yoongi resides in the kingdom of the dead with a lack of empathy.
for the most part, his heart is a strange, perennial thing. he lives and his heart beats but he resides in the land of the unliving and he feels - strange, as strange things usually feel. for the most part he does not know what warmth is. when he grew out of the consciousness of mother earth he was made for the underworld, where all dark things reside. in the distance is the garden of paradise; beyond is the fire of the pit, beyond, beyond, beyond. doors of death. veil of limbo. sinking into the river of forgetfulness. when you forget all of who you are, there is nothing left of you.
sometimes looking at faces pass by through the endless maze gets tiring. eventually all features look the same. eventually yoongi’s hands wrapped around the leather wrapping of his staff gets tired, gets exhausted, gets malignant. yoongi leaves it aside and hopes that it disappears, turns into ashes or smoke, turns into the wisps of the night air. that is for the best, he thinks.
yoongi has been in the pantheon before. he knows what is up above. it has taken the slow drag of millennia down his feet to make him not want what he doesn’t have. what doesn’t belong to him. what never will belong to him. what should never belong to him. eventually, yoongi dissipates, his wants fluctuating between planes, becoming one with the core of the otherworld. he doesn’t remember where his name came from or what names he went through in the past - each civilization rises and grows and ends with their own ideas of him, whether it be to his looks or his gender or his clothing, but they are all him. he is all them.
when it comes time for the dark solstice, yoongi moves from his large throne made of iron - iron is in the blood, iron makes up the liquid elixir of life - and walks quietly, silently, to the edge of the spirit sea. in the rivers below, there is only the spin of endless life that did not believe in an ever-after. floating aimlessly like they always thought they would. their faces flicker in opaque, translucent fluidity. yoongi steps over them and they try to reach for his robes, his ankles, only to hiss away. touching him is like touching death itself.
for the travel upward, to the world of the gods above, yoongi changes into his suit and tie. the world they’re in, the flame of civilization has shifted. suddenly there are people everywhere but what has become civilized has become this attire that is both too tight and too fragile, clothing made for show and not for practicality. yoongi tugs at his cufflinks and settles back for the ride. he comes to the upworld by easy means, closing his eyes and waiting for the buzz in his ears to cease.
when he’s there, the golden of gods’ land reaches him.
below this realm is the mortals. above his realm is the mortals. it’s telling - the gods seem to make fun of him for being beneath them, but yoongi knows better. when you’re too busy looking up at the sky, you never see what’s beneath your feet, ready to strike.
yoongi is there only because it’s the dark solstice. soon his time will come. the lands with turn brittle and harden and yoongi will be there to clean up the pieces. he looks forward to it.
all the magical creatures of olympus scutter away from him. they give him scarce looks and then move, their hands and feet light as feathers on green grass. yoongi stares down at the blades of them with pale eyes. green like color. he has not seen color for a long, long time, not the colors that doesn’t know.
instead of heading toward the pavilion where the other gods are, yoongi finds himself strangely reticent. he lingers like shadows that spin webs at his feet, at his long axis of the sun gleaming against the sky. he lingers. there are lots of things that he could be doing - lots of things that he should be doing - but what is duty to a god that has eternity waiting for him to fulfill all that he has to?
the gardens of the gods are still and quiet. there is no musical chirping of birds, the sound of the breeze. there is nothing. in the silence there is something lost and beautiful.
in the middle of the garden, tending to some flower in the middle of it all, is a singular figure. dressed as finely as all other gods, white and effervescent color, pale shadings of springtime. an armband of gold on his bicep. shortly cut hair falling softly. yoongi doesn’t see much of his face, only his hands. there is a moment of pause as the figure picks up one of the golden flowers. brings it up to his face. illuminate curved petals against a flushed, peach-skinned cheek -
then fingers, fold the stem of the flower. it’s not mean-spirited or cruel - there is no snap, simply an addition of pressure. a folding. dark eyes look at the flower encased in longer fingers and yoongi sees a strange kind of warmth in those eyes.
the flower dissipates into the air. the figure smiles.
yoongi is left stopped in his tracks.
he is the god of springtime. his hands make flowering roses and wherever he steps, there is magic in the air. the means the shortening of days. in the morning there is less daylight and in the night there is more of the moon. sometimes yoongi can feel the turn of time like it’s his brother, standing right before him, an eternal skeletal hand on his shoulder. yoongi doesn’t know his name yet. he sits at the foot of another throne, head resting on the knee of another deity. there are flower stems in his fingers that he twists into odd shapes. sort of like nooses, yoongi thinks - circlets.
whatever happens in the following conversation is of no mind to him. he barely pays attention as he sits on his own raised dais, hand gripping the handled edge of his throne, reminding him that it is only glass - a mirage - an effusion. the god of war quarrels and the god of love laughs. it’s amazing how their children can find love in each other, but yoongi supposes that either way, death comes to both. he gets most of those under his liege from love and war. the god of storms, lightning, thunder - the skies - sits at the summit of the pantheon and hands his chin on the edge of his raised palm, watching them all talk against each other. natural disasters. planned forces waiting to quake. yoongi is never invited unless there will be death involved.
the god of springtime has blue eyes. yoongi has never before seen such a blue. it almost feels like staring into the waters of the lethe, they are so vibrant; causing any mere mortal to forget their own name.
he smiles at yoongi, a strange smile that crosses over his features. the intertwined blades of grass and stems drop from his fingers onto his lap. the god of the harvest, the one who’s knee he’s resting on lightly, does not move a muscle. yoongi returns the other’s gaze, caught in some web between them, something like lattice and dew drops catching onto a spell.
the god of springtime looks away. his eyelashes are like cut webs indeed. smiling, smiling. yoongi wonders if spring is that joyful that it’s persona can look desolation in the eye and keep smiling.
when talks end - almost ending in bloodshed, the golden blood of the gods staining golden floors - they scatter and disperse. a lot of them simply disappear, many turning into thin dust, finely moving their bodies across the gates of olympus, walking out through the numerous doorways into the spaces in between galaxies. yoongi sits on his throne for a while longer - made of smoke and illusions - just until everyone else has left. just until it is him, still, all alone at the throne of the gods, looking beyond.
he doesn’t expect anyone to be there with him, and so when there is a voice behind him, yoongi’s heads snaps to the side as quick as lightning. “do you envy them?”
it’s him, him of the blue eyes that remind yoongi of the ground earth. in his fingers are the twisted ropes of green. pressed and twirled against his fingers like rings.
“no,” yoongi says, gaze flickering to empty thrones. “i don’t.”
he can’t say why. there’s no real reason for it; yoongi was born with an innate ability to rule. there’s nothing to be said about it; his head was meant to wear a crown.
“oh,” says the god of springtime, like he gets it. “i see.”
does he? does he really? while up here they fight for power, yoongi doesn’t worry. no one wants the power he has. no one wants to seal souls a way and be the final, ultimate judge. all of them say that he must be bitter, sick, and tired of the work he does - they pit him as the god of misplaced hatred and resentment at being forgotten, but that’s not what yoongi is. he’s simply there. he simply is. there is no time for anything else and anything in between.
yoongi stands from his throne, and it dissipates underneath him, returning to where it belongs. he, too, will soon return to where he belongs, and this springtime with his pale blue eyes will be another memory.
that is, of course, until there is a hand on his elbow and a soft, “will you walk with me?”
yoongi remembers that he has eternity to make memories.
springtime’s name is jungkook.
it curls on the tongue like yoongi expected it to, ending on a soft letter. jungkook walks an arms length away at nearly all times, long legs walking faster toward the edges of the greenery. yoongi stays still in the middle of the stone pavements, watches as flowers wilt with his passing. yoongi doesn’t really know why he’s still here - he should be on his way down to the underworld, down to where he belongs. the great white of the gods above don’t suit him. and yet...yet he stays for a little while longer. the beneath-earth won’t shatter without him for a while.
jungkook doesn’t talk much, pulls back into a reticent state as soon as yoongi agreed to a walk with him. as they walk to the large spacious gardens - who do they belong to? yoongi truthfully doesn’t know - he sees the god of the harvest give him a lengthy, almost nasty stare. looking yoongi up and down like he’s diseased. turns away when jungkook plucks a flower from one of the rose bushes and doesn’t care for the golden ichor that runs from his pricked finger, crushes it in his hand; the god of the harvest leaves, back straight, having gotten the message.
here, there is color. in a world where all is slated into typical shades, there is a color palette of nearly discernible fervor, like a fever-gleaned haze. the roses smell sweet and are like mortal blood. the pinks are blushed like sunset; yellows like butter; whites a pure canvas. a garden of the gods, through and through.
as yoongi walks past them, they curl into themselves. not dead, not quite, but almost there.
he doesn’t notice that jungkook has stopped to watch the flowers die until yoongi bumps into him, their shoulders and elbows brushing. jungkook has turned to look at the rows of plants that have followed them all, their petals drooping as if ill. yoongi looks behind, following his line of sight, and doesn’t exactly feel remorseful. all living things die.
then, jungkook tilts his head to the side, almost as if following the path of the flowers. says, kind of amused, “they look better this way.”
“do they?” yoongi asks, hands clasp behind his back.
“yes,” jungkook replies, “all living things die.”
his eyes flicker upward, where the sky is blue. yoongi realizes that what he thought before on their color is, in fact, invariably wrong; jungkook’s eyes are not like the sky. yoongi’s hasn’t seen enough of it to be able to compare it to that blue. instead, they’re something of a paler shade, almost like ice.
“wouldn’t have expected the god of life to say so,” yoongi says wryly, his voice a bit dry; there’s really no use for him to speak when he’s in olympus. the things he wants to say carry no meaning up here, where the gods are so obsessed with their warm blood.
jungkook shrugs. “i mean, it’s just a fact of life. things are born, things die. pretending that they don’t is being obstinate.” there is a moment where a litany of expressions cross his face; yoongi finds himself watching every minute detail of his features, the shift of his eyes and the dip of his chin before he gives a smile, almost shy smile, half exasperated. “seokjin is like that, sometimes.”
the name rings familiar. yoongi scours his mind for it, wondering why the syllables ring like something true. jungkook reaches down and untangles two leaves that have become engrossed in each other like lovers, at the same time cutting off each other’s air and supply of water. “seokjin is the god of the harvest. i was with him just a couple of moments ago.”
ah, yes, yoongi remembers. the same god that had been staring at them with coal-smear eyes, built broad and tall like he had enough to eat. “is he your father?”
“brother,” jungkook corrects quietly. “for him, death means failure. crops need to live and prosper to be consumed.”
“then they just die anyways,” yoongi says, a touch confused, a touch amused.
“yes,” jungkook nods, “but the point is - the point is that they need to flourish in the first place.” or else there’s nothing if they fail in the first place. “mortals need to eat, after all.”
“i suppose they do,” yoongi replies. “they have the eternal blessing of good weather to stave their hunger through the solar year. not many join my realm.”
jungkook is quiet for a while. they both know why yoongi’s realm is lacking in souls. at this time of their eternity, jungkook is in charge of the seasons, and warm weather is adamant all around with the heart of their civilization. when he says it’ll be springtime, it is spring. when it is cooler, that is when yoongi sees more of the mortals enter the realm of the dead. for the most part, they reason for their passing is due to other things - illness, war, insanity. not for the lack of food. there’s almost something, as the kindhearted god of spring makes sure that the ground will always be ripe, and the god of harvest makes sure that there is always food to be found.
they are too kind, yoongi thinks. but then again, yoongi has always thought that these two believed they could triumph over mankind, could cheat death; turns out, only one of them believes it to be true, but only because of his nature. the other...the other waits.
“why did you ask me to walk with you?”
yoongi has never talked to the god of spring before. captured away in his gardens and his private home of gilded marble and corinthian columns, they have never crossed orbits. there are a million gods, unknown ones, sprawling across the endless heavens; they can’t possibly know all their names, their talents, but the powers that are the most important - yoongi has never been privy to them.
jungkook looks away from him. he’s lithely built, fine features and peach-colored. something ephemeral holds itself in spring - like the whims of a child, maybe - but jungkook looks more than temporary.
in the end, the other god shrugs. “i didn’t want to talk to anyone else. perhaps you don’t know, but when a god wants something, they’ll do anything to get it.” a voice tinged with rue. “i don’t like being a prize.”
“that so,” yoongi says, mulling over this. “and you don’t think i see you as one either?”
at this, jungkook smiles. looks at him with those pale eyes of ice. how odd is it, yoongi thinks, that the god of all things warm, the god of sunshine and long days, has eyes that can be reflected off a surface. “can i show you something?”
yoongi follows four steps behind jungkook as they travel farther into the garden. somehow the swirls of light colors and airy atmosphere changes. yoongi has always known the duality of nature; how any one thing can hinge on the cusp of beauty and terror at the same time. nature is much of the same. flora growing sweetly turns into the ruptured vines the crawl over trunks of large trees, columns, swallowing everything whole. light from wherever it could have once come from is blocked. yoongi feels safety and comfort settle into his bones from the dark. when jungkook moves, his feet are quiet on the stones, but no doubt the living - plants, animals - stretch to hear him move.
when he finally does stop, it’s at the base of a large tree. possibly the one tree that isn’t covered in foliage. it’s branches span out like spindling arms; a canopy of leaves allow for small pinpricks of light to fall to the floor. shadows cross over with the light. jungkook puts a hand to the base of the tree and presses his temple against it, slowly, steadfastly. there’s nothing but utter quiet for a moment - save the sounds of the leaves whistling, the birds singing, the sound of spring.
“what is this?” yoongi asks. never in his lifetime has he seen such a place on olympus, a world created by golden light and the divine mercy of the titans before. whatever filth and darkness there was left have been long cast aside onto other places - the plane of the mortals, the world below.
jungkook smooths his hands down the bark. “i don’t really know,” he says. “i call it the world tree. i did not know it to exist, and when i asked my brothers and sisters, they didn’t know what i was talking about either.”
“didn’t they come here to see what it was?”
at this jungkook gives a light laugh. it sounds like the laughter of someone who has never had a burden on their shoulders. “they couldn’t find this place without me...my lord?”
yoongi raises an eyebrow.
“my king?” jungkook tries again. before yoongi can tell jungkook to call him by his name - which, he is glad he didn’t, his mouth seems to run away before him - jungkook continues, “there are many places on olympus that are just mine. the ground opens up for no one but me.”
“such power,” yoongi says dryly, but jungkook doesn’t seem to even hear him.
“i wanted to show you this tree because you can hear many things from it,” jungkook tells him, distracted, pressing his body close to the trunk of the great ash. he curves his head toward the surface and smiles. “many a time, my king, i’ve heard your voice from here. i never knew where it was from, that voice that commanded, but then i heard you speak at today’s solstice and i knew.”
“you could - hear?” if he was able to, yoongi would have taken a step back. what tree is able to speak? able to resonate the sounds of the underworld past earth to the heavens above? “how is that possible?”
jungkook turns so that he’s meeting yoongi’s eyes. carefully, he stretches out his palm, hand tipped toward yoongi. asking, take it, please.
yoongi doesn’t remember the last time he’s touched someone else. perhaps it was one of the creatures that shared his bed momentarily, or the fleeting gods and goddesses that have visited him in his realm, begging for a soul to be taken back from the depths of asphodel. he has yet to let one of them visit the upper world. ghosts have no bodies, no skeletons - they are aimless, souls wandering around with no purpose, wailing and grieving for what was once theirs. they might cling to the edge of yoongi’s robes, torn asunder, but he still wouldn’t dare to lower himself to them.
cautiously, he puts his hand in jungkook’s. the other’s fingers are slighter, warmer. yoongi is covered in head to toe with his armor and his robes; jungkook lets his arms go bare, his shoulders cloaked only slightly with the folds of his attire. jungkook presses his head against the bark once more and pulls yoongi’s hand so that he’s standing across from the other, now only a step or two away. presses his ear to the bark as well.
at once, he sees what jungkook means. it’s like yoongi has a direct line to the underworld. yes, from here, if he closes his eyes, he can almost imagine it: the sound of the rushing waters of the styx, the lethe, the acheron. his ferryman rowing, oars gently pushing past the waters. the sounds of grief, anger, old age, illness - vying for attention at the gates of the underworld. his precious pet snuffling, head toward the ground, pacing and always alert. yoongi hears the sounds of his world and is somehow transported there, his lovely home made of shadows and secrets, last wishes.
he doesn’t realize he’s closed his eyes until he opens them again and jungkook is staring at him with the paleness of his own. strange, yoongi thinks again, how close jungkook is, closer than anyone has ever dared to come before. they are barely a breath apart. yoongi counts little freckles on his nose like pollen seeds. his skin is tinged with summer peaches, mouth parted pink like carnations. fine hair dark as the night, like the goddess who oversees the blackness, an almost shame at the otherworldly quality he seems to hold.
there are plenty of beautiful people in the world; the nymphs the king of the gods chases after, river spirits, sirens, the deity of love and beauty herself. yoongi has seen them and has let them all pass by without sparing a single glance. beauty does nothing for him when he knows that they’ll end up ash in the otherworld, in the underworld, where everyone will eventually reside.
jungkook’s fingers are warm. he’s got some strange pull that yoongi can’t ignore. when his warm hands move forward and cover his own, yoongi feels it like the roots of a tree; deep in his blood, settling itself in the ichor of his veins, moving down toward his still frozen heart. jungkook’s eyes flicker down to where his fingers are over yoongi’s over the bark of the world tree. they’re both pressed against it, listening, waiting, hearing the songs of asphodel. yoongi recognizes them, their sorrowful and long tune.
“is this your home?” jungkook asks, voice low, a whisper. he looks so curious, so entranced, by what he’s hearing.
“it is,” yoongi replies, because while he is disliked by the other gods - spared sacrifices by the mortals - shunned and skinned and left for the morsels of oft lacking affection from creature and man alike, what is his home is his home. what would he do to trade it? nothing, yoongi thinks.
“it sounds beautiful,” jungkook’s hands are warm. they are warm like when yoongi visits the isles of the blessed and dips his hands in the rivers of honey and milk. “will you tell me about it? your kingdom.”
“a land of the dead,” yoongi says, letting his voice turn wry. “the dead tell no tales.”
jungkook - smiles. “but you do.”
yoongi doesn’t realize how long he’s been sitting in jungkook’s garden. jungkook tells him that everything made in this portion of olympus is from his own hands, his own golden blood. there’s nothing that he didn’t touch - whether they were here before, like the world tree, or things he formated, like the garden of red flowers. jungkook tells him about the vines like vicious ropes with an innocuous voice, nymphs can be really mischievous! or, sometimes you want someone to stay away, don’t you? and perhaps the naive god of spring that yoongi had once heard about in passing is not as clueless as he may seem. that is, not to say, that he is as wise as mother gaea, or as knowledgeable as the goddess of war and tactics. jungkook gets distracted by the tiniest of things, asking after minor details, following tangents till their uncut ends.
they reside near the base of the world tree, so unlike any other tree yoongi has ever seen before. it’s trunk disappears straight beneath the ground, no lump of movement of energy underneath his feet to inform yoongi that there are roots beneath the tree. before yoongi begins, he asks, “are there no roots?”
they have resided to sitting near each other, close enough to be in each other’s orbit, far enough to jump apart if someone comes upon them. jungkook assures that no one will, but there is still that hand’s space between yoongi’s cloaked shoulders and jungkook’s bare one.
“no,” jungkook runs fingers through the short grass, “i found it odd, too. it whispered it’s name to me and told me that these leaves are what holds up olympus; from the base of it’s trunk, it carries earth on it’s back; to the ground, the deepest part of the underworld, is where the roots reside.”
“i’ve never seen anything like that,” yoongi admits; he knows his realm, doesn’t he? then, “it speaks to you?”
jungkook nods. “sometimes. i know it’s voice apart from yours.” a pause. “the darkest parts of the underworld, my king. where the night covers around thrice, the seas and the skies carry weight in separation, where hell is it’s coolest.”
yoongi says nothing.
“do you know where that may be?”
“the underworld has many places,” yoongi says, ignoring the other’s query, “do you want to know about them?”
the dead tell no tales, yoongi thinks, why is his chest aching so?
jungkook is an avid listener. he shuffles this way and that sometimes, fixes hair falling into his eyes or brushes off bugs and birds and leaves that fall on his figure. when he’s paying attention, his gaze is always focused on yoongi.
truth be told, yoongi feels a little childish here. this magical garden where the gods reside is not his place. he may once have belonged here long ago when the gods first chose their lots, maybe when he was born with his brothers, maybe once long ago like that. he has vague ideas of running around a blue pond, knocking his head on the wall. he was the eldest of the brothers, the first to take a burden.
he sits like he did as a child, cross-legged, removing his cloak once it hinders him. jungkook follows easily, having nothing like that making it hard for him to move as he pleases. yoongi tells him, carefully, about the underworld, his words halting and quiet - he usually has no use for them.
weaving a memory is easy. yoongi thinks about the rivers and their shallow waters, the river of fire and the river of forgetfulness, the meadow where the listless walk and run and speak, the sounds of grief that rise from the corners of the universe. the spanning open sky, a realm drenched in the illusion of the above, a ground slicked with the treasures of everything beneath - doesn’t jungkook know? about all that that is important is what is beneath? roots, diamonds, lives, nitrogen. yoongi remembers the furies and their inescapable thirst for revenge, their talons bringing down bloody eviction for the kinslayer. the sounds of the goddess of night sleeping by her husband, the god of dreams.
he makes it sound beautiful, almost, but that’s what it is to yoongi. it’s not beautiful, it’s real. it’s there, a home made of scattered bones and blood and suffering, and it’s all his.
perhaps he shouldn’t be explaining this to a soul that looks like it has never seen much of the sordid in it’s eternity, but jungkook is enraptured. he hangs onto all of yoongi’s words and asks - what is the three headed beast’s name? does the hydra shed scales? do flowers grow there?
“some do,” yoongi responds. “poisonous ones. others have their own purpose.”
“does anything else grow?”
“some fruits,” yoongi admits. “and some flora specifically native to the underworld itself.”
“yes,” jungkook says, almost to himself, “yes, that makes sense. you know, the flowers that die eventually go back into the soil and provide for the next sprouts. that’s how it’s always worked.”
all living things die.
“do you ever talk to the dead?” he asks, leaning closer now, moving his body so he can rest easy against the world tree. “are they interesting to talk to?”
yoongi shakes his head wryly. “do you know how a soul comes to the underworld?” when jungkook gives him the negative, yoongi raises his hand in the air and waves it across the particles of light and air. smoke comes from his fingertips, just rarely, and coalesces into some sort of shape with each other. from the tiny window of space and smoke, a figure of a lonesome woman appears, mortal, standing on her pyre.
“mortal souls are buried with a gold coin,” yoongi tells him, a glint of gold appearing in the image. “that is the payment that is needed for the ferryman to talk a soul across the styx, the river of hatred, unbreakable oath. whatever a soul comes with - their hatred, their grief, all of it is stripped away and drowned in the river. it becomes part of the acheron, the river of woe.”
“to leave it all behind?” jungkook breathes, staring at the smoke figures, the wandering woman on handing over a golden glint of a coin to a cloaked, hooded figure with an oar. she boards the canoe that the ferryman rows in, and from her body, wisps flood out and settle into the murky waters below.
“after that, they’re taken the to three judges to determine their fate in life. most go to the fields of asphodel, where they’ll rest in eternity, wandering. most don’t know their purpose. like in life, they did nothing extraordinary - good or bad.”
jungkook frowns. “isn’t that a bit unfair?”
“is it?” yoongi muses, “they didn’t do anything, after all. mortal lives are fleeting. a blink of the eye and they’re no longer there.”
“and yet, there are many gods and goddesses that love going down amongst them,” jungkook points out. “i wonder if it’s because they like the temporariness of it all.”
“have you never done so?”
jungkook pauses, stills. it’s a question yoongi probably shouldn’t have asked, he thinks. “no,” is what the god of spring eventually says. “the mortals know i am there. they make sacrifices to me all ‘round the solar year. i don’t need to see them.” yet it sounds like a false, forced word, coming from his mouth. yoongi lets it go. his place isn’t to ask about it.
“the good souls - heroes, philosophers, lenient rulers - are taken to elysium. thrice over reborn are to the isles of the blessed. the evildoers go to tartarus,” yoongi explains, voice hitching low, “a place where night covers at least thrice.”
there’s a still of recognition. “the very bottom of hell?”
“the very bottom of the universe,” yoongi confirms.
“oh,” jungkook says, and watches the smoke disappear as the woman is taken to asphodel. yoongi looks at his expression to see some form of terror, to see any kind of fear - the same kind of shunning that he has faced throughout his entire time as a deity. the mortals don’t offer him sacrifices like they do to namjoon, king of the gods, or to jimin, god of the sun - nor to the other jimin, goddess of the moon - or to taehyung, his youngest brother, ruler of the seas - for him, the mortals save their sacrifices in fear, instead choosing to bring their fanciest funeral pyres. when they do offer him goods, it’s for the sake of belittling someone else. he’s not like jungkook, who holds their survival in the cusp of his green fingers; who is offered many things each passing of the moon.
instead of what yoongi expects, there is a strange kind of fascination. jungkook doesn’t look afraid, or disgusted, or unnerved. the smoke reflects against his pale blue irises and shows yoongi - something, a kind of reflection that rings familiar, like - like something yoongi has seen before -
jungkook reaches out to touch the smoke image, and it dissipates. so does the look in his eyes. jungkook pulls back and says, still staring at where it once was, “i’d be honored to see it for myself, one day.”
yoongi’s first reaction is to say, don’t be silly. jungkook looks like he belongs in olympus, in the kingdom of the gods, where there is light in abundance. where there is nothing but the goodness of the soul, the laughter and merriment of the muses, nymphs, nereids, servants with humanoid faces, animals and creatures that come forward to the touch. jungkook wouldn’t like the darkness of the underworld, the dim skies and the cold earth, wouldn’t like rocking waters that sing of unrequited loves and troublesome pasts, wouldn’t like the chill fright seeping beneath bones and skin of graves and shallow murky swamps -
except that look in his eyes tells yoongi that he does.
so instead of refusing the young god’s offer, yoongi hesitates and grimaces, finds himself pawned and pinned underneath the gaze of stars, pollen freckles, ink hair. hitches breath in his throat. dead men tell no tales; dead men feel no pain, wash it away in the river. absolve, absolve, absolve.
“one day,” yoongi responds, and it feels like an ominous promise.
when he returns to his kingdom, a king, a crown, no one dares look his way.
no one takes his hand and leads him to the weathered rough bark of a tree. no one stares at him wide-eyed and fleet footed, sunshine curving warm bare shoulders and biceps, no one has pale blue eyes like ice, there is no spring where things do not grow.
at least, yoongi thinks while looked at the tepid white flowers underneath his feet, spouting at the diamond gates. they are just one of the types of poison that grows in the dimly lit, odious beneath-world.
his palace is at the heart of the underworld, a structure made of precious rock and stone, diamond and gem, carved from minerals. it glitters darkly with the shadowy, foggy light, complimented by blue fire on the walls that continue to burn with no end in sight but to close one’s hand over it and extinguish the flame from its wick. the hallways are wide and vaulting, ceilings meant to reach for the covered, coveted. yoongi has long been accused of being greedy, envious, avaricious, wanting. he is mostly anything but.
he thinks he’s - he’s - tired.
empty king on an empty throne, made of glass, heart made of ice.
yoongi hasn’t gone to tartarus for many years. though he rules, most of the underworld is self-explanatory, self-effacing. one knows their place where there is nowhere else to go. judges, judgement, paradise or hell.
tartarus is cold and dark, a sort of darkness that pervades. yoongi supposes that in this kind of lack of light, there is little of hope to be found, little of anything to be found. over here titans are chained to their eternal prison, punished for past and future indiscretions. yoongi’s father is here, under a cage of thunder and magic so old and deep that it might as well be a seed that has grown, implanted, curved over the veins and bloodwork of olympus, made itself an origin. yoongi wants to cut it down. roots -
just as jungkook said there would be.
there it is, yoongi thinks, where the lowest level of hell is dark and damp, clawing at his throat - for the king of hell has to have been stronger than whatever it had in store to be able to rule it - there it is.
the world tree’s roots are wide and sprawling. yoongi doesn’t see where they start or where they end. when he looks up, they disappear in a gnarled and twisted mess into the gods and heavens above, holding up the weight of the universe. there is dim light like mortal moonlight, silver, sparking off of reflections of twilight water. the tree rests in water, soaking up the liquid with every pulse. yoongi can feel it, the movement of life, tumbling twirling moving underneath his feet. he’s a god, but in front of this, he is less than.
the king of the underworld goes barefoot. he steps in the water and it’s not cold, lukewarm. sends ripples throughout that push against brown, black, green vines. the closer he gets, the warmer it feels. when he presses a hand to the bark, it feels familiar, much rougher, a bit dirtier -
like jungkook’s hand.
yoongi tells himself to take it away. tells himself to stop touching. he can’t, he can’t. every time he tries he remembers jungkook’s smile, how he looked yoongi in the eye and smiled, how he didn’t dare look away, the freckles on his imperfect nose and his two front teeth, the scent of floral perfume, curved ears and prominent collarbones -
yoongi sits at the edge of the world tree, at the bottom of the universe.
his eyes drop close.
yoongi doesn’t sleep often, and when he does, he usually doesn’t get dreams. after all, what use is it for him to have dreams? will they help him in any way? will they help him get to what he wants? no - no oracle, no sightseer, can change what yoongi already knows. there’s a lot that someone can change, but then there is much that people can’t. the same goes, perhaps even more, for gods and deities. yoongi wakes up and knows almost immediately that he is in a dream. it’s not that colors are too bright or that the scenery is too perfect; it’s because he can tell that he is not entirely corporeal. he’s in a dream; his own, maybe, or someone else’s -
he stands in a field. looking down there are large strands of wheat and grain; it’s a grassy plain, no trees in sight. the sky is a rich cerulean. sounds of singing is what takes yoongi’s notice originally; he turns at the sound of a voice. it’s masculine, light and airy, almost like the sound of a lyre. what is most remarkable, yoongi thinks, is that when he walks none of the plants wither. they all crush beneath his foot and when he looks behind, they come back up just as if nothing had happened. the farther yoongi gets from his starting point, the louder the voice gets - or the closer, perhaps.
he ends up in the middle of the fields. a discordant breeze whistles through the air and shoots by like a jet, no wind spirit to calm them. when yoongi finds the source of the voice, he sees that it’s from a lone figure, sloping shoulders and bare pink shoulders a familiar sight to him. yoongi’s breath hitches slightly - his chest aches, aches, aches.
the back of the figure’s neck is slender, covered by dark hair, glossy and thick. his right arm has a thick band of gold; his wrists, too, shackled in gold cuffs. jungkook wears black cloth, curved around one shoulder before tying loosely around the waist, rippling over knees and thighs and calves that yoongi can’t see. past him there are a patch of flowers that yoongi can see much clearer now.
it takes a moment for yoongi regain his footing. he feels off kilter, out of place. as he moves forward, the sunlight changes from that into shade; staring up at the possible cause, he sees the drooping leaves of a large, magnificent tree. it’s larger than anything he has ever seen before, curving upward to the sky at soaring angles. yoongi feels small, indifferent.
then he turns back to jungkook, who has yet to see him, who is still singing.
he takes a hesitant step forward and walks, walks, until there is nothing left to do except sit by jungkook, with an ease or calm that could only be found from a satyr or a nereid finding one it’s one kind, not from two gods that have just barely met. jungkook’s song fades away into syllables in his mouth as he catches sight of yoongi sitting down next to him and gasps.
“oh,” he starts, “oh, did you fall asleep?”
“by the roots,” is all yoongi can say, and jungkook’s mouth curves up into a smile. his bottom lip is plumper than his top. the sun makes his skin light tan into something kissed. “did you?”
“you found it,” jungkook says instead, sounding shyly pleased. “how did you find it, my king?”
at jungkook’s questioning gaze, he repeats, mouth caught dry, “my name is yoongi.”
the tilt of his head tells yoongi, if only you will do me the same. yoongi is afraid to say jungkook’s name, almost, unsure if he has such a privilege to say the words in his mouth without having praise follow after it, without having some sort of compliment hanging at the edge of his tongue, for that is all that jungkook deserves and more. his restless, natural beauty that relies on the beauty of nature instead of the components of desire, the beauty that reflects pollen and stars and dying vines.
“i followed what you told me,” yoongi explains, crossing his legs and sitting as a common creature would, “and i found it. the world tree.”
“too curious for your own good?” jungkook asks, but it’s not wry or scathing like yoongi would have said it at first. it’s just quiet, calm. understanding. curiosity is what kills, yes, brings men to their knees, hubris and greed all rolled into one. yoongi has never understood it; he’s always known what he needs to.
curiosity grips him now.
he wonders what jungkook’s mouth tastes like. he wonders if he grins with his eyes or with his cheeks. wonders about the fleeting touch of his fingers, wrists crossing over boundaries, pressing him down against a bed of flowers and wondering if it will be his touch that makes them die - or if it will be jungkook’s touch that keeps them alive. yoongi wonders how long he’s been waiting. the world tree looms above them and provides shade, provides effort, catching deep in the universe.
“no,” is what yoongi responds, and he doesn’t miss the way jungkook’s gaze flickers down to his mouth.
he fiddles with something in his hand; the flowers and stems of what he had before, wrought together in ways that yoongi can’t comprehend just yet by looking at it. it’s quiet here, comforting. it’s a feeling yoongi didn’t know he was missing until it makes his shoulders go lax and his body go numb.
“will you ever come back to the above, yoongi?” jungkook asks, pointedly looking down at his work; it looks like a ring of flowers.
“on solstice days,” yoongi replies. “maybe special events or things that they will need me for if they concern me. fights between tribes. the underworld is not full now; the movement is slow, and i await.”
“why do you want me to return?”
“i miss you,” jungkook admits, voice soft, careful, genuine. he says it with a tone like a lover, like a despondent deity waiting for a return, sinking swimming drowning. yoongi looks at him and is intrigued, so intrigued, by jungkook, by his seemingly warm mien, his spring mouth and his winter eyes.
winter, yoongi thinks.
“winter,” he says, and jungkook stills. he is unnaturally still. every movement of his seems to pause, poised, ready. and then, “where did you hear that, my king?”
“do you know what it means?”
jungkook finishes the crown of flowers in his hand. moves it around absentmindedly, moves it so that he staring at it from all sides. jungkook plays with the petal of a red flower and admires it’s symmetrical beauty.
“i do,” jungkook finally tells him. “i dreamt about it, winter.”
yoongi waits. there is something obviously inside of jungkook that is beating, waiting, like a butterfly; that is moving around at a constant pace like restless wind and endless thunderstorm. yoongi will wait it out until jungkook finds that calm. he presses hands against the blades of grass and when a couple are pulled up in his hands, they turn yellow to wither.
finally, jungkook sighs and stares at the branches of the world tree. “i climbed that tree once and it showed me what i could have. the king of gods is fond of everything beautiful, and wants everything beautiful. when he’s done with them, he throws them away,” jungkook explains.
“that’s my brother,” yoongi says lightly, not exactly a warning; he knows exactly how the god of thunder can be like.
jungkook’s mouth is a small curve. “doesn’t make it any less true. i...don’t like being a prize.”
the sadness of being a god, yoongi thinks, is that you live forever. eternity is nothing; eternity is time passing by and immortality is good, gone, forever, ever and ever, moving at breakneck pace; families and love and life and laughter and sadness burn brighter when they are all able to be taken away from you at once. but immortality, gods, feel nothing. even after a while the old hurts and grudges are replaced; no one holds things forever. eventually, eventually, they all wither.
yoongi takes the flower circlet from jungkook’s hands and carefully puts it atop his head.
jungkook whispers to him, then, in the comfort of their dream underneath the world tree, “i want to escape olympus.”
“the home of the divine?”
“the home of the delirious,” jungkook corrects. “seokjin, my brother, is the god of the harvest. he monitors my every move. he says it’s out of love, but is that what love is, yoongi? i don’t know. i love him, i think. he’s my brother. i want to make him happy, but making him happy makes me unhappy.”
“where do you want to go?” yoongi asks, and already knows the answer. he knows what jungkook’s eyes look like now; they’re like the shifting waters of the lethe, the only river to seem anything like the mortal rivers. most of them are gray and ash and smoke, or murky, covered in dispatched and disintegrated souls of the dead. already moving on from their mortal bodies. going forward and backward is a special type of running away that yoongi is familiar with.
ever since he met eyes with jungkook at that dark solstice, it’s like something has pulled them together. yoongi can’t help but want to get closer, feel that warm palm of his, head jungkook breathe. they’re both pressured, pulled, stretched from both sides, and over here they connect from up above and down below.
jungkook doesn’t kiss him, doesn’t even know how to, doesn’t know where to look, so yoongi does it for him. he presses in close and tilts jungkook’s mouth sideways to cup his jaw, finds his lips, carefully slots them together. jungkook tastes like honey and ambrosia, boiling warmth, melting gold. he’s everything, everything, yoongi knows this. he’s spring, swinging and singing and live, the birds beginning to burst into song and the sprouts shyly moving out of cracks of the earth; he’s mortal naivety, blustering want, desire to run, run, run.
yoongi hears it: this is not what i want. when it comes to the soft, alluding touches of the other gods, can see it when he kisses jungkook and feels his skin on yoongi’s own, can hear the thoughts: i don’t want this. this is not mine. this is not mine. king of the gods, not knowing when to take no as an answer; sun god, burning bright, yet jungkook is sunshine all on his own; god of war, throwing, pithy, lusting, but jungkook doesn’t want -
pulling away, jungkook’s mouth and cheekbones are pink. they suit him. blood and ichor rushing to his face suits him.
“i want,” jungkook says, and yoongi will tear down olympus column by column to give him what he wants.
time in the mortal world ticks quickly. jungkook tells him the days are shorter and somewhat colder, but jungkook doesn’t do it on purpose. his head is in different places. he thinks of different things. yoongi asks him if he sleeps by the branches of their tree and jungkook asks yoongi if he sleeps at the root of their tree and they both discern, yes, yes, their want is the same, yes they reach out to each other like stars do in the night. yes, there is something that grows silent and hidden, like water lilies, like second moons.
yoongi continues to rule. jungkook continues to grow.
they separate themselves at different ends of the spectrum but always managed to meet in the middle. beneath their tree nothing matters - all is open and good, all is free to take and talk about. yoongi sits against the trunk and leans back with the shade, most of the time donned in white, and jungkook excitedly tells him about things that have happened in his day. his touching is more common, more often, and yoongi’s chest often hurts.
“don’t,” yoongi says once, stopping jungkook’s hand from brushing aside a leaf on his shoulder.
“it hurts,” is all yoongi can say, and when jungkook gives him a strange look, he takes the other’s fingers and places them over his chest. “here. when you touch me, godling.”
jungkook’s mouth breaks out into a smile, and yoongi wonders. “that’s because you have a heart, my king. it’s there, but it’s probably as cold as the rest of you.” there’s a teasing lilt to his tone.
“is not,” yoongi retorts, and that makes jungkook laugh.
“does too. that’s okay,” he leans in close, “my specialty is making things melt.”
spring comes by, jungkook tells him one day, spring is coming. “i can feel it in my bones,” he says, deciding it to be so, patting his wrists. “it’s time for the harvest to grow once more.” but there’s something tight and uneven in his smile, displeased, and yoongi reaches out to stroke the fine skin of his cheek, even if it is through the astral projection of their dreams.
“why are you unhappy?” yoongi asks, completely genuine, and jungkook leans into his hand.
he closes his eyes and they enjoy the quiet of spring, the world between worlds, where here they are no longer gods but simply yoongi and jungkook, basking in the evergreen aura of each other’s warmth. jungkook finally murmurs, voice hoarse, “i hate being a prize.”
yoongi doesn’t know what’s going on. in his world, there is nothing but survive and survive. politics and godplay has never been for him, not where he is the sole ruler of all things his own. dead tell no tales. dead don’t fight back. he used to say the dead don’t love, either. look where his heart is beating him now.
“be a player, then,” yoongi says, and jungkook huffs out a laugh.
“i want,” jungkook starts, reaching up to brush yoongi’s hair aside, “i want something else.”
yoongi knows exactly what he wants. “do you think you could handle it?”
a frown mars pretty features. “what do you mean?”
“the underworld,” yoongi starts, “is much more than just the stories i tell you. it’s different, being here, than it is being there on olympus. you grew there, live there. the golden light of the castle is different from the dark light of the palace.”
jungkook’s breath comes unevenly for a while. he looks away from yoongi, mouth pressed in a hard line, his eyebrows furrowed. yoongi hates himself for finding it, even mildly, attractive. he hates himself for wanting jungkook as much as he does. he doesn’t feel but he does, has buried all his grudges into the recesses of his ribs only to have them dug up with every other feeling that has ever lived inside of him with a single touch.
“don’t assume to know what i can do,” is all jungkook says, and presses a chaste kiss against yoongi’s cheek. asks, almost shyly, lashes lowered, “do you trust me?”
yoongi’s answer is immediate, definite; “with everything.”
somewhere, in between dreams and reality, they fall in love.
too quick too fast too deep to realize that no one else has seen it the way they have. in olympus, nothing is secret, but their relationship, quick and effortless, is. the fates have been strumming these threads the moment they were supposed to meet, have been waiting for the moment they would cross paths - meet eyes - find the world tree - find another reality.
when the spring solstice comes around, yoongi doesn’t decline the offer to going above.
olympus is grand and beautiful like it always is, decked in green and gold to celebrate. there is a flask of wine going around to touch mouths and laughter together in celebration. what yoongi notices is abundance, much abundance, so much that the others are nuts from it, find themselves in so much wealth that it drives each creature slightly mad. yoongi doesn’t touch the wine.
although it’s a party for the pantheon, there’s still the main focus on the god of spring himself; they all congratulate him for his hard work, his perseverance, his bright demeanor. yoongi finds himself smiling fondly at jungkook, waiting for him to finish up the well wishes before slipping away, quiet fleet-footed, right into yoongi’s arms.
he feels warmer here than he does in their dreams.
“oh,” jungkook breathes into his shoulder, and then they pull away. “no one ever had this lavish a celebration for the dark solstice, did they?”
“is that bragging or pity?” yoongi mockingly asks, “because i want neither.”
jungkook hides a smile in his shoulder. “yes, my king.”
with a sharp intake of breath, yoongi presses a thumb to his mouth. “don’t call me that. i’m not your king.” he wants to kiss jungkook’s soft sounds away.
“will you be?” the other asks slowly, mouth moving whispers over yoongi’s thumb. “would you give me that?”
“i would give you everything,” yoongi says, and means it.
jungkook looks pleased at that, reaching forward with his other hand to press yoongi’s palm against his cheek. his fingers are decked in gold rings attached to the loose wrist sleeves of his clothing. “would you ask namjoon for me?”
yoongi has never asked namjoon for anything; neither help nor hatred nor love. he’s long gone past the thought of that. yoongi has always believed that when it comes to namjoon, some things are better left to be seen elsewhere. namjoon and he - they are close, maybe, close as brothers are apt to be once upon a time, but namjoon is a leader of many and yoongi leads the dead. they’re different this way, and this difference has torn them asunder.
“wasn’t he the one...?”
“yes,” jungkook confirms sheepishly; one of the many that followed after him, entranced by the beauty of spring, wanting nothing more than just a taste of it. wanting what he was on the outside without ever really thinking about what would come after, what came within.
“why not ask him yourself?”
jungkook laughs then, and it’s soft and wry; “do you think they’d listen to me?”
it’s something bitter, too. jungkook is young, young in terms of godhood. the others covet him for his seemingly alight power, for how he controls the mortals, but they all believe him to be lesser. there are more important gods of the pantheon that matter much more - taehyung, namjoon, hoseok, jimin. holding spots that the mortals look up to and ask after. even jungkook’s brother, seokjin, the god of harvest has a seat in the places of power. the mortals place power and importance on what only serves them. what jungkook is: left behind, forgotten, sacrificed to and worshipped but only by a few. only when it serves their purpose.
and so there’s something quite wild in jungkook’s eyes. yoongi had once thought that jungkook didn’t belong in the underworld, but he was wrong. jungkook, perhaps, belongs more than yoongi does. his eyes are the eyes of the river lethe; crystal clear. it makes sense, yoongi thinks. for someone to forget you, they need to remember exactly who you are at first.
jungkook presses a soft, indiscreet kiss to his cheek, and leaves. slips past yoongi’s hands, as if reminding him that he’s not yoongi’s, not quite, not yet.
ask him for me.
ask in jungkook’s place; ask namjoon for jungkook. to have jungkook.
yoongi shakes his head; figures jungkook would have yoongi do all the dirty work himself.
namjoon is reticent when yoongi asks for marriage. he literally goes sideways over his chair in surprise, and then hesitates when yoongi says the name of who is to be his future spouse. when he is reluctant, yoongi reminds him subtly of his own failures in winning jungkook’s affection and namjoon coughs and looks away, not willing to show embarrassment. he waves it away with his agreement, not wishing to be reminded of such a thing. yoongi knows that he’d be like this; he’d rather push aside this problem than face it head on. while a great king of the gods, sometimes namjoon forgets what it’s like to discuss with people face to face. just a side effect of ruling that which can talk back, yoongi thinks.
he tells jungkook the news by whispering it in his ear. tells him, “we can go home.” jungkook’s mouth curls into a smile. yoongi has always wondered how the god of spring can look desolation in the eye and still move his mouth into a pretty curve; now he knows it’s because the god of spring has created desolation - why does he need to fear it?
they escape in the cover of the party. jungkook is still in his white and red robes of the spring equinox and yoongi is in his ceremonial clothes to add to the celebrations. they run after falling pink cheeked from rose wine and berry wine and nectar, sipping it down their throats and from each other’s mouths. jungkook’s ears are a fetching shade of pink and yoongi pulls him into a corner to kiss him senseless, pushes and pulls while jungkook reaches up and grapples at yoongi’s mantle to tilt his head in return. the wine makes it all fuzzy and sort of unclear. jungkook’s mouth tastes of sweetness. yoongi finds himself addicted to the heady sense of him, of his body pressed against yoongi’s, of their meetings in dark corners where the only light is the striking blue of jungkook’s underworld eyes.
while olympian celebrations can go on for hours - days - at some point they get trashed enough to not bother with faces and names, only with who can bed who. the satyrs chase after nymphs and the muses start to tip over. yoongi thinks he might have even seen namjoon looking around in a haze, possibly for his wife, but who knows?
jungkook pulls away from the kiss flushed and breathing, chest budding highs and lows, and yoongi’s hand curls around his wrist. “cold,” jungkook breathes against his mouth, motioning to the ring on yoongi’s finger that presses into his skin. “mmm. this is nice.”
it is nice. when they’re underneath their tree it’s something different - maybe because they’re not quite all there? maybe because in that world it’s just them two, nothing to fear. there is a secret sort of thrill of kissing and watching to make sure no one sees. yoongi finds his secret paramour more than just a budding want, more than just the thrill; he likes seeing jungkook come alive underneath his arms, body moving, turning and spinning, dragging themselves away. they have secret looks that they pass by to each other that get passed off as hatred or animosity or something of the like - after all, the god of life, the god of death? aren’t they too different? aren’t they too dissimilar? why have them in the same vicinity?
oh, they shouldn’t, yoongi thinks. they really shouldn’t, the way he thinks about jungkook, about running hands over his arms and his waist, curling fingers into his thigh, hearing him hitch a breath. they shouldn’t let yoongi near.
it’s too late now. time, as always, once more, becomes something as part of their aide. yoongi presses his mouth dryly to the column of jungkook’s throat and says, “ready?”
“mhm,” jungkook responds, pulling yoongi away from him. they’ve ran all the way from the festivities to jungkook’s garden. behind yoongi is a trail of withered and dead flowers wherever his feet have accidentally stepped. jungkook leads them into the bristle and then - then - to their tree, where their escape had always been planned, where jungkook holds onto his hope of freedom.
they were going to give me away, jungkook told him with his earnest voice, sounding like he was playing games instead of being incited. the highest bidder? the best god? i don’t care. i don’t want them.
he’s the king of the gods, yoongi had said in response, playing the opposing advocate. jungkook shrugged with his may-care attitude and leaned in close; does it look like i care? he’s a king of the temporary. there might be millenia that he rules, but there will be those that rise up against him. do i want that? no. i don’t want a king that can’t rule.
i’m a king, yoongi had murmured to the skin of jungkook’s neck.
what he got in return was the sound of laughter; i know. you’re the king of forever, aren’t you?
yoongi knew; some part of him knew, from the beginning, that jungkook offering his hand in the twisted garden meant more than just simple curiosity. did jungkook not know who he was? no, of course he did. did they never meet? no, they didn’t. they were strung on different wavelengths, crossing close by but always out of phase; by the mercy or the meticulous planning of the fates, their strings did not lock and intertwine, not until it was the right time to do so.
not until yoongi tasted the flavor of desperation and loneliness so keenly that it became a permanent aftertaste on his tongue. not until jungkook grew older and grew more sheltered and more caged in his little birdhouse called kingdom. not until they yoongi tried shutting himself away and not until they tried shutting jungkook away. no, they waited for yoongi to want more than the clawing emptiness of a palace husk, waited for jungkook to want enough power to claw his way to freedom - away from namjoon away from seokjin away from olympus, the golden city of the gods that has always been nothing more than a prison, a prison, a prison.
the fates did funny things. yoongi thinks he should be cautious; should ask jungkook, are you doing this for the power i can give you? should ask, do you adore me as much as i adore you? but looking into jungkook’s eyes, he already knows both those answers. they’re as clear as day - when jungkook waits for him to fall asleep in the darkest pits of hell, when jungkook curls a hand around his jaw and hitches breath, steals butterflies and traps them in his stomach, moves yoongi’s mouth against his so yoongi can feel them too.
right there, at the end of jungkook’s spring garden, it recedes into thorned vines and darkened empty fields. yoongi looks around properly; the first time he was here, jungkook had showed him the world tree. it was too dark for him to see the area properly other than what jungkook had showed him. now he sees white blanketing the floors, the vines. he did not see those before. yoongi had been cold for so long until that moment that he had barely felt the snow, the ice - even now, jungkook doesn’t shiver, just smiles.
yoongi waves his hand and they descend.
jungkook’s first glimpse at his new home is that of awe. he turns around multiple times trying to get a look at what’s going on, at the creaking sounds of the dead, and for a moment, yoongi sees his face turn into something like fear - flickering, just for a moment - until he realizes that jungkook is looking at the ferryman. he’s holding out his hand toward the other, as if waiting for payment.
“leave,” yoongi commands quietly, and the skeletal figure curls it’s hands of bone back toward its rowing oar. yoongi presses in close; “you weren’t scared of that, were you?”
“of the ferryman? no,” jungkook says with a bit of hurt pride in his voice. after a moment he admits, nose peeking down, “i looked at him and saw my worst fears, is all.”
“hm,” yoongi forgot about that. usually, the souls that meet the ferryman are those that have already died, and so they go see whatever they had been in their life, the expanse of their mortal years and the circumstances of their death. a rite of passage.
waiting for the next boat to come by is easy. yoongi holds onto jungkook’s elbow and marvels; here, decked in white, jungkook looks out of place; yet there’s nothing in his expression that says he’s uncomfortable. in fact, he looks around and absorbs all the detail around him, as if checking to make sure that yoongi was right with all the things he had said and explained about his realm. when the next ship arrives, yoongi stops it with his foot. settling in is easy, even though he hasn’t done it in a while; when jungkook finally comes to his senses, it’s to the sight of yoongi raising a hand out toward him, asking for him to join in.
“familiar?” yoongi says more than asks, and jungkook takes his hand to step inside.
the river styx is definitely all that yoongi had explained and more. when jungkook looks down at the waters it seems to glow blue from the inside out; and eerie, almost chilling blue that follows jungkook and lights up against the planes of his face as he leans down to reach out a hand toward the tides. there are few currents and even fewer waves; yoongi does most of the rowing as jungkook leans over the edge and puts out a hand into the water.
“i wouldn’t recommend that,” yoongi warns, but jungkook only laughs him aside. “i’m serious, jungkook. there’s a reason why gods swear on the river styx.”
jungkook just hums, completely unworried, unafraid. “will you swear on the styx to uphold your promise?”
“what is my promise?” yoongi shoots back, and they share a look. he rows once more, and jungkook leans down and dips his hand in the water. it creates an almost curved ripple, right in the middle; there is the sound of distant screaming, groaning, crying, begging -
“oh, that was a bit scary,” jungkook breathes as he places his hand back in his lap. “what’s that, over there?”
what he’s pointing to could be in reference to several things; it could be the large diamond gates that are the entrance of walkers to the underworld; right there, the ferryman waits in his cloaked disguise, arm outstretched for the next soul to pay their fare. there’s a long, endless line to the doors; as they pass, many souls turn their way with their haunted eyes, deep sunken and stretched across time. yoongi is used to these looks, but he doesn’t expect jungkook to be; indeed, when he looks over, the other is a tad bit unnerved. he’s not staring at the diamond gates, however, or even the large three headed beast guarding the gates - he’s looking at a tiny five pointed white flower growing at the shallow banks of the river.
“poison,” yoongi replies. “thoughts of murder, hatred, insanity. smell those and they’ll all come to you like a raving storm.”
“charming,” jungkook says after a beat, and reaches out to pluck one from it’s blue stem.
it grows and flourishes the minute his hands touch it. yoongi watches with wary eyes as jungkook smiles; “it smells like vanilla, yoongi, you’re mistaken!” and laughs, plucking petals off with every single second passing them by. once all of the petals are gone and in the water, he lets the rest float away too.
yoongi stands up and quits his rowing for a moment. jungkook sends him an inquisitive look - cute, with his eyes all wide - but the king of the dead is, of nothing as of right now, a show off. he whistles once, low, so low that it sounds like a ruptured drum haunting through the night. at first, there’s nothing.
then the ground - the very ground! - vibrates, the waters sloshing this way and that; jungkook holds onto the sides of the boat to keep himself still and gasps, watching with wide eyes as the great beast looms over them. jungkook cranes his head up and yoongi knows exactly what he’s coming face to face with; a large, almost furry beast, with claws on their feet. it has a great, massive body like that of a wolf’s, coated in thick black fur. from the neck, where a usual wolf would have had it’s head, it splits into three long necks - each neck is covered in fur at the top but then headen with glint green-gray scales at the throat. they each lead up to a snarling head, twisted features of a cornered animal, black eyes with no pupils; a mouth filled with rows of teeth enough to snap the flesh and blood away from a body and just leave the skeleton behind.
“holly,” yoongi says pleasantly, reaching a hand up languidly. jungkook watches as the beast makes a strange, resonating sound - something deep within it’s throat - and the middle head moves down to meet its snout with yoongi’s palm.
turning, yoongi motions for jungkook to stand up and join him. the air is cold and damp, but jungkook doesn’t feel it on his body. instead, he’s entranced by the creature’s eyes of the night, at how he simply moves whenever yoongi tells him to. yoongi takes his hand by the wrist and gently places on holly’s snout instead of his own.
jungkook’s hand is much warmer, yoongi knows, and holly must had a different sensory overload because of it. his cerberus moves this way and that, shuffling, before sitting on his hind legs. there’s an almost whimper created out of his throat and yoongi scoffs. “you never did that with me.”
“guess he likes me better,” jungkook teases, and strokes holly fondly. the beast moves with his hand, asking for more. yoongi finds his mouth pull up in a smile; although he is very protective of his creatures, he’s glad that they like jungkook. he’s glad that they take so well to him either way.
jungkook waves goodbye to holly and yoongi promises himself to take him back there. as they begin to pass again, the souls of the dead continue to stare; more at jungkook than at him. they stare, stare, stare, hollowed eyes and skinned bones focused on the light passing by. jungkook dips his hand in the water again, almost playful, and the shrieks that come out of it display a little mischievous streak; a little mean streak; jungkook waves to those souls too, as they depart.
in his palace, jungkook is the one that takes charge, moving forward before yoongi can. he moves toward the big halls and the big empty palace ballrooms and fills them all, manages to grow so big so vibrant so glass that yoongi can’t help but smile. eventually the exploring wears on him and he comes to yoongi, breathless, asking with wide excited fervor, “is this my home?”
yoongi replies in the affirmative, and jungkook places a hand over yoongi’s heart. says, with his tiny smile that can wipe away cities and countries and grand, grand empires, “did i melt your heart, my king of the dead?”
“you did,” yoongi admits, voice hoarse as he brings jungkook’s other hand up to kiss his garden rough knuckles, “and so much more than that.”
jungkook melds his entire being. yoongi hasn’t felt full, so un-empty, in all of his existence. he can’t help but think, were you made for me? your smile, your laugh, your beauty - were you made for me? was i made for you? it’s hard to think of, because jungkook brings life wherever he goes; yoongi is a harbinger, the overseer, of death. others fear him, the way mortals fear death, the way gods fear everything not beautiful. what place does he have at jungkook’s side? and yet - yet he wants, selfishly, and reminds himself that all gods are selfish, he can have this he can have this -
yoongi pulls jungkook into his bedroom easily; jungkook doesn’t seem to mind being pulled around for this reason. he takes in the details of yoongi’s rarely used room - resting couches, the tables, the rugs made of fur and the tapestries depicting the creation of the underworld, the postered bed and it’s sheets of fine cloth and silk. yoongi passes a hand over a lamp and it lights up with blue fire.
kisses in a dream are different than kisses in real life. yoongi thinks about kissing jungkook under the world tree, the feeling of safety succumbing satisfaction - thinks about how different it is when it is real, where it is better, where he can feel every thump of jungkook’s veins and every hitched breath. when jungkook forgets to speak after yoongi kisses him, it lights up something in him that feels like it’s been buried for eons.
yoongi pulls away now, his mouth still catching onto the other’s bottom lip. jungkook presses their foreheads together and yoongi thinks he’s wonderful like this, all flushed cheekbones and ears.
“i finally have you,” is what yoongi says, voice a low groan whisper, and jungkook laughs - a little desperately, a little gone, so much so much - “i was always yours.”
maybe they always were. maybe the fates were just waiting. yoongi met eyes with jungkook on a dark solstice and it turned his world on it’s axis - showed him what existence meant - showed him what happiness meant - what the heading feeling of power felt in his hands, not the power of the dead but the power to make jungkook weak, the power jungkook have over him to make him weak, yoongi would give up anything for him -
would raise an army of the dead for him, raze the ground for him, bring his entire kingdom to ruin and destruction for him, cut down olympus from it’s rotten roots for him, bring blood and bone to his feet for him, would bring the world’s end for him. when yoongi kisses jungkook with his mouth tilted and presses their tongues together jungkook swallows these words of promise and knows, he knows, says oh, i know.
jungkook starts it first, tangling his fingers in the cloth of yoongi’s ceremonial clothing, pulling it down and away and turning frustrated when it doesn’t do so, gets even more so when yoongi tugs at a tie on the small of jungkook’s back and his entire wardrobe comes undone -
“this is unfair,” jungkook breathes when they’re pushed into bed, and he’s all soft skin, peach-toned, pink mouthed; yoongi kisses at the hollow of his throat and jungkook raises a bare leg to wrap around his waist and oh, oh.
“i never said i was fair,” yoongi laughs into his throat, and jungkook pushes him away until he’s bare of clothing too.
jungkook’s body is warm and pliant, sun-weathered and silk. no one else, jungkook had murmured into his ear, a touch dazed and a touch wanting, fingers pulling at yoongi’s hair, please, please. unsaid words mumble from his lips and make themselves known in the music of his body; the way he turns alight when yoongi flutters fingers over his skin, presses kisses and bruises onto joints and crevices, tunes him to math yoongi’s tone. jungkook gives as good as he gets, pulls yoongi closer even in his inexperience. he feels like another half, a missing part. jungkook kisses sloppy rushed and it all feels like a crescendo - yoongi’s hands over his body - jungkook’s mouth on his shoulder, a muffled moan - pressing legs together, knees, ankles.
he’s warm and he’s everything, yoongi thinks, everything. he’s every turn of the sun in the mortal sky and every seed growing in the ground of the earth. he’s all that humans pray to; he’s an altar that yoongi bows his head to, prayer, pressing praises with his fingertips. jungkook sings for him just like this in breathy moans and barely heard whimpers, hands splayed against yoongi’s shoulder blades. hair like ink splayed against yoongi’s sheets - shoulders tense - curved body curved bones so much beauty in the way he moves, sinuous, alive, almost teasing.
jungkook’s mouth is bitten red and blood tinted, peeking through white teeth and fanned black lashes. when yoongi pushes into him and out of him and in again jungkook breathes life into him without ever pressing their mouths together, looks up at yoongi and traces fingers over the crease of yoongi’s eyelids, mumbles, “amber, they’re amber - “
yoongi says jungkook’s name and he feels less than a god, more like a mortal man asking for salvation. jungkook tenses and hitches and just keeps moving and it’s so good, so hot, it’s like yoongi is melting from the inside out. it’s like jungkook has gotten his hold on him and now yoongi doesn’t ever want to let go. jungkook shudders and goosebumps raise on his skin and yoongi kisses every single one of his moles, each single star on jungkook’s body of galaxies, wonders how lucky he is to feel this alive, was he ever alive at all before him? before him -
“don’t stop,” jungkook says, wrecked, something gathering at his lashes. he trembles in yoongi’s arms and yoongi adores him, by all the gardens of olympus and all the wicked woes of hell, yoongi loves him -
“don’t stop,” jungkook repeats, and yoongi doesn’t stop, whether it’s his body or his heart or his kingdom; “please, give me everything, give me everything.”
yoongi already has.
they don’t sleep - they rarely have to. yoongi thinks he’s gotten more sleep in the past few passing of the moon than he has in all his past millennia; only to see jungkook in his dreams. now that jungkook is here, a breathing body next to his own, yoongi has no need.
he traces over all the things he knows in his mind and memory; the shape of jungkook’s calves, the curved dip of his waist, the breadth of his shoulders. the freckles across his nose, the moles on his cheek, his softer bottom lip. the cupid’s bow of his mouth, flat planes of his nose, the soft weight of his jawline. yoongi runs his pointer and thumb over each feature and thinks how could he not commit this to memory?
when jungkook awakens, half his body covered in their previously stripped clothing and some of yoongi’s sheets, he makes a little comforted sound. turns around so that he’s laying on yoongi’s arm and runs circles around yoongi’s chest. the feeling of it tickles a little, but otherwise is a welcoming feeling.
“i like it here,” jungkook announces, almost as if he’s declaring his approval. “you made it seem much worse than it really is.”
yoongi refrains from snorting. “you haven’t seen the worst of it, little prince.”
a dark head of hair pops up and turns over. jungkook looks at yoongi with lowered lids that may have been a glare if he didn’t seem so lethargic. “don’t call me that. i’m not a prince if i’m married to you, aren’t it?”
“no,” yoongi pauses, deliberately taking his time to think, “that would most definitely make you my queen.”
jungkook flicks his nose.
yoongi laughs; the sound of it has long stopped becoming something foreign.
“i don’t think you quite get it,” jungkook tells him, voice a hum. “i grew up with someone expecting something of me, and when i didn’t want to be what they expected, i was hurt for it. no one else wanted me to have what i wanted.”
“and what did you want?”
jungkook takes a moment to gather himself. yoongi thinks he’ll say something like; power, prestige, love, but instead: “freedom.”
and there, in the crevices of the underworld, jungkook - his other half, his better half, the life to his death - starts to sing. his voice is a timid little hum that barely catches higher than a proper note, but yoongi hears the words anyway; caged songbird, how you long for spring, when the blowing wind brings water petals to your feet... yoongi smooths over his hair and lets jungkook trace them onto his collarbone. i’ll give you everything, yoongi thinks again and again and again, until they’re more than just intentions - until they’re prophecies stilling on jungkook’s tongue.
and when jungkook finishes his song, yoongi says quietly, “you’re here.”
“i’m here,” jungkook agrees.
and if jungkook is here, in the underworld, where no light passes through and the darkest of shadows reside - “then what’s up there?”
a slow, almost sleepy smile crosses jungkook’s face, and when he looks up at yoongi, their eyes meet. his is a wondrous, pale blue, like ice. “winter.”
he dreamed of winter, jungkook says. before yoongi - before the world tree showed him yoongi, jungkook dreamed of winter.
“tell me about it.”
they’re in the lonesome, withered place that yoongi calls a garden. once upon a time, it was the home of a nymph that waited long and arduously for her lover to pick her up from her fate; yoongi had taken sympathy on her and let her stay there, and in her begotten sadness she cultivated a place of desperate beauty. when she died, still waiting, yoongi planted her soul back on elysium and made sure that she would reincarnate as something more fierce, something with claws and poison in her blood, to strike down any and every person that did her wrong. she ended up reborn a fury, a bringer of vengeance, a single teardrop-shaped scar on her chest. yoongi let her be.
now he brings jungkook here and watches him touch the place back to life. it seems odd, to have this in the land of the non-living, but jungkook is just right.
he prefers to go barefoot, saying that he’s always done so, and that’s how he’ll continue to live. yoongi tells him that the ground here is cold. there is only rock and mineral beneath. jungkook had just smiled.
black cloth swirls around his form, enhancing lithe muscle and soft dips of his body. he’s not cold, not at all. he feels right at home; his presence here, yoongi thinks, that’s what’s needed. jungkook places his hand on the bark of a tree and it browns underneath yoongi’s very eyes, straightens up clean and healthy, curls into something strong. the branches widen and grow blue and black leaves; and following it, almost in a wave, sprouts shoot up from the hard ground in a litany of colors; poisonous flowers follow, along with ones that are simply there as cures; grass on the ground, over hard rock; ivy growing green and lush over stone walls and cracks. jungkook turns around and follows the movement of his nature burgeoning forward. when he does so, the gold choker around his neck glints in the light, matches the one he had on his wrists, the band around his bicep - presents from yoongi.
one of the trees pulls down a ripe fruit. jungkook briefly touches it with his fingers and it blooms ripe, falls at his feet and rolls away. when he looks down, the edge of his crown tips - made of filigree gold and other minerals, shaped into flowers so tiny and delicate that they seem to be moving in the breeze with every step. jungkook leans down and picks it up, kneeling briefly to pluck the stem of a flower. it’s petals are white, and when he blows on it gently, they turn scarlet.
“i love flowers,” he begins, twirling the stem in his fingers. yoongi moves so that he’s sitting only a few steps behind jungkook, patiently waiting for him to continue on. “all year, i’d grow them on the mortal earth. there would be more than just flowers, of course - trees filled with fruit, the soil filled with food. but flowers...i love them the most.”
yoongi picks the stem from jungkook’s hands and looks at it, surprised, when it doesn’t wither. “i’m aware.”
“in winter, there are no flowers,” jungkook muses, sounding far away. “there’s nothing. there are no trees, no warmth. it’s cold.” here, he pauses. “it’s very cold. do you remember my garden on olympus?”
the greenery fading into darker palettes. “i do.”
“there was snow on the ground. that is what happens in winter.”
the coldness of the air, the chilled nip of it on yoongi’s bones is what he remembers. “and you’re bringing winter?”
jungkook leans back so that he’s sitting next to yoongi’s knees. the elder is tempted to haul him up and have jungkook sit beside him on the bench with him, but jungkook simply crosses his legs and rests his head against yoongi’s knee. “i had a dream. the first time i slept by the world tree, it told me that i would bring winter. i didn’t know what it meant - and i didn’t want to. the spring was all i wanted, and nature longed to be affluent. i saw what winter was - coldness, cruelty, death.”
yoongi waits, breath hitched.
“i told the world tree it was wrong. i was life. all of my existence, that’s what i knew. seokjin told me i was life; kept away from everyone and everything, i knew i was life. i had to keep going. and then the world tree told me - all living things die.”
the river rushes by calmly. hanging just on the edge of their garden - yoongi is not sure which one it is.
“and they do,” jungkook says softly, “they all die. keeping everything alive for so long was not what i was supposed to do. it’s not what i was meant for.”
yoongi’s hand finds it’s way to jungkook’s hair; combing through it softly, twisting locks of it in between his fingers. jungkook sighs, liking it quite a bit. his cheek presses against yoongi once more, hands reaching up to trace circles on the bone of yoongi’s knee. “i’m spring, but i’m winter. when i’m there, things grow. when i’m gone, things die.”
he fingers calm.
“just means that this was always meant to be your kingdom,” is all he says, and jungkook smiles.
the land of the dead fills quickly. suddenly an influx of souls with shivering bones and bare skin, their stomachs hollow, looking around in confusion. not sure why they’re here. some of them are children, women, young men, older people, babies. they all come to the diamond gates, all of them paying their dues, sent off past holly’s watchful eyes to be judged.
jungkook stares at them and their caved in stomachs and says, carefully, “i’m hungry.”
from his throne, yoongi gives him a quiet look. “are you, my love?”
“yes, i am,” jungkook replies. “will you eat with me?”
instead of being taken to a feast, yoongi is taken to their garden. the garden that jungkook grew again, the one that his fingers touched and brought back to life. yoongi sits down on the ground where jungkook would like him to, watches jungkook move beneath his wine red mantle and golden crown. he reaches up, tiptoes, to find the highest branch with the sweetest fruit. what he picks is a large and red one, bigger than his entire hand.
jungkook sits next to him this time, still bringing up his legs to cross them. it makes the slits of the lower half of his robes fall to the side, and yoongi sees very clearly the golden torque around his thigh, moves his hand to rest on jungkook’s warm skin, thumb tracing the ruby imbedded around the edge. jungkook doesn’t even notice, takes the knife that’s sheathed at yoongi’s waist and cuts it in half effortlessly. it’s a pomegranate, the red seeds inside gleaming fat and juicy like glittering rubies.
jungkook takes a couple of seeds out first and leans forward. “for my king,” he says in an almost teasing tone, pressing his fingers against yoongi’s mouth. he looks at yoongi, waiting, watching, and yoongi captures his gaze the moment he wraps his mouth around jungkook’s fingers. the other flushes from his neck to the tip of his nose.
it’s sweet, the fruit, with a hint of tartness that remains on the tongue. jungkook feeds yoongi twelve of them, one by one, all of them bursting like little bells on his tongue. the taste of it is familiar; yoongi has had these many times in the underworld, so many that he may have taken it’s flavor for granted. now he experiences every single nuance.
jungkook’s mouth pulls up in a smile. “you have something here,” he motions to the corner of yoongi’s mouth, and yoongi wipes it away with a handkerchief.
“i thought you were hungry,” yoongi says, amused, eyes waiting. he wants to ask: do you really want to? i can give you everything you want. i can give you everything. are you hungry, my love? do you want to do this?
and jungkook, slowly, carefully, plucks six seeds from his pomegranate and sets them in his mouth, one by one. they stain his pretty fingertips and his mouth a berry red, darkening as time goes by. one, two, three, four, five, six. he blinks at yoongi, snow eyes distracting.
i want it more than anything in the world.
yoongi, throat dry and heart racing, raises a thumb and moves it across jungkook’s bottom lip. it catches at the corner of his mouth, and jungkook presses a butterfly kiss there as the red fades, questioningly tilting his head.
“you had something there,” yoongi says in lieu of explanation.
they have their brief moments of imminent peace. yoongi didn’t think that could be used to describe what he lives through in the underworld, but that’s the only way he can explain it. wherever he goes, jungkook is there by his side, holding onto his hand. they visit holly, feed him what he needs; allows jungkook to pat his snout and clean his teeth. jungkook, at first, was entirely put off by the blood and dirt in between them, face turning pale, before yoongi have waved a hand and it disappeared by itself. then jungkook had thrown the rag he was about to use at yoongi’s face; you could have done that earlier!
but your face, yoongi reasons, and jungkook grew a root in the ground for him to trip over.
sometimes they take walks through elysium, where heroes and charitable ones live. elysium is beautiful and bright, a section of the underworld that remains untouched; like paradise, it looms at the edge, just close enough for everyone to touch but not quite close enough. there are rivers of sweetness and fruits that climb down golden and full. jungkook looks happy there, covered by it all, but he also looks happy when they are simply gazing upon the meadows of asphodel, watching the lost ones, his head on yoongi’s shoulder. he’s happy when he’s waiting on top of yoongi’s throne and yoongi presses a hand to his hip and kisses him there, even when the furies harp in the room next to theirs.
it feels like being alive. yoongi has it claw in his chest and take hold there, the scent of jungkook’s skin, the feeling of his mouth, the pretty tone of his voice. soaks it all in and lets it ruin him, the way jungkook asks for him to stay back, stay behind, searches for yoongi’s touch the way no one else ever has. the way jungkook eats, every day, six seeds of pomegranate from his own hand, unrepentant.
they’re in their garden - jungkook’s garden, as yoongi had given it to him as a wedding gift - simply sitting the grass. yoongi feels tired, content. this kind of slowness has never taken over him before, but around jungkook, it feels like he simply can’t help it. jungkook cards fingers through his hair and pushes them away from his forehead, lays kisses on the crown of his head once in awhile, hums a steady song underneath his breath. sometimes yoongi feels a tug when jungkook’s ring catches onto it. it’s nice, so nice, just a moment of calm and quiet and all his own -
“what is it like down there?” jungkook asks, curious but contained; he sounds like he does when he’s asking for something he knows yoongi might not want to give him. which is preposterous, because yoongi wants to give him everything.
“there, in tartarus.” a pause. “where night covers thrice.”
yoongi, with his eyes closed, says, “it’s dark.”
“it’s so dark that sometimes you forget your own name in a panic to find light. there is nothing but there is everything; you’re there alone but you’re never alone. it was made to find your worst and delirious fears, dig up your nightmares and bring them back to you so real that it feels like an extension of yourself. it’s dark in there.”
“is it?” yoongi yawns. “i wouldn’t know.”
“have you never been there?”
“plenty of times,” yoongi admits, “but there’s no reason to feel scared when you’re here.”
jungkook doesn’t answer back for a while, and when yoongi cracks open his eyelids a little - irritated that the smooth, calming motions of jungkook’s hands have stopped, he sees bright pink bloom on the other’s cheeks and ears like a bursting lily. jungkook watches as yoongi’s mouth curls in the softest semblance of a teasing smile, and he pushes the other off his lap. taps the ground with two fingers and causes a dandelion to grow right in yoongi’s face, making him sneeze.
“huffy,” yoongi accuses when he’s done with his fit, and jungkook waves another dandelion at him threateningly.
“do you ever want to go above?”
“no,” jungkook says immediately, picking seeds out of his dandelion. “why would i go above when i spent so much time trying to escape it?”
“to the mortal world,” yoongi clarifies. jungkook’s crown sits tilted on his head, so yoongi reaches over to fix it for him. “where spring can be.”
at that, jungkook looks considering, he lets yoongi take care of him; he’s quite meticulous with his own and jungkook’s appearances. it’s a wonder that jungkook is never cold in the underworld. yoongi is born with the chill, but jungkook should have had to adapt to it. instead, he wears his arms bare like he always does and embraces it all, shadows and murky rivers and poisonous flowers in his grasp.
jungkook asks many questions - “what happens to the souls after they are punished? what happens to them in tartarus? what happens when they’re sent back to the earth? who are those creatures?” - but he’s never truly afraid. startled, maybe, a little hesitant, but never afraid. he’s never looked at yoongi with fear in those ice eyes, not once. he’s not afraid of yoongi. he’s not afraid of death.
when the souls come in more and more through the diamond gates, jungkook watches with patient eyes. there’s an expression on his face that yoongi can only explain as a mix between pitying, bemused, and thoughtful. the god of spring doesn’t know how to shield his emotions like the rest of the deities. it’s a fresh change. yoongi never has to ask for the truth from him; jungkook gives it freely, willingly, just as he gives so many other things to yoongi without anything in return.
“do you ever wonder...” jungkook starts, before trailing off. at yoongi’s persistence, he begins again; “do you ever wonder what would happen if you left?”
“chaos,” yoongi answers immediately. “sometimes the nightmares climb. they need to be brought back down.”
jungkook grasps yoongi’s hand and counts his knuckles under his breath, blinks, long lashes shadows over his cheeks. “what would happen if i left?”
yoongi wonders; what would happen? would he shatter, too? would his heart break, would he be no more than the king of death, dead himself? what was he before jungkook came?
“i don’t know,” yoongi says, voice dry, and jungkook notices this. he climbs onto yoongi and cups his face gently, kisses him, pressing their foreheads together; “don’t worry, my king,” he says with a little glint in his eyes, “we have eternity.” a promise, a promise. like he knows how long eternity will last.
sometimes yoongi finds him sitting on his throne, legs thrown over the armrests to face the ceiling. he’s usually counting stars, dim stars, constellations. sometimes he has a sword in hand, running his hand along the edge of the blade to see it glint in the blue firelight. jungkook’s curiosity is belied by his caution; he’s careful, just enough so not to hinder a sense of i want to know more. it always seems like jungkook wants to know more. wants to know how to hold a sword, how to press fingers against someone’s throat so the breath traps in their lungs, wants to know how to push down against yoongi until the both of them are seeing more stars than the reflections of yoongi’s diamond gates against the water.
their happiness couldn’t last forever. jungkook’s pomegranate seeds against his mouth soon taste bitter.
they’re walking through the isles of the blessed when hoseok comes for them. one minute yoongi is explaining how the isles of the blessed holds the champions of the earth that have proved their worth thrice, and the next they’re both stopped by a familiar figure in front of them. hoseok looks the same as he always does, all grins and fast paced movements, strung high on the edge of air. jungkook’s hand finds their way to clutch yoongi’s shoulder hard.
“hoseok,” yoongi starts smoothly, without letting out a sign that jungkook’s nails hurt, “a pleasure to see you here.”
“you too,” hoseok replies slowly, before turning to jungkook. “what, no hello?”
jungkook remains silent. there’s a frown marring his once happy visage.
“is there something you need to tell me?” yoongi asks, subtly taking jungkook’s hand away from his shoulder to hold it lightly in his hands. there’s a moment where jungkook tenses imperceptibly and then relaxes, even if his facial expression hasn’t changed much.
“well, lovely day, isn’t it?” hoseok comments, looking around the isles. it’s always a beautiful day here, where the gods have granted - where yoongi has granted - the best of the mortals a place of their own, a place where those truly great of heart can reside. there aren’t many here. most of it is empty, unused, and yoongi has always thought it was a shame. hoseok is dressed in his usual garb, something light and quick for him to run and move in, shifting from one edge of the universe to the other. “it’s not that lovely of a day on earth, i’m afraid.”
“want a fruit?” jungkook offers.
hoseok continues by looking once at yoongi, as if he’s afraid yoongi will hurt him if he does, afraid of staying in the underworld longer than he has to if he takes a bite. never eat food given to you by the king of the dead, some whisper. yoongi isn't sacrificed to, and so doesn't give sustenance. he simply takes and judges.
“no thank you,” hoseok declines. “what i’m here for - well, jungkook. you must come back to olympus. it’s your rightful place, says namjoon. there has only been snow and hail, ice and rain. nothing grows. seokjin mourns. with no harvest the land is dying; the people are dying.”
“our kingdom is growing,” jungkook adds, and yoongi remains silent, chest aching.
something in hoseok’s face passes by quick, like a bolt of lightning, when he sees jungkook edge closer to his husband. a beat passes by with no word. then, “i see. so that’s how it is, isn’t it, child of nature?”
“i’m not going back,” jungkook says suddenly, strong, but yoongi hears it; the stringent tone of his voice, how thin he sounds. “i won’t.”
hoseok blinks. then, slowly, he smiles, gentle, almost calming. “i won’t make you go back. i can’t. i’m just a messenger.”
mutely, jungkook nods and turns away. yoongi says, “don’t return,” and hoseok laughs at him and calls him a miser. wishes them both well and waves his hand before leaving conjuring up a beautiful turtle-dove in his hands, leaves it with jungkook and whispers, “it’s a present. congratulations.” leans back. within one second and the next, he’s gone, disappearing into fine gold dust.
jungkook holds onto the bird, looking like hoseok has just stuck him through.
yoongi takes it gently out of his hands, and the bird flies away. “what’s wrong?”
listless, jungkook watches the bird flap its wings. they both know that there is no way out for it to reach the sky. the most it can do is live in the illusion that for the moment, it believes that it’s flying away to be free.
seokjin comes to them in a flurry of anger and rage and desperation. yoongi doesn’t know it happens until he’s waking up to the sound of jungkook moaning and asking for the sounds and the yelling to stop; there are furies and creatures of the night at his door, asking for his attention, unable to enter his chambers; and jungkook still has sheets wrapped around his naked waist.
“who is it?” yoongi says, half growling for the interruption of their rarely taken sleep, before he hears the name of the god that’s trying to tear apart his palace.
seokjin, the god of the harvest, is far more imposing now than he was at the solstice, than he ever was in all the times that yoongi has ever seen him. he’s tall, quite tall, with broad shoulders; he looks well fed, like the epitome of a good, warm place. yoongi meets him in full regalia, unable to meet him in anything else, the memory of jungkook keeping his head on seokjin’s knee at the dark solstice too vivid and great in yoongi’s mind. seokjin’s eyes burn green and hazel when yoongi meets them, standing atop near his throne.
“your highness,” seokjin says, stiff, almost like he’s spitting out the words. “where is he?”
“where is who?”
“my brother,” seokjin grits out, “the god of spring. where is he? i know you’ve captured him and made him yours. i know you took him from his good home and left him in this cold place where there’s no light. how dare you? how dare you?”
yoongi says nothing all the while, lets seokjin spit and burn like he’s been taught to, lets him bring all that energy out into the open. yoongi has learned, if anything, from his time in the underworld - that anger is burning quick like fire and leaves you in ashes. patience, staying quiet - this is what separates yoongi from the rest of the gods. he has never been quick to anger, always steady like rushing water, waiting, waiting. he could wait for eons. he has, unknowingly, waited for eons.
jungkook takes this moment to come out now, dressed more down than he usually is, hands clutching his own elbows. yoongi, unabashedly, watches the movements of his lithe body and ignores the urge to touch.
“seokjin,” jungkook starts, voice tinging cautious with still warmth, “brother?”
the anger and fight leaves seokjin like a leaking dam; he blinks at jungkook’s figure and almost falls to his knees. “oh, you’re alright!”
“better than,” jungkook says. yoongi wants to laugh; he had never known jungkook to be so mischievous, keeping his annoyance and his fright hidden under a veil of innocent confusion. somehow that has been built, yoongi thinks, somehow jungkook has become sharp as a knife - perhaps he always was one, simply waiting for his edges to sleek out. yoongi has only given him means to sharpen it himself. “brother, it’s cold here. you better go back to olympus.”
“it’s cold on earth.” seokjin retorts, stepping closer to where jungkook resides standing, a hair’s breadth away from yoongi. “it has been snowing nonstop. there are blizzards and ice everywhere and there is no food and...” seokjin’s voice cracks, “and i miss you.”
yoongi knows jungkook loves his brother. there are few things in the world jungkook loves; yoongi, seokjin, flowers, the earth, the sky, his freedom. some things he loves give him more of what he loves; some things he loves gives him less. it doesn’t mean his heart is torn asunder, but yoongi can hear the steady beating of it going slightly haywire, so affected he is by the person he had followed and admired for so long. yoongi holds onto his wrist, and jungkook blinks. seokjin sees it and scowls.
“there is no food?” jungkook asks, even though he knows the answer. “there’s no harvest?”
“nothing,” seokjin replies. “the earth will give up nothing. all because this - this monster has decided to take you for his own whims. i’m here to take you back, jungkook, i’m here.”
he raises out a hand, so sure of himself, anything to have his family back, anything to have his source of amalgate success. jungkook doesn’t take it. for him, death means failure.
“i don’t need to be saved,” jungkook says, bewildered and just a little - burgeoning of being upset - “i don’t want to go back.”
seokjin is stunned; yoongi can see that much. his eyes widen, and he takes his hands back. yoongi has barely noticed, but there are no others except for seokjin here. he came alone. possibly thinking that he’ll do anything he can to get jungkook back, thinking that it would be easy - he wouldn’t need help. "but you - you were kidnapped - “
“kidnapped?” jungkook repeats, “why would i be kidnapped to a place i wanted to go to?”
“jungkook...” seokjin swallows dryly, unable to believe his ears.
jungkook’s smile is slow but genuine. yoongi remembers the first time jungkook smiled at him; he wondered how jungkook could look disaster and desolation and death in the eye and keep smiling. yoongi knows why, know. yoongi knows why. “i’m happy here.”
“you’re not happy,” seokjin starts out, stuttered and confused, angry in his confusion but still grappling at vines.
“i help things grow,” jungkook starts, patient, “and when they die, i rule over them as they are. when i am there, spring comes; when i am gone, winter reigns. there’s no place in earth that hasn’t had my touch. when they live, i give them all of me,” jungkook says. “and when they die, they return to me.”
love is a funny, fickle thing. yoongi is told that love exists but exists in the abstract - love is fleeting and woeful, like jimin, the god of the sun, says, his expressions worn down by time and eternity. love is far gone and leaves all, mortal and immortal alike, to dust. to capturing moments of eternity. yoongi holds jungkook’s elbow and gently presses him against his side.
“no,” seokjin says, grief stricken, realizing - realizing that sometimes love for one isn’t enough. sometimes there will always be a greater love for the other.
jungkook shrugs. “he gave me half his realm and offered his heart. do you think i ate unwillingly?”
love sometimes leads to desperation. yoongi knows this better than most. he barely has time to yell, barely has time to hold onto jungkook tighter before seokjin is rushing forward and pulling jungkook away from yoongi’s arms, holding on his arms tight before jerking him away from yoongi’s grasp - jungkook turns around and tries to shove himself away, pale eyes wide, mouth open for something -
and then, in a flash of light, he’s gone.
the last sound that echoes in the dim is the sound of jungkook’s last word, barely leaving his mouth, a half formed screaming yoongi! - and the sound of his crown clattering to the ground.
the wind is knocked out of his chest. yoongi tries to barge his way through olympus, but the doors are closed to him. him, the eldest of the three original brothers, the one with his own realm, the one with his own happiness being stolen away from him. he comes in raging and angry and upset and tries to tell himself that anger burns, anger is like fire, like hell, calm yourself calm yourself calm yourself - but it’s no use. all yoongi can think about is jungkook in his twisted garden where there’s no escape, where he resides by himself and thinks - for a moment, the cold did not feel as bad, for a moment i wasn’t lonely -
lonely king in his lonely castle, covered by the bones of the dead and the souls of the living, living, living by his lonesome and sneaking in wine to keep himself company, spending days in the endless until patience becomes a friend and silence is a virtue. yoongi clings at the gates of olympus and screams, loud, for anyone - anyone to hear - anyone to come - anyone - for jungkook -
do you want this?
i want it more than anything.
yoongi wants him more than anything.
no matter what he does, the gates don’t open. yoongi doesn’t know how long he stays there, but it’s long enough that one of the creatures of the dead - one of the goddesses of the night - come to break him away from his stone like position at the gates, prying his fingers open from it’s golden bars. they coerce him to move away, to go back to his realm, for the souls have started to escape and the beasts are confused, the ferryman can only do so much. they need you, yoongi, they say, but what about - but what about who yoongi needs?
they see him at the gates of olympus and see not a god, but a visage of despair, weeping, looking listlessly for lost love. they take pity, they feel sympathy, they wonder how a golden gate holding a golden palace and golden gods could be so cruel.
eventually, yoongi returns to the underworld. in the mortal world, spring has returned, blossomed into something hot and thick in the air, so hot that it could burn the earth, scorch the sun. he knows, immediately, that it is jungkook - that it is jungkook’s rage. when the sky opens up and rain falls to the earth in the midst of the heat, he knows that it is jungkook’s tears. he looks up and thinks there are eons between us.
yoongi has waited eons before.
he can wait more.
yoongi resides in the kingdom of the dead with a lack of empathy.
for the most part, his heart is quiet, reserved, held in the hands of someone warm and alive, someone to breathes life into his very being and has taught him what it means to be more than just an existence.
the world tree is as yoongi had seen it before. in the depths of tartarus, the lowest levels of hell, yoongi wonders why the roots of such an ancient being is here. sometimes he wonders more than his mind should wander. most of the time, he steps down against the roots and falls asleep, past the hauntings and the nightmares and the fears that hide in the dark. jungkook is not here. sometimes yoongi feels weak without him.
when he opens his eyes again, jungkook is there, standing underneath the shade of their tree. yoongi hears it now, what jungkook was saying before - the whispers. he doesn’t understand what they’re saying, but he knows that there is a language between the leaves of the tree, between ever broken bark and every roughened ring of wood and jungkook. there are some things that are yet to be found, yoongi thinks.
jungkook’s mouth is a pressed bow; in his dreams, even then, he wears the clothes of the underworld, filigree crown on his head. yoongi comes up behind him and puts a hand on his elbow, rests his chin on jungkook’s shoulder, amused at his slight upward curve in height against yoongi’s.
“i’ve been waiting,” jungkook starts, voice rough like he hasn’t used it in ages, and yoongi doesn’t think he’s been waiting for yoongi.
“there’s no more eternal spring,” jungkook continues. something deep in his tone, like a revelation. like a knowing; you can’t always get what you want. jungkook was something everyone wanted - beauty, spring, harvest, life. no one asked what he wanted. no one ever does. “there is summer, the heat, the rage. autumn, the nostalgia. the missing, yearning. winter, the cold, the loved - when i am with you,” jungkook’s voice cracks, “and the spring. when i’m gone.”
yoongi moves his hand down to jungkook’s, interlaces their fingers. “i’ll wait.”
“i made myself yours,” jungkook says, turning around to grasp at yoongi like he needs to make sure, stare pleading, “you know that, right? they can have me for half the year but i ate willingly. i’m yours.”
he does. yoongi has always known. do you adore me as much as i adore you?
again, yoongi says, “i’ll wait.” wait for winter, he thinks, where everything will be cold except for jungkook’s smile, except for jungkook’s warmth - that’s when it’ll be all his. that’s when jungkook will return to his home, return to yoongi, where he has found peace and an escape. where they call jungkook the dreaded, where they call him the iron consort, bringer of life and cause of death. they’re interconnected. jungkook has never been more than half. with yoongi, he’s whole. yoongi thinks that fate has funny ways of fixing broken hearts.
they kiss underneath the tree. they have eternity.