beamed right through his irritability, not slowed down for an instant now that he’d seen through Yoongi’s grumpy mask and won. There was a cute, soft center in there, and it wasn’t impossible for Seokjin to coax it out after all.

“Oh, come on,” Seokjin said brightly. “Stop glaring. Let’s go take care of some plants, no -- our plants.” Seokjin hesitated, then tried out carefully, “...our kids.”

Yoongi scoffed -- why were his little derisive sounds the clearest thing to Seokjin, and why was Seokjin starting to find that cute? -- but he gingerly stepped into Seokjin’s waiting hand and went along with no further complaint. Our kids it was, then, Seokjin decided smugly.

Once outside, Seokjin found the way Yoongi carefully nudged Seokjin’s hands in suggestions of where they needed to go as he worked, and the way he walked through and surveyed the garden, carefully and occasionally fluttering short distances here and there, a familiar type of thing. Something Seokjin could tell already that he’d have no trouble getting used to.

(“I think I already like you,” Seokjin told Yoongi once they headed back inside, as Yoongi inspected the household plants and seemed to approve of Seokjin’s care of them. That same old reliable resounding at peaceness Seokjin had always gotten from the garden itself had begun to shine through, with Yoongi as the source this time. And Seokjin liked that. “I think I might have kind of noticed you all along, even though I didn’t realize it until now.”

Yoongi seemed to get very flustered at that, and Seokjin thought that seriously, Yoongi was cute, and Seokjin already liked him more than anything -- and wasn’t that just the strangest thing of all?)

~~~

By the time summer set in, dry and hot, Yoongi had long since stopped living in Seokjin’s house. Of course, Hoseok was always the first to point out that Yoongi’s makeshift bed had not only stuck around, but had also migrated into Seokjin’s bedroom of all places, sitting innocuously in the nook on the bookshelf. Hoseok was a traitor, with a beautiful smile and a heart of gold, but a traitor nonetheless. Because Yoongi barely slept inside now that he was better -- Seokjin was just worried about the upcoming winter, and decided of his own volition that Yoongi might need a place to crash if the weather and cold got too bad.

(Yoongi had a feeling that Seokjin was going to take up the cause for keeping Yoongi inside with him all winter, regardless of its severity. Yoongi wasn’t sure how to feel about that yet, beyond knowing that he’d probably end up letting himself be convinced to live inside for the winter.)

Yoongi was fully aware that his initial standoffish approach to interacting directly with Seokjin had drastically changed in a surprisingly short amount of time -- which. Of course. Seokjin had taken to Yoongi’s presence better than anyone could have imagined. And Yoongi had known, and had liked, Seokjin for ages by now. It was all about adjusting by this point.

“You want to spend your lives together,” Namjoon kept teasing every time Yoongi stopped by. It was hard for Yoongi to even take Namjoon seriously and get annoyed with him, when the newest batch of wisps were always clinging to him, a cloak of multi-colored hues haloing his every move.

“I’ll ask my moms for relationship tips, if you want,” Hoseok had the audacity to say to both he and Seokjin. To be fair, Hoseok was probably being earnest -- and Seokjin always laughed, taking it more as a joke than Yoongi felt Hoseok was actually offering the suggestion as.

“Take it one day at a time, I guess,” Jimin offered, one particular afternoon. Jungkook was sitting cross-legged in the grass, marking down notations in his garden journal. Seokjin was bobbing his head along to some unheard beat, singing something slow and nice that Yoongi remembered fragments of from some time or another that Seokjin had sung it, as he pruned diligently.

I really hope it’s true wuv-wuv,” Taehyung said, solemn and sincere as he draped himself in his usual spot: all over Jimin.

Yoongi rolled his eyes, but he kept his eyes trained on Seokjin. Seokjin really did sing the loveliest things to the kids. And he liked to call the kids ‘our kids’ which was laughable, simply put. It was nice, and it gave Yoongi a fuzzy feeling in the pit of his stomach, but laughable all the same.

One day at a time? In what, making Seokjin fall in love with him? Jimin was such a romantic, because that certainly wasn’t what was going on here. Maybe one day at a time in really, truly settling in with each other, but Yoongi snorted to himself at the prospect of trying to woo Seokjin.

That wasn’t...what he was trying for right now, and Seokjin’s reaction to Hoseok’s offers were proof enough that Seokjin wasn’t in that headspace either. They could keep taking it one day at a time with trying for easier and easier companionship, but who knew about love and eternity and overbearing friends trying to matchmake you. It was best to play it safe and not let anyone push them into getting carried away.

“Thanks,” Yoongi said unenthusiastically, then he smiled slyly. “Hey, and good luck to you both too. We’re all waiting on the announcement about wisps any day now.”

As Jimin spluttered and Taehyung laughed his amused-but-embarrassed laugh, Yoongi just nodded to them and then flew, only to land gently on Seokjin’s shoulder. If this were three or four years ago, he would have balked at the mere idea of the action. Only last season, he would have never dreamt of actually doing anything like it.

But it was right now, and Yoongi smiled at how Seokjin paused long enough to look at Yoongi and return the smile, before turning back to carefully snipping off the overgrowth of the border shrubbery. Yoongi occasionally hummed lowly along with the parts of the song he recognized, grinning at how Seokjin’s eyes crinkled at the way his voice -- deep faint bells, to Seokjin -- followed and matched Seokjin’s lead.

It wasn’t anything near love (or whatever) yet, because Seokjin only had known that he existed for what was barely a few months now. But it was something. Yoongi was willing to admit that it was something -- that it could be the start of something. Because Yoongi had to admit to at least himself that he was far, far too affectionate towards Seokjin for it to just be nothing. For it to be something that could be brushed off as a convenient partnership or a relationship of mere, begrudging tolerance. They were far past that, on Yoongi’s end of things.

Yoongi really really liked Seokjin, and Seokjin seemed to like him back so far, in a handful of ways that didn’t necessarily pale in comparison to all the ways Yoongi had come to adjust and adapt to Seokjin over the years. There was an obvious imbalance there, of course, but...

But right: one day at a time. And they’d just have to see where that took them in the end, wouldn’t they?