I. Strike one
The first time Jeongguk really notices is on his fourteenth birthday - a Thursday, cool dry and crisp as the last of summer winds into spring.
It is evening, and Jeongguk runs out of his family’s apartment with two movie tickets and a sweater bundled in his hands. The elevator has broken down so he skids down the stairs, jumps the last few steps in one shot, hurrying to the old bent tree by the roadside where he was supposed to already have been at five minutes ago. Rounding the corner, he spots a familiar face from afar.
Jeongguk smiles and waves just as a sudden strong breeze whips knife-like through the air, and Min Yoongi catches on fire.
“Holy fuck-” Yoongi yells, slapping at his jacket sleeve now lit with bright jumping flames, orange against the blue sky. His lighter clatters to the ground, cigarette falls from his fingers unlit.
And Jeongguk has dropped the things in his hands, breaks into a run as Yoongi rips the jacket from his body and flings it to the road. He reaches his friend just as Yoongi has stomped on the fabric hard enough for the last tongues of flame to suffocate on the asphalt. Only a scorch mark and ruined jacket and Yoongi’s arm - now waxy red in a small patch - are left.
“Oh my god, are you okay?” Jeongguk says.
Yoongi holds up a palm, signalling to Jeongguk to wait, and is silent for a moment as look of concentration passes barely perceptible over his features. He has barely turned his physical sensations back on - Jeongguk knows, without Yoongi telling, that the older boy had dulled his pain on reflex the moment the first sparks caught his sleeve, that he has known his power since age five and almost does not have to think before using it, not anymore - before a grimace flits over his face.
“Stings a bit,” Yoongi admits, “but it’s fine.”
Shrugging, he bends down to peel the remains of his jacket from the road - black-and-white fabric trampled and burnt but mostly still intact - and when he looks up he catches the look of horror on Jeongguk’s face and shoots him a crooked grin. “Seriously, Jeon. It’s fine. Just what I get for smoking, huh?”
But Jeongguk can barely even fake a laugh.
His eyes are stuck on the red burn on Yoongi’s arm, a strange ominous feeling coiling in his gut. He doesn’t know why, but he suddenly feels like his feet have been flung under icy water, like his ribs are folding in on themselves and the pounding of his heart is enough to shake his whole body and his lungs have forgotten how to breathe. Red, so red. The ill feeling creeps cold up his spine, tingling in his neck and buzzing loud in his ears. He feels sick and dizzy and so, so cold.
“-Jeongguk,” Yoongi is saying, and Jeongguk finally snaps his gaze away from Yoongi’s arm to his face. “It’s fine. Nothing serious. Dude, are you okay?”
Jeongguk blinks. “Yeah,” he manages, pushing the words out of his dry mouth. “Of course.” And Yoongi frowns at him, the lopsided way he always does when he knows Jeongguk is hiding something from him but doesn’t want to impose by asking. Jeongguk forces a smile, redirects his gaze to the abused piece of black-and-white fabric limply hanging in Yoongi’s hand.
The feeling fades quickly after, and they watch the movie anyway, and Jeongguk almost forgets.